Wednesday, July 27, 2016

If You Believe In Forever, Then Life Is Just A One-night Stand

Today is the fourth anniversary of Wingman's death. Four years. 1461 days. Time has passed both like the speed of light yet like watching paint dry.

The night he died, I went to the hospital with a decaf coffee and a buttered Kaiser roll. Wingman had regained enough of his memory after brain surgery to remember commuting to NYC for his film editing job. The Kaiser roll was for "the bus".

He didn't know that we (his brother, our youngest son and myself) had arranged to have him moved to another hospital the following morning. He was sitting in a chair when I arrived-eating mashed potatoes with chocolate pudding that he said was gravy. Our conversation was comical because threads of his memory were coming back like Dumbledore's Pensieve. He talked about climbing a mountain in Canada. He said he spent the day playing Army in the back yard and complained that he had to be the German because his Jewish school friend refused to.

He wanted to go home. He demanded his clothes. He tried to get up because he wanted me to take him with me. I promised that I would go and get his clothes. He couldn't remember my name, but told his aide that I was "the bitch".

Another small part of his memory that had come back to him.

I left angry that night. This was hard. Work was demanding that I stop taking calls from the hospital and his social worker and concentrate on my job. The social worker wanted me to stop working and devote myself to his care-or find someone who would. I remember as I got off the elevator that I almost slipped and fell in front of a group of smiling pregnant Orthodox Jewish women and their husbands on a hospital tour. I hated them for their happiness.

The phone rang that night at 2am. It was the hospital saying that there was "a situation". I asked if we should come and they said to wait. Ten minutes later, they called back and said to come as quickly as possible.

When we got to the hospital, they took my son and I into a small room to let us know that he had passed. I called our other two sons and his brother.

The rest is a story for another day.

Today is not about me. It's more about what he's missed. He's missed seeing two of his sons become dads. Missed knowing three precious grandchildren. He'd be crushed to see how close our grandson is to his only other grandfather Poppy.

He's missed two Yankee potential playoffs. And a couple of Yankee greats dying like Yogi Berra, Don Zimmer and Hideki Irabu. He's missed Derek Jeter retiring and Joe Torre, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettite all getting into Monument Park. Legitimately, not like he did.  

He's missed great concerts. The 12/12/12 concert. Paul McCartney. Peter Frampton and the Doobie Brothers. Steely Dan. Hall and Oates. Art Garfunkle. Even the Monkees. And his son is still looking for someone to go see Jeff Beck with again.

If the bands weren't enough, he's missed so many of his favorite musicians dying. Not just Prince and David Bowie, although I know I'd be shaking my head at his playing their songs over and over. No, it's diverse people like Lou Reed, Richie Havens, Joe Cocker, B.B. King and even George Martin that he'd be crying over.

He's missed at least four weddings for the children of our friends. And one for his college roommate. Missed seeing the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years race in town. Missed seeing a new mayor get elected in town. Missed all the political drama that's happening in this year's election.

And he's missed friends who cared about him. One who has had a serious illness. Another who had a freak accident which probably saved his life. People who still talk about him and say "damn, what a shame. I miss him."

Every year, we joke about how right around this time of year, Wingman sends us a sign that he's still around. The first time was the vodka bottle that appeared in a golf bag on the exact one year anniversary. Son #3 still has it. On the second anniversary, the phone rang at 2am-just as it had in 2012. There was no one there, and I spent the rest of the night cursing him out. Last year, the same metal platter that he use to accidentally knock off the wall, fell by itself and damaged the kitchen floor that had just been repaired.

My honey-do list this year included repairing the front deck. When the contractor took up the boards, he found termites, and the repair turned into an entire replacement, complete with termite treatment. Then tiny ants appeared. As if that wasn't enough, a swarm of black flies appeared in the living room attaching themselves to the slider like they were watching the construction. I brought in a pest control company, thinking the flies were from a dead animal in the fireplace flue. He shook his head and said he has never seen so many flies without a source. Nothing in the fireplace, the attic, the roof, the garage nor the yard...

I say it was Wingman.

On Sunday, a small group of his old friends came over for a Barbeque. It was 40 years ago that he and a bunch of guys formed a band. We sat around talking, and for no reason, every time someone came into the yard, the back door would mysteriously open on it's own. We all laughed, saying he was there. That evening we all went to hear a couple of the guys who still play, and we all toasted him. Damn, they really do all still miss him.

Last night, I threw together what I thought was going to be a witty remembrance of the man while watching his boy Bill give a speech at the Democratic Convention. Just as I rolled my eyes at one of his remarks, the electronic smoke detector in the hall went off. First it was one annoying little chirp. Then it was a couple of quick loud ones. I grabbed a kitchen chair and played with some buttons. Nothing. I got back into bed and groaned at something else Bill said. Again, the alarm started.  This time the dog jumped on the bed whining. I checked the attic to make sure there was no fire, and finding nothing, got back into bed just as the speech ended and there was wild applause for the man that would be "First Gentleman".

And I laughed as I realized that as far as this election was going to go, he was going to get the last word in. Wingman, I miss the way you could always make your point. I look forward to your next visit.


The Bitch.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

When A Man Loves A Woman

Like most young women, I dreamed about meeting my Prince Charming who would sweep me off my feet and marry me. Of course, he would propose with a diamond ring befitting his princess. I had mine all picked out. A heart-shaped diamond in a plain white gold band (because I wasn't savvy enough yet to want platinum).

When I met Wingman, my list of suit-wearing, corporate job holding requirements went right out the window because he was in a band. But that didn't stop me from wanting that ring.  As time went on and friend after friend got engaged and married, I got more and more agitated.  When was it going to happen to me?

Then he hit me with the bomb: he thought we should see other people because I wanted to settle down and he didn't. When he found out that I actually DID date someone, he wasn't real happy about it. And he did something quite amazing in the parking lot of the bar that he was playing at.  He proposed.

Not with a heart shaped diamond, but with a Burger King onion ring. He was "pretty sure" we could be a good couple.  It wasn't quite the romantic prose I had hoped for, so I did the only logical thing-I ate the onion ring. Which was actually a good thing, because the next day, he called to say that whatever he had said the night before I should forget because he couldn't remember it anyway.


It stayed that way until the Christmas before the BFF got married and he wanted to move in to our apartment. My ultimatum was "no rock-no roll". So on Christmas Eve, with a note attached to a can, he told me to go to the empty apartment next to ours and my gift was there. The BFF and I made a mad dash-looking on shelves and fireplace mantels for "that" box.  In kitchen cabinets and bathroom medicine closets.  We ignored the tarp-covered pile in the middle of the room, and the look on Wingman's face got more and more sad.  Because, as the BFF discovered as she pulled away the tarp, "The Rock" was actually a Bentwood Rocker and that the can was stain to repair any dings that might happen.

I accepted.

We spent our Honeymoon in Italy, and while he found a deli for prosciutto, I found a jewelry store for a ring. Not an engagement ring since we were past that point, but a band with five little diamonds.  It caused our first married fight and we spent the afternoon in stony silence, only broken when he grumbled "I'm buying golf clubs when we go home".

Flash ahead 20 years.  We were on our second home and were planning to redo the kitchen.  I had my wish list of appliances which included a 6-burner Viking stove.  We spent a lot of time cooking for family and friends and I needed something bigger that the gas oven with two dinky shelves. We agreed that we wouldn't buy Christmas gifts and would invest in the kitchen instead.

And then the idiot did the unthinkable.  He gave me a diamond engagement ring for Christmas. At that point, I was truly over the ring thing.  Worse yet, it was the exact opposite of anything I would have picked.  Yellow gold not white. Marquis not solitaire (20 years made me a purist).  The Sex and The City episode where Aiden gave Carrie an ugly ring kept repeating through my mind. I hardly wore it and was angry because it was at least the price of my stove...

Son #1 got engaged while living in China.  He gave his fiance a promise ring with a cubic zirconium until he could afford the real thing.  As they made plans for their wedding, I thought "give him the ring to give to her". Not only that, but because neither of us wore our wedding bands, we had them resized and gave them as well. I figured at least someone would finally wear the rings. In truth, I've never seen her with the diamond on, and neither of them wear the bands. So now I keep thinking that if I had kept that ring, I'd probably sell it and buy the stove.

All this leads up to what happened this week. About a year and a half ago, one of my associates at work met a great guy. After Christmas this year, I had them and some other people from my team over for dinner and the subject of marriage came up. I said that watching a surprise proposal was on my bucket list, and he casually said he could make that happen. So she, like me 30+ years ago, couldn't wait for the day. She kept waiting for me to be somewhere they were, knowing that he would pop the question.

On June 3rd, he shot me a text, and said to be prepared.  He originally planned one date, but things didn't pan out. I was as excited as she was going to be! Finally, he had me meet him at their new condo and hide in the trees across the street.  As they were having pictures taken by her brother at the front door, I snuck up and hid behind a car (glad that no neighbors were watching and called the police).

And with that, he went down on one knee, and with no one but her brother and I there, asked her to marry him.  She sobbed-especially when he pointed out that I was there. He surprised her in a way that only a very special, very romantic man could have.

And the ring is lovely.  Everything that my now self would have always treasured in a ring.  The center solitaire diamond was his grandmother's set in a white gold band. Pure magic.

So now I have that happy memory to check off my Bucket/Awesome List.  In the past 16 months I've been fortunate to check off a great vacation with the family to Hawaii, Fourth of July Fireworks in NYC, tiptoeing through the tulips in Amsterdam, and now this.

With my list getting shorter, it's time to add some new things. Ryan Eller posted a list of 281 Awesome Bucket List Items which included things I've done like skydive and spend New Years Eve in Times Square. So I'm thinking of adding riding in a hot air balloon, walking a length of the Great Wall of China, having six-pack abs and buying a Viking stove.

And finding a man who likes to cook to share it with me.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Sittin In The Morning Sun, I'll Be Sittin When The Evening Comes

Back when the kids were in grade school, we took one of our very infrequent spring vacations to Florida.  Wingman was in charge of gassing up the car (yes, we drove) and packing his own suitcase.  I was responsible for packing: clothes for three boys, a cooler with lunches and snacks for the road, activities to keep them occupied so they didn't annoy us or kill each other, getting the homework assignments that they would miss and packing school supplies, ordering tickets for theme parks and coordinate travel plans with in-laws who would be meeting us there.

Did I mention packing for myself as well?

Everything went great until we arrived and I found that I had over-packed for everyone but had forgotten a key item for me for the water parks-my own bathing suit.  It was in an Orlando Jordan Marsh department store that I found a fabulous suit: a solid black one piece tank, with a low back, good bra support and a somewhat motherly yet sexy (to me at least) sheer illusion stripe at the waist.

I have used that bathing suit for the past 14 or 15 good years. Sure, the bra support got a little loose so I wasn't quite as "perky" as in the first couple of years, and the illusion stripe had a pull here and there.  But it was the best bathing suit I have ever owned in my life.  I didn't even care that the elastic around the butt had stretched out leaving me with droopy drawers. I developed a way of concealing it-wearing shorts and a big top; pulling off the shorts, sitting in my beach chair and then taking off the top. No one needed to know that my butt was hanging out, and if they did, I didn't care-who was I trying to impress?

Until one summer Sunday last year, when sitting at the beach with the BFF, her cabana mate introduced us/me to a really good looking guy.  A guy our age who just so happened to have lost his wife to cancer the previous winter. When the BFF suggested lunch at the cabana, I froze. I couldn't get out of the chair and reverse the dressing order without this guy seeing my strange routine. I hemmed and hawed and the BFF looked at me like I had two heads-we had just discussed eating. At that point, the good looking widower ( a rarity in my world) got a phone call.  He smiled, stood, got up and walked away to take the call, which the cabana mate said was probably the 40-something woman he had just begun dating.


With that, I said to the BFF "Let's go" and without a shirt or shorts, walked up to eat.  Butt flapping in the breeze, I realized for the first time that first impressions really did mean something to me.  I went home and chucked the suit.

But now I am now faced with a real dilemma.  There are no bathing suits in today's market that look anything like my old one.  I have searched swimsuit stores, department stores, and everything on the internet. When I put in my parameters: "black mesh one piece swimsuit" I came up with this:

Not quite the respectable yet slightly sexy look I can see myself in, and this was the least revealing of the lot. So I changed it to"black one piece swimsuit mesh waist inset" and came up with:

This. Something that will probably strike fear into the heart of any man within a five mile radius.

So the search continues to replace the perfect suit.  I fear it's like the Lost City of Atlantis or Unicorns...a myth that people spend their lives looking for and never find.  And my biggest fear is that when the BFF asks me to join her at the beach again this summer, I will have found the only thing that is black and mesh and left in my size:


Wish me luck.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Back Of My Neck Getting Dirty And Gritty

I have this waking hours fantasy.  As I work in the yard, a deliciously handsome young man walks down the street.  He pauses in front of my house and I watch him surreptitiously through the flowers: White shorts, low white Cons, shirtless, with sun-bleached hair, a golden tan and washboard abs. He crosses the lawn.  I look up at him-his skin glistening with a faint sweat.  His eyes are green, flecked with gold and he has a small cleft in his chin as he smiles down at me.  He pushes a wisp of hair out of my face and asks "what can I do to make you happy?"

I reply: "Weed my garden."

Right now, I have more blisters on my hands than days since the beginning of spring. I've spent my time off pulling weeds, tilling soil and spending beau-coup bucks all in the quest of a beautiful yard.   

When Wingman was alive, I was not embarrassed to say that what I knew, or for that matter CARED to know about lawns and gardening could fit on the head of a pin.  I would look outside, give the yard a blessing, and then curse him for spending hundreds of dollars on plants, sprays, feeds, seeds and whatnot to make our yard look ridiculously good.

Almost four years after his death, I am even more embarrassed to say that what I have learned about my little piece of God's green earth now fits in a thimble.  Last May, I looked out at the crabgrass and sighed, blessed myself before going into the big box store garden center and then cursed MYSELF for not knowing that step one of weed and feed was supposed to go down two months earlier in March (wait, wasn't it COLD then?). I was forced to rely on associates practicing their dance moves for Soul Train to tell me if I should buy the green bag or yellow bag of fertilizer and cursed myself more when I realized that they knew less than me.  Then the final curse came when at the register, I found myself spending hundreds of dollars on stuff that I couldn't guarantee would make the yard look any better. I envisioned a very smug Wingman giving me the finger for my ignorance.

So what infinite knowledge can I impart?  Things I've learned the hard way:

Lesson #1 learned: Thatching is hard work.Two years ago this spring, I thatched the entire yard and then had to dispose of 37 Hefty black bags of grass clippings. That required a ninja-style nighttime raid to leave them at vacant houses for the trash men to take the 4-bags-per-household limit. Then I seeded the yard, which the birds promptly ate.  I later learned that seeding was a fall chore, which I gladly paid my brother to do a full year later.

Lesson #2 learned: Last spring, I bought and took a week to put down 50 bags of black mulch.  Three trips to the big box store. Carried every bag myself.  Fought with the dog, who thought that dragging the bags, spilling mulch around the yard was a game. Learned through trial and error that my brother would have charged $25 less to deliver and put it all down in one day, and it would have been the proper 3" thick.

Lesson #3 learned: You can't fix dead. Two years ago, I planted a dozen Hydrangeas, then dug up 9 that died and replanted more...because I love Hydrangeas.  Loved them so much, I willed them to live. It didn't work, so last year, I dug up 6 more dead ones and replaced them with knockout roses which don't seem to need me to pay attention to them-they just grow on their own.

Lesson #3A learned: Even those knockout roses needed some summer TLC. Rose slugs left holes in the leaves which required my new Ghostbusters backpack spray treatment. I swear someone got the idea to recast that movie with women after seeing me in my full regalia.
Lesson #4 learned: If you can't fix dead, make it look like art. Erma Bombeck may have been right when she said "The grass is always greener over the septic tank" but this Japanese Maple over the well (whose pump died right after Sandy) didn't stand a chance. I trimmed, then cut, then hacked, then CHOPPED, and finally bought some glass globes and said "The hell with it." Now I have to pay someone to cut it down all the way and grind the stump because I'm seeing ants bore their way in.  Ants, I've learned, are not connoisseurs of art.

Lesson #5 learned: Impatiens require patience which I lost as I watched them grow, or rather not grow last summer. I mean, I planted them all in the exact same soil, the exact same conditions.  So why did one row grow perfectly and the other look sickly? And then there were the weeds that grew between them better than the flowers. When we owned our deli, I use to complain to Wingman that slicing lettuce for subs was the dumbest job I had. Weeding the gardens has surpassed that. I would finish, go in and shower to go to work, and by the time I came out to leave, more weeds had popped through and were giving me the green finger. I believe that same smug Wingman had something to do with that.

Then again, there were other forces working against me.

I remember last fall, exhausted yet proud of how the front yard looked. The mums were alternating yellow and white to coordinate with the cream colored siding. The corn stalks at the front door-had a jaunty orange bow to brighten their drab tan color, while two pumpkins sat at the base. I stepped away from the front and hummed to myself  "It's the most wonderful time of the year" not because I loved fall, because I DON'T. The only thing even remotely good about that season is that October is my birthday month. I sang because it meant that the spring and summer seasons to take care of my yard were O-V-E-R.

And here it is again..spring. People are right now taking to social media to post pictures of crocus and daffodils emerging from their winter hiding spots through Sunday's snow.  So cute-right??? Bullshit. I for one, am busy chronicling my weeds on Pinterest, so I know what non-Monsanto owned, non-GMO chemical crap will kill them. Non-Monsanto, because I have a soul-albeit a very black one.  Black like my dead Hydrangeas. Which have mostly all died, even though I love them and will continue to try.

Hmmmmm...I wonder if Monsanto would consider creating a GMO eternal life Hydrangea for me?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Love Is Lovlier The Second Time Around

It started with a snide comment I made when I read that 66 year old Billy Joel was getting married for the fourth time on July 4th to his 33 year old girlfriend. "Really Billy? A woman four years older than your daughter?" It was followed-up by a half-hearted good luck wish for an old school chum who married his fourth bride (the third was only 6 years ago) two days before my birthday. I wrote that I just erased him from my short list of potential second husbands.

But the kicker was the black envelope with gold lettering that I received at Thanksgiving. It was to the fourth wedding of the man I met for the first time the same day as Wingman. Deja vous...we had been guests at his first wedding, (where he received, then re-gifted Tiffany wine glasses to us the following year at our wedding). We were at his second wedding where the bride shared the same first name as the previous Mrs. Somehow, we missed his third wedding and never learned if her name was the same. And now, finally this one which included those surprise words after my name: "AND GUEST".

2015 was a year for love. OK, probably no more than the past few years, but one where I was invited to three of my friends' children's weddings. They were lovely ceremonies and the receptions that followed were all gorgeous affairs in perfect weather (compared to Wingman and I who got married in a nor'easter). But like all young people, the brides and grooms had very little to do with anyone other that their friends. To now be invited to one where the bride and groom are my age and one where I know some of the crazy skeletons hanging in the groom's closet?  Unfathomable.

Flash back to 30+ years ago. The groom and his first wife started a photography business. To help them get established, I agreed to do some modeling shots with his sisters. Once the takes with the gowns and sportwear were finished, they approached me about doing nude photos which of course, would be "artistic". No amount of pleading could convince me to take off my clothes (a big thank you to the Sisters of Mercy for instilling the fear of God in me. Or was that my mother?) Flash forward to four years ago, at Wingman's repast (mind you, we has just left Wingman at the funeral home), he offered to move in and help me take care of my house. No Sisters of Mercy needed there. Just NO.

Three months later, Superstorm Sandy enabled me to shut my house phone down, so I didn't hear from him until Wingman's class reunion in June, when he wanted me to be his date. I stayed in my comfort zone with Wingman's BFF and his wife that night and never heard from him after that.

The bride and groom met on a dating website last April and he popped the question in August. I got a tip-off from someone who knew about the surprise proposal and I could have been there to cross off one more thing from my Bucket List, but somehow, it just didn't seem right. Just the idea of on-line dating to me is like jumping in the ocean in June...both leave me cold. So how is it that men like him are comfortable dating and then marrying again and again so quickly??? Are they incurable optimists that see every new woman as an answer to their prayers?  Are they afraid of not having someone there when they come home to a dark house? (I have a dog glad to see me every night for that).

I said yes to going to the wedding-as much out of curiosity as not wanting to spend another night throwing tennis balls down the hall to the dog as my guilty thank you for his undying love.  And even though etiquette proclaimed giving nothing more than your best wishes for a happy life together, I brought a nice bottle of champagne.

It was, by most standards a very "unique" affair. Not my circus, not my monkeys, but boy oh boy, one with plenty of their own with tigers-by-the-tails in every corner.  Guests with facial expressions more in line with a funeral rather than a wedding.  Family members who WEREN'T there because there were restraining orders against them. And some "interesting" women guests, including one who introduced herself to me as a local goddess, looking like they just left a pick-up bar in really bad Bebe dresses.

And yet, through it all, the bride, a widow, with her crinkly knowing eyes and hourglass figure, was every bit as beautiful as all of the first-time brides. The groom was just as quirky as ever, yet seemed totally content just making her happy. They may have met, fallen in love and married in just six quick months, but they appeared for all to see that night, a cohesive couple bound for a lifetime together. Or at least if not until death do them part, until they kill each other. (Her brother-in-law is a great attorney should she see the need in the future.)

Except for the dog drooling at my elbow, I spent this Valentine's Day eating dinner alone, reading the mail left unopened from the previous day. In it, was a thank you for attending their wedding and a reminder that the groom's 60th birthday was upcoming and they would be having a party that I would be invited to. Thankfully, two months later they're still together.

I followed up dinner with a St. Valentine's Day massacre film: "27 Dresses."

If you don't know it, it's about a woman who has never found true love except through experiencing it at other people's weddings. And when it got to the end when it showed all 27 bridesmaids, I pictured the nine women who were brides at one point to the 4-time grooms looking on and giving their blessings.  And behind them all, me belting out The Beatles' song "All You Need Is Love".

No, forget that. I can't carry a tune. It's me standing there thinking that there must be a guy out there that, in a non-online pitch, is looking for a woman who is not half his age, who can appreciate a sarcastic sense of humor, who doesn't mind crinkly eyes and a few bags, sags and a little cellulite, who can drink wine or whatever without falling asleep in his food or starting a fight with a total stranger, and most importantly, who will like my kids and dog. OK, he doesn't have to like the dog. He just has to tolerate throwing a tennis ball down the hall to him a couple of hundred times a day.

So Billy Joel, my school chum and Wingman's bud and their three new brides, if love is truly lovelier the second time around, then I hope it is fabulous for you on the fourth. The rest of us admire your courage to keep swinging. Mickey Mantle said that every time he got up to the plate he was trying to hit a home run.  We're just waiting for our pitch.

And for those who love baseball as much as love itself, pitchers and catchers report to spring training in nine days. Go Yanks.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

One of the things that Wingman and I use to enjoy doing was cook...although we were not good cooks together.  I am a "follow the recipe to the tee" type of gal, while Wingman liked to experiment with ingredients.  Sometimes they were a hit, and other times, like honoring our Korean daughter-in-law with kimchee-stuffed Stromboli bread, left a lot to be desired.

When we first met, he was amazed by the type of magazines I subscribed to. I read Bon Apetit like most women read Cosmo, and Food and Wine was my Vogue bible. Wingman's first Christmas gift to me was a set of frying pans (and no, at 21, they were not well received). But the cooking magazines opened doors to amazing meals.

One summer weekend after our honeymoon in Italy, we went to a farm and picked our own basil to make a pesto pasta dinner for friends. They admitted that they stopped at Mickey D's for burgers before arriving since they had no idea what pesto was or if they would like it. Like them, there was a lot we needed to learn over time as well: like that duck was extremely fatty and that you should add water to the roasting pan while cooking.  A lot of smoke and a small fire one Easter Sunday had everyone shivering in the early spring weather while we tried to air out the house, screaming at each other "why didn't you know that???"

Our mistakes inspired our passion to learn the difference between dry rubs and barbecue sauces, how to make a roux and how to butcher beef for individual Beef Wellingtons. Useful knowledge from when we owned our catering business and catered for a crowd as diverse as an Academy-Award nominated actor, a pitcher for the 1986 World Series winning New York Mets, a defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the entire heavy metal band Skid Row.

And, because of the many varied types of food we made, we owned a big variety of spices.  Everything from Allspice to Vanilla Beans.  We had Furikake for sushi, saffron for paella, and more varieties of salts and peppers than one could ever think of owning. As the years progressed and we had less and less home parties and reasons to try new recipes, the spices stayed in the closet. It took the year following Wingman's death and Superstorm Sandy to get in there and decide what stayed and what goes.

There was a huge can of Old Bay which was bought for Crab-fests we co-hosted for years with a couple who enjoyed cooking as much as we did.  The last time it was used was the summer before son #2's senior year of high school. I know that because he got a phone call from a baseball coach at a college who wanted to recruit him.  Wingman was asleep, so I got to share that moment with him alone. Old Bay only has a three-year shelf life and the son graduated from high school long before that.  Into the trash it went.

The same with all of the Bobby Flay spice mixes and dried peppers purchased for Super Bowl Sunday chili parties we no longer got invited to.  The ancho peppers were saved for the rum sauce for filet mignon at Christmas. The rest got chucked.

Into the trash went the outdated spices; into recycling went the jars.  Well, most of them.  I realized that they made great containers for when I wanted to take Wingman on a trip. Like Yankee Stadium. The family vacation to Hawaii.  Even a friend got into it and took him to his high school baseball field, Babe Ruth's house in Baltimore and Camden Yards. Wingman was traveling more places dead than alive. I had little filled spice bottles everywhere.

This January, I started my annual clean-up and clean-out winter therapy. Working retail through the holidays meant that things sometimes got dropped in strange places and needed to be returned to their rightful homes. Needles and thread piled on a dresser went back in the sewing kit in the hall closet. Tools in the kitchen went back to the garage. Lemon Pepper under the bathroom sink went back into the spice cabinet.

Son #3 came in one night last week to find me purging the kitchen pantry. He helped me decide what to keep and what to toss, and I moved onto the spice cabinet. "Why do I have three bottles of garlic powder?" I queried. I had multiple bottles of others which always happens when I shop without a list. "And look at this: TWO full bottles of Lemon Pepper! This is crazy! Why would I buy more of this?"

I looked at the bottles.  One was filled with bright yellow and black lemon zest and pepper.  The other was a white pebbly mixture.  I opened that jar...and then it hit me. I looked at him wide-eyed, and he asked "WHAT IS THAT???"  As I ran down the hall towards the spare bedroom, he asked "Is that what I think that is? Is that Dad?" And it was-the bottle that I found under the bathroom sink was from a trip he never got to go on. My bad. Real bad. The bottle went back into "that box".

And with that mix up, it's time to finally plan that final resting spot for the man.  The mausoleum where my Dad and Father-in-Law are has an area with glass niches that seem right. Time to put this whole thing to bed.

But maybe I'll have to add an ancho pepper to the box before we seal it up.  So he'll remember the hot times we had.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Smoke Of A Distant Fire

Back a few long years ago, I was honored to be a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding.  We wore beautiful wine colored gowns, had wreaths of dried flowers in our hair.  I sported an 80's Diane von Furstenburg-esque long perm kept in place with massive amounts of hairspray.

At the reception, I danced with a long-time friend of Wingman's.  We circled the dance floor and he dipped me backwards gracefully. As I came back up, I saw this look of horror on his face, and he started hitting me in the head.  People all around were starting to scream, and I saw the photographer coming towards me with a water glass and a wet linen napkin, which he threw on my head and doused me with cold water.

The reason for the hitting, screaming and sudden cold shower was that my dance partner had dipped me into live candles and my dried flowers and the back of my hair had caught on fire.

I was known for the rest of the wedding as "That Bridesmaid" which I'm sure most guests have long since forgotten.  But I never forgot that smell of smoke...especially when I started smelling it again last year.

It started when I was juggling a battery of things both at home and at work. I needed to buy a new car. I struggled with both a variance and a crappy fence company, while having some big projects finished in the yard post-Sandy. The dog chewed the new French doors, new coffee table and wood trim in the house as well as as the heel off a very good pair of Italian red leather pumps. I got not one, but two letters from collection agencies for Wingman's medical bills (which were lost in a pile of muck in Sandy) that had to still be dealt with.

After getting a second director in only three months in my new job, he announced that because his wife was pregnant he wouldn't be working nights or weekends anymore, which meant that myself and two other women would have to pick up his weekend slack. When he promoted the only woman in our store who knew how to do everything to a bigger location, he promoted me into her position. I had to learn a new computer system while taking on scheduling and all the operational functions in the store.

It started the afternoon she began teaching me the complicated scheduling. "Do you smell smoke?" I questioned. I sniffed the stockroom, bathrooms and selling floor asking my co-workers "do you smell that?" They thought it might be the construction going on both upstairs and next to us, and we dismissed it.

Then I smelled smoke in the new car.  I was on the phone (snazzy new hands-free device) crying and yelling at the owner of the fence company for yet another delay when I smelled it again and thought the car might explode. I pulled over and looked under the hood (like I had any idea what I was looking for.) Nothing.

Over the next couple of months, I smelled smoke everywhere. I thought the fireplace was burning as I sat paying bills. The shed was on fire as I struggled to maintain Wingman's yard and gardens. The stove was left on as I cleaned the kitchen. People were smoking in the back hall at work and in the foyer at church as I raced from job to bells. I looked for open flames in the grocery store as I shopped for event snacks for work. If there was no smoke, I must be going crazy.

Or dying.

Google said so when I queried "Why do I keep smelling smoke when there is none?" and found out that there are two symptoms-one called Phantosmia is a hallucination which can be brought on by coughing, laughing, crying, sneezing, loud speech or shouting, or any intense emotional outburst, physical exertion, strenuous exercise or hyperventilation. The other-Parosmia is a dysfunctional brain which can't identify an odor’s “natural” smell, and transforms it into something different, typically something burning. It too can be brought on by anxiety, depression or an infection. Or a brain tumor.

Was I hallucinating? Disfunctional? Or did I have a brain tumor?

Forget the crying, yelling, stress, emotional outbursts, crazy customers, keeping up the inside and outside of the house, and every other thing I was doing. I could be dying and the smoke was a symptom.

So I went to an ear, nose and throat doctor-actually the son of the doctor who took out my tonsils when I was a kid.  He checked everything, ordered an MRI which was clear, and said, in not so many words that I was just crazy.  Take it easy, and if I needed pills for anxiety, well, he could get me those. I was cured.

And the smell went away-right through Christmas.  I got a whiff when I procrastinated and messed up part of my kid's Christmas gift of a family vacation to Hawaii, but it came back big time, like a five alarm fire just two days before we were scheduled to leave.

My dad, who had been treated for almost a year for on-again, off-again pneumonia, was put in the hospital.  And a phone call came into me at work to come right down-he was not expected to live.

I was adamant that I was not getting on that plane, and he was equally as stubborn that I was.  His condition, while critical was down-graded from life threatening. And with these reassuring words from one of my siblings "Don't worry, if he dies, we'll keep him on ice until you get back," I went. I smelled smoke on the plane-checked EVERY bathroom for someone sneaking a cigarette.  Asked one or two of the stewardesses if they smelled it.  Well, maybe more than one or two. Or the same two repeatedly. Checked the smoke detectors in the house we were staying in every day.  Bought cases of water-just in case the fire department couldn't make it up the ridiculously steep hill to our rented house to save us.

Dad held on and held out for two months and the smell of smoke was there as well during his highs and lows and his remission into the death watch. A month of  moving back into my parents' home to be there if/when something happened.And when it did, the smell disappeared.  And I didn't smell smoke after that.

But it was promptly replaced with my left eye twitching. There were work problems with vacation scheduling that had to be dealt with.  Problems with associates leaving for college.  Problems with shoplifting and ridiculous customers complaints like why we wouldn't take back year-old shoes when the shoelace broke. As well home problems like grass and flowers that wouldn't grow, kids that needed money, not to mention the sadness of not having a plus one for two weddings. From April through September, it twitched incessantly.  Google, my go-to guy, lead me to a page diagnosing stress, fatigue, caffine, alcohol, nutritional imbalances...or Bells Palsy.  Or Parkinson's Disease. Then, a fellow blogger posted her own dilemma with her eye twitching while she began the process of selling her home and I realized that I'm not alone.

Paging Dr. Moe, Dr. Larry, Dr, Curly...I diagnosed myself that I'm just plain crazy.

So while I sit in bed at night, making the management schedules for November and December, the eye twitch has left me (again), and that familiar smell of smoke is back. I sip a glass of wine, munch a small bag of cheese curls, and troll dating websites looking for Mr. Right (or Mr. Just OK In A Pinch) while I watch infomercials to lose weight interspersed with Hallmark movies and "Keeping Up With The Kardashians". (Hey, I'm patiently waiting for E to bring back The Royals-OK?) And I smile and keep telling  myself with all the craziness going on, "It's not my circus, and they're not my monkeys".

And I thank God that these are the worse problems I have.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Might As Well Jump. Go Ahead And Jump!

When I was working at Wrinkle City, A/K/A the retirement playground for rich old people, the very cute executive chef gave a talk one day about how a person's taste buds change as they get older and they lose the ability to enjoy food as much.  He went on to say that you have to add lots of texture and spice to foods to make them more appealing.

I don't think that holds true just for food, because it certainly applies to my life.  One day last month, I found myself coming home from an event (alone-no +1) thinking that I am loosing my joie de vivre. The event was certainly beautiful, but was absolutely no fun because I'd stopped feeling the textures and tasting the spice.  I'm maintaining Wingman's gardens but all I see are the weeds. I'm a manager in one of the top, hip nationwide retail stores, but all I think about is NOT working anymore and traveling.

I needed a serious bitch-slap.  One to wipe the RBF off of me.  You haven't heard of RBF? It's the new buzzword this summer, a/k/a "Resting Bitch Face".  I look in the mirror and it's not just resting.  It's everyday.

And it was really plastered on my face when I ran into an old friend a couple of weeks ago.  She and her husband had just had a big party at their house-one that Wingman and I use to get invited to. So, I called her out on it.  Asked if my invitation had gotten lost in the mail.  She replied "I thought you had your own set of friends by now."  What kind of friends would that be?" I queried. " know...other widows like yourself."

Cowboys! Saddle em up, and yee-haw! Time for a round-up. Get those widder women penned up and away from the men-folk out there!

Really.  Where does she think I'm finding all these widows? Trolling cemeteries to find who leaves fresh daisies on tombstones?  Because if they're like me, the hubster is still residing in a closet and making side trips around the USA in film canisters, while I'm looking for places to go and people to do things with.

Feeling really down I reached out to my lifelines to talk me down off my drama ledge.  It must have been an exceptionally busy day, because either they didn't pick up or couldn't talk. So since no one could talk me down, I called the one person who wasn't afraid of climbing up and dangling her toes off the edge with me.

And when I asked my Goddaughter to go skydiving, she shrieked a resounding "Y-E-S-S-S-S!!!"

I've always had an edge of a daredevil in me-the absolute opposite of Wingman. I love BIG ferris wheels and roller coasters-the higher and loopier, the better. I would have loved to have bungee jumped off a cliff when I was younger (my fear now is not the jump but dislocating a hip). This was my "slap that RBF" event if ever there was one. I booked our jump the following day, then was too afraid to tell anyone, especially my kids, less they try and talk me out of it.

We drove about an hour to an air field not too far from the ocean.  We watched the obligatory danger video (with a bearded guy who I swear looked like he trained the Taliban) and signed the release forms before boarding a prop plane.  My tandem instructor buckled himself to me at both shoulders and hips.  He opened the door, put a foot on the step...

And we flew.

The first 15 seconds, I cursed myself, thinking that this was probably the dumbest thing I've ever done.  When they say you're life flashes before you-they ain't kidding.  I relived births, birthdays, Christmases and times both happy and sad in the blink of an eye. 

Then I hit my stride-or glide.  For the next 20 or so seconds, Joe urged me to arc and soar.  We
spun and laughed before he pulled the ripcord and the chute opened. As I looked at both the pictures and video, I smiled not only at the skin stretched like Jim Carrey's in "The Mask", but at the excitement and exhilaration of the jump.

For the next 4 1/2 minutes, we descended until making a soft landing in the sand pit. My Goddaughter landed nearby and we celebrated what was a picture perfect day.

On the drive home, she and I talked about fear and how it stops us from doing the things we want to do, and sometimes need to do.  And we both agreed. No more fear.

In the week between booking and flying, I faced a couple of fears. I had a friend who I shut out of my life over something stupid, and I was afraid to contact and apologize until last week.  We've already gone out to catch up on what we've missed in each others lives.  I also went to see a dying friend, even though I was really uncomfortable seeing someone so close to death. We ended up talking for a couple of hours until her pain was so great that she asked me to leave. I felt good knowing that she needed to talk and I was a sounding board for her pain.

I also thought about the sizzle in my life the rest of this year: going to vividly beautiful Hawaii with my kids and grandkids.  Going to hot, steamy Florida for a long relaxing weekend. Holding my Dad's hands and touching his face in the days before he passed. The blasting music of rock bands in beautiful theaters. Dancing in the sand with girlfriends at beach concerts.  Broadway shows. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners on the spur of a moment. A recent yard party with neighbors who haven't forgotten I'm around the corner. Riding kiddie rides with my granddaughter at a local fair. The events that are the texture and the people who are the real spice in my life.

The future has me drooling over new adventures as well:  The BFF has planned a trip to Amsterdam in the spring.  A sister-in-law wants to go to Berlin.  Another friend has a pilot-son relocating to Chicago and wants company. I'm going to the joyful weddings of two friends' kids in the next couple of months. And while there's no +1, I'm not going to fear it happening or not.  I've eaten sea slugs and live octopus in Korea, and now jumped out of a plane. What can be as scary as that?

I played "The Bucket List" on my DVR the other night-just for the skydiving scene.  I thought it would help me finish this piece, and it did, but not for that scene.

Edward says at one point "We live, we die, and the wheels on the bus go round and round". He's right.  Stop the drama. (He also says "never trust a fart" but let's not go there).

But the one line that really got me was from Carter who said "You know, the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance to heaven, the guards asked two questions. Their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not. ‘Have you found joy in your life?’ 'Has your life brought joy to others?"

I'm finding the joy in my life.  Now I'm working on my life bringing joy to others. Enjoy this video!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

When I was in my first full-time job, I had two friends who were seriously in the market for the guys who would be good enough to marry them.  We would sit at lunch and I would listen to them make lists of the qualities that their husbands would have to have.

I thought about what I wanted as well: I didn't care what his profession was, but a man who wore nice suits and wing-tip shoes to work. A good tan to set off the crisp white (or I would accept baby blue) shirts and rep ties that he would wear.  A nice car (the BFF was dating a guy with a yellow Corvette). And, when the time was right, someone who would propose to me with a heart-shaped diamond engagement ring.

When I met Wingman, the list went right out the window.  He was a part-time bartender going to a local community college after giving up an out of state football scholarship because he was homesick.  His wardrobe consisted of one peach polyester suit, and a drawer full of tank tops and tee shirts with holes. He had a motorcycle as well as a car with no muffler that sounded like her nickname: "The African Queen". And, after dating him for six years, he gave me not a rock, but a rocking chair to "seal the deal".

But he did have this great guitar.

Not actually a guitar but a bass.  A Rickenbacker 4001 Fireglow. The same brand of guitar that John Lennon played. And Paul McCartney on occasion. And that was cool, especially for a band-following groupie like myself. I didn't get the business professional but I got me a rock star.

He loved that bass.  It was never put in the trunk of his car, lest someone run into the back end and damage it. At home, it was stored behind his recliner where he could pull it out and play it while watching the Yankees or golf. But after the Beatles band he was in broke up and he was estranged from the guys he use to play with, over the years he took it out less and less.

When he died, the boys and I brought it to the funeral home-the first time it had been touched in probably two years. Afterwards, I put it back behind his chair where it stayed.

Until Sandy. That bitch of a storm had no mercy.

So much of the first floor was destroyed by three feet of water. The Ric got soaked.  I took it out of its case to dry out on the lawn while we piled up everything to go to the curb. Setting it in the sun didn't help it-rather the Ric started warping and splitting right down the middle, like a broken heart. A friend of ours who came to help asked if he could take it with him and try and fix it. With no expectations, I gladly turned it over to him.  He consulted a guy who makes and repairs guitars for some of the biggest rock stars.  He bought humidifiers and set up a room to dry it out, which took months. He removed every part and either repaired or replaced them. Finally last summer-a full year and a half later-he called and said he finished it. And it looked so good and played so well, I couldn't put it back in a closet. (Besides, the case to store it got ruined in Sandy anyway).  So it's been sitting in the corner of the living room for almost another whole year, being moved only when I vacuum.

Until last week when granddaughter #2 came over and wanted to play "the ukelele". As she plucked the strings, I couldn't help but remember back to the times Wingman would sit on the same couch with the Ric in hand, watching Jeff Beck and his female bassist Tal Wilkenfeld, and since the boys weren't interested, wish that he had a daughter whom he could teach the bass to.
And while I'm sure that, considering her parents athletic abilities, she will be the greatest dancer/lacrosse/softball player in the family, maybe, just maybe, he'll get his wish as well.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Doctor Doctor, Gimme The News

When I was a kid, there were not as many choices for doctors as there are today.  There was the old-fashioned pediatrician who made house calls.  As a budding first grade Typhoid Mary, I brought home Chicken Pox and infected the whole house.  The doc came with his black bag and said "Yup.  Keep 'em home," condemning my mom to whatever the incubation period was for probably a few bucks for the diagnosis.

Then there was the GP-the man who had an office in the front of his house, who examined us with a Popsicle stick in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

Up until I at first, didn't want to get pregnant, and then just had to be, my only doctor was my OB/Gyn-the man I still shave my legs for.  He played college baseball, so most of our conversations still revolve around either his or my sons' Glory Days. I've had very little need for intimacy with anyone else.

Except a Gastroenterologist.  Ten years ago, the 50-something dad of one of my son's friends was diagnosed with colon cancer.  Everyone in our circle rushed to get colonoscopies and there were no-polyps parties to celebrate. One other dad and myself had out own pity party because we were shocked to have polyps.  A lot of them, but why? We ate well, drank little, exercised and had no family histories of cancer. We had to endure annual procedures until we were both deemed cleared and put on 3-year maintenance plans.  Wingman, who was 18 months younger than me, breezed through his when he finally turned 50 to my amazement. Here was a man who ate mayo on jack cheese right out of the fridge and washed it down with a martini, and he had nothing. Not one damned polyp.

Right after my big 6-0 birthday last fall, I decided that it was time to broaden my social circle of medical professionals. It took me 6 months to make my first appointment for a physical that I hadn't had in 15 years.  Everything was fine-except blood work showed that I was Vitamin D deficient which supported my SADD self-diagnosis. She suggested more sunlight daily or Vitamin D supplements. Being a mall rat, I had to opt for the supplements until beach season starts.

I grew up when boys had Farrah Fawcett posters and we had the Johnson Baby Oil guy. Baby oil laced with iodine for the perfect summer tan. My new dermatologist was not amused. She probed and poked and took pictures of a spot on my nose and one on my shoulder. But she said there was nothing bad, and advised me to avoid the sun unless it was with a strong SPF sunscreen and to wear a hat. The GP said more sun but the dermatologist said no? The GP must be a smarter woman. I went for my 9 month late annual mammogram. It came back normal. Albeit a year late on a 6-month check-up, my dentist told me I had no cavities. This is a piece of cake, or so I thought.

Yesterday I had my first colonoscopy in 4 years. What can I say about the prep?  It's what you wish on the woman who messes up a perfectly folded pile of sweaters and pray there's no TP handy. But a new big pile of saved magazines and Sex and The City on DVR made for an OK evening. Enough said.

I have a new doctor, since my health insurance changed with getting a new job last year. Unlike my OB/GYN, we don't have a history or much to talk about. She questioned my other procedures, I said "good night" to her and the anesthesiologist, and sometime later, woke to a nurse trying to keep me from getting up off the gurney.  The nurse said "The doctor wants to talk to you," which I know means that things didn't go perfectly.  She said I had five (FIVE???) polyps which she removed, and then asked me about my tattoo. 

Tattoo.  I don't have a tattoo.

Oh but it seems I do.  In a previous procedure there was a polyp that was removed and bore further watching so that spot was tattooed.  This new doctor removed a new one near that tattoo. I have to come back in a year for another procedure.  In the meantime, watch the drinking and avoid the processed junk foods, don't smoke, exercise and take calcium supplements.

I sit wondering about that tattoo.  Wouldn't it be nice if it was a star?  Or a fairy.  A fairy would be pretty.  But right now, all I think about is that I have my own internal Tramp Stamp.  And that I don't want any other tattoos where this one is.

Time for a glass of milk and my multivitamin, Fish Oil, Vitamin D and Iron. And two calcium supplements for good measure.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dancing To The Rhythm That Is In Our Soul On Saturday Night, Saturday Night

From the day I met him, Wingman was a huge fan of Saturday Night Live. After all, it never competed with a single Yankee game on TV.  And perhaps, Saturday Night Live owes him a big debt of gratitude for helping create one of their more popular skits.

I met Wingman at a party. We tried to find common ground (certainly not our heritage with me being Irish/Italian and him Czech/Polish) but we did like the same movies (Casablanca) and TV shows (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman). He was incredulous that I had never seen Saturday Night Live, which as the second season began, became a weekly ritual for us.

Wingman was working as a bartender at the time I met him, and knew a guy with connections to the show.  He called me one night in June and in a voice three octaves higher than usual, squealed "I got us an invite to the SNL season ending cast party!" For two kids from the burbs, this was beyond cool.

I was working as a manager in a department store where all my male peers wore charcoal gray suits and wingtip shoes.  I assumed all men owned at least one suit of that ilk just like all women owned a little black dress, which is what I planned to wear.

The night of the cast party, he showed up dressed not for Saturday Night Live, but for Saturday Night Fever: a peach polyester bell-bottomed suit with an orange Huckapoo shirt, a turquoise leaf necklace and brown platform shoes. Besides the fact there was no time to even buy a plain white shirt, he saw absolutely nothing wrong with the suit Golden Lady had helped him pick out in high school.  Until we got to the party...

The first star we met was John Belushi. He was wearing a navy blazer and jeans and was nursing a bad cold with vodka and a handkerchief to his nose to keep people away. Laraine Newman was dressed all in black, as was Jane Curtin. As upset as Wingman was that Chevy Chase left the cast, he was thrilled to see Steve Martin, also in a blazer and jeans, who had been a guest host that season. He introduced himself, shaking his hand and gushing about what a big fan of his he was. Dan Aykroyd passed by us in jeans and chucked the front of Wingman's Huckapoo shirt saying "Nice suit". It was definitely a NYC cool event, but his suit stood out like a neon sign under a black light.

The first episode of the third season was September 24, 1977. Steve Martin was again the guest host.  As we watched, Gilda and Jane started a skit as two women (Lynn and BARB) playing ping pong. Enter the Festrunk Brothers-A/K/A Two Wild and Crazy Guys from Czechoslovakia. Two guys with Huckapoo shirts, big necklaces and polyester pants.  It couldn't be...but it was. The Festrunk Brothers became one of the most popular reoccurring skits, and Wingman swears they got their idea from him.

That Christmas, Wingman got a wardrobe makeover from me and the suit was permanently relegated to the back of his closet. It stayed there for years until I surreptitiously removed it to the Goodwill heap.

I watched last night's 40th anniversary of SNL and once again, the Festrunk Brothers were there ar rightfully they should be.  Dan Aykroyd's shirt looked much more like Wingman's shirt from 38+ years ago, and I smiled thinking that the wardrobe guys thought they got quite a find with that one.  From wherever he was, I imagined Wingman insisting to Phil Hartman, Chris Farley and Michael O'Donoghue that he was the inspiration for that skit.  And John Belushi, with a glass of vodka in his hand, toasting Wingman and concurring that he was.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Shower The People You Love With Love...Show Them The Way That You Feel

With very few exceptions, 2014 turned out to be more "MEH YEAR" than "MY YEAR". True, I finally got a full-time job as a manager with the company I worked part-time at for six years, and couldn't be more grateful.  In November, I became a grandmother for the third time in two years-this time a beautiful baby boy who was named after Wingman. But beyond that, the year was quite unmemorable. Which made writing at a certain point difficult.  If I wasn't interested in my life, why would anyone else be?

All things considered, with 2012 being my personal worst year (Wingman dying, Sandy destroying so many belongings in the house as well as losing my job all within 92 days) this year was at least tolerable.  As I recall, 2014 was more about getting it together than getting together.

That's not to say there weren't good times.  The trip to Florida to help someone deal with her ex was great.  Surrounding myself with thirty or so cute college boys for a home-cooked meal in March was a night I'll always remember.  And, of course, nothing could beat the surprise birthday party my kids threw for me in October. But it was New Year's Eve alone in 2013, followed by the same on Valentine's Day and Mother's Day which turned most nights last year into my own version of Groundhog's Day.  There were too many nights sitting alone WITH the dog and not enough nights putting ON the dog.

Early last summer, my hairdresser/friend asked me if I got a bridal"save the date card". It was for the daughter of mutual friends-ones I knew much longer that she did, and no, I wasn't invited which really ticked me off. When I ran into the couple just a week before the wedding, I commented how I heard about the big event and hoped they would all have a lovely time and after only getting to invite 50 guests to my son's wedding how I understand you can't invite everyone  (can anyone besides me hear the dripping sarcasm?)

They returned an hour later with an invitation. She was embarrassed not to have included me, which left me contrite for making them feel bad. Well, sort of.

I went and fortunately, left my sarcasm at home. And I had a lovely time.  It made me appreciate once again the happy times and many good people I've known over the years. And sad in some ways too, because I've lost touch with way too many-some before but too many after Wingman died.

So my New Years Resolution this year is "More People-Less Things." This week, I had a charity pick up dozens of bags and boxes of things I don't need, which was pretty amazing considering the house full of things lost just two years ago.  Surrounding myself with stuff only takes up energy that I want to spend with friends and family. I'm working out what I call "12 People...12 Months" events.  A Blogger Night.  An Easter egg crafting day. A bar-b-que on the deck. A block party. A dinner and a brunch. A picnic on the beach, and a couple of other ideas I'm still working on.  And I'm not going to angst anymore over scuff marks on the stairs, or dog hair on the floor, because I know that those things don't matter.  Well, the dog-chewed coffee table matters, but I'll throw a tablecloth over it. Anyone who has ever had a pet or a child will understand.

So big deal that 2014 wasn't my year.  I want 2015 to be our year. A year that has more memories to hold on to and less regrets to box up.  A year filled with laughter, good food, family and friends.  And, oh yes, a year filled with love. One that I can write about with joy.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

It's My Party And I'll Cry If I Want To

When my BFF reached her milestone year, she planned her own party. She picked the place, the food and the guests. It worked out so well that I planned to do the same thing this year. And as my birthday was also the same weekend as the NYC breast cancer walk a friend and I planned to participate in, I figured I'd have it the week before. So back in the early spring, I mentioned my party plans to my son. His response was for me to walk in another city another month this year.

Could it be? Was I imagining that the men-children responsible for every stretch mark and quite a few gray hairs and frown lines might be planning a party for me? Could they have inherited that from Wingman?

Twenty years ago, on another milestone birthday, we stopped at his parents' house after spending the day at horse race charity event which was a cover for an all-day bacchanalian bash. In my Ralph Lauren blazer and plaid shorts, I entered to find that he had planned a surprise-complete with masks of my high-school face for everyone. The man who hated Christmas always had a soft spot for birthdays.

So I started wondering if I was having a party. I wanted one. Hell, I NEEDED one. I hinted to my BFF as much. She ignored me. Or so I thought...

The week before my birthday, son #1 called from Korea to say he planned to come to America to surprise me but with his broken arm and missing work, he couldn't.  He said that his brothers were mad that he wouldn't be there. Mad? Why?? It must be a party! The family dinner that weekend HAD to be it. I planned to wear black and look as sexy as a no-longer 50 year old could pull off without looking ridiculous while appearing totally surprised.

Son #2 is horribly allergic to the dog, so before he arrived "to go out to dinner", I had to clean the house. With the vacuum in one hand and Lemon Pledge in the other, I polished and scrubbed to get rid of the ever-present dog hair and dander.  Then son #3 hit me with his girlfriend got called in to work, so they wanted to take me to lunch. I brushed my teeth and threw on some clothes thinking I didn't have time for this.

What the lunch was, was my party.  A party I learned that was in the making for over a year, and I showed up with eau de Pledge and no shower.  But it was great, with family and friends, sushi and sandwiches, a 60 sash and even a "Barbarita" drink named for me. My sister flew up from Florida to make it truly special.

Twenty years ago, the people celebrating with us included a lot of neighbors and the parents of the boys' friends.  At this party, the friends there were just MY friends. Old friends from over 40 years ago. Friends who were there when things were good, when things were just so-so, and when things were horrific. Friends who will hopefully be there twenty years from now.

And my kids?  Now that they pulled this over on me, how am I ever going to believe them when I need a nursing home? They'll have me living in a refrigerator box and when I ask if this place is good, they'll have me believing I'm at the Plaza Hotel.
Although most were lost in the flood waters of Sandy, my collection of author Judith Viorst's books of the decades chronicle my life at best.  From "It's Hard to be Hip When You're Over 30" I'm now up to "Suddenly 60 and Other Shocks of Later Life". I've got at least another decade to prepare for my next banner and her book "I'm Too Young to be 70". Time enough to find another black outfit that will make me look dignified. Time enough to find a special someone to share it with.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

If You Like Pina Coladas...

A young work associate and I were discussing dating.  "It's so hard", she moaned.  "All the guys act like The Situation or Paulie from The Jersey Shore.  They never stop checking out their phones or texting. You just can't meet a nice guy who wants to have a CONVERSATION."  I thought about that for a moment and offered this:

Imagine the lush African plains.  There are rivers and lakes, where all species of animals, birds and reptiles have plenty of water and live together peacefully. Now, think about that same African Plain during the dry season.  The lakes have dried up to muddy puddles and only the most aggressive animals get to lap up whatever swill is left.

That's the difference between the dating pool in your twenties and at my age.

Last Saturday night I was alone with nothing to do so I decided to go to the movies. A $20 investment in temporary happiness-my ticket, a soda and a popcorn with extra butter. The long line in front of me to buy tickets included families, groups of gal-pals, and, of course, couples out to see the thrillers and horror films that have you cringing into your date's shoulder. As luck would have it, the only movie I was interested in sold out right before I got to the front of the line, leaving me popcorn-less and dateless. I went home, feeling a bit frustrated. I really wanted that popcorn. And someone to share the calories with.

I will admit, that only recently have I even thought about who's out there in the man world. Having gone to Yankee Stadium in July and seeing 20,000 or so men in the same place at the same time made me wonder how many of them were there looking to catch a Derek Jeter foul ball or looking for a woman who liked baseball. I use to be that kind of woman with Wingman.  I probably could be again.

My approach to meeting men up to this point was like my sons' approach to college was.  The right one will find me. What we learned was that looking for a college and finding the one that you won't want leave after the first semester takes work. Like my sons looking for colleges, I wished there was a computer program to find the right fit in a man-one that would make me happy and not regret the choice.

Like an on-line dating website.

Wait, did I really just say that? Better yet, did I mean it or was it just a temporary lapse of reason?

Having just seen pictures of Wingman's cousin and her man up in Newport on vacation, I thought yes.  She is a beautiful, 6 foot tall ex-NYC cop, who found an equally tall, sweet, teddy-bear-of-a-guy on-line. She found her soul mate. I'm just looking for someone to hold the popcorn while I eat it. So, with a glass of wine and cheese curls in place of the soda and popcorn in hand, I searched.

There is a dating site just for people over 50.  It comes with a homepage complete with warnings not to send money to any Nigerian princes who happen to be trolling for princesses, not to let strangers into your home, and a couple of other generic warnings. But the site had a free trial, so I filled out my profile. And it wasn't like anyone else's I read.  Like: What makes you a good partner?  "I was married for 30 years before Wingman died.  Enough said?" Or, About the one you looking for? "If you're filling a void while looking for a trophy girlfriend, don't waste my time." Nothing like an honest beginning I reckoned.

Sunday had me back at work with the same young associate.  I told her I signed up for the free trial, and on our break, I showed her the site.  She showed me how to find guys in our area, and we both laughed for a good hour.  First we found a doppelganger for the teacher in"Clueless", followed by a midget Unibomber, a native American with bigger pecs than mine, ones taking selfies in the bathroom with open toilets behind them, and guys whose profile names were "Eyesalwayslookin" "Funcatch32" and "Luv4MILFS". Right, dream on, dreamers. Finally, a good looking beach guy from the next town caught both our eyes.  Then I saw him...


The homeless guy.  Someone I knew from ages ago.  Someone I once had as a client, before his wife threw him out and his kids refused to have anything to do with him.  Someone who tried to rent an office from another client as long as he could also live there. A man with such a high, squeaky voice that I'm not sure he ever went through puberty. Someone who dies his hair and beard. And at the same time we were looking at him, a pop-up came up that he was looking at me.

"Make him go away" I moaned.

She flashed through a couple of more, and then it happened again.


The nose picker.  A man I see in church every Sunday.  The person you never want to shake hands with in the Sign of Peace.

"I can't do this" I cried.

In the end, my associate agreed that she had it better than me.  And today, I cancelled my free membership without finding out who the 122 views to my profile, 20 messages, 7 flirts, 2 liked photos or 1 fave came from. Curiosity killed better cougars than me.

Like looking at colleges, I've seen the good (hey, 7 flirts in a few days is pretty cool) the bad (if I read one more profile about men who like to walk on the beach or snuggle in front of a fire, I'll vomit in my mouth) and the ugly (men who were "matched" to me that I have no more in common with other than we both stand upright).

No, what I need now is a refresher course in romance. Or at least some buttered popcorn.