Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Take These Broken Wings And Learn To Fly


Well Wingman, I almost drew a blank when it came to choosing the song that would memorialize the 10th anniversary of you being gone. I waffled between “Rock N Roll Heaven” “Forever Young” and of course, “In My Life”. None of them conveyed the suffering that both you and our family went through with your illness and death. I finally decided on The Beatles’ “Blackbird”. Yes, I know that it was written about a black woman during the Civil Rights Movement. But bear with me.

The first songbird my third grade teacher taught us to identify in nature class was the red-winged blackbird.  She claimed that the appearance of the bird would give us the confidence to do things in front of crowds and at events.  I assumed she meant just at school until I met you. You were the blackbird.  With your fireglo Rickenbacker bass you were my first guitar hero. True, you couldn't read music and sang slightly off-key (and never learned the correct lyrics to "Two Tickets to Paradise") but you always had the confidence to play, and sing in bars and with Mr. Mustard, almost win Beatlefest.  It killed your creativity when that band broke up and the band members went on to play with other groups that you weren't invited to join.  All you had left was playing that bass to records and CD's by yourself.

Blackbirds move in groups and protect each other. Male birds protect nesting females and fledglings from predators.  Like a blackbird, early on you were always your best within your circle of friends and family. You were destined to be the caregiver of your handicapped brother had you lived and been healthy. You tried so hard so remain the center of each son's life and it broke your spirit when they rebelled against you and insisted on their own independence. And you retreated further when I rebelled against you as well. You couldn't protect me, the boys, your parents, your job. I was angry and embarrassed with you, with me, with us. Intervention, rehab and therapy didn't work. Getting your work wives involved so you could keep your job didn’t work. The seams of our marriage strained to the breaking point.

There were 23 days from the time you were found convulsing in the bedroom to the night you died. The surgeon lied to me when he said you had a 30% chance of making it off of the operating table that night-he later admitted that he was pretty sure you had zero chance, but live you did.  So when I learned the blackbird's spiritual meaning is that we get to choose how and when we want to go, it became abundantly clear. You wanted to live on for 23 days. The same number your favorite Yankee Don Mattingly wore.

On the night you died, you had an aide that helped you stand up and walk your first two steps to a chair. (She later admitted that a blood clot probably loosened and moved to your heart that night which killed you).  You ate mashed potatoes mixed with chocolate pudding which you thought was gravy. You didn't know my name, but told the aide that I was "the bitch" which I wholeheartedly accept. Returning to the hospital later that night, I saw you laying there, sunken eyes open, surrounded by ugly medical waste used to try and revive you.  I didn't cry at all-only your mom did when she saw you. I'm sorry that I never found those tears in the days following.  People may hate me for saying this, but I'm not sure that in the past ten years, I ever did. It isn’t easy to admit even now.

Today, t
he red-winged blackbird still evokes memories of you. Blackbirds are diurnal which means they eat day and night and they're indiscriminate eaters-not uncommon in our house where you could be found eating whatever was leftover right out of the fridge at 3 am. While watching the John Lennon 75th Birthday Concert, the company promoting his CD’s and CD/DVD’s was named Blackbird Presents.  Is it fate or irony that while traveling I found a company called Blackbird that makes your poison of choice: vodka? That Jameson Whiskey touts a signature drink called The Blackbird?

The sea otter may be your spirit animal but the more I spot blackbirds, the more I think that their influence on me relates directly to you. They have taught me since you died to be more flexible and forgiving. They have shown me that I have to avoid toxic people and places and that I have to, and always will, defend my flock. And their beautiful song reminds me that music has and always will lighten my spirits.

Tonight, what was your flock and is now mine will dine together,  We’ll walk to the river and send off some floating candles, wistful that there won't be any sea otters to receive them. And we’ll play “Blackbird” because as the song says, you were always waiting for this moment to be free.


Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free.

Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of a dark black night
Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of a dark black night.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.








Monday, July 11, 2022

God Bless The Child That's Got His Own

When son #2 asked me what I had going on at the end of June, I was fairly certain that he had no interest in my active, post-pandemic social life.  My instincts were correct-he and his bride planned a trip for their 10th anniversary and needed "someone" to stay with their kids. Someone able to coordinate the daily schedules of the three; two of which were in softball/baseball tournaments in different parts of the state on the same day, music lessons, camp, fussy eating habits and whatever else came up. I enthusiastically said "yes" and added my own list of things to accomplish, like crafting every day, house cleaning and ultimately matching every pair of socks in their house. Dwight Eisenhower as supreme commander during WWll could have taken lessons in my battle plans.

I arrived with seven bags of crafts, and after sending their parents off to the airport, we worked on creating a volcano until they discovered the gummy candy making kit in one of the bags.  Soon, these three plus three friends (including one whose religious background prohibited him from eating gelatin) were busy making rainbows, unicorns, clouds and even sculls in a mold I found in the pantry. I sent the neighbor kids home well-sugared up. Score a walk in the grandparent park on day 1. 

My granddaughter had a softball tournament that night, and it was pre-arranged that a coach would take her.  That left the two boys easily entertained with my phone and iPad playing Paw Patrol and other games while I started " project #1", organizing their hall closet full of hats, scarves and gloves and emptying way too many book bags full of stuff.  Suffice to say that I wish I owned stock in Crayola and Pokemon.

Saturday brought a coordinated effort with the other grandmother.  My grandson and I headed 1-1/2 hours NORTH to his baseball tournament while she headed an hour SOUTH with the other two to the softball tournament. And let me say that baseball tournaments for seven years olds are in one word: STUPID. His main concern was having sunflower seeds to spit. They split two games which put them in the losers bracket and eight hours later we headed home, stopping at a big box hardware store for spray paint, flowers and a small tree.  I had other projects in store...

But first, dinner and promised trip to the ice cream parlor where the youngest threw up in the parking lot on the way into the store, and again when we got home.  The grandma walk in the park was sullied with splashes of vomit on her Sperrys.

From that point on, the days were filled with way too many things to go into individually.  Every day, I'd ask them what was the best and worst part of their day. Best parts changed, depending on the kid.  Worst was always the same: they missed their parents. A lot. 

Babysitting without parental interference is the equivalent of a petrie dish under a microscope.  Each one had his/her own uniqueness.  My 9 year old granddaughter is an avid reader, aspiring Kids Cooking Championship contestant and mimics many of her mama's mannerisms. My observations predict that she will be a normal teenage slob in a few years when it comes to cleaning her bedroom. My 7 year old grandson is the typical middle child, not able to be boss or baby so he's the people pleaser. He's the ultimate sports nut-never without some kind of ball in his hand, a miser when it comes to money (reminded me multiple times that I owed him $10 for helping clean his mama's van), a wicked drummer and the family artist with a bedroom gallery currently featuring sharks. The 4 year old "baby" was always the first to pop out of bed and give me a hug to start my day. He's allergic to nuts, fur and I can't count how much else.  Like his dad was as a child, he can throw up, immediately smile and a few minutes later, repeat the process without ever complaining.  He loved to help me clean, adores Marshall on Paw Patrol and stubbornly attempts everything his siblings do.

I really got to see the best of them in their pack. When we crafted, they did it together. When we watched TV, they picked shows they all liked, like Sing 2 and countless episodes of Paw Patrol. While I started laundry, the two oldest read Paw Patrol books (anyone seeing a pattern here?) to the youngest and helped each other get ready for whatever we were off to do, be it filling water bottles, getting snacks or buckling car seats. One day, I was frustrated after a bedroom door accidentally got locked and we had no key. I started taking the knob off to jimmy the lock when I heard a crash. A jar of 22,000 (yes, the zeros are correct) iron-on beads went flying all over the living room floor, sending the youngest wailing because he reached for something he shouldn't have.  Just as I was ready to start yelling, the other two sprung into action: my granddaughter consoled him while the middle one grabbed a broom and said that they would help pick them up.  I watched in amazement as the three of them worked together to pick up every stinking bead and the youngest kept thanking them profusely for helping him.  In thinking back, I'm pretty confident that if it had been my own three sons, it would have been every man for himself. 

On Friday, I dropped the two oldest off at their last day at camp and couldn't help but get a little misty-eyed as they ran off.  Could I be missing them already? A while later, the other grandmother arrived to get the youngest and headed off to pick up his siblings to spend the last two days at her house before mom and dad got back. I looked around in satisfaction-their house was clean, garage straightened, flowers planted, rocking chairs painted, pies baked and most of the laundry done...but I just ran out of time to match those darn socks. I loaded up the car with all the crafts. 

And I had to giggle as I plugged in the Waze app to get me home. Days before, we programmed Ryder from Paw Patrol to be the Waze voice and replaced my car on the screen with Marshall's fire truck. Saying "no job's too big and no pup's too small", he reminded me that I had just finished the biggest, most important job of my grandparenting career. (To be continued I'm sure!)


Washing Mom's Van (cost me $10 each kid)
State Champion!

Blueberry Picking
Pool Time
Crayon Art
They get along so well together


Crazy hair day


Sunday, June 5, 2022

Remember When I Was Young And So Were You

 Dear Wingman,

Today I will say to you what I wouldn’t say ten years ago on our 30th: “Happy Anniversary.” Agreed, that year was a sucky time, but if I had just heeded Three Dog Night’s advice in “Try A Little Tenderness” I might not still feel so bad about being a bitch that day.

Anyway, that was then; this is now and I want to remember our wedding day. If you were here we’d be rolling our eyes about everything from getting married in a nor’easter to having the top of our wedding cake stolen.

I remember the priest saying such sweet, personal things about the two of us.  Did you know that my parents went to a wedding two weeks after ours and he gave a verbatim homily about that couple? Pretty crazy that our doppelgängers became drug addicts and one robbed a bank!

Remember them still putting up wallpaper at P-House the night before our reception?  It looked so awful and we were convinced that it wouldn't be done in 18 hours. They got the wallpaper up but the varnish on the trim was tacky. After it burned down, it was an empty lot until the town built the new firehouse there after Sandy. I considered having a celebratory drink in front of it today, but I'm pretty sure the police next door are not using the traditional 40th anniversary ruby handcuffs.

Who could have thought that our huge wedding party would, for the most part, still remain my/our friends? Two are still single but the rest are all married with only one in a questionable relationship. True, I don’t speak to three of them anymore but they were the three that wouldn’t speak to you either.  As it turns out, I was out with one of my bridesmaids on Friday and she said she "still has some of you on her nightstand".  After she took "you" to the Mike Mussina statue at Camden Yards and Babe Ruth's House, she was going to sprinkle you on your high school football field but never made it there. She said you've been in her sock drawer for a while, and yes, I did joke that it was better there than in with her undies. Or in the spice cabinet. Besides her, I know I’ll hear from one of your guys this morning like I do every year, just saying he remembers. We made good choices in all of them, whether they were there for a reason, a season, or most importantly, a lifetime.

Hearing “Pretty Lady” reminds me of you and the Chazz guys playing that day, which was great since our paid band never learned the song we picked. Or did you tell them that the Gladys Knight and the Pips song I wanted was lame compared to the last song you chose? True, Ronnie is up in Rock 'n Roll Heaven with you, but I still see a couple of them along with the female sax player...and I need you to tell me why she and the rest of the horn section weren't invited. Two band members came to your mom's funeral service last December and we spent the night doing a lot of remembering.  And aside from the band, I wish you were here to laugh about the guy who went home with your co-worker's underwear. To look at the pictures and be shocked at how many of the couples are no longer together.  And how many have passed.

Remember Italy and honeymooning in Venice, Florence and Rome? Seeing fireworks from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Me working on a holiday candy line at the factory in Perugia?  Well, besides two trips to Italy, our cruise from hell and our last trip to Korea, I've traveled with the kids to Hawaii (you're at the Arizona Memorial and in the Pacific from a Booze Cruise), with the girls to Amsterdam (you're in a tulip patch), and Ireland with my mom (sorry, I forgot you that time), but, you'll be back there next summer when son #1 gets married in Sligo.  And maybe you'll get to go to Italy if I can convince son #2 to take you along. He wasn't there when you went to Yankee Stadium with us, so don't count on it.

Our kids have grown up to be great guys with some of your better traits and fortunately, very few of either your or my flaws.  The oldest just started a vegetable garden to rival yours, doing his best to outsmart the hungry neighborhood deer. The middle guy has a grill and smoker that you would kill to own and master as he has.  And the youngest can grill or pan-fry a steak to perfection...minus your addition of pine-scented rosemary-still a running joke at dinner, as is the Uncle Buck salute and the Wachovia toast.

So let me say it again: Happy Anniversary. This is the one day that you being gone bothers me more than any other.  Your birthday is your day, just as mine is celebrated by me.  This one should be ours and it's not anymore. Tonight I'll click my ruby slippers, sip a ruby cocktail, and remember a rainy day filled with lots of family, friends, laughter and love.


Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Living In A Material World, And I Am A Material Girl

 

A day or so after Wingman passed, and while I still had the boys around, I asked them what if any, of their dad’s things they might like to keep as a memory. Although I knew for certain they wouldn’t want any of his extensive collection of tank tops, I was surprised when they didn’t take anything. Even when I went into his “box” a small chest which held everything from concert stubs to a ribbon-wrapped pile of letters from his first love, they left empty handed. So along with two brand new suits with the tags still attached, all of his clothes went to a friend who worked with men coming out of prison to give them a fresh start. His first love’s letters, while amusing, went in the trash.

Three months later, Superstorm Sandy mercilessly claimed so much more. Sentimental things like all of Wingman’s and my record albums. Beautifully written books. Even things I had no thought of ever getting rid of, like two composition books of sappy high school poetry and copied love song lyrics went in the muddy trash. I will admit now that there were things that went into the storage unit that I should have parted with then, but didn’t. More about that in a bit.

Two years ago during the pandemic, I hosted my first-ever Thanksgiving for just my kids. With my best china and gold-rimmed stemware, I mentioned to my daughter-in-law and son’s GF that this would all be theirs someday when they hosted their own Thanksgivings. Their glazed deer-in-the-headlight looks as they pointed to each other and said “you get it” “no, you take it all” was shocking. What? Who wouldn’t want not only all this gold trimmed stuff but a pheasant soup tureen, gravy dish, creamer and salt and pepper shaker? Obviously, no one sharing my last name.

The Wall Street Journal had an article last year about how this generation of young adults has no interest in the things we've acquired or inherited. When my Mom got her Grandmother's turkey platter-a gift from the woman she was employed as a maid for, my sister and I would grouse for hours over who should get it.  To see it now with its' slight crack and chipped edge, barely big enough for today's oven stuffer, my kids would laugh at our quibbling.

With the recent passing of my Mother-In-Law, there was a full household to dispose of, and rather than "inherit" more things I didn't need, I declared that all I wanted was the nativity set I made for her. Then, like Steve Martin in "The Jerk", I took some wine glasses and swore to take nothing else.  Cutlery, and no more. Magazines about the World Trade Center attack, but that's it. An expensive painting Wingman bought for his parents one Christmas, even though it was butt-ugly. All in all, a trunk load of stuff that the kids will eventually hate me for.

What went into the storage unit after Sandy?  It included a bin of everyone's grade school and high school yearbooks, glued together with river mud and altogether unreadable ever again.  I moved them back into the house, then into storage twice more before settling into the townhouse.  Just recently, I made the ultimate decision to toss them.  As the high school ones are available on the internet, I'm the only one sad to part with the hard copies.

Son #1 put a stop to me giving my hand me down cashmere sweaters and other clothes to his GF because like Wingman before him, he didn't want her "dressing like his mom". Things were too expensive to give to charity, so I found an online site to sell them.  And sell I do.  Everything from a brand new pair of Valentine's Day boxers to the the dress I wore to son #2's wedding. I've listed an embarrassing total of 174 mostly used things dating back to 2008 (the brand I worked for had season tags in them) including shoes, bags, costume jewelry, tee shirts, dresses and coats. And to think that I use to make fun of Carrie Bradshaw's obsession with shoes and clothes in "Sex and the City." Someone should beat me with my credit cards.

I'd like to say that since I started selling my clothes that I haven't bought any replacements. I'd also like to say that without working out, I have the body of a 25 year old.  Both are lies.  Just today, a sweater arrived that of course, I didn't need but really liked. I can however, say that the KonMari method of only keeping what speaks to the heart has some merit.

Because it allowed me to make enough money to buy my own computer that speaks back to me as I type. Something that the kids can't complain about and may actually want in the future.




Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Did You Ever Know That You’re My Hero?

The first time I went out with Wingman, he remarked about how much I reminded him of his mother.  When we finally met, I just didn't see it: she was a tall, chain-smoking blonde, with a Lauren Bacall-esque voice, while I considered myself just an average size brunette with no distinguishable qualities.


She and I began our own relationship with stories about our lives, and she won every round of "Can You Top This". At 10 years old, she helped deliver her brother when her mother went into labor at home. Later, her alcoholic mother walked out on the family and was never seen or heard from again, so she dropped out of school to help. At 19, she and her husband eloped, and thought no one knew.  A photographer however, took a picture of them outside City Hall which became the cover of the afternoon edition of the NY World Telegram. (Oops.) A couple of years later, her very pregnant self drove her father and his equally pregnant girlfriend to City Hall in Newark to MAKE them get married.  Her half-brother was born a week after Wingman. Mouth dropping stuff that urban legends are made of.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Well I Hear You Went Up To Saratoga And Your Horse Naturally Won

It never ceases to amaze me how often we experience six degrees of separation. Take my family for instance. We weren’t wealthy but growing up, we did have an in-ground pool.  As common as it was for a bunch of kids to be swimming, it was the same for the guys Dad worked with, or the trainers and jockeys he knew from the track to pop over for a swim on hot summer nights. After a quick drink at the bar next door of course.

Being a regular at the restaurant son #3 works at, the track announcer and he became friends. He joined us once for Christmas dinner and was there when Wingman died. A man with a quick wit when calling races, he had a memorable one in 2010 that led to a contract with NBC calling the Triple Crown. For a couple of summers, my son and I visited him in the call booth at Saratoga. At dinner on one of those trips, a local trainer came to the table with his son and while the men chatted, I spoke to the son, a senior football player.


The day this March that I started working back in retail, the store manager resigned. The assistant manager was promoted to store manager-I worked with her seven years and two jobs ago. She in turn hired a woman who filled in during maternity leaves. Through introductions, she said her family consisted of her high school senior daughter, her son, a college student who played football in high school, and her husband, a horse trainer.

That’s right, I’m working for the woman whose husband and son I met in Saratoga a few years ago.

Last Saturday, I went to the track with my friend/manager. Her husband had a horse in the stake race, so for the first time since my Dad raced Shining Lindy, I got to enter the inner Paddock-the area exclusively for horse family. 
I have a love/hate relationship with the track over this race. When Wingman died, son #1 lived in Korea and needed a day to get home. I planned the wake for Sunday-forgetting it was the same day as the stake race. The only way from my house to the funeral home was THROUGH the track traffic, so our 8 minute drive took 30 minutes. My Mom always said I’d be late for my own funeral but we were embarrassingly late for Wingman’s wake. Three years later, I watched Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh gallop to victory. I imagined my Dad in his free stakes hat, toasting with a Manhattan. Damn, I miss that man.

The race ended with a jockey being thrown, an inquiry, and the disqualification of the 1st place horse. The trainer’s horse, although not the winner, finished in the money so while sad to see a jockey hurt, at least it was a profitable day for them. And when I mentioned the people I was with to my Mom, she remembered that the trainer’s dad and mine were good enough friends that he use to come swimming at our house. 50 years before meeting this Cali-raised gal, my dad was friends with her father-in law.
 

And the announcer who knows the trainer who is married to the woman I work for, with the father in law who knew my dad? This is the race that got him national attention. It sure is fun to listen to. 



Tuesday, June 15, 2021

And He Said “We Must Get Together” But I Knew It’d Never Be Arranged

A friend calls me pretty regularly to check in. After the usual banter back and forth about our kids and grandkids, his wife, golf games and pickle ball, comes his inquisition about my job and love life.

Crickets.

Since just in the past few months I made the switch to a happier place to work, he has focused his microscope on my personal life. And it always involves talking about a guy we’ve both known for years. Decades even. Someone who, because he never EVER gave me the time of day, I presumed to be a pompous jerk. Someone who, like my dislike of dark chocolates wouldn’t have peaked my interest at all if he hadn’t been at the same charity function as me and wasn’t quite as pompous as I thought. Not as great as milk chocolate, but interesting just the same.

It was a shock then to get a cryptically interesting text from him five years ago at Thanksgiving. Just a wish for a nice holiday, nothing more. I quickly called my friend who was as thrilled as the proud parent whose kid FINALLY comes home with a passing report card. A dating seed has been planted! He said to call him back to let him know when we got engaged.

But the texts were few and far between, even when I accidentally sent him one intended for a same-name coworker. He asked me if I was asking him out to dinner and we agreed to meet the following week. Apologies by him a couple of days later-he had to travel out of town. Our only date was a year later and, as I call it, a “one and done” date. The morning after, I texted him thanks for a nice time. His response was cryptically non-committal and weird. I rolled me eyes (I mean, enough with the cryptic talk!) and offered a reciprocal lunch date.

Crickets again.

And there it continues as a Mexican standoff, occasionally running into each other, always planning that glass of wine which never happens. I laugh to myself about it, wondering if it’s him, me or a combination of the two that just doesn’t work. Too much baggage?  Has his silence mean he’s gone back to being a pompous jerk? Am I not working it on my end because of my, albeit silly, short-guy hang up? I spent 35+ years with 6’3” Wingman, This guy was not anywhere near as tall, so if we ever were to get together, wouldn’t he look like a member of The Lollipop Guild next to my Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion sized sons? My final text to him was last week when we nodded to each other at an event but couldn’t get together to talk. After getting no response at all, I did the only thing that finally made sense in this toxic non-relationship.


I deleted his contact info and made friends with the crickets.

 


Friday, May 14, 2021

Know When To Hold ‘Em, Know When To Fold ‘Em

 

Wingman always knew when I was unhappy with a situation-be it personal or professional. I grew up in a house where my Mom had no regard for feng shui, opting to move the furniture spring and fall to her liking. I would use the physicality of moving furniture to work out problems in my head...sometimes to the complaints that the sunlight on the relocated TV blocked out the Yankee game. Feng shui be damned.

While most of my friends were winding down their professional careers in the past decade, mine was in complete turmoil. Ten years ago, while Sock Monkey Boss hid in her office, I was RIF’ed from my 12 year event manager job at Wrinkle City, which had just filed for bankruptcy protection. I moved three bedrooms of furniture around when that happened. Wingman’s death and losing an entire floor of furniture in Superstorm Sandy gave me free reign to restore, paint, buy new stuff and move it some more. My only consistency was my part-time to later full-time retail job.

Until that ended three years ago.

Six weeks after we closed the mall doors forever, I found what I assumed would be my last job. And I used a very unconventional way to get it-I baked a basket of cookies with houses branded with the company name and logo, enclosed my resume and a letter why they should hire me, and delivered it. Ten days later I was hired.  It was a clerical position at a high end construction company, a bit challenging for this three finger typist. Inputting invoices was boring at best, but I taught myself what SYP, MDF and OSB was in new home construction. I kept up the contractor’s certificate of insurance (COI) book-making sure they had the proper general liability and worker’s compensation limits. And my all-time favorite part of the job: managing the many Port-o-Johns used on the sites. I titled myself “The Princess of Poop” whenever there was a problem, like summer smells, high wind fall-overs and even stolen hand sanitizer during the pandemic. 

I really liked our carpenters. Young, talented guys who made magic happen with wood, I had deep respect for the production manager who kept all the plates in the air, and the two project managers who moved between all the jobs fielding complaints from over-privileged clients who changed their minds on every site visit. The two women estimators had the daunting task of pricing out crazy things like bowling alleys and two-story fish tanks. The bookkeeper not only kept the work books, but the owner’s commercial and personal books as well.  And I liked the subs-the mason who I saw at church, the Eyore electrician, the tile guy who dressed up as Santa at Christmas to deliver sweets, the down to earth demo guy and especially the plumber who made the funniest jokes about dealing with, well, shit. 

But the owner didn’t especially like me and that was frustrating at best. He criticized how I answered the phone, what I said, how loud I spoke. He said that I was too free spending his money, but complained when I placed a supply order for a cheaper brand of toilet paper. At one of his snotty comments, I told him that I never let my husband speak to me the way he did, and his reply was “I’m not your husband, I’m your boss.” Thank God for small miracles, and touché.

During the month I moved and the townhouse was in complete chaos, my boss passed out at his desk. While 911 was called, the production manager and I ran to help. I remembered the boys’ Boy Scout first aid training “If the head is pale, raise the tail” so we got him down on the floor, but not before I slapped him in the face a few times trying to rouse him. I took a CPR class a couple of weeks later and learned you never hit anyone-especially in the face. Oops, my bad. But since he wouldn’t reimburse me for the class, I’m glad I got in the smacks, because unpacking 20 storage boxes wasn’t nearly as satisfying as moving furniture.

I wasn’t his personal assistant but I was required “to do duties as assigned.” I scheduled his oil changes and truck detailing, returned his Amazon packages to Kohl’s, and even made his doctor’s appointments. Or tried to.

My garage couldn’t have gotten more organized as when he told me to schedule his first ever colonoscopy. I know enough about HPPA that I couldn’t, but I made the call and was told since I’m not his wife (THANK GOD AGAIN) or mother, I couldn’t speak for him. Relaying that back, he smiled his snarky little smile, called me “inept” and said I was passing off my job. So, I called the office back, told the scheduler “Margaret” that my boss called me inept, and could she please help me make the appointment? She asked to speak to him. I heard him say “Uh huh. Yes. I understand. Yes, I give her permission. OK. Barb, pick up line one”, and she said “Well! He’ll never talk to you like that again!” She and I made that damn appointment which he canceled twice before finally going. 

Right after Christmas, a train got stuck at the station, preventing me from getting to work without making a rather long detour. I called to say I’d be late, and when I arrived 15 minutes later, got an email from him that I’d be written up if it happened again. Like I could move the train myself or prevent it from happening! I knew he’d put it on my upcoming review, giving him a reason not to give me a raise for the third year in a row.

I was antsy. I had the boys paint the entire townhouse. I bought a new sofa. I hired movers (actually my demo guy) to put the china closet down in the den. I moved all the living room and dining room furniture around. I changed internet providers.

And I quit my job.

I handed him my professional resignation letter thanking him for the opportunity to work there. He responded by email-the only communication he had with me for my last two weeks. Not even a hello as he passed my desk!  The day I left I baked the basket of cookies at the top of this page. He was on vacation that week and the office got a kick out of my humor. One posted it on social media with the caption “SAVAGE.” Other than this blog and putting him in my Hall of Shame, I haven’t really thought about him at all.

I’ve spent the time since quitting painting all the trim in the house and changing every ugly brass door handle and bathroom accessory to brushed nickel. I’ve photographed a bunch of clothes that I know I will never wear again and listed them on a clothing resale site. I babysit my grandkids on Fridays and took my mom tulip picking. And I took a part time job working for a young woman I use to co-manage with, where I make more an hour, pick my hours, get a clothing allowance and free coffee from the owners once a month. 

For the time being, I'm in a good place mentally and physically, and so is the furniture. But if I start getting that urge to make the laundry room into a bar, you can bet there’s some serious shit going to happen. 

And if so, I know a great funny plumber.



 



Tuesday, November 17, 2020

I Never Promised You A Rose Garden

Being a widow has allowed me the ability to watch eight years of Hallmark Christmas movies without criticism, but there are times admittedly, when it’s just not fun going it alone. Take vacations for example. I’ve been following a winery in British Columbia which coincidentally shares my maiden name. They don’t have distribution in America so it's going to take traveling there to buy their wines. A trip half-way across America is not something I relish doing alone-especially since it’s at least a four hour drive from the nearest airport. Ideally, I envision a week to see the Napa Valley of Canada.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Hey 19: No We Can’t Dance Together, No We Can’t Talk At All

A message to the social planners out there: while my 2020 event calendar is undeniably light to the point of being non-existent, choice weekends in 2021 are already full. There’s no getting around the fact that COVID-19 has been a social game changer. We are at Day 174 of the two-week total shutdown. The wedding I was to have attended in May, was at first pushed back to August and now will happen next August. The entire seasons of two community theatre groups pushed everything into 2021. James Taylor, Hall & Oates and other concerts I have tickets for have been postponed. Elton John, Art Garfunkel, Ringo Starr and a couple of others are moved to the “TBD/God knows when” category. And the charity I volunteer with in November and December has shelved their entire 100-show season.

It was family events that it hurt to miss more than concerts and shows, because they didn’t get makeup dates. April was always a busy birthday month and one son and granddaughter were royally gypped. Wingman, if he were alive, would also have had an April birthday, but wouldn't have been nearly as gracious as either of them. He loved his birthday and would have expected the birthday drive-by (complete with fire trucks) that have become common during the quarantine. There was also no Easter, no Easter egg hunt with the family, no big Italian Easter meal together.  The only consolation was that the quarantine allowed me to win the coveted family Devilled Egg contest for the first, and probably only time. I made them, I voted, and I won.

The beginning of the pandemic was like a Bill Murray-less Groundhog’s Day. Construction was deemed essential, so every morning I breezed to work on empty streets. Before my boss arrived, I carefully wiped down door handles, light switches and bathroom and kitchen fixtures. And every afternoon I rolled my eyes behind my computer screen when he said he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t find Charmin toilet paper much less any other brand. Speaking of supplies, I became the female MacGyver figuring out where to get them.  The only place selling antibacterial soap and dispensers was on a fitness equipment website. I found a distillery in Pennsylvania making hand sanitizer by the gallon to replace Purell. A veterinary supply website was the only place to buy right-size pumps for the gallon jugs. Schools and parents snagged every web camera in the United States, so I got them directly from China on eBay. If you’re ever having trouble on a scavenger hunt, I’m your gal to find the obscure stuff. Just don’t call me for Charmin.

The Corona Virus made me realize that I could never move to a country like Russia or Venezuela. I don’t  have the patience to wait on lines at grocery stores only to find empty produce bins, meat counters and no cleaning supplies. Six months in, and I break the one-way aisle rule regularly because it’s stupid to walk two aisles to grab something five feet from an end. 

Try walking an 128 pound dog when the new normal included not only other dog walkers, but all those new walkers, runners, bikers, and people with baby strollers trying to escape the four walls of their homes. When the parks closed, they had nowhere else to walk except our normal potty paths. So while he was busy sniffing the ground, my head was up like a prairie dog trying to avoid having my arm pulled out of its socket. We ducked between cars and zig-zagged across streets like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible. Yep, a real thrill a minute minus the movie cameras and stunt doubles.

I don’t mean to make light of the pandemic. When my mom needed surgery this summer, she had to enter the hospital without any of her five children to accompany her. My next door neighbor, a train conductor, and a police detective who lives a couple of units down both had the Corona Virus and have since recovered. Three of my friends’ mothers were not as fortunate. The funerals could only be attended by immediate family and they still haven’t been able to plan memorial services. Along with them, two friends lost their husbands, and they not only had to go through this troubling time without their best friends, but can’t have the support of friends like I had when Wingman died. And let’s not even talk about the millions of people who lost their jobs.

Yet despite all the inconveniences, it hasn’t been all bad. My son used his catering skills to cook chef-quality dinners from food in the freezer.  I had time to clean out the garage, then cleaned out all the closets...and filled the garage up again. At night, the neighbors would pull chairs out to the curb and we’d have socially distant get togethers. And everyone in my family has stayed healthy.

People are starting to worry about a second wave of the virus this fall. I refuse to buy into more of the Henny Penny “The sky is falling” hysteria.  The only thing I do worry about is how my son is going to homeschool his kids AND work while his wife goes to her in-school teaching job. 

Wait, I stand corrected-I do have one worry. What if there is a second wave and I still can’t find Charmin for my boss?







Sunday, July 26, 2020

What's Too Painful To Remember, We Simply Choose To Forget

This marks taking my 6th trip around the sun flying solo.  Six years of having total control of the TV remote. 6 years trying to figure out how to fix a toilet (I still have trouble asking about ballcocks in front of mixed company, even if the term was invented by a Mexican priest-go look it up).  And six years of wondering how the Hell this all happened.

A couple of months ago, I sent all of our old VHS tapes, some of Wingman's band's cassettes, and even old family slides to a company to be preserved.  Some VHS tapes were ruined in Sandy, so there are gaping holes in our family's lives. Like the family picture in "Back To The Future", it's scary and it's sad that some of the memories I have of Wingman are beginning to fade. Fortunately, most of the fading ones are the bad ones.  But in knowing the guy for more that three decades, there are still things that I look back on and smile. 

Wingman loved the Yankees as much as any guy could love a team.  He convinced the film company he worked for to buy season tickets, which got us to plenty of games and landed him some coveted signed pictures of his favorite players.  A little bit of him now lies directly between Don Mattingly and Reggie Jackson in Monument Park. And last year, when Summer Son found the one-of-a-kind Aaron Judge Golden Rookie Card in his Topps card box, I found myself wishing he was around to giggle at the thought of seeing a card that the kid later sold for about what two years of college tuition costs.  Maybe it's better that he wasn't around, because I could see him wanting to own it.

The smell and taste of  Jersey tomatoes will forever be associated with him. He would move a garden hose around the yard every morning, (we didn't have a lawn irrigation system like I have now) to grow a crop of Beefsteak tomatoes, basil and jalapeno peppers. He preferred his tomatoes on a crusty roll with his own homemade pesto, while I liked them on simple white bread with mayo and salt. I think about him with every, runny, squishy, drippy mouthful.

The last song he was trying to learn before he died was Neil Young's "Harvest Moon". He would actually get choked up listening to it, and since he couldn't read music, he would play it over and over trying to learn the chords by listening. Whenever I hear it, I'm reminded of his passion for music. And in the music that I had recorded on a thumb drive, was the only song he ever wrote and sang called "I'm Your Pilot."  The most notable line that still makes me wince is the last one: "You bring me down, down, down..."

Wingman had a terrible fear of heights, which included not only planes (quite ironic considering the title of his one-hit wonder), but included famous landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, buildings, amusement park rides...even ladders to do chores.  Despite that, he painted our two-story house single-handedly and would hang the five-foot wreath I insisted we had to have on the second-floor side every Christmas.  It's all that I can do to drape the same wreath over the side of the deck with bungee cords.

And finally, the end of Toys R Us this summer was the end of another Wingman era.  Toys R Us was his account when he was a film editor in NYC, and he spent months editing the famous "I don't want to grow up, I'm a Toys R Us kid" jingles into commercials to entice kids about the toys they just HAD to have. Toy commercials that, like politics, were targeted to big city kids (Atari, Nintendo, etc.) or kids in the heartlands (games, dolls and action figures). From my seat behind him at the editing table, I recall some of the outtakes that didn't make TV...like Barbie being taken apart by a Star Wars monster, with G.I. Joe drinking a beer and taking a pee with his Kung-fu grip.

So this weekend, I'll be sitting and remembering the good times while watching a Yankee game with the remote planted firmly in one hand and a tomato sandwich in the other.  I'll to go to the Quick Chek Balloon Festival and marvel as a hundred or so hot air balloons ascend into the morning sky. And I'll listen to music that recalls the better times in both of our lives.

Take These Broken Wings And Learn To Fly

Well Wingman, I almost drew a blank when it came to choosing the song that would memorialize the 10th anniversary of you being gone. I waffl...