Saturday, October 19, 2019

I’ll Be There For You (Cause You’re There For Me Too)

Over Easter vacation my freshman year of high school, my parents sent me to Florida to visit my grandparents. If vacationing with your parents as a teenager is bad, vacationing with your grandparents is the kiss of death.

High school wasn’t an easy transition for me. Race riots in my public high school made my parents choose to send me to the Catholic one in the next town. It was virtually impossible to break into the cliques which were largely determined by which Catholic grade school you came from or the beach club you went to every summer. I was part of the small group of misfits.

Segue back to Florida at Easter: I was absolutely miserable being with these “old” people (reference point: if I was 14, then my grandmother was 56 and her second husband was 46). A couple of days into my hell we went to visit a family from New Jersey where the dad had worked with my grandfather the year before. It turned out that one of the sons was - gasp – the quarterback of my new school’s freshman football team. For the next couple of days whenever the families got together we hung out, until the one day that he had such bad sunburn he couldn’t go outside, so I spent the day talking to his one year older brother.

Back home, I told a girl on the bus about the guys I met. She was excited to tell me that her friend was going out with the older brother. After school that day, she dragged this girl over, who, in her extreme jealousy that I was in Florida with her guy, looked like I was destined to be school bus roadkill.

And that was how my BFF and I met 50 years ago.

Over the past 18,000 + days, we’ve probably talked on the phone close to that many times, laughed double that, cried half as much and had less disagreements than I can count on one hand. We went through our awkward teen years together and because of her, I survived high school and so much more We’ve gone from living in our parents’ homes with bratty brothers, to apartment roomies and meeting our ultimate spouses, to being married with our own sometimes bratty kids. We celebrated each other’s weddings and are godparents to each other’s children. Raised those kids together, and even where her girls and my boys were off doing different things, we always found something to talk and laugh about. We’ve buried three parents and one spouse. She cleaned out my scummy fridge when Wingman died, and helped clean out my muddy house after Sandy.

I will forever say that she has been a better friend to me than I’ve been to her. She’s given me some of my best life advice-even if at the time, I stubbornly refused to take it. When we were younger and single and sometimes liked the same guys, I joke that I did the “animal testing” by going out with them and saving her the aggravation. She ended up with the prize in the Cracker Jack Box-her plus one is a gem.

50 years after we met in that high school parking lot, we were back in almost the exact same spot celebrating her daughter’s marriage at the church next door. No hunter green jumpers with white Peter Pan collared shirts-we donned our Spanks and sparkles and shiny shoes that hurt our bunions to celebrate another life moment with her husband and all our kids in attendance.

In a blink of an eye, we’ve celebrated 50 trips around the sun. I can’t see out parallel course changing in the future, and look forward to always laughing and celebrating with her.

Minus the Spanks and shoes that hurt our bunions. We always were, and always will be bathing suits and flip flops kind of gals.


Friday, October 11, 2019

Birthday Greetings Bottle of Wine

When Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released, my parents were much too busy to notice. They had four kids, a family business, and learned a couple of months after taking the two youngest to Disney, that (oops) Mom was expecting their fifth.  As the oldest and built-in babysitter, needing me and feeding me took on its own meaning.  They needed me to watch the tribe, and for that, they'd feed me.

So this is my last week before the "GOOD-GOD-HOW-DID-I-GET-TO-BE-THIS-OLD?" number. While Paul McCartney hasn't knocked on my door to sing this love ballad, it hasn't stopped me from belting out the lyrics when no one is around to laugh.

I'm older; not losing my hair but not dying it either.  I've gotten the hang of using the brightening shampoo only sparingly so my hair doesn't turn a subtle shade of lavender.  While mentally younger than 64, physically, the jury is still out.  There are moments when I look in the mirror and the face and body that stares back at me is as frightening as Freddy Krueger. My waistline is pictured on milk cartons with the caption "Have you seen me?"  And if that's not enough of a reminder that time is marching on, the new little red, white and blue card that says I'm a ward of the good old USA for basic healthcare sure does.

Staying our till quarter to three is a joke...unless it's three in the afternoon, which is when I locked the door accidentally with no keys to get back in.  Twice.  Still, I made it past my bedtime to see Bruce on Broadway, more than a half-dozen other shows and some of the best local bands on the shore. My age didn't stop me from going to some great theme festivals-Renaissance, Irish, Seafood and Chinese Lantern. The bonus was checking off a Bucket List item by marching two miles in the NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade with Son #1 and his GF.

I downsized to a townhouse, so I have no need to be handy mending a fuse. My new neighbor shared his generator when the lights were gone in a blackout (and G&T's when only a cold drink would do). I knit by the fireside, crochet too, and in doing so, discovered that naps on the couch aren't such a bad thing. Sunday morning, go for a ride to run errands is the new normal. A couple of adventurous Thelma and Louise-type friends even joined on a day trip to the Woodstock Museum. Wingman loved doing the garden and digging the weeds.  Me-not so much.  What I do like is the fig tree in my garden that actually bears fruit.  And when I wanted to channel my inner Martha Stewart, I picked berries for homemade raspberry preserves.  Who could ask for more?

With moving, there was no time to rent a cottage on the Isle of Wight, or even Staten Island, but every weekend I walked a couple of blocks to my own little beach on the river.  I scrimped and saved and went to THREE weddings in ONE weekend-I challenge any of my younger friends to come close to that. I'm still working on being a cool Memom ( bribes of candy help) for the three grandchildren at my knee-a girl and two boys like in the song. Dave is even one of their middle names. Fingers crossed, the fourth should be here at Christmas.

And I'll continue to express my point of view in my own warped musical way with my blog. While no one fills the shoes on mine forever more, I plan to spend my last week of adulthood checking off more boxes, drinking good wine, and singing a new song: “Forever Young.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Where Were You When The World Stopped Turnin' That September Day?

Everyone over the age of 25 can tell you where they were on 9/11. I was at Wrinkle City in our usual morning sales meeting when my desk phone started ringing without stopping. That morning, we had some corporate VP's visiting, and the meeting tone was somber.  My Sales Director was nervous that they were there to fire him because sales for the community were flat at best.

One VP was annoyed enough at the disruption that he said to take the call.  It was Wingman-literally screaming into the phone.  He had just gone through the Holland Tunnel on his way to a meeting when he and his associate saw the first plane hit the Tower. "Turn on a TV and call me back and tell me what happened!"

Memories after that were 10 second sound bytes. Crying seniors holding each other watching the news. The guy in the adjoining cubby trying desperately to get in touch with his parents who were en route to Vegas out of Newark. (They were fine). The VP's leaving solemnly to go back to DC after learning what happened at the nearby Pentagon. (My director in fact, did not lose his job).

Because of the limited cell service, I couldn’t reach Wingman. Hours later, I got a call that they were safe but unable to get out of the City.  The boys weren't even aware that he went to NYC that day, so I called the BFF who worked at their high school and asked her to let them know.  Son #1 was OK with the news, but son #2 lost it. As a new freshman, he had two friends whose parents were unaccounted for. Both perished.

One event in the following days moved me more than anything. On that first Friday night, he high school football coach had the JV and Varsity teams stand as honor guards outside the church next to the school. To see Son #1 and the rest of those young men standing silently as people sobbed their way into the church left me speechless. The following week, Son #2 and the freshman team stood as honor guards at one of their teammate’s dad’s wake.

Since then, I’ve met some of the most resilient people who either survived the attack or lost someone that day. I took knitting lessons from a woman who lost her husband just a few months after having her third child, then survived breast cancer which led to writing a book.  The freshman football player who started the junior board of a 9/11 charity after his dad died the first week of school. Then there are happy stories with further tragic twists: the dad of a college teammate of Son #2 who lost his youngest brother in 9/11, was a great supporter of his two athletic sons, then lost the youngest to a brain tumor. A woman who lost her husband, then found a new love only to suddenly lose him the morning that they were to leave on a vacation.

Today is a day to remember. It’s also a day to do something good. It’s a day to honor the memory of those we love no matter how or when they died. It can be as simple as a smile. Today, I choose to be what united us the day after 9/11 rather than what has divided us since. I already have a Dunkin card ready to buy some coffees.

And if you have time, watch this uplifting video of the biggest water rescue in history-that of 9/11. It’s what brought boat owners large and small together on that fateful day.

Friday, July 26, 2019

What Good Is Sitting Alone In Your Room, Come Hear The Music Play

Even before there was a Wingman, I loved music, even though it didn't manifest itself in any talent on my part. I sang in a children's choir where the director said that I had a "special voice" so I sat apart from the rest of the girls. I was in a folk group as a teen, but don’t ask about my tambourine playing.  And because it required no talent, I was the ultimate groupie for a couple of bands that played in local bars at the shore.

I met Wingman at a party after his friend joined one of those bands.  We didn't talk about music the first night-we talked about watching Casablanca and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.  When he asked if I would like to play tennis with him, I eagerly accepted...even though athletics are another one of my Achilles heels. It was just the first of many differences between us.  The quote "opposites attract", was us to a tee. Different upbringings, political stances, and don't even talk about styles of cooking.  The Easter Duck Debacle still resonates loudly.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Fathers Be Good to Your Daughters. Daughters Will Love Like You Do

Of all the Hallmark holidays, Father’s Day doesn’t cost me a dime. No grandfathers, godfather or father-in-law. For the past seven years, not even the father-of-my-children which saves me money not having to buy ugly tank tops and Yankees shirts for the boys to excitedly give him. Father’s Day use to be a testosterone filled, toilet seat in the vertical position, who-is-playing-on-what-field day. It’s anything but that now.

Four years ago, my dad died.  It wasn't totally unexpected.  He had been sick on and off for about a year, with the doctors misdiagnosing his pulmonary fibrosis.  He died three days after Wingman's birthday, and I literally WILLED him to stay alive at least a day past that so I wouldn't be forced to say "Yep, today is Wingman's birthday and the day Dad died.” It may not have been as much my will as his final wish to see his great granddaughter one more time before he died. I guess I know where I get my stubbornness from.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Time Grabs You By The Wrist, Directs You Where To Go...

When I worked at Wrinkle City, I gave lectures at our sales luncheons about the wonderful quality of life one would have living there.  I would admonish everyone however, that because they would be downsizing, they couldn't move in with everything they had in their big houses. In my 12 years working there, I don't think one person ever listened to me.

Moving into my smaller townhouse, I didn't listen to me either.

Monday, March 18, 2019

We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, If It's The Last Thing We Ever Do

When I babysit my grandkids, they love to be read to before nap time, and they usually bring out the biggest books in the pile.  One of the most beautifully illustrated is a book of fairy tales which I always enjoy reading plus oohing and aahing over the pictures.

All except Hansel and Gretel.  I hate that story. Because while I'm waiting on my condo to close, I'm living the "fattening up the kids" part with my mother. In just six short weeks I've put on five pounds.  That's all I'm admitting to and the scale will never tell it's version of the truth.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Good Luck Movin' On 'Cause I'm Movin' Out

According to Science Daily, the average time from ovulation to giving birth is 268 days. According to MLS, the time between the day I listed my home, sold it and moved out was 6 days short of that at 262 days. Unlike any of my pregnancies, there was nothing “magical” or exciting about trying to keep the house clean and look like I didn't live there with an adult son with allergies to vacuum cleaners and a big old hairy dog. Having the home inspection was similar to the unfounded fears in amniocentesis and praying the buyers didn't find anything majorly wrong. And just like a woman whose water breaks unexpectedly in the grocery store and goes into quick labor, I got a call that the buyers wanted to close in just two short weeks after waiting 5 months for them to get a contract. Delivering my 10 pound, 12 ounce second son without an epidural was less painful.

Monday, December 31, 2018

And So This Is Christmas, And What Have You Done?

This year, I overcame my compulsion to create the “perfect” Christmas. For too many years, I over-bought, over-wrapped, over-decorated and over-everything-ed, attempting to over-compensate for Wingman’s dislike of my Uber-Christmases and his drinking. Every year we were like two speeding Polar Express freight trains heading towards each other with the same disastrous results.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

You Just Keep Me Hanging On

One evening last week, I was working the phone like my job was in a call center: stressful and with frustrating results.  The buyer of my house was begging for ANOTHER extension since he hadn’t sold his townhouse. My realtor was insisting that we squash the deal and let him find me a “real” buyer-something that he hadn’t produced in the previous five months. I was trying to juggle meeting up with a friend who simultaneously was trying to juggle a mandatory visit to an in-law in the hospital. A lot of talk with no action.

That night, I had a dream about Wingman which shocked me because I don’t recall having even one dream about him since he died. In it, we were on a cruise ship which was apropos, since he said, after our only cruise together, that the next one would be “over his dead body”.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Like Painted Kites, Those Days and Nights, They Went Flyin' By

Just call me Rip Van Widow. I went to bed on the last night of spring, and woke up on the first day of fall.  WHAT HAPPENED TO SUMMER??? More importantly, why does summer seem to get shorter every year?

Many years and a lifetime ago with three ridiculously active sons, I spent all of my days off between June and August either at a baseball field or on the beach.  It was infinitely satisfying sitting doing absolutely nothing except the NY Times Sunday Crossword (in pen) while enjoying a pork roll, egg and cheese sandwich along with a cup of coffee. The only way I knew where I was headed, was by what I wore. A tank top was important in keeping my tan lines in check, but wearing a bathing suit to a baseball game would have embarrassed the hell out of my sons.

I’ll Be There For You (Cause You’re There For Me Too)

Over Easter vacation my freshman year of high school, my parents sent me to Florida to visit my grandparents. If vacationing with your ...