There have been recent postings asking, “Do you think kids ever grow-up?”
The consensus of opinion was no, and while I agree, I would like to add a comment. They don't grow up, and as a parent, you get to be blamed for...well.... everything.
One of my daughters has blamed me for years for her house-full of animals.
You may ask why, but it’s truly understandable.
One Christmas I bought her a Playschool Farm. I loved the way she played...such a wonderful imagination...and from a child's world of make-believe, developed a woman who has a compassionate heart and lots of animals.
I’ve watched as she has taken in cats, dogs, hamsters, rabbits and yes, several horses.
Their numbers have dwindled...age and infirmities have taken their toll. Huckles, a rescue border collie, lived a long life and died in my daughter's arms on a warm summer day.
She found Jif at the cat shelter. Jif was very old and bald with legs that were twisted from arthritis. “How can I let him die in a shelter?” she asked. And so, Jif was taken home and through her care, his fur grew in, and he lived another year. His ashes are in his favorite resting place: the bookcase.
She recently lost her last horse, Walter, and I knew that was extremely hard for her. Well, fate or the goddesses have a way of showing us our way, and she found Tango; a former show horse whose jumping days were over due to an injury.
Recently, she asked me to take care of the animals while she and her husband went on a short vacation. With a precision that would rival General Patton’s Invasion of Normandy, she instructed me on the care and handling of each and every animal. The list was detailed with times of feedings, where the animals should be fed...I think you get the picture.
“Do you text?” she asked.
I can swear her eyes rolled just before she took me upstairs to her bedroom and showed me where the cats would be fed. Three different bowls ...one for each cat. Two brothers adopted from a cat shelter and a lost female kitten who found her way to cat paradise.
I admired a small trunk-like box next to her bed.
That’s Walter,” she said.
She opened the box to show me his ashes, braided-tail and a lock from his mane.
Freedom does not come easily; it is an elusive concept that must be fought for, reinvented, and won, over and over again.
It was January, 1939 and the celebrated African-American opera singer Marian Anderson wanted to perform at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. She was told, "The Hall is not available due to a prior engagement." Ms. Anderson then requested several alternate dates and received the same refusal. "The Hall is not available due to prior engagements."
The real reason became clear: The owners of Constitution Hall, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), had a policy of not allowing African Americans to perform on their stage.
Perhaps that would have been the end of the story, another blip on a long timeline of discrimination—except for one member of the DAR, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
On Easter Day, April 9, 1939, Marian Anderson held her concert, not at Constitution Hall, but at the base of the Lincoln Memorial. A crowd of 75,000 gathered to hear her sing, ‘My country 'tis of thee.'
A few years ago I bought a yellow slicker from Lands End. It has tons of zippers and pockets and a hood that makes me look a bit like Donald Duck. I love that jacket and every year I eagerly wait for the day when it rains and I can go walking. I call it my magical yellow slicker because as soon as I put it on, my thoughts begin to deepen, drifting away to long ago memories.
I dawdled this particular morning and by the time I stepped outside the rain had stopped. The sky was now patched with gray and white clouds, but there were some clear spots and the sun was struggling to peek through.
I live in a hilly area in a suburb of Los Angeles. The nearest gas station is two miles away and thankfully, there is only one fast food restaurant, nearby. For most of the year the hills surrounding the area are brown. But today, they had turned an emerald green as if suddenly waking from a long sleep.
As I rambled along on my walk, my thoughts wandered to a teacher I had in eleventh grade. Mrs. Ovitz taught a literature course and I discovered my home in her class. We read the classics and she encouraged student participation through thought provoking discussions. She interspersed some personal stories: how she had emigrated from Hungary and had spent her summers as a student bicycling through Europe. She opened my eyes to a world beyond the confines of the 1950's. She inspired me and while my education would be interrupted for many years she gave me the gift of analyzing and teasing out the subtle themes in literature.
As I continued on my walk I thought about the impact one person can have on our lives—sometimes in a negative way and other times in a positive, life altering way. I thought about the power we sometimes give to past negative experiences and in doing so let the positive ones slip away.
After I returned home and hung up my yellow slicker, I picked up my kindle and looked at my selection of books: classics to current novels to poetry to non-fiction in the grandest assortment of subjects.
Mrs. Ovitz died some years ago, but her gift is one that lives on. I gave the love of reading and analyzing the written word to my children; they have passed it on to their children and now with the beginning of the third generation I am certain it will continue in perpetuity.
Thank you, Mrs. Ovitz.
We are quickly approaching the New Year ... a time to let go of the Old and let in the New. What a wonderful concept; a chance at a fresh beginning.
I’ve made my share of resolutions, most of them around dieting and exercising. They didn’t last long...perhaps less than a week. But there is one that has stayed with me and has become a central theme in the way I have chosen to live my life. That resolution—to let go of past hurts—sent me on a journey toward understanding and embracing the act of forgiveness.
I began to write late at night, when sleep would not come. Words flowed through my fingers and onto paper. Afterward, I tore the paper up and thought about letting go of negative feelings. Gradually, I felt an internal shift taking place.
I looked with open eyes at any part I might have played in past situations. I knew that I had no part in things that happened to me as a child, but I had to look at failed adult relationships and own my part.
I made a list of things I wanted to change, not in others, but within myself. Perhaps, the most difficult thing was to forgive myself for pain I may have caused to another person.
Along this road I was traveling, I began to find pieces of myself that had been lost. The joy of writing returned and perhaps most importantly, I reclaimed my laughter and sense of humor.
As this New Year approaches, I am not making any resolutions, but I am reflecting. On the complete joy of life, at the wonderful people I have met, and most importantly, the openness with which I now embrace life.
My Most Memorable Christmas
No, it wasn’t when I was seven and got a bike and it wasn’t when I was —much older— and got a state of the art computer. The Christmas I’m thinking of happened in 1996 and it is one that I will never forget.
My daughter, son-in-law and four-year-old grandson were living in Seattle and my girlfriend (GF) and I were going to spend the holiday with them. We thought, as long as we’re up that way, why not take a side trip to Whistler and get in some skiing?
It was two days before Christmas and off GF and I went, carrying our skis, and another suitcase filled with more toys.
Christmas morning was a sight to behold. There had to be forty presents for you know whom. I was beginning to get daggers thrown, not subtly, in my direction.
Each truck, fire engine and car came with decals. And this little boy went bonkers. Bad grandma, stand in the corner. We had a complete meltdown (I had one, as well) and the stickers and decals were going everywhere and every which way.
It was a good thing that we were escaping to Whistler the next morning. This grandma fiasco called for a quick getaway.
GF and I got up around 4:00am and I was relieved and excited to get on the road. I knew my daughter also felt the same way.
Now, I am a southern California kid and while I learned to ski and play in the snow, I had never seen snow falling and as GF and I were leaving in our little rented Suzuki, I am beginning to see white flakes covering the car.
After a while, GF was gripping the steering wheel and beads of sweat were trickling down her face. I was cheerful and having the best time watching the snow, fall and fall and fall. We are in the record-making snowstorm of 1996.
We drove for one-half hour only to discover that a logging truck had turned over blocking both sides of the highway. Now, we are stuck, but the sun has decided to come out so, again I am looking on the bright side of life.
It was nightfall before we got to Whistler—The next morning the snow was still falling and we decided to forego the skiing and head back to Seattle and the airport.
We got to the airport and were waiting to board the plane when they announced that all flights were cancelled. There was a stampede of people trying to rent a car, catch a cab or train. I’m stampeding as well... right over to Starbucks.
In my profound style of looking at life, I said to GF, “The hell with it. I’m settling down until the planes are taking off.” GF is determined to get us out, and off she goes to stand in line.
Suddenly, there was a power failure and a security gate crashed down between us. The airport generators began to work, with enough power to turn on the lights, but not enough power to lift the gate. We looked at each other through prison bars and I couldn't stop laughing. I decided, why fight it? I flopped down on the floor, put my ski jacket over my head and fell asleep for the night.
The next morning power was restored, the gate lifted and GF got us tickets to fly home.
I've had fifteen Christmases since 1996, but that remains the most memorable Christmas in my memory—so far.
One of the nice things about maturing is that the children—also maturing— begin to take over the holiday dinners. Free at last!! Yippee!!
Planning for Thanksgiving begins with an email or phone call from my daughter (D) inviting me to dinner and, "Will you make the stuffing?"
Of course, I will. Now, the one and only complaint my kids have about me (at least to my face) is that I tend to make too much food. I have been teased and joked about, but never once have they refused the leftovers—packed in Trader Joe's bags.
One week before Thanksgiving I got a phone call:
"We're going to have a small group this year. Between 8 and 10."
"Okay." (I have found over the years that saying less is the way to go.)
"Don't make enough stuffing for twenty."
I'm thinking, Who me? "Okay."
"One box and no more."
Thanksgiving was no longer the topic, but we talked for another hour about this and that.
Well, I struggled with the one box. Hah! Grandson on his own can eat that much. But, I am determined to change. I will make the food according to D’s instructions. It's never too late to learn: one box it is.
Yesterday morning I got the second call.
“Um, I invited three more people for dinner. They had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving. I think we'll need more stuffing."
"The true meaning of the holiday is about sharing. I’m really glad you did."
"Yeah, me too. I bought two small turkeys. We're going to smoke one and if that doesn't come out...well, I bought a second one for the oven. But, I'm thinking I should get a larger one for the oven." (She's beginning to sound like her mother—hope really does spring eternal.)
"That sounds like a really good idea. Do you want to hear the story about the time your grandpa took us on a trip to a turkey ranch?"
"Uh, I think I've heard that one about twenty times."
"Okay, what about when he took me to the chicken slaughter factory?"
"Uh, thirty times on that one. Tell me one I never heard before."
"This is a story about when I was very, very little. On Thanksgiving, Grandma and Grandpa would always go to the USO and invite some soldiers over for dinner. The year that I remember, it was two young men from the Midwest. I was very impressed because they seemed so grownup. Looking back on it, I think they were still in their teens. They were so grateful to be with a family. And of course, you know how much food Grandma cooked. She filled up bags of food for them to take with them. You can never have too much food." (hint, hint)
"Hmm.... So, you don't think two turkeys it too much?"
"Sounds perfect to me."
"Okay, see you Thursday."
When I returned home, there was a message waiting for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen my doctor for years. She’s great, takes time with you, and is really wonderful with the geriatric population. Oops, I now fit into that category.
The best part about her: she was on the Olympic Fencing Team so she has to be a great doc—follow my logic?
I rely on her exam to tell me if I’m going to live another year. I plan my future based on her evaluation.
There are two things I am dreading: the scale and the height measurement. I’ve gained two pounds since my last exam and I’m sure I’ve shrunk another half-inch. Hey, if I were 5’8” I wouldn’t worry; I’m not. I’ve already told my kids that I will be like Stuart Little and when the end comes (I don’t use the term die) they can put me in a matchbox and save on investing in real estate (I don’t say grave either).
The two-pound gain, should not be a big deal except, I’ve read on the, "follow your doc website," that she has now lost thirty and is fit and trim. My great equalizer is gone. I have five days to lose two pounds. I can do that. If I switch to Atkins and eat all protein, the weight will fall off, but then my cholesterol might jump and I can see a worry-line forming on her forehead and her prescription pad in her hand. I’ll hit the gym for five days and hope my back doesn’t go out or my blood pressure zooms up.
By now I have worked myself into quite a state.
I begin to get dressed and can’t seem to figure out if my undies are inside out or outside in. Should I add dementia to my list? Finally, I manage to figure that out, when it suddenly hits me, she only works a half-day on Fridays. My appointment must be for Thursday.
I have four days to lose two pounds and create more muscle mass.
Now where the heck did I put those weights?
It was 1991, I was newly divorced, excited about life and making plans for the future. The list was growing—I had waited a long time—when Fate, or God or Happenstance, took over and rearranged my life.
I’ve thought a lot about my journey with breast cancer, where it began and where it has taken me. I can recall that initial moment of knowing—the numbness that was followed by overwhelming fear: fear of death, fear of the treatment.
My world was about to be turned upside down and it would never be the same.
I want to tell you what I learned during my journey with breast cancer and I will, of course, follow that with a story.
I had to be clear and tell them what I needed. At the beginning, all I wanted was for them to hold me and let me fall apart. Everything else could come later.
I wanted to give back, to help other women with cancer and started a support group. Seven of us met for over two years, each with a different story, yet joined together by a common thread.
Gradually, we went on with our lives: new lives, without guarantees, days that would be cherished one at a time.
I Talked the Talk—I Would Walk the Walk
It was 1998, and life was good. I was in love, kids and grandkids were doing well, and my private practice was flourishing.
I was having my morning coffee and read an announcement for Avon’s Breast Cancer Walk: A three-day, 60 mile walk down the coast of California from Santa Barbara to Malibu. I was inspired.
I called my girlfriend, "Would you like to take a walk?”
“Sounds like fun,” was her reply.
Now, my girlfriend and I were not exactly lightweights. But, I thought we carried the extra pounds with grace—or was I being delusional, again?
We had nine-months to train, to go from zero walking, to 20 miles a day, for three days.
We thought it out and devised a plan. We could do it!
Step One: Register.
Step Two: Raise money.
Step Three: Shop for shoes, socks and outfits.
We were rocking!
Our first training walk was one mile. We high-fived and celebrated by having a hot fudge sundae.
We gradually increased the distance until by summer we were walking fifteen miles on Saturday and fifteen miles on Sunday.
We thought we would lose some weight, but for some strange reason, we didn’t lose a damn ounce. Hmm...
My girlfriend and I both lived in an area where summer temperatures climb into the 100s. We found a way around it.
I would stay at her house on Friday nights and we would walk from her house to mine. The next day we reversed the route, seventeen miles each way. We were getting up at 5:00 to beat the heat. We were not fast walkers; I would describe us as slugs, but we kept going.
The summer temperature was rising. We tweaked our plan.
Now, we were setting the alarm for 4:30 and driving one-half hour to Venice Beach to walk twenty-miles in the cool coastal air. We knew every potty stop and every pastry shop.
The months went by, my bone density was excellent, my abs taut.By October, we had walked over 1000 miles. For some odd reason, neither one of us had lost a damn ounce. Hmm..
It was two days before we were due to board the bus for Santa Barbara and I had some gardening chores to do before leaving.I was watering the grass with a long pointed spike stuck deep into the lawn. Standing barefoot in the wet grass wiggling my toes brought back childhood memories of running through the sprinklers on warm summer days. Lost in my reverie, I turned off the water, leaned over and pulled the spike out of the ground by yanking the hose. The spike flew in the air and fell back to earth, right on my foot—right on my toe. Bull's-eye!
I followed with my prescribed treatment: I soaked my foot, covered it in ointment and wrapped it lightly in gauze. Then I went to bed and watched a movie with a bowl of ice cream as a "poor baby," treat. Surely, it would be better by tomorrow.
I called my girlfriend and told her what had happened.
She said, “Do you want me to take you to the ER?”
I was amazed. It had never entered my mind. “Why? What will they do?"
She replied, "Like help you?"
I shrugged my shoulders as if she could see through the phone.
She continued, "Are you going to try to do the walk?"
"Of course," I said, through my delusional haze. "I’m sure it will be better in two days.”
The next day my mangled toe looked—mangled. I needed to analyze this problem. I hobbled to the drugstore and bought Aleve; that would be my answer to any and all pain.
The gathering of the walkers in Santa Barbara was amazing. There were close to two thousand women and men walking for a cure. Many had names written on the back of their shirts—some of survivors, some in memoriam.
I tried to control the pain by popping an Aleve every couple of hours, all the while, feeling like the Little Mermaid walking on broken glass.
I limped into Avon's tent city where portable showers, excellent food, music, and fun waited. In spite of the pain, I tried to look at the bright side. I'm surrounded by almost 2000 women: how bad can things be?
I began to itch and now there were little red bumps all over my back, arms, legs and elsewhere. I was having a reaction to overdosing on Aleve. I couldn't decide which was worse, my itching or the pain in my foot. I kept walking, blisters were beginning to form. I was in triple agony.
My girlfriend urged me to see a doc.
I looked at her as if she was crazy. "Seriously? They'll pull me out of the walk. Not in my book."
I continued to walk. Sometimes I think of the benefits of being stubborn. This was one of those times when it was paying off. We were three miles from Malibu and the sag wagon was following me like a hound dog on a hunt.
I'm thinking, Damn, they are closing in. They'll have to tie me up and throw me in; I'm walking to the finish line.
We trudged, I itched, she scratched—we crossed the finish line.
Okay, so we were the last ones, I never said I'd be first. I proudly put on the pink survivor's t-shirt. I felt I had really earned it.
The next morning I went to the ER, got cortisone tablets and sat with my foot on a foot rest, the remote control nearby, and you guessed it, a big bowl of ice cream in my hand. I never could understand why we didn't lose any weight.
A month later my foot had healed and we decided to walk the 1999 Los Angeles' Marathon.
And that, my friends, is another story.
Ascultural Jews we have intermarried, celebrated Easter along with Passover, and exchanged gifts at a Christmas brunch—tree included. My friends think of me as a JewBu—I call myself eclectic—some of my relatives are atheists, but still identify culturally as Jews; some have become born-again Christians.
The ceremony was very emotional for me, perhaps even more than it would ordinarily have been. You see, I had several major losses in the prior three years: the deaths of my sister and mother, and the loss of a long-term relationship.