Tag Archives: grandchildren

All About Me! or Get Her Well and Shut Her Up!

Since there’s nothing happening much in the news, I thought I’d give you all an update on my health! I mean, let’s keep what’s important in perspective, right?

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I’m well into week 5 of this virus, no pun intended. I do think I turned a corner last week in that I’m not as flat-out sick as I was. But still, once I start feeling tired, I’m done. There’s no cushion to the fatigue. And once it comes, so does the cough, which tires me out more.

I’d like to first say that I have so much more compassion for people who have chronic illnesses. And I’d like to say that I’m sorry for not understanding how debilitated a person can be. I now understand why people become incommunicado—it’s just too much work to get in touch. It takes too much energy to go to lunch or even have a manicure. I don’t mean to say that my virus is on the par of chronic illness—I fully realize it’s just a virus. But it’s given me a taste of what people go through.

I think it also gave me a taste of what I may be like when I’m old, in my late 90’s. Right now my energy bank is not very full. I rest a couple of hours a day, especially if I have to go to an event. Otherwise, I wouldn’t make it. I make tradeoffs, also. If I’m going to go to the grocery store, I can’t take a walk or go to yoga. Not enough energy to cover both.

But I’m grateful that I’ve been able to do the important things this month. I made it to my grandson’s high school graduation and to my granddaughter’s dance recital. I made it to my daughter’s birthday and to our neighbor’s birthday. I made it to the family celebration of birthdays, Fathers Days, graduations and anniversaries. I even finished the chapter I’d been working on.

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I couldn’t eat much with this virus—too tired and slightly nauseous from the fever—so I lost a few pounds. (there has to be a silver lining!). My brother saw one of the family celebration pictures and thought I looked too thin.

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So last Friday, after I had my hair cut, I put on a lot of make up and had my daughter take my picture. That way I could show Steve I felt much better.

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One disturbing thing I realized during this siege is that if you don’t feel well, you make a lot of mistakes. My mind was kinda fuzzy—from the virus or the meds, I don’t know. I tried to keep going and accomplishing, but I’d come back to find out I hadn’t actually finished a task or had not done something correctly. Imagine if I were your pilot! Or your lab technician.

I want to thank everyone for the good advice, encouraging words and help. I did go to the doctor three times and I did get a chest X-ray. I did take more vitamins and kept up my fluids. Part of it was fear engendered by midnight coughing fits. Didn’t Jim Henson die of pneumonia? I’d think as I chugged cough medicine. Oh, and that reminds me. I had a lot of trouble with cough medicine—I tried it with codeine and I had weird dreams and sores in my mouth. And most over-the-counter ones have sucralose in them, of all things.

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A final thought: I realize as I read this over, that I must be very grateful to be such a healthy 71-year-old. If I can complain so much about this virus, I’m mostly in good health! I may be a rust bucket but I have classic lines!

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Leaving Yad Va Shem

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Though in the background the shadow people linger,
six million and more of them,
Here we stand, three generations:
the present moving toward the future.

Evil did not triumph.
The Third Reich turned to dust.
Their empire in ashes,
As were their victims.

Goodness prevailed
Though the cost was beyond measure.
Who can comprehend the savage brutality?

Who can deny that it happened?
What is in a hand?
What is in a name?
The fingerprint of humanity.
The identity of a soul.

Turning Seventy is Sublime

 

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I am in the middle of writing an essay about how wonderful it is to be 70. I started it in January, but got caught up in other things and in writing a memoir piece. So now I’m almost half way to being 71. With luck and time, I will finish the essay before that birthday.

Meanwhile, I’m going to share some thoughts. On my 70th, I was determined to not look or feel my age. It was a lot of work! Now I’m purposefully slowing down—as a matter of fact, I took myself out of the race. I’m not so touchy about people holding a door open for me or asking to help me with my grocery bags. I don’t have to be in charge. I don’t have to be the responsible one. I don’t have to try proving that I’m as strong and capable as I once was. I can surrender to the aging. I can admit that I get tired. I can admit that I can’t lift my suitcase. I can admit that a swimsuit is not my best look, but I’ll wear one anyway.

One of the great benefits of aging is that I like being who I am. I say to myself when I’m doing something, “You know, that’s who you are. You’ve always been that way.” And I feel good rather than thinking I should change to conform to somebody else’s ideas. It’s true, for instance, that I rather write than play golf.

 

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I still think of myself as young. For instance, if I’m on a bus or train, I’ll stand up to give my seat to an older person. Only… what’s happening is that sometimes there is no older person. The first time this occurred was last summer when I went to DC to look after my grandson who was interning there. To begin with, that was a joke. Garrett, in reality, looked after me. He set me up with a Metro pass and with Uber. He made sure I was fine when he went to work. He’d call to check on me. He made the dinner reservations and showed me where the washer/dryer was in the building. The day we took the Metro to Capitol Hill, he made sure I got on the train without any trouble. I was standing next to him when a man asked me if I’d like his seat. I smiled and looked around for an older person to take advantage of his offer. Then I realized I was the oldest by at least twenty years. That was a “Yikes” moment!

I’m not denying that aging comes with a lot of loss. We have lost so many dear friends and family to cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Or they are suffering with the effects of their disease. There is a sadness now that really has no time to go away. Then there is the loss of taut skin, height and strong muscles, eyesight and hearing—but let’s not go there right now.

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I want to age gracefully, but I want to have fun too. Cindy Joseph’s make up tips for older woman have been widely distributed on Facebook. Here’s some of her advice around the eyes: “Women older than 50 tend to lose definition in their eyebrows. Just go with that. Don’t recreate the brows you had in your 20s.”

Really? I liked my eyebrows in my twenties, and if I don’t use eyebrow pencil now, I have no definition at all. I also tint whatever eyebrow hairs I have left. True, I don’t want to get to the stage where I’m drawing them on and entirely missing the eyebrow line. That is not attractive. But I figured out the solution to that: getting a stronger magnifying mirror for now and a trusted helper in my nineties.

Joseph also says: “Do not wear any eye shadow at all. …A little bit of mascara is OK.” Sorry, Cindy, but I plan to be wearing eye shadow in my coffin when I’m a 110. I love eye shadow. I’ve loved it since I was 13 and my mother wouldn’t let me wear it. So I’m not giving it up now or ever. I had a friend who got false eyelashes when she was 84. She loved them and they were cute on her! So there!

 

 

 

 

 

America, the Beautiful

America, the beautiful. Or is it America, the beautiful? I think it’s probably both. Certainly this country is not perfect. Certainly, I would live no where else. And I’m eternally grateful to my grandparents who had the courage to flee Russia and Lithuania. As they sailed into New York harbor, they felt the protecting shelter of the Statue of Liberty and the benediction of Emma Lazarus’ words: “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”.

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Their way was not easy when they hit these shores. Instead of the streets of gold they’d heard about, they found only poverty, hardship and prejudice. But they weren’t afraid they’d be killed outright as they had in Europe. With hard work and perseverance, they could build a successful life. And they did.

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Fast forward a hundred years and their granddaughter has been lucky enough to go to Washington D.C. three times in the last ten months. Who’d ah thought? I’ve toured the Capitol Building twice and the White House once. I’ve toured the monuments all three times. I’m now a junkie!

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The city is built on a grand scale that we don’t see much of in our united states. Statues and magnificent buildings are interspersed with green parkways. It’s beautiful, truly.

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This last trip I was at an ADL convention. The Anti-Defamation League was originally founded in 1915 to protect Jewish people from Antisemitism. It has grown and broadened its goal to protect all human and civil rights. I feel safer at night to know the ADL exists. I was impressed by the dedication of the young people attending, and inspired to action, myself.

Our hotel was only a ten minute stroll from the White House and I walked to it a couple of times. Tourists from around the world flock there. It’s impressive both because of its architecture and its significance.  My four-year-old granddaughter walked there with her babysitter. My daughter and grandson walked there to see it at night.

We were home only two days when I heard about the shooting at a White House check point. It sent shivers down my spine. What if one of my family had been there then?

 

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“Did you hear about the shooting at the White House?” I said as I walked into the dentist’s office.

“I hope they shot Obama,” a pleasant looking woman said.

I was taken aback. “Too unkind,” I said. “He’s our President.” Where’s the respect? I thought. There should be some respect for our President, if nothing else. Just plain old human decency.

The woman gave me a dirty look and turned her back on me. I sat down across the waiting room, not looking at her either.

Where has all the civility gone? I wondered. Long time passing.

Will it take another 911 to get out the “United We Stand” posters, and to bring back the realization that we’re all Americans, all part of the same family? Disagree, fine. Disparage, okay. But to wish someone’s injury or death? That’s too ugly of an American for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Praise of Crying

There’s a lot of sadness in this world, my dad would say. I think I could write a book with that title—each chapter talking about a time when his words would resonate in my life. He started saying it when we were young and complaining about something trivial, but he continued saying it into his nineties. He said it so often that I hear it in my head all the time. My kids, grown up now, say it too.

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There IS a lot of sadness in this world. Sometimes my world becomes so sad that the weight of it fills the room—like when my brother-in-law got throat cancer and died. And we didn’t know whether to tell my mother-in-law—whether to disturb her dementia with truths. Whether to pull her out of the nursing home to take her to his funeral. You’d want to go to your son’s funeral, right? Or maybe wrong. That was a sad time, but you didn’t have time to dwell on it. You had to make decisions—you had to argue with siblings about what to do. That pushed the sadness away.

I don’t know why I am so sad this morning. Is it the world situation, which terrifies and saddens me? Is it that wonderful friends have been diagnosed with cancer and brain tumors? Is it because I’m now just beginning to process that we moved away from a place where I had twenty-five happy years? Is it that I have been looking through photos of my life with my granddaughter as she prepares to scan them into the computer? She is already twelve—no longer the three-year-old who loved to play Goldilocks on our front steps. Don’t get me wrong. She is a lovely girl, inside and out. I wouldn’t want it to be any other way, but how did it happen so quickly?

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And how have the years flown away since my own little family looked like this?

 

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Or is it just plain melancholy I’m feeling? In our society, we’re not allowed much space for sadness. In the nineteenth century, there were spots in gardens set aside for people to sit and examine their melancholy. It wasn’t seen as an illness. Now we say these people are depressed and we should find a cure for it; medicate in some form. I usually medicate by overdoing. I’m so busy that I don’t have time to think let alone cry. But this morning was different.

I took a walk along the lake, listening to an audio book. This kept the mind busy, giving me no time to think. Then I happened on some dead bushes. I idly wondered if they were victims of the drought. My attention was caught by the original tag on one of them, waving in the breeze. Someone had placed it on the plant when it was healthy and blooming. Now the withered plant was dead. The hopelessness of it hit me and I began to cry.

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I pulled myself together and kept walking. I didn’t start crying again until I was in the kitchen cleaning out the pantry cabinet, throwing out food that had passed its sell by date. One side of my mind told me to cut it out, eat my breakfast and get on with it. The other side told me to let go of my sadness—to let some of it, at least, seep out of me. It was when I was cutting up celery that I began to keen like some banshee. I put down the knife and leaned against the sink. I was alone in the house and could make as much noise as I wanted. It was only the dog I scared. He looked at me with alarm, then ran to get a toy to drop at my feet. I sat on the floor and hugged him. Normally I would have told him I was okay to reassure him, but not this time.

So why am I telling you this? I’m not sure why I’m revealing so much. I know that when I got up and started cleaning up the kitchen, I stood outside of myself, wondering what someone would think if they saw me: is that old lady batshit crazy? I wondered how many other women did as I was now doing—cried when no one else could hear. Maybe fifteen minutes later, I realized my tears weren’t feeding my depression—my sadness—. Instead they were easing it. I was doing something I should have been doing all along—crying out my grief, not trapping it inside to fester. The phrase, “It’s All Right to Cry”, that Rosie Greer sang on Sesame Street began to play in my head so I looked up the words. Here are some of them:

It’s all right to cry
Crying gets the sad out of you
It’s all right to cry
It might make you feel better

Raindrops from your eyes
Washing all the mad out of you
Raindrops from your eyes
It’s gonna make you feel better

With Robin Williams’ death, there has been much talk about depression. Maybe that’s why I’m sharing my experience. Because you know what? I feel a lot better. My chest doesn’t hurt and I can take a deep breath. Yeah, it’s all right to cry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s A Stop Watch?

Time is flying by so fast that I do believe the earth is spinning faster. Often I feel I can’t keep up. A definitive measure of this phenomenon is not only that I am now married to a man in his seventies, but that our children and grandchildren are getting so old, too.

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My daughter-in-law recently turned 45. That’s about the age I was when I met her! We’d moved to California and I know I felt old, then—I wore bifocals and dowdy clothes. My children were both in college and my parents were getting older. I was in the middle of the sandwich generation and I juggled many people’s needs in my air. I also thought I knew it all. I thought I could control what happened in our family and that I had the wisdom and right to do it.. Boy, did I have a lot to learn.

Zoom! Twenty years have gone by. My parents and all my aunts and uncles are gone. My brother and sister are fine, though we all have our issues, but many friends have passed on and many are sick. Just this year has taken a heavy toll. No wonder Medicare is paying for a lot of anti-depressants.

One of the delights of our lives is our grandchildren. They brighten our days and keep us off of Prozac. Each is different and endearing in his or her own way. I keep trying to lasso time, trying to get it to slow down, but no way. I remember playing Little Red Riding Hood with Quinn when she was three. We played in our front yard and she had many roles as well as being the director. I remember thinking that I better hold onto this moment because it would soon pass—she’d be too old to play this sort of game.

A year later, she announced that she was four-and-a half.

“Slow down, “ I said.

She looked at me with all the wisdom in the world, and as if I were silly. “I can’t,” she said.

Now she’ll be twelve in June. Costco had nude lip glosses for sale and I bought them for her, asking her mother’s permission first. Yesterday I took her shopping at the Mall. She was looking for shoes for Cotillion. “I can get a little heel,” she confided, her eyes shining.

She was dressed in a skirt with tights, two camisoles and Converse tennis shoes. Her long hair was in a braided pony tail. She looked like a dancer and moved like one too. Definitely not a four-year-old anymore.

We stopped in a store called Papaya—a teenager store—and we bought her a t-shirt.

“Where do you want to go next?” I asked.

She tilted her head, thinking. “How about Build-A-Bear?

“Really?” I asked.

She nodded. “I could make a Ballet Bear and put her on my bed.”

So that’s where we went. The cool pre-teen faded away as Quinn went through the store and created Tondue.

That, I knew, was a moment to be treasured. That afternoon she was EveryGirl on the cusp of womanhood, still a child for a short while longer.

We left the store with her carrying the Build-a-Bear box in one hand, her Papaya bag in the other.

 

The Loss of a Parent is so Final

My mother-in-law’s funeral was the day after Mother’s Day in Seattle. We had told our Chicago kids not to make the trip out—the airlines just gouge you now on last minute reservations—but our son and daughter-in-law insisted they come so we could all be together with them and our daughter’s family. I am so thankful they did.

My mother-in-law was ninety and her quality of life was so diminished by dementia and heart failure that we shouldn’t have been shocked that she died. But we were stunned by the phone call at 10:00 am on that Friday morning. Maybe it was because I had talked to the social worker at the Home the day before, and she’d said that Esther was pretty much the same as she’d been the month before when we’d visited.

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“Just fading a little more each week?” I asked. “Going gently into that good night?”

“I couldn’t say it like that, but yes. And she’s comfortable, not in any pain, and still eating.”

My husband and I talked about it a dinner, wondering how much longer she would be able to last. Would she make it to her 91st birthday? That she was still eating seemed an affirmation of living, but what kind of life was it anyway? It took two peopIe with a hoist to get her out of bed. She rarely opened her eyes. We didn’t want her to suffer and we knew she wasn’t going to get better.

Yet, we both felt anguish when she died. Death is so final. There it is and nothing will change it. Anything you wished you’d said or done—so what? Not happening. Ever. The line that separates the living from the dead cannot be crossed.

My husband had had major surgery three weeks before and wasn’t really cleared to fly, but we started packing. We were definitely spacey and unfocused. Just after noon, we got a call that the orchid I’d ordered for Mother’s Day had arrived at the Home. That was a little weird for everybody.

The flight to Seattle was difficult even sleepwalking through it. We barely talked to each other, and both of us went into deep sleeps at times. Then our daughter picked us up at the airport with her 11-year-old son and 4-month-old daughter. The endorphins stared flaring as soon as we saw them. Everything calmed down a bit. When the Chicago family arrived in the evening, all of a sudden it became a celebration of life. Sadness and loss were set aside as the new baby met her cousins! The beaming smiles on all the faces as they passed baby Joeli from one to the other, helped heal my shaky heart.

Although this is off topic, I have to add a conversation I heard between 9-year-old Quinn and her cousin, Eli, the new big brother.

“So, the last time I saw you, you couldn’t wait to have a sibling. How do you like it now?” Quinn asked, sounding a bit like Dr. Phil.

“It’s okay,” Eli said. His enthusiasm level wasn’t high.

“It’s not what you thought?” Quinn asked.

I couldn’t resist. “He thought he was going to get you, Quinn. Someone to play with.”

Eli laughed a little, but agreed. “Yeah, Joeli doesn’t do anything.”

Quinn nodded sagely. “Just you wait. When she starts crawling, it will be better. She’ll be more fun.”

Quinn, wise beyond her years, feeding her little cousin.

I looked at her in amazement. How does she know that? I wondered. Just listening to that conversation was priceless. I have to thank my mother-in-law for bringing me all these treasures.

Our return to Palm Springs was easier, but looking back, I realize we settled into a gloom that bordered on depression. On the one hand, we were lucky to have the luxury of quiet days and evenings. So often in the world today, you’re expected to “just get on with it!” No more weeks of coming to terms with the seismic change death brings in your life. On the other hand, we suffered from a malaise that almost paralyzed us. Mid-week, I received a note from a friend that helped so much. Joan wrote, “The loss of a parent is so final, bringing up past loss and grief, as well as the acknowledgment of the fragility of life.”

It was an “ah-hah’ moment. I realized we had been grieving not only for Esther, but for all our parents. This last Sunday was the tenth anniversary of my dad’s death, and I cried more that day than when he died. We lit a candle and said a prayer for all our parents—very healing. Then we did go out—to a 100th birthday party. Talk about an affirmation of life!

This week is much better. We are more normal—whatever that is. We are moving forward. I did clean out my office, which I’ve been going to do for four years. I also sorted through my father’s stuff I’ve kept on a shelf for ten years. The garbage and recycle cans are full. We both are aware of the sense of an ending in our lives. We’re leaving the past behind—the goal is to appreciate each day that much more.