Drive!…She said.

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Remember your first car?  Mine was a 1972 Dodge Swinger with 87,000 miles.  I bought it in 1976 when we moved to Massachusetts.    It cost about $1,800. I have always been practical about a car.  I never wanted a convertible because I always had visions of being decapitated like Jane Mansfield.  It’s an ongoing worry.   I learned to drive when I was 21 because when you grow up in New York City, you don’t need a car.  Moving to a more rural area meant getting a car and learning to drive.  So, after 43 years, I think I would be considered an experienced driver with an almost, unblemished driving record.

So this rant is for my fellow drivers on the roads in Massachusetts.  I’ve been watching you and I have a number of suggestions.  I can see you reading on your cell phone.  I saw you holding it up at eye level,  and glancing at the road between texts or messages.  I quickly accelerated past you, on the left, in the passing lane, because I was convinced we might meet by accident, if you know what I mean.  I also want to point out to those of you who are engaged in a heated  conversation with your passenger, that turning to make your point, while you are driving,  means you might not exactly see that Mack truck in front of you.  Your passenger is there, right next to you. They have not exited the vehicle while you kept your eyes on the road.  Perhaps a rest area might be a better place to settle your conflict and allow me to drive safely to my destination.  Just a suggestion. For those drivers who apparently may have a woman in labor in the back seat and are racing in the passing lane and then pulling over to the right lane, it is probably not good for your wife/girlfriend/neighbor/daughter.  I suggest calling for an ambulance or a police escort.  You might be too rattled to drive.  And, if by chance, there is no woman in labor in the back or front seat, please slow down.  You are setting a bad example for those children.

Can we discuss turn signals?  They come with your car. They are not an accessory.  They are turn “indicators” which help those behind you not rely on psychic messages from you that you just realized you are getting off the exit.  I am pretty good at anticipating your moves, based on others who drive like you. However, it is just such a help to me when you are considerate and let me know that you are slowing down or speeding up because you just realized that next exit is yours.  I can’t thank you enough for changing that behavior.

I know that I don’t go too far above the speed limit because I don’t like to challenge the rules.  However, on the highways around here there are usually two or three lanes.  I encourage you to take advantage of this and pass me, on the left.  You don’t need to come up on my rear bumper because I am not going fast enough for you.  I don’t want to meet you, know you or have you that close at any time. You are not teaching me a lesson about driving faster.  Go away.

Just a couple of points to consider in the city.  Four way stop signs are something that people seem to struggle with.  They either drive through them after doing a California rolling stop (and we are not in California) or they stop but aren’t sure if they are next to go.  It is like playing chicken and taking your life in your hands or my life.  I appreciate when you encourage me to go first.  However, that just leads to more trouble because it confuses the drivers who thought it was their turn next.  Let’s just use the whoever’s first at the sign goes first and so on.  Thanks.  If I am trying to parallel park and you are behind me, could you not hit the horn continually while I am doing my best to get out of your way?  It kind of throws me off and then I am calling you names which are not nice and when you glare at me, when I look in the rear view mirror, it just slows down the process.  Be patient and we will just get along fine.

Well, that’s about it for now.  I feel better in the hope that this is just like a public service message.  Just please don’t read it while you are driving, arguing, or transporting a woman in labor.  Honk, honk!

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Going Home

pexels-photoI think I am feeling a bit maudlin or nostalgic.  There are many writers who comment on the concept of going home.  For sixty-four years I have always identified home as New York City.  I have lived in Massachusetts more than two thirds of my life and yet I still feel, or realize, that I have felt that New York is my home.  This May, it will be ten years since my last parent, my mother, died.  Since that time, I have only been back a handful of times.  More recently, I took some time to really consider why I have been resistant, almost avoidant of going back to visit.  My FHB has never been a New York City fan.  He grew up in Providence, Rhode Island and never yearned to be a part of the city I grew up in.  We would visit my mother on a fairly irregular basis but we never spent a lot of time there.  Extended family and friends still call it home, but there too, we just stay away, despite invitations and opportunities.  There are several older cousins of my father, who still are around and they are in their eighties and nineties. I am painfully  aware that they are the last links to that generation.

My father has been gone almost nineteen years.  His death was sudden, and defined for me the concept of being a half orphan.  It meant that I had lost fifty percent of my childhood responsible adults.  My mother kept going for another nine years and she loved “The City”.  She would travel in by subway until she decided bus rides were easier and she was never in a rush, even if she was running late.  She took full advantage of all that the city had to offer whether it was the New York Philharmonic or the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  She stayed a part of the city scene which kept her vital and engaged in the world.  Then, she too, left quickly.  My sister and I reeling from the loss, packed up her apartment of 58 years, and took what we wanted as memorabilia of a life we shared and moved those contents to Massachusetts. My sister continues to visit the city and maintains a strong connection to the culture.  It was actually her gift to my FHB and to me, that now makes me contemplate a visit and a re-entry to the city that still holds so many memories of a childhood, teenage years and a early adulthood that I had put aside.

“Come From Away” is a Broadway show that my sister wants us to see. She says it is something she believes we would love and enjoy. We have the means and now the motivation.  I love Broadway, or at least I grew up loving Broadway.  My mother would bring us regularly to see musicals.  We listened to the albums and learned the words and sang the songs.  It was magic.  I know I miss the magic.  We watch the Tony awards annually and talk in vague terms of going to see a show.

We live in the safety of a small city which has music, museums and theater.  We take regular advantage of all it has to offer.  It’s not New York.  As winter digs in I know that spring is really only nine weeks away.  We forced some narcissus bulbs several weeks ago and we have lovely white fragrant blooms.  In the dead of the winter, we have spring in our loft.   The flowers of Park Avenue in spring, and the blossoms and green of Central Park as the city comes alive,  are memories I have and I want to make again. As children we used to dress up in coats, hats, and white gloves to celebrate the spring.  I’m not sure those will be in our suitcase but I remember the city being welcoming and open to strangers from all over.  I have a feeling it won’t take too long to be in a ” New York State of Mind”. I’m going home.

 

The rules do not apply

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No dinner, no dessert.  Wait an hour before you go swimming after you eat.  Ask to be excused before you leave the table.  Wait your turn.  Don’t interrupt.  Don’t question an adult.  Tell the truth. Manners and rules.  Civility, restraint, sound judgement.

We live in a world with limits and boundaries.  They are not only established theoretically and physically, but also based in order.  As children we test the boundaries. We figure out when we have crossed a line, that  there will be consequences, sometimes serious, sometimes momentary and less critical.  We learn.  We become adults.  We teach ourselves to self monitor our drives and wants and shoulds.  We learn to pay attention to what we need and what others need from us.  We learn that our behaviors truly do affect others.  We develop a conscience and a moral compass that takes us where we go and gives us satisfaction when we accomplish something we can be proud of.

And then, there are some that never learn, never become aware of others, and do harm and have no conscience.  These words, at this moment, are all I have to process the rage and fear.  I use my intellect to hold myself safe in my mind to not give in to emotional outbursts.  One of the challenges of growing up and older was to learn to truly internalize the understanding that what others think of me, matters less than what I know to be true of myself.  Maybe I misunderstood this concept.  I know it does mean that I cannot be judged by others.  Intent is key.  When I have done something wrong, I apologize.  When I say something hurtful, I apologize.

As I was raising my children, I would tell them that we have two ears to listen, and one mouth to talk.  Therefore we should listen twice as hard before we speak.

The voice that didn’t listen and just talked and invoked rancor and caustic destruction, must be muted.  Don’t mess with the rules.  Peace before power, in the dictionary and in life.

The ties that bind

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Sometimes in marriage, the function of the collaboration might seem like an LLP. If we borrow, in a broad sense, from the legal definition, one partner is less liable in a situation than the other partner, in misdeeds and debts.  The counter to that might mean that when things go well, we both take the credit.  Tonight’s episode of “Installing a New Modem” was brought to you by our local cable company (who I will not credit, as they will charge me for naming them).  We don’t have a choice because we live in the loft and everyone is forced into a relationship with this corporation.  Sometimes my FHB and I make decisions, not in haste, but rather out of necessity because our options are few.  Of the two of us, he is the person who really uses 97.48% of the television time, and that figure is probably a rather conservative number.  I use the internet more, and the home phone, which is the trifecta in this formula, is hardly ever used.

Recently, we were trying to do something called streaming, which apparently has nothing to do with fly fishing, although I thought that was a good guess.  We wanted to watch a particular show on Amazon, who will be named, because I get “free” two-day shipping for $99 a year.  A corporate “friend”, right? Weeks ago, because we could not watch the show without it doing something called “buffering”, which has nothing to do with nail care, although I thought that too, was a good guess, we had to call for tech support.  We would be able to watch five minutes of the show, and then it would “buffer”.  It was beyond annoying.  So my FHB had a conversation with someone in consumer relations (hah, a misnomer if I ever heard  one).  Somehow, the end result was that we signed on for another two years, paid several dollars less, with the promise of better, bigger, and  more bandwidth (which has nothing to do with the size of a marching band…).The story did not end there, because it did not improve either our ability to watch the show, or our mood, which quickly soured.  I spent close to two hours of my life, that I will not get back, talking with some people, who, when the conversation came to an end, informed me that we had done something wrong by not replacing the old modem with the new, faster than lightning speed, modem.  The customer is clearly never right.

My FHB went to replace the said modem, and brought it home and then the fun began.  I would like to say that the television is important to me, but it is not. It takes up valuable wall space and it is a box filled with noise, rarely sound.  However, as in a three-legged race, you have to work as a team, or everyone is unhappy and you trip over one another.   We had to re-set the program, come up with a password, copy all sorts of weird code words and this was the last thing I was interested in doing.  Yet, do it I did.  We both have strengths when it comes to the household technology.  Somehow, which is really odd for me to say, but I am better at figuring out the computer.  He is far better with the television.  I still never know which stations are which number.  I understand the microwave, he takes care of the electric toothbrushes.  In actuality, we did everything we needed to do and the problem still exists.  Oh, yes, did I mention, that the bill for our trifecta, arrived today by email.  Gotta love it.

Sometimes, we talk about a snowstorm we had five years ago when we lost all technology and heat and light for five days in our little house in the woods.   Even our stove needed an electric start.  We talked of being “off the grid”.  It was romantic and unrealistic and for the first 72 hours, was almost fun.  Then it got cold, and dark and not so much fun. Perspective and context.  We are a good team, both in problem solving moments, and in the rest of life.  When two people, one who is over six feet and the other is under five feet, run a race tied together, it is a recipe filled with laughter and compromise.  Still laughing.

 

Fire and Ice

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Juxtaposition in life is another one of those ironies I embrace.  Sometimes I find myself in moments of mirth and madness, which then evoke a sense of awareness of what happened in a day and what could have happened.  We are a day beyond the cold and fury of a blizzard.  The fury turned to sunshine and the cold continues.

Night came with a lovely sunset and then we were off, in the company and chauffeuring of our youngest child, to head to the New Bedford Symphony.  The cold continued to be brutal and the city was empty of people on the streets, as we drove to the downtown garage adjacent to the Zeiterion Theater.  The garage was unusually full until we realized that it was also a place to shelter from the snow and so the car climbed to one of the upper levels and snow was blowing inside as we parked.  My FHB who exited the car first.He was bundled in a very heavy coat,  dark hat, gloves, and scarf and walked with the determination of a Cossack on a military mission to get out of the cold.  I extricated myself from the front seat which was as close to the dashboard as I could be since there had been a very tall man sitting behind me.  The driver, a.k.a., the kid, was kicking snow off the tires as I walked away.  I was not far behind my FHB and I saw him slip on a patch of ice and fall to the ground.  He appeared startled and the cars coming around the curve, gratefully stopped.  I screamed for my son, and another couple and I helped my husband, who had crawled to a car to get some leverage, up from the ground.  My son arrived at the same time and aided in the up and at ’em.  We make it into the theater and took our seats.  I sat between the guys and my heart would not slow down.  I kept staring at my FHB to check if he was all right.  This was not our first go around at ring around the rosie.

About nine years ago, on a cold and snowy day,  he had walked to the car, which was parked a distance from a little red farmhouse we lived in, and slipped on the ice, woke from unconsciousness, and drove himself to work.  I had been in the house, having given myself a day off from driving in a snowstorm, and had no idea he had fallen.  He had called me from work to tell me that he thought something had happened to him because he found himself in the snow, keys nearby, glasses nearby, and his coat wet.  He proceeded to drive himself to work and was just letting me know.  Four months later he had brain surgery for a subdural hematoma (bleeding in the brain).  We knew something had happened but had no idea, even with several medical visits, a CT scan and finally an MRI that led to the discovery of his head injury.  He’s fine and says his memory was actually improved after the surgery.  I never got over the fact that I was close by and never knew he fell.  The incident tonight brought it all back and then some.

The concert was electric and energizing and allowed me to go through all the emotions of then and now.  My pulse returned to normal.  Both my son and my FHB seemed more engaged in the concert than I was.  I looked down at my lap to see that in my haste to make sure I was dressed warmly, I could only find a red left and a black right glove to cover my hands in the cold.  I probably have another pair just like them.  The crazy of rushing to the concert in the tundra like cold, to the warmth of the music of Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky, romantic and fiery.  I relaxed my breathing and put my arm through my FHB’s arm.  The concert ended with cheers and appreciation.  We walked to the lobby to wait for our ride.  We were about to get into the car, as our son got out of the driver’s side to help us negotiate the ice.  The car began to move forward on its own.  The fleet footed kid jumped back in the car and put it in park.  We released our collective held breaths.  We drove away and he said “well that was little funny, right?” I said “yes, maybe it was a little funny”.  Cold hands, warm hearts, beating a collective sigh of relief, that things just happened and happen.

For the Girls

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Strange how things come full circle in our personal worlds.  Several weeks ago, my FHB and I were having a somewhat intense conversation about an event about 42 years ago that I had put away in the back of my mind.  It had to do with a #metoo experience when I was in graduate school.  One of my professors had “invited” me for a drink after class ended for the semester.  I was pretty uncomfortable with the idea as I was married,  I was in my mid-twenties, and he was a lot older and I didn’t drink.  Somehow there was a certain amount of pressure to discuss my studies and his interest in my studies, and we ended up going to the Ratskeller (as every college seems to have).  I agreed to have a soda and listened to him wax on and on about himself (first clue).  I told him that I needed to leave and go home to my husband, and he said he would walk me to the car. What a gentleman (second clue).  He was parked in the faculty lot and I was in the student lot.  He took my arm and “directed” me toward his car.  He offered to give me a ride in his shiny black Corvette (third clue).  I mustered up the courage to tell him that I had no interest, and that I was going to my car.  He shrugged and gave me a creepy smile and got in his car.  As I hurried to my car, he appeared to come up on my side as I walked.  He lowered his window and said in a angry tone “You are an ‘A’ student, you know…but you’re only getting a ‘B’ or ‘B-‘ because you are not very cooperative.  You still could change my mind”.  He revved his engine and pulled away.  I was shaken and disgusted. I never told.    The memory was long forgotten until recently.

It was actually one of several moments that happened during my growing up years from childhood into adulthood.  Ironically, about a week ago,  in the local paper, there was an article about a man who had been a professor, and was now a sculptor and was being recognized for casting a bronze statue of someone of some prominence.  He was pictured and named, and I was stunned to remember and see that the son of a bitch was still alive, and  apparently well and almost ninety years old.  That would make him  about twenty-six years my senior, then and now.

I think about those #metoo moments that I endured and survived with anger and regrets of not having a voice, or a person to hear me, were I to have found my voice.  I don’t believe that I was naive but rather innocent and foolishly trusting that I was in control.  I was not, but now I am.  I am a grandmother of  two amazing and vibrant grandgirls.  They give me perspective of hope and joy.  What I want for them and all the females of their generation and future generations is the power to understand and define who they are, and that they are forces to be reckoned with.  In total, my grandgirls need to be respected by all people.  Kindness and trust in oneself and others, needs to be the prevailing element in human relationships.  The past year defined the voices of women as becoming stronger and more powerful.  There is a new freedom to grant to all of us that says NO never means YES!  It becomes a new declaration of independence.

I look at my relationship with my FHB and know that we are together because we are kind toward one another and respectful and it is safe for us both.  That is what I want for those girls of mine.  It is the change that is happening now.  What exciting times.  What hope!

Anybody

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You know me, but I could be anybody you see everyday, or just once.  All of us are statistics of one kind or another.  This week I became someone who had a basal cell carcinoma on her face, specifically on her nose.  I was lucky to have figured out what it was several months ago. I had it confirmed by my dermatologist and two days ago, it was cut out of the side of my nose, by a well regarded surgeon,  leaving me looking like Muhammed Ali had a moment, and gave me a good one two jab in the noggin and eyes.  The picture above, taken last May, doesn’t really tell the story, because lots of folks did what I did as a teenager.  What you see is lots of freckles and lots of sun damage.  I grew up in the years of baby oil on the face, and slathered over the rest of me.  I used one of those triangular sun reflectors on the beach, and an occasional sunlamp in the winter, not for seasonal affective disorder, but so I could have a glow like I had gone to Florida and baked in the sun.  Summers were for the beaches,  Coney Island, Rockaway Beach and Jones Beach in New York.  Fair skinned, blue eyed, and just another teen  getting a tan.

It was actually not my first skin cancer, but of course, when it’s on your face, the answer is pretty much right in front of you.  The dermatologist said it was important to find someone who could fix it and make it look good.  In her words “you don’t have a lot of real estate there, so you want it to be done correctly”.  Whatever vanity I have or had in the past, about my appearance,  was less important than knowing that the cancer was gone and never returning.  As my former neighbor, Betty who lived well into her nineties said “That’s no joke”.  Betty was right, all of the time.

There are many, too many, types of cancer.  We all are touched by it, either directly or close enough to matter.  It happens to people you love, hate and people you don’t even think about.  It is easily one of those six degrees of separation phenomenon, but it is closer than you want to think.  In the scheme of things, I am fine, going to be fine and will continue to pay attention to things that don’t seem right on my body.  I don’t avoid doctors and nurse practitioners but know that something benign can turn in a far more serious outcome.

I am not standing on a soapbox by any means, but want to emphasize the need to pay attention to the little things and big things and take care of ourselves.  We are often our own first responder.  The New Year is days away.  Let’s be healthy and wise and keep an eye on one another.

Goodbye and good riddance , 2017.