Category Archives: aging parents

Time to Cry Tuesday – You can’t go home again

540

Cleaning my office the first day back from the holidays, this picture fell out of a file folder onto my keyboard.

The Big 540… my childhood home.

The same house that we sold a few months ago. The process of selling was rather unpleasant, the details remaining unwritten. Use your imagination if you do not know the details. The process of dismantling it was long and arduous, as my parents had lived there for 60 years. But it was a labor of love. By the time we signed on the dotted line it was more of a relief than anything else.

Oddly, a few weeks after closing I had the most bizarre dream. I was showering in my parents’ bathroom and suddenly realized that we no longer owned the house (oops). Yep, wrapped in a towel in someone else’s bathroom and they walked in the back door. The classic version of the ‘I forgot to study for the test’ dream.

A few weeks later I had another dream that I was hanging out in the house and all of the new owners’ relatives started showing up with furniture and started yelling at me and threatening to call the cops. Again, I had forgotten that this was no longer ‘our house’ (yes, I am way crazier than I let on).

I don’t have to be a therapist to know that the loss of this house is obviously effecting me more than I realized. I have never lived without this home – quite something for someone of ‘my age’. This is where I grew up, where the family gathered, where my mom planted. And planted. And planted. Where my history lived in the walls. And although my current home has been in my life almost half as long as this one has, there is something unnerving about losing this place.

I know ‘home’ is not the building. And Lord knows I have brought enough of the stuff from that house here (anyone want to help me go through 14 crates of photos). It is hard to explain how I feel.

Maybe it is simply the knowledge that I can’t go home again.

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Filed under aging parents, grief, homeowner, loss, real estate, Time to Cry Tuesdays

Time to Cry Tuesday – On Doors Closing and Opening

doors

I always loved the phrase: When one door closes another one opens.

Last week I experienced an uber (no, not that Uber) example of those proverbial doors. I tried my very best to keep my emotions under the drama bar and go with the flow. This, by the way, does nothing more than exhaust you beyond description and is simply a control freak’s illusion, but I seem most comfortable in this state.

As with most of my life, the sequence of my doors were reversed. But this saying made for a nice thread for this post, so let’s go with it.

On Thursday, a door opened. Big time. The one to my daughter Jana’s new apartment. The apartment that she will be sharing with the love of her life – the young man who she has spent many long years waiting to live in the same city with, let alone under the same roof. In reality, the door to this apartment made it a challenge to get a queen-sized box spring through it and up the stairs to her bedroom, but this was the small stuff. (Rectified, btw, by sofasurgery.com. Quick plug for an amazing service that solved the problem in less than 2 hours from call to completion).

The opening of this door was one to the beginning of a wonderful life together and the joy I feel for them is beyond description. (And contrary to those who question this, his mother and I will not be living with them)

On Friday, a door closed. Big time. After many months of listings, contracts, deals, stops and starts, boiler and oil tank replacements, clean-outs, boxes, yards of bubble wrap, sorting, reminiscing, sales, dumpsters, tears, laughs, one broken toe and one tennis/schlepping elbow… we closed on the sale of my childhood home. With each stage of this process, no matter how much stuff we took out of this house, it still felt like the home of my childhood. My family is embedded in the walls of this place. Even that very last day, the one when the house was completely empty except for the bottle of Stoli in the freezer that we toasted one last time to my mom with, we could not help but feel that she would somehow come walking out of that kitchen.

The closing of this door? Well it certainly carries with it a bag of mixed emotions. I walked out of that closing (both the real estate deal and the door) with an odd sense of calm coupled with an overwhelming exhaustion. I certainly have said my goodbyes to that house, that life, that anchor. I am happy to be rid of the process. But there is a lingering phantom pain surrounding never being able to ‘go home again’.

Ok, so maybe I crossed over the drama bar for a moment.

The net of all this (other than my overuse of cliché and devices)? I am a women who loves signs and juxtapositions. I thrive on the meant to be and the alignment of stars. To close on 10.10 at 10am at 1010 Northern Blvd. rang that bell big time. And it was my grandfather’s birthday to boot.

But nothing rang the bell more than the site of my girl in her beginning as I was tying up an ending.

One door opens and another one closes… maybe it is ok to reverse that saying, after all.

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Filed under aging parents, childhood, cliches, doors, family, sentimentalites

Happy Birthday Elaine

mom-beach2

Today would have been my mom’s 83rd birthday. Now that she is gone I guess it’s OK to let her real age out of the bag, right? I always wrote her a birthday blog post, some of which she had framed, I might add. So it only seems right to keep up the tradition.

In celebration of who she was, I decided to grab one of her many journals off the shelf and open to a random page. You know, so she could send me a message. And yes, I do believe in that crap now. Just go with it.

I suppose you will too, after you read this. No lie, this was the page I randomly opened to. (Click on this image and blow this baby up to read it, you won’t be sorry). This is a list of tactics for discovering pleasure and satisfaction in every day moments. Elaine practiced these her whole life. Genuinely. And with commitment.

pleasures

Of course this came from her favorite – Prevention Magazine. And I see from the date that it was February 2008, a time of her life that was filled with chronic struggles.

Elaine was the Queen of this way of living most of her life. She was the Grand Puba of the glass half full. The Crowned Royal of be here now. The absolute over-achiever of carpe diem. She appreciated every person, moment, experience, flower, friend, color… well you get the picture.

In light of all the depression and anxiety awareness this week I took this as a sign of Elaine piping in on the topic from the other side. She never hid her illness when she was well. She would speak freely about it hoping to help others.

The last 10 years of her life were a brave, selfless, many times torturous struggle with the symptoms of depression and anxiety. People think they have seen the depths of this disease, but only those who suffer – or love someone who does –understand what severe clinical depression looks like. Like many who know this first-hand, I was outraged by the words ‘coward’ and ‘selfless’ used this week. They are spoken out of ignorance, for there is nothing braver or more selfless than a person who struggles to get back to the other side of depression. 

Elaine did this each and every day. She did not always succeed, but she never stopped trying. And though it could have been what would finally take her life… it never won. Of all the things I am proud of, this is the biggest one.

She fought to be herself again when she felt she was not. That is my best way to describe depression in one sentence.

She was my hero. 

So today I do not grieve (ish). I celebrate the woman who brought me into this world and chose not to kill me through those difficult years. Who held my hand, always listened to my woes and made me laugh till I cried and cry till I laughed again. She taught me how to be a mom, a wife and a friend. 

But most of all she taught me how to enjoy the moments.

photo

Yes, she saved this too. What? You are surprised?

In honor of her day of birth, take a lesson from Elaine and vow to take on one or two of these every day. 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under aging, aging parents, childhood, depression, family, health, mental illness, moms, parenting, Uncategorized

Time to Cry Tuesday – Being Six

1526299_10202899101262805_1167290587_nYeh, that’s me. At six.

Six was pretty perfect. Obviously from this picture I was sure I was all that. This is such an amazing shot. Hey, it got over 50 likes on Facebook in less than 24 hours! I told Gary today I think I might have peaked at six!

All kidding aside, I had the most amazing childhood. And this picture seems to embody it all. I know those are my eyes. I remember her. The way she lounged on that couch and maybe ate a little chocolate pudding out of one of those fabulous green square glass bowls. Or one of the white milk glass ones with the gold rim.  My brother and I didn’t realize that this life was not the norm at the time, but as we grow older we appreciate how wonderful it was to grow up in our house.

And now that house has sort of outlived its happiness for our family. It’s not that it has lost its beautiful memories, it is just time. The master of its charm has left the building, and so now, must the contents of a lifetime. It’s an interesting task. One that uncovers the treasures of the past buried amongst the bowling balls, slide projectors and ice skates from the 1960s. I have just begun, and I am sure there will be many tears and equally as many laughs as we dismantle what was for me, the most wonderful place on earth.

Thanks Dad, for giving me this task. Don’t feel bad about it. Don’t worry about the time it will take. You know this is my process. And you have earned the rest.

What does worry me a little is that closet in the garage, though. Mom always told me if she had a third child after raising me she would lock it in the garage closet… she was kidding, right?

 

 

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Filed under aging parents, childhood, homeowner, moms

Time to Cry Tuesday – Want and Need

wantneed

This might be the first post ever to combine Dave Matthews and the Jewish Holidays; but that seems fitting since this is a post about firsts.

Here we are – playing holiday dominoes – with those of the tribe watching Labor Day cascade into Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

This particular holiday is a tough one for our family. We are still stumbling through the ‘firsts’… the things we are doing for the first time without my mom. Although three and half months have passed, it seems like both a moment and a lifetime. Just when I think I have found my footing, my new normal, my ability to feel sad but somewhat whole, it hits me. I have avoided sharing here but somehow this seems the right thing to do, so here goes.

Although no one can stop me from starting to circle the drain, there is always someone there to grab my hand and pull me out. I have my army of grief guides; my friends who have been there and let me know with their steely strength that I will, in fact, make it through. In spite of myself and because of them.

I am beyond fortunate.

Yesterday I had just finished the massive guerrilla food shop. I was cleaning chickens to make my soup and as I was doing it I thought of how when I was first married I could not bear to clean a chicken and my mom used to laugh with me on the phone as I did it to talk me through. And it hit me. Hard. The drain, she was a- calling me to circle to the left.

And then the phone rang. My Rabbi! Seriously, do they learn this in rabbinic school? Do they become hyper-trained to sense the drain circling? Or was it a coincidence? I think not. He also called on her birthday without knowing it. Both times to check on me; to make me try to find the sweet in all the bitter. To hold my hand so I would not succumb to that proverbial plumbing.

I am beyond fortunate.

And then I had a nice long phone visit with my mom’s best friend since childhood – Aunt Arlene (who is not my aunt), as we called her. Her laugh, her stories, her way… all a piece of my mom. As we talked about how much we missed her I felt another hand reach through the phone to keep me from slipping down those pesky pipes.

What I want, is what I’ve not got. But what I need, is all around me.

Wishing all who celebrate a sweet new year. And all who are grieving the strength to stay away from the plumbing during the holidays.

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Filed under aging parents, friendship, holidays, loss

Up is down

up-is-down1Sometimes life feels this way. Things happen that throw us completely off kilter. Up is down indeed.

I am big on watching for signs; seeing what is around me and trying to take something away from everything I see. 

On my daily early morning walk, soon after the most ‘up is down’ experience of my life, I came across this painted in the street. I had to smile. Perhaps the person responsible for this did not have me in mind, but it is no coincidence that it was smack in the middle of my path that day.

Each day afterwards I would pass this in the street, and with each day, it started to fade ever so slightly… not unlike the feeling that I had. 

Today, after a weekend of almost normal – or as normal as it could be, or perhaps the new normal – I looked down, and there was my up is down message, faded almost to obscurity. 

up-is-down2Had I not known it was there I would never have seen it. 

This weekend someone told me a little story about loss. Someone had lost someone close to them and when asked how he was he said that although he was getting used to his life he was still holding on to that feeling of loss. That somehow there was something so very special about still having that feeling. And when the feeling has faded it will seem almost sadder. 

I get that. And all I can add to that is that the signs will always be there, they may fade and be invisible to those who are not feeling them, but those of us who are, know they will always be there. 

 

 

 

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Filed under aging parents, loss

South Florida Visit – Volume 2

This is a quirky place, I will give you that. Where else would you see…

1. Crematory Services in a strip mall. (this is not one of those sign generator website images… this is real.

2. An ambulance in the parking lot BOTH nights that you went out to dinner.

3. Second night it went something like this:

Me: What’s with the ambulance outside?

Waitress: Someone at the bar had a seizure.

My aunt and I (simultaneously): What was he drinking?

The waitress did not get it.

4. This super sensitive billboard:

Can’t make this stuff up.

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Filed under aging parents, carry a camera, family, humor

The Real Reason I am Here Today

I am in Florida visiting with my parents. I am happy to say I am here, not because of emergency health issues, but on a planned visit to hang with the Rents for a few days.

As we were getting out of the car after dinner we noticed the beautiful full moon. For some reason we got on the topic of menstrual cycles coinciding with the moon and my dad shared with me that he had dated a woman before my mom who had a 14 day period. “That was never going to work out for me!”, he shared. Then he proceeded to tell me that he recently read her obit in the paper.

I stopped on the walk and said, “OMG, the whole reason I am here today is because of some dead woman’s freakishly long period?”

What? This is not the common conversation to have with one’s octogenarian parents? You didn’t actually think I came from a normal family did you?

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Filed under aging parents, humor

Happy Birthday to the World’s Best Mom

No, not me! I would never be that self-serving. I am talking about MY mom.

This weekend we celebrated a very special birthday with my mother. Through some miracle and lots of corralling of 3 generations of cats, we were able to get the entire family together. Even Danny made it – fresh off the camp bus.

A huge thank you and hugs forever to the Chef love of my life, Don, for making this meal over the top amazing. Big plug for Valentino’s on the Green (might I highly recommend EVERYTHING on the menu)

As my mom put it so eloquently in her little speech after dins, having everyone all together in one place made turning this rather strange number worth it.

Here’s to my mom, the bravest woman I know. Wishing you the best birthday ever. May you always feel the love that surrounded you tonight, and know that we are all blessed to have you in our lives.

Now, if all you readers would be so kind as to come out of the woodwork, please wish mom a happy birthday.

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Filed under aging parents, family, holidays

Time to Cry Tuesday – The Original 4

If you have been reading along these past few days you would know that I took a trip to Florida to see my parents with my brother. We left our spouses home. And our kids? Well, they aren’t kids anymore so they have their own lives and we can’t lure them places with pool noodles and water wings. Although the promise of a good ice cream sandwich and free drinks at happy hour might get them to join us.

This was a bit of a last minute trip for me and I am so glad I took it. I can count on my hand the times in the past 25 years that it has just been the 4 of us. And sadly I would have to say most of those times were not surrounding very pleasant circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, we adore having our spouses and families with us, as do our parents. But there is something very special about going back to the original family unit of your childhood for a short time. My husband did it earlier this season (well 4 of his original 5 made it) and he too, appreciated having that historical dynamic.

This was the first extended period of time that we were able to just hang out and enjoy each other’s company. For so many years our interactions centered around the kids. Our professional lives are very demanding and leave us little time to just be. Lost were the days that we could sit at a table uninterrupted and have a complete conversation. This weekend was a gift of healthy (well except for mom’s 24 hour bug) parents and time to enjoy them.

With the backdrop of South Florida’s planned communities as never ending fodder for humor we had a lot of laughs.

Funny, we sat in the back seat of my dad’s car in our childhood positions. Fortunately we did not bicker. Since my brother is 4 1/2 years older I never did stand a chance in a fight and always wound up crying or having a nose bleed (don’t ask).

Times like this are a breeding ground for childhood memories. We talked of things that were long forgotten. The simple thrill of going to work with my dad when we were kids; the smell of the subway, the pretzels on the street, the chestnuts, eating lunch at the Automat, going to Kresge’s Five and Dime to buy junk. My dad was the original Bring Your Child to Work Day guy. And not just my brother, he expected the same from me as he did from his son; no double standard in our house. We talked about my mom’s garden (and the gardener, G-d help that poor man) and how excited she is to get back to nurturing her plants.

We discussed family holidays when we were kids and how my grandmother used to bring Jordan Almonds, jellied fruit slices and Dunkin’ Donuts to our house. Beach days with the children when they were babies, and how they have all grown up to be such amazing young adults.

These are the little things that make up a life. Nothing truly monumental (although some would beg to differ about the Jordan Almonds), just the details that give us all history; lives made up not of days, but of moments.

Thanks Mom and Dad, not only for a lovely weekend, but for teaching us how to be parents. And giving us the gift of your time – whenever we have needed you.

Happy Passover (and pass me a tissue, please).

Oh and if you are all wondering, yes, that is my brother’s Bar Mitzvah picture. Cute wasn’t I? (in a mousey sort of way). Looks like something straight out of A Serious Man.

Haven’t had enough of me yet? You can also read me at 50-Something Moms Blog. For photo enthusiasts, visit Leaving the zip code, photos from outside the comfort zone.

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Filed under aging parents, family, parenting, Time to Cry Tuesdays, travel