Saturday, December 31, 2011

Can I Have A Rockin New Year's Eve Raincheck, Mr. Clark?

Ross and I went for an early dinner.  So, early that we snuck in without reservations.
We went to Kubel's on the island in Barnegat Light.

Mark, "who would be helping us out tonight" was our waiter.

I love it when the wait staff calls us "guys".
"Can I start you off with a drink, guys?"   "How's the shrimp, guys?"   "Coffee, tea, desert tonight, guys?"  "Will there be anything else for you tonight, guys?" "Be right back with your check, guys."    "Be right back with your change, guys."  "Have a happy, healthy New Years, guys."

Anyway, young Mark was very pleasant and a pretty nice guy himself.

Ross had his "very cold, straight up, Ketel One (they didn't have Grey Goose) vodka martini, with olives.
I had water, no lemon.
Ross had the delicious (according to him) seafood scampi.  
I had the just okay (according to me) chicken piccata.
We were home by 7:30.

Each new year is supposed to be full of hope and promise and new beginnings.   At least I think that is what all of the hoopla, pots and pan banging, fireworks, ball dropping celebration is all about.

And I have to admit, I do have my share of  "This year I'm going to... and from now on I'm not going to...thoughts.    

But, this has been a tough, tough, 2011.  So, I think I will give myself a break,  chill out, and a rest for just a little while.

I thought about not starting to write this post until 11:48 tonight.   I figured that way I would be guaranteed of staying awake until midnight. But now at 8:38 p.m. I am worn out and can barely keep my eyes open.
I guess I'll just have to DVR the Times Square ball dropping and watch it tomorrow. And it looks like Dick Clark will have to have a Rockin New Year's Eve without me this year. 

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Because I'm The Mother - You're Supposed to Call Me

Whenever I would call my parents, my mother usually answered the phone.  If my father answered, the conversation would go something like this:

Dad: "Hello?"
Me: "Hello."
Dad: "How ya doing?   How's the kids?"
Me: "Fine, Fine."
Dad:  "I suppose you want to talk to your mother."
Then he would put the phone down and yell for my mother to come to the phone.

In person, when we were together, my father and I could talk about anything.  But talking on the phone was not his thing.

Whenever I would phone my Mom, the conversation would always start off exactly the same way.

Mom: "Hello?"
Me:  "Hello."
Mom: "Where have you been?!"
Me: "Around."
Mom: "Oh? Because I haven't heard from you."
Me: "Ma, I called you two days ago."
Mom: "Well, why didn't you call me yesterday?"
Me:  "Why didn't you call me yesterday?"
Mom:  "Because I'm the mother. You're supposed to call me."

After we got that out of the way, we could then proceed onto other things.

From my earliest memories I was her confidant.
Being married to my father was not easy, as she so often would tell me.
My father's mother, his sisters and brother did not like my mother, as she so often would tell me.
My brother was evil and abusive to her, as she so often would tell me.
Her friend Josephine was crazy, as she so often would tell me.

Even though, most of the time I was the listener,  she was also my confidant.  She always knew how I was feeling or when something was bothering me.
"What's wrong, Lynda?", she would say.

My son would very rarely call me.  I, unlike my mother, knew that if I wanted to hear his voice or find out how he was doing I would have to be the one to call.  That was fine with me.
Okay I have to admit some of my mom's guilt lessons must have penetrated because this is how the conversation usually went:

Joe:  "Hello?"
Me:  "Hi Joe."
Joe:  "Hi Ma."
Me:  "How are you doing?"
Joe:  "Good."
Me:  "How's work?"
Joe:  "Okay."
Me: "Doing anything special this weekend?"
Joe:  "No, not really."
Me: "Well I haven't heard from you lately, so I figured I would give you a call to see how you were doing."  (Just stopping short of "You know you could call your poor ol' mother every once in a while.")
Joe: A little giggle.  "I'm doing fine."  (And I knew he got the message).

One of the last phone calls I received from Joe went something like this:

Me: "Hello?"
Joe: "Hi, Ma." (sounding very weak)
Me: "Hi Joe." (very happy to hear his voice)
Joe: "Are you guys doing anything the next couple of days?"
Me: "No, no plans, why?"
Joe: "Well I have a ridiculous request.  Do you think you could come over and stay with me and Domani? Anne has to go out of town."
Me: "Of course we can, Joe.  And NO that is not a ridiculous request.  What time should we be there?"

When I think about that conversation now, I understand how hard it must have been for him to admit that he would not be able to take care of his son and would probably need help himself.  I guess that was what seemed ridiculous to him.

Christmas day included visits to my Mom and Dad and Joe.

They are all in the same place now.

The conversation I had with each of them was brief, silent and one sided.

Me:  Oh Mom, Oh Dad I miss you.

Me:  Oh my Joey.

Even though it has been two years since my mom died, sometimes I forget and I will have the thought,   Uh oh, it's been awhile since I called Ma, I better...and then I remember.

It has not been a month since Joey passed away.  The painful and cruel reality is still too new for me to forget that I will never again be able to hear him say "Hi Ma." "Yes, I'm fine."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Story of My Breakup with Myhero OR To Respond or Not To Respond That is the Question

I have been blogging for less than a year.

Before I wrote my first post though, as I am sure many new bloggers do, I decided to check out other blogs.

Right off the bat, and I have a feeling this has also happened to most new bloggers, I found a blogger who seemed to speak directly to me.  (From now on, in order to protect the innocent, I shall refer to this blogger as "Myhero" or maybe at times, just plain "M".)

Myhero's writing style was unique, the posts were relatable and M was an excellent writer.
M tapped into my imagination.  When I would read M's descriptions of wilderness walks,  I felt the warmth or coolness of the day, I caught scent of the wild lilacs, was thrilled by sightings of a rare bird and experienced the peace and quite of being among nature. It was as though I was walking right along with M.

Through Myhero's writings I began to learn more and more about the life of this blogger.  I was quite impressed with the accomplishments of this person.  In fact, Myhero and I might have developed a friendship in the real world.

Needless to say I became one of Myhero's many followers.

Occasionally,  and as you see I stressed the word occasionally, I would leave a comment on one of M's posts.

One of the nice things about Myhero was that each and every comment was acknowledged with a thoughtful response.

In March of this year I wrote my first post.  I have been posting regularly since then.

One day Myhero casually mentioned something in a post regarding a personality trait.  One which Myhero was not very proud of and was often teased about.

I couldn't believe it.  Myhero and I shared this very same personality trait.  In fact,  just days before I had written a whole post about this very same thing.  This trait is not a serious affliction,  but can be annoying at times.

I thought, wow, another thing that Myhero and I have in common.

I just had to let Myhero know about this common bond.

So I left a comment with a link to my post which contained information about this trait.

I thoughtfully, thought that M would appreciate the information that I had found out and might even get a chuckle out of it.

But, I received no acknowledgment to my comment.

How strange I thought.

Myhero had acknowledged every other person's comment on this particular post, but glaringly ignored my comment.

Figuring that M might have just missed my comment I waited a few days and checked back.  Still no response.

I was very hurt.  Did I do something to offend M?

I had always been very complimentary and polite with all of my previous comments.   I only commented when I felt that I had something positive to contribute.

The only thing I could think of was that leaving a link to my post was a violation of some unwritten
Blogging rule which apparently was unbeknownst to me.

So acting out in a purely emotional, perfectly irrational, and I admit pretty immature way, I took my name off of M's follower's list.

The next day, I decided to checked back one more time and found that my comment and link to my post had been deleted from the comment section of Myhero's post.

This incident happened just a couple of months after I started blogging myself.  At the time, I was a newborn and my posts and writing were in their infancy stages.   And apparently so was my knowledge of Blogging Etiquette.

Since that incident I have not read any of Myhero's posts.

I think I have sufficiently matured now, though.   After all I am almost one year old in my blogging experience.

 I  guess that enough time has passed to ease the pain of my break up with M.
Perhaps I will give Myhero another chance.

Now I don't know if these are official Blogging Etiquette rules, but the rule about not putting a link to your personal blog in the comment section of another person's blog made this list.

I write my blog to process my thoughts.  I write to examine my feelings.  I write because it is a coping mechanism for me.

Along the way it seems that others are interested in what I have to say.   I must shyly admit that it feels good to be recognized.  Comments encourage me to keep on writing.

I still haven't figured out whether it is proper etiquette to acknowledge each and every comment, but I do look forward to them and appreciate each and every one.

And I guess I should recall how it felt when Myhero ignored one of my comments.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

That's Right, Jimmy You Did Good!

As I was gazing out of the large sliding glass door windows of my son's dining room,  I noticed an elderly man across the court yard.

He was struggling to lift a wheel chair from the trunk of his car.

It took him awhile, but he managed to get the chair out and set up.

Next, he pushed the chair over to the passenger side of the car, opened the door and with what looked like a great deal of difficulty, he helped his wife get out of the car and then helped her stand up.

Then he held her two hands and gingerly turned her around so that she would be in a position to sit down in the chair.

After he got her settled in the chair, he opened the back door of the car and pulled out a large package wrapped in Christmas paper.  He handed the package to his wife.

I watched as the man tried to wheel the chair with his wife in it; she holding onto the present, across the grassy courtyard towards the apartment that they apparently were going to visit.
She was having trouble holding onto the package and it finally dropped out of her hand.
The man picked up the gift and brought over to the back door of their host's apartment.

We had just finished dinner and there were several of us hanging out in the dining room.

I said "Look at the poor man trying to push that wheel chair across the grass."

My daughter-in-law called out to my son, "Babe, you need to go out there and help that couple."

Here is what happened next:

The woman is waiting for her husband to come back to get her after dropping the gift off.
That is my son in the red shirt going over to offer his assistance.  I guess he is also waiting for the man to come back.

Here comes the man.   Jimmy offers to help. 

They both start pushing and we are all yelling from inside my son's apartment, "No, turn her around, turn her around, it will be easier."

That's right, now you've got it. 

Looks like they are going to have to lift up the chair.

That's right, Jimmy, you did good!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Now That the Mushy Stuff is Out of the Way - Where is my iPhone?

I found out a long time ago from my friend Cookie that "You know there really isn't a Santa Claus."   "Santa is just make believe."

Now at age much older than 8, I am kind of wondering if Cookie might not have known what the heck she was talking about.

I say this because when I woke up on this Christmas morning there were many gifts under my tree.  Gifts that I hadn't noticed were there the night before.

On Christmas Eve morning, Ross came into the den to find me, as usual, at the computer.  As usual, he came over to give me a kiss.   As usual, Rico was barking at Ross for giving me a kiss because Rico thinks that I should be a one man woman, his.

Anyway, Ross knelt down beside me and said,  I want you know that there is not going to be a present for you this year.  He tells me that every year, as usual.
He said "really, there are no little surprises this year."  I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was serious and that he wanted to seriously prepare me so that I wouldn't be seriously disappointed.

I looked up at him and my eyes filled up with tears and in a shaky little voice I asked "why?"

"Remember we agreed that we weren't going to exchange gifts this year," he said.

I have to admit I didn't get him anything because of that agreement.   But he had been hinting that there just might be a little something for me anyway.

And considering the tough time we have had lately, I thought that this year, especially this year, there would be a little something.

The next morning, Christmas day, I woke up at 5:00, as usual.   Ross and Rico were still sound asleep, as usual.

I got up, closed the bedroom door, so that I wouldn't wake either of them, especially Rico.

I put the kettle on for my tea, as usual.

I was surprised to find that the Christmas tree was still lit and I wondered why the timer hadn't worked.

It was still dark, and a little chilly. I snuggled up in an old soft afghan, curled up on the sofa next to the tree and started to reflect on the past almost two years.

I guess I got lost in my thoughts because at first I didn't notice all of the gifts that were under the tree.

The odd thing was that they were not wrapped in the traditional red, and green; santa and snowmen; glittery silver and gold wrapping paper.

But I am grateful, so very grateful for each and every one.

     Thank you so much my beautiful daughter, for your gift of support.   You called me nearly every day these last few months.  I cherish our hours and hours of phone talk.  You are one of the kindest and giving people I know.

    My son, thank you for knowing that you can come to me for anything and that I will always be there for you.   Thank you for being there for your brother.  He loved you too, bro.

  Thank you to my favorite son-in-law, because you are also the best son-in-law.   You are always Jen's rock.  You proved that more than ever these last few months.

  Thank you to my sweet "daughter" Jeannie.  Your quiet little caring ways have not gone unnoticed by me.  Thank you for standing by and with Jimmy.  I know it has not been easy.

  Thank you to my Joe's angel, Anne,  I will never forget the encouraging whispers, soft caresses, and soothing foot massages that you gave your husband.   They are the most tender memories I have during the most difficult and heartbreaking times.

Ross, you have given me some of the most special gifts.  You have proven to me many times over the years that you are also one of the most kind and giving people I know.
  I have seen you on more than one occasion, pull over to the side of the road offering help to those in need.  You always manage to find something good in everyone.  One of your favorite phrases is, "he or she is a good person."
You were there with me every step of the way, helping me take care of Ma.  I will never forget how gentle and gentlemanly you were with her.
So I feel a little selfish and bratty when I think of my behavior the other day.  Silly tears over the fact that there wasn't going to be a pair of earrings or a bracelet.
How could something bought in a jewelry store replace what you have given me these last almost two years?

So Ross, Thank you for...

The promise that you would be available to help Joe and Anne with whatever they needed.  And you were.
The many appointments that you cancelled to do just that.
The miles and miles of chauffeuring.
The many chemo trips, babysitting gigs, and during the last months, just spending time with Joe. 
Biting your tongue when my irrational anger put you in my line of fire.  And then always saying, "I still love you, you know."
The hours and hours of listening, sometimes, most times, in the middle of the night.
Trying to get me to smile, even when I didn't want to.
The strong shoulder that I shed many tears on.

I love you.

Okay now that the mushy stuff is out of the way, you are going to get me that new iPhone right?  After all you promised.

I'm sure in time the anger I feel at Santa for taking away one of my precious gifts will become less and less.
I'm looking forward to that time, the time when I can curl up on my sofa before the sun rises and remember with joy, the many gifts that my Joey has left for me.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

When I am Alone in My Room With The Big Leather Chair

When I am alone in my room with the big leather chair, my feet propped up on an ottoman,  I don't have to smile and pretend that I am okay.
When I am alone in my room with my old white painted desk, I can sit and stare at the odd shapes of the  smudges on the faded yellow walls.
When I am alone in my room studying the old framed print of a beautiful ballerina, I can let my mind meander and wander.
When I am alone in my room I can look at the photo of the ducks on my porch and reminisce about how things were so different the day that picture was taken.
When I am alone in my room, I somehow find comfort in the worn vintage Vera Bradley knitting bag filled with red, white and green yarn.
When I am alone in my room I can tune out the noise of the world around me and the constant chatter of my mind as I plug into an book and fall asleep while the narrator hypnotically drones on.
When I am alone in my room I can knit and purl and purl and knit, making sure I count each stitch.
When I am alone in my room, there are no reminders of christmas, because no decorations need adorn my room.
When I am alone in my room I can let the tears flow as I remember the feel of the hug from the nice lady at curves while she sadly tells me to try to have a merry christmas "the best that you can".
When I am alone in my room I know that soon I won't be alone, because Rico always comes to find me, perhaps to make sure I am okay.
When I am alone in my room I can feel the warm sun light as it brightens the room and gives life to the delicate plant on the rickety table next to my chair.
When I am alone in my room I don't have to feel light and bright if I am not in the mood.
When I am alone in my room I don't have to make conversation or oh and ahh at the appropriate times.
When I am alone in my room I can cry softly or sob loudly.
When I am alone in my room I can imagine Joe playing on the floor with Domani the last and final time they came to visit.
When I am alone in my room I can feel my mother's love, because this is the room in which she spent her last days, the half finished scarf she was knitting next to her, as she fell asleep for the last and final time.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Elf on the Shelf and Jesus on the Beach in New Jersey?

Who's on the beach in New Jersey on the day of Christmas Eve eve.

Ship Bottom
Long Beach Island, NJ

That's Elvis
Our Elf on The Shelf Elf

Beach Patrol Out for a Stroll

Surfer Dude

Gold's Gym?

Catching The Seven Fishes for the Eve's Dinner

Jesus at the Jersey Shore?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" or Whatever Will I Wear On My Letterman Appearance

I have read each of the novels written by Stieg Larsson and loved all three.
I also watched the three Swedish movie versions.

Ross and I went to see  director David Fincher's version of  "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" this afternoon.

In comparing the book, to the Swedish movie version and the US version that I saw today, I have to say that the book and the two movie versions were all excellent.

Both movie versions followed the book very closely.

In the movie we saw today, Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander is played by Rooney Mara.

I thought each actor brought their respective characters to life perfectly.

I especially thought Rooney Mara's "Lisbeth" was spot on.  She was just as I pictured her to be when I was reading the book.

Mara, as Salander evoked a range of emotions in me.   I felt her shame and pain, her shyness, her feeling of being an outcast and at times a victim.  Her fearlessness, strong will, and vigilance was thrilling.  I rooted for her all the way.

Even though I knew the outcomes of what I consider to be the three most powerful scenes in the book and movie, I was still on the edge of my seat as each was played out.

I have never actually reviewed a movie before.  But I have to give this one a big thumbs up!

It was a perfect two plus hour distraction and a nice escape.

And okay, I will shyly admit, that yes, I did picture myself on that motorcycle chasing down that evil dude and that in some fantasy life, I am Lisbeth Salander.
Well, that is when I am not performing on stage, or being interviewed on David Letterman for my best selling book.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Even If Only In My Dreams

It finally happened.  I was wondering why it hadn't happened before.  Maybe I have been too exhausted until now.

I walked into a room, a round room.  The only piece of furniture in the room was a single bed.  An old fashioned kind with a brass head board.  The brass was worn, and brown.   A big old fat cat was lying  on the bed with his paws curled underneath him. His black, brown and white fur all puffed out.

Joe was kind of kneeling on the side of the bed, his legs on the floor,  his head propped up on his elbows on the bed.  He was staring at the cat.

He looked up as I entered the room.   He looked so sad.
"What's the matter, Joe?" I asked.
"Are you in pain?"
He shook his head no.
His shoulders started to shake as he began to cry.
"I don't want to go, Ma, I don't want to go."
I climbed onto the bed and tried to hold him.  I could feel his thin body in my arms.
"I don't want you to go, Joe, I don't want you to go."  I sobbed.

I woke with a start, tears rolling down my face.  I felt as though I couldn't cry hard enough or long enough to ease the pain.

I was wondering why it hadn't happened before this.

I wanted to see him one more time, even if it were only in a dream.   I wanted to hear his voice one more time, even it were only in a dream.  I wanted to hold him one more time, even if it were only in a dream.

Perhaps someday I will be comforted by old photos and precious memories.

Perhaps someday, the dreams will be of the good times.

But I know that he didn't want to go and I know that I can never let him go.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Secret Not So Secret Gift - The Big Reveal

Aww, You Shouldn't Have
No, Really You Shouldn't Have

Monday, December 19, 2011

The New Kindle Fire Will Not Ease My Pain

Ross is cooking dinner.   Rico is in here next to me, because Ross is cooking dinner.
The dog gets very frightened when Ross cooks.
Ross doesn't believe in putting the exhaust fan on when he is cooking.
So, pretty much every time Ross panfries anything, the smoke detector goes off.
We have one of those detectors that talks.
So that loud screeching alarm is accompanied by a woman screaming, "Fire!"  "Fire!"

I get annoyed that Ross never puts the exhaust fan on because it makes Rico shake and bark.

Rico hates that detector and that woman.  And he's not crazy about the ice maker either.

Today, my Kindle and our cordless phones went kaput at exactly the same time.   So strange.

Just when I thought "perfect, now I can get the new Kindle fire",  Jen suggested that I connect the Kindle to my computer with the USB cable and now it is working again.
So, no new Kindle Fire.

The online troubleshooting guide for our phones suggested that we unplug the power cord from the base and then plug it back in again.  That worked.
So, no new phones either.

A special Christmas card arrived in the mail today.   It was from Joe, Anne and Domani.

Together, Joe and Anne picked out the photos for the card just a month ago.

The card is beautiful and precious.  The card makes me cry.

But, then I am reminded of how happy they were together.

The saying that they chose to be printed on the card is this:

"May this Holiday season bring you precious time with family and friends..."

I am reminded of how silly it is to be upset about barking dogs, screeching smoke detectors and phones or kindles that don't work.

I am reminded how nice it is that Ross is cooking dinner for me (and for you too, Rico).

I am reminded that new phones or the Kindle Fire will not ease my pain.

Most of all I am reminded of how our lives have changed in what seems to be an instant and that time with family and friends is what is precious.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Not So Secret Secret Gift or Ross and Costco Sittin in a Tree...

We are not exchanging gifts this year.  Well, I mean Ross and I that is.

Of course there will be presents under our tree for the grandkids and a little sumin sumin for the big kids.

But Ross and I decided not to this year.

Okay, I have to admit I found out that Ross did buy one gift.

Thinking about this makes me laugh a little to myself.

So, last week Ross went to one of his favorite stores.  Costco.   He loves, loves, loves, Costco.

Before I get to the secret that is not so secret gift, let me tell you a little about Ross and what I like to call his "Costco_isms"

The big flat screen TV's are right up in the front of the store and are the first items the customer sees as they walk through the doors.

Costco_ism  No. 1:
Re:  Big Flat Screen TVs.

"Do you believe that?"
"Look they are coming down in price."
"I want to replace the 42"that is in the living room with a 46".
"Then we will put the 42" in the bedroom."
"Oh and I want to get a 32" for the kitchen"
"But not right now."
"Just wait, they are going to come down in price even more."

Now I have to tell you he has been saying this for, umm, let's see, no exaggeration, for about 2 years now.

Another standard mention is the price of bananas in Costco.

Costco_ism No. 2
Re: Bananas:
"Even if you throw half of the bananas out, it is still worth it to buy them in Costco.  It's incredible!"

Costco_ism No. 3
Re: ButterBall Turkey Breasts:

"We should get a couple and freeze them."
"They only have it at certain times of the year, you know."

Costco_ism No. 4
Re: Flameless LED Candles

"Do you need more of these?"

Right now I have about a dozen.  I have to admit, I really do like them.  They operate on two AA batteries which are included, have a five hour time and look very realistic.

So, I always say, "well, I guess I could use 4 more."

There are many more standard Costo_isms,  but I'll just mention one more.

Re: Keurig K cups.

"They are the cheapest here.  Well, unless you have a coupon for Bed Bath and Beyond, that is."

Okay back to the wink, wink, secret gift.

So after he gets back from his Costco trip, he tells me that he left one of the items in the back of the car.

I ask why he didn't bring it in.  

He tells me that he will later. Wink, wink.

So the next day, I spot him carrying this box inside.

Since he didn't bother to "hide" it in a bag or anything, and since he didn't wait until I was out or in the shower before he brought it in, and since it was too big to hide behind his back,  I easily identified it.

Yesterday, he said to me.

"I know we said we weren't going to exchange gifts this year, but I did get "us" something.

"Oh, really?"  I said.

Now because Ross is always the first one to read my posts,  I cannot reveal what the gift is.

I mean I wouldn't want him to know that I know :)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Guiding Light

I am overwhelmed by the support, kindness and love shown to me by the blogging community.

It is inspiring to me to know that people who have never even met me have reached out to offer me comfort and encouragement during one of the most difficult times of my life.

Lately, I have stopped listening to the local evening news because it seems to be mostly filled with accounts of murder, rape, political hi jinx, college football scandals and depressing reports of dire economic conditions.

Recently, though, I  heard about a story involving good Samaritans who have been paying off the balances of lay-a-way purchases at K-Mart stores for families who are struggling financially.

Reading that heartwarming story, along with the beautiful comments I have received, has given me a little lift.

I have been trying to find meaning in the loss of my son.  I don't know if I believe the cliche "Everything happens for a reason."

But, perhaps, for me it is that a light has been shone on the basic goodness and giving spirits of people who are sometimes total strangers.    A light that someday may guide me to do a kindness for the next person who may be hurting or in need.

Of course, my brightest light has been right next to me all along who always finds the good in everyone.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

And I See Their Faces

I walk around in a daze, shaking my head and muttering to myself.   Phrases like, "I don't understand it.", "How could this have happened?" and of course "Why?" chase each other around and around in my head.

The visions in my head are constant.   I see my mother's face, I see my son's face.  Both faces have the same expression.   They don't speak, but they look at me with pleading eyes as if to say, please help me.

I make the bed, sort the laundry and watch the View, all the while shaking my head and muttering to myself and I see their faces.

I go to Curves, and vaguely hear the chatter of the other women in the background.   I wonder why everyone is smiling and singing along to "Rockin Around The Christmas Tree. I  automatically move when the Curves lady says "Change Stations", all the while shaking my head and muttering to myself and I see their faces.

As we walk through the mall looking for ornaments and Critter hats I  feel exhausted.    On the way home in the car, I knit a few stitches, then stop and stare at the needles in my hands, shake my head and mutter to myself and I see their faces.

While in the laundry room folding clothes, I have a different thought.  I am a failure as a mother.  I didn't do my job.  I should have insisted that he eat more vegetables.  I should have been more loving.  I should have been able to make it okay, just like I promised it would be.  I should have been a better daughter.  I should have been more patient with her.   And I see their faces.

All of the tears that I have been holding onto, escape.  The muttering comes in between the sobs.  The pain is almost unbearable as I see their faces.

I want to be able to feel comforted by my mother.

I want to be able to comfort my son.

I feel the anger and frustration of a spoiled child who can't have what she wants most in the world and I want to scream.  Instead, I hold onto Ross and he promises me that everything is going to be okay.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Oh, My Brother

I am not quite sure where to begin, but I guess I'll start wherever my memories land me.

He had very dark brown, almost black hair. He had thick black eyebrows and deep dark brown eyes.  He had a dark side to go along with his looks.

The kids in the neighborhood called him "Hurricane" because of his uncontrollable temper.
The strongest memories, including the earliest ones, I have of him are filled with anger.
He was angry and he generated angry feelings in those around him.

I was 13 years old when he was born.  He was the middle child sandwiched between my two younger sisters.  As the older sister to all three, I changed their diapers, fed them their bottles and took them to the park.  I guess I was a second mother to all three.

When he was 14 he took my father's car out for a "joyride" and totaled it.   Up until that point the problems he had in school were justified  by my parents with the excuse that he had a temper just like our father had when he was a young boy.  They expected that my brother would outgrow the behavior.

I have answered his middle of the night phone calls, picked him on darkened streets and bailed him out of jail.  I have been embarrassed by his outbursts in public places.  And I have been punched by him.

He caused both of my parents a great deal of heartache.

After my father died, he took advantage of my mother by constantly harassing her for money.   When the verbal abuse turned physical, my siblings and I removed my mom from the home she shared with him.  My mom went to spend time with my sister who lived on the other side of the country.

After my mom left, my siblings found an apartment for him and helped him set it up.
We bought a car for him with the hope that it would make finding a job easier.
We guided him with social services to provide the help he needed to get back on track.

We would do this for him many times over the next several years.

He continues to check in and out of mental health facilities and drug rehabs.

Many hours, days, weeks and months of my life have been wasted by worrying about him, fearing him, being disgusted by him.

He started taking drugs when he was a young teenager. I am sure he tried every one out there including alcohol.  His drug of choice became heroine.   He has been on methadone for over 20 years, but continues to supplement with sometimes prescribed medications, and mostly street bought stuff.

My mom never stopped worrying about him.  Three years ago she became ill with cancer.  He continued to harass her until she became too ill to live on her own.

At that point my other sister took over the "care" of my brother.  My mother and brother had an unhealthy co-dependent relationship.
My sister provides help with practical day to day issues, such as replacing his lost cell phones, and making sure his rent gets paid.   But she does not tolerate his abusive behavior and has established boundaries.

I stopped having any contact with him about 10 years ago.

My mom spent the last days of her life lying in a hospital bed in my home.  She continued to fight and hang on.  When she finally lapsed into a coma,  I told her it was okay for her to go, that we would all be okay.  But it seemed as though she was waiting...

My sister suggested that my brother talk to her on the phone.    I put the phone up to her ear and I heard him say:   "Don't worry, I am going to be okay."  "I'm doing much better".  "Be at peace now, Ma."
"I love you, Ma."
A few hours later, she died.

I saw him at my mom's funeral for the first time in many years. I was shocked by his appearance.  His hair is almost all gray, and he barely has any teeth left.   He was no longer the scary monster that I remembered.  The tender feelings I had for him as a little boy came rushing back.   As we walked down the church aisle behind my mom's casket, I heard him sobbing behind me. I turned around and took him in my arms and told him everything would be okay.

I have not seen or heard from him since my mom's funeral, two years ago.
That is by my choice.

I learned a long time ago that I would not be able to "fix" him.

Two months after my mom passed away, my 35 year old son was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.  He died last Monday, December 5.

Among the many lovely sympathy cards I have received in the past week, I shed tears when I read this one.

Even though I have many painful memories of our relationship,  oh, my little brother, you still tug at my heart strings.  

How sad that you never got the help you needed when you were young enough for it to have made a difference.  
Oh, my brother

After losing my precious son, my perspective on life has certainly changed.

I think I need to let him know that I love him too, after all he is my little brother. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Zombie Blue, Blue Christmas

In an almost zombie like state, I have been painfully going through the motions of Christmas.   

As I was decorating the tree at 5:00 a.m yesterday, the words to Elvis Presley's Blue Christmas were stuck in my head.    

So I thought it was fitting to include blue ornaments to my "decorations of red" on my green Christmas tree"

My collection of mini trees and snowmen are set up in their usual spot on the console table by the front door.  

The mantles are adorned with greenery, pinecones and candles.

The dining room is filled with red and white poinsettias.

Rudolph is hanging out on the stuffed chair in the foyer. 

The trees and bushes are twinkling and the wreath is on the front door.

But instead of Holiday Greetings my mailbox is filled sympathy cards.

And I am sad, so very sad. 

And like the song says:

I'll have a Blue Christmas without you

I'll be so blue thinking about you

Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree

Won't be the same dear, if because you're not here with me

Yesterday Ross bought the Elf on the Shelf for me.   He is still in the box, though.  

I wish I believed in magical elves and far-a-way places. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

For Keepsake What IS the Magic Word?

As far back as I can remember I have been buying Hallmark Ornaments.   I probably first discovered them when my children were very young.   They make the dated ones for son and daughter.

According to their website, in 1973 Hallmark introduced six glass ball ornaments and 12 yarn figures as the first collection of Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments.Since then there have been more than 100 ornament series.

Although, I think the idea of having every ornament in a particular series kind of neat,  somehow I could never manage to get started on the collection at the right time.

Each year I would go into my favorite Hallmark store and see an ornament that I would like to start collecting.  What usually would happen, though, is, if the ornament was number one in the series,  I would never remember to buy the second in the series the following year.  Or, the ornament would be the third or fourth in the series and I had missed out on number one and number two.

Basically I wasn't very diligent in keeping track of what I had, or what I needed.

They also have this secret club that you can belong to.   It's called the Hallmark Keepsake Ornament ClubOkay, it's not really secret, but somehow I could never manage to join that at the right time either.  

According to the instructions on the website you have to join by Dec. 31 in order to take advantage of the secret things that are available to club members only.

The thing is, you have to download a form, and mail it in.
HUH?  Really?
I guess they figure only those who are willing to make the supreme effort of downloading and filling in the form and then taking it to the post office to mail it are worthy of becoming a member.

Today was my lucky day.  It wasn't too late to become a member.  I downloaded the form.  

But wait, the instructions indicate that you can also call.
"Joining is easy. Just fill out this form and give it to your local Hallmark Gold Crown retailer or get it to us by mail, by fax at 1-800-200-3400 or call us at 1-800-HALLMARK."

Why bother filling out the form, mailing it in and waiting for my secret stuff to arrive?
I'll just call the 800 number.   
But hold on, did they make a mistake in the phone number.   Hall Mark is 8 characters.  Aren't phone numbers usually only 7 characters?

Anyway I dialed it as instructed and I was connected to Hallmark Customer service.
Well not a human, of course.   First I had to navigate through the phone tree.
But with each press of the designated number, I was getting closer and closer to finally becoming an exclusive member of the Hallmark Keepsake Ornament Club.
It was 4:00 p.m. Eastern when I made the call. 

Here is the message I received:
"It's not too late to join.  Here at Hallmark we want to wish you Happy Holidays.  If you wish to enroll please press 1."
So of course I did.

Next message:
"Please wait for the next available representative"

I hear  ring, ring, ring.  I am finally, finally, going to get to become a member!

Next message:"Sorry we are closed."  Please call back during our regular business hours - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central.

"I am calling during those hours!" I yelled at the message.  
 Apparently, like they neglected to add Monday through Friday to their "We are closed" message.   

I don't know if I will try again tomorrow.  Perhaps I really am not worthy of  being a member of the Hallmark Keepsake Ornament Club.  Anyway I would probably have to learn a secret handshake and sign a confidentiality agreement. 

By the way, in 2004 I bought the first in the "Father Christmas Series".  Nope I didn't buy number 2 in 2005 or number 3 in 2006.  I do have numbers 4, 5, 6, & 7.  And today I bought the 2011 number 8.

I decided it would be nice to try to get numbers 2 and 3. 

I found this website which had those two available.   

The price of number 2 is $139.  The price of number 3 is $162.

The original price was probably less than $20.00.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

It Would Be an Honor To Hang Your Felt Snowman on MY Tree

A few years ago I purchased two large boxes of Christmas ornaments at a garage sale.  There must have been at least 50 ornaments.  Each one was individually wrapped in tissue paper.

The woman, who the ornaments originally belonged to, had passed away.  Her daughter was the one having the garage sale.  I couldn't understand how she could part with these items.  When I asked her that very question, she said that they just wouldn't match her Christmas d├ęcor.

She sold me both boxes for $5.00.  I was very excited about my bargain.

I couldn’t wait to get home and go through the boxes.  I was sure I could make quite a profit by putting each one of those ornaments up for sale on eBay. 

As I started to unwrap the ornaments, I was surprised to find that they were all handmade and that each one was different.

I found a pom-pom Santa with popsicle stick skis, three tiny hand knitted sweaters, one red, one green, and one white; each hanging on pipe cleaner hangers, a cross-stitch wreath, a felt snowman and gingerbread lady, a crocheted angel with a golden halo, and beaded candy canes.  And there were many more.

Even though I had never met this woman, I suddenly had a picture of her in my mind.  I imagined her sitting at a table with several of her friends.  It was their annual get together.   In the middle of the table there was felt and Styrofoam, yarn and pom-poms, glitter and beads, pinecones and holly branches.

Among the giggles, chatter and gossip, busy hands were stitching and gluing.    There were ooh’s and ahh’s as each item was finished and proudly displayed.

Fresh brewed coffee and plates of Christmas cookies awaited the ladies as they each finished up their projects.

After I had unwrapped all of the items, I started to separate them into groups of  three so that I could take photos for my eBay auctions.   I wondered how much I should charge for each group.  

After imagining these women lovingly making these treasures, I realized how priceless each one of these items was and I knew that it would be hard to part with any of them.

So, now every year as I unwrap each snowman, santa, sweater, candycane and wreath I think of those women as I hang them on my tree in their honor.

 Yesterday I buried my son.   As we drove home from the funeral it was dusk. 
As we passed the many homes which were lit up and decorated for Christmas, I couldn't imagine myself writing one Christmas card, stringing lights on the trees in our yard or decorating our Christmas tree.  

Didn't everyone in those brightly lighted houses understand that I am sad and grieving?  

As I sat down to write about this today, I thought about the purchase of my treasured Christmas goodies from a few years ago.   I thought about about how that woman, who I had never even met, left me with a loving piece of her.

Thinking of that woman made me realize something that my grief was keeping buried.  I realized that my son will always be with me.

I will especially know that when I see the smile on his son's face when he spots the white felt snowmen on Grandma's Christmas tree.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quiet Treasures

Who was this mysterious man who was known to us as Joseph, Joe, Joey, Bro, Uncle Joe, or Hon?

From the time he was a little boy, I figured out how to "read" Joe.  I learned what each subtle body movement meant.  His facial expressions were actually quite loud.  Sometimes his eyes alone would tell a whole story.

His teachers would say to me,
"Joseph is a good student, but he is so quiet."

As he got older and moved on to adulthood, I lost touch with little things about Joe. What music he liked, what clothes he chose to wear, what songs he liked to play on his guitar, where he was on the weekend or who he spent his evenings with.

I never lost touch, though, with the silent communication we shared.  His eyes, his smile, or a little shrug of his shoulders, each meant something particularly special to me.

Because he was so quiet, very often Joe would get teased :
"Keep it down, Joe, you're talking so much that none of us can get a word in edgewise."
Joe would turn red, but he would always smile.

It seemed as though some people would be uncomfortable around him. "He doesn't talk much", they would say.

Many of the people in his life knew only small bits and tiny pieces of him.

He is so quiet they would say.

What is he thinking?  How does he feel?

He is so quiet.

Oh yes, we all knew that Joe was a Mets fan.   I know that when everyone in the stands was yelling "Lets Go Mets, Lets Go Mets," Joe was quietly yelling it too.

His laugh may have been quiet, but his sense of humor was obvious.  I'm sure if you listened closely you would know that inside he was laughing loudly at a silly Conan skit.

Hmm, I wonder which character from the show Family Guy Joe most identified with?
Perhaps, Brian Griffin, the dog, said all of the things that Joe was quietly thinking.

What was there about "Unca" Joe that Bella, Kenny, Ryan and Tyler could hear that perhaps others couldn't?  I'm sure they never said, "but he is so quiet."

I suppose there may have been some little specific things that I didn't know about Joe.

But when I reflect on my son I understand that I knew the most important things about him.   

I knew what a gentle person he was. I understood his off kilter sense of humor.  I knew that he loved little children and puppies and that they loved him.

I knew that he would always go back for seconds when I served my "famous" lasagna. 

I knew that Domani was the light of his life.
I knew that he was a good father.  

I knew that it was meant to be for he and Anne to find each other again.
I knew that he loved his wife. 

I knew that he was strong and that his strength ran deep.

During the last weeks of his life I knew that there were times when he must have been very frightened; but he never gave up the fight.

I knew that he would never willingly leave his family.  

Just few days ago he smiled and said to me "we still have time."

He knew I loved him.   

The last time he "spoke" to me he mouthed the words "I love you." 

Quiet people are sometimes misunderstood.   

Take the time to get to know a quiet person.  

After all you might be lucky enough to discover the treasures of their mind, heart and soul, just like my strong,  lovable, wonderful "quiet" Joe.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Beautiful Son Joseph - Till We Meet Again

My beautiful son Joseph passed away at 6:00 a.m. this morning.
He was a kind and gentle soul.
I am hurting.
I am grieving.
I am missing him.
I am hoping that he is at peace.
I am hoping that he is not alone.
Mom and Dad, please take care of him.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mary Jane's Brownies

I immediately got a job right after I  graduated high school in 1965.

I missed out on that whole hippie, free love, psychedelic rock and drug cultural revolution, perhaps because I didn't go to college.

I was the oldest of six children.   Three of my siblings were at least 11 years younger than me.

I remember, at age 27,  being shocked and horrified when my mom told me that she found a marijuana cigarette in my 14 year old brother's room.

At that time the message about marijuana was that it was a gateway drug. I clearly remember the commercial of the two eggs in the frying pan along with the slogan: "This is your brain on drugs."

Sadly enough, my brother did go on to do more serious drugs.   But, perhaps if marijuana had been more acceptable, he would have been satisfied being just a little bit of a pot head.

My three children were each born in the 1970's.   They were teenagers in the 1980's and 1990's.
I'm pretty sure I would have been quite upset if I found out that they were smoking pot.

I, myself, have never seen marijuana in any shape or form. I have never been in the company of anyone who was smoking it or ingesting it in any way.

I mean,  I have seen it depicted on TV and in the movies.   But, I wouldn't be able to identify the smell, and I probably wouldn't know a joint from an ordinary cigarette.

So basically what I am trying to say is that I have been pretty much a prude and a little judgemental when it comes to pot.

That is Up Until NOW!!

New Jersey has a medical marijuana program which could allow the drug to be sold to chronically ill patients by the end of this year.  But the implementation of this program has been delayed for many months now.

My son, who is critically ill, would probably benefit from pot, even if it all it did was lift his spirits for a little while.

Joe has always been a straight arrow.  He is one to follow the rules.   A few months back, someone suggested to Joe that maybe a joint might stimulate his appetite.
Typical of Joe, his response was:  "Isn't that illegal?"

So today Jen, Jimmy, Ross and I were visiting Joe and Anne.   We were talking about how we could get Joe to try some pot.  I suggested that we all light up.  I imagine, (obviously not from personal experience) that he would get some of the effects that way, wouldn't he?

I also conjured up quite a funny picture in my mind of me smoking, as my mother would say, a marijuana cigarette.

Apparently, quite a few number of people have offered to "get some" for Joe.  Also apparently, quite a few number of people have connections to the primo stuff.

My how times have changed.
My, how my opinions have changed.
My, how cancer makes something like smoking a joint seem so innocuous.

Well, I have to go, I think I smell my brownies, I don't want them to burn.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Yesterday I Had No Hope - The Evil That is Cancer

Since Joe was diagnosed in January of 2010 with stage IV colon cancer,  I had hope that somehow he would beat the odds.   And even though I heard the doctor use the word incurable, I still had hope that Joe would prove the doctors wrong.
Up until a few months ago, Joe looked healthy and he was strong.

How could this young, strong, healthy looking man be sick?  He was a young father.  He should be there to see his son grow up. His son should be able to get to know the gentle and kind man his father is.

Joe and Domani

Me Domani and Joe

His marriage was young, he and his wife, Anne, still had years of love and experiences ahead of them.

Joe and Anne

Yes, I just knew that the man in these photos would beat the odds.

But during the past two months his health and condition have rapidly declined as evil cancer starts to win the battle.   He has been unable to eat much and becomes weaker and weaker each day.   

But even so, Joe continued to fight and I still had hope.

Yesterday,  Wednesday, was Joe's normal scheduled day to receive chemo.  
It took Joe, with Anne's help, 2 hours to get ready to go for the one hour drive to the facility where he gets his treatment.  
After each little task, such as, getting up out of the chair, walking to the bathroom, dressing, putting on his shoes, he would have to stop and rest.  

Joe's regular doctor was out so Joe was seen by another doctor.  This was the first time that Joe had seen this doctor.  After the standard preliminary blood tests, and exam, the doctor very bluntly and coldly told Joe and Anne that at this point treatment of any kind would not be effective and there would not be any attempts of further treatment.

Joe and Anne asked if a social worker was available to talk with.   Apparently, this doctor was not very helpful with that request and mumbled something about the fact that she did not think that service was available at that particular facility. 

I know that to the doctors and nurses who deal with cancer on a 24/7 basis this is just another day, another patient.   

But this day, it was Ann'e husband.  This day it was our son.   This day it was Jen and Jimmy's brother.
This day it was Uncle Joe.

No, this day was not just another day for us.

Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my 36 year old son, Joe's  life. 

And even though during the past two months,  I could see he was starting to struggle, I still had hope.

And even though on Thanksgiving day, as  I watched him barely able to eat a small piece of turkey I still had hope.

Last night Joe asked Anne to call our family together.   Ross and I, Joe's father, Ken, my daughter Jen and her husband Derek, my son Jimmy and his wife Jeannie, Anne's parents, Marie and Dave, Anne's sister, Karen and her husband Chris all gathered in Joe and Anne's living room.

Anne explained to us that at this point the goal is to make Joe as comfortable as possible and to make the most of his time here.

Joe sat quietly and listened.

There were a lot of tears shed as we all tried to take in what Anne was saying and tried to make sense of the unfairness that is evil cancer.

As I watched Jimmy sitting next to his big brother, holding  his hand and crying,  I thought about how they fought when they were kids.   And I thought about special their relationship has become.

As I sat next to Joe and held his hand,  through my tears, I mouthed "I love you, Joe".

Joe looked at me and weakly said, "I know."

He looked at me as if he wanted to say more.   He finally gathered his strength and said to me,

"I still have time."

Yesterday was the hardest day of my life.  Yesterday I had no hope.