Monday, December 29, 2014

For The Record: The Twenty Fourteen Winter Holidays Part I TSAT

For the Record:
The Twenty Fourteen Winter Holidays
Part I
The Saturday After Thanksgiving (or TSAT)

Note: Since I am writing this near the end of the last month of the year and my memory is shot, this is really probably only a scant impression, based mostly on how I remember feeling.

Generally speaking preparing for the Winter Holidays can be broken down into two categories.  Presents and Food.   Well, okay, I admit, that may be the Kardashian view but, come on now, you have to agree that Food and Presents do have a prominent place in the celebration.

Ross and I spent what has become our Traditional Thanksgiving Day cooking for the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Well, that’s because the Saturday after Thanksgiving is when we celebrate our Thanksgiving.  And well, that’s because we are at the stage of our life when the “kids” have to split their time between many families.  Families who don’t live in the same neighborhood anymore like they used to in the “good” ole days.

So anyhow, (that’s how Ross always gets back to the point of a long story and invariably gets sidetracked), so anyhow, on Thursday, November 27, Thanksgiving Day 2014, I was making meatballs and gravy for the traditional “The Saturday after Thanksgiving” (TSAT) lasagna.
It took us all day.  You can’t rush meatballs, gravy and three large pans of lasagna.
At the end of the day I remember feeling tired.

I honestly don’t remember many details of the TSAT day, November 29.  I remember that we tried to be ultra organized. We planned on dinner for 2:00.   I remember that Jen, Derek, Bella, Ryan, Jackson, Anne and Domani were here on time.
Anne had run the Philadelphia marathon six days before.  I remember her kind of limping when she came in.  She told me that she had been to the doctor to have a blister or something taken care of.  I remember thinking she looked tired.

Even after all of the planning, though, the lasagna wasn’t ready on time.

We didn’t all sit down together at the dinner table.  I haven’t been able to figure out how to do that yet. Chaotic is what my impression memory is.  Ross getting the gravy, meatballs, parmesan cheese, and drinks on the table while I stood at the counter dishing out the lasagna, plate by plate. The kids pushing the pasta around on their plates, not really interested.  Bella asking for more meatballs as she tried to scrape as much of the sauce off of the noodles as she possibly could.  Jen and Derek taking turns chasing Jackson so one or the other could sit down and eat.

I recall that Jimmy had to work that day so I knew he and Tara wouldn’t be here until after 3:00.  I remember that we were all probably finished eating by the time they came.  We were perhaps in the middle of getting coffee and desert on the table.  I can picture both of them coming into the dining room, Tara was holding an Edible Arrangement (basket of fruit).  I asked if they were hungry.  They said yes.
I guess I must of jumped up from my seat, and I must have seemed frantic to get them food, because I remember Jimmy telling me to “Take it easy, Mom.”  As I watched Jimmy struggling to finish his lasagna, (I guess he wasn’t that hungry after all), we both had the same thought at the same time. We remembered how Joe loved my lasagna and how he would go back for seconds and sometimes even thirds.  And I remember saying quietly to myself, “Oh, my Joe.”

I have noisy after dinner memories of the kids boisterously playing in the spare room, AKA the Toy Room.

And I have a vivid image of 15 month old Jackson toddling round and round, from the kitchen to the living room, down the hallway, back up the hallway, through the living room again and then back into the kitchen.  He was followed closely behind by Jen, his arms outstretched in order to keep his balance while his body, bobbing from side to side, tried to keep up with his quick moving tiny feet.

Today, as I write about that day, and as I reflect upon it, I realize that my grief was softened on that TSAT day by a favorite memory.  That is the image of us all together, peacefully sitting in front of the fire place, with the full enthusiastic sounds of new lives in the back ground, as we made plans for the traditional “Sunday After Christmas” day or SAC celebration.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Has This Ever Happened To You? Important Message!

The caller ID displayed a cell phone number that I thought looked familiar.  So I answered the call.  The deep male voice asked to speak to Lynda G.  I acknowledged that yes, that was me.  I verified that the address he stated was indeed mine.
He then identified himself.  He was calling from the county sheriff’s office, he said.
Hundreds of thoughts went immediately into overdrive, racing around the tracks of my brain’s speedway.
 “ACCIDENT!”  “Someone had an ACCIDENT!”
Wait, what was he saying?
As my mind came screeching to a halt, I tried to focus on his words.
“Mrs. G, you were sent a summons to serve on a Grand Jury.”
“Since you did not appear, I am now informing you that I have a warrant here for your arrest.”
I immediately had a vision of myself being led out of my home in hand cuffs.
This can’t be happening.  Me?  Not to me.   No way.   I don’t even drive over the speed limit.
My emotions were all over the place.  I was frightened.
“I never received a notice,” I protested.
“Look,” he said.   “You are in trouble, here.”
“Lawyer, I want to speak to my lawyer.”
Well I didn’t actually say that. But, that was one of the first things I thought.   Hey, I watch Law and Order.  I know my rights.
This person, had managed to disarm me.  I felt vulnerable.
Ross happened to be in the room while I was on the phone.  When he saw the look on my face and noticed how pale I had become, he took the phone from me and started to question the guy.
The caller told Ross that if I did not comply with his instructions,  a police officer would come to our house and arrest me.
He told us that we needed to obtain a voucher which we would have to bring to the County sheriff’s office.  The voucher would cost $498.
Ross asked, “What if we just go down to the sheriff’s office?”
“She will be arrested on the spot,” he said.
The only way we could get this voucher was to meet him at a local retail store.
Of course by now we were beyond suspicious.
I got on my cell phone and called our local police department.
The detective I talked to asked me what phone number the guy was calling from.  She looked up the number and said it was a ghost number.
By that time, either Ross had asked one too many questions or the guy heard me say that I was going to call our local police department, because suddenly the line went dead.
When Ross called the number back, another person answered by saying “County sheriff’s office”.  As soon as Ross told this other person that he was contacting the police, the real police, that guy hung up the phone.
After that when we called the number there was no answer.
While  I am pretty certain that I would not have gone through with meeting this guy or giving him a credit card or money,  I have to admit he had me pretty rattled.
I am also pretty certain that these con men prey on older folks, probably particularly women because they know that they can easily be intimidated.
By the way, because I was so shaken up by this guy, I completely did not think about the obvious.
First,  the county that I was supposed to have had jury duty in was NOT the county in which I live.
Second, and this one was pointed out to me by the real detective that I spoke to, “Lynda,” he said,  “no policeman in any police department, would call the person they were going to arrest to announce that they were on the way.”
I am sure that there were other signs that this was a bogus call.  But as soon as this guy told me that he was calling from the sheriff’s office I panicked.
I know that most of us have become savvy and are aware that we should be wary of such phone calls and internets scams.
This is one that I have not heard of before.
Please pass this along.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Joe’s Legacy

I am pretty certain that if you have survived the parenting of an adolescent/teenager, then you can probably recall the exact moment when you realized that aliens must have come down from outer space, taken your own sweet child and replaced him/her with one of their one.

I remember that moment with my son Joe.  Only he wasn’t the typical obstinate, rebellious kind.  You know the one who locks himself in his room blasting “shake the whole house” thunderous music.  No, he wasn’t one of those.
Now, as I struggle to remember the infant, the toddler, the second grader, I must accept the fact that my advanced age has faded my memory.
Perhaps my strained reminiscences of Joe as a child are clouded by what I more clearly remember about his adult self.
However, I do remember one day in particular.  I actually stopped in the middle of putting Joe’s folded laundry on top of his dresser and sat down on his bed.  He was probably 14 or 15 at the time.  The feeling of sadness was overwhelming as I thought to myself, I have lost my son.  I hardly know him at all anymore.
I questioned whether he was always naturally quietly shy.  Or, I wondered,  had he slowly evolved into his mysteriously, calm introversion without me noticing?
I recently watched an old video of Joe’s eighth birthday party.  The excitement on his face was not at all diminished by the poor quality of the black and white tape.  Ghostly images poked and prodded at me, compelling me to recall.  But the animated images could not transform my pallid reflections into  vivid recollections.
As I rewound the tape back for a second view, I was overcome with nostalgia.
I’m sure that type of reaction is normal for anyone watching old home movies.
For me, remembrances frozen in time by photos and videos of Joe seem to pick at the jagged edges of the  hole in my heart, until they are raw and too painful to touch.
For the past couple of months I have been participating in a bereavement group.  We have been meeting on Tuesday afternoons.  At the last session we were given the assignment to bring in an object which would signify our loved ones legacy.
On the way home from the meeting, I thought about what I would bring.  An idea easily came to me. It would be a set of Russian Nesting Dolls.  They would naturally represent the many layers of who Joe was.
I was happy with my choice.  As soon as I got home, I went online and ordered a set.
At the next meeting, as I anxiously waited for my turn to “show and tell”, I wasn’t exactly sure of what I was going to say.
“Okay, Lynda, can you share with the group now?”
I could feel my face start to flush.  My hands shook as I reached into my purse to pull out the nesting dolls.
Writing about this now, one week later, I can hardly remember what words came out of my mouth.  I do remember nervously playing with the dolls, taking each one out of the other.  I also recall going off on a tangent, saying something about how I didn’t really know my son as a mother should know her child.   Mostly, though, I can only conjure up in my mind an impression of muffled mumblings, like one of the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon.
I felt as though all eyes were on me, but they were confused eyes.  I started to cry.  Why were they not understanding what I was saying?   What was I saying?  At that point, I’m sure that even I didn’t know.
But I have had time to reflect.  A week’s worth in fact.   In fact, my mind is dizzy from the constant turning spinning and replaying the incident.
After giving this much more thought, I have figured out that Joe did not have any one specific legacy to pass on.  Like most of us he shared a different part of himself with each person in his life.
As a mother,  I am not ready to give up my part of him.  I grieve the loss of getting to know him as an adult, and especially as a father.
I recognize that somewhere deep inside of me, my grief has made me capable of sometimes being envious of the parts of himself that he shared with others.
I always thought that platitudes like “Live life to its fullest”, or “Life isn’t a dress rehearsal” and Stop and smell the roses”, were meaningless.
Do we really have a choice other than to live life minute by minute?  Crisis by crisis?  We have things to handle.  Stuff to take care of.  Business that has to get done.  Who else will do the laundry and sweep the floors?
No, it’s true, I am not ready to let go of the anger I feel when I think about how much more of life Joe had to live.  The hurt is unbearable when I think about how much more love he had to give to Domani, Anne, his family and all of the others whose lives he touched
Wisdom? I do have bits of it.  At my age I would hope so.  Some moments, when I can lay my ache to rest for a bit, the realization of how short our time here is, may not always bring me peace, but an acceptance of sorts instead.
Through the harsh reality of terminal cancer,  Joe gained an entire life’s worth of wisdom in less than a second of his life.
A day that I will always remember is the day Joe called me and said he wanted to bring Domani to the beach for the first time.
That day I was caught up in the moment of seeing Joe with his son, on the beach.  The look on Domani’s face when his little toes touched sand for the first time was adorable.  The look on Joe’s face as he watched Domani play with the sand as it ran through his little fingers was timelessly precious.
Now, as I think about that day,  I understand that Joe wanted to share that moment with me.  That day is surely a gift he lovingly brought to me.
After Joe died, I began to notice things around me that I hadn’t paid much attention to before.  I started to actually distinguish the difference between a red cardinal’s song and that of a finch.  The sky is not always just all blue or gray, but shades of hues and at special times brilliant splashes and streaks of red and orange excitement.  I sit and contemplate the way the gentlest of breezes fluff the shrubs and slightly bend the tops of the pines.
I began to carry a camera with me to capture those moments.  Last winter, as I was slowly awakening from the numbness of my zombie like state, I would go out early in the morning, sometimes drudging though six inches of snow, to find what I could discover in the meadow across the way.
Joe’s strength and appreciation for every minute of his life was certainly a part of himself that he shared with all of us.
Would I consider that Joe’s legacy to me?
No, Joe was simply my son.  His whole of the parts of himself was the legacy.
A Russian Nesting Doll.

Joe passed away on December 5, 2011.
I miss him each and every one minute of my life.