Category Archives: aging

Family, lost and found

DSC_0195One of the highlights of my Florida trip was a brief get together with one of the three women I consider to be my true mothers.  Our reunion was surprisingly emotional for me – you know I’m no crier, yet that’s exactly who I became in her embrace.  I can’t help but wonder if the sense of comfort and safety I feel with her is what most people receive from their own mothers. I’ll never really know for sure unfortunately, but how blessed am I to find it with someone else?  Very.

Growing up, Sandy was my mother’s friend.  Our families spent holidays together, eating Italian and Jewish and German specialties and playing backgammon for Marlboros.  I’d never known a family like Sandy’s – around the table at Christmas you’d find she and her husband and their daughter.  Also present would her two children from her previous marriage, as well as her husband’s son from his first marriage.  Often, the father of Sandy’s older children would be there, too, with his son from his second marriage.  There were Italians and Jews and my own little German threesome and it was the most wonderful thing imaginable.

Maybe that’s where I learned that the word “family” defies definition.  I grew to understand that people came together because of love and that love evolves,  sometimes changing form, but unfailingly remaining a force.  Love was powerful and unifying, not destructive nor isolating.  Love trumped anger and envy and was to be respected.  That being said, I always thought that Sandy’s older daughter wished her mom was more like mine – structured, reliable and consistent.  Naturally, I wished for a mom who was like Sandy, emotional, inspired by passion and inclined to relaxing in a bathtub with bubbles and maybe a joint.

As I got older, Sandy provided me with what my own mother could not – a roof over my head when our house burned down, encouragement to end a stagnating relationship, the confidence to believe that I could do anything.  She convinced me that I was beautiful and smart and good and the trill of her laughter remains one of my favorite sounds.

We’ve been separated by hundreds of miles for many years now.  There have been occasions, including a Thanksgiving decades ago when Sandy prepared an entire traditional dinner, threw it into the car and served it on a picnic table at the beach, when we’ve gotten together, but this recent visit was the first in far too long.  For the first time ever I was able to take care of her. I selected the hotel knowing that she would get a kick out of staying at the Hilton on the beach.  There was lunch poolside and talk and more talk. We caught up and found we were, despite all the changes and challenges we’ve each faced, as always, family.  She’s truly the mother of my heart.

1 Comment

Filed under aging, family, friends, girlhood, holidays, relationships, travel, vacation

I wish that I could be like the cool kids

Image: Echosmith.com

Image: Echosmith.com

Have you heard this catchy little tune by Echosmith? When it comes on the radio Quinn always ask me to turn it up “like a party” and he sings along to the lyrics:

  “I wish that I could be like the cool kids,

‘Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in…

I wish that I could be like the cool kids,

‘Cause all the cool kids they seem to get it.”

It breaks my heart a little bit each time.

Don’t you remember those kids? The ones who seemed to always have the right clothes and the right hair and could always say and do the right thing? Their shiny perfection made everything a regular kid did seem dull in comparison.

I wasn’t one of the cool kids. Although I had plenty of friends, I certainly wasn’t in the upper social stratosphere. Somehow I survived school, and even eventually went back to revisit those days for a couple of reunions – the 10th, the 21st (don’t ask), the 25th. What I’ve learned over the years, though, is we all have more in common than we ever would have allowed ourselves to imagine when we were fellow students. We each have strengths and weaknesses, parts which are attractive and some which are less appealing and successes and failures. We’re human.

Every September is a reunion for school kids. I want my children to understand that being one of the cool kids in school isn’t a guarantee of a lifetime of happiness. Summer experiences and growth have the potential to impact every child. Attitudes and preferences change and each new academic year is a clean slate of opportunity for everyone. Getting that is ultimately far more important than fitting in.

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, Boys, musings, Summer, Uncategorized

Some Girls

image: amiright.com

In the sweet old country
Where I come from
Nobody ever works
Nothing ever gets done.”

There was a summer a long time ago, in the mythical (to some) town where I grew up, when it seemed that the Rolling Stones’ album “Some Girls” was in constant airplay. It didn’t seem possible that so many good songs could all be on a single piece of vinyl, but they were.

When I look back at that particular summer, it seems like I spent a lot of time hanging out in a gas station right in town. Those were the days when gas stations were places where the bays were devoted to car repairs rather than being set up as mini markets. There was an office with a big desk, a cash register, a phone which rang a surprising number of times a day and an old (even then) soda machine that had been jerry-rigged to dispense nips of beer instead cans of cola. I absolutely cherish these memories.

Over the years, the gas station was owned by the fathers of two different friends, I still am uncertain of the order. One of those fathers lost his child, my friend, to a motorcycle and a sense of invincibility decades ago. The other is now close to being lost to his daughter, and his other children, at what still seems to be too soon. It’s made me sadder than I ever imagined.

You should know that fathers were a bit scarce amongst my friends and me. Many of them were absent in one way or another, something we never explicitly questioned or discussed until years later. This particular Dad, though? This man was present. I came to know him and the quiet and amused manner in which he accepted me, always made me feel comfortable in his presence.

Although it has been many years since those days, I’ll never forget them. Time passes and life changes. It all becomes much less simple. Parents get divorced, they get sick and a future without them to look to guidance and validation becomes imminent. The memories though, the feelings of happiness and appreciation that can be summoned by a song on the radio, will be there always.

Some girls are really lucky.

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, family, friends, relationships

Trains, boats and buses

imageThose of you who have children know that a big part of parenting seems to revolve around  transportation. Like us, kids have places to be and must get to them. Whether it’s sports practice, school events or to social activities, we, as parents, are usually on the hook to drive them to where they need to be. At what age do we begin letting them get there on their own? What about when where they want to go is more distant than just a couple of miles away?

My oldest son has always had a remarkable sense of direction. When he was still preschool age I began to rely upon him for help while driving, asking him which way to turn. He’s always been obsessed with transportation, particularly trains, yet, as a city kid he has no interest in getting his driver’s license. I’m fine with that, trust me. Last year, on our first day in Amsterdam we bought 24 hour hop on/hop off passes for the canal boats. After we boarded the boat we consulted the map to determine which stops we should take and quickly determined we were interested in doing different things.

After a quick discussion, Liam and I decided to split up for a couple of hours. He would remain on the boat and loop back around to visit the Maritime Museum and I would get off at the next stop to troll through one of my favorite flea markets. We’d been in Amsterdam for less than 18 hours and were without cell phones, but I was confident that he could, in case of an emergency, find his way back to the hotel. I clambered off the boat and watched it depart, thinking that his Dad would be mighty pissed if this venture didn’t go well…

But, of course, it did go well. My 16 y/o and I met at the designated spot essentially on time and all was well. I was definitely a little apprehensive, but I knew I had to give him a little independence, even in the vice capital of Europe, and I didn’t regret it. You’ve got to start somewhere, right?

There have been other occasions when I’ve trusted the boys to get somewhere on their own. When Griffin was 13, I put him on the bus at the Port Authority to ride out to the Meadowlands to meet friends for a Jets game – on Thanksgiving afternoon. The ride home caused me more anxiety, particularly after my son disregarded the instructions to wait inside for me and instead was walking around 8th Avenue. We figured it out.

Liam has taken the train solo to NYC, switching lines at Poughkeepsie to arrive at Grand Central Station. Griffin’s latest triumph was making his way from Albany to the ferry dock in Woods Hole, via Boston. These forays can definitely be a little anxiety-inducing, but I know that teenagers need to learn to navigate their way through the world and I’m much more comfortable giving my kid a ticket to ride than a license to drive.  You?

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, Boys, family, road trips, travel

The story of our lives

Image: jellyjars.com

Image: jellyjars.com

As I walked past my car in our island seashell driveway, I noted the 5 consecutive years’ worth of Wellfleet beach parking stickers affixed to the rear window. It made me smile. I considered my previous car, also a wagon that had displayed at least as many years of evidence of our travels, and wondered how all of these summer road trips would be woven through the memories of my sons.

I would hope that one day my children will share the stories of their childhoods with their own families – and there are some good ones. After years of traveling together, we have a collection of moments which belong to us and can be taken out and polished countless times. Like sea glass, some began with jagged and sharp edges, but after years of repeated stroking they have softened and no longer have the ability to cut. They’ve become our treasures.

Projecting into the future, even beyond the expected years of my own life, I imagine my children telling their children these stories of us. The times spent with family, together, exploring new sights and revisiting favorite places. Ordering the same meals in the same restaurants in the same towns, not as an attempt to recapture that time, but instead, to pay those former days homage.

These days and weeks collectively combining to encompass months and months of our lives, are deserving of a chapter in our “story of our lives.” How about you, DelSo reader?  What chapters are you writing in your own life?

 

2 Comments

Filed under aging, Cape Cod, family, favorites, moms, travel

Morning thoughts

imageThe sun is peeking out from the soft grey clouds and my private little deck beckons. Listening to the birds and the trees on a quiet morning while the rest of the house still sleeps, is one of my favorite times of the day. No one needs anything, other than the hummingbird who just cruised by the feeder looking for some breakfast. He’ll have to wait.

I’ve been visiting the Cape for 16 consecutive summers and the charm has yet to wear off. Sure, there are places I no longer find appealing (I’m talking to you, obvious consumption Chatham) but, in general, I still appreciate what this place offers me. Despite all the changing variables – where we stay, the layouts of the various houses we have rented, the time of the summer, the composition of our families, which friends visit, the most special thing to me about the Cape is how it itself remains constant. There will be fried seafood and sandy feet and predictable tides. The shoreline may shift and beaches and dunes will erode, but the sun will reliably drop into the bay in a blaze of orange and purple at the end of the day. This, is what I love about being here.

I can’t help but reflect on my boys and how their needs and interests have changed over the years. The amount of props they once required! Strollers and pack and plays, life preservers and diapers – all gone now, replaced by digital toys and, thank God, books. When I packed this year, in my usual style, filling Rubbermaid containers which can double as hampers after the clothing is hastily put into temporary homes in strange dressers, I got my own bin for the first time ever. For years, I’ve shared my bin with my youngest as I’ve placed the big guys’ clothes together. This year their stuff is all together and I have a smaller box just for me. It means something doesn’t it?

Life is changing – every day. Coming to the beach and taking the time to recognize, accept and honor that, while digging my toes in the sand, makes these weeks the most special of the year. I hope you have a place like that, too.

Time to feed the hummingbirds.

2 Comments

Filed under aging, Boys, Cape Cod, family, favorites, musings, road trips, Summer, vacation

Don’t worry. Worry is useless. John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Where are you at when it comes to worry?  Are you inclined to focus your energy imagining all of the perils lying in wait around the corner?  Do you spend hours (years?) second guessing every decision you’ve ever made in life wondering “If only I had…?”

If your tendency to worry paralyzes you in a way that prevents you from putting your car in gear and driving forward, are you content to live your life stuck in neutral?

I have worries, believe me.  I am uncomfortable when my children are passengers in anyone’s car during long and (too) fast rides.  After two rounds of relatively “good” cancer, I am inclined to being a bit paranoid about not being so lucky if that crabby* bastard decides to lap back around for a third visit.  Being a homeowner makes me incredibly nervous at times because there are far too many things of which to keep track. I wonder, occasionally, if I will ever be in a healthy and satisfying romantic relationship again.  See?  I, too, worry.

But, what can I do about any of it?  Do I give away today with worry about tomorrow? How can I if I don’t have control of any of those things? All I can do is reiterate the importance of driving with caution and stress to the boys how imperative it is to take driving seriously.  I try to keep myself strong with exercise and nutrition in case of further challenges to my health.  I’m learning to ask for help when it comes to maintaining my house and my car.  I’m actively working on things to enable me to keep moving forward in a positive fashion.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that life can change in an instant.  When that time comes again, I’d like to believe that I’ll be ready to face any and all challenges thrown my way. What I’m not going to do is this: lose myself speculating and projecting about both all the mistakes I’ve made in life and all the possible ramifications of my future decisions.  Today, this very day, is far too precious to cast it aside for the events of yesterday or the imagined perils of tomorrow.  Go get it.

*In German cancer is called “krebs,” you know, like crab.  Seems an appropriate word to me.

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, musings, Random