Category Archives: relationships

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.

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Filed under aging, family, friends, relationships

Motherhood and The Silver Star

This is either the perfect book or the worst book to read when you’re dealing with an impossible mother-daughter situation.  You’ve been warned.

Are you familiar with Jeannette Walls?  Her first book, The Glass Castle related the story of her own childhood and was on the NYT’s bestseller list for 6 years.  It was a powerful story, but her tale complete with two dysfunctional parents and an extended family,  was certainly not one to which I really related.  I did admire, however, Jeannette’s survival instinct and her ability to propel herself forward through sheer determination and the desire for stability.  I understood that.

Her second work, Half Broke Horses, delved even deeper into her treasure chest of family history, merging reminiscences and imagination into a tale which brought her maternal grandmother’s colorful life to readers.  This book was clearly an artful blending of fiction and nonfiction, and Wall’s grandmother, Lily, an almost mythical character.  Her resourcefulness and tough as nails attitude make her an unforgettable narrator and woman.

This new book, though?  Well, it kicked my emotional ass.  Here’s how the blurb from the library catalog begins: “Two motherless sisters, Bean and Liz…” Mentally replacing “sisters” with “brother and sister,”  I immediately checked the book out.  Last weekend I tore through the novel’s 269 pages, stopping to catch my breath after this passage -

“Mom’s account of my dad had always left me hankering for more details, but she said she didn’t want to talk about him and we were both better off if we put him behind us.  Mom didn’t have a picture of him, and she wouldn’t tell me his name,  I’d always wondered what my dad had looked like.  I didn’t look like my mom.  Did I look like my dad?  Was he handsome?  Funny?  Smart?”

Oh my God.  How did Walls know exactly what that conversation sounded like?  Even more painfully, how did she know precisely what having that conversation felt like?  Jesus.

The passage though, that nearly broke (or maybe Half Broke me) was this -

“I think Mom believes it, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.  Maybe she just needed someone to blame for the way everything turned out.”

Never before have I read anything which so clearly expressed my own experience with my mother.  Never, I said.  That was my own mother perfectly summed up in two sentences.  Mercy.

I guess maybe I don’t have to write that book now after all.

Screw the silver star.  Walls gets a gold one for this book.

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Filed under Books, family, moms, Recommendations, relationships

Broken fragments and glue

“I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together again and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken, and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken pieces as long as I lived.”  Margaret Mitchell

 

If you’re lucky, and like me, you’ve been in love more than once in your lifetime. Which means, of course, that you’ve probably had your heartbroken.  Maybe more than once. Perhaps even multiple times by the same person, but obviously, I’m projecting my own history here.  It’s my blog.

Do you remember that first heartbreak?  I’ll never forget being certain that I was going to die.  It just didn’t seem possible that I could survive the fierce assault to my heart and soul.  I couldn’t eat.  Or sleep.  I replayed all the moments leading up to the big brush off, trying to place my finger on the precise instant when things went wrong.  I thought that if I could identify what happened, I would be able to prevent myself from experiencing this emotional and physical anguish ever again.  Yeah, right.

Since that time, more than 25 years ago, I’ve learned a few things.  Important lessons about hearts and love and the ability of a heart to love again.  I now understand that there are people who enter our lives (and hearts) as temporary residents.  Not everything is supposed to last forever.  Pieces get taken.  And given.

I’ve realized that the people who have broken my heart have given me far more than they ever took.  I learned that the capacity to love is something to be treasured, a gift beyond any other.  I believe that the heart is one of the few things which can be rebuilt from pieces and be stronger than ever.

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The evolution of the girlfriend getaway

DSC_0036It started with a couple of stolen hours.  We’d pick a date that worked for all of us, crossing our fingers for no last-minute work emergencies, sick children or childcare cop outs.  Our rendezvous destination was generally somewhere in the middle – north for them, south for me.

On the given day, as I put miles between myself and the responsibilities and demands of home, I recall becoming aware of my breath. It was almost as if I had been holding my breath, neither inhaling or exhaling with any depth, for what seemed like days.  Those couple of hours shared with my girlfriends reset my heart, my lungs and my mind.

As our lives have progressed, our opportunities to get together have also grown.  A quick shared meal evolved into an occasional overnight in NYC, complete with dinner and drinks. On one occasion, as I packed to leave Albany for 2 nights in the city, I realized that I was borderline sick and in desperate need of a nap.  I also knew that my chances of actually getting a nap (and being taken care of) were better in the city with the girls than at home with the guys.  I went.

We’ve explored new neighborhoods as we allowed Hotwire and Priceline to determine where we stayed, economizing on accommodations to allow for some shopping as we attempted to bring some of our peace of mind home.  We’ve got restaurants and cocktail bars which we consider to be “ours” and have had some wonderful trips making memories to last a lifetime.

We’ve just returned from our most ambitious girls’ trip ever – 5 nights in New Orleans.  I can’t tell you how many times I said “Can you believe how fortunate we are that we are able to do this?” during the trip.  The fact that we have come to a place where we have the resources and time to pull off a get away like this impresses me to no end.  I don’t know when we got to be such grown up women, but I like it.  A lot.

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Filed under aging, drinking, Eating, Events, friends, NYC, Observations, relationships, travel, vacation

Choosing happiness

Somehow I’ve come to be perceived as the epitome of the gay divorcée.  I’m not exactly sure how that happened, but I think this article may provide some insight.  You see, I intuitively do many of the things the article suggests.

Life isn’t always easy or joyful or simple.  What I try to remind myself of is this: regardless of how I’m feeling or whether I’m struggling or not, life continues moving forward.  I can’t control that.  What I can try to manage though is how I’m going to approach the challenges with which I am faced and so, I choose happiness.

Being divorced isn’t something I ever imagined being.  It wasn’t really part of the plan, you know?  I’ve learned, however, that some things are intended to be full length works, while others are merely a series of short stories.  I’m okay with chapters, both in literature and in life.  I suppose that would be me embracing items 4, 6 and 10 on that list.

Since my divorce I have been much more creatively active.  I write like a fiend and both my writing and my photos have been publicly shared.  Somehow I’ve turned into a runner and have become more physically fit than I had ever imagined being.   I guess that’s kind of embodying numbers 2 and 7, isn’t it?  Isn’t there something you’ve been wanting to do or try?  What are you waiting for?

Life’s big decisions can be fraught with fear and what ifs, but I guess I’d rather risk failing at something new than stay in a losing situation.  The unknown can certainly be scary, but if you shift your view ever so slightly, scary might just become exhilarating.  Item 5 – check.

My relationship wasn’t necessarily “bad” but the circumstances didn’t allow me to be the best me I could be, which, I suppose, was “bad” for me.  I think that my ex and I both are being good to ourselves during the times we are childless.  That would take care of 1 and 3 on the list, I think.

Numbers 8 and 9 don’t really apply to me.  My definition of success has never really been tied to ambition or financial accomplishments. When it comes time to memorialize me, all I hope for is to be remembered for having had a nice family and a life filled with love and experiences.  I’ve always been moderate about my indulgences and that has not changed.  I try to remain aware of how my body and mind are responding to what I’m ingesting and adjust accordingly.

Choose happiness.  There’s plenty to go around.

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A little autumnal inspiration…

DSC_0025From Louise Erdich:

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

- The Painted Drum

Go eat some apples – now.

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Home

20130717-101428.jpgOr maybe I should just say “I’m back” seeing as how many meanings that word home can have.

It’s an odd thing sometimes being first generation American, especially with a mother who wants nothing to do with her family and a father you never met. I met my first relative when I was 22, an age when I was living alone in a city I had chosen to reside in, not merely a place I had landed in haphazardly. I had purposefully chosen an apartment, my nicest one ever, and was making a place for myself away from anyone I knew and finally going to college. I was home.

The sense of being wanted by, and belonging, to a family was new to me and very much welcomed. I’d never before heard stories of my father, of his childhood and his many brothers and sisters, and I cherished each word. These kind and thoughtful Uncles and Aunts invited me into their homes and gave me the sense of being a part of something I had never known before. I was home.

I made contact and visited with my Mother’s family in Germany. I first met them when I was nearly the same age my mother had been when she last saw them. I was taken to her childhood home, where my Opa still lived, and embraced by her brothers and sisters. My joy in meeting them was reflected back to me in the warmth and interest I saw in their eyes. I was home.

For only the second time in my life, I’ve had the chance to see both sides of my family in the same year and it has been a powerful experience. We’ve shared meals and stories and memories. During my time in the countries where my parents were born, I’ve felt a connection – to my relatives, of course, but also to the air, the sky and the earth. It was almost organic. I was home.

What does home really mean? For me, it means being in a place where I want to be and knowing that I am loved and wanted. Home is everywhere.

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Filed under Europe, family, Germany, Ireland, musings, relationships, travel