Category Archives: aging

Fathers – the ones we have and the ones we don’t

imageI went to mass the other day. It was in my hometown in the same church where I made my first communion, attended catechism classes and impatiently sat through midnight mass on Christmas Eve eager to only get home and open a single gift, as was our custom. I was there to accompany one of my oldest friends as he said a final public goodbye to his father.

The priest was “new,” having been there for just 20 years, he said. He was not the priest from my own childhood, Monsignor O’Flaherty who had no hesitation about addressing those dressed too casually or arriving too late for mass. Reverend Sweeney, along with my friend and his siblings, provided a lovely eulogy to a man who lived a long life filled with family and friends. I learned for the first time that my friend’s dad had never met his own dad and rejoiced in the thought of that introduction finally, 87 years later, taking place. The image made me smile.

Am I a true believer in heaven and life after death? Probably not. Do I believe that when we leave our earthly bodies behind our souls somehow come together and combine with those of whom we missed to create a new energy? I think I do.

I hope your Father’s Day, be it the third Sunday of June or some other day not yet on the calendar, is filled with love and a sense of connection.

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Filed under aging, Aloysius, friends, holidays, musings, road trips

Glory Days – Greenwood Lake Middle School’s Class of 1980

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It probably wasn’t coincidence that I heard that Springsteen song not once, but twice, on my way to the 35th reunion of my 8th grade class, right? There probably isn’t a song more appropriate for getting together with classmates and reminiscing about shared childhoods than that nugget that made its debut the same year I graduated from high school.

I’ve been to school reunions before,  4 of them actually. But this, the first middle school reunion planned and executed, was different. After a couple of days reflecting about it, I finally recognized what made this reunion so very novel. From the first M-W reunion in 1984, which I attended in a white crepe number I referred to as my Ginger Grant dress, I went with the intention of showing people who I had become, how I had grown and changed. Going to a reunion of my 8th grade classmates couldn’t have been more dissimilar.

Attending a reunion, in my actual hometown, with other members of the Class of 1980 wasn’t an exercise in validating who I am now. Instead it was a warm embrace from the friends who have always known exactly who I am. From the former teacher who remembered me as being “so smart” to the women who made a point of telling me that I had given them something intangible  that they had never forgotten, those that were present on Saturday night demonstrated that the value I held for them was completely unrelated to anything I may have achieved in my life.  It was simply because of who I am, and who I’ve always been,  in an absolutely organic way.

Getting together with those who shared critical, right of passage events – field trips to NYC, hitchhiking adventures, explorations with gateway substances, first kisses, was positively fantastic.  The hard work of classmates to make this event happen was greatly appreciated by all who attended and I truly believe every one there had a special and memorable night. For those who weren’t there, by choice or circumstance, you were missed.  Pencil this event in for 2020.  It’ll be epic.

 

 

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Filed under aging, Education, Events, favorites, friends, girlhood, Schools, Summer, Uncategorized, upstate New York

What home feels like

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The stone staircase alongside the waterfall

Memorial Day weekend probably seems like the ultimate cliché when it comes to traveling a couple of hours (or more) to revisit one’s childhood. Not to take anything away from our nation’s true heroes, but surviving our teenaged years in the small village of Greenwood Lake made us veterans of an entirely different sort.

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Fitzgerald’s Falls

Since we had been brought back to the lake to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Class of 1980, meeting at the Middle School for what we exaggeratedly called a “hike,” was the perfect re-entry to the past. Heading for the trail, we walked alongside the brick building where we had once ruled, recalling intramural soccer games, events from the bicentennial celebration of 1976 and the family of ducks who once resided next to the now fenced in pond. It all felt like it could have been yesterday.

The trail into the woods was filled with memories of hikes, both with teachers and without adult supervision. How lucky were we to have had the Appalachian Trail behind our school and to have grown up at a time when exploring our surroundings was considered a valid use of class time? How many nights did we spend in the woods drinking cheap beer, listening to the waterfall splash against the mossy rocks, gaining an entirely different education?

Pink lady's slipper orchid

Pink lady’s slipper orchid

When we got to town a little later in the afternoon, it was remarkably familiar, yet ever so different. Businesses have come and gone, as is to be expected, but the renaming of childhood landmarks was jarring. What was known as “the field” or Pembleton’s to the more precise, was now named after someone who made their mark long after most of us had left the lake for lives elsewhere.  It felt like a weird responsibility to be the bearer of memories of what came before.

If I squinted my eyes I could still see the flea markets and fairs of long ago, along with the remnants of what was rumored to have once been a play area complete with mini golf and a concrete pool in which to sail toy boats. Situating myself along Windemere Avenue, relying upon buildings which may serve different purposes yet eternally remain the post office and Christman’s Realty to me, I located the slab of concrete which will always time stamp both my first “serious” boyfriend and the year the sidewalks were installed in town.

Look closely - can you read it?

Look closely – can you read it?

I took a run around the arm of the lake, a distance which is far shorter in miles than I ever would have guessed. So many of the places are different yet easily envisioned in my mind’s eye. Frank’s Pizzeria, now a residential building, but once home to great slices and a nice man who often gave me a ride up the mountain on his way home. The Bristol Bridge, long ago replaced by a span with far less interest and minus my name written in surprisingly weather resistant red lipstick.  McMansion-esque home replacing the cottages and bungalows where my friends lived so many years ago.

In Greenwood Lake everything feels familiar, yet nothing is exactly the same. Going home is like being dunked in a well of memories, moments from the past which, upon reflection, either gain or lose significance. There are ghosts everywhere – of friends lost to time or death and older versions of ourselves. But there’s a comfort in all of it. We were there and who we are today is directly related to the experiences we shared so many years ago. Going home feels like just the place I wanted to be this weekend.

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Filed under aging, friends, musings, relationships, road trips, Schools, Uncategorized, upstate New York

Dirty laundry

image: ecoearth.com

image: ecoearth.com

With one child headed to college in a few months and another who constantly places clean clothes in the dirty laundry hamper rather than (re)folding it and putting it away in his dresser, I’m thinking it is time for me to allow both of them to enjoy one of adulthood’s greatest responsibilities – laundry. I’m done cajoling them into bringing the dirty clothes to me so I can have the pleasure of sorting, washing, drying and folding their stuff. It’s time.

When did you begin doing your own laundry? If I told you I washed my family’s laundry at the town Laundromat when I was in 3rd grade, would you believe me? Well, it’s true, I did. I have distinct memories of my brother and I walking 2 blocks, carrying baskets of dirty clothes, to the laundromat. I don’t remember complaining about doing it, either. The library was on the other side of the laundromat’s parking lot and I eventually got pretty adept at throwing the wash into the machine, walking to the library for a stack of Nancy Drew books and getting back in time to toss everything into the dryer.

When it came time for folding, the challenge was always the sheets.  My 9-year-old arms simply couldn’t extend wide enough to get the nice, crisp fold my mother expected.  If I was lucky, there would be some older women nearby who would literally give me a hand, teaching me that complete strangers were willing to help me as I made an effort.

I went downstairs this evening and moved my son’s load of laundry from the washing machine to the dryer so I could throw in a load of my things.  A bit later, I folded neatly placed his clothing into his hamper so I could toss my own stuff into the dryer.  Looks like I really did learn a lot from those kind women so many years ago.

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Filed under aging, Boys, family, girlhood

My mythical beast turns 16

On a sunny day, not unlike some of the ones we’ve enjoyed this week, my water broke and labor began for my second child. Neither of these occurred with any haste – it was more a leak than a gush and the progress of my contractions was painfully (literally) slow. When my red-faced, bald-headed baby boy finally made his debut it was a new day and I was in awe – of both his perfection and the strength of my body. Birthing him was, most definitely, my proudest physical accomplishment.

Sixteen years later this child continues to amaze and exhaust me. I do, however, find myself worrying about him more than I do either of his brothers. His humor, intelligence and charm have provided him with wonderful life experiences. Unfortunately, though, his gifts have also given him the opportunity to avoid truly exerting himself. Ever. Everything has come so easily to this guy…it kind of scares me.

During my run yesterday I was thinking about him and life and challenges to be met and conquered. I thought about all the things I want him to know – about himself and life. Of course, being a teenager, he only ingests my motherly wisdom in small doses and on an as needed basis. Hopefully one day he will come to know all of the following…

  1. Nothing in life is more important than health and happiness.
  2. There is satisfaction in doing your best and working hard.
  3. You have been blessed with many talents.
  4. Be where you are.
  5. Don’t ever lose your sense of right and wrong.
  6. Responsibilities will make you a grownup far more than a driver’s permit.
  7. You can do anything.
  8. Take your time figuring out what you want to do career wise. There’s no rush.
  9. That being said, finding yourself is a self-sponsored trip.
  10. You may look like your father, but so much of your behavior mirrors my own. I get you.
  11. Travel and see as much of the world as you can.
  12. Be honest. In the long run, it’s easier.  I promise.
  13. Keep carrying groceries for old women.
  14. Never stop giving good hugs.
  15. Going to concerts with you has been one of the best rewards of parenthood.
  16. You are loved.

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Filed under aging, birthdays, Boys, musings

Unforgettable lessons

There are books that I read which are impossible to put down, a recent example being The Girl on the Train. I was so eager to find out what really happened that I refused to stop reading until I finished the book. I was neither disappointed, nor regretful of my decision to push on until I reached that final page and felt a welcome sense of resolution. It was a really good read.

The book I’m reading now though, is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a whole different story. Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime by NPR newsman, Scott Simon, is a work that I don’t want to finish. You see, if I finish it, the story will end and I so want the story (and Scott’s mother’s life) to continue.  Simon’s book, a memoir of his mother, and their life together, originated as a series of Tweets during his mother’s time in the intensive care unit at the end of her life. The time Simon and his mother shared together in the hospital was a quilt of memories, thoughts, laughter and songs that provided comfort and solace to them both as they faced their final days together.

Below are some my favorite nuggets of wisdom. Simon’s Tweets appear, as in the book, in bold text. Quotes are the words of his mother, Patricia.

  • I just realized: she once had to let me go into the big wide world. Now I have to let her go the same way.
  • “You tell your children something a hundred times…You’re lucky if they remember one or two. Dos, don’ts, count for almost nothing. All they remember is what you do. Whether you want them to or not.”
  • I love holding my mother’s hand. Haven’t held it like this since I was 9. Why did I stop? I thought it unmanly? What crap.
  • “Show children the best people and places. Let them know they belong.”
  • She will make the face of heaven shine so fine that all the world will be in love with night.

There’s so much wisdom in this book, so much love and laughter that I wish it went beyond the mere 244 print pages, that Patricia’s life went beyond only 84 years. As a mom to three sons, I can’t help but read this and hope that at the end of my life my “boys” will honor me with an iota of the respect and appreciation that Scott shows his mother. I don’t need one of them to write a book or anything, but I love the picture I’ve drawn in my head of my children sharing the memories and moments that have woven us together forever.

Mother’s Day is coming. Buy this book.

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Filed under aging, Books, Boys, family, favorites, holidays, ideas, love, moms, Recommendations

I never imagined

imageOn our 15th wedding anniversary, my husband and I had a special dinner at a restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard. The meal was a bit of a disappointment, but the company was good.

After we had finished our meals and were somewhere between entrée and dessert, our wedding song came on over the restaurant’s speakers. I was touched and felt my eyes well with emotion. I thought to myself “we should dance.” There wasn’t a dance floor (it was a restaurant), but we could have managed a twirl or two. It was our 15th wedding anniversary.

I’ve thought back to that night a few times and wonder what might have been different if I had forced the words “we should dance” out of my mouth or if he had said “I arranged for this song to play.” If either of us had done something to demonstrate our love for the other. Would it have been enough to have prompted us to steer our ships once again to be side by side and in the same direction? I’ll never know.

By our next anniversary dinner, we were, in retrospect, clearly sailing in different directions. It was a fancy meal, perfectly executed and filled with laughter. We met the chef-owner and there were many bottles of wine uncorked. My feet hurt in their new shoes. It was good to feel something.

It’s almost 5 years later now and I never dreamed this life that I’m living. I write and run and work and eat and take pictures and I love, love, love. I feel more alive than I’ve ever felt and am equally inspired by today and the thought of tomorrow. Things may not have gone the way I imagined they would, but as an inherently grounded person, my imagination is sometimes too timid.

I never imagined I’d quote Hugh Hefner but he said it perfectly:

“In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined a sweeter life.”

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Filed under aging, love, marriage, musings, relationships, writing