Tag Archives: life

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

Flipping the bird

It looked like this starling.

Apologies in advance for this post’s title. I don’t intend it to convey any disrespect, it’s more my attempt to emotionally remove myself from an incident which I found to be upsetting. Here’s what happened…

Over the weekend, my son came across an injured bird in the lawn next to our house. The poor guy was lying in the grass on its stomach looking uncomfortable and afraid. Naturally, Jeter was very interested in the bird, although not in an aggressive way. I think he was just happy to finally get close to one of those “things” that tease him with their ability to flit about as they visit our front porch feeder.

Twice, Jeter got close to the bird and it responded by hopping away, inadvertently landing on its back both times. Each time, I ever so gently rolled it back into its seemingly preferred position of belly down, an act which didn’t cause any apparent additional distress. I brought the hose to the bird and dripped some water directly in its mouth, which it seemed to appreciate. Beyond that, I simply didn’t know what to do.

As expected, by the next morning the bird was dead. I considered what to do with it and concluded that digging a hole and burying it really wouldn’t be much better than simply picking it up and placing it in the trash. I mean, at this point, what was the difference? I’m okay with my decision on how to dispose of the bird, but I’m questioning my actions relating to what I did when the bird was suffering. To me, it seems unreasonable to bring a “wild” bird to a veterinarian for medical attention, but should I have taken it somewhere to be euthanized? I don’t think I could have “put it out of its misery” myself, but should I have tried to find a means to do that? What have you/would you have done in the same situation?

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Filed under DelSo, musings, Random, Uncategorized

Call me Caitlyn

Image: NBCNews.com

Image: NBCNews.com

There was a phrase a couple of years back that became so ubiquitous that I developed a physical response to hearing it. Each time someone uttered “It is what it is,” the hair on the back of my neck legitimately stood up and I began to exhale loudly. The phrase annoyed me, I think because it seemed so passive, so completely relinquishing control. Not my way, I guess.

The phrase that I’m hearing kind of frequently now is one I find less irritating – You do you. My hippie wannabe son has been dropping it on me for quite a few months, yet it hasn’t even begun to wear on my nerves. In fact, I kind of love it and I find myself smiling each time I hear it. You do you.

During my run tonight, I was thinking that nothing so perfectly illustrates the transition from It is what it is to You do you as Caitlyn née Bruce Jenner. Olympic hero and put upon parent to a collection of 10 (?) children, Bruce Jenner could have elected to continue flirting with Caitlyn, perhaps indulging his desire for female attributes and accoutrements exclusively out of the public eye, but instead, he decided to do him. Or, more accurately, her.

I can’t imagine the conflict experienced by a person who constantly feels that their external self does not accurately reflect their internal reality. It’s hard enough to look in the mirror occasionally and behold an image that doesn’t match the way we’re feeling – where did those lines and wrinkles come from? I still feel like I’m 22! The continual clash between personal perception of self and the visage we present to humanity can’t be anything short of perpetually jarring.

At 65 years of age, Caitlyn Jenner was introduced to the world in a way that has caused a social media frenzy. Some folks are having a difficult time reconciling Bruce with Caitlyn, are struggling to accept that a man who became an international hero by asserting his athletic prowess in one of the world’s most ancient events, prefers to define himself as female. You know what? It is what it is. You do you. All the best to you, Caitlyn Jenner.

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Filed under musings, News, Random, Uncategorized

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

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

Living (too) large

You know how they say “travel is broadening?” Well, when it comes to the size of my ass, I’d definitely have to agree. Seriously, I’ve taken to referring to my hips as “croissant” and “pain au chocolat.” Whatever. I don’t regret eating a single slab of pâté or hunk of Camembert. It was vacation.

Now that I’m home, though, I’m actually feeling the need to downsize a bit. And I’m not just talking about the size of my hips. You see, one of the things that struck me during my travels was the simplicity of how Europeans live. Both apartments where we stayed, one modern and one in a more aged building, were built on a much small-scale than their American counterparts. Honestly, it made our American tendency to accumulate seem downright vulgar.

Let me give you a couple of examples…

The bedroom closets are really compact to accommodate much smaller wardrobes than those of the typical American. I’m talking maybe 2 ½ feet of hanging rod space and a handful of drawers. Coming home to my walk-in step-in closet and double-sided rolling clothing rack embarrassed me. Why do I have so much frigging clothing?

Both flats had lovely, updated kitchens. If these kitchens are any indication, Ikea seems to dominate the market and I am definitely going to consider going that route myself when I address my tired kitchen cabinets. Both kitchens were well laid out and contained more than adequate storage for the limited number of necessary items. That being said, neither kitchen had extraneous space, merely enough cupboards for cookware, dishes, glassware and some pantry items. Why do American kitchens require so much space?

One of the apartments we rented had 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and a combined kitchen, dining and living room. The other had 2 bedrooms, a large loft sleeping area, kitchen and combined living/dining room. There was one bathroom. I don’t think either of these apartments exceeded 800 or 900 square feet. Why do new American homes need to be nearly three times that size? Who convinced us that we should aspire to maintain, heat and clean such large residences?

Time for me to minimize.

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Filed under Europe, house, musings, Observations, travel, vacation

Love in Ernest

As an undergraduate, I fell in love with Ernest Hemingway. My major in English trumped my minor in Women’s Studies when it came to his mysogynistic ways. After reading a number of biographical works about him I forgave him. He was damaged goods.

imageHis writing impressed me and I have repeatedly heard his voice in my head when I struggle to express myself. “All you have to do is write one true sentence,” he said. Seems simple enough in theory, right? In practice it can be more challenging than you’d expect, but it is a good place to start.

Last year, I reread A Moveable Feast for the first time in many years. I was so taken by his voice and the stories he told of his time in Paris, and other parts of Europe, during the years between the two wars. His love for life – his Hadley, his child, his adopted home, his friends and his writing, radiated from the pages.

There was something else present though, a current of sadness and dissatisfaction. All that he loved was not enough and he took risks and sought out new experiences and stimulations. He was not content.

In many ways Ernest and I are alike. He and I each needed to write. We both loved to be in Europe, to sit in a cafe with a bottle of wine and observe all around us. Perhaps if I had written a book such as A Moveable Feast during my marriage, I would have revealed a discontent similar to Ernest’s.

I picked up a new copy of my favorite Hemingway book the other afternoon from the store where he would go for a drink and a few francs when he was in need.  The book of my life I’m writing right now has a much happier ending than Ernest ever could have imagined for himself.

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Filed under Books, Europe, favorites, France, travel, vacation