Tag Archives: sadness

The burgermeister

They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family, however that hasn’t been my experience. When you don’t meet your first relative (other than your mother and brother) until you’re 22 years-old, having family is very much a choice. With complete honesty, I can say that finding and getting to know my family has been without exception the most personally gratifying and fulfilling decision I have ever made. I think that’s why I’m so devastated by the loss of my uncle, the man I’ll always think of as the burgermeister

From the very first time we met, me an undergraduate student and the daughter of one of his oldest sisters kicking around Europe, he, in his midthirties and a father to two young children, he always made me know I was family. There was never an instant that wasn’t apparent in the subsequent years and the times we shared.
Between that initial introduction and his recent death we probably were together on a dozen different occasions. He and his wife visited Albany, we met in NYC on the very day my own cancer was determined to require additional treatment, we traveled together in Europe. Three of my last four trips to Europe involved spending time with him and those are some memories that I’ll take out and shine until they gleam gold.

We stayed in the town where he lived twice in recent years and it was truly wonderful to witness the affection with which he was greeted everywhere we went. It was so obvious that he was a beloved member of his community – from the bakery to the Italian restaurant where he still occasionally worked when they needed a hand, he was met with humor and warmth and I was honored to claim him as my uncle. I always felt safe with him and I’m convinced there was nothing in this world with which he couldn’t contend. Except cancer.

As I was proud of him, he was proud of the life he had created. He had been a competitive athlete representing his country in the biathlon. Since learning that part of his history, I’ve loved cross country skiing even more, like it’s our family’s sport. During our visit in April he shared the medals he had won and his unabating love for winter sports was apparent. His home actually overlooks a ski jump used in international competitions, (which he helped with, of course) and we toured a local museum dedicated to the history of Nordic skiing.

My uncle, the unofficial burgermeister, was a great man and the loss of him, despite the thousands of miles between us, feels almost unbearable. How incredibly lucky was I to have seen him so recently? How kind of the universe to have cooperated by putting so much of my family in one place to celebrate Easter just two months ago. I know the ache in my heart will dull and the tears will dry but I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing him. As the marker on his final resting place states, he was a gift from Heaven.

Hug your dads, uncles, husbands and sons and know how fortunate you are.

1 Comment

Filed under aging, cancer, Europe, family, Germany, love, Uncategorized, x-country skiing

Are your ducks all in a row?

IMG_2019Have you ever chaperoned a field trip? At this point in my life, I’ve accompanied quite a few bus loads of students to destinations like NYC, Montreal and, as of today, Boston. I take the responsibility pretty seriously and spend an inordinate amount of time counting my charges, hoping to consistently arrive at the same number. Today my magic number was four.

It was a beautiful day for a field trip to Boston. We left before the sun came up knowing we were in for a long day. After contending with typically hideous traffic as we approached the city, we arrived at our first destination, the Museum of Science. I’d never been there before and my small posse was a great group. We had fun exploring the hands on exhibits, checking out the dinosaurs and stumbling upon the lightning storm demonstration as a perfect finale to our visit. On to the next stop – the Duck Tour.

I herded my group, feeling like Mrs. Mallard from Make Way for Ducklings, to our meeting point and we boarded our amphibious vehicle to learn about Boston’s history and get into the river. I checked my email as we sat at yet another red light and gasped at what I read. There had been a very unexpected death in my family. Tears immediately sprang to my eyes. The day changed and memories washed over me in waves larger than any we would see on the Charles.

The uncle I lost was the relative, other than my brother, to whom I felt most connected. He was the first member of my German family that I met, years ago when he arrived at the Hauptbanhof to pick me up and bring me into the mountains where my family lived. He was the youngest of my mother’s brothers, closer in age to me than her, and from that very day he was never less than kind, generous and thoughtful to me and, eventually, my own family. Losing him has shocked me into sadness.

I have memories of him holding my babies, walking with us across the Brooklyn Bridge, sharing meals together in a half dozen countries, hosting us in his home…He and his wife had a marriage that never failed to make me smile. Their love for one another was evident and they enjoyed more adventures in their nearly 20 years as husband and wife than many couples will ever know. That’s the consolation, right? To have loved with passion, lived with spirit, taken advantage of the time given?

Our most recent trip together was less than two months ago. My youngest son and I spent nearly 10 days traveling around Germany with my uncle and aunt. We had what I’m convinced was the best Easter I’ll ever have, eating and drinking with five of my mother’s siblings and nearly a dozen cousins. I never imagined that he’d be gone just weeks later. Our last night together was in Berlin. We had dinner and then reconnected later in the night to have our final drink of vacation together in a little bar popular with the theater crowd. It was quiet and, as always, I felt a little sad to know that our time together was coming to a close, until next time, next year.

A day that began with counting my charges became an evening of gathering memories. I’m really going to miss being able to make more of those with him. Ensuring that all of my ducks are in a row may be something that will always require attention and work, but I’ll take some comfort in knowing that my efforts to know and spend time with my family have been the greatest use of my time, money and energy. Rest In Peace, WM.

3 Comments

Filed under aging, cancer, family, Germany

Guardians of the Galaxy, v2

It had been a pretty terrific Monday. I got to the bank, took care of payroll for the second to last time and had a reasonably productive day at work. Dinner was takeout, restaurant kitchen linens were in the washer (for the last time) and Quinn and I made it to the Spectrum in time for all the previews. We had flow.

Sitting in the dark theater next to him and watching Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was more fun than I expected. I had fallen asleep, more than once, to the first Guardians movie and I had imagined something similar happening tonight. Surprisingly, though, that didn’t happen and I remained awake for the entire 2+ hours. The movie was entertaining with a likable cast, great soundtrack and gratuitous shots of Chris Pratt’s chiseled abs. It was a great escape.

As the credits ran, I told Quinn I’d meet him in the lobby because I wanted to use the bathroom. I reached for my phone to check the time as I waited for him, post-potty break. The alert from the NYT was the first thing I saw: 19 Dead in Terrorist Attack in England My brain’s immediate response: For f*ck’s sake. When will this stop? Can’t we just go to a Monday movie or concert or sporting event or shopping or church without being touched by terrorism?

The closing credits song was still running in my head and I imagined those concert goers in Manchester. I pictured teenaged girls, some perhaps at their first live concert ever, their joyful exhilaration changing to fear and horror as violence and chaos became the evening’s show. Echoes of music are what one is supposed to hear when leaving a concert, not screams, not explosions. Jesus.

I’m left to wonder –  who’s guarding our galaxy?

Leave a comment

Filed under Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Movies, News, Observations

Gimme Some Truth

I don’t like being lied to. I mean, really who does? Whether it’s alternative facts, lies of omission, intentional deception, falsehoods or white lies being fed untruths makes me sick to my stomach. In light of what is happening in our country right now, it seems appropriate to drop these (edited to minimize redundancy) lyrics for all to absorb.

I’m sick and tired of hearing things from
Uptight short sided narrow minded hypocritics
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth
I’ve had enough of reading things
By neurotic psychotic pigheaded politicians
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth

No short-haired, yellow-bellied
Son of tricky dicky’s
Gonna mother hubbard soft soap me
With just a pocket full of hopes
Money for dope, money for rope

I’m sick to death of seeing things from
Tight-lipped condescending mama’s little chauvinists
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth
I’ve had enough of watching scenes from
Schizophrenic egocentric paranoiac primadonnas

All I want is the truth just give me some truth
I’m sick to death of hearing things from
Uptight short sided narrow minded hypocritics
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth

I’ve had enough of reading things
By neurotic psychotic pigheaded politicians
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth
All I want is the truth, just give me some truth

2 Comments

Filed under Music, musings, News, politics, Rant

Escaping with Breaking Bad

image

Isn’t it pretty to think so?

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time or are acquainted with me in real life, you know I don’t watch a lot of television. I just don’t have time for sitting around, especially during the academic year, and really only justify indulging myself with a couple of hours of viewing when I’ve got a basket or two of laundry to fold. Except for last week, that is.

Last week I took solace in the ugliness of methamphetamine and drug cartels and the harsh desert landscape of America’s southwest. I fled our world of black people dying at the hands of police and police officers dying by the guns of black citizens. I successfully ran away from a truck filled with hatred at a time when dozens failed to make the very same escape. I avoided the ugly rhetoric of politics, complete with bigotry and racism and ignorance, by immersing myself in a society devoid of political parties. I chose, for more hours than I’d like to admit, to reside in a place that somehow, perhaps because of its very distance from my own personal reality, seemed safer than the world that I find myself currently living in.

Years after most Breaking Bad aficionados, I watched the series finale. Loose ends were tied up, comeuppance was dealt out, closure was achieved. It was satisfying.   I’m going to miss it.

4 Comments

Filed under Europe, France, musings, Observations, politics, television, Uncategorized

Greenwood Lake abbreviated

Before I say another word – a note, know this: I love where I grew up. Greenwood Lake provided me with a foundation – friends, experiences and memories that will reside within me until the day I die. Even after nearly 30 years in Albany, Greenwood Lake is my heart’s home. What follows isn’t a criticism of a place or a population, it’s a lament.

imageWhenever I tell someone where I grew up, I nearly always have to repeat it. Sometimes more than once. Greenwood Lake, N.Y., often abbreviated as GWL, is a small village in Orange County. Despite its proximity to NYC and Bergen County, N.J. and Westchester, GWL is a modest village with a mixture of blue-collar and professional residents. There are folks who have lived there for generations, marrying and merging families into a stew of blended characteristics and histories that would be impossible to separate without an elder spokesperson, a piece of paper and pencil. There’s a comfort in that.

Recently, I became aware of a couple of losses that had been suffered. A young man and a middle-aged man, who had been cut down as a young man, were both laid to rest this month. Even from my safe distance of nearly 100 miles and 3 decades, I was rocked by these deaths. A tidal wave of sorrow hit me and I was swamped by the memories of all the other premature deaths of GWL residents I have witnessed over the years. There have just been too damn many.

I don’t know what it is that makes these deaths seem so perversely frequent. Is it simply that the names are so familiar? Do tragedies occur in my hometown more than in other places? Does everyone need more than a single hand to count the number of wakes and funerals for peers which they attended prior to finishing high school? Jesus, I hope not.

Through the years, there have been far too many car accidents interspersed with horrible illnesses, unshakable addictions and previously unimaginable suicides. There are parents I know who have buried 2 of their 3 children, families who have suffered in ways I don’t ever want to suffer and it makes sad and scared and a bit angry, too. Why do these deaths continue to happen? When will the lessons of risk and danger and speed and mortality finally be learned?

An elected representative of my hometown district told me last week that Greenwood Lake, along with Port Jervis, has the highest incidence of heroin abuse in the county. It doesn’t seem like the abbreviation of the lives of Greenwood Lakers is going to end anytime soon.  I only wish my sorrow about this situation could be equally short lived.

1 Comment

Filed under aging, friends, girlhood, musings, Observations, Uncategorized

David Bowie and Fame Right

Last Friday, we played a Spotify station to celebrate David Bowie’s 69th birthday. Less than three days later, he was dead. I guess that’s how it goes. We never know how long the journey from birth to death is really going to be, do we?

I can’t claim to have been the biggest Bowie fan in the universe, but I always liked his more pop stuff. Songs like “Let’s Dance,” “Young Americans,” and “China Girl” were definitely a part of my younger years and are still able to transport me to those simpler days of being a teenager. Some of his stuff was a little too avante garde for me, like this song which freaked me out as a kid but completely wowed me years later in Inglorious Basterds. I always appreciated his range and talent, though. He was very clearly a deeply gifted artist.

Bowie managed, over a career that lasted for decades, to find his way from being a flamboyant, hyper sexual rock star to living a private life as a musician, actor, husband and father. Does this sort of transition simply occur with age? Was it satisfaction with his personal life? Had he merely grown beyond his previous narcissistic need to share himself with the world in an over exposed fashion? Were his over-the-top antics merely a role he was playing for public consumption? Don’t we all do the same thing, projecting an image to the world outside, on some level?

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, but it has me thinking about achieving a new balance between my public and personal personas. When I consider the unsatiated hunger for fame that is present in contemporary American society, I find myself feeling uncomfortable. No longer is the goal to achieve success on a personal level. Instead, for far too many, it must be accompanied by public recognition and notoriety. It’s kind of sad in a vulgar way and I think I may need to wrap myself a little tighter in the future than I have in the past.

That being said, in no way do I consider myself to be famous or a rock star. I’m just feeling the urge to create a new balance between living life out loud and ultimately dying, hopefully many years from now, with grace. You see,

Fame makes a (wo)man take things over
Fame, lets him loose, hard to swallow
Fame, puts you there where things are hollow.

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, cancer, Music, News, Observations