Tag Archives: sadness

Restaurant families

imageAfter more than three decades in the restaurant business, I know a few things. Some of the knowledge I’ve gained is related to food – how to make a buerre blanc or hollandaise and what to do with an excess of vegetables (frittata, risotto or soup).

I’ve learned about wine and spirits and the significance of all the minutia that is involved with creating an atmosphere that welcomes guests and makes them want to return. All of this is important to being successful in the hospitality industry but it pales in comparison to what I’ve come to know about people.

As a server my focus, naturally, is on my guests. I sincerely want those that I take care of to be happy and I have been so fortunate to be able to wait on some of the same people since my long ago undergraduate days. They’ve witnessed my life and the connection we share crosses our respective sides of the table to a place somewhere in the middle. Many of them know which nights I work and I do my best to recall who likes to sit where and which glass of wine they enjoyed last time they were in. We’re familiar with one another.

Over the years, though, there have been situations which have proven that the most valuable thing I have learned about the restaurant business is that the people I have worked with are my family. We’ve shared annoyances, laughter and the stress of a life that is utterly unpredictable every single shift. At the end of the night, while counting money and emptying trash bins, we have connected over a glass of wine (or two) and then hugged good night before heading to our cars to return to our other families.

It’s been a really tough couple of months for my family. The losses right now are so utterly outweighing triumphs and joys that my heart is echoing with absence. As we come together again to support one another, to embrace each other in love and sorrow during a time which feels impossibly tragic, the ability of our industry to create connections between people eclipses in importance any other aspect of the job.

Each shift on the floor comes with the guarantee of there being something new to witness or with which to contend. At this time of sadness, it is vital that we also remember with that same certainty that we are a family.  Always.

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Filed under Albany, family, friends, Observations, relationships, Restaurants

Running to hide in the dark

It’s times like this that make me understand the appeal of going to the theater to see a movie. Or three. I don’t often get to the movies for a film that is anything other than rated PG, but during my winter holidays, I found my way to the Spectrum three times for grown up movies.Two of the movies I saw were based upon books which I had very much enjoyed, while the third appealed to my curiosity and is the one which I’ve found myself reflecting on with surprising frequency. All provided an opportunity to escape.

Escape from what, you ask? Christmas and the stress which it can bring, the reality of who is present in my life and who is not, and a grief that I found I could not run away from no matter how rapidly I moved my sneakered feet. The holidays are a cruel time for death to visit.

So, I went to the movies. First, my middle son and I took in Birdman (and a medium popcorn) together. The plot was interesting without being groundbreaking and I thought the cast was outstanding. Michael Keaton was utterly convincing in the title role and Edward Norton was his standard mesmerizing self. Emma Stone continues to be difficult to look away from and I only wish Naomi Watts had been in more scenes. Overall, I found the film a bit disturbing, but that’s just coming from literal me. I like movies that neatly tie up in the end, and this definitely did not do that.

Christmas Day I made my way back down Delaware Avenue for a matinee of Unbroken. I’ve been waiting to see this movie since I read the book 3 years ago and, while I think the adaptation was respectfully done, the film simply could not live up to the printed page. There just isn’t any way to capture the richness of Hillenbrand’s book and Louis Zamperini’s life in 120+ minutes. By all means, see the movie but do not think it tells the complete story. Read the book.

I completed my trifecta with another film based on a biography, Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon. I just recently read and loved the book and think the movie accurately portrayed the journey that Cheryl Strayed took in the aftermath of the demise of her mother and her marriage. There are always creative choices to be made and I think the scenes taken from the book and depicted on screen were wisely made. I liked it, but, you should still read the book if you haven’t already.

Hooray for Hollywood and thank God for books and running.

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Filed under Books, Christmas, Delaware Avenue, DelSo, Movies, Recommendations, running, winter

Smack(ed) – updated

This piece was originally posted last week.  I deleted it on the request of the loved one of my friend, but after much reflection am reposting it with the name of my friend removed.  It seems appropriate since while my friend was special, the situation, unfortunately, is not.  As the victim of a terrible disease and the drug dealers who feed that illness, he could have been anyone.  Heroin is killing the friends and family of people regardless of socio-economic, educational, ethnic and geographic boundaries. Sanitizing the situation does not change that fact.  Read more about this very real epidemic in Paul Grondahl’s ongoing series.  Peace to all of you who have lost children, siblings, parents and friends.  You’re not alone.

This morning on Facebook, nestled between the steady stream of photos capturing joyous Christmas scenes, there came some news I’ve been expecting for some time. But, as James Michener said, “We are never prepared for what we expect.”

When I met my friend, he was so on his game. Handsome as hell, kind, thoughtful and eager to learn, he had the potential to go anywhere. His days were spent working with other addicts, going to the gym and waiting tables. He was shiny and clean.

Over the time we worked together he shared some of his history with me. Hard drugs are something with which I have no experience. I don’t understand the appeal of a substance which may initially lift you up but ultimately will pull you down to the darkest of places. My friend talked about regrets and his hopes for his future. He was so smart and self-aware he convinced me that the days ahead were going to be brighter than those of his past. Until he told me he was looking forward to getting out from under the watch of the judicial system because he was eager to explore food and wine pairings at the restaurant where we worked together. I knew then that his sobriety wasn’t going to last, but the speed with which he ultimately fell was breathtaking.

I watched as his work ethic changed and his physical appearance deteriorated. He would disappear from the dining room floor at the end of the shift and return sweating and amped up in an almost aggressive way. He was soon fired and quickly burned through a number of subsequent jobs. He totaled his car and lost his sweet girlfriend. It was sad to see him.

My friend contacted me occasionally. About two years ago a longtime friend lost his son, a son who also happened to be a close friend of my friend’s. They shared the same disease and my friend had been the last person to see him alive. My friend looked like shit when I picked him up to drive to the wake – haunted with sunken eyes, unhealthy. I told him I was worried about him, that I didn’t want to have to go to his wake and asked if he could try again to get some help. I told him he was worth it.

It’s been almost a year since I last heard from him. His last message to me:

Hey sil…been a long time…u look amazing as always…I’m pretty sure ur the coolest mom ever…hope all is well with u and ur family…love always

I replied with the following:

Hey – what’s going on with you? Where are you these days? Healthy? I worry about you and hope you’ve found your way. Life is too short, my friend. XO Silvia.

Addiction sucks.

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Filed under friends, sick

12/13/14

Image: nydailynews.com

Yesterday’s date was remarkable because it was the last time in our lifetime, barring some crazy medical advances, that we will see a consecutive numbers date. What begin with 1/2/3 is now over for the current century. Pretty momentous, don’t you think?

I’ve learned there are occasions which demand recognition for various reasons – holidays, anniversaries, cool calendar dates, while others only reveal their importance retrospectively.

Two years ago today, on 12/14/12, Adam Lanza entered an elementary school and executed 26 people. Twenty of the victims were children who were essentially the same age as my own youngest son. Two years ago, 12/13/12, was the last night all of those families were intact.

I cant help but imagine the children on the final night of their lives.   I picture them talking excitedly about their Christmas lists and other holiday traditions. Maybe they did some homework, played a game or two, or attended a sports practice or other activity. Along with their teachers, they were probably looking forward to the weekend to have some time with family and friends. There was nothing to suggest that they would never again sleep in their beds.

On 12/14/12 the residents of Newtown, CT, and the world, learned what a violent and mentally ill individual was capable of destroying. We’ll never know what the future held for those twenty children – what they would have grown to achieve and accomplish, how they might have changed the world with their presence rather than with the void of their absence.  My own heart will always be missing a piece which was taken on that day.

In the next century, when those cool consecutive number dates roll around again, I hope that thought of an individual possessing and using weapons such as the Bushmaster rifle used to execute 20 elementary school children, is considered even more insane than Adam Lanza.

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Filed under Events, musings, News, Observations, politics, Schools

When everything changed

In January 2002 I hosted a dinner party to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It was a Monday night and we had a wonderful evening of laughter, food and wine.  As the night progressed, I began to anticipate how tired and cranky I would be the next morning when my alarm roused me for work. I hate being off my game because of lack of sleep.

As I moved between the dining room and my guests, and the kitchen with its dish filled sink, glancing at the ever later time on the clock, a thought occurred to me: September 11, 2001 had been a Tuesday. Something inside me clicked with such force that it seemed impossible for the internal noise to have gone unheard by those sharing my evening.

We never know when our last night on this earth will be.

I knew, without a shred of doubt, that if the next day was when I met my end, I would rather die with a bellyful of celebratory food and the echo of an evening’s laughter in my ears than 8 hours of sleep. No regrets.

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Filed under musings

Last Run and a good run

This past weekend may have been close to perfect.  One of my favorite girls arrived prior to the snow and we settled in to an afternoon of satisfying household tasks.  There was cooking, roasting and baking.  A tree was agreed upon and chopped down, by me. Later, it was beautifully decorated, not by me.  I call that a win-win situation.

With our bellies full of delicious chili and layers of spandex and Lycra firmly in place, we ventured downtown to the starting line for Albany’s 2013 Last Run. Being smart and all, we stashed some clothes at the Wine Bar for a post-race nosh.  We are not amateurs, my friend.
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I’ve done this race three years in a row and I have to tell you – it is the most fun race I do each year.  The fireworks, the costumes, the crowd, the lights – it is consistently a blast.  This year, despite the weather conditions (pretty damn cold with face freezing precipitation) I had the most fun ever, probably a combination of the perfect running friends and an entire day devoted to holiday tasks and festivities. Joy to the world, for sure!
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We followed our exertions with a fantastic dinner at the Wine Bar.  You might think that I praise the food at the Wine Bar with such frequency because I work there, but you’d be wrong.  The reality, though, is I work there because the food is so damn good. Truth.  My meal, from the grilled Caesar salad to the phenomenal pork shoulder to the epic wedge of cheesecake from Cheesecake Machismo was flawless.  Perfect.
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There was another Lilly enjoying her weekend’s activities and menu, Cassidy Bono.  She feasted on sirloin steak, ground beef, sardines and chicken breast, punctuated with plenty of biscuits.  There were lots of cuddles, along with belly rubs, and what turned out to be our last weekend together will always be a time which I will treasure.
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We both had a good run.

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Filed under aging, Albany, Christmas, Cooking, Dinner, Events, favorites, Food, friends, Lark Street, Local, running, snow, winter

Taking a punch

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I began my day on the floor, next to Cassidy, my tears dripping on the softest fur a dog has ever had.  That’s why we picked her, you know.  In a litter of 11 beautiful black labs, she was different, wearing a lavender ribbon around her neck with fur that could only be described as fluffy. A dozen years later, her coat remains a marvel of softness.

Cassidy has been the only dog my boys have known.  In her younger years, she was my cross-country skiing buddy, joyfully covering miles of the golf course with me each winter.  For a number of years, we rented a house on the Cape which welcomed pets and Cassidy was a regular at the nearby pond, diving under the water to retrieve rocks.  She has been a wonderful, wonderful pet.

In recent days, she has not been herself.  There have been messy episodes which have required copious amounts of Nature’s Miracle to eliminate.  Her appetite has been compromised and I scheduled a visit for the vet.  My youngest, Q, asked to accompany me to the appointment.  I hesitated, not knowing what the diagnosis might be, nor how he would respond to the bad news I anticipated.  He earnestly told me this: “I’ve taken some punches, Mom.  I’ve had up times and down times.  I’ll be ok.” He came with me.

The visit was as expected.  It seems that our girl has a tumor in her abdomen, more than likely cancer.  She probably is experiencing some internal bleeding.  I’m crying now.  The vet gave me some medication to help with her bowels.  He said to feed her whatever she wants to eat and to take her home any enjoy her.  We’ll know when she needs us to let her go.

I made Cassidy turkey risotto this morning.  I can’t stop looking at her resting peacefully and wondering how many more mornings I’ll awake to find her sleeping on the stained carpet at the foot of my bed.

No matter how hard you prepare yourself, the punch to the gut of losing a beloved pet always hurts.  Even when your child dries your tears and tells you everything is going to be fine.

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Filed under aging, Boys, cancer, family, love, Normanskill, x-country skiing