The Shadow Your Smile

November 17, 2016

I am burying my Dad today.

How did we get here? A man who, until ALS imprisoned his body, walked a minimum of 2 miles a day – rain, snow or sunshine – and who worked out at the gym three times a week – physically fit and mentally sharper than most of us on a good day. Up until the very last day of his life he was still planning, inventing and learning.

He was an artist in the every sense – cartoon sketches filled the margins of the daily newspaper and covered not only the return envelopes of bills but also every napkin in the house. An accomplished pianist, he played in several jazzy bands from the forties through the sixties, and every evening before supper, he tinkled those ivories. The melodic notes would float out of the window and onto the street on many a summer evening, causing people to look up as they walked by the house. A favorite was The Shadow of Your Smile…each note of that song is embedded in the very fibers of my being…and today I am thinking of how appropriate that song is.

He never stopped “living.” At the height of his illness, when asked how he was doing, his standard reply was “Pretty good!”…even though he had become a prisoner in his own body. Dad always saw the silver lining in life and was not one who believed in problems, only solutions. He loved his family – we were everything – and he forever loved my mother like the 25 year old young man who first saw her, standing on the church steps at the wedding of a mutual friend. She was his lover, muse and best friend….I believe the term for that is “Soul Mate.”

He would constantly remind us to celebrate everything – and so I will, Dad…

…as I remember the shadow of  your smile.

 

 

 

 

 

Death, lower your voice

April 13, 2016

Death first began to whisper, ever so faintly in my ear about 2 1/2 years ago when my father’s ALS symptoms became seriously apparent. I mean it wasn’t exactly the first time in my life that I heard his voice – but up until then it has been sporadic. From time to time since then, Death has raised his voice from a whisper to a raspy taunt as if his intention was  to send a chill through my soul; almost as if he was enjoying a cruel joke. By that autumn he had robbed my mother/best friend’s spirit, leaving me with an emptiness that no one will ever be able to fill. nothing will ever be the same again…and there’s nothing I can do it about it – no matter how hard I wish it – oh, and I have wished it.

The New Year saw Death charge out of the starting gate, head thrown back in glee as he raised is voice laughing in an icy macabre cackle. In January he stained my youth by taking some of my teen icons. February he blew in on the winter’s wind and stole the roommate from my twenties…someone who I had been tirelessly searching for over the last few years  – and with no shame at all, he snatched her a mere three weeks before I managed to find her…ironically in the obituaries.

Now, most recently,  he took our family’s beloved pet. Yes, she was old…but had not been sick at all and in a swift two weeks we had to watch her falter and fail – with no words available to console or comfort her.

Death – I know that you are a part of Life, and a part of Life that I believe needs to be someone respected…but damn you Death…I am so tired of hearing you whisper and giggle in my ears, in my dreams and chilling my heart.  I’m sick of you  – I am so sick of you and wish you would just go away….or, at the very least …. lower your voice so that I can’t hear you anymore.

 

 

 

 

Lost and Found

March 4, 2016

Middle age is a funny thing – a funny place to be. Around this time you begin to look back on your life – I mean really look back. People that have been floating around in the very back of your mind begin to surge forward…as does your 25 year-old self. So, as a not -so- middle aged gal, people began to creep in and out or my mind and about 5 years ago after having finally managed to navigate the wonderful (or is it?) world of social networking I set out to find my old friend and room mate. No matter how hard I tried – no matter where I looked, she was nowhere to be found, which was odd because we  had both been in the music/PR industry where everybody knows everybody and keeping a low profile just isn’t a profile.

We had been room mates when I moved from my big city hometown to another big city – introduced by my band’s booking agent for whom she did work. We were in our fabulous 20s  -young, vibrant, gorgeous and full of dreams. We clicked instantly, our love of all things music, spiritual and paranormal bonding us together. So often the sun was just starting to come up after having we had spent a whole night pondering the abstract….pondering the after-life, a common interest in the life of most 20-somethings as we all try to figure out who we are and where we are going.

I remember baking cookies that regularly burned, which frequently sent our crazy neighbour over to our apartment in search of an apparently delicious sample -according to her (hence, the “crazy”). How many times did we take long walks along the boardwalk at ungodly hours, much to the chagrin of our only responsible neighbour. We were always so busy sharing our dreams for fame and fortune, loved attending parties, dinners and conferences and we were always there to pick each other up after heartbreaks and break-ups and rescue each other from horrible dates.

We were pretty much joined at the hip….at least for awhile.

Then, I fell in love …. and my focus on a wedding, marriage and children collided with her focus on a career/no marriage or children and that became the raft that floated us apart. After I married, we saw each other occasionally, when my husband and I would come to town for a visit.

Years passed. We both moved on along our chosen paths. She crept in and out of my mind – never out of my heart – and after almost 5 years I began to actively look for her but every line that I cast out just floated there in the social network ocean with not one bite….until this week.

In the same moment, my happy surprise shattered my heart as her name appeared in the form of an obituary.

I missed her by just 3 weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

Forever Love Affair

June 3, 2015

My dad is dying. There is no nice way to say this. The ALS is eating his body up…but his mind and more importantly, his heart – have never been sharper or stronger.

He was rushed to the hospital with internal bleeding last week and as my mom and I followed the ambulance we made silly,disjointed and distracted conversation…my mother, because her heart is breaking piece by piece – me, because I am trying to catch whatever pieces I can.

He has been in for a week – and for the first day and a half they could not see each other as the countless tests kept my father separated from my mother. The next evening we were finally able to see him and as we walked into the room he smiled, his eyes lit up like a bonfire and my mother bent over to kiss him – not a tiny peck that so many elderly people exchange,-but a long, full, deep kiss on the lips.and in that moment I swear that I heard birds singing and imagined blossoms floating down around them as I heard the silent words “You may kiss the bride” – for in that moment I saw, not just my parents but the husband and wife…the lovers that they’ve been for almost 65 years.

The New Black

January 17, 2012

Ok – this is funny – but it’s not. About three weeks ago I cam across a dress of mine and thought to myself “Oh! my funeral dress – wondered where that went.” Now, this once lovely black dress was never purchased for a funeral – I bought it after losing my baby weight (second time ’round) – it had wonderful princess seams which means it gave me the shape I had been craving after months of being a convex lump for about a year. I felt sexy and sweet in it, all at the same time. Then a couple of years later, my father-in-law sadly died, most unexpectedly. I needed a dress for the funeral – my first since being a small child – so I grabbed my black dress. Two years later, another funeral – out came the dress….and it has made repeated appearances, particularly in the last 5 or 6 years as relatives and friends’ parents age….as I age.

Then, right after New Year’s- my mother’s friend passed away – another funeral. It seemed ironic that I had come across that dress after thankfully not needing it for some time. So, an hour before the funeral, I go upstairs to change into my dress. My dress! Where is my dress? Hangers fly out of closets, clothes are flung out of laundry baskets, closets are emptied. No dress – anywhere.

I move on to black skirts – skirts I didn’t even know I owned. The floor length straight skirt that is way too big now that I’ve lost weight, so big that it hangs around my crotch like a teenage boy. Then the  mid-length skirt that was purchased in my younger, slimmer years that I still can’t  fit back into. I am panicking. We are going to be late and if there is one thing you don’t want to do – it’s to rush the casket up the church aisle! Switching the search to tights/pantyhose, I surprisingly stumble onto the dress…Yay! But oh no…oh dear…although it still fit, and at times like this is strangely beautiful  – it has faded somewhat and is in desperate need of  lint brush – and the good lint brush has been exhausted by my university aged son. Fine – Dollar Store lint brush it is – my  husband furiously runs it over my body in our mad attempt to get out and get there on time. Ok – coats on -jump  in car and hit the gas.

We arrive at the funeral home – people are milling about quietly (well, of course they are – where do I think I am?). I find my friend and hold her close. Of course no one is looking at my seemingly charcoal dress…we are all there for her – for her family. Before going into the chapel I take a look around at those who have gathered and what I noticed is that there was an absence of black (and not just because people are wearing faded, linty outfits like mine). In fact, one of the departed woman’s friends is an elderly lady from her church and she is wearing fuchsia, hot pink…and all I could think is – Good on you, my dear lady! For a life is meant to be celebrated…..remembered, cherished and celebrated. And celebration means colour.

Colour, I believe, is the new black.

Goodbye Daddy Ashair

April 14, 2011

Earlier this month, I lost someone dear to me – my friend’s father. They moved in across the street from us when I was about 12  – their family  somewhat new to this country (perhaps by less than 10 years). Their young daughter was the same age as I was and we quickly hit it off – as kids so often do, sharing everything from The Beatles, The Bay City Rollers and later – college parties – among other things!

To our great surprise (and perhaps teenage chagrin!) our parents developed a wonderful, warm, close friendship; they even went on holidays together – without us!  Our friendship grew and deepened throughout our teenage years and into young adulthood – when, at some point, our lives took different turns. I moved to the other side of the country for a while then 10 years later came back, married and became a mother – she became a “career woman” as my mother always likes to proudly say, which meant meetings, travel and exciting career challenges.

We pretty much grew up in each other’s homes and over the years it was her Dad that I was particularly close to. I don’t know what it was – we just seemed to  have the right chemistry and we clicked. I adored him – in fact I could never call him “Mr.” He was “Daddy Ashair” to me and he treated me like one of his own kids (which meant I also had to clear the dishes when done eating!). While I hadn’t seen my friend in several years,I had bumped into her Dad from time to time at the grocery store – so in essence I had kept in touch – and of course, my parents had kept up their almost  40 year friendship.

This day – this sad day – I had to be there, at the funeral. For her, for Daddy A. and for myself. As the Rabbi spoke – he described my friend’s father perfectly, beautifully and I was reminded of the many wonderful memories we shared. Although I could see sad faces around me – I didn’t notice an outpouring of tears – but then again, the man had lived to 90 and had enjoyed an incredible life, right up until the end.I don’t know how many people knew the private man that I had known. There I sat, near the back – and while I thought I’d be strong and in control…along came the tears – tears for the times spent playing cards by candle light at the cottage – of shared meals – of me blowing out the Shabbat candles on my first Friday night dinner there…Hey! I didn’t know that they were supposed to burn down on their own. My basically Baptist Grandmother was a lover of all faiths and embraced the Jewish faith with much interest – taking two trips to Israel in the 1970s – she would often light a menorah to help decorate our Christmas dinner table…so – yeah – I blew them out – I thought they were a beautiful decoration….oh – I had much to learn over those years…and I did. We laughed so much, we discussed many issues (whether we kids wanted to or not!) and we ate…we sat around the table for hours, eating, laughing, learning, sharing – but most of all  – loving. I will miss you Daddy Ashair – but I will take your love and your lessons with me throughout the rest of my journey.