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.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Wedding

April 2, 2016

A dear friend of mine told me last night that her middle son is getting married this summer….and I swear, as the words of  her news hit my ears – the sound of beautiful bluebirds reverberated all around the room. There is just something so sweet and so beautiful hearing the news that two people who are a perfect unit, a perfect team, are about to embark on this most romantic of days. I watched, as in my mind’s eye, a thousand flower petals swirled around room…perhaps – mostly around my heart, for in that instant, I was swept back to that magical moment when I said ” I do”….almost 30 years ago and the glimmering glow still remains, still shines in my heart.

…and this is what I wish for them both.

Slow and Steady Fire

August 2, 2015

Almost 30 years later …hmm – where’s the romance? I think it’s probably stuffed somewhere in between the unfolded laundry and the moving boxes at my parents’ home.

Sadly, Romance just doesn’t have it’s own place here these days. Generally I am really ok with it – I get it – this is the Phase of Life we’re in right now.

Sometimes, though – I long for those seemingly endless evenings spent on our balcony on Gamble Street where we lived 30 years ago. We imagined so many incredible things on that balcony…but… not everything.

I never really believed that my parents would get older or sick and that I would have to take over, and I am sure that my husband never imagined that either.. We were two young lovers sipping cheap wine by moonlight and deciding where and when to eat – or even if we should 😉 The whole world lay at our feet – at least we thought so, from the 10th floor up.
Here we are 29 years later – three children and aging parents…when did we become middle aged because I swear that we were just…25 ish years old…okay, truthfully a little more little ” ISH” than 25.
We have survived many more years than so many of our friends…and yet we still stand strong – sometimes divided in our thoughts on how to handle things, sometimes annoyed at the little habits we’ve acquired…but we still stand strong.
I still roll over in the night, comforted to feel him sleeping (and snoring!) beside me…and I still walk downstairs every morning, eager to greet the new day with him and share a cup of coffee.

I think that when you are young and starting out and knew what lay ahead – you wouldn’t take another step – not because it is so terrible but because it is so far away from the dreams you are dreaming on your own balcony…your own studio apartment…or whatever your beginning point is..

But let me say this – it is the slow and steady fire that keeps the heart warm…yes, you need to stoke it – but sometimes, when you need to – you can rely on the embers.

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.

Valentine Party #20

February 8, 2015

The guests have all gone but their laughter echoes off the walls in my house – their smiles shine in every mirror. How wonderful it was to spend this blustery winter afternoon in the company of so many women who have shaped my every day.

Almost every year I hold a Valentine Party – ladies only – and it all began because we were young mothers with babies and toddlers and the glow of Valentine’s Day had worn off in our marriages as these babies replaced candlelight dinner and the need (I suppose) and the energy for our husbands to court us. It was a completely normal and understandable change in our lives – but me, the hopeless romantic, wanted to still celebrate Valentine’s Day and so I thought, wouldn’t it be great to celebrate these wonderful women I know with a Valentine Brunch.

And so the Valentine Party was born -” the ladies only” part meant -No Kids!! We dressed up, put lipstick on and tried to wear something in some shade of red or pink. We were only 8 at that first brunch….and  then it grew….and it grew…and it grew, as did my incredible circle of friends.  This afternoon we were 28 people in my small, but party-friendly house. Champagne and orange juice always starts off the celebration and the main event is the connections we made – we continue to make and the freedom to be the young girls that still live inside each one of us.

I am just now putting my feet up, sipping the last glass of champagne, watching the various Valentine decorations swing back and forth and listening to all that wonderful girlish laughter that my walls are kindly holding onto for me.

My dad, so cruelly diagnosed with ALS, was taken to hospital 3 weeks ago –  he caught the flu (ironically, having had the flu shot). As a family, we have spent the last 3 weeks in limbo/in hell. How could this happen to our family? We kept saying. How could this happen to my parents, who have had an incredible 60+ year romance….one that has touched more people than I could ever have imagined. I bumped into some former neighbours last week – they broke down in tears, hearing about my parents; with whom they had just attended a neighbourhood cocktail party two weeks earlier (so like my parents!).  The woman, mustering all of her strength and courage said to me through tears; “Your parents are lucky. So many people never find that kind of love – and your parents shared their romance everywhere they went, waving at neighbours as they walked hand in hand” …..and there I was – holding someone in my arms who was touched by my parents, breaking down in public – appropriately unashamed. I watch my Dad fight an already decided losing battle. He fights the tears back whenever he says goodbye to my Mom for the day…he is not ready to break up with her….although, truth be told….one day he must.

My mom often says, in a small, quiet  voice, “You never think it’s going to end”.

Up until a few months ago they were still mall crawling on a rainy afternoon, going out for a burger, inviting friends over for cocktails….they have never stopped being that 25 year old couple – those precious newlyweds that had a lifetime of dreams ahead of them – they are always in a stage of planning things… after 60 years, my parents still have dreams.

And that – is what makes breaking up virtually impossible to do.

Make a Memory

November 27, 2013

You want to make a memory ? Well, interestingly enough, we have already shared so many. Some of the moments, I remember – some of the moments, you remember  Isn’t it funny how memories work?

Recently someone was recanting a memory of my son, something from about 20 years ago and something that I have absolutely no memory of, but is so burned into their minds, as if it was yesterday. Just a tiny moment, a tiny snippet of time that really has no meaning, other than the fact that it seems to live in their minds so brilliantly. How could I have forgotten that shining moment? Or was it not my moment to remember? Was it not my moment at all…?

A couple of years ago someone I had known in school that happened to be at the same party I was at, told me his impression of me all those years ago. It took my breath away and I started to giggle out of nervousness. He seemed a bit hurt and asked me if I thought it was funny. All I could think was – of course not! It’s just that it never occurred to me that someone would have this fantasy about me – this completely unreachable height that I don’t think I could ever reach. At the very same time I felt empowered and young and thinking that possibly…I just might be able to reach that pre-determined height.

A month ago, I stopped by my parents’ home to see an old friend of theirs who I had always called “Uncle Rod.” He has been a regular guest in our home while I was growing up  and the moment that has stuck with me forever – really, to this day – is something simple. He showed me the old magic trick of taking off half of your thumb. I was probably 4 at the time and all I remember is that in that moment – he took my breath away with magic. I recanted the story to him and he seemed so surprised – it had been something so simple…but it is something that I will never forget – because it wasn’t the trick – it was the magic. And I can’t help it – that  moment will last until the end of time…that’s what magic does.

My parents recently celebrated 60 years of marriage. They are still so desperately in love – as if they were still the 25 year old bride and groom…and I am sure (having been married for 25 years myself) that there were just as many lows as there were highs. It is a long journey, and I think the secret of their success was that while they always trusted each other 100% – they were always aware of the fabulous value of each other….aware of the moments, both brilliant –  and perhaps not so brilliant.

I think we forget to tell the people who matter to us – about the moments that they have given us. They don’t have to be Big Huge Moments…but just magic moments,things that we can’t help but remember forever.

When my husband and I were first dating, we were standing on the balcony of my apartment – the moon was beautiful and full. I gestured the sky and said to him,  “look at that man in the moon – he is looking right down on us.” My husband  looked confused. He said he had never been able to make out the face of the man in the moon – so I pointed it out to him.

Then I kissed him and told him that I would be with him forever… because no matter what happened in our lives, he would never be able to look at the moon again without seeing that man…..and me.

Tell someone that you care about, some small thing that they brought into your life. Make their moment.