Archive for the ‘fathers and daughters’ Category

Full Circle: Love and Death in Florida

sistersMy Uncle passed away on Sunday, at 5:11 pm.

It was an unusually windy day in Florida. As I walked across the parking lot to the hospital entrance a wind swept past me that I never experienced before. It seemed to lift me up for a moment, holding me in some fervent embrace. I knew it would be the day.

After a two week vigil in the ICU, the neurologists told us they had done all they could, and that my Uncle would not recover. He would never emerge from his coma, never speak or walk. His brain had been in seizure for the greater part of a week, and it was more than his body could bare. I know he would not want to be on feeding tubes and life support, perpetually floating between sleep and death. They took him off the ventilator that was breathing for him. I cried and kissed his warm forehead and told him I loved him. He held on for about 5 hours, breathing deeply as if he was in a deep sleep. His sleep grew deeper as the day went on, and eventually, his heart stopped. My father, husband and I were by his side the whole time, loving him and supporting him through his transition.

My Uncle was an eccentric man. Dementia had begun to set in and he would often have bouts or aggression or anger. But overall, he had one of the kindest, most loving hearts that I have ever known. I have fond memories of him, and I deeply regret that we had become estranged during the years. I wish I could go back in time and I hope he knows that we were there for him when he needed us most.

It is an incomprehensible thing to witness the death of a loved one. It is beyond words. I do believe that he is in a better place. A place free from suffering and pain. 

I was so happy to learn, on this trip, that he had many friends, and he had touched the lives of a lot of people. I am happy that he had touched mine. And I hope we have both found forgiveness through this experience.

I wish you peace and happiness Eugene. Your life was precious.

*********************************************************

A poem I love. I think it’s fitting today:

The Sum of Man

by Norah Pollard

In autumn,

facing the end of his life,

he moved in with me.

We piled his belongings—

his army-issue boots, knife magazines,

Steely Dan tapes, his grinder, drill press,

sanders, belts and hacksaws—

in a heap all over the living room floor.

For two weeks he walked around the mess.

One night he stood looking down at it all

and said: “The sum total of my existence.”

Emptiness in his voice.

Soon after, as if the sum total 

needed to be expanded, he began to place 

things around in the closets and spaces I’d 

cleared for him, and when he’d finished

setting up his workshop in the cellar, he said,

“I should make as many knives as I can,”

and he began to work.

The months plowed on through a cold winter.

In the evenings, we’d share supper, some tale 

of family, some laughs, perhaps a walk in the snow.

Then he’d nip back down into the cellar’s keep

To saw and grind and polish,

creating his beautiful knives 

until he grew too weak to work.

But still he’d slip down to stand at his workbench

and touch his woods 

and run his hand over his lathe.

One night he came up from the cellar 

and stood in the kitchen’s warmth 

and, shifting his weight

from one foot to the other, said,

“I love my workshop.”

Then he went up to bed.

He’s gone now.

It’s spring. It’s been raining for weeks.

I go down to his shop and stand in the dust 

of ground steel and shavings of wood.

I think on how he’d speak of his dying, so 

easily, offhandedly, as if it were

a coming anniversary or 

an appointment with the moon.

I touch his leather apron, folded for all time,

and his glasses set upon his work gloves.

I take up an unfinished knife and test its heft, 

and feel as well the heft of my grief for 

this man, this brother I loved,

the whole of him so much greater 

than the sum of his existence. 

“The Sum of Man” by Norah Pollard, from Death & Rapture in the Animal Kingdom. © Antrim House, 2009.

A View From the Ceiling

Still in Florida. My Uncle is still in a coma. Yesterday, the Doctor in the ICU described his condition as a “catastrophe”. He said Uncle might remain in a “vegetative state” and that he had bleeding on both sides of his brain. He said we had to be prepared, and that they were doing more CAT scans to confirm their assumptions. If we took him off of the ventilator he would not breathe on his own. If we waited, and the tests confirmed there was no brain function, we could keep him alive, attached to machines and feeding tubes for the rest of his existence. “Or“…..I dare not go in to the or as it is a decision I hope no one in the world ever has to make. At least the “Or ” would provide an end to his suffering. That long elusive word, “dignity” hung around his neck like  an invisible rosary. There were more than a few moments when I felt as if I had left my body and was floating above the conversation, hearing everything through a muffled blankets.

I spent half the day floating around the ceiling. I stroked his hair and caressed his arm while I told him stories of my baby niece and my new husband. My dad was grieving in a silent, tormented way. He was telling his brother to wake up or he would sell his new television.

We met with his social worker to understand (and help translate) all that we heard. I was supposed to be in charge of the meeting so my dad could breathe and absorb it all, but I couldn’t hold back my emotions. My Uncle’s case worker told us that if he did not improve, we should decide if my Uncle would wish to stay on life support or pass on. She said no one would rush us to make that decision. Then she told us about a thing called Hospice.

It was difficult to sleep last night. Dad and I tried to take joy in simple things- We spotted a pair of iguanas in an empty lot by the beach. We ate an abundance of Jewish pastries. It brought the term “carbo loading” to a whole new level.

We went back to the hotel to extend our lodging and push out our flights. I spent a few hours trying to get my husband a ticket to join us. I have been married a year and it is still hard for me to accept support from those that love me. The Bear will be a welcome addition to our coterie in the coma ward. He is steady and loving, and he’s studying medicine (a plus in this case). He has a certain distance to the situation, and his unwavering care and concern will help steady me through this.

On the computer in the hotel room, struggling for a signal. Then it’s “ooooooooh, ooooh, eeeeeeeewwwwwwoooohhh” through the walls as a couple started to bump de bump for what seemed like HOURS. Mind you, I am sharing a hotel room with MY FATHER and this woman is SCRRRRREEEEAMING at the top of her lungs.

Talk about awkward.

I wanted to bang on the wall and say “Get a ROOM!” But isn’t that what they did???? Could I blame them?

Impossible to sleep. Worry kept me awake. And then the 2am redoubt of the opera of moaning next door. It sounded like they were killing chickens in there! Dad snoring, lady coming and all I could think of was GET ME OUTTA HERE!!!!!!

But the sun comes out in sunny florida and today was a different story. Yes, they were still at it at 6am, but we left quickly for more carbo loading and a trip to the ICU. Uncle’s new CAT scan revealed that his brain was doing better than expected, but he was experiencing seizures every time they tried to pull him out of his coma. The Doctor said there was a glimmer of hope. I asked her what she recommended and she said, let’s give him time. “Time is all we have right now,” I replied.

Let’s give him some time.

This is one of the most important times of my life. This is something that changes you and once you pass that doorway and experience something like this, you cannot go back.

It just makes me realize how precious family is. I hope my Uncle knows how much I love him.

That’s enough for tonight….

Sweet dreams and love to you, dear reader. Thank you for listening.

.

Dear Uncle

I write this from a hotel lobby in sun-bruised Hollywood, F L A. I’m visiting my Uncle who had a terrible stroke. When I say those words, “Uncle in a coma” I always feel like it’s just some weird and horrible joke told by an old Jew with a cigar… The  famous “Uncle in a coma” joke second only to “Who’s on First”. It just seems too awful to be true.

It’s so horrible it can ONLY be a joke. It’s so visceral and raw. I’ve never loved my father more, or been so exhausted.

Every time they try to take him out of his coma he has a seizure. His brain is still very active from the stroke. I want him to have dignity. DIGNITY!!!!!! I was happy today when they brought him a special bed in the ICU.

I brush his hair and tell him how sorry I was for being LATE. How I am here NOW and he will never be without FAMILY again.

Call your mother. Tell someone you love what they mean to you today. REALLY.

And if you are reading this, say a little prayer for Eugene. And for every hurting, lonely soul who needs a bit of kindness. Moments like this make me realize how lucky and blessed I have been. I wish I could give him some of this blessing…

Thank you for reading this…

Shell

The Man Who Came to Dinner

Why is my manicure  DRY ENOUGH to type a new post, but not dry enough to post some bills????? Hmmmmmm….

Funny that you have time to do the things you long to do (if available to you) but never enough time to do the things you distaste?

I go back to work tomorrow. I took a few days off to be with my parents. They were visiting from California. Big Brooklyn Jews, with the striking accents and the dramatic hand gestures. My Mother, so warm and funny, seemed to be loved by strangers wherever she’d go…

My dad is still in Florida. His Brother is in a coma and has just had a stroke. They found him on the floor of his apartment. I worry about my Uncle, and about my Father, who was orphaned at 30. His Father died of a stroke so I imagine this weighs very heavily on him. 

My Uncle is one of those difficult, eccentric men that you WANT to love because he is your “family”. He has eyes like my father, and because of this, I tried desperately to love him. Still, he often said or did things that were hurtful or cut deeply, and he was sometimes cruel toward my Mother. My Mother who every stranger in the world seems to love.

I remember he once asked me if I was a lesbian, because I was still single at 29. This, he said, as he took his dentures out and placed them face up on my kitchen table, so he could enjoy a slice of Brooklyn pizza. There’s nothing wrong with being a lesbian, had that been my choice, but to be accused of this by a hairy, toothless man in my single-girl kitchen was just too much!

I want to love him. And part of me does bacause he is my Grandmother’s son, and I know she is my guardian angel. I guess we make some interesting, celestial love triangle. The Grandma I never knew, my Uncle, and me….

It’s complicated….

I was single (by choice) for so long, and I remember that universal fear. Something happens, you slip or are hurt, and because you live alone you think you might not be found for days. And g-d forbid if you have pets! Hungry pets, I won’t go into the details…

I love my Uncle because I know he meant well (most of the time). He just did not know how to “say” it like everyone else. It was as if a streaky window separated him from my family. He was always on the outside of the window. And it was stormy out there…

I am closer by blood to my Uncle than my own husband. My husband who becomes more my soul mate every day. My Uncle, found on the floor of his apartment after suffering a stroke. My Uncle, still in a coma, having a seizure every time they try to pull him out of it. My Uncle, who loved me, paralyzed on his left side.

Why do I feel so angry?

 

pork and (In)perfection

I’ve been thinking about this social club we have just started, and I am so excited by the positive response we have had thus far. We are less than two weeks old and have 20 new members in Massachusetts and Maine. I’ve gotten so many wonderful notes from readers who would love to join, but live too far. I wish we could do happy hours via skype so every woman who needed a network, could find herself in our big Boston Bear-Hug.

I first began this blog to break out of the bubble of isolation that this journey toward family can often create. You are either on the “inside” of the experience, or on the “outside”. As much as your friends and family love you, they are watching through a streaky window. What would it be like to be on the “inside” ….with sisters? The idea inspired me to form RubyFeather Social Club

I hope the group generates a lot of good energy, catharsis, and empowerment. It is so easy to lose your center on this journey. Maybe a few vagina jokes and some mocktails with the girls in RubyFeather  will help to brighten up this place!

And speaking of “not funny” moments (having little or nothing to do with my vagina) let me tell you about our domestic train wreck yesterday….

The Bear and I have been married a year. Last night was to mark the first dinner we have hosted at our house for both his parents and mine. I love my in-laws AND I love my parents, but the night was like a train that CRASHED, DE-RAILED, then got itself back on course and somehow arrived AHEAD OF TIME!

(Forgive me , if anyone in my family reads this. But blogging IS my therapy!)

Friday night, T minus 4 hours….My dad got a phone call at 2pm from a hospital in Florida. He had been trying to find his brother, whose phone was busy for several days. A man called to say he found my uncle passed out on the floor of his apartment a few days ago. He was now in intensive care and had not resumed conciousness. My parents are visiting Boston from California, and we immediately began making plans for my dad  to fly to florida, to be at my uncle’s bedside.

T minus 2 hours….My mother in law arrived two hours early . She had been trying to reach her son (my husband), who was swept away in the hubub of our family drama, and had missed her calls. I was still trying to arrange a flight and car for my dad and I hadn’t had a moment to dress pretty or finish setting up the house. (Obviously our priorities had changed). This day was a BIG DEAL to me. We’ve been planning it for weeks and I even bought our “married” silverware in preparation for the perfect table. This seemed so superfluous now.

Anyway, my head and heart were with my uncle, but the night was still moving forward. I hate not being prepared and I am a terrible stress ball (…control freak?) when things get derailed. (People who know me are probably smiling at this remark) The Bear was beyond grumpy,the appetizers still in plastic wrap, and I felt like someone who was caught in musky old clothes after a hapless walk of shame.

So train WRECK….then a slight DE-RAIL. When you are on this infertility journey, keeping face during special times can often seem like a dauntless task and a secret obsession. Once I realized that I needed to LET GO of the need to be appear perfect the night seemed to improve. Still it was not easy to give up this obsession!!!!! I lit a few candles and the floor didn’t seem as dirty (and neither did my hair : ) ). I had a few glasses of wine and “pouf”, BACK ON TRACK!

Somewhere between the stuffed mushrooms and the pork loin I was able to sneak away and get my dad a ticket to florida. My dear friend helped us out with a buddy pass on Jet Blue. (FLY JET BLUE!!!!!). I resumed my spot in the group and dad was relieved. Mom and M-I-L had rosy cheeks from a bit of wine and  girl-talk.

TAKE OFF. The Bear made a pork loin that was out of this world. Jews and pork- not always a good mix, but it was absolutely perfect!

T PLUS 2 HOURS- The pork was consumed, the apple cobbler devoured and my father in law was turning my parents on to another shot of lemoncello.

The night ended well. Daddy left on a 7am flight for Florida today. He says Uncle had a stroke and his condition is critical. I will keep them both in my prayers. The night made me realize that family is the most important thing… Nothing is ever perfect. But we need to cherish those moments that tug at our hearts. I am blessed to have so much love in this house….In 10 years, I’ll remember my mother’s bright eyes and tender heart last night, not my smelly pits or messy kitchen. That’s what I’ll take away from this….

Wishing you joyful moments of imperfection…

Molly and The Fairy Godmother Project

I was going through my closet this weekend, looking for  dresses to donate to The Fairy Godmother Project. A woman I work with turned me on to them, and we are having a Summer Social today to collect gowns, cocktail frocks and bling from the other career girls we know.  The Fairy Godmother Project will hold these items until prom season, and invite high school girls to come “shop” their collection for free. Some of the girls are in foster care, and others cannot afford a dress to the prom. I feels good to give them what I can. 

I love to do things like this. I believe there is immeasurable wisdom and inspiration in each of us, and it’s our collective work, as strong open women, that makes us more powerful together than individually. (Think Wonder-Twins!).

As I was going through my stash, I started to think about my own childhood experiences, and why this event means so much to me.

Growing up, my family was rich on love, support and laughter. But we were not rich in the material way. The recession in the mid ‘80’s threw everyone for a loop and my father’s business was hit hard. I wanted to think of a creative way to get through prom without having to ask my parent’s for money they couldn’t spare at the time.

I had just seen “Pretty in Pink”, where Molly Ringwald whips up her own dress, and goes to the prom looking like a puff of pink merenge. I CAN DO THAT! I thought, (although the only thing I had ever sewn in my life was a square pillowcase in home ec., and even that was a little wonky!). Aaaah, the fearlessness of a teenager!

My mother and I set out on this adventure, bought a cheap Butterick pattern and a ton of bright royal blue poly satin (hideous in retrospect). Cutting the pattern on the floor of our kitchen, and piecing the dress together, I felt like a costume designer! It wasn’t until our first fitting that I realized Molly lied. I didn’t look like a puff of frosting but a cake that’s been left out in the RAIN- for a LONG TIME! My leg o’ mutton sleeves lost their zing and the bust darts made my  teenage boobies droop like a geriatric grandma. I was low hanging fruit! Prom was in four days and I looked like someone out of the movie “Carrie” (after they were set ablaze), not my beloved muse Molly.

My mother, bless her heart, was quick to react. She called a friend, who called a friend, whose daughter had just returned from a party, and she leant me her dress. Now I looked more like a shiny piece of tin foil than a sagging blue blob. But it was 1986, so that was certainly a step in the right direction!

That special day finally came and for six hours at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Florida, I was a PRINCESS. It didn’t matter that I grew up on free lunch and that my date was 4” shorter than me. At that moment, we were ALL Princesses. Rich or poor, fat or thin, raised by parents married or separated, WE WERE ALL BEAUTIFUL!!!!

I think of how clothing can sometimes mark a rite of passage. That dress you wore to the prom, that suit with the pinchy shoes you put on for your  first big job interview, your wedding gown….These things STICK. Those experiences stay with you forever and mark a passage of time from one doorway into another.

I see the rack outside my office door. We’ve collected 18 dresses so far, with many more to follow at our happy hour tonight. I think about how every bit of what we give to these girls will help to bring them  BLISS for a day.

Sometimes it’s the small things we can do, that make the biggest difference.

Wishing you joy, love and MANY PRINCESS MOMENTS!

M

 

In Houston:

In

http://fairygodmotherproject.com/

 

In Massachusetts, two locations:

http://www.northshorefairygodmother.org/

http://www.fairygodmotherprojectofma.org/

What's your story?

What's your story?

My father’s hands

I am sitting here on my dad’s lazy boy. Its a tremendous upholstered monster of some undecipherable color.  When I sit in it I feel a little like lilly tomlin when she would dress like a child perched in a giant rocking chair in her ’70’s comedy routines. There’s something comforting about this mammoth  chair of my father’s. It reminds me of him, so mushy and sturdy, with arms that stretch wide to hold us. All of our energy and dreams. 

 I remember when I was fifteen ,he would sit on the edge of my bed and we’d talk about “life”. All those teenage sagas that I thought so important.  He was the one that made me believe I could do anything. Be anything. Like no opportunity or dream was too unreachable. I guess I still believe this (thanks dad). 

I can think back to when I was three and he was taking me to Manhattan to “work” at his store. I was so excited to be employed for the day. And to travel by subway from Brooklyn into East 38th street in nyc ! I remember standing on my bed and dressing myself for the occasion. I looked crazy! All jumbled and twisted, with sleeves all wrong and socks that did not match. “Your beautiful” he said, and tucked me under his arm, straitening what he could so that I would not embarrass myself. Still he let me keep the socks all mismatched – as a sign of my personal expression : ) 

Now that I am on the edge of exploring what children might mean in MY life ( and my looming exploration of the possibilities of adoption) I think of my fathers big, sturdy hands, and listen to how he coos at his granddaughter. I think of how lucky she is to know him, and to crawl all over him like a big mountain. Her lazy-boy grandpa. 

And I think of my friends. Those of you whom I love dearly, who are the mountains in children’s lives. Everything you do makes an immeasurable difference and leaves an imprint that will last a lifetime. Treasure the small moments. 

I put my hand in my father’s yesterday as we walked together. It didn’t matter that I was no longer a child. My socks might match now but I still hold the memories of countless firsts and lots of pushes and I am a better woman for knowing him. 

Savor your time with your dear ones. Especially now.  I wish you great joy and happiness this holiday and beyond. 

There are two types of “family”. Those we are born into, and those we select. To me you are family too. And I am lucky for that ! 

May all your dreams come true this year. At least the little ones – the daily triumphs that count.