Little Bird

On my way back from my morning power walk, I saw a feathered creature in the road. There were no cars coming so I walked over to see.

Little Bird 

On my way back from my morning power walk, I saw a feathered creature in the road. There were no cars coming so I walked over and saw that it was a little bird struggling to get up. Every time he tried, he fell over on his back.

I decided I would try to save him so I tried to pick him up and at least get him out of the road before he got totally squashed by a car.  But every time I tried to pick him up he squirmed and fluttered away from me. But I was persistent and finally managed to hold this little guy in my hand. My intention was to bring him home, see if I could get him some nourishment, keep him warm, and take him to the vet the next day. I thought maybe he had a broken wing. I was only about 15 minutes away from getting home and started walking with him, noticing that he was moving his beak and was still alive. I had to hold him pretty firmly but not too tightly to keep him from fluttering away again. I knew he was still alive since I felt his little heart beating. However, suddenly, his head went limp with the rest of his body and I knew he was dead. That little innocent creature just died in my hands. At first I thought I had killed him by holding onto him too tightly, and I started to blame myself for his death. But, then I realized that I wasn’t squeezing him and he probably just died from other injuries that I didn’t see.

I knew that I had done the right thing by getting him out of the road. Maybe I should’ve just left him lying on the grass and let nature take its course, but I just couldn’t leave him to be eaten by scavengers or to rot away until only his feathers were left. So, I kept walking with his little body and I brought him home. I put him in a little plastic bag and decided I would bury him in my back patio area. By that time his little eyes had actually opened and he was stiff. I dug a hole big enough to fit him and said a prayer that God watch over him and that he be in Bird Heaven. Where else would he go since I’m sure he never committed any sins. He was just living his life when a car came along and ended it. Just a little innocent creature. But he will not be forgotten and I will always know that out back I have a sweet, precious, little bird, who never hurt anybody.

Happy Birthday in Heaven

Happy Birthday to my best friend in Heaven. She would’ve been 70 today. I think of her often, especially when I look around my house which has so many reminders of her.

Happy Birthday to my best friend in Heaven. She would’ve been 70 today. I think of her often, especially when I look around my house which has so many reminders of her. From the needle points, to photos, to gifts, and everything in-between. She was so crafty and an amazing carpenter–just a most talented person. Every day I am reminded of her when I go into my office where I have an actual desk she made for me. It would be impossible to go anywhere in my house without seeing Janet. I talk to her often and ask that she visit me in my dreams being careful to remind her not to appear at the foot of my bed lest I see her sooner than I was expecting. I have so many birthday cards and letters from when I was in camp (before texts and email). These are precious to me and I have saved them in a cardboard box. I sometimes pull them out and read them and I am immediately transported to a different time and place, where I reminisce and laugh about all the fun and crazy times we shared. I often find myself quoting Janet to other people because she was a very wise person. To say I miss her is an understatement. She was my “person” and I could call her and talk for hours about what was going on. Sometimes I’d call her for something serious but we ended up laughing hysterically about some inside joke. She was simply the best of the best and I loved her. I will see you again someday and it will seem like no time has passed at all.

Love your lifelong friend,

Marilyn

The Apartment on 11th Street

“I can’t wait to grow up” is what so many kids say. But most of them don’t plan to move out of their childhood home when they turn 18. But I did.

When I was a child, I looked forward to getting out of my house. On the surface things seemed OK but I hated living there. Yes, Stuyvesant Town on the lower Eastside of Manhattan was a great place to grow up with its rolling hills where I spent many a day skating, playing tops, running races, and playing skelly in the many playgrounds. But that was outside. Inside my house were things beyond my control.

I felt special that I was admitted to Art and Design high school where all the kids were artists, but when I would return home, there would be constant criticism from my father. A vague idea began to form in the back of my mind that I might be able to move out and I didn’t have to live like this.  But then I met my friend Verna who was also a student at that school.

Verna was half Japanese and both her and her sister went to Art and Design. I had never been to her apartment before but one day we got to talking. It was my senior year and I didn’t know what to do with my life. I was at a crossroads. My whole junior and senior years were about getting high on booze and weed (and other substances). I didn’t really care about my future but one thing was very clear to me—I wanted to move out of my house when I turned 18.  Verna ‘s family lived in a run-down railroad tenement on crime infested 11th Street and Avenue B in Manhattan.  Her father was the building super (superintendent). She mentioned to me that they had a vacant apartment and we might consider being roommates. It sounded like Nirvana to me so one cold Winter Saturday afternoon I went over to see it. All I could think of was total freedom. We sat in the living room and I felt so grown up and didn’t even think of the pitfalls—probably because Verna painted a rosy, but apocryphal picture for me.

At first glance all I could envision was having my own “room” and not having to answer to anyone. I could do whatever I wanted and not face constant criticism. I could smoke, drink, and do anything. I overlooked the flaws in the apartment which were many, most importantly that I would not even have a real room with any privacy since this was an old run-down Railroad apartment where one had to go straight through my room to get to the others. Railroad apartments were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to conserve space, and were so named because they were similar to a railroad car, which would go straight through one compartment to another. In the South, they were called “shotgun houses.”

Coming from a “normal” apartment in a good neighborhood, it was kind of a shock. Of course, it was a walk-up and there were basically no windows except in the living room where there was a fire escape.  You had to enter through the kitchen first, which contained a bathtub replete with “feet”, a tiny gas stove and oven, and a lovely “water closet” containing a toilet with a hanging water tank and a chain to flush. However, instead of running for the hills, I embraced the romance of living like a Bohemian. I was an artist, after all, and I a reveled in the idea of setting up my easel in my room of sorts. So, despite my initial reservations, I decided to move out of my parents’ apartment into this shithole which promised so much but turned into a nightmare.

Soon after moving in, I realized this wasn’t going to be the Utopia that I had hoped for. It became Party Central with mostly Verna’s friends in and out at all hours.  Even if the partying was in other rooms, it didn’t matter since there were no doors and one room simply led into the other room. There was constant comings and goings with noise so I couldn’t really sleep.

I was a “lucky” or sheltered child it seemed compared to some of my other school friends I grew up with who often lived in the tenements surrounding Stuyvesant Town.  I never even knew what a roach was until I saw one in my desk one day at school.  Apparently, I didn’t see any roaches on that cold, fateful day I made the choice to live in that run-down apartment. But that soon changed after I moved in. Roaches usually don’t come out much during the daytime or in the light. I discovered this when I would climb the steps, open the many locks we had on our door, come into the kitchen and turn on the light, only to see dozens of roaches on the wall, scattering into the dark recesses of the nooks and crannies of the kitchen.  I had to move my bed away from the walls at night so that roaches wouldn’t get on the covers.  This apparently didn’t seem to upset Verna who grew up in this building and was used to it.

Although her friends were a bother I would often party along with them. Our parties which would start early on Saturday and go into Sunday, were legendary and I would invite everyone.  Some of Verna’s friends were pretty unsavory, but the higher I got, the less I cared. It all became a haze of booze, drugs, sex–anything went. I watched with apparent indifference at best as one guy proceeded to shoot up in the kitchen, being more curious than shocked when a spirt of blood came out when the needle went in. I thought, “Oh, so that’s what it looks like to shoot up.”

I could go on and on, recounting story after story of behavior that I would find abhorrent today but considered normal then. But after about 9 months of the living in the Roach Motel, I made the decision to move back to my parents’ apartment.  I was going there anyway to take showers because I couldn’t bear using that antiquated bathtub in the kitchen. Although I felt like a failure, I was relieved. But soon afterwards, I married my first husband, seeing him as my way into respectability–my savior.

After I moved away, I got married, had children, lived a life, and never looked back. I never even kept in touch with Verna. She wasn’t even invited to my wedding. It’s as if I wanted to simply banish that shameful part of my life.

But every so often, with no provocation, I dream that I am still living in some version of a run-down Railroad flat. In the dream, I am distraught, but I always get a feeling of acceptance. Then I wake up and for a few seconds, think that I am back there, only to realize I am safely ensconced in my own bed.  Although it was a crazy time in my life and I would never want to revisit it, I would not be who I am today if I didn’t live it.

One Second from Disaster

Why is it that some people seem to live a charmed life.  Nothing bad ever happens to them—they sail through life with nothing major going wrong.

Why is it that some people seem to live a charmed life.  Nothing bad ever happens to them—they sail through life with nothing major going wrong. That is my one question—why?

I get up in the morning with a vague feeling of anxiety that almost never leaves me. I am not one to feel sorry for myself and hate being on the pity pot. Yet I feel jealous of women with their big cleavages and think about what if they got this damn disease. How about all those women with their big manes of hair, so confident that nothing can touch them. Well, this fucking disease doesn’t care about that and this life is a mine field. You can be going along, all smug, posting your “best life” on Facebook, when suddenly your life as you know it comes to a screeching halt. That is how it is—we are all one second away from disaster.

When my friend Janet got the news that she had MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome) the disease which ultimately killed her, she called it the “train wreck.” That describes it exactly –a feeling of disbelief and confusion. Any faith that you thought you had is shaken. “How could this be?” you ask yourself, knowing that you are not invincible and the grim reaper has come to your doorstep.

Having had the big C 34 years ago, for some strange reason I felt that was it. I was sure that I would never get cancer ever again—that my turn had come and I came through it.  But that’s not the way things work in the world. So, I put my big girl brave face out there and made it my mission to fight this. I was determined to remain positive and I actually did. On the days I had an infusion for 3 hours I actually was in good spirits. I tried to analyze why that was so and I can only surmise that I felt cared for and loved. My friend would come over, bring me lunch, and we would chat. I guess you would say I did not suffer from many chemo side effects so I was lucky (or blessed depending upon where you come from).

I counted down the chemo cycles (I had 6) and posted pictures of me getting the infusion. People responded and I felt loved again. But a strange thing happened after the last cycle—I felt let down and depressed. One would think I would feel wonderful and relieved but I was just the opposite. I didn’t know what to do with myself and I simply felt abandoned. I was no longer special and my purpose in life, which turned out to be just getting through the chemo, was gone. I felt that I lost my purpose. I have been struggling to get that back and I am having a hard time. People don’t understand how I feel—they think I should be happy, happy, and grateful. I am grateful it is over but I am left with the residual fear of having this return. I think crazy thoughts and get into my own head that I somehow have metastatic cancer and I will surely die of this. I have a mammogram next month and my head tells me that I have cancer in the other breast now.  I speak to other cancer survivors and many of them feel like me, so maybe I’m not unique, but I still can’t shake these feelings.

Logically, I know that we must “live in the day” and not the past or future because you miss the beauty of the moment. Yet I catch myself thinking about 10 years down the road sometimes and it is frightening. I engage in the “what ifs” which only increases my anxiety because the future is fraught with those nasty mine fields.

I know this is not exactly a very inspirational piece but this is how I feel. I have kept this inside of myself and whenever someone asks me how I feel, I simply say, “Fine” or “OK” when I really want to say, “I am fucking depressed and anxious”. But nobody wants to hear that—all they want to hear is that you are good so they can feel good too.

Janet – A Tribute

Monday morning my best friend, Janet, passed away in her home.  I had the great privilege of calling Janet my friend since we were 6 years old.

 

Monday morning my best friend, Janet, passed away in her home.  I had the great privilege of calling Janet my friend since we were 6 years old.  She was my best friend, my confidante, and I guess you would call her “My Person.” She was always there for me and always willing to lend an ear. We could spend two hours on the phone talking about everything and later the next day, do it again. There was never any judgement on her part and no matter what I told her she would put a positive spin on it.  She was simply a joyful person and an optimist.

Janet was also the most genuine human being with the best sense of humor you could ever know. I think that’s what drew me to her when we were kids. She used to say she had a “warped sense of humor” but then I guess I did too because we just “got each other.”  It was more like a dry sense of humor that not everyone understood.  I could just get on the phone and, in the midst of bad news, we’d end up laughing about on old inside joke. We had many of them from when we were children to the more recent situations which we would find hilarious.  Even in her waning moments, her humor came out when a nurse asked her name for the umpteenth time, she got annoyed and said her name was “Joe Schmo.” But that was her to a tee. That was just so Janet.

Janet also was amazingly crafty as evidenced by all the needle points in my house as well as an actual desk that she built. She was an amazing seamstress that even made all the bridesmaid dresses for her daughter’s wedding.  The picture on top of this post show just a few of the Boyds Bears she gave me for my birthdays. I will treasure “Janet’s Bears” as I call them.

Before Janet moved to Georgia, she lived in Orangeburg (upstate NY) not far from where I lived in NJ, and we spent many fun times with her family and my kids. When I moved here 18 years ago, I was basically adopted by her family so some of my best memories are Thanksgiving and Christmas when she would stay up to dawn sometimes getting ready baking last minute cakes and cookies. She was most famous for her cheesecakes. I guess you could call her the cheesecake queen.

Growing up in Stuyvesant Town we both had many of the same friends, but I must say I never kept in touch. But Janet kept in touch with many of them. She was such a sweet and caring person that she even went up twice to Manhattan to support her friend Peggy in her cancer battle—that last time when she herself was not even well.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this last thing: Janet was not known for her promptness, but we all accepted it. I remember once when she was at least 30 minutes late picking me up for the airport, I frantically told her I would miss my flight, and she said, in her calm and optimistic way said, “Don’t worry, we’ll make it.” And we did. Every time she was late, she just knew we would make it on time.

But no matter what I write here, there are just not enough words to express how much I loved and respected Janet. There will never be another person like her and no matter how many friends I may have now or in the future she is irreplaceable. I love you Jet.  Come to me in my dreams soon—I’ll be waiting. Godspeed.

Love your best friend M

Inauguration Day 2021

I watched the Inauguration of Joe Biden yesterday and was emotional. For the first time in 4 years, I actually had a feeling of hopefulness rather than hopelessness.

I watched the Inauguration of Joe Biden yesterday and was emotional. For the first time in 4 years, I actually had a feeling of hopefulness rather than hopelessness. I was literally breathless during the swearing in ceremonies of Biden and Harris. I had hope again in our country, in this administration, in our leaders at the top. This does not mean that we are out of the woods by any means—we will still have the white supremacists committing violent acts or at least trying to. The one who shall not be named will still be an inciter but at least he won’t be the inciter in chief. We won’t have to listen to his incessant lies and rhetoric each day and know that many brain-washed people in our country believe it. It was such a pleasure to turn on the TV this morning and not see his face, spewing forth falsehoods, insisting—like a petulant 5-year-old–that he “won the election, big!” Yesterday, they happened to play a clip for Trump’s final farewell speech and I literally had to mute it.

After 4 years of this horror show, I have PTSD. I think the reason I cried during the Inauguration was that I realized that I don’t have to hold my breath anymore. I never really realized that I had been holding my breath for 4 years until I was able to let it out. I watched The View this morning and Whoopie actually said exactly what I am saying here. Each morning I would turn on the TV with trepidation and think, “What has he done today to undermine the United States. What has he tweeted about today to enflame his so called “base”? Then I would see almost every day there was a crisis of his making or that he somehow sided with Putin on almost everything. His Russian buddy, Putin, could do anything and Trump would never say a word or just outright deny that he was to blame. Whatever it was, I was angry every day and couldn’t get past it. I could never fathom why this guy and his grifter family got away with everything.

It is such a relief to see competence being restored to the White House. Biden’s cabinet picks are not just white men, they are a cross section of what this country actually looks like—white, black, Asian, Latino, American Indian, Indian, etc. And these are competent people and not just the sycophants Trump installed because of their loyalty to him. It is amazing how we will have an Attorney General (Merrick Garland) who is America’s lawyer not just the personal lawyer to the president. It will be amazing to see that our new President will not interfere with the DOJ. It will be amazing to have a President who does not lead by Tweet.

There are too many atrocities that have been committed by the worst and most corrupt President and administration in history to name–I would be writing forever. In spite of that, he could’ve gotten out with at least a little bit of dignity. But instead, he had to invent “The Big Lie” and spread it far and wide, gaining political traction within the Republican party. They knew better that Biden won fair and square, but their political aspirations came before country and shame on them for that. This guy’s refusal to accept defeat, instead trying to disenfranchise millions of voters in mostly black communities, was so egregious and shows what a racist and small, petty man he is. Not once did he ever express empathy for the 400 thousand people who have died thus far from this Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, he pretended that it was a hoax, and told people not to wear masks, resulting in more deaths than there should have been. His response to the pandemic was enough to get him impeached or at least “impeached” in the eyes of God. Rest assured he will never see Heaven when he dies, he will shoot straight down to Hell where he will be sharing a cell with his evil counterpart, Hitler.

However, the worst thing he did was to incite an insurrection at the Capitol, trying to overthrow the government and prevent the Electoral College votes from being counted and certified on January 6th.  Now he will go down in history as the only President to be impeached twice—this last one with seven days to go. How sad—and even if he somehow gets away with it in the Senate, it is still on his record forever. All our allies are over the moon about this wannabe dictator finally being out of office. Biden will rejoin the Paris climate accords, rejoin the WHO, roll back the Muslim ban, and stop that ridiculous “Wall” which was promised but never really delivered. He will hopefully make the vaccine rollout move faster and mourn with us during our time of sorrow.

Oh yes, yesterday was a wonderful day. Just to see him board a plane and slither off to Florida, was uplifting beyond belief. I pray that he never regains any sort of political control again and that he never receives intelligence briefings, as some other former Presidents do. I pray that our new President and VP will be safe. I pray that this red blot in our Country’s history will never be repeated and that we learn from this. But alas, it must be one day at a time. I am not so much a Poly Anna that I believe that it will be smooth sailing because it took four years to almost ruin democracy and so it will take a while to fix it. Our country will never be the same again, but hopefully, we will rise up and become the great nation that we still can be.

Last Stand

I peer out a crack in the wall and see the grisly, salivating maw of the German Shepard on the leash of his handler searching for us, waiting to tear us to pieces.

I peer out a crack in the wall and see the grisly, salivating maw of the German Shepard on the leash of his handler searching for us, waiting to tear us to pieces.

I have been in hiding in this bunker for 60 days now with a number of others. We are starting to run low on food and supplies. We are being hunted relentlessly on the orders of the Supreme Commander in Chief, who has decreed that all subversives be rounded up and imprisoned and if they resist, killed on the spot. This includes political opponents as well as all Democrats in Congress. Having gone through the voting records of citizens, the TAF (Trump Allied Forces) are conducting door-to-door searches for people who voted for the other side.

Some people saw the signs that this democratic government would fall, but others could not face reality. They insisted that “this was their country too” and would stand and fight. But, for many it was too late and they could no longer escape.

The lucky or smart ones escaped to other countries, but the unlucky ones or those in denial had no choice but to either be rounded up and jailed or go into hiding. I am one of those unlucky ones who watched as the Democratic nation I loved became increasingly unstable but stood by in disbelief as one institution after another fell until we faced an autocracy ruled by a strong man.

I am now ensconced in a secret underground bunker, making do with whatever medieval supplies we could pilfer from old warehouses. We watched as the political storm became increasingly volatile knowing that we would reach a point of no return, where it was either sit by or take action. We have been preparing for a “doomsday” for a year now, stockpiling supplies and weapons, hoping we would never need these. A network of secret communication was created so if and when the day came, we would be ready, and when it came we said, “Now.”

So we fled with our lives, and some of our meager possessions, hoping we would not be betrayed by any TAF spies who might’ve infiltrated our group.

We each had our assigned role, and mine was to keep watch on the outside world through that crack in the wall. So today I have climbed up to the top of the bunker where I can peer out at the horror of what has become of the United States of America.

Each day our small TV shows the good and dissenting citizens being rounded up and shot, or jailed in deplorable conditions. We watch as the U.S. rule of law and Constitution is being destroyed.

How did this happen? How did we come to this? Looking back I remember being told over and over that the American People are smart and would not elect a charlatan and con man, but it happened. How could people continue to support him even after a damning report came out detailing all the lies and criminal activities he was engaged in and still is?  But the report was ignored and the majority of the people fell under his spell. They were already anchored, and just as human nature is, refused to admit they were wrong. They gradually let it happen, with the help of his minions and sycophants in Congress, the Russian bots, and Trump News. They were mesmerized and no matter all the warnings, believed all the lies. The American people were duped and now here we are, just a few pockets of dissenters left in this country to carry on some day.

But we have a new leader who has been gaining ground and each night we sneak out and flood the streets with flyers. So, I have hope in the goodness of humankind and that people will rise up against this evil regime. I must pray that we are not too late and believe with my soul that we will prevail in the end.

The Traveling Umbrella

My name is FiFi and I am a traveling umbrella.

I was born in a Totes factory 10 years ago. During that time I have traveled all over and have had many different owners, each with a different story.

When I came off the assembly line I was shipped to Macy’s with all the concomitant hopes of acquiring an upscale owner, preferably a liberal, since it was Manhattan. I figured this human would realize my quality and take good care of me. But since I was not the only umbrella on the shelf, it took many months for someone to notice me and to fall in love. It was such a sad and nerve wracking time for me and I thought it would never happen. Each time I saw someone perusing the isle I wanted to jump up and say, “Pick Me, Pick Me”, but I guess that was impossible. I probably would’ve caused a heart attack or stroke if I had done that.

But one day, when I had given up hope of ever getting a home, a fine young man named David recognized my intrinsic value and glow on my face and said, “That’s the one!” I was literally (at least in my mind) jumping for joy. But the joy was short lived because he didn’t really love me, no—he was gong to give me away. Not even one hour after rescuing me, I found myself practically smothered in giftwrap. With a heavy heart, I knew I would have a new owner. I could only hope and pray that she was responsible and would properly care for me. A few days later, I had a new owner named Camille, David’s girlfriend. She seemed very pleased at the time and in the beginning took me with her anytime there was rain or even a threat.  But one day, while riding the subway, she left me on the seat. I tried to call out to her, “Wait, wait, you forgot me,” but she couldn’t hear my silent scream. Suddenly, and without warning, I was alone again—on the subway, no less, with all kinds of undesirables and that dirt.

I sat there silently crying when another miracle happened—just the right person sat down and, seeing nobody claiming me, came to my aide. His name was Mark and he was an investment banker. Wow, I thought, I hit the jackpot. Yes I was broken up about losing Camille, but this guy was wealthy and I definitely could live with that. I had visions of a penthouse on Central Park West, with a doorman and a nicely furnished, well organized closet for my home. But, unfortunately this guy was a total slob, and I was carelessly thrown into a plastic tub at the bottom of the closet.  I felt hopeless, not knowing how I would get out of this predicament. Was there a foundation that dealt with abused umbrellas—I didn’t think so—and how would I even let anyone know. But luck shined on me again, when my captor decided to clean out his closet and donate junk to Goodwill. Now, although I was glad he was doing this, I was insulted that I was being categorized as junk. Nevertheless, it was a blessing because within a few days, Sara, who was planning on moving to Augusta, GA, paid $4.00 for me. Granted, that was ridiculous for a fine Totes umbrella like me to be sold for so little, I was happy that I seemed to have acquired a new home. In addition, I would be leaving Manhattan where I could easily be left on the Subway. No subway in Augusta.

Within a week I was in a nice warm climate, with my new owner. Her house was lovely and, for the first time in a while, I felt content. She usually kept me in her car for those sudden downpours. I was beginning to feel settled and, dare I say, relaxed, when she visited her favorite coffee spot, Starbucks. It happened to be raining that day and for some reason I felt uneasy. I knew it was predicted as intermittent showers so there was the risk of forgetting me if it became sunny. My fear came to fruition when one day, she left me on the seat. I was bereft and felt my life was over. Someone put me in the newspaper rack where I sat, feeling abandoned and alone, for weeks. I began to see a woman every day and I telepathically pleaded with her to please adopt me. So one day, Marilyn who had gotten my message, realized that nobody was going to claim me, and being the brash New Yorker that she is, took me home. That was three years ago, and we have been through so much. She is not perfect, but she loves me. She keeps me in her car and takes me into the gym periodically. The problem with her is that she has “lost” me so many times I cannot count, but somehow always finds me. It seems that we are meant for each other and maybe, just maybe, I have finally found my forever home.

Moon Tales

We gathered in our living room back in 1969 as a family. We came together to watch the first man to walk on the moon. We were awestruck.

We were a real family that night—just like any other.

It was four days before my birthday, July 20, 1969, and my most wonderful memory of that famous day was that my crazy, dysfunctional family, came together as one.

We were a family in name and proximity only—four people who just happened to be living in the same apartment, never spinning in the same orbit.  It is something I never really noticed before until my first husband brought it to my attention once.  As an outside observer, he said, “You just live in the same space—like you were just thrown together—and you all don’t even seem related.” That was us—each one going our own separate way.  It seemed perfectly normal for everyone to eat at different times. Nobody waited for anyone else because we were on totally different schedules. My dad worked two jobs and had to eat early to go to his nighttime job at the post office. I would always try to avoid him when he came home about 5 pm. If it were the summer, I would deliberately stay outside until he left. On school days when I was home, a distinct feeling of dread would engulf me when I heard the key in the door and I would think, “Oh, he’s home” and would have to endure an hour of criticism about everything under the sun—nothing was off limits. When he left, I breathed a sigh of relief.  My mom, who worked full time as a legal secretary, would always come home later than anyone so she would leave little notes on the small kitchen counter telling us what was in the frig that we were supposed to heat up for dinner. It was always something different for each of us but we would know who the instructions were addressed to by the title: M (for Marilyn), S (for Sam—my dad), and G (for Gordon—my brother). Those monikers stuck because I still call my brother G and he still calls me M.

I guess I didn’t know any better because my best friend, Janet, had a very strange, dysfunctional family too. In fact there were many parallels. I think living in a large apartment complex in Manhattan did not foster closeness in families. So, I simply thought it was normal to have everyone doing their own thing.

But when I look back on that magical late afternoon on Sunday, I can still feel the excitement. The anticipation was palpable and all our petty differences, and our apartness, were forgotten. I remember not even believing that a man was actually going to walk on the moon and that we would be seeing this on TV—it seemed more like a dream than reality. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that this bright mythical sphere in the sky would become real and tangible. That afternoon we gathered together in our living room in front of our black and white TV—a family, an honest to goodness family—sharing a moment in history—awestruck. It brings a smile to my face when I look back at that day and I am still in awe. After many visits to the moon, it became almost commonplace, but in 1969, for that one moment in time, we, and the entire world were united and I had a real family.

Ambiguous Loss and Grief

Ambiguous Loss: I totally understand that concept. I have an adult son who has been battling mental illness for almost 20 years. He has been hospitalized numerous times, seems to recover and lead a productive, relatively “normal” life for a while, only to “relapse”, which actually implies he was ever free of his mental illness, which he has never really been. He is schizophrenic and is now on medication, but does not comply with the things he needs to do to function in the world. It is especially difficult because he lives in NJ and I live in Georgia. However, I have tried to get him into program after program, with therapists, and case managers only to have him reject the help that is freely offered him. He has been homeless for years, yet keeps turning down offers of housing from his treatment programs. I actually wrote about ambiguous loss in my blog, A Woman Speaks Out, back in 2014. When a loved one physically dies, there is a period of mourning that eventually gives way to some sort of acceptance and healing. But when your child becomes, “someone you used to know”, it is particularly difficult because how can you mourn somebody that has not died? It is easy and anybody who deals with a loved one with dementia or especially mental illness can understand this concept. I mourn the adorable boy he was, the young man with promise, the son who was always on the same wavelength with me, the boy with the great sense of humor. I am always waiting for  “the other shoe to drop” and wonder when the next crisis will be.  I grieve my boy, who I speak to periodically and actually sounds fairly “normal” on the phone. But, there simply is no reasoning with him about anything he does not want to do. It is a constant battle for me to disassociate myself on some days, just so I can have some sort of happiness. I am in mourning every single day and sometimes I wonder how things would be if he passed away. God forbid, but I could grieve and then begin to heal. But then I hate myself for even thinking the unthinkable. When there is ambiguous loss, you grieve the loss of the essence of your loved one; you mourn every single day, some days less then others. You live in a roller coaster world where one day you may get some good news from his therapists and then suddenly there is no movement or he goes backward. One step forward, two steps back and then you often have to start from scratch. This happens over and over with no relief in sight. You cannot talk to most people about your “loss” because they do not understand. You cannot constantly bombard people with the latest horror story because they do not want to hear it. You have to put on a happy face, when underneath there is about 20% of my brain that cannot ever, ever, be happy. There is that part of me with a broken heart that I have to hide lest I be considered a “negative” person. And then there is the loss of hope—the feeling that nothing will ever get better. That hopelessness is deadly because it leads to depression on my part. I know that acceptance is the key to everything, but this is often a bitter pill to swallow and it is hard to accept that your child is gradually disappearing before your very eyes.