Happy Birthday

My 70th Birthday is tomorrow—Yikes! How did that happen and where did the years go. In February 2021, when I was 68, I got breast CA.

My 70th Birthday is tomorrow—Yikes! How did that happen and where did the years go to?

In February 2021, when I was 68, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After two surgeries—a lumpectomy and then a mastectomy, I finally started chemotherapy on April 20th.  Two days later was Janet’s 69th birthday. I was feeling OK despite having had my first chemo infusion two days earlier, so when Bill invited me to her birthday party I decided to go. All her kids were there (except John, who has no interaction with his father), and they had a cookout. I managed to eat a hot dog, hamburger, and salad. The whole time I was there, Janet sat in her living room rocker, bundled up in a blanket. She was always cold because she had no meat on her—she was skin and bones. Everybody kept asking, “Mom, come and eat” at which she waved her hand in disgust, as if we were offering her worms, so she never had one bite. I started to speak to her when I first got there, and she conspiratorially said to me that she couldn’t talk because Bill would hear her. I told her that Bill was outside cooking with two doors closed and she still said her famous, “He has big ears.” I asked if he had bionic hearing, and she didn’t answer me.

I was told that day that the stem-cell transplant done for her MDS had basically stopped working and she had developed leukemia. Bill was talking about getting her another stem-cell transplant and the kids and I looked at each other with a silent acknowledgement that this was a crazy idea: that putting her through that horrific regimen would be a total mistake, and for what?  She had severe dementia at this point and I’m not sure how she got it but apparently, she had been in a steady decline for several years, according to April.

Fast forward to July 2021: April told me that she was not doing well. At first, she was in the hospital and Bill, in his hope to prolong her waning life, was still almost force-feeding her. This caused a huge rift between the kids, especially April and Bill. April just wanted him to stop trying to keep her alive and just let her go and he refused, thinking (selfishly) that he just didn’t want to say goodbye. Finally, they got her in home hospice with a hospital bed for the living room and that is where she stayed until she passed. At first April told me that it would not be a good idea for me to visit her since she was sleeping most of the time, but one day she texted and said if I wanted to, I could come over to the house that day because she was somewhat awake. I went over and she actually recognized me which gave me some solace. She was in and out of consciousness at that point and the hospice nurse said it could be any time. We were essentially on death watch. I don’t know the exact date that she died, but it was around July 20st or so. But on July 23rd her funeral was held. I know this so well because it was the day before my birthday. At that point I didn’t mourn her the way I would’ve if she had died suddenly, because she had been slipping away from me gradually over a period of years.

So, today, July 23, 2022, is a whole year since her funeral. She never even made it to 70. We used to joke that we would be in a nursing home and still trying to sell houses (that thing we did for a few years, among others, when I moved here}.

Now here I am, alone—my two best friends, Janet and Jane, have left me. I am now on the cusp of my 70th birthday and I feel so lost without them. Jane died a few years before, of what I do not know. She had MS, a heart condition, and diabetes, and she wasn’t even that old. When she died, I was so upset and devastated because I had just spoken to her recently and she seemed like she was doing well. Her family had all but abandoned her and they never even had an autopsy done to determine the cause of death. I suspect it was a heart attack. But the building super got into the apartment when nobody had seen her for a few days and found her. She was only 63.

I feel like a survivor, having gone through so much in my 60s, namely the horrific spinal tumor on T3 of my spinal cord, which prevented me from walking properly, and had constant nerve pain, a partially paralyzed thin right leg, which was cold to the touch from the knee down, etc. It was a nightmare and lasted for 4 months until it was diagnosed and I had surgery. Luckily, the tumor was benign as meningiomas usually are. Then there was the recent cancer diagnosis, and everything related to that—and here I still am—Still Standing (as Elton John’s song goes). Then of course there was the constant trauma due to having a mentally ill adult child living in the street.

I have been stressed and depressed about the idea that I would be officially OLD as DIRT, but now that the day has almost arrived, it is OK. I have a sense of relief that I basically look the same as I did last year and haven’t changed much. I always thought that when you turned 70, you were officially OLD and turned into a pumpkin. Wow, how that has changed. I see people like Becky who will be 75 in August, and she is on the go travelling all the time. She has an amazing zest for life that I wish I had. I asked her how she felt to be in her 70s and she said she loves it. Conversely, Margie will be 70 in December, and she said it didn’t bother her at all.

As of this writing, things have gotten infinitely better: I finished chemo and am on drugs to just prevent recurrence. I am grateful that it was Stage 1 and not metastatic and we want to keep it that way. Joseph has a subsidized apartment now (although he still has crazy thinking), he is on meds, seeing a shrink and therapist, and sounds somewhat sane when I speak to him (but not always). David now speaks to his dad, and Joseph which is monumental.

Yes, hopefully this next part of my life will be easier with less problems. But life is life and there are no guarantees that things will go smoothly, but if I keep on trucking, going forward one day at a time, try not to get bogged down with the small things (which is not always easy), try not to compare and feel jealousy (which is sometimes my nemesis), I may find that I can get through and maybe just maybe be happy. Happiness is something I almost never feel, but every once in a while, it comes over me when I am outside on a sunny warm day walking in the morning. It is sudden and swift and surprises me. It’s as if a ray of sunshine has opened up in my soul and I can breathe for a little while. The trick is keeping that feeling for more than just a few minutes. Maybe this is the decade that I will finally find the elusive and lasting feeling of happiness for no special reason other than just being alive.

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.

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

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.

Five Minutes to Live

The alarms are blaring outside and the TV has the shrill piercing beep and a warning to take cover immediately—that North Korea has launched missiles that will reach the U.S. in less than 5 minutes.

I’m so scared that I am almost in a catatonic state, finding it hard to believe that this is the end for us all. For weeks we have been getting dire predictions that war is imminent but like everyone else I did not really believe it. How could that be? How could any rational person let the rhetoric get so out of hand that here we are. But when you have so many lickspittles in Washington not willing to stand up to this administration, it was inevitable. When you have an unbalanced President who stokes the fires and provokes, and thinks it is macho to use the nuclear weapons at his disposal, it is bound to happen. I go through the motions of grabbing my birds and jumping into my bedroom closet—the safest place. But, as I am doing this I know there is no safety anywhere and I am doomed. Well at least I will die fast.

I close my eyes, think of my children and feel so sad that I will not be able to say goodbye. I harken back to when I was a child and I used to play the game of what if: what if the Russians launched a bomb and we were told it would hit us in 5 minutes? I remember saying that I would hide in the closet with no other thought of what would become of us. I remember hiding underneath the desk at school for our bomb drills and cannot believe that this is it and all that practice was for naught. However, I take solace in the fact that at least I won’t get any older, and that maybe I will see my boy in heaven, all healed and beaming. A feeling of peace and calm comes over me as I pray. Those sweet parrots of mine know something is wrong and instead of squirming and squawking they are quiet and strangely attentive, just sitting with me. I think of all the things I wanted to do and never did. I oddly worry about my computer and laptop, and my beautiful camera equipment. I think that nobody will ever know I existed because all traces of my life will be obliterated with everything else. I wonder if by some chance I do survive the initial impact, how long will it take for the radiation to travel and how us survivors will die a slow and agonizing death. I think back on the movie, “On the Beach” where survivors who lived in Australia waited for the inevitable. I remember the ominously preternatural TV movie, “The Day After” and try to remember how long it took for Jason Robards to die of radiation poisoning. I think of my friend whose entire family moved to Australia during the cold war, only to move back to New York a few years later. I wonder who will succumb first—me or the birds? I think that if only I had taken my phone into the closet I could at least say farewell to my son, but in my haste I left it outside on the counter. I wonder if anybody will be posting on Facebook or the Kardashians will post doomsday selfies, maybe burying them in a time capsule to let the future inhabitants of the world know who the beautiful people were. Will my pictures or paintings survive? How about my IRA—will I have money to live in the new apocalyptic world. Will I lose my hair and where will I get my hair done in the new world if I don’t die, knowing full well all these thoughts are totally ridiculous?

Then during my foray into the dire future or lack thereof, I suddenly become aware that the sirens have stopped and there seems to be some announcement on the TV. I wonder if I am just dead already. I listen carefully and decide to venture out of the closet only to hear the amazing announcement that a miracle of sorts has happened—the U.S. has intercepted the missiles and the strike has been averted. We will live—I will live—my children will live. The announcer is saying that the threat is over and during my rejoicing and relief, a cold and dark shadow appears to pass over me making me shiver and I sigh and say, “For now.”

I Apologize

I apologize to all the men and women who have sacrificed their lives during wartime for this great country fighting what is just and right. I apologize to the brave soldiers who were traumatized and bore witness to the worst of mankind during the liberation of the concentration camps—grown men who cried during interviews, even 50 years later. Those are images they could never erase from their minds and haunted them the rest of their lives. I apologize to all the Jews who lost their lives in concentration camps during the Holocaust as well as being gunned down and buried in mass graves by the Nazis. I apologize to all the innocent African Americans who have been lynched at the hands of the KKK in the name of “White Nationalism.” I apologize to all of us who have been the victims of racism and anti-Semitism in the name of White Nationalists, the KKK, and other Alt-right fringe groups. I apologize on behalf of this great country of the United States for the insensitive, hurtful, unprecedented, and frankly dangerous stance taken by the President by not calling out these hate groups for what they are—hate filled anti-Semites and racists. I apologize to the brave people in Charlottesville who came out to protest the blatant Nazi, White Supremacy agenda who have been lumped together along with the “good people” “peacefully protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee” when we can see Nazi flags, swastikas, and Confederate flags waving proudly. I apologize for statements such as, “Don’t let Jews take our jobs” and calling out the President for allowing his daughter to be “taken” by Jared Kushner, who is Jewish. I apologize to the young woman who was mowed down and killed by a Neo-Nazi follower, who probably believes that she was just collateral damage. I am saddened that this sort of language does not seem to bother the President whose own daughter is now Jewish, as well as his grandchildren. I am frightened by the vehemence of these insane beliefs held by these previously fringe groups, that are now proliferating throughout the United States because of the lack of condemnation and frankly defense of these White Nationalist groups and the KKK. I am shocked, but not surprised at the belief that these sick cowardly groups feel they have a friend in the President. I am horrified that the formerly grand wizard of the KKK, David Duke, praised and thanked the President. I am disgusted at the spineless lack of strong response and condemnation, and any real action from the Congress. Words are meaningless unless followed by action. The good citizens of this country need to unite against hate groups and not let them become part of the mainstream fabric of this Country. Join me in the condemnation of hate groups before our beautiful, free, country becomes a fascist state. Open your eyes and see history for what it is; see what took hold in Nazi Germany, and how it started out in small ways. See how during the 1930s anti-Semitism began to take a foothold, with many people burying their heads in the sand and refusing to believe what was happening, all the while people were quietly losing their businesses, being denied basic rights, condemned without cause, culminating in the death of millions. Open your eyes everyone, no matter what your religion or race, and take a stand for what is right and just in this world because this affects us all.