Category Archives: Family

BROTHERLY LOVE?

The Manfred Story—1985 Writing Assignment…

Manfred padded into my hospital room wearing bedroom slippers and no socks about three the next day, not wanting me to expect regular visits of compassion, his being busy with his cockroach collection and all. Told him I neither expected nor wanted them, his camaraderie being something I had gotten used to doing without some fifteen years ago around the time we began sharing the dim little flat I hated to admit was home. He did tell me he wouldn’t rent out my room while I was laid up, felt he owed me at least that since I was his brother and all, and felt like he owed at least that much to our mother, “May she rest in peace.” He had this annoying habit of always tacking on that stupid epitaph whenever he mentioned our long-dead mother. I knew at that moment that by the time my confinement ended, I would probably not only hate my priggish brother, but my poor mother as well.

Thinking about being chained to that bed by the octopus contraption suspending my mangled leg, and having to endure even irregular visits from Manfred, I began plotting my escape. There had to be a way out, but the doctor only laughed when I suggested that night that a pair of crutches would free the bed up for somebody who really needed it, malpractice suits, that sort of thing.

I was doomed to endless ramblings about gutter-side neighborhood happenings, listening to excerpts from The Old Man and the Sea, insincere words of cheer, from Manfred’s drool-dripping lips, until in my second month of sober imprisonment the idea struck of pretending to lapse into a coma, a result of a delayed concussion from the tumble into my premature grave.

Manfred, being the ignorant porker that he was, believed these theatrics for two-and-a-half weeks until one of his cronies told him he overheard a doctor on the street at his lunch hour talking over my case with another hospital type.  Reported that they were going to release me if I continued to improve at the rate I seemed to be.

He descended on me within days of hearing this good news to assure me he really was glad I had regained consciousness, because he had something urgent to discuss, which turned out to be not so urgent, but he thought that was the only way I would agree to let him stay in the same room with me for more than two minutes. And he was right, having been without a drink for about two months, I was not fit company for even normal folks, let alone this sloth I had to admit was related. Sobriety making it even more difficult to look at him, his distended belly eliminating even a hint of belt somewhere where his middle was assumed to be, yellowed teeth, stained tee shirt, that sort of thing. Anyway, it seems when he agreed not to rent out my room he was sure I’d be up and good as new within a week or so, but my coma act convinced him that taking in a boarder might not be such a bad idea after all, him being afraid of being alone as he was, which he did, but now didn’t know what to do about, so he wanted me to be sure to give him plenty of notice so the other guy could clear his pigeon coups and stuffed squirrel collection, that sort of thing, out of my room before I got out and came back to the flat, if that’s what I was planning to do. Told me he would understand if I wanted to look for a place of my own, since he guessed I probably wouldn’t be drinking anymore because of the fate it brought me to.

Good God, what an idea, not to go back there, maybe sobriety would be worth it, my head gears shifted into third. No more Manfred, no more enduring conga-accompanied monologues about Moby Dick, watching spit drip down that double chin. Maybe sober I could do it – escape, sweet thought. Had to concentrate. Manfred left.

Spent the next week and a half reading apartments for rent pages, too much money, no private bath, that sort of thing, until at last I found it — third floor one bedroom, he’d never make it up all those steps, it was perfect. Called and set myself up for the day I was getting out.

Had to see Manfred one more time before I could leave, called, said he was busy reading or something, couldn’t make it out. Told him he could keep his new roommate, I wouldn’t be coming back, but now I couldn’t leave the hospital with no trousers to wear because of the shearing they took when I was brought in. Said he would see what he could do since he promised our mother, “May she rest in peace,” that he’d look out for me when she died. Told him I would let him out of that promise if he’d just bring me the trousers as quick as possible, I was anxious to breathe fresh air and take a walk and maybe see some other faces, and he brought them, after waiting two days, that was to be expected.

Manfred was a little slow-witted, not all home, playing with a light deck, that sort of thing. And I was ready to forgive him for taking so long and all, and I would have, if he hadn’t taken that awful tumble on the way into my hospital room, hitting his head on the protruding part of the bedpan on the table by the door, and died before I could. That was to be expected, if you knew Manfred as I did.

Advertisements

YIN AND YANG

When you look at your children (if you happen to have some), you see beginnings and wonder about their future. They are your sun.

 

When your children look at you (again, if you happen to have some), they see endings and wonder about your past. You are their moon.

 

Your children will make you crazy over and over again…

That’s their job.

It’s paybacks for all the crazy you put your own parents through.

 

You will make your children crazy over and over again…

That’s your job.

It’s your earned privilege for reaching old age without having killed them when they made you nuts.

 

Hopefully, whether we see beginnings or endings, we will all do it with love in our hearts…and not hurt each other along the way. Know that we all need the sun for its warmth, and the moon to light our way in the darkness.

 

THE BODIES ARE PILING UP!

It’s January, and the dead bodies are piling up.

The murders began at the end of November and continued through December.

Some of the murders were done by hired killers out in the countryside. Others were committed by dedicated dads and moms in the suburbs  to please their offspring. Still others were carried out by well intentioned young men  from the city to impress their girlfriend or new bride.

These brutalities were accomplished with chainsaws, axes, hatchets, or other sharp-edged implements — in broad daylight!

No one reported hearing any screams. When interviewed, folks reported the victim was very quiet, never caused any trouble, and kept to themselves. Then, the witness would slam their door shut to prevent reporters from peering into their own homes.

Why? What were they hiding? Did they commit one of these atrocities themselves? Was there a path of evidence strewn across their living room floor leading to the front door? And what was that scattering of brownish-green specks trailing to the curb?

Yes. Christmas is over, and the dead bodies of blue spruce, balsam pine, and every species of fir tree are piling up outside of homes across America.

We chop them down. Drag them in. Argue over the best side to face ‘out’ avoiding the obvious hole Mother Nature laughingly placed in the most inconvenient spot. Adorn them with ornaments that refuse to hang straight and lights that never fail to blink out in one section just when we think we’re all done. Water them when we manage to remember. Declare them to be the most beautiful Christmas tree we’ve ever had. Demand family and friends pose in front of them for photos. Become one with our vacuum cleaner for the duration of the holidays.

Then . . . when the New Year celebrations end, we strip our victims of their colorful decorations, curse their falling needles poking up through our carpets, and drag them to the curb. No remorse. No fond farewell. No looking back. Good riddance.

A simple promise passing our lips: “No live tree ever again.”

 

Until next year comes, and the killing begins again.

THE QUEEN AND I HAVE A YULETIDE MESSAGE FOR YOU!

STAY CALM, and:

Finish shopping for your family, and 75 of your closest friends and colleagues, making sure you stay under that $200 limit you set for yourself this year;

Bake 500 dozen cookies that are so special no one has ever eaten them before;

Decorate at least three trees of varying size for inside your house with different themes, one of which must be woodland creatures;

Check batteries on all those “safe” candles you now own, so the cats and dogs, and babies don’t set themselves on fire;

Add one more string of lights outside, so TV station satellites can pick out the glow of your home from space;

Cook every kind of meat that exists so everyone (including that Uncle we all have) enjoys Christmas dinner;

Cook every vegan dish you can think of so the two people you know who are vegan don’t starve;

Watch all twenty gazillion Christmas movies in one weekend while you . . .sing along to every Carol that was ever written;

Send out at least two thousand Christmas/holiday cards to remind everyone you’ve ever met in your life that you are still alive;

And, most importantly — make sure the liquor cabinet is well-stocked, so you can accomplish all of the above!

Enjoy the holidays . . . and try not to hurt anyone.

From our castle to yours … MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

♫ MISTY WATER-COLORED MEMORIES . . . OF THE WAY WE WERE ♫

He wanted to be scary…she wanted to be pretty.

She was six…he was five.

This was one of those Halloweens that seared itself into the recesses of my mind, just waiting to bring a smile upon request by my consciousness.

I make that request every year at this time.

Wasn’t it yesterday that I said, “to hell with it!” and cut a good white sheet to drape over my little boy’s frail frame? And wasn’t it that same yesterday when I taught my little girl the Roaring Twenties song, “Anything Goes?”

I can still hear him roar as he raised his stretched arms, because, to him, that would be much more frightening than simply shouting “boo!”

Placing the dark brown wig over her bright red tresses to hide her identity from her classmates was the only demand my little flapper made.

To ensure the whole Halloween experience would be absorbed into their own memory-banks — I reminded him to roar at each door . . . and her little girl voice belted out: “In olden days a bit of stocking was looked on as something shocking…now, heaven knows —anything goes!”

This Halloween season, I hope you share your own recollections with friends and family, and keep building on those “Misty, water-colored memories.”

I’d also love to read them in the comments section of this post, if you’re so inclined, Dear Readers!

 

 

 

ONCE MORE. . .WITH FEELING!

Old couple watching TV

“Would you like to go to NYC for New Year’s Eve?” he asked.

“Sure. Why not,” she said.

And so,  they held hands.

“What is your favorite color dead leaf?” he asked.

“Orange,” she said.

And so,  they dated.

“Will you marry me?” he asked.

“Have another beer,” she said.

And so,  they laughed.

“He asked me to marry him, is that okay?” she asked.

“About time. It’s your life,” her children said.

And so,  she said yes.

“Does Bastille Day work for you?” he asked.

“Definitely,” she said.

And so,  they were married.

“Will you hand me the remote?” he asked.

“Here ya go,” she said.

And so,  they smiled and grew old together.

 

WHEN IRISH EYES STOP SMILING

 

Her heart stopped. And my heart broke.

“Is she gone?” I asked.

“Yes,” the doctor said with tears cascading over her pale cheeks to drip from her chin.

I threw myself over her soft body like I had seen women of the Middle East do in the midst of bombings, while mourning their dead children.

I wailed like them for our little girl, Katie Scarlett. Only ten years old.

I kissed her head and said, “Good-bye my little girl.” I thought I might not be able to stop sobbing. My adult daughter and my husband moved back to let me hold her close one last time.

I’ve seen death up close before. But, for some reason, this was different.

I asked the doctor, “What happens now?”

She said her body would be picked up and her ashes should be available for us to pick up by the end of the week.

I cannot reconcile myself to this loss. There are so many holes in my life now. Our beautiful Irish girl was gone from us. Our beloved Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, was not coming home.

 

Katie Scarlett at one year old
Katie Scarlett at ten years old.

Save

Save

WHY I HATE UNICORNS!

When the kids were young, they depended on me for everything. Food, clothing, shelter, changing the channel on the TV…you know—all the important stuff. I even bathed them when they were dirty! I was a good mom.

Through the years, I taught them how to sing, read, do all kinds of crafty things on rainy days. The crafty lessons were mainly to help me keep my sanity while they were stuck indoors.

They would fall down. Get scrapes and bruises. Push each other down. Get more scrapes and bruises. The crying and screaming sometimes became as irritating as nails skimming a blackboard. But, they were mine and I loved them, so I’d hug them, kiss them, patch them up, and tell them not to hit, bite, or kick the perpetrator in retaliation. Some times that worked.

During those early days, home desk-top computers came into fashion and affordability. Naturally, only the adults were allowed to touch the keyboard. After all, kids didn’t understand “if then/goto” and all the very complicated jargon of that early behemoth that required its own special room in the house. God forbid anything spilled within ten feet of that fifty-ton monster.

As the mom, I was permitted to play “games” on the computer. At the time, my game of choice (my only choice) was a text-based game called, “Zork.”

The only clear memory I have of suffering through that adventure game was the phrase, “The Unicorn is a mythical beast!”

That phrase glared at me in annoying white letters on that beast of a black screen more times than I could count. I recall it was in response to my trying to remove the key hanging around the Unicorn’s neck so I could open the next door…or some such thing.

In my frustration, the word choices that exploded from my brain to my mouth could only be spoken out loud after the little darlings were fast asleep!

Special Note: For those today who believe Facebook is a time-suck machine—you obviously never played “Zork!”

After hours and hours of hunching over the keyboard, tapping various instructions to the gremlins everyone knew lived inside the monster (and who obviously took great pleasure in making me crazy), I would trudge up the stairs to bed, bleary-eyed and grumbling to myself about how I would kill that Unicorn some day!

The next morning, my adorable, loving children would stare at me, frightened,  as they sat down to eat their breakfast of scrambled eggs and jelly beans.

Ah, technology!

 

PLEASE SHARE YOUR EARLIEST MEMORIES OF HOW MODERN TECHNOLOGY AFFECTED YOUR LIFE . . . INQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW!

TURKEY TROT

Thanksgiving is next week. I can’t believe how calmly I said that.

We celebrate Thanksgiving each year at our house—and by “we” I mean twenty to forty immediate family members!

In the old days, when there were seven or eight of us sharing the holiday, the beautifully roasted turkey would take center-stage in the middle of the dining table waiting for the ceremonial (dramatic music playing in the background) carving. It was surrounded by the appropriate side dishes and condiments, with lovely serving forks and spoons of polished silver.  Each person had at least two glasses included in their place-setting that rested on a lovely table linen, and their napkins were actually held, just so, in rings of appropriate autumnal materials.

We all sat together,

said “Grace” together,

ate together,

and sang “We Gather Together” together!

We made Norman Rockwell proud!

Kiss those days good-bye!

Thanksgiving now begins the night before, with the female regulars coming over to peel and cut up every vegetable there is; eating pizza in-between mincing olives for the stuffed celery; arguing over using a food processor instead of knives for chopping onions for the stuffing and gravy; singing and dancing and telling stories of the “old days”; eating chocolates; and drinking wine. Drinking a lot of wine. When the wine is all gone, the evening ends.

The family has grown exponentially. And the next day, Thanksgiving:

It’s buffet-style from the kitchen counters:

Elbowing each other to get to the gravy.

Making “yuck” sounds, as one of the perhaps two people who actually like them, spoon creamed onions onto their plate.

Waiting in line to take your seat at one of the three to six tables in various rooms because the person seated at the end in the corner is still in the kitchen fixing their plate and nobody else can sit down until they do—unless everyone stands up and moves out of the way to let them through—which is not done with smiles on their faces because their food is getting cold!

Make sure you grab a napkin before somebody else takes it!

Invariably, someone says, raising their voice above the din, let’s say “Grace.”  Five people actually hear them, and so a syncopated “Amen” is heard.

As the hostess, I try to join at least one or two people as I eat my always over-filled plate of turkey and everything else, before most of the clan are back in the kitchen for seconds.

Finally, when the thirty-seven desserts (I might be exaggerating a bit here) have been transformed from their initial beautiful presentations to mounds of unidentifiable mush, it’s time to do the dishes. At this point, the male family members all forget what their thumbs are for and cannot hold a dishtowel.

Through the evening, laughter is the underpinning of the chaos!

Time is not on my side at Thanksgiving, which is why you will never see an artistic vegetable tray like that pictured above anywhere near my house!

But, in the end, I know I am blessed more than most to have such a large, boisterous, loving, family to be with at this beautiful time of year. So, yeah—

Thanks!

Happy (early) Thanksgiving everyone. Please let me know in the comment section if you have any suggestions for keeping the craziness at a minimum this year!