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Category Archives: Crap that makes me eat too much ice cream

The general insanity – father, children, brain – that sends me straight for the carton.

Cancer sucks but you’re beautiful

Monitoring stations divide the functionally open room; chairs and beds strategically positioned in every corner and in every chair and bed a body. I pull her plaid rolling luggage carrier filled with snacks and warm booties and we make light small talk while following the kind, ample bodied nurse, softened even further by the box of chocolates my cousin hands her.

This treatment my cousin has not scored a bed and she reclines in her waiting chair, seeking maximum comfort in a place with minimal comforts. Removing her soft cotton slouchy cap from her newly shorn head, she sighs, relieved to be uncovered, momentarily enjoying the coolness of leather against her scalp.

Not too long ago I watched them buzz it off, or what was left of it. Her once richly luxurious hair fell in dark thin clumps onto the floor in her kitchen while I manically swept, worried the hair would trigger unstoppable tears to fall as well. Amazingly they didn’t. She was already all cried out.

How did we get here? To this chair, in this cool, efficient room where my beautiful, vibrant cousin who manages her life and work with the power and fierceness of a clap of thunder and her 2 ½ year old like a soft cloud filtered by sun sits before me hooked up to drips and portals and an amazingly bright smile.

She looks herself, pretty with sparkly earrings and lipstick. I remember all the times years ago watching her artfully apply a streak of black liner or curl her lashes with an apparatus that resembled a director’s chair. Four years older, she walked all the paths of adolescence first – from makeup to boys to drinking – and her sister and I followed with her as our guide.

It’s been decades since I watched her transform her face in the magnifying mirror; a little girl standing behind her admiring her maturity, confidence and skill. I feel much like that girl now, seeing her here, admiring her beauty, her courage and strength. But unfortunately Cancer is not something lipstick can cover.

No one can truly understand what it’s like to live through the pain and discomfort, the emotional turmoil and sleepless nights, the phone calls telling and retelling a story that makes you sick, the people who disappoint you and the hope and doubt that constantly wage war along with the medications inside you.

While most of my days stream by with carpooling and homework, running to the supermarket or gym, my cousin endures one treatment to the next fueled on pharmaceuticals and kisses from her daughter.

But I see that sunshiney day in the not too distant future when this will all be past. Instead of talking in between fluids and poisonous, life-saving drips, we will laugh between sushi rolls and Chardonnay. She will be well and move on to enjoying the frustrations and difficulties of everyday – the annoying woman in front of her at check out, negotiating with her two year-old to go potty, working her job while managing her household.

There will be nothing new and exciting to discuss beyond what we ate for dinner, where we went on the weekend and our beautiful, wonderful, sometimes pain in the ass children.

Life will be typical, average, ordinary. And we will celebrate.

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Wildcat Down

For years I’d jerk awake, hearing her morning cry and think it was one of my babies. Even with my boys aged 13, 10 and 7, the sound instinctually propelled me from bed in a state of semi consciousness ready for nursing, throw up, a bad dream or whatever. About a ¼ a second later however, too exhausted to even roll my eyes, I’d mutter, “Be quiet, Buzz!” at the feline padding around my room, a small stuffed animal hanging from her mouth and immediately fall back to sleep. FullSizeRender (16)

Back when she was a kitten, the truth is, I didn’t like her much. Even though I cupped her six week old body in my palms, feeding her through a tiny bottle in my New York City apartment, she never really left the bodega where we found her and remained stray and wild at heart.  If she saw skin, she would go for blood. Early on, I recognized the merits of heavy socks and learned to tread lightly, especially if I needed the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Buzz relished the surprise attack, actually causing two of my cleaning women to quit screaming the words ‘gato loco’ as they rushed past. It was true. My gato was loco. But she was also frisky and sharp, and occasionally allowed me the privilege of stroking her smooth charcoal coat.

When I had my son, we immediately purchased a netted crib covered. Either Buzz realized she was on thin ice or instinctually knew that babies were babies and allowed them a free pass to roll around without fear or occasionally rip at her fur with no recourse.

I should have known since all her adult life she carried little Beanie Baby stuffed animals around, often moaning as she did. I am forever guilty of denying her motherhood, so I accepted her stalking attacks as payback.

Nineteen years is a long time to love a cat that I wasn’t even sure I liked. And I know she lived a good, long life, but it’s so odd now to be woken by silence.

A week ago, I found her always agile body unable to eat, drink or hold herself upright. She lay limp, surrounded by the stuffed animals she loved to carry. But I refuse to think of her that way. Instead I will remember the screaming cleaning women, her sleek, royal demeanor, her sleeping in my hair and laying all over my keyboard and know that my dangerous, beautiful wildcat is now stalking loftier pastures ready to pounce.

Three weeks ago, holding her own.

                Love you, my crazy cat. 

Mother Load

I pull up to my house and see our pitch backs and goal nets arranged in a way that suggest that my oldest son had concocted some creative and convoluted new game for his brothers to compete in. The front lawn with balls and equipment strewn about, looks so lived in and loved. Granted, on a colder not as bright day, it might instead look like we’re a bunch of pigs, albeit, athletic ones. But right now, blinded by sunshine, the thought of them out there fighting, I mean, playing together gives me the warm fuzzies as I open the trunk to retrieve the groceries.

Through the open screen door, I hear my husband bellow, “Boys! Go help your mother!” For some reason it strikes me funny that he is talking about me. If he would have said, ‘Go help mommy,” I probably wouldn’t have blinked. I’m used to being mommy, but somehow, it feels odd to realize that I am in fact the ‘mother’.

I stand by the trunk gleefully waiting for the mess of them to tumble out – My nearly 13 year-old with his surprisingly strong body and sweet baby face, my 10 year old, full of sass and sparkle and my 7 year old with his mop of curls that mirror my own and a face that everyone wants to squeeze. My boys, I think sentimentally, coming to help their mother.

Any second the screen will fly open. Annnnny second. Maybe they can’t find their shoes? I think but discard that theory immediately. Who am I kidding, to them shoes are an overrated, optional accessory.

I wait another 30 seconds, sigh and gather up the bags. Slinging my pocketbook over my shoulder, I rest the two heaviest in the bend of each arm, carry two more in each hand and lumber toward the house like one of the monsters in an episode of Scooby Doo.

Opening the screen requires acrobatic maneuvering and strength that only two day a week attendees of Parisi sport training classes can master. I am crouched down, the bags that I refuse for some idiotic reason to put down, cutting off circulation in my arms. My thighs give a little shake just to let me know how vulnerable I really am, but I overcome and somehow manage to get my middle finger, white from asphyxiation, to pull open the door.

It is remarkably quiet in a house which should be a flurry of activity in their race to get out to me. “Tell the boys to help,” my husband calls to me from the office. I can’t even answer as I lug the bags to the kitchen. Of course the boys are nowhere to be seen, which means one thing. I listen by the basement stairs. Yup, Minecraft.

Hurmph!

Automatically I start unpacking the groceries, the Norman Rockwell image vanished. At this point, it’s just easier and more relaxing than calling the boys up. Besides, if I really want support I know exactly where to find it.

I remove the tub of Rocky Road from the bag and instead of putting it in the freezer, get a spoon and plop myself down at the table.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to help yourself.

 

Sometimes, you just have to help yourself.

Helping myself some more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even when your heart stops, the clock keeps ticking

“How much longer?!” My 7 year-old whines, even though we’ve only just arrived.

I check the car clock. 5:17pm. “Any minute now,” I say, watching a smattering of kids emerge from the Middle School gym doors.

We are right on time, actually ahead of schedule since I usually receive my 12 year-old’s ‘pick me up’ call at around 5:20pm. Tonight is one of those nights where the clock is ticking harder and faster than Marisa Tomei’s from My Cousin Vinny, although unless you’re over 40 you probably won’t know anything about that.

Basically, I need to pick up my 9 year-old from Hebrew School by 6pm, drop the 12 year-old off, and then shoot over to the 9 year-old’s basketball game from 6:30-7:30pm. Then the 12 year-old gets picked up at 8:10pm and goes straight to his basketball game from 8:30-930pm, but by then my husband has taken over and I’m home with the younger ones running in different circles.

“This is taking forever!” My little one grumbles. I don’t begrudge him. As the youngest, he’s a semi-hostile member of Team Mommy, we who schlep and spectate.

5:24pm.

Where is he? Usually he’s out by now. I had hoped to let them eat at Smashburger, but now it’ll probably be a car picnic in the Temple parking lot. Annoying. I send him a quick text. “Outside waiting.”

5:26pm.

The girls basketball and boys wrestling teams also let out and there is a steady stream of sweaty young teens. I squint to see if there’s anyone I know, but it is dusk and all I can make out is that they are all dressed inappropriately for winter.

5:27pm.

An uncomfortable thought creeps into my head. Typically, between finishing classes at 3:10pm and heading to the gym, he sends me a quick text “Going to volleyball”, but today he didn’t check in.

5:28pm.

“I’m soooo hungry!” My 7 year-old complains over and over but it folds into my rising anxiety.

5:29pm.

A few familiar looking boys come out. I open my window to ask if they’ve seen my son, but they are engaged with each other and I am embarrassed to interrupt and embarrass my son by being the crazy mom which I am totally being.

5:30pm.

He’s barely even late, I scold myself. What is wrong with my brain?!

5:31pm.

It is growing dark. The parking lot slows to an unsettling quiet. Kids still fill the gym anteroom waiting for their rides but the heavy doors swing open on slower intervals, like when you put the window washers on low.

5:32pm.

Why didn’t he text earlier? Why hasn’t he texted now? I call but it goes to his voicemail, which isn’t even set up. I call again. And again.

5:33pm.

My neck strains to see inside the school. My hand grips the door handle ready to jump out. Where? Where?

5:34pm.

There. Right there. Smile sweet as melted sugar and posture relaxed as a lazy bear, he saunters over. Of course. I breathe. Of course.

“Finally!” My youngest huffs, “I’m soo hungry!”

“Sorry, mama,” he says, throwing himself and his over-sized backpack into the car. “Practice ran a little late and then I forgot my book.”

5:35pm.

I tousle his hair and warmly chastise him about not checking in as I simultaneously throw the car in gear and set off to Smashburger, the pickups, drop offs and all the rest, more keenly aware than ever that every minute counts.

 

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Words I Meant to Say

The thought entered my head when we were almost there and a pit of anxiety formed in my belly.

Oh shit.

Why didn’t I think of this sooner? Why had I let the month go by without realizing that I needed to do something?

But now it was almost too late. We were already on our way to my in-laws 50th anniversary party, a momentous occasion, and I had nothing to say prepared.

Not that I wanted to say anything. I hate hate hate speaking in public.  But of course, I did want to say something, because they deserved to have something said.

It’s not too late, my brain reminded me. The party wasn’t starting for at least 2 hours. You can do it.

I didn’t know if I could.

Just in case, I started writing and re-writing sentences in my head, until finally I had something I could work with; not perfect, but without the cushion of time and the comfort of my computer room, it wasn’t half bad.

We got to the party and bright smiling faces I had known for years filled my sister and brother-in-law’s lovely backyard.  I made nice and chatted but kept sneaking off to the bathroom or a quiet corner to repeat the sentences in my head.

I think I can I told myself, but didn’t even have to imagine the heart palpitations and the light headed feeling I’d get when I thought how I might trip over my words, lose my train of thought and embarrass myself.

By the time my sister and brother-in-law took to the mike to welcome everyone and say a few words, I was completely stressed and also annoyed by my own pathetic insecurity.

Just stand up and do it.

They were almost done; beautiful and poised, words rolling off their tongues, easy smiles on their lips. It was all so casual and warm. All of a sudden my thoughts felt practiced and wrong.

It was now or never.

It was never.

I let the moment go when they easily transitioned to the grandkids showing off some talents.  It was a relief.

And a huge disappointment.

I’m home now and it’s after 11pm but the sentences I practiced in my head that never came out of my mouth are still stuck there, waiting. So like the writer coward I am, I’m going to say them here, where it’s safe, even though I realize that for 90% of you, it will be totally meaningless and confusing.

But they will understand…

…So I was just trying to remember the first time I met Winnie and Hal. It must have been at the bungalows, but somehow I managed to overlook your smiling faces laughing with your friends on the lawn, eating or drinking. Ok, drinking. But I was young and only saw myself and of course that cute boy who turned out to be your son.

In my memory I first see you at your house in Brooklyn. It was so long ago, it’s only flashes really, of Coke cans and bags of bagels, newspapers and the sound of baseball on the television flipping back and forth from the Yankees to the Mets, to the Yankees to the Mets, Yankees, Mets…

There are a few too many adult males walking around in their underwear, but Grandma Helen is at the kitchen sink calling me Shayna Maidel, and a teen-aged Pamela who was a mystery to me with her dark lipstick, big hair and bigger clothes disappears in an overstuffed room that was very easy to disappear into.

And I know right away that this family is special, crazy… but special. Because at the heart of it all are two people so warm and wonderful. So caring and kind. So down to earth and genuine; so obviously devoted to each other and their family that I can’t help but sit myself right down at the kitchen table, open up the funnies and have myself a bowl of cereal.

So thank you for always making me feel loved and part of your family. For always being there with wise words and open arms. For giving me the gift of your wonderful son. And for showing me that love isn’t always in grand gestures but in making his coffee extra hot, and holding her close when you dance.

Here’s to you and the beautiful life you have created and the beautiful people who you are.

I love you.

Your daughter in law

 

love

 

Finding patience when you lose it

Today I realized I’ve lost something very important.

My patience.

I didn’t see it when I called my kids three times into the kitchen for their lunch but no one came until I stomped into the living room, snapped the TV shut and glared around menacingly.

I didn’t find it in the basement under the mountain of toys, the video games tossed around like garbage and the lego pieces scattered all over the floor. It definitely wasn’t under the one I stepped on.

It was nowhere in sight when my husband told me our baseball schedule for the next week… Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Monday and maybe but not definitely Wednesday.

Nor was it anywhere to be seen when my kids continuously tried to prolong staying up, even though at 11pm it was already past my bed time, by moving so slowly to wash up, then calling for drinks and snacks. I couldn’t even find it in the warm, extra hugs they tried to extract.

It certainly wasn’t under the table when I went to pick up the fork my son dropped and then banged my head.

Or in the sink under a pile of dishes.

I didn’t even bother looking for it by my father. No way I’d find it there.

Where o where was it?

For many years I gave everything, did everything and accepted everything. I had more of my patience but less of me, and it was all good. It was how it was supposed to be.

Now I feel a shift. I’m finding myself, making my needs and wants count. There will always be the household chores, moments of frustration, and times where you need more strength than others, but now that my kids are a bit older, all of a sudden I feel they’re supposed to get with the program, even though up until recently the program was I do everything.  It’s not their fault. These things take time. I’ve changed the channel on them, and I guess I no longer have tolerance for any other.

Still it’s coming. I see it when my children bring their dishes to the sink without reminder, automatically brush their teeth and get themselves dressed in the morning, make an effort to be nicer to each other, listen by only the second time I ask. And who wouldn’t smile when the kid covered in chocolate swears he ate none.

Of course there’s still…

“Mommy, I wanna build a set up with you!”

“Mommywatch me!Mommywatchme!Mommywatchme!”

“Where are my socks?”

“PLEASEEEEEEEE!”

“He won’t stop touching me!”

“Make him stop siiiiiingingggg!”

But we’re getting there…

Patience.

Could my patience be hiding in here?

Could my patience be hiding in here?

Sick days, Blue days and Birthdays

I really want to write something right now but I think I may be getting sick. My throat is scratchy and I’m feeling so tired. No matter that I got up at 5:45am because the cat was crying loudly again at the foot of my bed.

She’s old, pushing 18, and it’s like every morning she’s announcing, “I’m still here!” I’d like to toss her across the room and throw her the hell over there, but instead I get up with a heavy sigh and pad downstairs alongside her. We are both a little slower and more creaky than we were just a few years ago.

I give her fresh food as she twists through my legs. This used to be no big deal, but now half the time I almost trip on her. My cat’s cat reflexes have also gone to the dogs and she is no longer adept at darting out of my way.  We are two clumsy old broads.

My throat really is sore and I grab a piece of cantaloupe from the fridge, hoping the juiciness will soothe it. It does for an eighth of a second and then I’m back where I started, but now I’m thinking I need some Advil. I know it’s bad to take on an empty stomach but it’s barely 6am and I can’t think of putting anything in there except my coffee, irritating or fruit, acidic.

I take another piece of cantaloupe, sip my coffee and consider it all while I rest my head on my desk instead of typing brilliant, entertaining prose like I’m supposed to be.

When I pick my head up it is 7am and my middle son is looming over me. He wants a morning hug, pancakes and to know whether he needs to wear his blue or white shirt for his baseball game later.

I check the calendar and confirm that it is in fact a blue day and then realize the date. July 10th.  And now I feel a little sicker. It is my grandmother’s birthday. She died two and a half years ago and would have been 93.

I know she’s hovering around, watching me, tsking when she sees my boys running outside without shoes, invisibly rubbing my hand in that circular comforting way that she had when I’m on the phone with my father, wishing she could send over some lobster Cantonese, fried rice and an egg roll because right now I know she wants to fatten me up.

She took such joy in life and in the challenge of life. She was a lawyer without a license, a psychologist without a degree. A lover of babies, a card shark, a chicken soup maker, a shoe thrower, a piece of work, a force to reckon with, a giver of jewels, words of wisdom and tough love; a matriarch, a mother, a grandmother and a great grandmother.

From her first “Helloooeee” to her last “I love you more” and every affectionate “You rotten bitch” in between she captivated you with her commanding tone and raspy voice.

I wish I could do her justice but no one could.

I still hear her and think of her and wish she was here with me to enjoy my boys and tell me in person everything I’m doing wrong and how exactly I should be doing it. We would laugh over a bagel and lox, a good cup of coffee and lick our lips before we dove into our bowls of chocolate ice cream. We would talk for hours, but mostly I would listen, because she was a fascinating woman who led a fascinating life.

It’s July 10th and it’s a blue day. My throat hurts and now so does my heart.

Damn I miss this woman

Damn I miss this woman