Sunday, December 17, 2017

Another goodbye

On a sad note, my Aunt Fay died at 5:56 am yesterday morning. She had been very ill for a long time, and had been in and out of the hospital for the past few years. She went in again ten days ago, and told her children that she didn't think she was going to pull out of it this time. Her daughter confessed that at the moment she stopped breathing, she felt was a flood of relief that her mom wasn't in pain anymore. "She was so trapped in her body," she said, "and now she is free."

And now, of the original nine siblings in my mother's family, there is only Aunt Grace left. Indeed, she is the only person still alive from the family photo below. She lives in Toronto but was thankfully in Jamaica with her daughter when she got the news about Fay. I have often written here of the lifelong closeness of the nine siblings, especially the six sisters. It was extraordinary to behold.

In the photo up top, that's my mother Gloria on the right. Aunt Fay is seated on the left, and Aunt Beulah, who died four months ago, is wearing blue and has her arm around Fay. Aunt Grace is in the middle, and Aunt Maisy is to her right, next to my mom. They had gathered to celebrate their oldest sister Winnie's 92nd birthday. Winnie is the one with the white hair, my mother's hand on her arm. She was our matriarch in New York City. The joke in our family is that if the U.S. government had known how many of us would follow Winnie from Jamaica to America, they would never have let her immigrate in 1949. Fay and her husband and three young children were among the first to migrate after her. They moved to Florida, and later, to New Jersey where, at age 86, Aunt Fay died yesterday, her children and grandchildren around her.

Aunt Grace said yesterday that she knew Fay would not last long after Beulah died. They were the two youngest, and as bonded as twins. "This world is so lonely without all my sisters and brothers," Aunt Grace said. "I can just imagine the party they are having on the other side."


Choir concert

We had our main choir concert yesterday in an atmospheric old church on 57th Street. The acoustics were good and the audience of family and friends was enthusiastic. I don't have any good recordings unfortunately, but there is this snap that my friend Leslie took. We have one more concert to go on Monday evening, and then we're done for the season. I was reflecting the other day that choir is the least anxiety producing activity in my life. I do not get nervous before concerts, I do not worry about impressing anyone in the group, I enjoy every single person there and am entertained by their quirks, and no matter how sharp tongued our choir director gets when her stress level ramps up as the concerts approach, I take none of it personally. It's a fascinating lab for how it's possible to feel when I lay off the catastrophic thinking and overdeveloped sense of personal accountability for literally every eventuality and am able to keep a good perspective. I'm remembering some of the sweetness from yesterday's rehearsal before the concert: A French woman who joined this term came over to me and said in her musically accented voice, "Every time you smile at me I want to hug you." And we laughed and then hugged. For me, choir is purely for enjoyment, community and a change of pace from the usual. I love this low stakes life.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Reflections in the aftermath

I saw that woman on Alica Keys' instagram feed. I don't know who she is, but she's stunning. I'm posting her here because I've been thinking a lot about the fact that so many people in the country of my children's birth cannot see her beauty. 

I'm thinking that the 66 percent of white voters in Alabama who cast their lot with the child predator Roy Moore—the candidate who believes our nation would be better off if we simply eliminated all the constitutional amendments that came after the tenth, including the 13th which prohibits slavery; the 14th which grants all people equal rights under the  law; the 15th which gives African Americans the right to vote; and the 19th which gives women the right to vote; and who believes all LGBTQ people are an abomination, and that America was only truly great during slavery days—well, maybe all those people who voted to send this man to the United States senate can't see what is luminous in the woman whose photograph is posted here. 

To all those women who voted for the child predator despite his belief that they shouldn't even be allowed to vote, and to all those men who supported him based on little more than his Republican party affiliation, which has become a blaring trumpet for the supremacy of whiteness, I'd like to point out that it was women and men with skin the same rich blackness as the woman in that photograph who helped eke out a win for the Democrat, Doug Jones. Black folks showed up at the polls in numbers that exceeded even their turnout for Obama, because they knew just how dangerous a Roy Moore/Steve Bannon/Donald Trump win would be. And they helped Doug Jones secure the victory. They made sure that the candidate who is that increasingly rare breed, a true public servant, would win the Alabama senate seat. That made me almost as happy as I was a decade ago when Obama won the Iowa primary on a freezing cold January day, and I realized that he had a real shot at the presidency. 

It is the memory of that win, and of that fundamentally decent president's eight years in office that helps me to believe now that despite what went down in Alabama these last few weeks, and what has gone down in the White House and the Republican-led Congress this past year, America is not lost. This is still the same country that voted for a man named Barack Obama—twice. Maybe we're now just experiencing a necessary convulsion, lancing the diseased abscess of hatred and evil, getting all the muck out, getting ready for the courageous and the neighborly and the good. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Inclement weather


It snowed in the city yesterday, the flakes swirling gently to earth until well into the night. It snowed exactly like this the day after my mother died. 

My son and his girlfriend slept over here on Friday night, and they stayed with us all yesterday, cozy inside, looking out at the snowfall. I was loath to leave them, but our first choir concert of the season was happening way out in Forest Hills, Queens, at the Library for the Blind. It feels far away for spoiled Manhattanites, but two of my choir friends and I shared a car there, and split the cost, so the trek through inclement weather was made easy. Despite the snow, everyone showed up. It's always a great crowd there, including a lot of quite elderly people who are happy to have a reason to leave their homes. We wondered if they'd make it there over slippery sidewalks, but they did. We were rewarded by the usual faces, smiling at us as we sang. 

When I got back home the kids were still here, and my daughter's boyfriend also came over to use the printer, and to pick up a Christmas gift for our daughter that he'd asked to have shipped to our house. My daughter was out somewhere in the city with her cousin, while back at our house the rest of us chatted and laughed as we do, and enjoyed just being together. Eventually my son and his girlfriend left to go back to Astoria, and my daughter's boyfriend left to go and take care of the dog he and my daughter are dog sitting, and my husband put on his big ski jacket and headed to the store to pick up dinner for us. I didn't go with him. The icy, slushy ground is always a challenge for me to navigate, since one leg doesn't swivel or support as it's meant to do. I love the snow, but can't really revel in it the way I used to.

As for today, I have nothing really to report. I feel as dull and wavery as smoke this Sunday morning. 



Friday, December 8, 2017

Swamplandia

Al Franken had no choice but to resign, but damn, that one hurt. Meanwhile we have a sexual abuser in the White House and unrepentant swamp candidates like Roy Moore, who in addition to molesting underage girls, actually said that the last time America was truly great was during slavery. Sure we had slavery, he said, but our families were strong and our country had a direction. We all knew this is what "Make America Great Again" truly meant, but Roy Moore had the gall to say it. And the Republican Party has endorsed him for the senate. I guess they're just like fuck it, we'll be the party of racists and pedophiles. Come on out of the woodwork y'all. Let's not even pretend. Alabama, please. Don't wallow in the swamp with these men who don't care about you. Don't let this bigoted child molester win. Then again, Roy Moore said the other day that he has a kinship with Putin, which made me wonder what connection the cowboy costume wearing swamp dweller might have with the Russian strongman. It could be that Putin has already deployed his hackers to program Alabama's election machines. Maybe the vote is moot.



Thursday, December 7, 2017

This life


Things happening in my world:

1. My husband has begun the last phase of his medical treatment, which will likely last several months. My heart will not rest until this is completed. He appears nonplussed. I don't think he truly realizes how badly he scared us.

2. My daughter came over last night and told us that the mother of one of her friends has been placed on hospice care. The daughter is having a wedding dress party with her friends and her mom so she can pick out the dress she will wear on a day in the future when her mother won't be here. This just about broke me. There is more to this story that I wish I could share for its aching beauty, but I won't. The family deserves their privacy.

3. Having sent the full draft manuscript to my subject, I am twisting with anxiety to hear how it has landed for her, whether she feels I got her voice, did justice to her story. She's traveling this week and doing her advocacy work, and I likely won't hear anything for weeks. It's always a hard wait.

4. On the good side, I woke up this morning eager to get to my next project, a book proposal for a rather dynamic woman, who I interviewed at length this past Tuesday. She's a storyteller this one, a model of resilience and optimism despite so many hard passages in her life. My brain has finally made the shift to her project. I know because I dreamed about it in the hours before waking, and by the time I opened my eyes I was full of new ideas. The time frame on this project is a little crunched, as I lost a lot of time when my love was ill, but we will make it work. I really like this woman. When my husband was just home from the hospital, she emailed me and said I should not stress about her project, because "we must be human first." I so appreciated that. At the same time, she has a period of visibility coming up during which her agent needs to be doing the rounds with her book proposal, trying to make a sale. So I need to not mess that up.

5. My son called me on Monday afternoon after his big midterm for the intensive nine-month paramedic course. He'd been studying for it for weeks and scored a 92, the second highest score in the class. The highest score was a 93. He called to tell me because he knew I would share in his happiness. If you knew what school used to be like for this child of mine, you would understand how gratifying it is for him to finally understand that he is smart and capable academically. He's finally realizing what his dad and I knew all along: that he is a creative and original thinker, and when he masters a set of factual relationships, he will know them forever. It's how his mind works. He notices everything all the time and traps it in memory. But he continually takes in so much information, it took him till well into college to know how to filter through it all to perform on tests. Now's he's found his niche in the world, and he's working hard and doing well. I'm so very proud of him.

6. Bob Muller for the win. But can we please get there a little faster?

7. Our tree is up. It's perfect.



Sunday, December 3, 2017

Oh, Christmas tree


I've been working so continuously to meet my book deadline, that today, after Fedexing the manuscript to my subject last night, I have no idea what to do with myself. I have another assignment, but it's Sunday, and I've worked weekends for months, so today, I just want to vegetate. But I'm bored. I'm restless. I'm tired. I don't have a clue how to occupy myself. This is one of the realities of my empty nest. Don't get me wrong: The man and I are discovering some excellent aspects of having the house all to ourselves again, but on a day like today, I miss those baby birds.

My husband is watching football, as he usually does on a Sunday. In the past, I would have been engaged somehow with one of my children, perhaps facilitating their social activities. But they live on their own now. Their social media feeds this weekend are filled with pictures of them and their sweethearts bringing home Christmas trees, decorating Christmas trees, showing off their twinkly, glittery finished Christmas trees. It reminds me of when my husband and I were their age, getting and decorating our own tree, doing the first Christmas together. Now it's their turn, my son, my daughter, and my niece. They all moved in with their loves this year. In the photos they are laughing with their housemates. They look happy.

I told my husband that now that it's just us again, we need to do what they are doing, what we used to do before those babies were a glint in our eyes. And so later today, or maybe tomorrow, he and I will walk hand in hand to pick out a tree and bring it home. We'll sip egg nog or mulled wine while we decorate it. We'll put on Christmas music. Revel in the romance of being together. That's a picture of my lovely man from the first holiday season after we were married. Our first Christmas tree after setting up house together. Ah, hormones.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Golden

I love the golden light from that tree outside my son's bedroom window in the week after Thanksgiving. In another few days, every leaf will have fallen from that tree but today, it is glowing. It is like this every year: When everyone leaves after the weeklong festivities, I suddenly notice this tree, spilling its radiant color into the newly quiet air. It is always so peaceful in that room when the tree looks like that, a whisper of nature gentling me.
________

While my cousins were here for Thanksgiving week, we recreated a photo we took 35 years ago, in my storied railroad apartment on West 120th Street. There's absolutely no need to clarify which is the older photo and which the new. We are as close today as we were when the original photo was taken, and that is one of my life's great gifts. These women are my heart sisters.



Monday, November 27, 2017

Thanksgiving week















Cousins, nieces, nephews, friends all crowded into our three bedroom apartment, along with our son and daughter, for a weekend of non-stop communion, stories and laughter. My husband was happy. I did not spin anxiously. It was all so good.

And now, the hoards are scattering again. My niece went back to college yesterday. My cousin and her other daughter head back to Orlando tonight. One nephew took the bus home to Virginia yesterday while the other, the guitar player, is on his way to Israel tonight for study abroad. His mom is on her way to the airport with him at this moment, and she will travel back to Virginia tonight. Our last house guest, my cousin who lives in Trinidad, leaves in the morning. My son, my daughter, my niece, and their respective loves, are back at work today, prosaic routine reasserting itself.

We took just one, blurry family picture, but there we are, all together and healthy. I feel lucky and blessed.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving eve and morning

The sweetest thing: My son, daughter, and niece, who live in their own apartments now, all elected to sleep over at our house so they could awaken to the festivities, the cooking and blanket lounging and Thanksgiving Day parade watching this morning.

Last night, there were ten of us in the house, all the beds occupied, and the couches, too. We take over the kitchen in shifts. My husband made the mac and cheese last night, and my daughter made two scrumptious looking apple pies, then she and her dad seasoned the turkey, prepped the ham, and made a wicked sangria. I woke up and made the corn and cheese soufflé this morning, so that it could be out of the oven by 11 am, when the turkey needs to go in. My cousin is now in the kitchen making potato salad, after which my son will make my mother's sweet potato casserole topped with oven charred marshmallows, and then my husband will make broccoli in garlic and oil and a raft of roasted garden vegetables. The wine fridge is stocked, and even though dinner is not until 5 pm, some of the younger crew will arrive earlier than that, because being part of the pre-dinner preparation and Annual Dog Show watching chaos is part of the fun. 

I once read somewhere that the secret to a good party is a space that is too small for the people gathered, so that everyone is pretty much shoulder to shoulder, with no choice but to engage. I always remember that at Thanksgiving, when our three bedroom apartment seems to magically expand to accommodate the hoards. We have so much to be grateful for this year: My husband's steady recovery from open heart surgery in September—who would have guessed he'd be in the kitchen cooking the feast as usual? My daughter is at his side, trying to make sure he doesn't ignore doctors orders and lift anything too heavy. We're grateful, too, for my cousin now being cancer free, with pristine six month scans a week ago. It's been a tough year in some respects, but we've come through it, and now we're almost on the other side. Today, we will dare to exhale.







Happy Thanksgiving to all my lovely peeps out there in blog land. Being in this place together, writing our lives, the generous sharing of hearts, it helps keep me sane. On this day and all days, I am thankful for you, too.






Monday, November 20, 2017

Connection



I adore those days when our kids just hang out with us in the place where they used to live. Family members have started to arrive for Thanksgiving. My niece got here from college on Saturday, and my cousin flew in from Trinidad yesterday. My son came through to see his aunt and his cousin, and my daughter and her boyfriend were here till late last night, all of us drinking red wine and telling stories and laughing, while my daughter cooked apple pies from scratch. I had an OCD inspiration to completely clean out the fridge, throwing out old food and making everything that remained sparkling in anticipation of the hard use those shelves are going to see this week. I felt easy and happy in my skin, which is not my natural state. It occurred to me that life, being human, is about connection, but not with just anyone, much as that might be the ideal. In the intimacy of a life, it's about connection with those people with whom you can feel whole and just right, no matter how you show up. They love you and you love them, and it's not up for reevaluation. It just is. And will be.

How to Use a Life

On Saturday, my girl and I attended the memorial service for Gus Trowbridge, who with his wife Marty founded the K-8 school with a working organic farm that she attended. The service was held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and the turnout was huge. There were alumni from the sixties and seventies through the present decade, plus family and friends, and so many others whose lives were touched by this man who made such a difference during his 83 years on this earth. Christian, Islamic and Jewish prayers were spoken, and more than one person remarked that Gus had founded the kind of school that had been so formative in people's lives that fifty years later, they would show up for him. Indeed, no other school among the many fine ones I and my children attended would have had me sitting in that audience, my heart full to bursting.

Gus was a rare soul. I was overwhelmed as I listened to the memories people shared and sang the protest anthems that generations of our children had sung. As that special little school on East 96th Street offered them, these songs were neither cliche nor anachronistic, but unironic calls to action, as critical now as in the sixties. As we sang, I looked out over the sea of heads, all colors, all creeds, and tried to really take in the mark this one driven and hopelessly idealistic man had made on our world, simply by acting according to his conscience, and never giving up his dream of "a beloved community" in which, as he put it in the school's inaugural brochure, "differences are to be cherished." At the end of the service, we all linked arms and sang "We Shall Overcome," because the children of Manhattan Country School still do that to this day, and the message of that song resonates with them long after they leave the protected walls of the school and make their way in a less than perfect world. It's why the ACLU attorney who led the action to halt Trump's Muslim immigration ban, was a graduate of my daughter's school. Those kids always come down on the right side of history.

One man spoke, an MCS alum from the school's first graduating class in the early seventies. Before MCS, he had attended Dalton, an exclusive private school in the city, and one day his mother arrived and told him to get his things. He picked up his book bag. "No, get all your things," she said. "We're leaving." The mother had had an argument with the school principal about the Vietnam War, and she'd been appalled at the principal's position. As the mother was at the time dying of inoperable cancer, she did not wait around. "I am going to send you to a school," she told her son, "where there is a man who will teach you right from wrong when I am gone." That man was Gus. The whole church was crying as this former student spoke. And then he told us that in fact, his mother did not die, and we all broke out laughing through our tears. Gus would have liked that. He used to say that when he'd ask the graduating eighth graders what they wanted him to say in his speech about them, the answer was always the same: "Make us laugh, and make us cry." And Gus, an inspired writer and human being, always did. 

Gus and Marty Trowbridge founded a school where not only the ideals endure, but also the bonds of hearts. My friend Isabella and I sat together during the service, along with our daughters, who started out in Pre-K together. At the end of the service, we looked at one another and said, "Gus gave us each other."

Thursday, November 16, 2017

#LoveThePicture #LoveTheSoul


Happy 22nd to my wonderful nephew! 
Can't wait to see you and the cousin gang next week!


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Why she rambles, no one knows

For some reason I feel incredibly tired today, like I'm moving underwater. Weird. I went walking with a friend and neighbor last night, the two of us having engaged the battle of the pounds, and now we aim to add intentional exercise to the equation. I enjoyed walking and talking with her. We have so far known each other only in a casual way, though we lived for a while in the same building. Our sons are a year apart, and we'd sit on a bench when they were small, and share stories about schools, homework headaches, that sort of thing. One day, after our boys were grown, I realized I hadn't seen her in months. I saw her husband in the laundry room and asked him how she was doing. He said, "You know we're divorced, right? She lives in a different building now." I was shocked.

Back when we were both in the thick of parenting, I used to see her and her husband going for summer evening walks together, and I thought how connected and loving they seemed. Just goes to show you never know what's going on inside any marriage. Anyway, she and I met up again in the year-long weight loss group I joined. I was thrilled to see her in the room the first day. I always liked her wry, laid back demeanor. Last night, our children now grown, we shared stories of ourselves instead, and it was lovely to finally start knowing each other in a richer way. Unfortunately, it was freezing cold, so our bench sitting at the end of our walk didn't last too long. But we've pledged to make this a regular thing, so our friending will continue, I think.

Thanksgiving is a week away, and we have relatives flying in to spend the holiday with us, the usual suspects, two cousins whom I adore, and two nieces, whom I adore. They're flying in from Orlando, from Trinidad, and taking the bus from upstate, and everyone will be staying here. My other niece who now lives in the city with her boyfriend, announced she's sleeping over here the night before and the night of Thanksgiving, so she can be part of the revelry. And her best friend, who's been with us for Thanksgiving the past few years, will be traveling from Philly with her new boyfriend. My daughter's friend from college, who's feasted with us the past two years, will also be joining us again this year, though she'll probably stay over with my daughter at her apartment across the courtyard. My cousin from Boston is also coming, but she will stay with her sister in the Bronx. I heard a rumor she's bringing her new boyfriend, too.

On Thanksgiving Day, we count twenty-five or so guests for dinner, and I'm already getting quietly anxious about cleaning the house, spreading all the beds with fresh sheets, and creating the meal, even though most of the cooking is done by my husband. He insists he is up to it this year, despite his recent medical odyssey . My daughter will help with the very crucial basting of the turkey. Meanwhile I'll keep whisking cooking bowls and utensils into the dishwasher and running it on cycles so the kitchen doesn't get too overwhelming.

Even though I'm eager to see and spend time with everyone, this is usually the time of year when I wonder if maybe I need medication. It helps that my husband's mood is so mellow these days. It mellows me out, too. I hope when he goes back to work he'll be able to keep the intense stress of his workplace at bay. It's been the main silver lining of his recent illness, the chance to be away from there and reconnect with himself. But now he's eager to go back, to feel useful again. I swear he carried his whole department on his back most of the time. He is sorely missed.

On another note, can you believe Congress is trying to sneak another repeal of Obamacare past us by tacking it onto the tax bill? I suppose they think people will be too distracted by the holidays to notice or too confused by the details of the enrich-the-rich tax plan to puzzle it out. Time to start calling our representatives again. It never ends.

Well, this was a ramble. Thanks for reading here, sweet friends.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Another step


There is so much crazy in the news I don't have the heart to write much here. But this guy is doing okay. He's not mad at anyone or anything in that picture. He's just concentrating on calculating the tip on our lunch bill yesterday. That's his face in response, it's quite fierce, resting bitch face we call it, but when he smiles the sun breaks through. Rocks my world every time. Yesterday his doctor cleared him to return to work in December. And at this moment, on this freezing cold day, he is in the kitchen making pumpkin soup.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The resistance is working

Across the country, Democrats won down the line, rejecting the politics of exclusion and hate. Women in particular brought this election home. In Virginia, in monsoon rainstorms yesterday, they stood on line to cast their votes for Ralph Northam for governor, the gun safety and preservation of healthcare candidate. The turnout everywhere was higher than expected, with voters delivering a trouncing. And how good was it to see that guy on the right again. Let's keep this train rolling into 2018.







Sunday, November 5, 2017

Red paint

At the front entrance to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City sits a statue of Teddy Roosevelt astride a horse, with an African American man walking on one side of him and an Indigenous man on the other. The rider is in full military uniform while the men on either side of him are partially unclothed. A little more than a week ago, someone spattered red paint at the base of the statue, which has long been criticized as "a condescending expression of a power relation."

A group called Decolonize This Place released a fascinating statement in the aftermath. "Now the statue is bleeding," the group stated. "We did not make it bleed. It is bloody at its very foundation. This is not an act of vandalism. It is a work of public art and an act of applied art criticism. We have no intent to damage a mere statue. The true damage lies with patriarchy, white supremacy, and settler-colonialism embodied by the statue."


In other recent acts of protest, red paint was daubed on the hands of the Christopher Columbus statue in Central Park, and the word "racist" was scrawled across the base of the statue of a doctor, J. Marion Sims, who conducted gynecological experiments on enslaved women without anesthesia.

The mayor has appointed a panel of artists, historians, preservationists and activists to come up with a plan for monuments that represent a history of subjugation and hate. New Yorkers were also asked to share their opinions in an online survey. The paint of Teddy Roosevelt has since been removed, and the hands of Christopher Columbus have been washed clean. Most locals, when asked how they felt about the red paint protest, were not fans of the action. "I didn't even know what this statue was, to be honest," one man told a Gothamist reporter. "I've walked by it a dozen times. Now I can see why that's offensive for some people, but I think there are better ways to protest a statue than chucking red paint all over it, right?" 

So what do you think: Reprehensible act of vandalism or socially constructive art criticism? Something else entirely?

Out of respect for the journalists at Gothamist who reported on these events, and whose workplace was shuttered overnight by a billionaire owner disgruntled that they'd voted a week ago to unionize, I'd love to hear any and all thoughts on the red paint activism and/or the historical monuments issue.


Photos:
1: Scott Heins/ Gothamist
2: Scott Heins/ Gothamist
3: Christen Clifford/ Gothamist
4: Howard Smmons/ New York Daily News




Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The man who taught my husband how to be a good man


Happy birthday, Shadow. 
We miss you. 


Close to home

My friend just called to tell me that one of the people killed in the terror attack on the Hudson River bike path yesterday was a high school classmate of her son. She is reeling at the news, identifying with the mother of that slain young man. She says she keeps finding herself standing on street corners, sobbing.

When my cousin in Virginia called me yesterday, and asked, "Do you see what's happening in your city?" I was oblivious. The TV was tuned to Fixer Upper, and I was all but ignoring it as I worked. "Turn on the news," she said, and when I did, I began urgently texting loved ones to make sure none of them had been on that path at three something that afternoon. Any one of them could have been. But my daughter was at work. My son was dropping off his rent check in Astoria. My niece was just leaving the hospital in Newark where she works. Everyone else I reached out to was safe.

I heard five of the eight people killed were Argentine tourists, in the city for a thirtieth high school reunion and out for an afternoon bike ride. Even with six degrees of separation, it seemed unlikely that I'd be connected to any of the remaining three who died. I was wrong. And now you who read here are connected, too.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Moments

Today is the final day of IV infusions for my husband. He is at this moment giving himself the second to last treatment, with the final one tonight. Another step toward full recovery.

For his birthday on Saturday, our son came over. He arrived on Friday night, using his key and standing in the doorway yelling "Surprise!" He was smiling and pleased with himself, like a five year old who knows he is always a lovely surprise. He stayed until Sunday night, just hanging out with everyone, watching football with his dad, and intermittently disappearing into his old room to study. He has tests every week for the year-long paramedic course, and if you fail more than two, you're out of the program. In a class that started out at 60, the attrition in two months has been severe, 12 people already gone. So far, our boy is doing well, grades in the 80s and 90s, and he's certainly learned how to study. It helps that all that medical stuff is endlessly fascinating to him, especially in an emergent setting. He might have been made for this.

On Saturday our daughter and her boyfriend came over to help celebrate, along with his mother, whose birthday was a couple days before my husband's, and his sister, who cooked and brought a raft of delights, a scrumptious full course meal. My man made his famous seafood gumbo, and I took care of the cake, ordering a chocolate one and a vanilla confetti one from Momofuku Milk Bar. The latter is lately my family's favorite kind of birthday cake, and the 6" version is small enough so that we aren't left eating cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner the following week. Which neither my husband nor I need. We sent the remainder of the chocolate cake home with the upstaters on Sunday morning, while our son finished the confetti cake for breakfast. We all had a lovely time, and the birthday man and the birthday woman judged the low key festivities perfect.

Then on Sunday night, my husband's uncle, his wife, and their son drove from New Jersey to have dinner with us. His uncle had triple bypass heart surgery twenty years ago, at the same age my husband is now, so the two of them exchanged war stories. It was fantastic seeing them. My husband's cousin, who was 13 years old the summer I met him (my husband was a tender 23) has grown into a fine and handsome family man. I could see my son in him, a couple decades down the road. It was amusing to be in a room with these four generations of men, all of them bald with beautifully shaped heads, all of them well over six feet tall. I felt grounded in an odd way by this visible reminder of the bond that is family. We missed you Bruce!

And now, back to the week. I was tossing with anxiety all last night. I barely slept, rehearsing an encounter with the insurance people this morning. There's no such thing as coasting along, breathing into a respite. As daybreak edged into the room I kept watching the clock, waiting for the hour when I could finally make the call. At 9:13 AM, I dialed the number on the registered letter that arrived at our door last evening. It's not yet resolved, but I will bird-dog it until it is. My husband is philosophical. They got it wrong, he says. We'll make it right. In the meantime I am sitting here with that peculiar hollowness in my chest, the shallow agitated breaths, adrenaline surging and surging.

But the weekend was really good. And tomorrow they will remove the PICC line from my husband's arm and he'll begin the next stage of his healing.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Wacky week

In the midst of a wacky week, I completed two editing assignments and also made word count on the book! Well, almost. My contract says I am to deliver 75,000 words and I am at 74,314. My friend, who is a bestselling star in this book ghostwriting business, says I should add those 700 words and observe the contract to the letter. And so I shall. Still, for all intents, I have completed a full draft of the book, meeting my self-imposed deadline, and now (after adding those 700 words, and I know where I will insert them) I can print out the entire manuscript and start to edit. The best part. It's always easier to fix something that isn't working when you already have words on the page.

But to the wacky week: For starters, last Sunday, my daughter, my niece, my cousin and her husband and I auditioned for Family Feud! Here's what I posted on Facebook.


Ione and James Stiebel, by the way, are my grandparents, who raised nine children and instilled in them all a deep devotion to family. I'm forever grateful they did, because three generations later, the sense of belonging is as strong as ever. My husband is always amused when my cousins and I talk about "Stiebel women do this," or "Stiebel women are that," and none of us actually carries the name.

More delightful wackiness: My son's girlfriend S invited my daughter, my niece and me for a night of Writing and Wine, which was being hosted by the mother of one of S's childhood friends. We'd met the friend, Justin, at S's brother's wedding, where Justin and my daughter, seated next to one another, riffed on everything and laughed like old friends. The Writing and Wine event last Tuesday was held at this really happening hipster bar in the West Village. The teacher and I were the only people in the group out of their twenties. I felt uber cool to be part of that scene in an area of town I hardly ever get to anymore. It turned out the lovely teacher and I knew lots of people in common. She provided us with a title, a theme and a choice of three characters and three prompts. We put pen to paper in three 20 minute sessions of writing, sipping lots of wine to grease the flow of ideas. And let me tell you, the wine did its job. 

My daughter's story was set in Medieval times, and my niece wrote from the perspective of a little brother wolf. All the stories that people shared were funny and wonderful. I especially loved S's story of The Pumpkin Thief, a pumpkin who kidnapped other pumpkins to save them from ending up in Thanksgiving pie. I was too embarrassed to share my story, which sounded as if written by a lovelorn 13-year-old girl who'd read too many Mills & Boon romances, with a little spy espionage thrown in. The plot got crazier and crazier with each sip of wine. I particularly enjoyed the third writing session, when we had to partner with someone we hadn't known before the class, and recount our stories so the other person could borrow one of our characters to introduce into their own story. And vice versa. Of course the very best part was being out with my girls. When the teacher asked me how we were connected, I said, "They are all my daughters."

Okay, dear friends, I'm off to add those 700 words in the middle of my all but completed manuscript. I'll be back around to all your lovely blogs, soon. 


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