Friday, April 27, 2012

Opposites Make The Best Friends

You and I might never have met if you and Patty Smyth hadn’t been playing Old Maid on her front porch the day my mom sent me to deliver some beautiful pink roses to her mom, who'd been ill.

Fate. That’s what they call it. Destiny. Providence.

It was meant to be.

“Hi,” I said when Patty timidly stated, “This is Karen. She lives next door.” You smiled and asked, “You wanna play?” Shaking my head, I said, “I have to get home. My mom told me to hurry back.” But that would not be our last meeting.

Your family owned property on the street where I lived. The next summer, your father had a nice house built, and you and your family moved into it. My mom often sent me to the small grocery store about two blocks away. I had to pass your house. When I'd go by and see you playing in your yard I'd shyly say, “Hi,” and keep going. But one day, I was riding my bike past your house and you came outside to get yours from the garage. You soon caught up with me and said, “Where ya’ goin’?”

“Nowhere,” I said. “Just riding.” We rode together for a few blocks and then stopped to rest. We sat on the cool grass beside the Methodist church and got acquainted. You said you’d be going into second grade when school started; I was going into the fourth – ahead of most kids my age because I skipped a grade. In those days, that was allowed; I don’t think it is anymore.

That afternoon was just the beginning. We spent almost every day of that summer together. We took walks or rode bikes or just sat on one of our porches talking. Sometimes we sat on the banks of the river watching paddle boats go by. A lifelong friendship was born.

I was seven. You were six and a half. My hair was brown, yours, blonde. I had green eyes and olive skin; you were fair-skinned and blue-eyed; I was tall and thin; you were short and chunky... and hated it! Urged on by your younger brother, boys teased you about being fat. I thought you were cute. I almost envied your thick, naturally curly hair; mine was stick-straight and so baby-fine it wouldn’t hold curl. I felt skinny and awkward beside you. You secretly longed to look like me.

We had a mutual admiration thingy going on from the beginning.

After school started in the fall, we didn’t see each all day, and we had other friends, but when we got home to 96th Street around three p.m., we couldn’t wait to get together again.

And so it went. We grew up together, surviving the ups and downs of childhood, teenage years, boyfriends, proms, springs, summers, falls, winters. I can’t even think of a time in my life when you weren’t in it. We both married young, had children, and you moved away – far away – but we've stayed in touch. I always know when it’s time for us to talk – and so do you. It’s just a matter of who dials whose number first. We literally read each other’s thoughts.

Now in the autumn of our years, we both have grandchildren; your husband passed away, but you’ve found another “love.” You always take life as it comes—bloom where you’re planted.

That’s one of the things I admire most about you. I fight change and am miserable when it’s forced upon me, but you welcome it and become a happier person. It was never just the color of our hair, eyes and complexion – or stature that made us different. We are opposite in many ways. But it didn’t seem to matter. We’ve been the best of friends for more than half a century!

Last week, you sent me a birthday card. Inside it read: “We’ll always be good for each other.”

You signed it, “Love you!”

My heart answered, “Ditto.”

I'm sure you heard it.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

When All The Land Is Wet

Today is the kind of day that gives me the blahs! Dreary. Rainy. Boring.

Song lyrics come to mind: Some April when all the land is wet. That line has been living in my head for years and often surfaces on a day such as this. Although I like the poetic ring, it’s a gloomy thought.

The fact that I’m on the brink of another birthday isn’t helping my mood either. I think this is the first time I’ve ever been troubled by a birthday. I always look forward to celebrating them with my family; it’s a fun occasion. But, this year – to be honest – I’m starting to feel... older.

How quickly the years have passed! At a mere seventeen years old, fresh out of high school, with my whole life ahead of me, I married the love of my life, and promised, “Until death do us part.” Many years have passed; we’ve reared children, enjoyed grandchildren, and shared a multitude of life’s experiences. There were ups and there were downs – more ups, I think.

We’ve been richly blessed! And we're thankful!

But I don’t believe I’m alone in noting that after our parents are gone, and we become the next in line to face mortality, we begin to think differently. We start getting our affairs in order, considering things we never thought about before. We accept that the time is getting closer for the older generation to move on and let the younger one take over. It’s the natural cycle of life.

We're at that time in our lives when we don’t fight the process anymore. It saddens us, but we’ve lived – hopefully, well.  We’re weary.

Ready to pass the torch.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Who Are You?

Does anyone like dealing with the DMV? 

Most of us have heard so many horror stories about how rude they are that it puts fear in our hearts and minds every time we have to go there.

As you know, every five years, during our birthday month, we have to get our driver’s license renewed. In order to get it, we must have a long list of official documents: One to verify that we were born, another to prove who we used to be, yet another to certify who we became along the way and most important, a current document or documents to confirm who we are today! Wouldn’t you think that handing them the driver’s license you got just five years ago with your picture on it would be enough to prove you’re still that person? ‘Fraid not!

Hubby and I spent two hours this afternoon getting this little chore done for me. For weeks, we’ve read and re-read the application they sent in the mail and gathered up everything we thought I’d need to accomplish the task without any hang-ups. I had my birth certificate, old driver’s license, voter’s registration card, social security card, and a tax receipt. Was that enough? Absolutely not! Because my birth certificate had my maiden name on it, and my current SS card had my married name, I needed my marriage license – a certified one! Good grief! And if you’re divorced, which I'm not, you have to have your divorce papers, too! What a hassle just to get a driver’s license!

And so... our plans nipped in the bud, we stood outside the DMV office trying to decide what to do. We weren’t sure we even had the certified marriage certificate, but in some secluded corner of my mind, there lived a vague memory of having acquired one at some point. Since I had some shopping to do in a store close by, my sweet husband suggested that he go home (15 miles) and get the certificate while I do my shopping. He’d rush back with it and we’d finish what we started. Today. Sounded like a plan!

I told him where to look and, in about thirty minutes, my cell phone rang. He said, “I’ve got it!” We were so happy. Otherwise, we would have had to go through a lot of red tape – and waiting – to get a marriage certificate sent from Indiana where we were married.

By the time he got back, I had my shopping done and we returned to the DMV. My big worry this time was that I’d have to take the eye exam again. I had passed it the first time, but it was – shall I say – shaky. I almost shouted when the lady said I didn’t have to re-take it and we hurried back to the same window as before. Everything was concluded in just a few minutes. I posed for the picture that always looks a little like a mug shot and the dreaded deed was done for another five years! All in all, it wasn’t that bad. Could have been worse.

I could have failed the eye exam!  (Easily)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

First Infatuation

We were twelve years old that summer, my friend, Carol, and I. We passed our time by going for long walks, snapping pictures of each other with our Kodak cameras (when we had money for film), and sitting on the deck of a small houseboat that was docked at river’s edge next to my house. We sat there for hours talking, eating apples and dangling our feet in the cool, green water.

It was a memorable time in our lives.

On Saturdays, we went to an afternoon movie. There we met friends from school. My first boyfriend evolved from one of these Saturdays at the movies. His name was Buddy. I’m sure he had a “real” name, but that’s what everyone called him. So, there we sat watching a western movie, probably starring Roy Rogers or Gene Autry, and munching on popcorn. Buddy and his friends were sitting behind us.

As boys are prone to do, they were talking and laughing too loudly and we couldn’t hear the movie. I took it as long as I could, then turned around, looked right at Buddy and said, “Why don’t you grow up? If you don’t want to watch the movie, then leave, but we’d like to watch it... and hear it, too, if you don’t mind!”

Believe it or not, it got quiet. A couple of the boys left and next thing I knew, Buddy was sitting in the seat next to me. I looked at him and he whispered, “I’m sorry.” I smiled and nodded, figuring he’d leave, but he just sat there watching the movie. I looked at Carol out of the corner of my eye and she poked me in the ribs with her finger. We were trying hard not to giggle.

Suddenly, Buddy touched my arm, which was on the arm rest between us... then his hand slid down my arm and he very slowly took my hand in his. Without even looking at each other, we sat there holding hands and watching the movie. I could feel my heart pounding! I had never held hands with a boy before and Buddy was the cutest boy in school! I was careful not to move – I barely breathed – for fear he’d move his hand.

When the movie was over, he removed his sweaty hand and we stood up to leave. I thought he’d say something like, “See ya’,” and take off, but he didn’t. He walked with us. When we got to Carol’s house, I said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” She said, “Goodnight.” And Buddy walked the rest of the way home with me. We sat on my porch swing talking about school and stuff until my mother came to the door and told me it was time to come in.

Buddy said, “Do you think you’ll go to the movie next Saturday?”

“Probably,” I said.

“Maybe we can sit together.”

“Okay. See you then.” I said.

My mother asked, “Who was that?”

“Just a friend from school.”

Buddy and I remained friends for the rest of the summer, sitting together at the movies and talking on the phone, but the budding romance was not to be. Just before school started in September, his family abruptly moved away. The night before they left, we went for a walk and he gave me a cute cat pin to wear on my sweaters. I still have it in my jewelry box. We wrote letters for a while but, eventually, I had only sweet memories of my first infatuation.

Losing your first boyfriend is one of life’s most painful events!


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Happy Birthday Kris

Perhaps it’s unusual to feel sad when one of your grown children has a birthday; I’m not sure. Nevertheless, I do. Maybe sad is not the right word. Meditative might be better. Preoccupied. Lost in thought. It doesn’t matter which word you use to describe it, it’s a strange feeling – and I’m experiencing it tonight.

Today is my son’s birthday. His age doesn’t matter. I’ll just say he’s not a child. In some ways, he’s had a rough life. Some of his problems were self-inflicted but, he started with three strikes against him, being the middle child. Technically, he isn’t because I have five children, but when you consider that the first was a boy who excelled in everything, making it difficult for number two to keep up, and the third was the first girl, whom everyone lavished with attention for no reason other than the fact that she was the first girl.

The order of birth made no difference to us, his parents. We loved Kris just as much as the others and never made a difference, but no matter how hard we tried, he always felt different. His way of handling it was to travel in the opposite direction from his older brother. Instead of getting attention by making the Honor Roll and National Honor Society, he vied for it by doing things he shouldn’t have. He was always in hot water!

I fixed dinner for Kris and his wife today. It was a nice visit. The four of us ate dinner and then sat in the family room listening to music and talking. When they left, sadness came over me like a sudden chill. As I sat alone, my mind drifted back many years. Kris, at age four, was the cutest little tow-headed guy with eyes as blue as the sky on a clear summer day, and a smile that could charm a snake right out of a basket. I adored him! In my eyes, he could do no wrong, but he and his father had many problems as he grew up.

When he was sixteen, he and a friend decided to run away from home.  A girl Kris had a crush on had moved to Ohio. The boys thought it a good idea to get Kris’ savings out of his bank account and head for Ohio to see Tammi. (I’ll never know why the bank teller let a sixteen year old take the money out, but it was done. We were furious when we found out!)

That one almost killed me… not knowing where my son was for two days, and imagining every terrible thing possible. The two of them started out on Evan’s motorcycle, which was scary in itself… but, luckily, it broke down not too far down the road. Then, thinking like the children they were, they took the money and bought Greyhound bus tickets to get to their destination. We had no idea where they were, but, thank God, a so-called friend finally snitched on them. Both dads got together and headed for Ohio the next morning to fetch the two of them.

In the meantime, a neighbor of Tammi’s noticed her taking food into her basement at odd times and, thinking it strange, called the police. They surprised the boys late at night and took them into custody, and they waited in the city jail until their dads showed up.

Apparently, the long trip home was awkward.

There were other episodes throughout his life, but we got through them. Kris finally grew up, married young, had two children, and worked in his dad’s business. Life goes on for him as it does for all of us. He’s still a tow-headed charmer and I still adore him. Nothing will ever change that!

Yet, sometimes I wish we could go back and start over. But we can’t. The past is the past. We go on from here.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

More Thoughts To Ponder~

If, in a baseball game, the batter hits a ball, splitting it right down the center with half the ball flying out of the park and the other half being caught, what is the final ruling?

When does it stop being partly cloudy and start being partly sunny?

Why do caregiver and caretaker mean the same thing?

Why are there Interstate highways in Hawaii?

Do you wake up or open your eyes first?

Do people in prison celebrate Halloween.... if so how?

What do people in China call their good plates?

What are the handles for corn on the cob called?

If the funeral procession is at night, do folks drive with their headlights off?

When your photo is taken for your driver's license, why do they tell you to smile? If you are stopped by the police and asked for your license, are you going to be smiling?

Why are women and men's shoe sizes different?

How come you can kill a deer and put it up on your wall, but it's illegal to keep one as a pet?

Does vacuuming count as Aerobic Exercise?

Why do they lock gas station bathrooms? Are they afraid someone will
clean them?

How do you handcuff a one-armed man?

If a man is standing in the middle of the forest speaking and there is no woman around to hear him - is he still wrong?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bright Colors

My friend wrote a nice post about how much she loves the color red. I love it, too. Always have. But I must admit that, as I've begun to get older, I've developed a passion for a more intense color. Orange.

What could be more beautiful than a late summer sky at sundown? Breathtaking!

 Actually, I love all bright colors: Red, orange, yellow, fuchsia, emerald green, royal blue, or any version of those. I think I must have inherited my love of color. My paternal grandmother lived to be 92 years of age and never stopped wearing bright colors. No sky blues, mint greens, baby pinks or dull beiges for that lady; she wanted color! And so do I.

My grandmother also had a fondness for polka dots. Once when I was shopping with her only daughter, my aunt, I was admiring a blouse that I’d pulled off the rack. It was white with red polka dots. I loved it! When my aunt started laughing, I was surprised and asked why. She answered: “Liza Jane will never die as long as you live! You’re just like her.”

I guess, in some ways, I am. And I consider that a compliment. She was a colorful person—and I don’t mean just because of the clothes she wore.

Liza Jane’s colorful personality is another story and will be saved for another day. It’ll give us all something to look forward to on one of my dark, rainy days.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It Has To Come Naturally

April, my birth month, seems to come around faster every year.

Yep, when this month is over, I’ll be a year older. I don’t feel as old as I am, but spending a lot of time with the younger generation, as I do, can certainly make one start to feel her age. Sometimes, when I try coaxing my grandchildren into sharing some of the events of their lives concerning friends and school, they act as though I couldn’t possibly understand. I often say, “Believe it or not, I was young once, too.” This usually brings a dubious chuckle.

Time passes so fast, it makes me dizzy.

Why didn’t it pass this quickly when I was a child? A day in school was l – o – n – g! A week was endless, and a year - infinite! From one Christmas to the next seemed to take forever, but now, we may as well leave the decorations out because we no sooner put them away until it’s time to take them out again.

Just think. We’re already into the second quarter of our “new year!" We’ve  paid our income taxes – or received a refund – and we’re on our way to the next holiday.

I think it’s interesting the way we tend to measure time by the holidays. Now that the Easter candy and stuffed bunnies are off the shelves at the stores, there will soon be, if not already... oodles of flower arrangements for Memorial Day, the next holiday, at the end of May.

And, for my family in particular, June brings a flood of special occasions: we have five birthdays and Father’s Day! It seems the whole month is one of celebration... and gone before we know it. Immediately after, we have a big splash for the Fourth of July and mid-summer is in full swing! The hustle and bustle of summer activities makes me tired! It seems to me that everyone works so hard forcing themselves to “have fun.” It wears me out just watching. Forced fun doesn’t do a thing for me! It has to come naturally.

I guess that’s why I live for the fall and winter months. It’s a restful time. As much as I used to resent it, I’m beginning to think my mother was right when she told me I was born lazy! What could be nicer than curling up with a good book on a snowy winter afternoon?

With the first quarter of the year already gone, I’d be wishing for the other three to pass as quickly as it did – except for one thing:

It would only put me closer to my next birthday!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Best Of Times

Growing up, I spent a lot of time with both my maternal and paternal grandparents. My mother worked and didn’t like leaving me alone, so off to grandma’s I’d go. On the train. It was a small train with only an engine, one passenger car and a caboose! Those who lived on its route called it The Doodle Bug. In those days, it was safe for parents to trust an employee of a train to see to it that their child was safe until he arrived at his destination. Besides, in this case, the conductor was a relative.

Both grandparents lived within a few miles of each other, so if I chose to visit my paternal grandparents, I’d get off the train there... but if I wanted to go a few miles farther and visit my maternal grandmother, I stayed on the train, waving at the first grandmother who was usually sitting on her porch in sight of the passing train. As I grew up, and even after I was grown, she often teased me about passing her by with a wave of my hand and going on to visit my “other” grandmother.

I have good memories of both places.

Grandma number one was an extraordinary woman. I loved her, but feared her just as much. I think everyone did. She didn’t mince words—said it like she felt it. All told, she had six children, though two of them died, one in infancy and the other in childhood.

Of the four that were left, my father was the eldest. He and his siblings toed the line. Every day, no matter what the season, they had to get out of bed early, wash-up and get dressed before breakfast. After eating, they’d start doing whatever chores had been assigned them. There would be no sluggards in this proud Irish family! No Siree!

When I was a child, I thought it strange that my dad always got up early and dressed for the day before breakfast when my mother and I loved staying in our pajamas, especially on weekends, until long after breakfast. I was a lounge lizard! Still am. I learned later that my dad didn’t really know how to do otherwise; it was the way he was raised.

Odd, the things we remember about those who played an important part in our young lives.

My grandmother liked coffee. Not just to drink – she also liked to eat it! I used to watch her go into her pantry, open the coffee canister and put a scoop of coffee into the palm of her hand. Then she’d eat it right out of her hand. I’ve never seen anyone else do that. It was a bizarre habit.

She also liked to kiss me on the lips. I hated it and would go out of my way to avoid getting close enough for her to grab me and give me a big smooch! Maybe it was the smell of the coffee. Who knows?

What I do know is – if things didn’t please me, I’d pack my suitcase, wait for The Doodle Bug’s next trip, wave good-bye as I boarded, and head for Grandma number two’s house for the rest of the summer!

Perhaps I inherited a little of Grandma number one’s grit.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Eight Letters

 In my part of the world, it was 67° today, and oh, so sunny! Cool-ish. Just the way I like it. The weather can make or break my mood. Today, it was all good! Warning: Sometimes I get a little giddy on days like this.

I had an appointment this afternoon with my Ophthalmologist. While I waited in an inner room for him to come in and examine my eyes, twiddling my thumbs (there’s nothing I hate more than waiting), I surveyed the room as I have at regular intervals for about fifteen years. There are cabinets to the right, a small sink, bottles, tissues, and literature. On my left stands a strange looking machine and above it – a poster on the wall explaining the evils of age-related macular degeneration. But my eyes finally focused on an object I’ve looked at dozens of times over the years—the eye chart!

I could have 20/20 vision if I memorize the chart (giggle), I thought. It shouldn’t be too difficult. Let’s see... the line underlined in red must be 20/20. Okay... D E F P O T E C – yeah, I can memorize that! I’ll bet a lot of people do. But then, I looked at the line above it – the one I usually read...

F E L O P Z D – and my eyes wandered on up the chart. It struck me that there aren’t very many different letters on this chart that I should know like the back of my hand. Eight to be exact! Why have I never noticed that before?

It’s odd the things we take for granted. Some things are just there, day in and day out. We never question them or take them apart and analyze them—we just accept them.

When the doctor came in and said, “How’re you today?” I said, “Just fine physically, but I’m worried about my intellect.” Looking at me strangely, he said, “Why’s that?” I explained that in all these years, I’d just discovered that there are only eight different letters on his eye chart. He said, “Don’t let that bother you. I doubt if many people take the time to count them.” I wondered if he was just humoring me until his young assistant raised her eyebrows and said, “Eight?” To which the doctor replied, “See. She didn’t even know and she’s here every day!”

I felt better.

In case you’re wondering, I couldn’t bring myself to cheat. When he handed me the plastic thing-a-ma-jig and said, cover your left eye and read as far down as you can on the chart, I read F E L O P Z D – the line I always read.

I guess 20/25 is not so bad. At least I learned something today.

I wonder how many things we look at all of our lives without really seeing them.

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

                                       ~ Michelangelo Buonarroti