Category Archives: marriage

Love Lifted Me

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The weeks leading up to my parents’ 35th wedding anniversary in 1994 were tense.

After so many years of bowing to the desires and demands of his wife and three daughters…my dad had ceased shaving.

My tan, athletic little fireball dad who had gone salt & pepper before my birth in 1969, who by this anniversary was definitely heavy on the salt, had decided for the first time in his life he would let his facial hair grow.

To be fair, this was the closest thing to a mid-life crisis Hap ever had.  This and a very inexpensive, very yellow old Porsche convertible which would come a few years later. 

But Dolores, our mother, was NOT having it.

Why?

“Because you look like Kenny Rogers!” she’d say, with a grimace.

And while Kenny was a very nice looking man, that was not the look she wanted to see on the face of her husband. And she was not playin’…she was not pleased, she was not kind about it. She was punishing him in ways small and large, I’m sure. We were scared–if Hap didn’t shave, if the cold war continued, what would happen when they showed up to the fake event that would actually be their surprise anniversary party and were barely speaking?

Luckily, through whatever marital manipulations will remain unknown to we three sisters, as the date neared Boots somehow prevailed and Hap shaved. They showed up to the party and were greeted by the two grandchildren they had by that time, along with the best friends, coworkers, and extended family they had cultivated during that long marriage. They cried tears of joy, and as the saying goes, a great time was had by all.

They were treated to a slide show of memories, and part of the soundtrack to that slide show was “Through the Years” by Kenny Rogers. It was their song, their family song–not their song as a young dating couple, but their adult, grown-up life song:

“Through the years, through all the good and bad…I know how much we’ve had, I’ve always been so glad to be with you…through the years, I’ve never been afraid, I’ve loved the life we’ve made, and I”m so glad I stayed right here with you…through the years.”

It was just a song, but an emotional one. My dad was a huge fan of country music, the country music before it would have a surge in popularity with younger people after that time. Before artists from Kenny forward would sway it towards pop. His country music was Ronnie Milsap and Lynne Anderson. I remember watching the Barbara Mandrell show with him as a kid and arguing that I preferred her sister, Louise Mandrell. He shook his head, “no way.” He liked Barbara. He liked that she could play so many instruments, a petite scrappy blonde who took on that steel guitar like other women took on baking. As her own song says, Hap was “country when country wasn’t cool.” Oh, sorry, he listened to country when it wasn’t cool. He may have owned a plaid shirt and a straw cowboy hat to wear to a convention of other financial planners and insurance salesmen, but he was not “country” the way Mandrell meant it. Not in the real ways, but I’m fairly certain he lived vicariously through Little Joe Cartwright and the Big Valley Barkleys.

Back at the anniversary party in 1994, Kenny Rogers’ voice took us all on an emotional photographic journey of our longtime neighbors and friends “through the years,” which included a third generation of children playing in the same two backyards. And while no more Kenny Rogers songs were included in that day, as I awakened this day in 2020 to the news of Kenny’s death, my mind’s eye shows me quite a few other snapshots that Kenny Rogers’ songs frame:

A cassette tape of his greatest hits played over and over…and over…on a driving trip to Nashville, when my parents allowed me to bring my best friend and next-door neighbor Kristine. It is only as an adult that I realize they wanted me to bring her to keep me occupied so that I didn’t annoy all the joy out of the vacation for my older sisters. There were several of those trips, so I cannot recall if that was the same one that also included the family/neighbors on the other side, which would have included Sandy and Karen, my elders as well.

My days in Tennessee were eclipsed by thoughts of a boy named Mike who worked at the stables of Loretta Lynn’s Dude Ranch, who gave me a peacock feather. It was obvious he was in love with me. I was a pre-teen. I assume he was old enough to have a work permit.

I wrote a few postcards on that trip, one to yet another neighbor and friend, Lisa, to whom I had written something like “the trip is fun, MOST of the time,” which was a dig at Kristine getting on my nerves, and me on hers, and a lesson learned when my mother (who was about to mail said postcard) handed it back to me with a “shame on you, that’s unnecessary.”

I wasn’t yet at the age where I bought much music for myself. I had listened to (and ruined) many 45’s and albums of my sisters in the early 70’s, fought through a few of Hap’s 8-tracks, and then when cassettes came out, I just listened to whatever was in my parents car. So, some Kenny Rogers. I loved the song Ruben James, “you still walk the fertile fields of my mind…faded shirt, withered brow, calloused hands upon the plow…loved ya then, and I love you now, Ruben James.”

Over the years Kristine and I shared many choruses of “Coward of the County” and “The Gambler,” and I privately swooned over “She Believes in Me.”  “Lucille” took on a new shine when in my adulthood, my coworker/friend Maureen told me a story about an automotive breakdown using the lyrics, “ya picked a fine time to leave me, loose wheel…”

But after childhood, I didn’t really follow Kenny Rogers, and his signature low growl in songs like “Lady” annoyed me. Years later I joined in the mocking when he had plastic surgery and those eyes were wound up a little too tightly. I never really sought his music again. I felt like he was making an aging attempt at being a sex-symbol.

But his song, my parents’ song, “Through the Years,” was the closest thing to an anthem our family had, and it was revisited on many anniversaries after that. My parents would go on to celebrate their 50th anniversary. By their 52nd, my dad was in a nursing home. By their 54th, he was gone. Sirius satellite radio continues to bring songs like that into my car, and when that happens I laugh, or cry, take a snap with my cell phone and text it to my sisters and my mom. Same thing happens with John Denver’s “Sunshine on my shoulders,” Sunshine being the name of our childhood dog. Thank God for music.

Now, it’s March 21, 2020. One of my sisters texted me this morning about Kenny Rogers’ death and how it made her cry, for all the reasons illustrated above. Kenny’s death might be getting more airplay today if we were not in the midst of a global pandemic of Covid-19, Corona virus. My husband keeps telling me to write about the worldwide crisis, to document the days we are all quarantined so we can read it and remember the details years from now. I haven’t done that yet, because what can I have to say about it–what we ate that day? What time we Face-timed the grandkids? Who of us still have jobs?

Instead, here’s my offering today. Kenny Rogers has died, and his music is part of the soundtrack of our lives. Hearing the clips of his songs again makes me smile. Nostalgia is strong, and I still know every word to those songs. Thank God for music, have I said that already? During this terrible health crisis when countless will be sick, many will be lost, and more will be devastated financially, I will go online and hopefully find one of those Kenny songs I sang after playing it over (and over, and over) on that trip to Tennessee, and I hope the sentiment rings true to us all:

“Love lifted me, love lifted me. When nothing else would do, you know love lifted me.”

Love Lifted Me

 

I really have no idea why you’d read what I have to say.

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Kerrygold’s Dubliner cheese is one of several reasons I have not been able to commit to being a vegetarian. Seriously unsure I could live without a bit of it from time to time. Other than that cheese and some other isolated dairy purchases (ice cream), I try to buy organic sustainable happy cow milk products when I have to. But dairy is not inflammatory to me, and all I use is a plop of milk in my coffee and some organic plain yogurt for probiotics and calcium. Cuz no, despite my advanced age I’m still not taking calcium supplements.

I am an animal lover and advocate and yes obviously I abhor factory farmed meat. But I also run quite low on iron and after years of experimenting with diets (for weight loss, but also vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, dairy-free, gluten-free, etc…) I just know what my body likes to run at its best. And it involves small amounts of meat a couple of times a week. So I pay through the nose for allegedly sustainably-procured animal protein. Which means our Thanksgiving turkeys are about 75 bucks. But I feel better.

On the subject of food, one of the bright spots of my week was knowing that my great-niece, quite new to food at only 6 months old, zealously enjoyed the organic, washed, steamed, pureed, stored in bpa-free-containers sweet potatoes I made for her. She will grow up and grow old never knowing that as an infant, Mamie took such joy in a few hours of steaming vegetables and spooning them into serving-sized trays. But Mamie knows. Somehow when I blinked, turning away for a moment from giving hugs and love to my niece, she grew up and had a baby. So now I have this teeny, tiny hand in nurturing the baby of the first baby I ever loved.

To segue into babies that I love, Peepers is still alive and more than half-well, after convincing me he wasn’t going to make the new year. I won’t bore you with details–well, I actually WILL, probably, at some point–but for now he’s acting close to normal for a cat his age. Which is an adjustment for me, because three months ago he was acting like a cat less than half of his age. But as I type this, I hear the news that the only other remaining sibling in his litter was put to sleep this week for kidney failure. So at their age (15) and of unknown parentage (they don’t know who their daddy was, surely he was a drinking, smoking, philandering diabetic cat with no job) I guess it’s time to acknowledge his frailty. Interestingly, Peepers was the runt of his litter, and that’s the reason I ultimately kept him. Which involved a bit of a tiff, because he had been promised to a friend of a friend. But after keeping the litter long enough to safely vet and re-home them, I decided to offer that girl another cat because I couldn’t part with the Peeps. She didn’t want another cat, and Peepers stayed. I’ve never had a cat before him, only dogs, so I was rather vigilant with his health because everything was new to me. Like his parents, he received overpriced propaganda food, so maybe that helped keep him in optimal health for his genetics up until recent events. Aging takes its toll. But the last remaining sibling who passed this week had been the most robust of the litter, large, confident, the ringleader. And female. So the strongest and the weakest survived this life the longest. And the runt is the last of the red-hot lovers!

I’d still love to eke out more time with Peeps. I’ve always said I hoped to get him past age 20. Can diet and supplements and occasional fluids keep him in a good life for awhile? Time will tell. The vet knows that it’s not my plan to keep him alive if he’s ever suffering. And we’ve all put pets down before and know how this goes. But I was unprepared to find out how different cats are than dogs. For example, in conversations with friends I volunteered with at the cat shelter, and other cat owners, it seems this sub-cutaneous fluids thing and appetite stimulation is a common thing with cats. So God apparently made an animal that will curl up behind a chair, filing its nails in boredom, and say, “nah, that food isn’t what I want, and plus it’s all the way across the room, so I will instead just die here.”

He’s here with me, curled up on the bed in the spare bedroom while I type. I’m exhausted emotionally from all the self-talk of being willing to let him go, but also listening to more experienced cat people tell me this ain’t (yet) that tragic and he may have some good life left in him. I never thought of myself as impatient, but his improvement (behavior-wise, like wanting to jump on the refrigerator or drink out of every sink in the house) is slow in coming. And maybe it will come, maybe it won’t. It’s the not knowing, the being patient, that apparently keeps me stressed. I’m not a stressy person. And I’m still in denial that this situation caused my hives or my recent illness. I’m pretty sure a dad with dementia was more stressful than this, but no hives then.

And I tread lightly in saying this, because it’s ridiculous to compare my cat to a sick child, but all I’ve been able to think of since this started, since I wake up every day and first check on where he is and how he feels before I can proceed with my day, is how the hell do people with chronically ill family members survive? How do they go to work if their sick child is having a bad day, a seriously bad day with pain and suffering and dire consequences? And not even how do they GO to work, but how do they un-preoccupy their mind enough to even drive to work? To put a bite of food in their mouth? To brush their teeth?

A sick pet for a couple of months and I ate like a trash can and stopped flossing. Like there was no room in my psyche for mundane details while this was going on. So I’m not saying it’s even close–I’m saying that from now on I pray fervently for people going through worse. Who still have to cook and work and carpool and pay bills.

Now let’s talk about joy. I keep hearing this new year about how to purge the clutter from your home by touching items and seeing if they “spark joy” in your heart, and if not…it’s file 13. I like it! It has helped me. I keep things I don’t love, often, because I love the person who gave them to me. But that’s stupid. Because most of the time, unless it’s a memento like a piece of jewelry, ain’t nobody gonna remember the sweater they bought you or notice if they’ve seen you wear it, and they certainly aren’t going to go through the closet to see if you kept it. So I’m going with it! Except I will keep the traffic-cone orange hooded rain jacket my husband bought me, because it’s simply so ugly that it has become a story. And that does give me joy.

My car gives me joy, and today I had to take her to the dealer for a blinker to be fixed. (Yes, I know this is a small chore some people take care of themselves, and in fact I’m pretty sure one of my sisters has done this for herself on her car. But this is me we’re talking about. But before you judge, I DID take the back off of my dryer a couple years ago to be sure it wasn’t just a blown fuse before I purchased a new one.) When I have to take my car in, it’s always a scramble because my car is basically an apartment. Today’s efforts to tidy up were actually not that taxing, mostly because it’s winter. So I had to move someone’s Christmas gift (thought I’d see her over the holidays and still haven’t) to the trunk, move the bottle of champagne I keep hearing rolling around the floor in the back to the front passenger seat, ditch bank deposit slips in the trash (because, do I really want them to see the size of my deposits? Some people may think this would incite theft or bitterness because a person has huge bank accounts. But seeing the $50 deposit for teaching two yoga classes at an adult day-hab facility may actually spark pity, and I don’t want that.) Come to think of it, maybe they saw one today by accident, because when it came time to check out, the service manager told me she wasn’t charging me because it took a little longer than expected.

This month was my book club meeting, and I have to confess I read that book in the eleventh hour because I assumed it would annoy me. Late to the bandwagon, I may actually cop to being a fan of Rachel Hollis (Girl, Wash Your Face, among other successes.) A good friend was reading/listening to the book on Audible, and she was a bit irritated by Ms. Hollis’ vocal quality, which is EXACTLY the kind of thing that I’m easily annoyed by (if you know me, you know which local weather chick drives me nuts with her affect!)…so, I promptly went to my cable television remote, having recently discovered I could say “YouTube!” into and watch videos on my television…and watched a few interviews with Rachel Hollis. And I was not irritated. I can absolutely see where the annoyance would occur, but it didn’t work on me. She just seems too sincere to me for it to matter. Plus, she said a few things on a podcast which seemed to be directed right at me. So, I’m on that bandwagon for now. I’m not part of her “tribe,” all the rage, that buzzword…and I don’t feel like we have much in common, because she’s pretty much the antithesis of me. But I like her. Which makes this all the more serendipitous.

Speaking of speaking into my remote, I found myself this week on the couch, under a blanket, with a spoon in my jar of homemade peanut butter…watching power yoga on YouTube.

Other bright spots in my week:

Seeing a guy on a riding lawnmower drive out to get his mail, on a not-very-long driveway. I decided maybe he had a busted hip. Or a hangnail.

Walking out to get the mail myself on a different day, between black-as-night hailstorms, and noticing the warm sun…saying to myself, “but another storm is coming,” (having been told that by my iPhone) and then replying to myself, “No. Just notice the sun. Full stop.”

Realizing I’m definitely like a grandmother (and, in fact, AM a grandmother) because I have two pairs of pajamas that stay in the drawer unless I’m traveling. To “keep them nice.” Too much stuff, yes, but having decent pajamas when traveling does “spark my joy,” so they made the cut. The rest of my pj’s are bleached, ripped, stretched pants, often flannel, or having cats (my best friend swore years ago to keep me in line by allowing cats on only socks and pajamas, not real clothes) or shoes or wine patterns, and worn with old shirts whose sleeves have been cut off carelessly. Why? Because my annoying ample bosom makes sleeves feel restrictive for me. Like when I reach my arm for something, I feel like the whole shirt tightens and my neck feels choked. This is the same reason I can’t practice yoga in any sleeves. It’s not because I think my arms are sexy.  So now you know.

Speaking of acting like a grandma, I ran into a grade-school friend, the boy–because we were the same height–who was my boy/girl line up partner from Kindergarten to First Communion to 8th grade graduation at St. Bartholomew. I ended up in line BEHIND him for a change, at the CVS. Where I was buying cat food. And ice cream. I’m not making this up. It was Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. And gravy-lovers chicken feast.

I will probably never blog to list things that were UN-bright spots of my week, but finding out after two decades that my husband eats a Klondike bar with a plate and a spoon was unwelcome information. It might have even been a fork. I couldn’t watch, so I’m not sure. But I forgave him, because he also wordlessly handed me the very last dregs of the leftover mashed potatoes before putting the bowl in the sink. Oh no, I’m sorry–NEXT to the sink, because he apparently thinks it looks better to have dirty dishes on the counter than in the sink.

Hey, follow Lin-Manuel Miranda on Twitter. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

True musings

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True musings

Funny, when I started this blog years ago I used the word “musings” to describe it, but I’m not sure I have done that at all. I think I tend to use Facebook for my musings, Twitter for my criticism (most people I know in my age group and older are on Facebook so I can be meaner on Twitter and still not blow my cover), and Snapchat for…well, snapchat.

I avoid writing unless I feel I have the time and inspiration for a full, concise essay with a message and hook and an ending. Why? No one sees this anyway, for the most part! So I’m gonna MUSE!

Yesterday evening, I realized as I stood in line for fresh peach ice cream, a seasonal offering at Mitchells, that at that very moment when my husband and I were capping off a long day of sun, food, and cocktails in the searing late summer Sunday heat, a boy I went to high school with–and with whom my husband would eventually cross office space with–was sitting at a service to bury his 19-year old son who had committed suicide. We had visited with the family at the wake earlier in the day, not knowing what to do or say besides a hug, tears, and the promise of prayers. Being thankful for our mental health and that of our children, my husband and I, murmuring taboo words about what life would be like for this family now that every day would cease to be about managing the lifelong depression and emotional chaos of this boy. Realizing that on the day of his birth, they had a perfect baby and life was just beginning, and no matter what happened in the years after that, on one blissful day that baby was fresh and new like we all are once and nothing was “wrong.”

I wouldn’t look at the poster boards of photographs of the boys as a child. I didn’t know him, had never met him.  I didn’t have waterproof mascara on. I was afraid of touching that place which I wanted to avoid.

And then, fully appreciating the possibly obscene juxtaposition of our day vs. theirs, we went off to enjoy Cleveland’s refurbished downtown areas, waterfront, dinner, drinks, ice cream. Celebrating our own fifteen years of wedded bliss, and bliss is pretty much an apt description of it. Why do some get so much on their shoulders, and all that has been on my shoulders, it seems, is the sunshine that I seek so fervently this time of year?

So why write when I have no pat answer or cute meme to punctuate these thoughts? Musings. I’m just musing. And that’s how it works.

And a few less important things that really take up room in my head: I want our local weather person to stop telling me whether to eat my meal on the patio or in the air conditioning. I want her to stop instructing children what weight jacket to wear to the bus stop, and for the sake of all that is meterological I want her to stop sharing recipes. Just tell me the weather. I can make the rest of the decisions on my own.

I think BlueApron or whatever this gourmet food delivery and recipe thing is called is stupid. How hard is it to go the store and buy the six items needed for a recipe? This is another reason why people hate Americans. I know I’m right about this, and I know you probably feel the same way about some things I do, like posting yoga poses and swishing with coconut oil and still having a land-line. But these are my musings, so today I’m right.

Now, after months, I wrote something. So now I’m free to go make a playlist for my noon yoga class, because I feel like that’s fun and this is work. Why, I’m not sure, because I get paid for the yoga and not for the writing. Which is another hilarious turn of events since  my intention was not to necessarily teach yoga. But two great yoga jobs were tossed into my lap like a hot potato (vs. a football, because if you toss a football into my lap I will let it fall because I think football is mostly unnecessary in my life, but a potato (hot or otherwise) I will never let pass me by) and I am completely, unexpectedly energized by teaching.

Have a day. No pressure, it’s Monday. Open heart and no complaining.