Memorial Day

In honor of Memorial Day I choose the Good Humor: a treat on a wooden stick, vanilla ice cream covered in thin dark chocolate, covered in white shiny paper that was hermetically sealed over it. Teeth were the utensil most often used to open it up!

The good humor arrived in the truck driven by the Good Humor man. The truck had a refrigerator on the back which could be accessed from both sides by opening a door with a stainless steel handle. Sometimes, when I was last in line, I would stand on the stone wall so I could see deep inside the truck. There were pale cardboard boxes in there piled to the brim of the truck like shoe boxes or small coffins but unmarked.

The arrival of the good humor man was akin to the arrival of Santa Claus. In our house there were no treats so ice cream on a stick was a major event.
I don’t know why I seemed to be the only sibling that was able to buy two Good Humors, but I can only assume it was because I have always been a saver.

The good humor man came between three and four on Sunday afternoons but only in the summer months and announced his arrival with a clanging of a sweet sounding bell which reverberated through the neighborhood and into the ears of kids longing for ice cream. The good humor man did not always have a good humor and often seemed slightly frightening to us kids.

We would save our allowances until we could afford to buy at least two so that we could put the one that we didn’t eat right away into the big refrigerator in the back of our garage with our name on it.

From the time I was a little kid my favorite toy was a tiny red cash register that could accept nickels, dimes and quarters and wouldn’t open until you had saved $10. I loved that piggy bank. As a matter fact I think I would still be using it if I knew where it was. It was incredibly gratifying to put in that last coin and see the cash drawer spring open and make the noise “Cha Ching !”

Gratifying, but also somehow sad and disappointing. You had achieved your goal now what would you do with it? Probably most kids wouldn’t really even think like this but I wasn’t looking for happiness, I was looking for safety.

In the 50s families were flush with falsehood: Betty Crocker, Aunt Jemima, Birdseye, Henry Ford, Bass Weejuns and Chryslers. There was a long line of things that people wanted to acquire in order to feel that they didn’t need to eat too many good humors.

Women wore lipstick called “Cherries in the Snow” bought in the Five and Dime and men wore suits and took the train to work and smoked. Everybody smoked. They smoked in the car around the children. They smoked in their office. They smoked in their bathrooms with the windows open. And they smoked late at night while they gazed at the moon and wondered why they were feeling so empty.

You can’t go to war and kill people and then come back home and be happy. It doesn’t matter what people say about defending your country, once you’ve dropped a bomb on a village or shot a man in the chest as he’s coming at you , you can’t ever forget what it felt like. You have those moments when you remember what you did and even though you had to do it it never really sits right with you.

People think soldiers do it out of loyalty to their country and maybe that’s why they do it in the beginning. I don’t think you can stop thinking about war just because the war may be over. In the 1950s the war was over and people were celebrating by buying things and having children.

We were winners. We had won. Everyone knows that once you win a prize you don’t care about the prize after a while. It becomes meaningless and you even forget where or what it was but you keep buying.

On this memorial day I would like to remember the young boys and girls who started out with innocence in their hearts and grew up and went to war believing they were doing the right thing. I would like to remember what they lost by doing this. Some came home with seriously damaged bodies and some came home with seriously damaged minds. Some were addicted to drugs and some became homeless living on the streets with nowhere to go and no one to be with.

Once the war was over and they were sent home there was no follow up or real responsibility on the part of this country to take care of people. None of the vehicles set up to do this really took care of the problem.

It’s been said before. War is not necessary.

Now we are in the midst of a pandemic yet each country takes care of it in their own way. The news reports the number of cases worldwide and how many people have died in each country every day. It’s as if we are watching a horse race and placing bets. Each country owns a different horse and hopes their horse will win. The price will be monumental. Still we don’t work together.

I read the other day that people spend more money on lottery tickets than they do on taking themselves out for dinner, to the movies, beach, a play, an amusement park. It made me really sad to read this. Instead of enjoying life each day, people spend money on the tiny possibility they will win money and believe that winning money will make them overjoyed to be alive. Winning money will take away the pain.

So I’m coming to the end here. On this memorial day I would like to focus on our children and our grandchildren and think about how we can make their lives happy and make them see and feel and understand what it is that happiness is.

I don’t think it’s buying things, and I don’t think it’s going to war and killing people, I don’t think it’s winning a lottery ticket, I don’t think it’s buying a car,I don’t think it’s winning and I don’t think it’s losing.

I think it is having the ability to accomplish a small task for yourself and then be proud.

I think it’s setting a reasonable goal and accomplishing it. I think it is being a kind and loving person and a generous one. I think it is valuing the qualities that make a good citizen in the world: compassion, generosity, and the practice of non-violence.

I am an optimist. I think we have a chance to recognize this now when we’re on the brink of global extinction.Everyone feels like they’re not safe. Everyone feels disconnected. I just keep thinking about the movie, “ET”. If we could all just reach out our fingers and touch someone else and make them feel safe then maybe we would feel safe too. I don’t really think there’s another solution.

The last human left on earth

Survival instructions when you are the last human left

First thing:
crumble twigs on bare floor before waking and walking.
Freeze some flowers the night before then
turn a rose inside out and label the petals
in order to remember what they said.
Historian.
If you find a coyote in your house ask
what she needs from outside and tell the
hairless goat to stay in the closet for a while.
There might be a vulture on your roof so
watch it when you go out.
(Nothing by mouth
not even cacti)
If Georgia O’Keefe steps through a window
don’t act surprised or needy just have a
conversation about stillness or sex or tools.
Any will
prove useful.
The world will be pale but don’t be enticed to
touch the green as then it, too, will die.
It is your job to keep noting:
Rock
Water
Warmth
Cold
Alive
Dead
Just sit. Not wait.

Is it too late to be Nancy Drew?

Is it too late to be Nancy Drew now that it’s hard for me to get up in the morning and one knee hurts so badly but it does stop about seven minutes later? Is it too late to be Nancy Drew now that I forget things and my hair has turned gray and sometimes I look in the mirror and I don’t recognize myself? Is it too late to be Cherry Ames, Dude Ranch Nurse , solving mysteries that no one else could solve because she was smart and beautiful and accomplished. (Remember Cherry was not a doctor but the nurse at the ranch).

I want to be that woman who gets dressed in a three-piece suit with spiky heels and stalks across the courtroom floor and wins the case against the giant corporation making millions of dollars for her firm and saving millions of employees their jobs. Is it too late for that? I don’t know why I didn’t think that I could do that but my parents never read one report card and only looked at the beauty in my face and the lilt in my voice and the trail of suitors following me.

I had a longing deep inside of me like a drill bit that never stopped whirling and now I see the women getting in cars going to work with a confident twitch of their hips and I want to be them. I want to be successful and get a big paycheck and have a room full of men hang on my every word. I want to be brilliant and knowledgeable and respected and powerful and I want to have done it all myself with my big beautiful brain and I don’t want anyone to get in my way and I don’t want someone to marry me and make it happen. I will want this until the day I die.

So Long

Quarantine? Hell I’m not having a problem. Last night I went over for a cocktail to the house of a guy I’ve been dancing with electronically and I told him I wanted to talk to him. In man language that means oh shit. I wear my mask and rubber gloves and I climb the two floors to his condo and we go out onto his deck where there’s a breeze and he pulls out this cheese plate with these giant hunks of cheese and we drink ruby wine. We talk about people on the street below us and how many women he’s involved with. He telling me he tells me he’s engaged and he holds up his hand on which there is this really unfortunate looking metal thing on his ring finger. I laugh at him and I say that doesn’t make any difference you were pursuing me two months ago and you were engaged then too.
You are only engaged when you feel like being engaged. I look over at him and make note of his slightly tattered ski vest, a shirt that probably has seen better days, hair that is half dyed brown and half gray stuffed under a tattered looking baseball cap and a face that has a history of loss and then I surprise myself by saying to him would you like to know what I want? His face freezes and his mouth is half open and he looks at me like what the hell am I going to say? So I say to him here’s what I want: I want to have dinner with someone every night. I want to be like ET and put my finger out and touch someone else’s. I want to know during this terrible period that there’s somebody there who cares about me and I’m going to be talking to them and I can text them and say I’m scared and they will be there for me. I want somebody who’s cozy and knows when to shut up and when to talk. I want someone who is loyal and faithful and who knows how to keep himself sober. I want someone who takes a shower every day and brushes his teeth and reads interesting stories so he can later recant them to me. I want someone who is devoted to me, highly entertaining, and cleans up after himself. I want someone who goes to sleep and does not move all night long or snore. I want somebody who thinks about when and what we’re going to have for dinner because I don’t want to think about that.

So I’m done with my request and there is a pause and I look at him waiting for an answer and he says to me,
“ I don’t want to have dinner with someone every night!”
I’ve got to say this was the smartest conversation I’ve ever had in my whole history of dating as I got an immediate result and I know this guy has to be removed from the list. I was laughing so hard on the way home I could hardly drive. As soon as I got home he sent me a text saying I already miss you. I’m sure he does. It felt incredibly liberating and I no longer have any fantasy life about this man and frankly I don’t know why I did in the first place but I did and now it’s gone. I’m gonna do this from now on. Just read my list.

A Sign

A Sign

My Daughter has been dead for nearly three years and I haven’t heard a word from her until yesterday, that is. You may think that sounds weird, but I was a big believer in communication with the dead.
Before she died, I believed there were all sorts of ghosts, spirits and parents out there who could and did communicate a lot! For the life of me I couldn’t get my Mom out of my head but now I like to hear her. Right after Tina died, I felt her near me, and I felt how worried she was to leave me. She could not get into her orbit and it was up to me to pray for her and to let her go which I did.
Dragon flies were plentiful around the bench she had last sat on in my garden and they stayed for days in the summer sun, something they never do. Reluctantly. They were Tina’s symbol.
She died a painful and terrible death and had quite a few minutes to struggle, to have changed her mind, to face the fact that it was too late, and to realize she would never see anyone here on earth again. I think she died because she didn’t see a way to happiness like many others who choose suicide. I think she had no idea what it would be like.
So, then I lost her and though the silence seemed right in the beginning, after a while it seemed wrong and bitter and empty and very unfair. It was a loud silence as if she had gone so far away that there was no trail to finding her and worse, she had lost the trail back to me.
I would chidingly talk to her photo when passing it in the hallway saying good morning and good night and ask why she was not in touch. I would try very hard to understand what her eyes were telling me. I would think about our time together when she was a child and what she was like and what we did together.
I came to know some of her friends better than I ever had when they were young. I reconnected with a babysitter who had been with us one summer. My way of healing was to keep listening to stories about my daughter and to keep on searching for understanding as to why she had ended out where she did.
I read through all her emails to me over the years both angry and loving. I looked at her artwork. I opened her trunk of childhood and removed dresses, coats, shoes and hats, holding each one in my hands, often pressing it to my face and always asking for a sign that she knew I was waiting to hear from her. That she knew I missed her.
I started to go to church but found many lacking. The expression on the faces of ministers often made me wonder what their diet was composed of. I never felt at home there and hated being greeted by strangers wanting to hug you.
Finally, I went to the church next door where Father Mike, my friend, was the priest. In the cavernous space filled sparsely with young and old, I found some serenity and I remembered how praying had helped me not be afraid of the dark as a kid. I began to pray. At first, it only took a minute before I went to sleep but as time went on there were so many people needing help.
You won’t understand this unless you have lost someone you love very much. Its just what people in mourning do.
Then one day everything changed. I was in the living room looking intently at a photograph of Tina and wishing once again I felt in touch with her. I said it out loud several times. I think I was beginning to cry.

Then my cell phone rang. It was my two-year-old granddaughter Rosemary, wanting to FaceTime with me. Rosemary was born one month after Tina died and my daughter and I think a part of Tina is in her. Rosemary wanted to talk about unicorns. Unicorns were Tina’s spirit animal.

I know I am in touch now and I got my sign

Star In A Sci-Fi Film

I’m a Star in My Own Sci-Fi Film

“Each morning I wake Up

Before I put on my makeup

I say a little prayer for all of us”

I wonder if Diane Keaton is cleaning her own toilet? I know that’s a superficial question but what the heck? What are all the famous and rich people doing without their housekeepers? Today I found that if you use a Q-Tip you can really get stuff that’s been there for God knows how long. I’m a pretty good cleaner having used this obsession for many years to avoid stress and anxiety. Nothing like a good cleaning to make you feel in order.

 It’s not really working.

I walk the deserted streets of my town hoping to have a socially distanced conversation with someone, anyone. I think it still hasn’t gotten through to me that this might be it for the rest of my life. If someone doesn’t come up with a cure for this virus, we will all live like surreal movie stars, alone and unbelieving.

Am I lonely? Weirdly enough I am not. I’ve been practicing for loneliness all my life. Others who have partners seem very concerned about me and call or text often. I’m so grateful for this. I feel like ET is reaching out all the time. I love Facetime and today my granddaughter took me into the bathroom this morning because she “wanted some privacy with Grandma Lulu”

I told her a story about how Harry and Stan (my dogs) went out today to get burgers and fries. Apparently’ she didn’t know what fries her Mom were as is the most amazing Mom and makes everything organic for her. She loves garlic and eats it for lunch in cloves.

What helps is having the focus be on today. If I allow myself to go into fear, I think I’m a star in my own disaster film. I’m the last person alive on the earth and I can’t leave my house. I look upon the UPS guy with deep suspicion and refuse to accept the package and ask him to leave it on the ground.

My Dad worried about a nuclear disaster and we had a bomb shelter in my basement. There was a handgun on the wall right next to the heavily barred door. He said it was for the neighbors who would try to get in and be safe. I knew then I would never go into the shelter with my family, but I had to find a way to be outside with everyone else preparing to die. I don’t blame my Dad as he loved his family and protecting us was his goal. I just didn’t want to be the last person standing.

I could see clearly it wouldn’t be fun to be the last family alive on earth or at least in Greenwich, Connecticut.

I have a schedule because I love schedules. It makes me feel safe to have one. I am meditating longer and walking longer. I’ve found a new walking friend but It’s hard as we must walk Indian file so as not to be too close. Luckily neither of us has a hearing problem yet.

I think I will put two lawn chairs six feet apart in my driveway and set up a Peanuts sign saying “advice” and entice other walkers to stop and sit a spell. My sister once said if I stepped into an elevator in the Empire State building by the time, I reached the top I would have 50 new friends. I am compulsively friendly believing everyone really wants to communicate. In truth, it’s because I suffer from abandonment.

I have volunteered with a local church as well as a neighborhood group to call and check on people and the good thing is that most of the group, I call are also calling people. The worst thing is calling and getting a machine saying the message taking part is full. I don’t know what to do or who to call. And its worse when you go to the house and no one answers the door. Where have they gone?

We all had a choice a few weeks ago to leave the area with our animals and drive to Wyoming or God knows where. Most of us stayed knowing instinctively that if this quarantine were going to be for months it would be better to be at home. Some believe it will be over by summer but I’m certain it will be Christmas at the earliest.

If you take it day by day, the days become softer and more pleasant. It seems natural to take a nap or lie down on the sofa after folding the laundry. I find myself being captured by the site of my blooming Camelia tree several times a day through different windows in my house.

My best advice: start some type of creative project whether it’s a book, poem, picture, painting or collage. You will be amazed at how the time flies once you get absorbed in it.

I have no real advice only the thought that if this is my own sci-fi film, I’m making the ending a happy one and so should you.

This time its different. We all care about each other. Its harder to live like this for some than others. We are all hurting but those of us who are approaching the end of the runway are really hurting. We know how how little time we have left anyway to spend with our grandchildren before they are no longer children. It’s all speeding up but also slowing down.

Save Our Global Community: Stay Home

The Virus

Remember the children’s game “gotcha last”? In our family we played it for hours. It actually drove our mother crazy but we couldn’t help ourselves. The game would stop for hours and then there would be a little subtle finger touch during the dinner hour that one of us would feel all too late and know we had been tagged and we were it.

Now it’s become a reality. Chances are, if someone is infected with the virus and comes within 6 feet of someone else, and then they happen to sneeze, another person will catch it. If we go to the gym and we use hand sanitizer but happen to miss one tiny spot and wipe our noses without thinking, boom, we have it.

This isn’t an exaggeration. No one in America likes to be told what to do. Everyone I know in my group of friends has claustrophobia.Everyone I know has abandonment tendencies and hates to be alone. Everyone I know thinks the idea of being told to stay home and in their house and to avoid social interaction is akin to being incarcerated.

Well, guess what? If we don’t stay home and we don’t keep our families at home we are jeopardizing our freedom to live. Yes, we are jeopardizing our right to stay alive. Yes, we are jeopardizing the right of all of our neighbors to stay alive and be safe and healthy.

It’s really time to realize that this is no joke. We need to take care of our country. We need to look after our elderly population and make sure everyone is taken care of. Staying home is not such a bad thing and it’s what we all should be doing right now.

I  walk around my house and see how lucky I am because my house is filled with books many of which I have never read. Now I can read them.Now I can go in my garden and sit and reflect on a single camellia or the tenacity  of an ant.

 I am so grateful for the texts from my family which happen almost daily and the phone calls from my friends. They warm my heart and make me feel less alone than I’ve felt in years. Now is the time for us to reach out through our wonderful technology and communicate with our children and our grandchildren and our friends and our family and tell them we love them. Finally, technology is a good thing.

Now is not the time to go out to restaurants and cafés and parties and risk catching the virus and then spreading it to other people who may not be strong enough to survive it.

Now is the time to respect our medical personnel who risk so much to take care of us. Now is the time to guard our families by realizing that  staying at home is actually a wonderful thing to be doing.

Consider our future and the future of our world and the safety of our population and make a decision to do your part in preventing the spread of this virus. Stay home. Read a book. Eat lightly. Take a walk. Pet your dog. Play a game with your kids. Delight in the sunrise and meditate longer. Take a bath. Practice deep breathing. Look at your scrapbooks. Get in touch with everyone you love and tell them you love them.

Do the best you can to stay safe and healthy and carry the world in your hands as if it’s a precious breath you would like to share with everyone around you. Just think, if everyone did this we would be safe.

Musical Chairs

Musical chairs

I feel like we’re playing musical chairs in the world.
I am not good at that game.

Where can we go?

What can we do?

Where is it safe?

When I was a kid people used to scream

at me because I would never leave my chair.

If I did it was to slither

over to the next chair
before the music even thought about stopping.

In my house there are many chairs.
There are many photos.
I like to stop

and sit on the chair that looks directly into the photo
of my family surrounding me.

That’s all I see
That’s all I pray for.