i wouldn’t say it’s completely autobiographical. but one has to get one’s idea nuggets from somewhere. and – since our lives together have some really ordinary moments – truly ordinarily-ordinary with a smidge of extra as frosting here and there – they are somewhat easy to pull from.
day-to-day living has enough funny stuff. really. stuff happens. big stuff. little stuff. silly stuff. stupid stuff. hard stuff. poignant stuff. goobery stuff. one just has to notice, to pay attention.
and then – in the case of of a sort-of-autobiographical-sort-of-construed-sort-of-vulnerable-sort-of-stand-up cartoon – one has to be willing to share.
the perils and the summits of middle age. there are plenty.
there is always time. nothing we do is more important than the time we spend together. all of us.
my sweet poppo always said, “you can’t take it with you!” and was referring to money. but it generalizes to pretty much everything. in the end, you can’t take your possessions, your achievements, your investments, even your failures, with you. they will stay behind and it’s love that will carry you on, love that you will carry with you.
so even in the middle of important checklists of chores, work tasks, more achievements and more failures, more, more, more anything – cars, clothes, houses, boats, snowblowers and appliances, shoes, hairdos, all the fancypants trappings of “made-it” – there is time. to walk and talk and be silent and swish your feet through crunchy fallen autumn leaves.
cause you can’t take the other stuff with you.
my dad’s last words to me were, “i love you, kook.” my last words to him were, “i love you, my poppo.”
he’s watching us swish our feet through the leaves now. and smiling.
he is actually a great chef. he loves sous-cheffing but he is never averse to preparing an entire dinner. give him a recipe and some space – and maybe the promise to clean up later – and he will take on anything. especially if he and 20 are at it together. they practically sing and dance while they cook. ok…they DO sing and dance while they cook. and soon, very soon, fall and winter will have us inside more and they will be making-up-dinners-as-they-go while i sit and sip wine and try to ignore how seventh-grade-ish they are.
not to say that we would not be above having a big mac. though we haven’t had one in literally years and years – diet choices at the forefront of reasons – sometimes “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun” sounds dang good.
regardless, billy joel brings me back to luigi’s and gino’s in northport, new york pizza slices folded in half, concerts at the nassau coliseum and my sweet momma’s lasagna.
we have a basket under the tv on the tv stand. in it are all the associated remote control devices. remote for the tv, remote for the cable, remote for the firestick, remote for the dvd player, remote for the older chromecast, universal remote, remote for the ipod dock and a remote for the standing fan, because it seems to be in good company there.
i remember the days – way way back in my growing up house on long island – when we would be sitting and watching our blackandwhite tv in the den. you had to turn the dial to switch the channels and turn a different dial to raise and lower the volume. pretty straight-forward. a product of older parents, i would watch doris day/rock hudson movies and mash and petticoat junction and gidget together with them, never feeling like we were underserved, never thinking we didn’t have enough choices.
and then there’s now. an infinite number of choices.
and yet, we look at each other and ponder when we should cut the cable and minimize – slightly – the cost of all these choices. we know that wifi will connect us to the firestick thing or the chromecast thing or – should we decide a smarter tv is in order – the roku thing. as it is, there are already too many remotes. i personally have lost track of how to access all of it. i think a smart tv would make tv-viewing-life easier that way. but, when is enough enough?
i remember when i wanted to watch a movie – a dvd – after my son left for college and i was an early-on empty nester. i had no idea how to set up the tv (you know, that bottom left button on the tv remote – nonotthecableremotethetvremote! – that sets things to av or something like that) so i called the boy. he patiently walked me through the process, which i wrote down in an effort to not have to call him again.
yikes. it is not necessarily intuitive. and now, with all the paraphernalia and a non-smart tv that’s rapidly approaching “vintage” (even though it is a flat screen and cost a bazillion dollars back in the day) it’s even less intuitive. middle age has its technological challenges. i don’t feel like anyone warned us.
add to that the fact that it is difficult to find something worthy to watch. we roll our eyes as we roll through the viewing guide. and keep a list of things people have recommended you can find elsewhere without all the accessories or, perhaps, with a few less. there’s really a short list of the things we care to view anyway.
goodness! ikea has the right idea. draw pictures and people will figure it out. simple. intuitive. they’ll get it.
it’s like an ongoing game-mix of charades and taboo or catch-phrase over here.
we can’t think of a word…we act it out…we “sounds-like” it…we describe the word without using the word…we gesture wildly and stare blankly at each other. we don’t start panicking right away, but there comes a moment when the void is a little too voidish and we wonder if we will ever come up with the word at all.
since we are writers, this is a tad bit relevant. one of us invariably needs a word – we know the word – we are intimately familiar with the word – the word is like second skin – but it has gone missing.
we try to come up with the letter it starts with – say, r, for example. one-of-us insists it starts with an r and that-same-one-of-us launches a verbose description about TheWord, attempting to get the other to ThinkOfTheWord.
“r!” i repeat, “it starts with an r!!”
“and it’s pasta? something we’d have with sauce?? rigatoni?? rotini?? ravioli??”
“no! no! no!” “think!!” “we have it all the time! r!!! come ON!!” beginning to act out what it looks like, hands drawing in the air…
“ribbon?? have we EVER had ribbon pasta?? dang!! come ON!!”
“are you sure it’s not a t? like tortellini? or trofie?? or maybe a c? like cavatappi? or cavatelli??”
“geeez. no! it’s an r!!”
“well, i can’t think of another r-pasta. is it penne?”
“penne!! that’s it!!! yes!! penne!! a p!!”
the void is a moat, equipped with word magnets, it seems.
every day another word is butterfly-netted and held at bay, even if only for a few minutes, just to torture us.
in the perfect moment of sun, the perfect angle of ray, the perfect covering of cloud, the perfect surface of shadow, two became one.
i took a second look before i pointed it out to him. i wanted to be sure i didn’t miss the bird, maybe tucked into the shadow of fern. it wasn’t there. it had immersed itself into the shadow of the other.
i knew, upon gazing at this, i would not likely witness this again. it was that kind of moment.
when david proposed on knee at gate F8 at o’hare airport, he presented – from inside a tiny box inside a tiny satin bag – two silver rings, almost identical, like the almost-identical-wrought-iron-green-eyed birds. after a magically vehement and funny proposal, he explained he saw us as two individuals, coming together, yet, with great love and respect, remaining individual, bringing to each other all in each our circles. one ring was etched and one was smooth.
we spend pretty much 24/7 with each other. it’s been that way since the beginning. he has supported me in any work i am doing and, likewise, i have supported him. with rare exception, we have traveled, always, together. we chore together and explore together. we cook meals and scheme happy hours and pop-up dinners together. we love on the dog and pine for our babycat together. we cry listening to lowen and navarro’s last concert together and laugh at the same lines over-and-over while watching my big fat greek wedding together. we walk and hike and exercise and spat together. we lift each other up. we grow older together. david’s office is upstairs so during work hours he is merely a flight of steps away. we, as artists, create together, writing every morning, daydreaming aloud about studios on the side of a mountain. saturday we spent hours – with new ridiculously-liberating paint pens – painting rocks together and walking in the dusky edges of day along the lake.
both rings are almost all smooth now. i imagine one of these days they will be the same.
and, though there will always be two – two silver rings, two iron birds – the sun will shine down on us, day after day, shadows of two green-eyed artists on the sidewalk, in the leaves on the trail, on the sand of the shore, on our new fence.
and then, one day, maybe – with all perfects (and imperfects) aligned – that sun may cast a miraculous shadow of one. we might miss it, but we already know it’s there. mingling with the ferns.
we have all done something like this. did we lock the door? did we close the windows? did we leave the iron on? (who irons these days, anyway?)
my sweet momma’s sign on her mirror – “old age is not for wimps” – was prophetic. it’s not just the aches and pains that seem to grab your hand one day and skip along with you, all jolly-like. it’s the yiiiikes moments. those moments when you wrack your brain to try and remember if you did something. and your silly ole brain won’t let you get there. i mean, what IS that?
these are the moments that we can talk about while sitting around with the up-north gang or at friday potluck dinner. these are not moments you wanna mention to the kids. as it is, our stories are less than captivating to them now. add to it a level of aging-hazard and we’ll soon be the proud owners of whatever gizmo will help us be less feeble.
goodness! my momma was right to put that sign on her mirror. it’s not for wimps, these, err, challenges. good thing we are all doin’ it together.
in junior high i wrote a piece which i titled “old age is not a disease”. i was the child of older parents; most of my friends’ parents were at least ten years younger than mine, some fifteen. many of my parent’s friends were also their age and my grandparents were significantly older, so i was surrounded by elders.
i’m not quite sure what compelled me to write this piece, but it was written with fervor and i was passionate about my assertion. though i’m certain it’s somewhere in a bin downstairs, i’ll rely on my tenuous memory when i say i backed it up with facts and a great deal of emotion. always thready and emotional. from the beginning, i suspect.
so i guess it should come as no surprise that i am drawn to things waning. i find the flower on trail past its prime, bowing to the forest floor, petals wrinkling. i find the fallen tree, nurselog to a little community of new trees, striving. i find the dried grasses, glowing in late autumn. my photo library is full of these older-agers.
i keep the daisies until it no longer makes sense. but it seems that is way past when others would keep them. their curling petals no longer crisply open, instead shrinking and closing. they are beautiful. all stages.
daisies are kind of important to us. i was holding a daisy when i met david in baggage claim nine years ago. the second time i met him with a whole armful of daisies. and then, daisies walked with us down the aisle. i suspect they will be with us all along.
so, like us, i recognize their allure in every stage. even in waning.
this past weekend the father of my beloved children, my first husband, turned 65. i wished him a happy birthday and texted that i was astonished that we are the ages we are.
the time between back then and now has flown by and, were i to be defined as a daisy, i am grateful the petals and that yellow center of joy are still present, though a little crumply and a spectrum of many flaxen shades.
i know i don’t look like the daisy of yore. but every stage of a daisy counts.
“may the light of your soul mind you,
may all your worry and anxiousness about becoming old be transfigured,
may you be given a wisdom with the eye of your soul, to see this beautiful time of harvesting.
may you have the commitment to harvest your life, to heal what has hurt you, to allow it to come closer to you and become one with you.
may you have great dignity, may you have a sense of how free you are,
and above all may you be given the wonderful gift of meeting the eternal light and beauty that is within you.
may you be blessed, and may you find a wonderful love in yourself for yourself.”
(john o’donohue – “a blessing for old age” from anam cara)
lusting over brochures is kind of my thing. there is nothing quite like the dreamy four-color-magazine-quality-glossy-coated-silk-card-stock intrigue that beckons me, inviting imaginative adventure and exploring. a good brochure will take you there, place you there, let you sink in and never want to leave. i am clearly the targeted recipient of their magic. and i am – ahem – a collector.
like my relationship with catalogs, i can immerse in the story of the place, the action…it’s deeply satisfying.
sometimes we stop at the welcome center and i load up with all the possibilities of our destination, never to crack them open. it’s like having a treasure chest, knowing you have the treasure chest, not-knowing what’s in the treasure chest but knowing it’s enough you have it. a back pocket full of shiny coins, should you need them.
and sometimes we stop at the welcome center and i find something in a brochure that will not let go. i wonder and ponder and strategize and scheme how to get there, how to experience it, how to afford it. i’m a little overwhelmed by the draw of whatever the thing/place/action is, but i know the likelihood of it is relatively dim.
we clicked on an article on the-island-phone the other day. like shiny card stock, it beautifully featured a resort in utah: amangiri. there was nothing about this resort that wasn’t stunning.
i’ve never stayed in a resort, nonetheless one where your pillow-piled-down-comfortered-bed was out under the stars in the desert, your space open to remote canyonlands of red rock. my breathing got more rapid as i showed david. i clicked on “make a reservation”.
$12,000 a night.
deeper reservation diving revealed a range of pricing, verbose reviews, glamorous indeed, this place.
a little fancy.
clearly we won’t be staying there.
but, in the way that catalogs and brochures also function for me, i saved it and looked at it a few more times. i’ll probably glance a time or two more at this wildly expensive place to stay. and then i’ll delete it. because, by then, i’ll be satisfied.
and besides, the tiny blue airbnb house on one of the side streets in the mountain town in north carolina is also magical. it will afford us a chance to unplug, to hike unfamiliar trails, to cook and eat out on the front porch watching traffic go by, to immerse in a new place, a getaway.
they were perfect little travelers when they were little – my children – seasoned roadtrippers happy-as-clams as long as there were snacks.
not unlike the kiddos, we simply cannot get from point a to point b without snacks. roadtrips are synonymous with non-stop grazing, all bets off, things we don’t usually eat at home. though i’d like to say it’s all about trail mix and flax seed bars, the reality is that twizzlers and munchos and peanut m&ms sometimes make their way into the bags easily accessible from the front seat. carrots and grapes and cut-up apples and water bottles are in the cooler. and coffee. there’s always coffee. hydroflasks filled at home followed by cardboard starbucks cups of the boldest pour. back in the non-gluten-free days there would be those amazing lemon loaf slices too – the ones with the slightest schmear of frosting. and we’d bring along schmearless plain panera bagels, just to chew on. yes, yes, we know how to rock the highways.
lately, we’ve tried to be more – conscious – of our choices, tried to eat healthy snacks – even in the car – more kind bars, less pringles, more gf granola bites, fewer hostess cupcakes.
but then there’s david. trying to be all healthy-like, waxing poetic about the glorious bags and coolers full of nutritious, wholesome foods, robustly clapping at our roadtrip fare.
he’s all-in, a clean-snacks, upbeat good-food-eater until…that toddler-award-winning-tizzy-moment he completely loses it when he realizes that, indeed, we have not included peanut m&ms.
*using an apostrophe in a non-possessive plural really gets my inner-grammar-nerd going, so much research went into whether there is an apostrophe referring to the plural of these candies. since m & m are names and the candy is actually called “m&m’s”, i decided to go with the apostrophe referring to the complete name, but not without cringing at the use of an apostrophe sort of doubling as a plural. ugh. blame my sweet momma. 😉