Archive for the ‘Parents’ Category

We have all heard that there is no road map for grief. So it can be a difficult and tricky course for many to navigate.

Each of us is like a snowflake. Unique. Just like our grief is unique and how we deal with our loss.

I remember one of my aunts, after losing her husband, telling me that she just kept herself busy, busy and busy. In hindsight she thinks maybe she kept herself too busy.

Another aunt was told to travel after the loss of her spouse. And she did. Accepted every invitation.

Just two examples among many.

Everyone takes a different course to find their way through grief and find their way back again. To discover their new normal.

Life is never the same when we lose a loved one. That is a fact.

The same aunt who was “too busy” wrote those exact words to me in a letter after my uncle Stiophan died.

“Life will never be the same.”

And it wasn’t. But that didn’t mean that life couldn’t be good for her again.

A friend, Donna B., had shared a website this morning on Facebook and I thought it was interesting. Shows another way of dealing with grief.

The owner of the website lost her mother, who was in her fifties, to early onset Alzheimer’s. Her aunt stepped in as surrogate mom but she, too, would soon fall victim to the same disease and be gone within a year.

Here is her website.

https://griefbiscuit.com/

I thought I would share it with you. Who knows? Maybe it will help someone through the upcoming holidays. Or the next six months. The year.

There are also some tips and tools on the site designed to help those who are grieving. I particularly liked, “Be the Sherpa.”

Wishing peace and comfort to all of those who are suffering this holiday season. Now and in the new year.

 

 

 

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A friend used to joke, “I’m like marble. I don’t want to be taken for granite.”

So goofy.

It’s true though. No one wants to be taken for granted.

But most of us do take people and things for granted at times. We just don’t think about it on a daily basis. Until we don’t have them.

Last Spring, my neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur lost internet connection for the entire day. Thank Jesus for the fancy iPhones so everyone could whine about it in group chats.

Wait, don’t folks around the world lose water, electricity and more every single day? If they even ever had access to them at all.

Luckily, I was out running errands. So the internet outage didn’t totally destroy me. And I had my phone 🙂

One of the errands was dropping off a carload of donations to a housing complex where many refugees live. It made me realize the clothes and household items we can sometimes take for granted.

That afternoon, I went with my then 12th grade daughter to school for her last day as president of a club she started three years ago.

This club allowed refugee students from a nearby volunteer run school to be bussed to her campus so they could play games, use the sports facilities, etc. It made be conscious of how something like a simple school campus can be taken for granted.

I was watching these lovely young girls and boys playing basketball and cheering for each other. Kids from Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria, Iran and Afghanistan.

So many children displaced from so many countries around the world. Due to war and violence. A stark reminder that we can take our security for granted.

As my daughter was saying goodbye to her refugee friends they told her, “We will miss you.”

One young girl told her, “You’re so lucky you can go to college.”

Okay, wow. My daughter never really looked at it like that. It was taken for granted that there would be the opportunity for her to attend college.

Now this is totally human. We don’t tend to think about these things-these absolute gifts- all the time. Or think about the people-these absolute gifts in our lives- all the time. It’s really not sustainable to constantly be in a state of such focus.

But we should take more time to realize who and what we might be taking for granted. We absolutely should take more time to be mindful and appreciative of the gifts, comforts and blessings bestowed upon us. Communicate love and gratefulness.

We do plenty of things without giving them a single thought like…….

Hopping into the hot shower. Snuggling under the warm blanket with spouse, kid or pet. Turning on the tap and expectantly hold a glass under it. Waking up feeling fit and energetic. Flicking on the light. Cracking open the fridge. Pursing our lips for the perfunctory kiss at the front door. Saying the rote “I love you.” Opening the wallet. Closing the car door with the habitual thank you response.

Until we no longer have or we are faced with no longer having…..

Hot water. The warm cover over our bodies. The spouse, kid or pet no longer there. The surety that water will flow into the glass. Good health. The person at the front door. Electricity. The loved one on the other end of the telephone line. Money. The beloved parent in the car dropping you off one more time.

I wish all of you who are celebrating Thanksgiving a wonderful visit with family and friends. Enjoy and appreciate this special day. A perfect time to remember that the gifts, comforts and blessings in our lives should be like marble and not taken for granted.

To those who are not celebrating the holiday I wish you the same. A day of giving thanks.

One last thing. I’m very thankful for you all.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

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When I visit Rhode Island it’s usually for the summer and a haircut/coloring always ends up being a thing. To be honest the thing is actually coloring more than the cut.

I always call the East Side stylist, M., who I’ve known for more than thirty years. I’ll just call her M. since I view going to a trusted salon and swapping life experiences as sort of a sacred thing. Like bookclub.

Anyway, my husband found her when he was a college student. When we married I hopped on board.

So we go way back. Probably still have the present M. sent when my first daughter was born.

M. always fits me in during my summer holidays.

Rhode Island is a small place. My father knew her parents from the Irish circles. We knew some of the same people.

Every time I visit she’s got a mixed bag of clients.

I could meet an older woman going on a trip to Syria or a woman who says my cousin Francis roomed with her husband. Back in the day.

Love it. Usually fun and light hearted. M. and I discuss books, restaurants, travel destinations, politics and family.

This summer day was also about politics, restaurants and family.

M. was talking about her sister. Probably because the previous week was the seventeenth anniversary of her sister’s death.

Her sister sounded so fabulous. A Rhode Island girl who was one of the leading art dealers in New York. A pioneer of the art scene in the East Village, Chelsea and Soho. Who Andy Warhol immortalized in a silk screen back in 1985.

But that is not why I’m writing this post.

I was sitting there with foil strips in my hair and my eyes filling up with tears.

Because this lady had cancer and died at the young age of forty-five.

M.’s sister decided that she wanted to die on Cape Cod and on a Friday. She did both.

This woman’s husband’s called M. the day before she died and said basically that she wasn’t doing great. Maybe something in her breathing. Maybe nothing but he just wanted to let them know.

M. says, ” Thank you.”

She thinks about it and says to herself, “I’m going to the Cape.”

It was midnight.

M. called all the family members.

They all made the decision to head to the Cape.

And that is when the tears dripped down my face.

I just had a vision of this family hopping into their cars for a trip that no one ever really wants to take. But wouldn’t have it any other way.

Surrounding their loved one as she transitioned out of this world.

The last people she saw were those who loved her most. Her husband and her family.

When we are born the first people we see are the ones who absolutely love us most.

If we are fortunate we pick up a few more as we journey through life. Siblings, partners, children or friends.

It’s only fitting that’s the way it should end.

With those who love us most.

 

 

 

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So hard to believe it is already November. Time is flying.

I am sharing an old posting of mine. Wrote it back in January of 2014.

I had to print things out for Dad because he wasn’t on the “machine.” So he read this posting. I remember when he did. We were sitting on his back porch. Dad laughed and he teared up. When he was finished reading it he told me that I was a very good writer and that I truly captured it.

Dad died in March of 2015. When it was time for me to clear out his things I found the folded up copy of the blog posting in his top drawer.

The odd thing is I recently posted about an old place in East Providence where I grew up. It was called Tiano’s Five Acres. The name changed many, many years ago. But this was where Dad and his friend John last saw each other. My father never went back to that place. Didn’t have it in him.

All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day is November 1st. Not sure why I am writing about it today but sometimes I’m prompted and I just need to get things down on paper. And out of my head.

So All Saints’ Day it is.

I fondly remember my young years at a Catholic school where we could dress up on this day. As a saint. Little boys with ropy belts tied around their baggy robes and little girls with scarves on their heads.

Most of us remember the date. You had Halloween and then All Saints’ Day. Two dress up days in a row.

But it’s not the only reason I remember November 1st.

My father had a friend named John McG.

They worked together but were unlikely a pair as you would ever see. Dad grew up in Ireland. John grew up in a hardscrabble section of Providence. At the time, my dad was the father of teenagers. John had three little boys. My dad was twenty-two years older than John. He could have been his father. But he wasn’t. Dad had known John’s own father. Probably before he even knew John. We were closer in age to John than my Dad was to him.

My dad was sort of a no-nonsense kind of guy at the time. Maybe a bit of stoicism in there. John was all emotion. Loud, irreverent, funny and lovable. When John was around my Dad changed. He was lighter and laughed a lot.

Because when John was around everyone changed. Felt lighter. And laughed a lot. He was devilish and quick-witted. Dad said he would tease the women in the office or wherever he went and they loved it. Even my mom laughed like a woman years younger when John was in our house.She got such a kick out of the things that came out of his mouth.

Because everyone was just a little bit in love with John McG. Girls and guys.

He was attractive. Maybe not drop dead gorgeous but something that brought you closer. I think his personality made him really, really good-looking.

Dad started bringing him around on Saturday mornings. They were Teamsters so it was usually after a meeting. Or maybe a blood drive.

It would be early and I would still be in bed. But I knew the moment John entered the kitchen. Our house was tiny but I would have known even if I lived in a mansion. The house almost shook. You could hear the talking and booming laughter. And there was a unique energy in the house. Like Springsteen sang, “I check my look in the mirror” and make my way downstairs toward the light. Not begrudging interrupted Saturday morning sleep but begrudging the fact that I didn’t have advance notice.

Maybe in some way Dad and his kids felt John was a conduit for the generation gap that existed between us. John could say anything to my Dad and get away with it. He would tease him about his teenagers.”What are your kids doing tonight, Pat? Dating? Smoking pot?” Who would say those things to my DAD? And get away with it? John would and could. Absolutely irreverent. You had to know my dad. He didn’t swear or discuss anything untoward. And John had no boundaries with my Dad. Like we did.

You would think that maybe my brothers and I might have been jealous of this guy my father loved so much. And maybe if John were a different person we would have been. But we loved him, too.  So there was no room for jealousy.

He was half Irish American and half Italian American. I think his mom died when he was younger.

When he was scheming my dad would tease him and say,”That’s not the Irish in you.”

And John would tease Dad right back.

I remember when he wanted Dad to come visit him at his home. To see the house he built. It was a real log cabin in the woods of Rhode Island. That sounded pretty neat. So Dad, Mom and I took a drive one weekend. I was also curious to meet John’s family. To see what kind of girl had captured John. To meet his sons.

She was lovely and sweet. Italian-American. Pretty with a nice figure. I still remember the jeans she had on more than thirty years ago. Because they had zippers at the bottoms. Near the ankles.

And then the three little boys. Very young and adorable. And the light of their father’s eyes. You could see it. One of them had gotten into a spot of trouble that day. Something to do with an errant ball and a neighbor’s window. John gave the little fella a stern talking to in front of us. But once the kid was out of sight John was grinning impishly. There was no question of his love, pride and tenderness for the family.

I asked him the names of his two dogs. He said, “Oh, that one is Toothless and the other one is Useless.”He was just so funny.

Seemed John had it all and that he deserved every single bit of it. No one would ever be covetous. Or begrudge him anything.

Time passes. It’s 1986. I will marry on November 15th. It’s going to be a very small party. Thrown together fairly quickly. There really wasn’t room for all the extraneous folks that usually attend bigger weddings. So, it was a list of mostly family and very close family friends. An invitation was mailed to John and his wife.

Then came November 1st, 1986. All Saints’ Day.

And everything changed.

A light went out.

John died in a car accident on his way home early that morning.

My dad had been with him in the evening. They had a drink and then my dad went home. After telling John to do the same. Probably left with a “See you soon!” or “See you Monday!” My dad came home, most likely finished up with the nightly news and then went to bed. He got up early to go golfing. Not knowing that he and John were no longer sharing the same world.

John was thirty-three years old.

It feels odd to write that number since I am now forty-nine years old and Dad will soon be eighty-three. A lot of years have passed.

When we came home that day Dad was sitting in the living room chair. He had returned from the golf course and had gotten the news. My mother went to him as he was reaching out for her arm. And he sobbed. And sobbed.

I had never, ever seen my father cry. I had only ever seen his eyes tear up and that was once. When his mother died and I caught him just staring out the living room window into nothingness. I assumed my father did his deep grieving in private. But this was something entirely different.

My heart hurt so badly when I heard about John and it literally broke when I saw my father that day.

You see, he loved John McG.

I still think of John every now and again. His name still comes up.

When we had a surprise 80th birthday party for my dad a couple of years ago, one of my brothers said, “John McG would have been here today. God rest his soul.”

John was no saint. That’s a tough status. He was human. And he made mistakes. Just like anyone of us.

Just wish it didn’t have to end the way it did. Especially to someone who was so very alive.

We always read about people who walk into a room and absolutely nothing happens. And then there are the others. Not a lot of them out there. But when they walk into a room something happens.

That was John.

I heard that his wife never remarried. Not sure why. She had three young boys and she was a young and beautiful woman. I wondered sometimes if it was because there was just no one out there that could have filled his shoes. Or filled his space. Or loved those boys like he did.

Dad retired, was blessed with grandchildren and softened with the years. I see him cry now. He has a hard time saying good-bye to me and/or my daughters when we leave him. But it’s good. He enjoys his life and his family.

I will always remember John McGinn on All Saints’ Day. It’s not the day the music died. It’s the day a light went out.

May he rest in eternal peace.

John P. McGinn

1953-1986

 

 

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Yesterday morning I checked Facebook. Saw that a new friend request was pending.

The name was Veronica Victor.

Hmmmm. I don’t know anyone by that name.

So I hone in on the photo. The profile picture is a lovely shot of my friend’s mother. Whose name is not Veronica Victor. I check the cover photo. Again, a nice picture of my friend’s mother and father with their beautiful grandchildren sitting on a sofa and smiling.

But I am already Facebook friends with her.

Time for a little recon work.

I check the “About” page. Says from Trinidad and Tobago. Okay, that would be correct.

There is also a “Studied at West London School of Dance” or something like that. This could also be correct.

I scroll down the timeline to look for more clues.

This is what I found.

#feeling #myself

If you’re gonna say bad things about about me at my back, come to me and I will tell u more. Living ma life without anybody’s permission. 

Pretty sure that the very proper Judith is not going to be writing this. Ever. I’m also quite certain that seventy-four year old Judith doesn’t know what a hashtag is.

My friend asks me to report it to Facebook if I know how. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know what a hashtag is either.

I give Judith a heads up and I reported that it was a fake.

Facebook gets back to me thanking me for reporting it.

But sort of creepy when you think about it. Someone stealing a photo of your family and using it on their profile and background cover.

Wait, the friend request is still pending. The account is still active. The person has changed the profile photo (no longer Judith-thank goodness) and has updated their information. Single and lives in Ogun, Nigeria.

I texted my friend.

“Do you think it would be alright if I call your mom Veronica Victor from now on……?”

She said, “Sure!”

LOL

Have a great day everyone! And watch out for the fake friends.

Me?

I’m just gonna be living ma life without anybody’s permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I have a birthday coming up soon.

Don’t mind the birthdays so much. Maybe because I really hardly ever know old I am.

Been known to say to one of my brothers, “How old are you?”

And then I do the laborious math.

I know the difference of years between us.

What do I mind about getting older?

Wrinkles? Forgetfulness? Weight gain?

No, the thing I really do mind is my eyesight not being as keen as it once was.

I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my Dad. I was a young girl and I was threading a needle.

My Dad said, “I remember when I was a boy in Ireland threading a needle for my Granny.”

Oh my gosh.

I’m now the Granny.

I’ve worn the “cheaters” for years. Pushing them back on my head when I didn’t need them to see fine print. Hair had a permanent imprint from the glasses.

Finally succumbed to multi-focal glasses. Wasn’t easy getting used to them.

I’d be climbing down stairs and escalators making sure I didn’t kill myself due to a misstep while looking out the distance lens when I should have been looking a little closer to home.

I appeared, on more than one occasion, to be really challenged.

Now I am wearing them all the freaking time!

I remember a few years back, while we were taking a family photo, saying to Mom, “Do you want to take your glasses off for the photo?”

She said, “Why would I want to take them off? I wear them all the time.”

Ummm, okay.

See, I’m not there yet.

I have nothing against glasses. Some of my best friends wear glasses. LOL

I just realize it’s not so easy.

How do you put makeup on each day? You need your glasses to see but how can you apply eye makeup with the glasses perched on your nose?

The other day I was in a hotel room. Before I hopped in the shower I lined up the shampoo, conditioner and shower gel in order of use.

Because I don’t wear glasses in the shower.

So, I’m like Mr. Magoo in a steam filled cubicle.

I’m not sure what I should do.

I could be chasing the botox people down, hiring a trainer to tone this fifty something year old body and furiously doing crossword puzzles to help my memory.

But what I am thinking about is laser surgery. If I am a candidate.

Not just because of the makeup or because I might put shower gel in my hair. Or gargle with astringent. Or brush my teeth with facial hair remover.

But because I want to see everything. Without assistance.

Like I did when I was young.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This past summer I was driving to my friend’s home in Rhode Island with my two daughters. It’s a lovely area near the beaches. Tree lined roads winding by horses grazing, babbling brooks and placid ponds. Gorgeous old, clapboard homes on green acres dot the landscape.

My eldest, who is twenty five, says, “This area is so beautiful. Not like the usual creepy New England towns.”

I exclaim, “What?? Creepy like how? A van with no windows is creepy. But not New England!”

Later on, while we are soaking up the sun on a fabulous beach, same daughter proceeds to tell my friend that ever since she was a little kid I’ve told her probably every single ghost story or mystery that took place in our part of New England.

Okay, when you put it like that. I sound like a monster.

It’s true. I might have pointed out a haunted house or two.

The Westport house where folks claimed a ghost resided.  One of the occupants fell asleep in a rocking chair and woke up with a haircut.

I probably mentioned the ghost of the red-headed hitchhiker on Interstate 195.

Most likely gave the background of the childhood rhyme about Lizzie Borden. I did take my youngest (seventeen at the time) to Lizzie’s house last year where the gruesome crimes took place.

I may have pointed out the lovely house that sits at the bottom of Metacomet golf course in my home town. Shared that murders were never a thing while I was growing up but a few years before I was born an elderly widow had been murdered in that very home during a robbery.

Could have mentioned the still unsolved mystery of the “New Bedford Highway Killer.” Eleven prostitutes went missing. Nine were found strangled and dumped in the woods. And that it was very possible a local attorney was the killer and actually indicted at one time. He moved to Florida in 1988 and there were no more murders on that stretch of highway since then.

Yes, I might have shared a story or two.

Dear Norah,

I’m very sorry and hope that you realize it’s not New England that’s creepy. Stuff happens everywhere.

It’s just your Mom who is creepy.

Hope I didn’t do too much damage. I’m just thankful that I spent a lot of quality, non-creepy time with you when you were young.

I absolutely loved cuddling up with you at bedtime every evening while reading you many, many wonderful fairy tales. As you peacefully drifted off to sleep.

Like Snow White and her killer stepmother. The orphaned Bambi who yearns for his murdered mother. Three little pigs trying to protect themselves from the wolf who wants to destroy their home. Hansel and Gretel’s great escape from the witch who attempted to burn them alive in an oven. And so many others.

I pray that, in some small way, it makes up for the ghost stories.

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

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