Friday, November 23, 2012

Women's Weekend With Men

While the wind is still fresh on my face and my abdomen is still aching from laughter, I have to take a moment to recollect what was. A rock hop on the beach, with the waves lapping slow on the shore, Marta and Dan on either side of me as we shared a collective experience and collected a shared memory. A reunion of many, introduction of some, as eight willing and eager souls gathered together to embark on an emerging tradition. Many hands make light work. Lazy sods make impressions in the sofa. What is the sound of seven goofballs squished into one Odyssey, with only a concentrated pilot making any sense? Did I mention the vapors? Here a pair, there a trio, solo screeners, group creators in the kitchen, whispered remembrances, revelatory revelations. Two syllables short of a haiku. The beauty of reconstituting leftovers to a culinary excellence not previously thought possible makes old age seem exciting. The abundance of sharing; humor, recipes, loved ones, wishes, dreams, talents, wisdom, money, energy, admiration, compliments, elbows (billandchris), and belly laughs. If this was all there was, it would be enough. But there was so much more.


Thanksgiving Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. And I don’t even like turkey. What I love is the gathering. I love that we have family to celebrate. I love that every year my uncle (my father’s brother) would place the family on the living room fireplace hearth, set the camera timer and snap our portrait. There were ten of us when we started; my Mom, my Dad, my two older sisters, my aunt, my uncle and three boy cousins. The reason we gathered at my house, and it was always at my house, was that it was my parents’ anniversary. They were married on the Saturday night of Thanksgiving in 1948. Over the years, as we grew, we added to the family portrait. Boyfriends came and went, my aunt and uncle (GASP) got divorced (although both always came to Thanksgiving), and in 1986, we welcomed the third generation. My middle sister’s son was the first addition, and seven years later, my daughter joined in. After that, it seemed the kids just kept on coming until by this past year, we had eleven grandchildren. A lot more bodies to squeeze on the hearth, but my uncle persisted. Oddly enough, in 1995, my oldest sister met and fell in love with her husband. It seems his parents had the exact same anniversary as our parents, same date, same year. It seemed fitting then that they too would marry on the Saturday night of Thanksgiving. It was the only year we had Thanksgiving anywhere but at my parents’ table. In subsequent years, we added new in-laws, second husbands (mine thank goodness) and a few assorted dogs as well. And the portraits continued unabated, documenting the changes year after year. I don’t know how many cynical jokes we made at my poor Uncle’s expense, complaining about being herded into the living room and forced to sit in our usual places, but we have those annual portraits to document our family’s progress. The outtakes were sometimes better than the final winning picture. Over dinner, we celebrated our various successes, shared our triumphs and misfortunes and when one family had to miss, we speaker phoned them in for dessert. This coming year will be a very different experience for all of us. It’s been a hard and sad year for my family. We’re missing our elders. My aunt, my uncle and my father have all passed in this past year. For the first time, we will raise a glass to toast my mother, but we won’t have my Dad, her partner of 64 years. We will toast all their memories, honor their legacy, and give thanks that our families are still able to gather together and share a meal. If only we could speaker phone the absent loved ones in. We know they are with us in spirit. Uncle Larry My DAd Aunt Ellen

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Eulogy for My Father

Nothing, but nothing, was more important to Dad than his girls. And we knew it. He made sure we knew it. He and Mom made us their number ones. Not even one two and three. We were all his number ones. There's no quantifying his love for our Mother. You might think 62 years of marriage says it all, but it really doesn't. You can't put words to the depth of his devotion,( their mutual admiration and the example of love everlasting.) That they got married on Thanksgiving is apt. And though we were each supposed to be named Jonathan, he thrilled to have three girls. He instilled in us his thirst for learning and education, an insatiable curiosity, passion for travel, culture, and books, and fierce devotion to and love of family. He may not have produced the physician he was hoping for, but he got two PhDs and an MBA. 

Having Art for a Dad meant we lived in an environment of warmth, humor, conversation and community. We had temple friends and neighborhood friends. The more the merrier. And Dad’s colleagues and their families mingled in. I remember one time coming into the living room where Dad and a bunch of his friends were watching the latest 8mm Open Heart Surgery. I think Mom served banana bread and Sanka to go along. 

 There were road trips every school vacation, everywhere you could go by car or train. We even ventured as far as Mexico City by train. Train travel used to be glamorous. Ever the law abiding citizen, Dad wanted us to play blackjack in our little compartment, but whenever the porter knocked on the door we had to pack up our pennies. No gambling for 12, 10 and 7 year olds. Eventually Dad overcame his fear of flying because his flock had scattered cross country, and he wasn’t about to lose contact. He wanted to see where we lived, what we were doing. He wanted to talk to us about our careers, our plans. He embraced all our husbands, Rob, Barry and Dan and mined them for all the conversation he could. Finally, some men around the house. Not only did he entice them to converse about subjects interesting to him, but he always appreciated the new topics that they brought with them. He was never done learning or exploring.

 Nothing was more wonderful for Arthur than the era of Grandchildren. Sam, Alice, Ruby, Milly, and AnnaLeah. Grandpop loved to hear about their studies, their friends, their interests, their art, their everything. Joan and I never thought we were imposing when we left our kids with the Grandparents. We knew we were doing them a favor. And each of the children’s lives was so enriched in knowing that kind of fiercesome love and appreciation. And, lest we forget, (and we didn’t), his current crop of 4 legged grands, Jacob, Stella, Ari, Nugget, Buffy, Yoyo and Juneau. Never much of an animal lover before, he was an attentive and devoted petter. I never thought I’d see Dad holding his hand out to let a 1000 pound furry friend take a carrot, but we have the picture. 

 A loss like this is unlike any other. We have the unrelenting mourning of never laughing with him again, no more puzzling something with him, no more questioning something and looking it up in the OED, or that internet thing. There was no piece of technology that didn’t flummox him. But he persevered. 
We will miss him more than words can say. We will carry his memory with us daily, and know the bond is never broken. The love will never die. Arthur D. Silk 11/12/1924 - 8/12/2012

Sunday, December 4, 2011

photo by Stephanie Blackman

Leap out my children
Put your dreams in your hands
and open them out into the world.
Pour forth
Take that idea you have and put it into your shoes
Let it inform your steps and squish up and out your toes
Feel the strength of your beliefs in every fiber of muscle
As you flex your convictions you will get stronger
Close your eyes and jump
Don't fear for your safety
The vision you possess is clear
if you allow it.
Those of us who have always loved you will be the current
of air for you as you soar
Let your courage stretch out as your hair flies free in all directions
Singularity will come
Be free now
Leap out my children

Sunday, October 9, 2011

That's the thing about being Specific

My favorite movie of all time is Out of Africa. One of my favorite lines (and I have many, including "Sh, shoo, shooooooot her!")is "When the Gods want to punish us, they answer our prayers." I should have paid attention, as that same kind of prediction has come along to bite me on several occasions.

First one. My friend Caren and I were out at a Motown Dance club - the Crush Bar in our early 20's. We sat at a table with our glasses of wine, or maybe a Tequila Sunrise talking about our singledom and how we planned to overcome it. We fantasized about our weddings, our careers, our futures in general. I remember sighing and saying, "I just want to meet somebody funny and nice." We finished our drinks, got asked to dance, danced, sat down, danced more. I was dancing by myself when a guy appeared before me and started dancing with me. He was nice and he seemed interested in me. We talked as much as you can in a loud bar environment. He asked for my phone number. I'll be darned if he wasn't a comedian. Caren asked him when he'd be performing next and said we'd go see him. The very next day, he called me. I called Caren right away and we giggled and reviewed our evening. She asked me if I planned to go the Comedy Store to see him perform, and I said, "I don't know. Maybe." She said she'd go with me and we should definitely go.

Well, we did, and long story short, Steve and I started dating. He was very nice, very funny, and very attentive. I was used to being the pursuer, not the pursued, so it all seemed very nice. Everything was good, except maybe one thing. I maybe should have thought to specify a few more characteristics besides funny and nice. While those are splendid qualities, I realized it might be nice to have a few others to go along with them. I don't know, smart, energetic, ambitious, grown up? Because as nice and funny as Steve was, it was pretty much all he was.
We eventually broke up. I'll always think of him with fondness, but long term potential we didn't have.

Come to years and years later, I'm now in my 50's, and embarking on a new passion of writing, thinking of turning it into a career. I love doing it, and have had some positive feedback from friends and family and even a few people I don't even know. I've had a couple pieces printed in our local paper, "The Palisadian Post" and just recently, achieved my goal of having a piece published on the Huffington Post. I am thrilled about both of those.

So, you might ask, how could you have been more specific? Well, that takes me back to graduate school. Usually when one is in graduate school, it's to hydroplane you into a well paying career. I got it half right in that regard. I got my MBA from UCLA! Whoot Whoot. But here's where I went wrong. I specialized in Non Profit Arts within the general MBA program. And it seems that's what I'm now earning from my art. NON PROFIT. Maybe that time I shouldn't have been so specific.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

86. Foiled Again

86. Foiled Again

How lucky are we, my kids and I, that we have my parents in our lives? From the time both my kids were born, they’ve been there. Actually, I had to kick them out of the delivery room when I started to push Alice out 18 years ago. They’d stuck with me through labor, all 12 hours of it. But when I started the active pushing phase, and I could see their feet under the curtain blocking the door, I said, between agonizing breaths, “go home now.” Then I saw all four feet scurrying away. Now it seems funny. It’s an image locked in my memory jail.

They’ve celebrated every milestone with us: birthdays, divorces (well, luckily only one), marriages, anniversaries, Hanukkahs, school plays, graduations, Bat Mitzvahs. You get the idea. They drive up, or we go to their house. Their house has always been pleasure central for my kids. It’s just five minutes from Disneyland, features a pool (albeit, more like a 300 square foot bathtub) and steady supply of frozen waffles and miniature Dove bars. For some reason, my Mother’s standards have slackened for this generation. If they go outside and it’s cold, she doesn’t make them wear a sweater. If it’s raining outside, she doesn’t make them wear hideous rubber boots. Catch my drift there? And so far, she hasn’t slathered heavy white zinc oxide on their noses and cheeks.

I think the only time they’ve expressed any, any, any sort of imposition of a parenting opinion was when I was deciding to let my 15 year old pierce her nose. I remember my Mom saying, a little sharply, “do you have to let her do that?” But then, my older, multiply pierced, psychologist sister intervened, and she backed off.

I can’t count the number of times they’ve helped me out in jams, pickles and indulgences, like the time one summer when my husband and I were fighting over a trip to Aspen. He wanted me to go with him, and I wanted the kids to come. I eventually came around to his way of thinking, but by then he was so upset, he rescinded his invitation. I reacted by booking a trip for my oldest daughter and me to Hawaii. Mom gamely offered to keep my rambunctious, non-sleeping two and a half year old toddler for five days. Alice and I had a wonderful time. Of course I missed Milly, but I knew she would be well cared for and doted on. A few years later, my sister (yes, the older, multiply pierced, psychologist one,) chided me for leaving my rambunctious, non-sleeping two and half year old toddler with my 75 year old Mother, as she claimed Mom got absolutely no sleep the whole week. (I felt kind of bad about that.)

My Dad, who has come to both rely on, and tread lightly around issues of technology, likes to talk tech with all his sons in law. When they’d come up to my house to baby-sit, we’d try and guide him through the heavy machinery of how to get onto the Internet, how to manage the TV and VCR. At the house I shared with my first husband, he couldn’t even turn the lights on or off because we had a fancy dancy remote control X10 system on the lights. Sure it was convenient for Jeff to be able to turn all the lights on or off from one master control panel, but none of the rest of us could really seem to manage the individual switches. We’d sometimes come home to find Mom and Dad huddled around a desk lamp. One of the very first things I did when we divorced was to hire an electrician to change the switches back to plain old fashioned on and off. I still get a luddite thrill from the click of a wall switch turning the lights off.

So, last night, they came up to stay with, (not baby-sit,) (Milly the twelve year old hates when I say it that way) my one remaining offspring. Her older sister, who had filled that “staying with” role, has wandered off to college by now. Before we left, we explained how to turn on the TV, how to change the channels, how to find Jeopardy and the news on the TIVO like mechanism, and explained that Milly knew how they all operated and to just ask her if they got confused. Dan and I went to a play near by and had a lovely, lovely, much needed night out together.

When we got home, there was no sign of television in the living room. I found them sitting around the dining room table reading. I knew instantly what had happened. It’s not that reading is a foreign art to them. My whole life and childhood was about reading. I just knew that he’d been foiled by the TV controls. And he didn’t want to disturb Milly from her preteen Skyping or supposed homework doing. So, they found some old New Yorkers and sat and read for the ninety minutes we were gone. How frustrating it must be for my poor 86 year old Dad to just want to watch Jeopardy in peace and have no way of figuring out how.

Well, when all is said and done, the evening wasn’t a total loss. We’d all had dinner together, we all got updated on the goings on in our lives, they’d had a chance to see their grandchild and a break from their not so busy, newly retired lifestyle. I’ll always be grateful for their continued presence in our lives, and maybe next time, when they come to baby-sit, I’ll hire a TV tech to help out.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Take a picture. It lasts longer. Or does it?

First I have to say, Happy Anniversary to Me and Dan. 3 years. We’re going out to dinner tonight. (Beats our last two celebrations; colonoscopy prep and spending the day in an airplane.) Being Saturday, we each have our own little things to do that bring us joy in the morning hours. He typically wakes early and takes the dogs for a hike up the mountain behind our house. High peak. I sleep in and sometimes stay in bed, reading, writing and resting. But today, I had a ticket to a women’s competitive dive event. So, I roused myself and made it over to UCLA to check it out.

Going on my own, I managed to snag a good seat. What a show. Such gorgeous bodies in complete command, flying off the platform, bending, twisting, rolling into the water. Watching was a mix of euphoria and stress. To see a successful dive is to breath a sigh of wonder. The stress comes as they waver at the top and edge of the platform. Either facing backwards, or upside down, they have to spring up and away from the concrete edge, and I worry they won’t clear it. But they always do.

To my title, I was trying to take a picture just as a souvenir of such a satisfying event. The first one I took captured a guy perfectly horizontal, even with the platform. The perfect picture, from my cell phone, which almost never takes perfect pictures when you want it to. But, I couldn’t save it because I didn’t have enough memory. (oh Iphone, I’m comin to get ya). And I knew that I’d never be serendipidously lucky enough to get another pic just as good.

I spent the first few rounds trying. Sometimes the divers weren’t even in the frame by the time the shutter clicked. Other times I just got feet, or arms, or blur. I realized, I was trying so hard to capture the perfect image, that i was about to miss the whole show. So I put my phone in my bag and watched.

Take a picture. It lasts longer. Not always.