Category Archives: Family

Times of Trouble

They always come off the shelf at this time of year.  The Harry Potter books.  I’ve read and re-read all of them until the pages are worn and grimy.  They give me comfort when I am fighting off “The Missing.”

“When I find myself in times of trouble …”

“The Missing” — Sounds like a “who-dunnit,” doesn’t it.  But that’s not what I mean.

Go ahead and laugh.  But I honestly mean that the Harry Potter books — kids books — help me fight off the sadness of missing people.

You see, in Harry Potter, the folks Harry loves and has lost get to come back sometimes.  Once in every few books. OK, in the first, the fourth, and the seventh.  What — you need page numbers?

And each time I read how they, those dead people, give Harry courage, I find my own again.

And you know what especially makes a difference?  Throughout the entire series, folks talk normally about people who have passed.  Just as if they were, and still are, an important part of a person’s life.  The characters do, and are expected to, think about people who are no longer around.  Grief, missing them is part of life; an acknowledged part.

Real life, however, outside of books, is not at all like that.  The bereaved are allowed 1 week to 1 year to grieve, depending on the relationship and the circumstances.  Within that time, and especially way beyond it, talking about a lost loved one is awkward. It makes other people uncomfortable.  They don’t know what to say.  What to do.  Where to look.  It’s taboo.

Death in our society pretty much wipes a person off the slate — we say good-bye, are moved to shed tears, and then expected to get beyond it.  We are essentially expected to metaphorically “unfriend” them.

Of course, we all fear our own death, so we don’t want to talk about someone else’s death.  We just can’t deal with someone else who has gone to that wizarding school in the sky.

Reading Harry Potter helps me feel like my missing are close by.  Let’s me feel that there are folks, even if they are fictional, who let me remember and who also remember their own loved ones.  Very much like my bloggin’ buddies, who let me lean on them from time to time.  For which I will be eternally grateful.

It’s coming on the anniversary of my sister Judy’s passing, a time that is always difficult for me.

Judy too was a Potterhead, although she only lived long enough to read the first three books. I’m quite sure that that is one of the things that most annoyed her about dying, actually.  Nobody likes to miss the ending.

So I’m really hoping she’ll hook up with Alan Rickman pretty soon.  Because she’ll show him the ropes, and he’ll fill her in on the rest of the story.  A match made in, well, heaven.

Alan Rickman.

Fanpop.com Image

R.I.P. to so very many people gone way too soon.

Thanks to Deb of The Monster In Your Closet for making me come out of my closet as a Potterhead!

 

 

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Home For Christmas Again

Does your family tell the same stories, over and over again?  Mine does.  Or my Mom and Dad did.   Oh and in case you haven’t noticed, I do too.

My husband is no doubt rolling his eyes and thanking his lucky stars.  Because  since I started blogging, he is forced to hear fewer repeats of my stories.

To me, the heart and soul of Christmas is Love.  And repeating traditions.  That is what this story means to me.  And even though Christmas is a sadder day than it once was, this story warms my heart.  And I tell it every year.

Here.  If you haven’t read it before, you may need this.

Handkerchief 2

Don’t worry; it’s clean.Google Image.

***

She told the story every year with a warm smile on her face.  Sometimes her eyes got a little bit misty.

“It was 1943, and the War was on, and your father was in the Navy, on a ship somewhere in the Pacific.  We never knew where he was.  Like all the other boys I knew, he was in danger every day.  We lived for the mail, we were terrified of unfamiliar visitors in uniform.  A telegram sent us into a panic.  And ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’ had just been recorded by Bing Crosby.  It was Number One on the Hit Parade.”

That’s how Mom started the story every time.

Of course I’ll Be Home For Christmas was Number One that year.  Everyone, or just about, was hoping that someone they loved would, in fact, be home for Christmas.  That all the boys would be home for good.  But all too many people were disappointed.  I doubt there were many dry eyes when that song came on the radio that year or for the next few.

Mom and Dad got engaged right around Pearl Harbor Day, but the War lengthened their courtship significantly because Dad enlisted shortly after the attack.  It was to be a long war, and a long engagement.  But Mom was in love with her handsome man.  If possible, I think that Dad was even more so.

Mom, Circa 1943

Mom, Circa 1943

 

My Dad was drop-dead gorgeous, and I have heard that in his single days, he was a bit of a ladies’ man.  Every girl in town, it seemed, had a crush on Dad.

Dad, Circa 1943

Dad, Circa 1943

 

In fact, my Aunt Sally once told me that she had been manning a booth at a church bizarre one Saturday in about 1995, when an elderly woman came up to talk to her.

“Are you Freddie E’s sister?” the woman asked Aunt Sal.

“Yes I am.  Do you know my brother?” Aunt Sal responded.

“I did,she sighed.  “I haven’t seen him since we graduated from high school in 1935.  Sixty years ago.  He was,” she stopped to think of just the right word, “… He was dream-my.”

“He still is,” Sally quipped.

One day not long after after Mom had passed, Dad and I were looking at some pictures I hadn’t seen before.

“Dad,” I told him with wonder looking at a particularly good shot, “You should have gone to Hollywood.  You’d have been a star.”

“Nah,” Dad said.  “Mom would never have gone with me.  And once the war was over, well, I wasn’t going anywhere else without her.”

Dad circa 1935

Dad circa 1935

Dad never quite got over feeling lucky that he had Mom.  And he never stopped loving her.

But back to Mom’s story.

“It was Christmas morning, 1943, and I went over to visit Dad’s mom and dad.  Grammy E’d had symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease for seven or eight years at that point.  She could still move around (she was later, when I knew her, almost completely paralyzed), but she could barely talk.”

Mom continued.  But your Dad’s mom was singing ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas.’  Well, she was trying to sing it, any how. She kept repeating that one line, over and over again.  ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas.’  I thought she was crazy.”

“You see,” Mom would say, “Your father had somehow managed to get Christmas leave – he was coming home!  He wanted to surprise me and wouldn’t let anyone tell me he was coming.  He was expected any minute, and there I was, trying to leave.  But I couldn’t stay.  That song made me cry; Freddie was so far away, and in so much danger.  I couldn’t bear hearing it.”

So Mom left after a while, she had other people and her own family to see.  Later Dad caught up with her and they spent most of Christmas together.  Both of them always smiled at the memory.  Dad was home for Christmas that year, just like in the song.  It was a magical year for them both.

Mom was always touched by Dad’s surprise and by his mother’s loving gesture in fighting back the paralysis that was taking over her body to try to get her son’s girl to stay.  To sing when she could barely speak.

“I’ve always wished I’d stayed.”

We lost Mom on Easter of 1997, and Dad really never got over her passing.

The song and Mom’s story took on an even more poignant meaning in 2000.  Because on Christmas of that year, Dad joined Mom again for the holiday.  He went “home” to Mom for Christmas again, joining her in the afterlife.

Even through the sadness of losing Dad on Christmas, I always have to smile when I hear that song.  Because I can just see the warmth in Mom’s eyes now as she welcomed Dad home.  This time, I’m sure she was waiting for him with open arms.

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Filed under Adult Traumas, Christmas Stories, Dad, Family, Growing up, History, Holidays, Love, Missing Folks, Mom, Mom Stories, Music, Taking Care of Each Other

A-Sick – Abroad

When you move to another country where you don’t speak the language, you expect things to be challenging.  But I think that there are scientific studies that estimate that the odds of your expectations equaling reality is precisely 5,392,487 to 1.

When we moved to Geneva in 1997, we, like all other expats, knew that there would be culture shock.  We didn’t speak the language.  We didn’t know our way around.  We were babes in the woods and there were wild boar in them thar hills.  Oh, and in those woods.

In fact, we hadn’t been in Switzerland long before John came down with a cold.  NBD, right?  Off to the pharmacy we went.

But of course, we couldn’t speak the language, which made it a bit of a challenge.

Nevertheless, I took my responsibility as family french speaker seriously.  I went to the pharmacy with my husband with my English-French/French-English dictionary in hand.

My husband has a cold (mon mari a un rhume).  He has a stuffy nose (il a un nez bouché).
Sadly, my french was not really good. And I learned again that day that if you are foolish enough to speak to a french speaker in French, the asshole will respond to you in french!  WTF??????  Why do they DO that?

Anyway, in pidgeon french, I told the pharmacist that we wanted a decongestant.  And really, it didn’t seem like such a big deal.

“Vous avez besoin d’un lavage de nez,” said the pharmacist.

John and I looked at each other.

“She’s recommending a nose washer,” I said.  “I guess that makes sense.  I guess a decongestant will “wash you nose.”

We were handed a box and the pharmacist allowed us to open it to look at the instructions.  The illustrated instructions.  Color illustrations. of a man leaning over the sink with a ‘lavage de nez’ in one nostril and a stream of green snot pouring out of the other.

Lavage de nez 1

I am not just using this picture because my husband is a big baby when he gets sick.  Really.  Google Image

Ewwww.

Upon our return to the US, we learned that netti pots had become popular remedies for stuffy noses.

Ewwww.

They also spread infection because they are difficult to clean.  And then there is the goo that goes into the sink….

Ewwww.

Tonight while spending money I don’t have on gifts for folks, I saw a commercial for a Navage.

So I needed to share my story.  Because that’s what we bloggers do.

 

Ewwww.

I just felt it necessary to prove that I don’t only think about poop when I think about weird medical treatments.

But of course, everything I discuss would interest any 12 year old.  Like me.

You’re welcome.

 

 

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Mom’s Most Memorable Meal

Today as I prepare a million different dishes for Thursday’s feast, I thought I’d share (for a second time) another family story, about the year my Mom forgot her turkey.  I’m pretty sure you’ll buy fresh from now on.  I certainly do!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

It seems like just the other day that I was talking about folks to whom strange things just happen.  Maybe that’s because it was just the other day that I told this story.

I have a secret, though.  I’m not the only person in my family with this, ummm, gift for attracting the strange and humorous.  Dad used to say that if there was a weirdo within 5 miles of him, that weirdo would find Dad and have a nice long chat.  But if something weird was going to happen, well, it would happen to Mom.  Somehow I managed to inherit both weirdness magnets.  Sigh.

But this is Mom’s story.

Mom wasn’t the bird lover in our family.  Dad was.  So I should have known something weird had happened when Mom identified a bird I was looking at from a distance.  Mom and Dad were visiting John and I in Connecticut.  She and I were driving not far from our house one day in about 1990, and I pulled over to look at the large birds circling above us.  Back then large predatory birds soaring were still an unusual sight — when I saw those large silhouettes, I always assumed they were eagles.  I mean, what else could it be?  I kept trying to get a good look.

“They’re turkey vultures,” Mom said with complete certainty.  “We see them all the time at home in Florida.”

You lookin' for me? (Google image, natch)

They weren’t eagles?
(Google image, natch)

Turkey vultures?” I said, not believing her for a minute.  I’d never even heard of such a creature.  Mom pursed her lips and looked back at me, slightly annoyed that I was questioning her (never seen before) bird identification skills.

I should have been suspicious.  I should have know there was a story behind Mom’s new-found large bird expertise.  I should have known that something weird was involved.

“They’re really big.  And up close, they really do look just like turkeys.”

“When did you ever get ‘up close’ to a turkey vulture, Mom?”

She tried to avoid the question.

“Mom….” It was never too hard to get Mom to tell her stories.  Something else we have in common.  “Fess up…”

“It wasn’t my fault.  That refrigerator at home is just too small.”

“Huh?”

“Well, it happened last Thanksgiving, but I didn’t want to tell you,” she laughed.  “I knew I’d never hear the end of it.”

“Mom …”

“Dad and I went to the grocery store on Saturday, as usual, the weekend before Thanksgiving,” she continued.  “And we bought a frozen turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner.”

“OK.”  I wasn’t catching on.

“Well, it was a frozen turkey.  Frozen solid.  You know it takes days to thaw those things.  You might as well try to melt an iceberg.  I put it into the roasting pan and placed it on the counter to thaw.  But I kept having to move it around that tiny kitchen to do anything else.  Then, on Sunday night when I was making dinner, I needed my counter.  So I put the still rock hard turkey into the carport.”

“Mom, doesn’t your carport get pretty warm?  It is in Florida, after all.”

“Well, that wasn’t really the problem,” she said, laughing.  “Not exactly, anyhow.  Or not at first.  The problem was that I forgot I’d left the turkey there.  I woke up Thursday morning, ready to get started on Thanksgiving Dinner and couldn’t find my turkey!  I thought I was going nuts.  I knew we had bought one.  ‘Where’d you put my turkey?’ I asked your father, accusingly.  ‘I didn’t do anything with it.  Did it get up and walk away?’ he asked.  And then I remembered – ‘Oh Lord, it’s in the carport.  I hope it’s still OK to eat.’”

“I went out the door to find the carport  filled with turkey vultures–I don’t even know how many were in there.  They were sitting on the car, on the workbench.  On the floor.  Everywhere!  And you know, they really do look just like turkeys.  They have those red heads and bulging eyes.  They had torn the packaging apart and were eating our Thanksgiving turkey!  I sent your father out to shoo them all away.  And then he had to go to Publix to get something for our feast.”

I roared.  So did she, remembering.

“I told him to get a piece of beef to roast.  I’d had enough birds for a while.”

Mom was absolutely right.  Turkey vultures look a whole lot like turkey turkeys.  Especially after they’ve just had Thanksgiving dinner.

Oh, and her instinct was right — she should never have told me this story.  She never did hear the end of it!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to my fellow ‘Mericans!

To those who aren’t over indulging this week, can I send you a few pounds?

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Your Number

It was the only story Dad told us about the missions he flew when he was stationed on the USS Monterey , an aircraft carrier, during WWII.

Oh boy did we have fun, Dad would say.  We’d go out on a mission, and then head back to the ship.  We flew so low, we could feel the spray of the water from below us.  We’d fly just this high over the waves!  He’d hold his hand out at the exact height of my head.  No matter how tall I got, that’s just how far above the waves Dad, Smokey (their navigator and Dad’s best wartime buddy) and their pilot flew.  Not high above them at all.

The Japs, he’d say (before there was such a thing as PC), they couldn’t do it. They couldn’t maneuver over the waves.  We could, and we lost them that way every time.  They never managed to hit us, and they couldn’t follow us back to the ship.

And we had a blast.  Cheating death, every day.

SBD_Dive_Bomber_over_Wake_Island,_1943

An SBD Dauntles, over Wake Island in the Pacific, 1943. My Dad was the gunner; he rode backwards. Photo credit (via Wikipedia) Lt. Charles Kerlee. USNR – General Photographic File of the Department of Navy [1] or [2]

Every time, I asked the same question:

“Dad, weren’t you scared?”

You see, I’m a total coward, I fear pain and injury.  The idea of anybody enjoying a near-death experience, riding 2-5 feet above the waves of the Pacific Ocean, with enemy planes shooting at them, well, it always seemed unbelievable to me.

When you’re number is up, it’s up, Dad would say, shrugging his shoulders, every time.  Nobody gets out alive!

That was Dad’s philosophy, learned in the ready room of the USS Monterey.

USS_Monterey

The USS Monterey, Dad’s Ship for most of his time in the Pacific.

That was where we hung out when we were off duty — the Ready Room.  That’s also where the duty roster when up — where we’d find out when we were flying out to meet the Japs.  Each squadron had a number.  When you’re number was up on the board, you went out.  And when your number was up, you never knew if you would make it back to the ship. 

We understood that “when your number was up” meant a bit more than a flight for many of Dad’s fellow service men.

I’m not sure if Dad’s philosophy became my own through osmosis or because I thought about it and realized he was right.  Maybe a little bit of both.  But I more or less agree with Dad.  When your number is up, it’s up.  And worrying about it, well, to quote Dad, won’t make a lick of difference.

I think of this as a gift from my Dad.  One that has lasted long past Dad’s own expiration date.

There is no point in worrying about dying. It’s gonna happen to all of us.

What’s important is how we live.

We need to remember who we are, recall the immigrant roots of our country, and how it was immigrants — my ancestors and likely yours — who made America what it is.

We need to remember that to our shame, we closed our borders to Jewish refugees in the 1930s and 1940s.  Remember what happened to them?

We need to thumb our collective noses at the terrorists, and just not give in to the terror.

This cartoon, on the cover of Charlie Hebdo, the recipient of France’s previous horrible terror attack thumbs its nose at the terrorists.

Charlie Hebdo cover

Enter a caption

Charlie Hebdo cover: They have weapons. Fuck them. We have champagne.

Source:  Huffington Post.

Let’s all get our thumbs into position. Oh and get our hearts into the “open” position.  Because that is who we are as people.

Statue of Liberty - Flickr

Flicker Image

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

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Hey Doc? Do I Have To?

You know, there may be a good reason why the GOP hates science.

Sometimes it is just plain gross.

As a dog lover, my “gross-me-out-the-door” threshold is actually quite high — I can stand some pretty gross things.  Only today my dog Duncan did the following:

  • Drank from the toilet
  • Licked his genitals with relish*
  • Ate poop

Let’s face it.  Dogs are gross.

But we humans?  We are gonna give these pups a run for their, ummm, money.  Their kibble.  Actually, I’d like to give Duncan a run for that pair of shoes he’s always stealing, but that’s another story for another day.

Today’s story involves poop.

Remember last January when I told you guys all about how you can make big bucks with your butts?  Really!  I did! With this post:

Need Extra Cash?

Are you so rich that you’ve forgotten this already?  Forgotten that I told you that you can clean up by donating your poop so that it can be transplanted into

Poor suckers infected with c difficile, particularly nasty bacteria that is really hard to get rid of.

I even provide a chart by which you can measure just how useful you’re being:

Credit (if you want to call it that) Washington Post

Credit (if you want to call it that) Washington Post

The idea behind poop transplants, in case you’ve forgotten, is that scientists believe that we’ve made our guts too clean — we have too few of the good bacteria that lead to healthy poop left inside our guts.

Today I have an update!  Wait, wait!  Keep your pants on!

Unfortunately, this update will not increase your revenue making opportunities.  Still, scientific advances are awesome.

Because now, thanks to scientific advancements, those same poor suckers can now eat shit! 

Really! I read it in the New York Times:

Fecal Transplants Made (Somewhat) More Palatable

There is a  non-profit organization called OpenBiome that is dedicated to providing poop transplants to needy patients with c difficile.  And they came up with a poop pill.  These poop pills will go a long way towards flushing out the bacteria.

Wait!  Wait!   No they don’t!  They flush in good bacteria.  I mean you eat poop pills with good bacteria in them.  And probably some of the nasty stuff too.  Like poop.

And some day, poop pills may be available for folks like me with Crohn’s Disease and other crappy GI diseases.  They are testing poop transplants in folks even as we speak.

 

Photo: Erik Jacobs for the New York Times

Photo: Erik Jacobs for the New York Times

Personally, I’m keeping a close eye out on this treatment option.  Because with my Crohn’s Disease, some day I might just have to say, “Hey Doc, do I have to?”

* For the record, I do not put relish on my dog’s genitals.  Duncan is not a dachshund.

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We Are Not Alone!

Last week, I read Bloggess Jenny Lawson’s new book Furiously Happy.

Image from Amazon.com

Image from Amazon.com

Furiously Happy deals with Jenny’s mental health issues, how she copes with them, and, importantly how they help make her the person she is.  It is truly a gift to folks with anxiety, depression, other mental health issues (and to those who care about them).  It shows them that they’re not alone.

The blurb on the flap sums it up pretty well:

This is a book about embracing everything that makes us who we are – the beautiful and the flawed – and then using it to find joy in fantastic and outrageous ways. Because as Jenny’s mom says, “Maybe ‘crazy’ isn’t so bad after all.” Sometimes crazy is just right.

While Furiously Happy is geared towards folks with mental illness, I came away from the book feeling comforted about my physical illness, Crohn’s Disease.  Because Furiously Happy reminded me that other people — probably everyone, in fact — struggles through life with something.   And that’s why we all — every one of use — need each other. 

Because no matter what each of us is facing, we’re not alone.

Plus, the book is hilarious.  You will rarely enjoy mental illness quite this much.

Oh, and go read her most recent blog post, which had me laughing for hours last night.  It is a compendium of awkward moments sent to the Bloggess via Twitter.

 

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