Tag Archives: Funerals

Healing

Before I started blogging, I hadn’t done much personal writing.  I’m a medical writer at work, so I’ve been working with words for decades.  But they weren’t for me.  They weren’t about me.  And they didn’t help me get beyond my share of those things that landed on my shoulders and my heart and pushed down.  Tried to drag me under.  Things that succeeded sometimes, I’m sorry to say.

For years I’d grieved.  I couldn’t get beyond the loss of much loved family members.  Until I wrote this post.  Now, I think and write my stories with more smiles and fewer tears.  Through the humor I found writing it, I got myself back.  And them, too.  It was a win-win.  By writing it, I was able to heal.

I had forgotten that really, the only thing as powerful as words is being able to laugh.  When I first posted Both Sides Now three years ago, my bloggin’ buddies didn’t quite know whether it was OK to laugh.  It is.  I did.  I do.

My long-time bloggin’ buddies may remember this post.  I’m posting it again mostly for myself and for my newer friends.

*     *     *

Both Sides Now

“The Season” makes me crabby.  Grumpy.  Irritable.  I’ve come to hate it.  Everything about it.  I hate the music, the crowded stores, the decorations.  I especially hate the decorations.

Last year a friend stopped by our house in the middle of December.  “God, it’s December 15th,” I said to her, “and the only decoration I have up is the wreath on the door!”

“I don’t think that counts, Lease,” responded my husband John. “You didn’t take that down from last year.”

“Oh, yeah.”

Tonight, I’m looking around at my undecorated house thinking, “uggggh,” not “Ho ho ho!”

It wasn’t always true, though.  I used to be one of them.  I was a veritable Christmas Elf.  I baked, I decorated.  I embroidered Christmas stockings for the whole family.  My son Jacob and I built gingerbread houses that did not come from a mix or a box and were actually made of gingerbread stuck together in the shape of a house!  My friends got a bottle of homemade Irish Cream liqueur.  Some used it to get their kids to bed on Christmas Eve.

But mostly, I sang.  The records, tapes and CDs came out on Thanksgiving.  From the moment I woke up the day after Thanksgiving, until New Years, I would trill away.  “White Christmas,” “Do You Hear What I Hear?” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”  I belted “Mele Kalikimaka” when I had an established escape route to avoid people trying to punch me.  I know the words to all 18,423 verses of Frosty the Snowman.  I would start singing in the shower and keep going until John tackled me and put duct tape across my mouth, usually at about 8:30 a.m.  Regardless, I’d start up again the next morning.

If the current, Crabby Christmas Me got a hold of the old Merry Christmas Me, I would slap myself silly.

So you see, I do understand the Christmas-sy part of Christmas.  The love, the joy, the traditions.

But now I see the other side.  And it’s that “tradition” part that is to blame.

You see, my family’s always been fairly competitive.  My mother and her sister Ruth were particularly so.  They’d argue at each shared Sunday dinner over a million things:  whose gravy was better (my mother’s), who cracked the best one-liner (always Aunt Ruth – she was a hoot), and most traumatically for me, whose young daughter was taller. (Duh, Maureen was almost a year older than me – of course she won every time.  But you’re not taller now, are you?  And you’re still older, Maur.  You’re still older.  How do you like it??)  Darn, I wish I’d missed the competitive gene.

When I was a kid, Aunt Ruth was high on the list of my favorite relatives.  Now she’s tops on an altogether different list.  And it ain’t Santa’s list, neither.

Because Aunt Ruth started a family tradition.  A competition.  But it’s not a family tradition I recommend, especially during the Christmas season.  In fact, it should have a warning, although I’m not sure where you’d put it:  Don’t try this at home.

You see, Aunt Ruth started the tradition of kicking the bucket on a major holiday.  What fun!  Great idea!  Not many families do that!  Hey, we are DIFFERENT!

Knowing Aunt Ruth, I’m sure her last thought was “Doris, you’ll never top this one!  I’m dying on Thanksgiving!!!!”   She was no doubt a bit miffed when my mother joined her a couple of years later.

Because, not to be outdone, Mom arrived in the afterlife on Easter Sunday.

Their party really got going when we reached Y2K, and my sister Judy died unexpectedly on my birthday in January.  Now, you might argue that my birthday is not, technically speaking, a holiday.  Not a paid day off for most folks.  But hey, in my book, this qualifies.  So there.

As time went on, there were fewer and fewer holidays I could celebrate.  The only big one left was Christmas.

Guess what happened on Christmas, 2000!

Yup, Dad reclaimed his spot at the head of the table with Mom, Judy and Aunt Ruth. Dad trumped them all.  Or because it was Christmas, perhaps he trumpeted them all.  Maybe both.

I must say I am rather ticked off about it all.  Sort of changes the tone of the Holidays, you see.  I plan to have words with all four of them, next time I see them.  And I will not be nice.

In the meantime, celebrating holidays, well, it just seems so odd to me.  Especially Christmas, because Christmas is so stuff-oriented, and most of my Christmas stuff is from them.  It takes a bit of the fun out of decorating.

For a while, I considered joining the Eastern Orthodox Church.  That way I could celebrate the same holidays, just on different days.  I could keep all my Christmas crap!  I could decorate!  I could bake!  I could sing!  But then I realized that the change would just give us all additional high priority target dates, and I don’t have enough family members left to meet the challenge.  So Eastern Orthodox is out.

At the same time, I also realized that, when Dad hit the Holiday Lottery, the whole tradition had to stop.  Because I’m pretty sure that biting the dust on, say, Columbus Day, just wouldn’t cut it.  So why bother?

Nevertheless, this whole thing has made me decidedly anti-holiday.

There is one holiday I still look forward to, though.  Groundhog Day.  I just can’t figure out what sort of decorations to put up.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

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Filed under Adult Traumas, Bat-shit crazy, Birthday, Bloggin' Buddies, Childhood Traumas, Christmas Stories, Dad, Family, Health and Medicine, History, Holidays, Huh?, Humor, Mental Health, Mom, Taking Care of Each Other, Writing

Longing for Dick

It was while commenting on Doobster’s post, Art Imitating Life or Life Imitating Art, that I realized that the unthinkable had happened.   It’s true.

Doobster made me look back, and I thought of the men in my past.

George.

And George.

And Ronnie.

Now I find myself looking back fondly. Longing for Dick.*

I'm gonna be sick.  Google, why'd you do this to me?

I’m gonna be sick. Google, why’d you do this to me?

 

I wish I were kidding.

Often, I’ve realized that if the GOP hadn’t gone completely over the edge into fanaticism, that I’d be a Republican.

Google Me This

Google Me This

Because, you see, I remember when Republicans were not crazy. When they were a valuable part of the strong government that built our country into the envy of the world.

When they were not out only to protect their rich buddies. When they knew how to govern.

When they could compromise. More importantly, when compromise was the goal, because they knew that THAT is how government works. And good government works for everybody.

I remember the wonderful things that were done in the 1970s — Environmental laws, highways funded, bridges built.  Government FUCKING WORKED.

But starting with Reagan, the image makers changed the face of government – remember:

Reagan put folks into Cabinet positions who didn’t believe in government.  The Energy and Education Departments were led by folks whose job was to destroy the agencies.  The Environmental Protection Administration was led by Anne Gorsuch who didn’t promulgate the regulations that she had to — by law — promulgate.  People were put into levels of responsibility to thwart the laws they were supposed to administer.

So yes, I am sitting here looking back through history and realizing that the GOP has, in leaps and bounds, ensured that government doesn’t work. [I’ve said for years, why do people want to elect folks to government who don’t’ believe in government? What is the fucking point of that?]

It was compounded by George H.W. and then by George W. who put more and more jokers in positions of power.

And what a surprise, the government doesn’t work any more.

 

So now I find myself looking back fondly to Richard Nixon.  My, ummm, hero.

Google, natch.

Google, natch.

Is there no limit to what these Republican will do to me?

 

 

 

 

* Yeah, I know I skipped Jerry. But he served on a naval ship with my Dad in WWII during a typhoon and Gerald Ford saved the ship. So I cut Jerry some serious slack. Sue me.

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A Missed Opportunity at The One-Eyed Pig

Normally, I don’t spend much time thinking about my own funeral.  But a few years ago, I attended the perfect funeral.  I decided that I want one just like it.  Because people told stories!

And of course, this funeral was held at a bar.  Which made it more of a party.

Not just any bar, though.  It was held in a slightly down-in-the-mouth watering hole, pool hall and barbeque pit.  But its name was what truly made it memorable:

Yelp Image

Yelp Image

Still, it wasn’t perfect.  Because on that very day, I missed a golden opportunity.  A chance to shine.  A chance to tell a story.  A chance to be remembered by a room full of people who would smile at just the thought of the, ummm, guest of honor, and of my story.

Damn.

Truthfully, I don’t know what happened.  It’s been decades since I had stage fright.  If I’d made a fool of myself the only people who would know it were strangers and family members.  My family has seen me fall/fail before; they love me anyway.  They have no choice.

It was Jeff’s funeral, my late sister Judy’s first husband.   Father to my wonderful niece and nephew.

In addition to my niece and nephew and their spouses and kids, of course, Jeff’s wife was there, along with Jeff’s two sons by his second marriage.  I’d gotten to know and like them at various family gatherings throughout the years.  Judy’s second husband was also there, along with his mother and sister.    Family gatherings in my family tend to be complicated.  They often involve more non-blood relations than blood relations.  Which is really pretty neat, if you ask me.

So Jeff’s funeral was well attended.  And since the bar was still open, in addition to family and friends, a few patrons stumbled in, surprised to find themselves at a funeral.  But the beer flowed, and nobody seemed to mind.  Or notice.

At one point, Jeff’s wife suggested that anyone with a story to tell about Jeff should speak up, and tell their Jeff story.

Now, it’s important to note that Jeff and I weren’t close.  Jeff and Judy had divorced nearly 40 years previously, and I had only seen him at big family events.  I was mostly at the funeral to support my niece and nephew, and to spiritually thank Jeff and my lucky stars that the two of them have been in my life.

Still, I did have the perfect Jeff story.

Only I didn’t tell it.

There was a room full of people, waiting to hear good stories.  Some who knew me, some who didn’t.  The perfect captive audience.

Only I choked.

I listened to other people talk about Jeff, how they’d met, how they’d interacted.  What a good guy he had been.  They were all perfectly acceptable stories.  Nice even.  But nothing memorable.

I knew that my story was better.  I would have been the star of the funeral.  Well, one of the stars, anyway.

Of course, that’s why I didn’t tell it.  Right?  I didn’t want to show anybody up.  Right?  I didn’t want to take the spotlight off the guest of honor.  Right?

Today is the anniversary of Jeff’s passing.  It’s time to correct my mistake.  Right my wrong.

Time to tell my Jeff story.

*     *     *

Wednesday afternoon study hall in ninth grade, held in the cafeteria, had assigned seats.  I sat at the table with three popular girls.  I didn’t qualify as a fourth popular girl.  They tolerated my presence.  More or less.

In the middle of the hour, Leah, the most popular and giggliest of the three, got a pass and went to the girls room.  She came back flustered, smiling.  Practically swooning.  She whispered to Karen, who immediately needed to go to the bathroom.

Karen came back just as excited.  Miss Williams, the study hall monitor and nasty old math teacher had to shush her and Leah up.

And then, of course, since there were three of them, Debbie had to take her turn going to the girls room.

Now I’ll admit, I was curious as to what was going on.  What was so exciting in the girls room?

I didn’t rate highly enough with them that they’d include me, tell me what was going on.  I sat there at the table while they exchanged notes, feeling left out.  Unpopular.  Friendless.

Study Hall ended, and the four of us at the table were held back for a moment by Miss Williams to be reprimanded for making so much noise.  But realizing that I hadn’t been included in the mayhem, I was let out ahead of Leah, Karen and Debbie.

I walked down out the door and was surprised to see my new brother-in-law, Jeff, standing in the hall, pushing a broom.  Jeff was young, handsome, and newly married.  In those days, and for the first few years of his marriage to my sister Judy, he took whatever job was available.  So Jeff had started working as a janitor at my junior high that very day.

And just as Leah, Karen and Debbie walked into the hall, Jeff put his arm around me, gave me an affectionate kiss on the cheek and flashed his amazing smile at me.

The three girls stopped and stood with their mouths agape, looking between me and Adonis.

You see, Jeff was drop-dead gorgeous.

This is why the girls were all flustered.  Jeff was a ringer for actor Jan-Michael Vincent.  Bot seriously good looking men.

This is why the girls were all flustered. Jeff was a ringer for actor Jan-Michael Vincent. The resemblance is uncanny, actually. Both seriously good looking men.

“Are these your friends, Lease,” Jeff asked, smiling at me and at them.

“This is Leah, Karen and Debbie,” I responded, not explaining that I wasn’t cool enough to be considered their friend.

“Nice to meet you,” Jeff said, smiling briefly at the girls, and then flashing me another big grin before giving me another peck on the cheek. 

“Lease, you’d better get to class before we both get in trouble.”

The four of us walked on down the hall.  But instead of walking ahead of me as they would normally do, the three girls included me in their conversation.  They wanted to know all about the gorgeous guy who had just kissed me — twice — right there in the hall.

But I just let them wonder.  The four of us walked into Miss Williams’ math class, and I sat down with my friends.  My real friends, who liked me even before they met Jeff.

Sadly, Jeff didn’t last too long as a janitor at my Junior High.  All the girls spent way too much time in the hall, staring at Jeff.  Jeff was always polite and gentlemanly, worked hard, and always had a peck on the cheek for me, especially when the popular girls were looking.

On this anniversary, I raise my glass to my handsome brother-in-law.

Rest in Peace, Jeff.

And thanks for that one time in school when I was considered cool.

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Filed under Adult Traumas, Family, Humor, Wild Beasts

I’d Prefer Flowers, If It’s All the Same To You

At my house, we’re not big on Valentine’s Day.  We have a nice dinner, John gets me flowers and I get him a book.  This year the book I got him is on the Civil War.

I don’t get mad if he forgets.  I mean, we’ve been married 27 years.  I know he loves me.

But I would certainly start a Civil War of my own if this was his idea of a Valentine.

Photo Credit, CrooksandLiars.com.  Thanks for the laugh!

Photo Credit, CrooksandLiars.com. Thanks for the laugh!

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Filed under Awards, Books, Family, Holidays, Humor

The Voice of the Problem

When I wrote a post on the night of the shootings about the fact that members my family grew up in Newtown and went to Sandy Hook Elementary School, I was touched by the comments of most of you.

One commenter I’d never heard from before, took the opportunity to make my comments section into her platform for how very safe she feels because she packs a gun.  I tolerated her for as long as I could, mostly trying not to vomit at the comments.  She berated me for my opinions, telling me in bad grammar that I was ignorant.

I am not ignorant.  I have done the research.  I even put some of it into the comments that she found so ignorant.  Here’s the post, although the comments, which were mostly answered in those damn Word Press bubbles, do not appear in the order they were received.  And since some of them required me to breathe deeply into a paper bag filled with Xanax, they were answered fairly randomly.

*****

As a news junky I am constantly reading about the incredibly stupid things normal people do with guns.  People who mean no harm, who only mean to keep themselves and their families safe.

There was the man I wrote about in my first piece on gun control, Gunsmoke.  He shot himself in the femoral artery while unbuckling his seat belt in a grocery store parking lot.  His wife was inside shopping, and their four kids watched their father die stupidly.

There was the guy who was hanging out with his friends and demonstrated the infallibility of his gun’s safety by putting the safety on, pointing the gun at his temple, and pulling the trigger.  His friends were quite impressed, I’m quite sure.  He will never know.

And then along comes this guy, who gives a face and a voice to everything stupid about the crazy gun crowd.

In case you are on the fence on whether or not assault weapons should be banned, take a listen to someone who thinks they should not.

And then see if you can believe badly enough of George W. Bush, that you will go along with Alex Jones’ depiction of what happened on September 11, 2001, and therefore, why, really, we all need assault weapons.

*****

I’ve begun to believe that it is not necessarily mental health that needs to be evaluated before a person can purchase a gun.

We need to test their intelligence.  Because there are way too many stupid fuckers out there with weapons.

Related Posts:

http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2011/07/11/dont-tread-on-me/

http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2012/12/14/newtown/

http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2012/08/05/one-more-time/

http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2012/07/20/unexpected/

http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2012/07/30/run-hide-fight/

http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2012/06/11/birthday-party-blasts/

http://fiftyfourandahalf.com/2011/11/14/gunsmoke/

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Filed under Childhood Traumas, Criminal Activity, Elections, Family, Gun control, Health and Medicine, Hypocrisy, Law, Mental Health, Politics, Stupidity

He’ll Never Guess

This year, John and I are toning way down on gifts.  Money is a bit tight, and we have a house full of the junk from Christmases past.  We really don’t need any more.

So I’ve been trying to figure out something fun and different to give John this year.  He’s so hard to buy for.  He has plenty of clothes, electronics, crap.  He’s asked for a few nice books, and I’ll be glad to get them.  But I’ve been trying to figure out something different.  Unusual.  Unique.  A gift he’ll never forget.

You’ll be happy to learn that while reading the news today, I found it.  And it’s to die for.

I’m getting my husband a calendar.  Well, not just any calendar.  Nope.  He’s getting:

The Linder Coffin Calendar 

A calendar of coffins and cuties.

Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?

Have you ever seen anything like it?  I didn’t think so.  Here’s a link to the rest of the 2012 lineup.

Surprisingly, there’s apparently quite a ruckus over in Poland about this calendar.  Would you believe it, the Catholic Church is peeved.  They think that it is disrespectful.  The article I read said:

A church spokesman has said that human death should be treated with solemnity and not mixed up with sex.

 You know, I’m beginning to think those bishops and cardinals just don’t get sex!

Still, we’re not Catholic, so we don’t have to worry.  Beside’s I’m pretty sure John will love his calendar.  He certainly won’t be able to guess what it is.

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Filed under Books, Family, Fashion, Health and Medicine, Humor

Ghosts

She didn’t really seem the type, so I am really surprised that my sister Beth has begun haunting me.  She was always a quiet, fairly unassuming person. Yes, she could be a pain in the ass, but hey, we’re related — what would you expect? But haunting?  Isn’t that beyond the pale?

Saturday is the 3rd anniversary of my eldest sister Beth’s passing.  And it took her that long to start rattling her chains.  Yes, it started today.  And I’m the one she’s rattling them at.

It started today because today I attended a funeral.  And the funeral was at Arlington National Cemetery.  That woke Beth up.  It made her realize that I failed her.  It rattled her.

You see, Beth was a nurse.  She switched back and forth between working in the neo-natal intensive care unit and the psychiatric unit of hospitals across the country.  Two specialties and a variety of hospitals helped her keep fresh.  But nursing was her identity.  Ever since she was a little girl, well, she was going to be a nurse.  There was never a doubt in anybody’s mind.  And that is because she wanted to be like her hero, Tantelise, my namesake.

Tantelise (pronounced Tant-a-lease) was our great aunt on Dad’s side.  And from the stories I’ve heard, she was a seriously cool woman.  She lived near us when I was really small, but died when I was only three, so all I really know are a few second-hand stories.  Beth heard them first hand, and modeled her life on them.

Of course, Tantelise was a nurse.  She was, in fact, one of the founding nurses of the International Red Cross, which, at least according to family lore, came into being in the early 1900s.  Tantelise had incredible stories about nursing the wounded, the soldiers from the trenches, the victims of the gas, the amputees.  None of the stories I heard (second-hand) made me want to become a nurse.  But they captured Beth’s imagination.

In about 2004, Beth called me up and asked for my help.  The idea had been brewing in her mind for years.  Since I was in the DC area, well, it was pretty much up to me.

“Lease,” she said, “we need to get a memorial to the WWI nurses in Arlington National Cemetery.  We need to get Tantelise in there.”

(Google Image)

I immediately thought it was a stupid idea.  And of course I was right. But it was so important to Beth that I agreed to help.  I chatted with our cousin Betsey, keeper of the family junk; Betsey was equally unenthusiastic.  But I told Beth I would do what I could.  After all, I work right next to Arlington Cemetery.  How hard would it be for me to make some calls, go and talk to folks and be told by non-relatives that it was a stupid idea?  I figured it would be pretty easy to shut Beth up with strangers on my side.

But of course making phone calls, well, it ain’t what it used to be.  Because in the olden days, you know, 15 or so years ago, someone answered the phone when you called.  Yeah!  Imagine that!  Humans!  Sadly, that doesn’t happen so much any more.

So when I made my calls, I got to run around the phone circuits.  I found no live people in Arlington National Cemetery.  At least none that could help get me what Beth wanted.  I gave up fairly easily, actually.  I knew I wouldn’t get anywhere.  And I tried and failed to convince Beth that it was a stupid idea to try to get Tantelise memorialized in Arlington.

Why didn’t I work harder?  Why did I give up so easily?  Why was it a stupid idea to begin with?

After all, Tantelise and her fellow nurses were truly heroes.  They crossed the Atlantic to Europe to nurse European troops hurt in battle.  They went at their own cost.  They risked their lives.  They did it in long, hot, itchy wool skirts.  They helped an unknown number of men, many of whom would have died had those nurses not been there to help.  Many more died somewhat more easily because there was someone to hold their hand, to wipe their brow, to say “I’m here.  You’re not alone.”  They helped the soldiers in the way nurses throughout the years have helped their patients, by being there with them.

The work of this group of nurses was so deeply appreciated that, when it came time for them to return home to the U.S., Kaiser Wilhelm himself suspended U-boat traffic to allow these nurses safe passage.  Imagine that.  He suspended a vital part of the war for them.  Out of respect and appreciation for the work they had done, he ensured that they would survive.

This was NOT going to happen to the nurses. (Google Image of the sinking of the Lusitania.)

So why is it so unlikely that Tantelise and her compatriots would have their names in Arlington National Cemetery?  Why shouldn’t their service and sacrifice be recognized?  Why shouldn’t Beth’s idea come to pass?

Ummmmmm … They were working for the wrong side.  Oops.  Yes, Tantelise was nursing the German soldiers.  She was a first-generation German-American, and she went to Germany in the years before the U.S. entered the war.  She went when it wasn’t at all clear that the U.S. would enter the war, and if so, on which side.  When the U.S. did enter the war, well, that’s when Tantelise and her fellow nurses were given safe passage home to their country, America.

It is a story of heroism, of sacrifice, of nobility.   And of course, a story of choices.

Sigh.  I may make a few more calls, but, you know, I’m still pretty sure I will be still unable to get Tantelise and her colleagues recognized.

But there is an upside.  At least I’ll have my sister around again.  And I’ve missed her.  Go ahead, Beth.  Rattle away!

Me, Judy, Beth in 1995

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Filed under Family, Health and Medicine, History, Humor