Friday, December 25, 2009

More Like A Twitter Post

Ah, it's Xmas Day in Chicago. The Windy City. The Arctic of the Midwest. One of Santa's way stations as he circles the globe. Frigid. Blustery. And snow, snow, snow.

Well, not so fast, my fine junior meteorologists! The temperature will reach 42 degrees today, and it's raining. (Hell, we'll see a high that is only 18 degrees lower than in northern California. Maybe we should cancel our trek and spend a balmy winter right here.) It's been raining for at least 24 hours, and the forecast calls for rain the remainder of this Xmas Day 2009.

Believe it or not, many grinches around here are complaining: They want snow. They've said so in their Facebook and Twitter posts. Lucky for them: They won't have to wait long. The forecast is for temperatures to plummet by this time tomorrow and for all the rain to turn to snow. The rain-coated streets and sidewalks will become our own private Rockefeller Center skating rinks camouflaged by inches of the white stuff. Can't wait! I love the sound of my neighbors' spinning tires as they try to extract themselves from their covered garages and the same humming sound as drivers attempt to move forward after stopping at either a stop light or stop light. Mix in the chorus from "Jingle Bells" or "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer," and the resulting juxtapositon
of machine and man is enough to drive anyone off the road.

So, have yourselves a merry, rainy Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Today Is The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

As someone in the 60s said, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." (And, no, it wasn't John Denver!)

Yep, it's that time again. A new beginning. A chance to start over. A day to regroup. The opportunity to walk through new doors. A moment to leave all that baggage behind and start fresh, unencumbered. Light. Free. That it's the day after the Winter Solstice is a happy coincidence. I didn't plan it that way. But I can be hopeful that there is a Grand Scheme operating here and that the sun, moon, and stars are aligned in my favor. Heck, why not?

Today is the first day after leaving a full-time job that has kept me busy for the past 15 months. Unlike most of my peers who are dying to retire, I bucked the tide and left my ivory tower (translate: my home office) to work as an editor at Loyola Press. For the first time in 28 years, I actually had to not only act like a professional but dress like one, too. To tell the truth, I enjoyed having to don some "business casual" whatnot Monday through Friday, slug down some semblance of breakfast, and drive the 25 minutes or so to the office. The structure was good for me during a time when I was adjusting to the death of both parents within a matter of weeks from each other.

But that was then, and this is now. I chose to "retire" after realizing that the Loyola Press mission and mine were not made of the same cloth. Don't get me wrong: LP does some excellent work. And I hope that I contributed in my limited way to the continued success of the company's one and only non religious project, a language arts series for kiddies in Grades 3 - 8. But the next project on tap is a revision of a program called Finding God. From time to time, I've wondered myself where He or She is. But as a Jewish gal who is not a follower of Jesus Christ, I would have been a fish out of water.

While it's taken about 40 years, two husbands, and more machinations that I could ever recall, I am finally headed to the East Bay to spend a chunk of the winter. Call me a "snow bird" if you like. The tag doesn't ruffle my feathers. I'm outta' here. Granted, it's not all warm and sunny in the Berkeley Hills, but the weather sure beats the heck out of cold, snowy, dark, dark Chicago. And there is an ocean, mountains, redwoods, wineries, Highway 1, Alice Waters, Yoga for the People, the University of California, Berkeley, San Francisco, Chinatown (a real one), museums, hiking, touring, green, and even hardy Zone 7-9 flowers. Flowers! In January and February! My dance card is already full.

So, as I prepare for this cross-country adventure with my husband and two Maine Coon cats, I'll blog along the way, detailing the good, the bad, and even the ugly (if there is any ugly). Come along for the ride.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"Tommy, Can You Hear Me?"

The refrain from The Who's infamous rock opera keeps running through my brain, "Tommy, can you hear me?" Right now, the answer is a resounding "No!" for both Tommy and for me. And when you feel you're not being heard - not at home, not at work, not with family and friends - the feelings range from agitation to anger, from frustration to fear. When did this all begin?

There we are my dying mother, my baby sister, and I. My mother lies in the recently-delivered hospital bed, dozing off and on. My sister, eyes closed, lies in the "old" bed curled up into my mother's body. I sit in an uncomfortable chair off to the side, feeling like a stranger in their midst. I want to scream, "Let me in!" but no one is listening.

For almost two months my sister has tended to my mother, surrounded by hospice care workers and a steady stream of friends. This is her turf. It was, after all, her suggestion that my parents buy the little house in Ohio. Florida was just too far away.

I dutifully follow my sister's rules: emotions checked at the front door, absolute silence in my mother's room. I'm suffocating. But I hold my tongue. I have no right to question. I want to scream, but no one is listening.

My mother died with my sister by her side. I was tending to my father who had landed in intensive care after most likely having had a mini-stroke, falling, hitting his head, and suffering a subdural hematoma.

Even before my father knocked himself senseless, he'd become an angry old man. Looking back, I can't blame him. His wife of sixty-five years was on disconnect, and my sister and her crew had taken over. He had lost control, and no one was listening to him, either. Maybe that's why he decided that there should be no funeral for my mother. It was a decision he thought he could make.

I would have none of it. My mother was a very social person with deep connections to friends and relatives. She would have hated not having had some kind of respectable memorial. But my dad was adamant. "Just tell people to make a contribution in her name," he said.

My sister hadn't attended a funeral since my brother died 30 years before. She sided with my dad. And my surviving brother didn't seem to care one way or the other. So, there I was alone. The only ones who seemed to hear me were my husband and son. And they were hundreds of miles away.

After two days of pleading my case, my family relented: We would have a funeral, but it would be a quiet gravesite affair. And we would have a second funeral just weeks after the first, laying my dad to rest just inches away from my mother.

The snow keeps falling on this the first day of March. I am weary of winter's cold shoulder. Mother Nature ignores my yearning for spring and a new beginning. I want to shake Her until She hears me.