Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mon Anniversaire Mes Amis

Today is my 14th wedding anniversary. I can't believe it. My husband pointed out at 9:14pm this evening that all those years ago, I was on my way to being drunk and possibly disorderly, breaking every etiquette bridal rule in one fell swoop. A vision in white many said, sneaking drags of Indian reservation cigarettes behind the backs of her family while she slugged down a quick Molson and a few large shots of Jack to take the edge off losing her freedom. I'm a working girl, the kind that cherishes her freedom and oozes with renegade style. People have always tried to pigeon hole me with their stupid opinions of my very existence but I have consistently proved them wrong, mostly surprising myself with resilience and originality. I'm a one woman show. I always loved to run the gamut solo. I was so fixated on my independence, I almost didn't take the time to notice the one man who made me believe in the very existence of marriage. I fell in love with an amazing man who like me, has experienced the ups and downs of life yet managed to push through and make it out alive. He has never frowned on my independent streak. Actually, he embraces it and loves that I live my life by the seat of my pants, acting in spontaneous ways or simply crashing like a bum who lost her favorite bench in the park. Through often hairy legs and pits, unkempt downtown's and ill mannered Period bouts, he has been there for me and loved me through so much. I suppose it's true that you know who your real friends are when things go awry. Living the good life is for amateurs. Those of us that exist along the rim of acceptable social living understand that with certain choices come difficult consequences. I've taken a lot of hits in my day and clearly think that without those moments of doubt, failure, hard liquor drinking and pack a day smoking craziness, I'd have little to write about. I'm not 12 stepper but I am cynical. I never became addicted to anything except the art of being melancholy. It fits me perfectly. I told my shrink once that I loved being alone and existing within the silence of those moments. She didn't get it and I think she thought I was toying with her, but in truth, I was not. There is something sweet about a melancholy moment as it grabs you silently, creeping about the crevices of you mind, leading you to the promised land. I spent most of this past Memorial Day weekend in a series of those moments as I walked through my mother's house in the middle of the night, sitting on her bed, hugging her pillow and crying so hard my belly hurt. And there he was, always there, ready to hold my hand and wipe my tears away. In my most heinous moments, he is there and that's why I will always love him. Marriage is not about what you can get out it, it's what you put into it and how you connect so deeply with another human being on such an intimate level. My best friend and lover is always there for me. I could ask for nothing more. Happy Anniversary baby!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Albany Dayzzzzzzz

Just a friendly upstate New York hello. It's Sunday morning on Manning Boulevard, the sun is shining and I feel like it's a new beginning. Vic's doing the lawn...spoke to Theresa and Jordan this morning and ran into Maria, my mothers Eucharistic minister who seems interested in the seven bedroom mansion next store that's up for sale. I'd love that! She's an amazing woman with deep faith and a fabulous construction business to boot. It's so much different here and I feel in many ways that I now belong here but I can't seem to leave the ocean and all that's wrapped up in that. I'm eager to begin school again in the fall and hope that in time, all this education will do something profound for my family, myself and my illustrious career. Right now I'm biding time, getting this house ready for summer, my pool open in Long Island and losing some winter poundage. I have a nutty week coming up so I hope I can make it through! Tuesday and Wednesday I'll be Career Centering it and Thursday I have Vic's Queen's College graduation from the library science program and right after to the Central Park Boat House for lunch with the in-laws and my niece and nephew. Friday I'll be blogging from the New York Book Expo, trying to make internship connections and of course, an in for me with the burgeoning book I'm planning to write on the porch of 442 and the deck of 2916 this coming summer. My future is so uncertain right now so I'm going to take all this negative nonsense, hopelessness and nervous Nellydom and put it to good use. I'll always have moments of despair but I think I'm more prepared for that now. The worst is behind me and the best is yet to come.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Busy In Albany

Today seemed like a hurricane blowing past me. Vic was awoken at 6:15am by our schizophrenic alarm system that blew its whistle for no apparent reason. Thank God for that! Last night I set it off by accident when I didn't close the bathroom window properly and at 1am, the system switched on to overload and let out a resounding squeal, sending me and my sleeping husband into a momentary flurry. I must have angered it so it decided to wake us at some ungodly hour, although I heard nothing since went to sleep wearing my usual snoring gear, Army worthy ear plugs guaranteed to erase even the loudest of noises. Just to let you know, they do. I hear not a peep from the alarm but my snoring husband was forced to get dressed and go out and investigate a possible break-in. What he found was a whole lot of nothing. I think I could later hear the alarm system snickering at our bafflement. It took most of the day to reset but finally defaulted into a nice quiet slumber.

The cable guy came to the Albany house at 10am and left at 1:30pm. It was a big job. Internet and cable phone hook-up, plus an updated TV system. He was an awful nice fellow from Rotterdam and offered great advice for WiFi'ing the house. There really is nothing like upstate friendliness. I sorely miss it in Long Island. I feel like everyone there (I'm making huge generalities but you get the drift) has some sort of agenda. I have never met more backstabbers in my whole life and honestly, many of them find me hick or not quite up to snuff. I'm not so jazzed with them or their "keep up with the Jone's" mentality that, in the end, gets you a whole lot of nothing! I've railed against Long Island for years but it's where we work and play so I suppose having this oasis in the middle of a bustling upstate hood is just about the best you can get. It looks and smells a whole lot like Queens minus the Swine Flu! There are lots of ambulances, fire trucks and cop cars swirling past the house at any given time, especially when I'm trying to have a quiet moment. It's urban living and I love it. If I wanted to live in the bloody woods, I could have driven two miles outside this city and shit kicked with the rest of the hill towners. Farm living is not for me although I am an avid animal lover. This will do me just fine as a second joint to hang in.

My brother Robert and niece Amanda came to wash the front of the house down. It's so nice having family around. They scrubbed and sprayed and now it looks like my childhood home once more. It's clean and shiny with new wreaths for the french doors that flank the porch. Now all I need is some new porch furniture and I'm set to go!

I spent much of the morning dusting and making everything look neat and orderly. My mother always kept a beautiful house but the last few years were tough on her and she couldn't do all the things that she had wanted. Now, I am in a position to do those things and I will. This house is a Goliath, a mammoth of an old house. Built in 1911, it has plaster walls, wood floors, a huge grandma attic and a gigantic upstairs flat. We have to get that ready to rent so time is of the essence. I'm hoping to get someone really great in there to watch over this place, while I'm away.

You'll see, in coming blogs, what exactly this house means to me and how important tradition and family have always taken a front seat in my life. I cried a few times today but I felt her around me. Think what you want non believers but to believe in nothing is never to dream.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Written Sketches

A professor friend of mine sent me some of her writings the other and day and I was amazed to see just how introspective of a person she is, highlighting what she calls "Written Sketches." Mostly all of them were about the beach, a place she and I love so very much. I find solace when I look out across the vast ocean, as the water meets the horizon miles and miles from the shoreline. This lady friend of mine got me thinking about how much of our lives are "written sketches," and how keeping a journal or blog is so important not only in times of cheer but especially when we are sad, depressed and lost in our own misery.

I only started to blog again a few weeks ago after an almost five month hiatus. I'd like to believe I had writers block but to be honest with my audience, I just couldn't bare the thought of sketching about my mothers demise. Several weeks ago, I somehow found the courage to take the first step and began to shape a piece which I later destroyed. "Not ready yet," I thought to myself, as I shoved something fattening and bad into my big mouth. "If not now, WHEN?" I said thinking aloud.

A few days later, while Vic was suffering through another long and winding night at Queens College, I felt empowered, almost brazen and grabbed my laptop, knowing full well that this night would begin and end with a lot of hard won tears. The first few sentences were extremely exhausting but after a few minutes, the words and thoughts flowed out of me easier than my tears. Only after an hour into this mental madness did I read back what I had written. I decided to take a peek and read. What I found was raw, brooding emotion that was overflowing out of me. Was it the therapy..nah. Was it from the heavens...maybe. Was it from me....oh YES!

It was the catharsis that I needed to open the can of worms that had been festering in me for months. I realize that I have to exercise this grief out of me and to write about my mothers life and death since both are equally important and integral to her story. You see, her story will never end. She is in all her children and grandchildren. If I ever have a child, I will tell them all about their grandmother and what a wonderful, caring person she was. Her life was such an example for me. I fail everyday but I keep shooting for success yet the bar is held so high.

I want to thank my professor friend who turned me on to the idea of written sketches because it added another layer to my writing and to my whole world learning experience. I feel alive in the world again, although the tears come quick and hard. I feel her spirit here with me, guiding me and helping me surf the uncertainty of life on earth without her. Sometimes, when I'm feeling very lonely, I'll call her Albany house and listen to her voice on the answering machine. It's as if she's still here....well, maybe she still is...right here in my heart.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hit Me With Your Best Shot or How It Sucks to Work in a Man's World!

I received an interesting job posting via Facebook yesterday from the V-Day foundation. When I performed in the famed Vagina Monologues in 2007, I became a life long member of the sisterhood of V-Day alum and with those sacred rights bestowed upon me from goddess and feminist writer, Eve Ensler, I proudly waive my "I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR!" flag high and proud! The job is to be a community organizer (do I hear OBAMA) and grassroots cheerleader for an off-shoot program called V-Men. I think sister Eve has finally made serious inroads into the "man's world," as she embarks on a journey to educate the male populous on how not to treat a woman. Through various workshops, the hope is to expose, educate and annihilate gender bias, sexual harassment and the almighty violence against our sisters. I'm no man hater, but I can't say I've met a woman who has not experienced the casting couch by one or more of her patriarchal superiors who openly flash their bravado and limp bizkits in the hope their get a little horizontal action in the workplace. Let's just hope Eve's best laid plans can save our gender from more of the same ole same ole! If I have another "bright" guy talk down to me just because he thinks he can, I may have to enlighten him with my brilliant banter, exceptional wit and a big fat punch below the belt or is that the brain. I haven't been able to figure that one out yet! Bring it on!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Flashes of Light

As I fell into a deep slumber late Sunday night, I never anticipated that exactly four months after my mothers heartbreaking death, she'd finally come and visit me in my dreams. All these long winter months, I'd wondered why she had not appeared to me, asking myself if I had offended her legacy in some way. I have taken some serious emotional blows over the last few months, first with the death of my last living parent and then walking into another adoption disaster, I surprised even myself at the utter steroid size emotional strength that I so mysteriously now possess.

The dream, of course, made little sense to me but at the time, I felt like I was coherent and understood the magnitude and impact of Angie's appearance to me. My demeanor was fluid as I watched her quickly shuffle up the stairs of my beloved Roosevelt Hall at Hofstra University, noticing immediately that she had no trouble breathing. In fact, she was inhaling and exhaling at a far less rate than I was after seeing her dainty smile and noticeable beauty mark that flanked her right nostril.

In the months leading up to her death, my mother struggled for every breath she took. She was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hyper Tension which is a result of heart failure. Basically, her heart couldn't pump strong enough for her to breathe and she began to drown in her own bodily fluids. It was a fast death. Three weeks from start to least that was the worst of it. Even through the gasping and 24 hour oxygen, her spirit was strong, but her eyes told a very different story. They were tired of fighting. I could see it. I could see it and wanted to scream, "Fight. Fight. Stay here with me," but I could see how much pain she was in and chose not be a selfish daughter for once in my life.

In the dream, there was no decorated apparition or ghost-like figures, just a beautiful woman who looked like the mother of my youth. Her sandy blond hair was piled high with roller tight curls, as tiny Liza Minnelli type sideburns flanked her subtle cheeks. I was mesmerized by her presence and when I finally spoke, I exclaimed, "What are you doing here? You're not supposed to be here!" before finally giving in to my emotions as we embraced and held on to each other for several long moments. She told me she wanted to see me and didn't care what they said. She told me how she missed me and how happy she was in her new eternal home. I couldn't get over how wonderful she looked and how real her arms felt around me, virtually holding me up. I wanted to weep with happiness and yet cry in pain for I knew this moment was fleeting but I didn't want to ruin it with bittersweet tears. As always, she is my rock, my mother, my keeper even in the after life.

We walked for a few minutes on one of the many flower padded routes around the campus and then she was gone and the dream was over. Yesterday was a difficult day for me because I want so badly for her to come back, but I know that can never be. Four months into this and I'm still not a believer. I still can't believe or accept that she's never coming back.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New Year's 2009

This must be the year that couldn't, well maybe it shouldn't have. I keep ranting on and on about how I wish upon a star that New Year's Eve was just around the corner and I could kiss this couldn't, wouldn't, shouldn't of year goodbye, yet I anxiously wait in the gallows of my misery for one gleaming moment that would redeem 2009 in my cynical mind. You see, I've lost so much more than I could ever seem to win in just four short months. In the middle of a cold January night, in the haze of a deep sleep, I was awoken by a dreaded phone call. It was the one phone call I was frightened of my whole adult life. It was the dreaded death call, telling me that I lost the one person in my life who was always my biggest fan, my rock of strength and the sweet, natural matriarch of my family. She was my mother and my love for her is profound but now that she's gone my love tastes bitter in the wake of her death. I simply cannot let go of her. Grieving is a horrible 12 step program administered by corrupt guardians and keepers of life's most precious secrets, who trick the grief stricken, leading them astray in our humanly attempts at compartmentalize the death of a loved one. No one can imagine the deep sense of loss and pain that accompanies the death of a parent, especially the loss of a mother. There is an emptiness that can never be satisfied. The finality of your family is overwhelming and disorienting. No matter the age, when the second parent passes, you feel as though you are a misfit orphan with no core or sense of stability that a normal family life offers. I find myself reaching for the phone to call her, trade recipes or simply say 'love ya." Her voice is still on the answering machine at our family home, which is now my home, at least part time. I think that house will help me write the book that's been burning inside me since I was a rough and tumble kid growing up on the boulevard of broken dreams. I am the product of a working class family who lived on the edge of badness, in a neighborhood full of regular people with regular lives but the collective experience of my early years in Albany was not only life altering, it was amazing in the simplest of forms. The people who I was surrounded by during my formative years helped shaped the person that I've become. They are the same people who have supported me during these terrible times, have laughed and cried with me, ate stinky Italian cheese and roasted peppers with loads of garlic and olive oil and drank several bottles of cheap red wine while discussing my mother's hysterical, unbelievable, remarkable legacy in the confines of 442 Manning. That house will always be hers. I cannot bear to part with it. She's in every fiber of that house and when I recently visited, I could feel her presence. It felt like a giant hug from her although her death is still so new, that familiar melancholy feeling whispered to me like a thief in the night. I suppose in time, I will heal and be able to come to an understanding about my mother's death but for now, I cry often, sometimes hard and sometimes soft but I know that my love for her and her for me will always prevail. One day, we'll meet again so I can tell her all the things that I wish I could have told her when she was alive. We always said we loved one another...that's not the problem. I just wish we had that one special conversation where I told her how much she really meant to me. I want to believe that she could tell in my actions and words, in my life as an example but I suppose I'll never know for sure. I wasn't there when she took her last breaths but I believe it's what you do throughout a person's life not what you do at the end that defines your relationship. We were a pair of crazies who sang Depression Era songs and laughed till we cried. The last words I heard her speak was when I called her house in the weeks leading up to her death and although she was too weak to talk to me on the phone, she shouted, "tell her I love her," and then everything became silent. No more long talks about food or too many chefs in the kitchen arguments. No more summer tomato salads with good Italian bread or grilled pizza in the rain. So much of my life is dark now but I can slowly feel the light penetrating through the cracks and crevices of my soul. She is there in the darkness with me, walking in the valley of sorrow leading me closer and closer to my special spot in the sun on our bench in her favorite seaside town.