Wednesday, March 31, 2010
The Jazzman and I haven't settled into pet names or phone conversation sign offs for each other yet. It's funny and awkward, to experiment with words in a new relationship to see what fits.
I've always been a pushover for guys who call me Babe. I guess it has a 60s feel to it, and takes me back to being a teenager. Likewise, anyone who calls me Crews or Crewser elicits a smile. (My younger son called me Crews last weekend, and I laughed out loud.)
The Southern Belle tends to Honey and Darlin' and Sweetheart. He's become my beau in Facebook references, 'cause boyfriend just doesn't seem to fit, and when you speak "Friend", people can't hear the capital F.
I like "Good night, Dear", as it has a warm, soft sound to my ear, but it doesn't seem to roll off my tongue.
I've been hearing coworkers say "Love you. Bye." to their loved ones for two years now and feeling jealous every time I heard it. But, likewise, that doesn't roll off my tongue. Or the Jazzman's.
Saying "love you" or "love ya" or "I love you" doesn't yet come automatically. So when you hear it, you know it's well thought out and real. Genuine. Sincere.
Actually, I'll take real, genuine, and sincere over glib any day of the week.
What do you call your honey?
She listened for a minute, then picked up a nearby harmonica (Who keeps a harmonica hanging around their piano? Yea for the parents of my grandchildren!) and started playing along, after a fashion. After a few minutes, her daddy walked in, picked up her little pink guitar and started playing along. Then Boston walked in and grabbed a drum. We had our own rockin' Cantina Band.
What enormous fun to be part of a musical family!
Oh, and Ridley told me her birthday at the end of May is going to have a Star Wars theme. (Not surprised? Me either!) She said she's not getting her hair cut between now and then so she can have a real Princess Leia hairdo, not little buns trapped inside her ballet snoods.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
On Saturday we were driving around, playing Duel of the Fates and the Throne Room & Finale music over and over again. At one point, Boston looked up at me and said, "That's a recapitulation." Huh? Where did an eight-year-old learn about recapitulations in music?
Now, I love music theory. I started studying music theory when I was about five years old. If I had had my act together in College: The Early Years instead of doing college on the twenty-year plan, I would have majored in theory and continued to a doctorate so I could teach theory. I love it! I know that recapitulate means "to repeat an earlier theme of a composition". But I sure didn't know my eight-year-old grandson knew that.
When I asked him where he learned it, he said, "In music class at school."
And to that I say, "Yea for Montessori education!"
(I told this story to my colleagues at the office yesterday. My fellow tech writer said, "He'll never be a technical writer. He likes big words too much." I smiled.)
Monday, March 29, 2010
In an e-mail to my sister-in-law this weekend, the caregiver wrote, "She smiles her sweet smile." I'm afraid that the caregiver is interpreting that "sweet smile" as acknowledgement rather than acquiesence. I wrote back to my SIL that the caregiver doesn't understand that's the same "sweet smile" Mother smiles when she doesn't hear or understand a word you've said. When I made that statement, my older brother wrote back, "Or she just doesn't care. Or both [didn't understand and doesn't care]."
It's clear that Mother is not just forgetting to take the meds. She is willfully neglecting to take them. One is for the Type 2 diabetes with which she's recently been diagnosed. I don't know the consequences of this action, but I do have to acknowledge that the woman is 96, almost 97, years old, and she can really do what she damned well pleases.
This set of communications with my family reminded me of my teenaged years, when my mother told me, "You'll never get a man. You're too obstinate." I remember the moment so clearly. I was standing at the kitchen sink, doing the dishes. Her words were a knife in my heart. Of course, in the late 1960s in the South, getting a man was the be all and end all. Higher education didn't matter. A rewarding or successful career didn't matter. Getting a man, having babies, raising one's family: those were the objectives of life.
So when a boy proposed to me, I accepted. (I'm sorry—I have a hard time thinking of a 20-year-old boy as a man.) I didn't really like him. But, by God, I was going to show her! She was wrong; I was right. And, thanks to the church's drilling into us that we were never to get divorced, I stayed married to him for ten miserable years. (I reiterate that I wouldn't trade my sons for anything, even if it meant avoiding that ten years of misery. If I had to live through that to have these two handsome and successful young men in my life, I would do it again. I would just be smarter about things I would and wouldn't put up with.)
But back to Mother. Phrases like "it takes one to know one" come to mind.
Who's the obstinate one now?
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Every time I saw a man who was alone and who met my physical criteria—taller than I, weight proportionate to height (i.e. not obese), decently dressed, and easy on the eyes—I would immediately check his ring finger. If he was wearing a wedding band, I would sigh with dejection and whisper to myself, "Oh well."
I've been performing this search-and-selection ritual for years. Years! And old habits die hard. The other day I walked into Office Depot on my lunch hour and immediately noticed a very handsome, age-appropriate man. As I started to look for his ring finger, it hit me that I don't have to do that any more.
What a relief. What an enormous relief to be out of that rigorous and stress-inducing dating nightmare.
I found a man! I found a really good, kind, thoughtful, handsome, funfunfun man.
I think I'll go dance a jig.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Let me set the stage by saying that both my daddy and my mother always had/have had impeccable and exquisite taste in clothing. They enjoyed/enjoy dressing nicely in quality clothing. Even the thought of buying an item of clothing at Wal-Mart or K-Mart or even Penney's or Sears was anathema to them. Even in pre-med, Daddy's clothing came from Britches of Georgetown.
Mother has developed quite a belly over the past few years, and all clothing now has stretch waistbands. She shops a lot from the Draper's and Damon's catalog, which houses a lot of polyester. Still, she can buy some nice things, and she shops frequently and lavishly—or as lavishly as one can at Draper's and Damon's.
So when Molly unpacked the suitcase, she was surprised to find only two dresses, both polyester, and only one a recent purchase. The other dress, according to Molly, was the ugliest thing she had ever seen in Mother's closet. Besides the dresses, there was one pair of black velour pants, and two tops. For a two-week visit!
Oh, but there were four pair of shoes. More shoes than clothes.
That's my girl. She taught me well!
I pride myself on giving good gifts. I listen to what my friends say and observe what they wear or how they decorate their houses or what their passions are. I think I am very skilled at finding good gifts for my friends, gifts that say, "You matter to me."
I've had acquaintances in the past who gave gifts they liked, gifts that fit their lifestyles. I have a hard time being gracious when receiving one of these gifts. Let's say you're a person who decorates her home in kitschy country. You like little bearded Santa Claus figurines and gingham. If you gift me with something that fits into your home, it's not going to fit in my personal synthesis of modern and antiques. It just isn't. And as dear as you are to me, the gift is going to Goodwill. I can only hope you don't happen to see it as you're shopping at Goodwill. (Horrors! Is that where you got it in the first place?!)
The older my gift recipients and I get, the more I lean toward gifts that are consumable. Food, stationery, flowers, . Things that don't have to be dusted or merged onto existing shelves. Things that will go away and not have to be passed down to someone or sold when I die.
Is the gift of giving genetic? Did someone in my past also love giving gifts and pride him- or herself on the ability to choose great gifts?
I remember, as an elementary school-age child, buying perfume for my mother or after-shave for my daddy. I would save my weekly allowance, then ride my bike to the Rexall a mile away and buy a bottle of (egad!) "Evening in Paris" for my mother. I remember the cobalt blue bottle to this day. When I got home, she would express pleasure over my gift. Four months later I'd notice it was gone, so I'd amass my savings and buy her another bottle. It was all used up: she must love it, right? Only about forty years later did it occur to me that she threw the trash out.
Last fall, at an Artists of the Mahoning Valley show, I bought a pair of gold and silver handcrafted earrings. Two weeks later I lost one. Ridley heard me express annoyance at having lost my new earring. She doesn't yet shop in my closet, so she doesn't know I have more handcrafted jewelry than one person can wear in a year if wearing a different piece each day. I love supporting local artists, regardless of the medium. Oh, and she wasn't around a couple of days later when I found the missing earring.
One evening just before Christmas, Tyler and the babes and I were having Tuesday Night Dinner with Grandma at Cracker Barrel. She pulled her daddy over to an earring display and picked out a pair of earrings for Grandma. They were simple, tasteful earrings that go perfectly with all the black I wear every day. It wasn't just her thought that counted. It was that she displayed good taste and appropriate choices, too! At six years of age! She couldn't wait to give them to me, and I didn't just feign delight. I was delighted!
Now, I don't love these earrings as much as I love some of my artist-created earrings, but you can bet your life that I wear them whenever I'm going to be with her. And you can also bet that she notices. It's as if when she sees me she looks first to my earlobes to see if I've chosen her gift for the day's adornment.
So maybe the gift is genetic. She's definitely got it, and she got it from somewhere. I'd be honored to know she got it from me.
Oh, and by the way? Jewelry is always the perfect gift!
Thursday, March 25, 2010
I think the first time I heard the word was in the movie "You've Got Mail," which I dearly love and watch over and over again while sewing. So when I hear it again, I think of the movie and want to enjoy the book as much as I did the movie.
I do not remember how I happened to choose this book, but it will last for about four more commutes, so that's a good thing.
No real book report is coming from me on this.
So I'll ask: What are you reading?
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I grew up in a family that didn't communicate very much. We kept our thoughts to ourselves. On the rare days when all five of us were seated around the dining table, five separate conversations were occurring. And most conversations were about cars and boats.
Do you think anyone in that family had any clue what was going on inside my brain? They didn't. Nor did I have a clue how anyone else felt or what they thought. I remember my oldest brother being moved from our parochial school to a private school for 6th or 7th grade, but I don't remember why. And I remember my brothers both attending out-of-state Adventist boarding schools but, again, I don't remember why. Did they get in trouble? Did my mother have a fight with a teacher or the principal? Was it just something the boys wanted and got? I don't know. And when Jim got to go to Winter Park High School for his senior year—well, I was about as envious as a little sister can be. But what conversations went on out of my earshot that provided the impetus for these educational changes?
When I knew, shortly into my first marriage, that this was a troubled relationship, I begged my husband for us to get counseling. He said, "We don't talk about such things outside the family." Well, we damned well didn't talk about them inside the family, either, or I might still be married to him. In retrospect, I'm certain he didn't realize the impact his cruel and hurtful words were having on me. He's not a cruel man. But his words and actions ground me to dust. Subsequent marriages tended to have similar noncommunication issues. (The adage "We live what we learn" springs to mind.) Husband #2 believed his daughter's lies and refused to communicate with me to learn the truth. Husband #3 blew off his son's death threats to me and discounted my fears for my life. Ho hum.
When Tyler was an exchange student in Germany, he lived with a very nice, outgoing family who had twin sons around his age. He called me one time from Germany and said, with amazement, "They get mad at each other; they discuss it; they get over it. Everything goes back to normal." He was astonished. He didn't know, to that point, that this was how healthy families communicated. (Nor did I. I've learned much from my younger son.) From my perspective, this is how he's attempted to live his life in the seventeen years since that experience. He has a healthy family.
One of the aspects of the Jazzman's personality that drew me to him, from the first date, was his talkability. (My standard text to him now, almost three months later, when I want to say rather than type something, is "Talkable?". If he's free, he picks up his phone and calls me. I love those exchanges.) By the second date, I sensed I could tell him anything and I would not be judged or rebuffed or rejected. And, contrary to the stereotypical behavior of most men (probably regardless of age), he talks. He talks to friends; he talks to me. Whether the topic is legislation or the latest movie we've seen or our relationship, he tells me how he feels. When I'm troubled, he senses what I need to hear and says it.
I don't know if he's an anomaly in his family, or if that's the standard. I will meet them all on Easter weekend, and I can't wait to observe the family dynamics.
For me, in my life, he's a miracle!
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Occasionally I will perceive or think of numbers and notes as colors. In music, E is normally red to me. D is normally yellow. C is white. F is green. I don't talk about it. It's just how I think—to me it's no big deal. My perfect pitch is a much bigger deal to me, and something I am constantly grateful to have been gifted with.
In fact, I didn't think this note/color thing was anything, didn't think it was a condition or syndrome or that it had a name until reading Oliver Sacks' "Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain." The phenomenon is known as synesthesia. Of famous composers, Duke Ellington, Franz Liszt, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Olivier Messiaen are all reported to have experienced it.
This morning Tyler called to tell me he had been supervising Ridley's morning piano practice. She had been plodding along, rather bored, with one of her Suzuki pieces. He tried to think how to infuse her with a little interest. He suggested she play it as if it were a dance, and he danced around the music room a little to illustrate. She played the piece again, and her performance was greatly improved. When he asked her how that sounded to her, whether it sounded different, she said, "Yes. Before it was black. This time it was pink."
Hallelujah! I think we have a little synesthete on our hands. How fun it will be to watch how this develops and where she can take her musical gifts.
If you'd like to learn more, try searching on synesthesia or "synesthesia music". Do you think you might have synesthesia? There's a battery of tests you can take at synesthete.org.
The more I search and dig, the more interested I become. I do highly recommend "Musicophilia," which contains lots of interesting information about the intersection of neurology and music.
Monday, March 22, 2010
I was so happy today to walk into the lunchroom and find that the daffodils had bloomed over the weekend.
I grew up in Florida. We don't have daffs in Florida. When I moved to D.C. in 1983, I feel madly, deeply in love with daffodils. Wherever I lived, I planted more daffodils each fall. The entire eight years I lived in Tucson, it was the daffodils that I missed each spring.
And here I am. Back in the north. Loving those beautiful golden yellow faces.
I went to a small parochial high school—only 100 students in the graduating class—where everyone knew everyone else, and their entire families. We still are in touch 40+ years later. My identity in high school was Musician. People knew me primarily as the pianist. The girl who played for everything.
Then, over the course of 20 years, I attended seven colleges. Only people from University of Central Florida still remember me—as a pianist or as a member of the first sorority on the fledgling campus.
Then I married and I was Terry's wife or Scott and Tyler's mother. I didn't have a big social circle. Terry worked in his family business or at Walt Disney World or at a couple of small churches. No one really knew me. When we moved to Ft. Worth for him to attend grad school, I hung in his periphery. Now, almost 30 years after that divorce, I have no friends from the ten years we were together.
In the years in Washington, I again felt known as an extension of my spouse: Dick's wife; Bob's wife; J.R.'s wife. I started making friends when I volunteered to manage the data for a chorus benefit auction. In that capacity, using my brain and attention to detail and boundless energy, I came into my own. People knew me as the person who enabled the auction chairs to forget about the data and focus on other matters. Over twenty-five years have passed since my first auction, and people in Washington still know me for that function—recognize me, and throw their arms around me, when they see me at yet another auction.
In Tucson I came into my own. My fiancé emotionally abandoned me shortly after we arrived in Tucson, so I was forced to fend for myself. I joined my sorority alum club, began taking arts and crafts classes, and was one of the first singers chosen for the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus. I wasn't an extension of anyone. There was no "the" or comma after my name. I felt grown-up and confident.
Then my son and daughter-in-law and grandchildren left to come back to Youngstown, and my heart was pulled to follow. I knew only their friends, and again became Tyler's mother, Jaci's mother-in-law, and B&R's grandmother. Two years later, I met a wonderful man, and now I go places and see friends of his and realize I'm the Jazzman's girlfriend. (I'll tell you truthfully that I am loving that sobriquet!)
In my Cleveland chorus, as in Tucson, I have begun making my own friends. We know each other as fellow members of one of the top symphonic choruses in the United States. We know how hard entry into this chorus was, and treat each other with the utmost respect of accomplished musicians.
Is it a deficiency within us to feel our identities are primarily defined by those we help and serve and love? Or is it the mark of a well-rounded, full life? I provide care for (and love) B&R; I help (and love) Tyler and Jaci; I am devoted to (and love) Scott; I adore (yes, and love) the Jazzman; I cherish my new Cleveland chorus friends; I stay connected to my Tucson friends by e-mail and texts and phone.
Am I identified by connection to those I love? Are we all defined by the love we exude?
Who do you think you are?
Friday, March 19, 2010
Why do you think I've been writing on this blog for four years? So when I decide to turn all those funny old stories into an "enhanced memoir", I can still remember them. At times I go back and reread some of the pages I've written, and think, "I did that? Really?"
I looked at the list of security questions available for the answering on this morning's site. Favorite movie? It'll probably be different next week than it is today. Favorite book? I read so many, it's hard to keep all the titles straight. Favorite pet? Pretty consistent, with apologies to the current pets. Best friend? I have four best friends. How am I going to remember which one I listed? High school? There were two. College? Give me a break! There were seven, plus law school! Elementary school? That one's okay, except it's 20 characters, and some Web sites only allow a maximum of 15 characters for the answer! And how about those kids who grew up in a military family? How are they going to remember the name of their elementary schools?
I guess as long as hackers and worms and Trojan horses exist, we'll have to keep coming up with more and more ways to secure our systems. In the meantime, I think I need a little notebook I can wear in a plastic envelope on a lanyard around my neck, like first-time American travelers to Europe do with their passports and money. I can put all my passwords and security phrases there, and just shoot myself if anyone steals it.
Or I could buy an Apple. Wouldn't that solve everything?
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Your history may be filled with stories of dating and marriage(s). It may be filled with tales of dysfunctional families. It may be good; it may be bad; it may be simply a litany of facts. But it's there. It's the elephant standing in the corner.
(You know the old joke about the elephant?
Where does the 200 ton elephant sit?)
Anywhere he wants!
I've had lots of dates and lots of marriages. But I've had only one good marriage. My sister-in-law and I were talking the other morning, recounting funny stories from the past, specifically about the years with John, as it was a day when I was remembering him. She was surprised when I told her we had only been married two-and-a-half years. She thought it had been about five. I reminded her that we had only been married six months when he was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer. I told her how lucky I feel to have had those happy years. She stopped me; "Jan," she said, "he was lucky to have had you to lean on."
The reason those years are so precious to me is that I was given a most difficult job, and I aced it. I threw myself into the providing of care, and I performed it better than I've ever performed any task. And when your history includes lots of reinforcement of how dumb, ugly and incompetent you are, you tend to hang onto those memories of jobs well done.
John's sister-in-law suggested to me about ten years ago that any man I might be involved with would resent the memories of John, the recounting of history. And yet I try to think back to the various widowers I've known and dated, and I think it's a common practice for widowers to speak fondly of deceased spouses when it was a happy marriage. I don't think I've fictionalized him, as many are prone to do of their late spouses.
The challenge arises when you move into a new relationship, one that you feel holds great potential. How do you honor your memories of what was without denigrating or diminishing what is to be?
How about this analogy: Your memory is like a five liter bottle. That's all the room there is for memories. Good memories weigh more than bad memories, so they sink to the bottom. And new good memories weigh more than old good memories. So you have layers: bad memories on the top; then old good memories; then new good memories. The more new good memories you can amass, the sooner the bad memories will be supplanted, and the sooner the old good memories will be fade and replaced.
The Jazzman is doing a damned good job of giving me new good memories. At this rate, he'll be King of the Bottle very quickly.
Six months ago, I could barely remember how to smile. Now I smile constantly.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
After another in-person interview today, I was suddenly struck with a thought: Maybe the ablest of workers have been retained in their jobs, and the job-seekers are not the ablest. Let me give you a few ideas I have for pointers to the job-seekers:
- When you are asked a question, make your answer succinct. If ten words are sufficient for the answer, don't use a hundred words. If you don't know the answer or don't have a good answer, wrapping it in more words will not make it a better answer, It will only convince me that you don't know what you're talking about.
- Most office environments nowadays have a casual dress code. Don't wear a three-piece suit. But do wear something that looks current. You may love vintage clothing, but a simple pair of slacks and shirt, or skirt and sweater, are better than the elegant suit from the 70s.
- Your appearance speaks before your mouth opens. Ladies, touch up those roots. If you're that sloppy with your appearance, I'm going to worry that you'll also be sloppy with your work product. I appreciate that you've been out of work, but a $10 haircut at Swift Scissors or a $5 bottle of semi-permanent hair dye from the Corner Drugstore can go a long way to improving your appearance and making you appear that you would fit into the workplace. And think about White Strips.
- Speak in a manner that holds my attention. Tape yourself speaking and see how much of a monotone you use. See how quickly you speak. Can I understand you when you're answering my questions? Is your monotone manner so boring that I'm pinching my leg under the table to stay awake?
I really want to help you out. I'd love to have your skills on my team at the office. But give me a reason to hire you. Please!
Be memorable, but in a good way!
Or, when troubled and having a challenging day, as I am today, they could take a 10-minute craft break. Much more healthy than a smoke break.
How much nicer my day would be if I could go sew a seam or knit a row or even just look at a pattern and dream.
Oh well, back to this nasty uncooperative hyperlink.
What would you include in your mythical office space?
Ridley can be picky in her food choices, but if you can find food she likes, she'll eat a double portion. Boston, on the other hand, lacerates, slashes, dissects, and mangles his food. Hands are always involved.
He likes spaghetti, and I thought he would just order some spaghetti and sauce and be perfectly happy. But when he looked at the kids' menu, he ordered the grilled cheese sandwich with fries. Ridley, first drawn to her fave mac-and-cheese, followed suit. We engaged in interesting conversation until their meals came, when Boston set out to destroy his dinner. He initially liked the look of the thick-cut fries, but after one bite, shunned them. There was too much potato. "I only like McDonald's fries." We talked about it a little, and I figured out he likes the fried crust, but not the potatoes. He looked at his fries and started methodically picking up each one and biting off one end and then the other, and replacing the fry in a stack on his plate. Argh! And the grilled cheese sandwich? He pulled the two slices apart and picked at the bread. When I asked him why he couldn't just eat it like a sandwich, he said they made it with American cheese and he doesn't like American cheese. I asked what he did like, he responded, "Swiss. Provolone." If you want to know, I think I was 20 before I knew what Provolone was! I promised him that next time we'll ask if they can make his sandwich with Swiss or Provolone.
The lovely Mary took Ridley's and my plate away and asked Boston if he was finished. He said, "Yes", but Ridley piped up, giving a shy little grin, and said, "I'll finish his." Sure enough, she reassembled his sandwich and soon it was gone.
They asked for a dish of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, and the kitchen sent out adult portions with three scoops of ice cream. I groaned. Mary asked, "Are you going home with Grandma or back to your house?" When I said I had to take them back home to their parents, Mary said, parentally, "Sugar." Oh well. I enjoyed our dinner there, and I think I learned my lessons in how to manage the next visit.
As we were walking back to my car, I asked how they liked Cafe Cimmento. Ridley said, "I like it every time I go there." "But", she continued, "Rosetta Stone is my favorite." Why Rosetta Stone? Because the last time she was there, they had a band she could dance to. And she got to help put up the Christmas decorations. It's not all about the food!
I love supporting local restaurants. I love the fact that my grandchildren know and love the local restaurants. This is one of the keys to the renaissance of Youngstown, in my opinion.
What's your favorite local restaurant?
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
I love what this poem says about older couples, who could stay as they are, independent and self-sufficient—and alone—but choose to be together. Choose to make a statement of their love.
We start where we find
ourselves, at this time and place.
Which is always the crossing of roads
that began beyond the earth's curve
but whose destination we can now alter.
This is a public saying to all our friends
that we want to stay together. We want
to share our lives. We mean to pledge
ourselves through times of broken stone
and seasons of rose and ripe plum;
we have found out, we know, we want to continue.
Sit down, Darlings, it's story time. In fact, if it's after five someplace in the world, you might want to pour a glass of wine. I've got mine, and here we go
For the past fifteen minutes, I've searched this blog for various words and phrases, such as J.R., JR, anniversary, and John. So many sweet little memories—snippets—of his life. I'll set the stage for today's stories by referring you to the story of how we met.
After living with me for a year-and-a-half, and pursuant to much begging, pleading, and guilt-tripping by a woman with whom he had been having an affair before we met, he told me he was in love with her and wanted to be with her. Three months later I moved out. Once she got him, she didn't want him any more; she just didn't want me to have him. I went off and married someone else, and two-and-a-half years and one death threat later, I separated from that husband. The day John heard that I was separated, he started calling me again.
I was extremely reticent to trust him, but a dinner or two couldn't hurt, right? How about a trip to Wolf Trap to celebrate his mother's 88th birthday? How about a mutual friend's dinner party? After about four months, we were together on a regular basis, and I was going back to my apartment only to get more clothes. The cat moved in. The things left by the interloping woman were returned or, better yet, thrown away. And, six months after our second first date, I gave up the lease on my apartment.
In between the first time I entered his house in our first life, and my reentry into his house in our second life, the Interloper had redecorated. She had put her touch on as many portions of his house as she could reach. I bore her ill will. I bore her tons of ill will! He started to talk about our future together, and I told him with not a moment's hesitancy, "If we're going to start over again, we're going to do it in a place with no Ghosts of Relationships Past."
We started house-hunting. Our realtor recommended that we look at a house on Irving Street, a mile away from John's house on Argonne. He described it, and his description didn't really appeal to me. But he persisted. "Jan," he said, "just look at it." The next Sunday the realtor held an open house. After walking around the house for 5 to 10 minutes, John and I went back to his house and that night the realtor wrote up the offer.
A few days later, we went to the mortgage lender's office and started going over the loan application with the agent. When he came to the question regarding how one is to take title to the property, he explained the four types of title. John listened, then turned to him and said, "Tenancy by the entireties." I looked at him, puzzled. I asked, "You know that means we have to be married?" He grinned a lopsided grin and said, "I know."
The offer and the loan application occurred in early January. Every week, I'd find some reason to say, "You know we've got to get married before we close on the house, right?" Each time he would answer in the affirmative. And say nothing more. The "tenancy by the entireties" statement appeared to be the only proposal I was going to get.
Days and weeks passed. We were having the house inspected, talking to the interior designer and amassing boxes. But we were no closer to setting a date.
On Saturday night, March 9, 1996, we were driving down Rock Creek Parkway on our way to the Kennedy Center to attend a performance of the opera "Cosi Fan Tutte." A little frustrated, I again turned to him and said, "You know we have to get married?" He glanced over at me and said, "How about April Fool's Day?" With a sneer in my voice, I quickly responded, "I'm not getting married on April Fool's Day." He laughed, paused a moment or two, and asked, "How about the Ides of March?" I looked at him and asked, "Why the Ides of March?" He quickly responded, "At least that way I couldn't forget our anniversary."
I told him I wasn't crazy about the Ides of March. He glanced over at me again and asked, "How about a week from tonight?" I looked at him with astonishment and asked, "Are you sure?" When he said "Yes", I said, "You're on."
We found our seats in the Kennedy Center Opera House, but had a very difficult time focusing on the opera. When intermission came, we looked at each other and said, "Let's get out of here. We've got a wedding to plan."
That night we determined the wedding would be at his golf club, Hidden Creek Country Club. We drew up the guest list. The next morning we called the club to make sure a room was available. We called all the guests and asked them to reserve the date. On Monday we spoke with the chef at the club to get menu ideas. At lunch I walked around the corner from my L Street office to a jewelry store at whose window I frequently dreamed. The perfect ring was waiting for me. Monday night we went to Nordstrom where I got my dress, and to a Tyson's Corner jeweler where we picked out a ring for him. Tuesday night we faxed invitations to the guests. Wednesday we went to the club for lunch to settle on two entrees, and that night faxed menu choice questionnaires to the guests. Somewhere in all the activity, we tracked RSVPs and found a minister and exchanged voicemails with the club marketing manager to get all the details ironed out.
On Saturday afternoon, as we were dressing to head to the club, John looked at me, told me how beautiful I looked, and asked me if I would marry him.
That was his proposal.
I said "Yes."
Monday, March 15, 2010
The Jazzman happened to show up in my kitchen this morning. (Nah, I'm not going to tell you how he got there. You'll have to get that information from other sources.) Having him there, having someone to talk to before leaving for work, was sheer delight! And so, for a change, I didn't pour my granola and slice my banana into a to-go dish. I poured it into a handcrafted bowl, mixed the yogurt in, dropped some walnuts on top, and sat down.
At his suggestion, I've added a couple of comfortable chairs to the kitchen, and we sat—he with his cup of tea (in handcrafted mug, of course) and I with my morning melange—while we discussed our respective activities in the day ahead.
I may be old, but give me enough incentive, and I can change my habits!
At least women's size sixes are easier to find in stores than men's size 14s.
Sounds like an introductory Nordstrom visit is in order, dontcha think?
Friday, March 12, 2010
I fantasize about the future, but my fantasies have to go a lot of different directions. When John and I got married fourteen years ago next Tuesday, we had no idea our marriage was only going to last 27 months. We figured we'd be moving into the Army-Navy Distaff House in our late 70s or early 80s and eat mush for dinner with all the other old military officers and military widow[er]s. We thought we'd have lots of vacations together and time to argue and make up. Alas, we had six months without cancer, and twenty-one months where every day was overshadowed by cancer.
If I am lucky enough to procure a life partner for the rest of my life, he will have to deal with the passing of my mother and all the massive emotions and anxiety that will entail. He'll have to deal with any illnesses or diseases that I contract (and I with his). He'll have to, if he does not predecease me, know how best to interact with my children and grandchildren upon my passing, even though he will not have known them even as long or as well as he will have known me.
The beauty of a long marriage which starts in early- or mid-life is that all the logistics can be dealt with early on. You sit down with your accountant and your lawyer and you get everything worked out and forget about it. When you start later, more of the details are already in place—your assets, your liabilities, your likes and dislikes. You have to say "what if" and "just in case" and have lots of serious talks when you'd rather just be frittering and canoodling the time away together.
Over the years, I've thought about what I might do if I were diagnosed with, for example, breast cancer. I've thought I would just go quietly away someplace and deal with it myself, because I didn't think anyone in my life would be up to providing the selfless care that I know the disease requires. Neither husband #2 nor husband #3 were devoted enough to me—in my opinion and in hindsight—to tend to me as I tended to John. In my best Little Adoptee fashion, my thoughts of running away alone to avoid being rejected were far preferable to becoming a burden to someone, who might then be forced to silently abandon me in his thoughts.
And now suddenly I find myself spending every available moment with a wonderful man who repeatedly shows signs of being selfless and devoted and caring. To know that this is a man I would gladly become a caregiver again for, and who would surely provide equal care for me, is almost daunting. Almost intimidating. But encouraging. Scary.
Many single adults find reasons to extricate themselves from relationships that become too scary or threateningly intimate.
But there's an alternative: cross your fingers and force yourself to grow up.
For me, better or worse in a relationship is preferable to unthreatened aloneness.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
I have a three-car garage that is detached from the house. I don't know in what year the garage was built, but the house was built in 1927. If it's any indication of the state of automobiles when the garage was built, the three doors are rather narrow. I have to carefully watch both side sport mirrors when pulling in and out of the garage. I'm pretty sure the driver of a big Sport Ute would have difficulty getting into that garage.
At some point in its life, the middle garage door received the gift of an electric opener. And one remote control for the opener. There was also a button in the garage to operate the opener, but that button was positioned next to a side door that opened to a two-foot square of bricks and a lot of overgrown brush. I don't carry that door key with me, as I never use it.
I have programmed the hands-free device in the Acura to open the door, but to close the door I have to go inside the house and push the button on the remote. Let me elaborate: I have to get all my bags and packages and my travel mug out of the car; walk up the three steps to my back porch, sometimes over snow or ice; find where I put the house keys while I was retrieving everything from the car; unlock the door; either find a spare hand or quickly drop everything on the kitchen counter while sidestepping two hungry cats to disarm the security system; then and only then find the remote where I've tucked it behind a flower pot so the cats won't step on it and open the garage door during the day while I'm at work; and push the button to close the door. Then, if I'm unsure whether it closed or not, I walk into the powder room and peek out the window to see if the door is open or closed. Really. I am not making this up.
Remember that I am post-menopausal and have a faulty memory system. So, on many, many nights, when I arrive home, by the time I get the security system disarmed, I have totally forgotten about the garage door. A number of nights I've woken up at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning to wonder if the door is open or closed. I walk to the landing on the second floor, look out and see it open, then go to the kitchen to find the remote and close the door. And worry the rest of the night about whether my lawnmower will still be in the garage in the morning. To say it's a disruption of my sleep would be an understatement. To say it's a major pain in my ass would be more accurate.
The Jazzman looked at my little Garage Door Ballet and said to himself, "I can fix that." Well, I think he really said, "I wonder how many points I can get with this woman if I fix that problem." He walked into the garage, looked to see where the button was, then followed, with his eyes, the electrical wire from the button back to the garage door opener motor. And knew he could fix it.
But let's not underestimate his desire to increase his asset account in my eyes. He moved my car from the garage. Then he swept the garage, as he doesn't like working in a dirty environment. Then he did a few tests to determine the best placement for the button. Then he brushed off the wood beside the garage door where he wanted to install the button. Then, if that weren't enough, he went to the basement and found some white paint to put on the wood, so that when I'm trying to find the button after gathering all my possessions from the car, it's situated on a white background and, therefore, easy to find. Then he installed the button on the newly-painted white wood, and drove my car back into the garage.
You think that's all? No. Before driving the car back into the garage, he ran some tests with the car to determine the best placement for parking it, and placed a scrap piece of 2"x4"x3' on the floor so the tire would stop when I was far enough into the garage to allow the door to close.
Do you think, since I moved in here a year ago, I have once swept the garage? No. Do you think I even once thought about the possibility of moving the button? Hell, no. I didn't even know there was a button for the first six months I lived here. It was only after the remote was lost and I couldn't park in the garage because I couldn't close the door that I noticed the button. (Notice the passive voice in that sentence? We won't tell that story, will we, Brad? That's our dirty little secret.)
This man, with a lot of thought and a moderate amount of effort, has improved my sleep and taken one major stressor out of my life. (I have more stressors, but most of those are outside of his span of control.)
It was a little thing to him, but big*Big*BIG to me.
And now, when I get home from work every night, anywhere between 7:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., I reach up to push the button. And I think of him.
Not only is he nice and thoughtful (and cuuute), he's pretty darned clever!
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
My friend, Bob, is now caring for his elderly aunt who raised him. She is in her mid-80s, and has surrendered her mind to Alzheimer's. She stepped in and raised him when her sister, Bob's mother, was not in a position to do so. He feels he owes who he is today to this woman, and quit his job to care for her.
I think sometimes about stay-at-home mothers with small children and their need for communication with an adult. As Bob and I chatted today, I realized he is in no different position than those mothers. He married for the second time a couple of years ago and has a wonderful marriage, but he spends all day caring for a woman who doesn't know who he is. Bob mentioned several of our old classmates with whom he had recently spoken. If I were in his position, I believe I would be spending every moment of the patient's naps on the phone with old friends, trying to maintain my own sanity.
My mother, at 96, has a great brain, and my brothers, sister-in-law, and I knock wood whenever we speak. Mother now lives to eat and sleep, but thank heavens she knows who we are and can still write letters and carry on phone conversations and amuse herself. She may not be able to hear everything I say on the phone, but what she can hear, she understands and responds to. She has a quick sense of humor, and it remains intact.
Isn't the circle of life fantastically interesting? You start by being taken care of by someone bigger and stronger. If you're lucky enough to live a long life so you can see your children and grandchildren and, maybe, great-grandchildren grow and prosper, you will probably end up being cared for—again—by someone bigger and stronger.
I've often said it was my honor to walk with my late husband to his death. It has been my honor for the past eight years to help out with my grandchildren. If my mother deteriorates such that we have to provide care for her, we will be honored to do so. But we sure hope it doesn't come to that. And you can bet I don't want to burden my children with my own care.
Couldn't there have been a better plan for the universe—some way to say, "I've had enough; it's time to go"?
Unfortunately, this is another of those topics for which I have no answers, only questions.
Every time the Jazzman and I go anywhere or do anything with these people, I am treated with complete inclusiveness and as if I've been dining and socializing and partying with them for twenty years.
This is what I've missed since leaving Tucson.
How lucky I am that his friends are as nice as he is!
Monday, March 08, 2010
Last August my friend Kathryn Tidyman was driving through Ohio and stopped to say hello. And to tell me TheCityChoir of Washington had decided to hold its first annual fund-raising auction. She wanted to know if I would bring my twenty years of experience with auction data management to their table and help bring this effort to fruition. Being big of heart and sometimes short of reality, I quickly said, "Yes." Actually, I think I said, "Absolutely!"
The more I thought about rewriting the Access database management application that I had used most recently, the more apprehensive I got. A full-time job, plus a minimum of two hours a day spent commuting, plus nights of singing and babysitting leave me with very little free time. I would have had to recreate the system from scratch, and I was very afraid that I would be begging for migraines and trouble.
Over the past years, people with an auction knowledge base such as mine have written software packages that can be used to manage auctions. I started dreaming about being able to use one of those systems rather than "rolling our own". I was getting up my courage to ask Kathryn how she felt about using a commercially-available system, when—out of the blue—I got a call from her asking me the same thing. Clearly, great minds think alike.
We moved forward with procuring the software and getting the training, and I moved into a consultant role, which fit my schedule. Kathryn recruited volunteers, and they all worked tirelessly procuring donations and organizing the auction. And on Saturday I drove to Washington with the Jazzman in tow.
(One of the facets of a coupled life that we would each want would be the ability to travel together peaceably. Two months into our relationship, it was time to see if we were up to the task.)
We left my house at 7:30 Saturday morning, and stopped in Gaithersburg, MD, at noon to have lunch with my fave cousin, Bruce, and his darling daughter, Sarah. Then we headed to the auction site and unloaded my computer, printer, and other assorted support paraphernalia. Then we were off to the hotel in Chevy Chase to check in, unload our bags, and return to the auction site. I quickly got to work, and the Jazzman moved into a support role, which he does immaculately. While I continued the preparations, he returned to the hotel to shower and change.
I was busily moving among people and rooms, making sure I was doing everything I could to help, while taking moments here and there to greet and hug old friends, some dating back to 1971. I noticed that a man, whom we'll refer to as Joe, had volunteered to help out with the event. Joe and I had traveled in a group to Europe several years back, and I had always felt a strong attraction to him and, seemingly, he to me. We had gone out once, and he had never called or e-mailed me afterwards, even after years of professing interest.
I was standing in the main hall, checking on logistics, when I heard a deep voice behind me, speaking directly into my ear. "Are you seeing anyone?" I immediately assumed it was Joe, again trying to string me along in his best "player" fashion. "Yes," I replied, "actually I am. And it's quite wonderful." I then turned the question on him, "And you?" I turned to face him and realized it wasn't Joe. It was the Jazzman, although I didn't recognize him at first, cleaned and polished and dressed to kill. I had only ever seen him in very casual, casual, or business casual attire. This dark suit and open-collar shirt would make any woman swoon! I'm sure I blushed three shades of red before I started laughing, both for joy that I was not having to deal with the ever-vacillatory Joe and with excitement for the eye candy that was going to be by my side all night long. Thank God I had answered as I had!
Anytime you're working under pressure with new software, you're sure to run into problems. And we did run into problems. The Jazzman stayed alert throughout the evening to where I was and what I might possibly need. Anytime anything went a little rocky, he was at my elbow, pitching in graciously and selflessly. Have I mentioned to you that this man is a jewel? By the time we were wrapping up the evening, about 10:30, all my friends were absolutely filled with gratitude to and for him. When the check-out process was at its worst, when patience was thin and tempers were flaring, he was rock solid, calming patrons down, handing out receipts and issuing instructions. He was, in short, indefatigable. (And if you need the definition I'm using, it's "Extremely persistent and untiring.")
We went back to the hotel and put our feet up. In the morning we had breakfast and read the Post, then headed out for a little drive through my old neighborhood so he could see my house. Then we met my dear friend and travel companion, Risa, for pizza at 2 Amys. A short drive afterward through Arlington National Cemetery and a half hour walking through The Container Store were followed by an hour of debriefing with Kathryn. As we left her to head back to Ohio, I told her that whatever the auction brought in, even if it fell short of her goals, was more than the organization had beforehand, and was absolutely worthwhile to the future of the chorus. Kudos to Kathryn for another very hard job, very well done.
Just short of five hours later, we were back at my house, unloading the car. And still speaking to each other.
So we answered the question: Yes, we are able to travel together, quite well, thankyouverymuch.
Friday, March 05, 2010
The first night I met him, as we sat over supper at Panera, about an hour-and-fifteen into the date, he asked, "Don't you want to know the origin of my name?" I think I answered something like, "We've got plenty of time." What I was thinking was how comfortable I was with this man, and how I could envision—even at that moment—months if not years of sitting across a table from him. I did not feel an urge to learn every possible fact about this man as quickly as possible. I knew there would be time to uncover history. It was not lightning; it was a dip in a warm pool, being encompassed by the balm of ease.
But, at almost-60, there are mixed emotions. All around us parents and friends are reaching the end of their lives. Acquaintances from years past are having heart attacks or being diagnosed with cancer or succumbing to mysterious viruses picked up in some obscure foreign land.
So while there is, on one hand, the sense of being an adult, of being able to dodge the youthful urgency to have it all, right now, there is, on the other hand, the sense that life is fleeting. I don't need it all, right now; I want it all, right now. One of us might become terminally ill a year from now, and how much would we have missed by not throwing all caution to the winds and moving forward? And if we do move forward with speed, and nothing untoward happens, then look how much more of a lovely life we've had together, even though we didn't begin until [some of] our hair was gray.
But what if we move forward and then discover that life isn't as lovely as we thought it would be?
Arghhh! Too many thoughts; too many decisions!
One step at a time. This weekend we're traveling together, for the first time. I'll tell you on Sunday night whether we're still speaking to each other after this little run down to D.C.
Thursday, March 04, 2010
My thoughts are with her parents and almost-3yo big sister as they wait for her to be strong enough to come home.
Tyler or Jaci asked me something about stocking contents the day before Christmas. I don't remember what they were wanting to add to the mix—did I have a couple of quarters or did I have a ? (Truthfully, a lot of water and ice has gone under the bridge in the over-two months that has passed since Christmas. Holy HandHolding! A lot! I'm not surprised I can't remember the details of conversations that took place on December 24th!)
The conversation made me remember Christmases when the boys were little. I would find—with great care and lots of thought—appropriate things to put in their stockings. There would be little games and puzzles, Matchbox cars, whistles or toy harmonicas, yo-yos and jacks, new boxes of Crayola Crayons. You get the idea? Sweet little thoughtful gadgets and knick-knacks that would please sweet little boys.
And then, at the last possible moment, ten minutes before we retired on Christmas Eve, knowing the boys would be up at the crack of reindeer hooves in the morning, the Father of My Children would start scouring the house for things to stuff into the perfectly packed stockings. He'd roam through the kitchen, grabbing oranges and apples and nuts off the counter. Produce! Produce that I had carefully chosen in the grocery store for our meals and snacks! Not for stocking stuffers! Nowhere in the Encyclopedia of Christmas does it say that adults in the 20th Century choose apples and oranges and walnuts for stocking stuffers. It's antisocial! It's unAmerican!
And isn't it amusing that, at Christmas of 2009, when my sweet little boys are 36 and 35 and I'm choosing stocking stuffers for my grandchildren, I still remember my disgust that FOMC would do something so thoughtless as simply grabbing an orange off the counter to stuff into a stocking.
The fact that I still remember it must mean he stuffed an orange in my stocking, too. I hate oranges. Get sick when I smell a freshly peeled orange. Especially when someone has dug their fingernails into it to peel it. Yuck. Gross. Shudder. Oh yeah, I developed that distaste for oranges when I was eight months pregnant with my younger son and I had to mow the lawn because my husband wouldn't do it. I was too pregnant to bend over and pick up the rotten oranges in our Florida yard, so I just had to mow over them, splattering rotten orange juice all over my legs. Yuck. Gross. Shudder.
Don't put an orange in my Christmas stocking!
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
I'm sending all my good vibes in their direction, and I encourage you to send prayers or think good thoughts or wave your magic wand. All parties want Miss Adie ("ADD-ee") to stay in as long as possible and come out healthy.
Events and occurrences like this throw life into perspective.
We look at the world similarly. Where there is dissimilarity, there is openness and the willingness to learn. There's no aggressive, in-your-face, if-you-don't-believe-this-way-you're-crazy talk. (Been there. Hate that.)
Yes, I'm completely aware it's only been eight weeks. Things can change. We're probably both on our best behavior at this point. But it feels like things will not change. It feels like there's a very lovely tree-shaded dappled-sun road ahead.
(And yes, I know I have documented in this space moments of fear and doubt. But that's me with all my Little Adoptee shortcomings. That's all about me, not about the relationship. I'll grow up someday.)
I feel beyond lucky, beyond blessed, to have found a man with whom I am so compatible. I refer you back to a post I wrote over a year ago, upon observing locals over my morning mocha at Starbucks. When you meet a potential Someone, whether in cyberspace or in the real world, you never know when the looks and the brain and the heart are all going to be in convergence—if ever.
I've got a man who is attuned to himself and to the world around him, and I'm one lucky
That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
I have four good friends who span the years with me. One dates from my second grade and her third grade year. Two were friends at the [now] University of Central Florida, and one was my closest friend at Florida State University. We met in the summer of 1969, and our friendship has spanned 41 years.
Polly knew how to laugh and have fun like no one I know from those years. Once when I was in the FSU infirmary for a reaction to yet another drug designed to stop my headaches, she went to Baskin-Robbins (we called it BRICP) and brought me exactly the flavors I wanted in exactly the order I desired. (She tells me I drew a picture of the ice cream cone and the order in which the scoops were to be placed, but I don't really remember that. Maybe it's an urban myth.) We used to sit in her room in Dorman Hall and play an LP of the Supremes and the Temptations. Do you remember record players and how you could leave the arm up and it would just play over and over again? We turned that puppy up and listened to that duet album for hours. The quarter of her senior year when Polly was interning in Orlando, she lived with me. All I remember about that time was lots of laughter and a great friendship.
One quarter that I was at FSU, Daddy had gotten me a Chevrolet Camaro Pace Car.
I can't stand that some of you may have no idea what I'm talking about.
Look at this picture and imagine it without the writing on the door. That's my car. Boy, did Polly and I have fun in that car. I can't believe I got rid of it because it didn't have air conditioning. You wanna talk about spoiled kids?!
There was an infamous episode when Polly and I, along with two of her Alpha Xi Delta sisters, put the top down and went for a rather fast ride out by the Tallahassee airport. When the policeman pulled me over, I spun him some line, in my best Southern drawl, about my daddy tellin' me to take it out and blow the carbon out of the engine. I got away with a warning ticket.
One January, on a trip back to Leesburg and Orlando, we put the top down and ran the heater at full blast to stay warm. The eight-track player was blaring Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Ah, we lived life together.
On one of my trips from Tallahassee back to Orlando, I gave Polly a ride home to Leesburg, FL, where I stopped and visited with her family. For someone who had never felt she fit into her family, I was in heaven. Meeting the Millers was a sip of freshly-squeezed orange juice, the proverbial breath of fresh air. I was welcomed as a family member from the moment I walked through their front door. Their home, a simple two-bedroom, one-bath Florida ranch, was light years away from the large lakefront home I had grown up in. But it was simply and tastefully furnished and filled with love. Polly's two younger sisters were as delightful as she, and always made me feel I was one of their sisters. From that first meeting forward, her parents were "Mom" and "Dad" to me.
Polly has gone on to achieve great success in the United States Air Force, where she currently holds the rank of Major General. I'm so glad her mother lived to see her success. I remember years ago, Polly told me she felt her ability to get along in the armed services was because of her having grown up sharing a bedroom with two sisters. Negotiation was an art they learned early on.
At around 5:00 p.m. on Monday, March 1, 2010, Jean Miller left our world while sleeping, and went wherever we're going next. She was a schoolteacher, a loving wife, mother, grandmother, and greatgrandmother. She was the kind of person who let you know how much you mattered to her.
I am saddened by her death, and grateful that she didn't suffer. I'm honored to have known her and to have mattered to her.
She mattered to me.
My heart is with her daughters and son-in-law and their families as they adjust to life without her.
Monday, March 01, 2010
We women—or I—go into relationships with hearts on our sleeves and our souls wide open. And the scoundrels of the dating world dash our spirits against the rocks. We become scared to stick our necks out. To suddenly and unexpectedly meet a man who doesn't have "Scoundrel" embroidered on his ball cap is an exquisite experience, joyous beyond belief.
And yet I wait for the other shoe to drop, for the real man to emerge from within the thoughtful, kind and considerate man. We—the 50-something, 60-something women who are alone—have been taught to expect failure rather than success.
But maybe, with the help of this patient man, I can grow beyond the old, ingrained fears. Yesterday when the fear washed over me, I stepped aside and told myself, "The Jazzman is not [insert name of any predecessor scoundrel]." After repeating that mantra for ten minutes, the fears subsided.
If, upon reading about it here this morning, he is surprised that I was fearful yesterday, then I have successfully taken one more step toward maturity.
Aren't hard-won victories the sweetest?