Anne Frank and My Life

I visit my  other every other day in the memory facility (nursing home) and our visits are  usually business related (signatures, are needed, bills must be paid….supplemental medical care  forms need to be filled out and despite the parts that are read and reread until  she understands,  our visits are relatively short.     But this is a mutual decision.   As daughter and mother, we know our emotional limitations, even with her dementia.   She doesn’t particularly care to spend much time with me and my desire to cut visits short is probably good old Catholic guilt.   She’s in a place she doesn’t want to be….and keeps insisting she’s going home tomorrow and she’ll repeat that tomorrow and then next Thursday and she’ll the same thing in two weeks, except she won’t be going to the home she knew before her fall.  We don’t know exactly where  she’ll be going.

For some reasons, I feel like it’s my fault she’s there.    It’s absurd, I know.     Yet…..

I have a lot of down time in between visits.     I moving to a new home in July, but even that’s lost some of its luster, so I watch TV, read and drink a lot Ginger Ale (Seagrams has by far the best taste). While waiting in line at the grocery store, I saw  a Life magazine special edition on Anne Frank.    I’ve only read her diary in bits and pieces, but, some how I know her entire story.

As best I can tell, she was an quite ordinary for a brilliant girl.    She was precocious, she felt things, saw things differently, she was aware  of things and no doubt had she lived, she would have been a world renown writer well beyond what the publication of her diary allowed her to be.

And I think she and I could have been friends.   Sure, she was Jewish and I’m Catholic, but that wouldn’t have mattered.     Jewish people fascinate me.   They have a duty and devotion I could never possess, plus their faith is so strong,  as is their belief system.   He’ll, I haven’t believed in anything with that much passion since Santa Claus.

And that was 51 years ago.

I mean, read this excerpt  from her diary, written at just 13 or 14 years old…

““Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”

When I was her age I was writing  “L + M 4 ever” on my school book cover.

Then again, maybe  we wouldn’t have been friends.   Had Hitler never existed, maybe I would have bored her so death getting her to speak her brilliance and logic as opposed to wiring it all down.  I would’ve been beneath her intellectual station.

But Hitler did exist and  his “final solution” included Anne Frank.   He didn’t know her.    Had never heard of her, but he feared her.   He feared her people, because  I’m truly convinced God made a covenant with the Jews.       He told then they’d endure hell on Earth but they’d be smarter and more creative and and more talented a result.    They’d be consummate survivors,.     Why he’ll on Earth?   I don’t know,  but they’ve had it tough and always rose up only to achieve and succeed again,   And afterwards they required no hand outs, demanded no equity, no dependence on anyone but themselves, no sense of entitlement.     They are  just like the mighty Phoenix….literarily.

The Frank family was well to do, but and if you had money and believed that as Jews, your lives were in danger and many didn’t.    Many Jews actually thought the Reich’s Juden  problem was fakakfa, but those who felt sure danger was impending, got out early, but it wasn’t cheap.   It’s was expensive, you could be tied up up with bureaucratic paperwork for months.    And then by the time the SS started  rounding  up Jews it was next to impossible to escape.

The Franks,  with the help of Gentile  friends, moved into the attic (or the upper annex) of a  business in Amsterdam where her father worked.   This was May 1940.  She and her family and several other  people lived in concealed rooms, hidden behind a bookcase

They couldn’t move during business hours and could only talk minimally and use light at night.   It’s was an impossible life but one  they lived until they were arrested by the Gestapo in August 1944.    They spent four abysmal  years in tiny rooms in silence and  imprisoned simply for being born Jewish.

Anne kept a diary she had received as a birthday present, and wrote in it regularly. Following their arrest, the Franks were transported to concentration camps. In the fall of  1944, Anne and her sister, Margot, were transferred to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp from Auschwitz, where they both died of typhus a few months later.

Frank’s father, Otto, the only survivor of the family, returned to Amsterdam after the war to find that her diary had been saved by one of Goyim co workers.   It was first published in 1947 and  translated from its original Dutch version and first published in English in 1952.    Anne’s diary and has since been translated into over 60 languages, several movies and plays.

Anne Frank was remarkable.     Mainly, in that she didn’t go completely insane hiding as long as she did.     Maybe her brilliance kept her as sane as it helped keep her alive.

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More of her quotes:

“Women should be respected as well! Generally speaking, men are held in great esteem in all parts of the world, so why shouldn’t women have their share? Soldiers and war heroes are honored and commemorated, explorers are granted immortal fame, martyrs are revered, but how many people look upon women too as soldiers?”

“It’s  difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains,”

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Perhaps this quote came from her one connection to the outside world     From her only window,  Anne could see the sky, birds and a majestic chestnut tree.  The photo above was her view of the tree.

As long as this exists”, Anne wrote in her diary, “how can I be sad?” During the two years she spent in the Secret Annex, the solace Anne found in her chestnut tree provided a powerful contrast to the death and cruelty unfolding all around her secret hiding place.   Her view of the tree became her strength.   Her goal—-to eventually go outside without fear and feel it, see it In its  full glory kept her going.  A tree….a mere chestnut tree became a heroine’s hero.      Despite the death that surrounded  them, they were both alive.

Sadly, the  chestnut got sick and collapsed from disease in 2010. However, in the years before the tree’s demise, the stewards at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam wisely created saplings that have since been distributed to numerous locations around the world.   So, in some ways, the tree that helped Anne maintain hope in an absolutely hopeless situation, still lives and all over the world.

Theese saplings,  young trees now, represent hope. And life and despite the pains and loss, they represent the future, free of the heartache….at least most of it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go now.   I’m going to get dressed and go to a nursing home to visit my own chestnut tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Seeing Inside Her Confusion

I had a few minutes alone with my mother at her rehab  facility.    It’s a nursing home, really…but ardly the sad, urine stenched homes for the elderly they used to be.  While it still doesn’t scream hope, it doesn’t scream hopelessness either.

But the reality is, my mother is  87 which means everything else about her is 87.     Muscles, eyes, lungs, toenails….everything.   I used to be bothered when she’d complain of being tired for what seemed like no apparent reason.     But that was just her age and my denial.

She’s not sure why she’s at this place.  She had a fall but has tried to explain eight different times with eight different explanations how she landed on the floor, but it wasn’t a fall, she insists.     It was, says every test and professional who has evaluated her.

We showered her with flowers,  cards and balloons on Mother’sDay.   Half of her grandchildren were there; that delighted her.    The rest  who live farther away will come later.

As her family,  we did as we were told–we bought familiar things from her home, which only confusesd her more.    Photos, her favorite pillows, her books.    She has scoffed  at this, telling us we’re wasting our time since she’s moving back home “tomorrow”.   Everyday, she plans to leave “tomorrow”.”.   She claims for the past serveral days, someone in scrubs or a white coat has told her she’s going home “tomorrow”.     So, everything we bring, she immediately  packs in preparation for going home tomorrow, a day that will most likely never come.

I watched her today and, listened to her speak and could barely control the rage and anger I felt at dementia.     It is like ALS in its insidiousness.   My mother is trapped in a body that moves, controlled by a mind that is fragmented.    Her brain has shrunk, as have the cranial veins that controls blood flow.    The myelin which encases the brain is thinning.    Her tests all prove what her confusion suggests.

She has moments, sometimes hours of keen memory that can go  back decades.  She can be remarkably precise.    Then in a flash, she has no idea who she’s talking to, or where she is.    Her mood is stable one minute, depressed and angry the next.

I’ve had a contentious relationship with my mother all my life.   The stork, we agreed had the wrong address with baby number three.   I’m the youngest  of three daughters.    I moved to this burgeoning Texas Hill Country city five years ago when my middle sister  who was here,  moved  to South Texas to start a new life..    I came here to seek redemption with my mother before one of us died,     In some ways, we came close to achieving it, in other ways, we came nowhere near it   But we managed to maintain a relationship that worked in its own unique, if not conflicted way.

We’ve had  massive fights ending in being incommunicado for years.     Prior to her recent fall and this oddly seemingly overnight increase in dementia.  I’ve had little patience with her and when she acted like a child, I treated her like a child,   When she yelled at me, I yelled  back.   I’d try to help her in and out of cars only to get screamed at, hands slapped, the whole  nine yards, but if I didn’t offer help, I was accused of agism.   There was no winning.  There was never any winning.

My Mother  can still be be vicious and cruel.   Her friends and associates, many cousins and our contemporaries  don’t believe me or my sisters when we’ve said she could be be mean….  they say she’s the sweetest thing and such a little doll.     She is a very mean little doll at 87 as she was at 79…60…50 and even at earlier ages.    She has her psychological and emotional demons that she both fought and invited in.

But in the grand scheme of things, none of that matters.   It takes everything you possess not to allow  a sad, tragic past dictate  an old, feeble woman’s present.   I can’t speak for my sisters.; they both have their own stories, but while I have a hundred reasons to do as so many adult children have……dump their parents at these facilities and never see them again.   They write a check each month, just enough to keep them fed and clothed and medicated and that’s the extent of their  relationship.     I used to think the people  who did this were such selfish, uncaring assholes.     I’ve since learned that very often neglectful  younger parents end up as neglected senior citizens.   After their horrible childhoods, writing a check is the most affection their children can muster, but   I….we….can’t do that to our mother.   The words, “I love you” don’t come easy  for any of us, but we honor her by making her comfortable and try to allay her fears and confusion.  That’s so for us to do, it was never said growing up.     So, basically, saying I love you would be easier.    But she’ll get angry at us as she realizes her new normal is as abnormal as hell and , as we’ll don’t dare say we try to make her happy .    All we can do out best as s family is to try our best to make her last years  on this earth seem  reasonable to a woman who loses logic daily.

In addition to dementia, she has advanced kidney disease.     Other organs will soon follow them down the failure trail.   I know my days with her are numbered and my days of having coherent conversations will end even sooner.    So, I say all I can….all I’m capable off.    I’ll try to say more in the time I’ve got left.     Regrets after death can bea killer.

I feel extraordinary guilt for losing my patience with her. Time after time….for the fights, for not properly deflecting the animus flung my way that often comes with her disease, I feel bad for constantly rolling my eyes  and all the sighs I exhales due to her slowness, I’m sorry for feeling so angry at her refusal for whatever reason she continues to choose note to wear thevhearing aid she so desperstely  needs.  I get angry at her obstansance;  at our parent/child role reversal.   I Remember getting angry at what were lies ten years ago and even angrier that they’re now delusions.

And then at get angry at myself for being the single most heartless bitch for feeling this way.

I need to fix things….like a hole in the roof before it rains,

I have several things  to say to  my mother in the next few days…important things that she’ll either understand or not, but these are things important for me to say out loud.   Things  I need to say and hear myself saying them more than she needs to hear them….at this stage anyway.

I  must apologize to her and forgive myself.

 

 

 

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Resignation

Surrender.     Resignation.     Settling, not for less, but by means of finding one’s comfort zone in areas where comfort can’t exist.

A lot of has happened i the past four days.      Not just to me, but to  so many people.

Every day, people are diagnosed with horrific diseases that are more thieves than anything else.  They steal from us, take from us.    If there were only police who could arrest these bastard illnesses.   A judge that would take them to trial and a jury that would convict them.    I’d love to see leukemia in handcuffs, dementia behind bars, stage 4 kidney failure strapped to a gurney with a steady drip of Sodium thiopental entering its vein.   I’d love to see the life snuffed out of death, for once.

Every day, people die of broken hearts. Coronary artery disease takes its fair share…..so does sadness , a bottle of opiates and a quart of Vodka.    Bit what does that do?  It prolongs the heartache on both sides of the bottle.

Every day, people lose loved ones.   My God, Death has been busy in 2017.    I would like to think he’ll take a respite in  2018.    I’ll be happy to pay for his one way ticket day to…..anywhere else.

It took me seven years to get my college degree;  almost ten years to pay it off.  I had a 31 year carer in broadcasting.  Never made a cent.    I’ve been retired for five years retired bow and what have I done?  I blogged and whined.

But aside from that,  I feel as though I’m standing  at a  great precipace…..on one side, is everything I’ve ever known in my life.    On the other side, is everything I’ve ever feared.     As I teeter back of froth from vertigo caused by fear and uncertainty, I can’t tell the difference between the two sides.    Fear blurs everything.

I’ve had an extremely complicated 58 year relationship with my almost 87-year-old mother.     She is rapidly losing a very short fought battle with dementia and I’ll probably have to  sign her DNR….do not resuscitate      I understand why.  Trying to resuscitate   a frail dementia victim is more deadly that the disease itself    Chest walls can cave in.  lungs collapse.  Death then only give you the option of how your loved one dies.

Basaically,  I have to determinate that when the time comes and it will, I must allow the woman who gave me life, to die.

And it is killing me.

 

 

 

 

 

conversations with life

Not your life….not his life….her life…..MY life.      And I’m not special.   She’ll talk with anyone who’s willing.

And in these dialogs, Life teaches me many things, marvelous Life lessons and I’ve even taught Her few things, too.    Now before you label me as some narcissistic tool for thinking I could even remotely teach Life anything, just hear me out.

If you think about it, mankind has learned vital things from her…inertia, gravity and we showed her we could defy a few of her natural laws. And improve upon them,   Mankind has taught and continues to teach Life  important human lessons everyday. Flight, space travel, how to make fuel out decomposed dinosaurs buried deep within the earth, helping immune systems help themselves; the list is endless.

But all of these things aren’t exactly the things we talk about  Life has taught me so much, and it was only recently that I’ve learned I can return the favor.  It’s not only personal, it’s the ultimate quid pro quo.

I have many conversations with Life.    Not enough to concern a Freudian, but they’re  frequent enough and lengthy enough to help me in basic problem solving.     And no, these aren’t confabs with God, not even the Universe.    To some, Life might be all of those things but to me, She’s very different.    In my mind, She looks like Doris Roberts, the actress who played the mom in Everybody Loves Raymond.   Feisty, judgmental, loving, encouraging and stifling, open minded but opinionated, demonstrative but aloof, and always making sure I have enough to eat.     As it that’s a factor.

In fact, we had a meaningful conversation quite recently.

I told Life that if therapy must be along the path it set out for me, then I’ll look at it as a luxury.    Where else can you talk about yourself  unabashedly for one uninterrupted hour ?   I have lived with various states of depression:  severe, the manic variety and of course, situational depression.   I regard depression, when not severe, to be something of a gift, as a sign of  actual mental  health, to be quite honest.   It’s worth the occasional loss of self worth just to find different, more creative ways to reconstruct my self-esteem.

She agreed.

I insist I’ve tried to teach Life that contrary to what so many others say, everything is real, even the stuff of our imagination.    When I needed love and nurturing as a child, I created imaginary friends…sometimes an entire audience in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the former home of the Academy Award Show….and filled my neglected  little soul  with what it needed.     Of course, if we think it, we can be it, but that takes time and dedication, which make no mistake, I’m all for, but our imagination works perfectly for all quick fixes we need.

As a kid growing up in the 60’s, when Depression era parents were grappling with all the social and economic changes that were so radically different, Valium wasn’t my “Mother’s Little Helper”, my imagination was what kept me out of her hair.

I’m in the midst of trying to teach Life about finite things vs. infinite things.   Some things are more finite than others.   I tell Life, well okay then, but there is no one infinity, there are many infinities.     And some are actually finite, or rather, more infinite than others.

I got no argument from Life on that point.

My mother now lives in a lovely semi- assisted living facility.   Its residents are mostly widows—women live longer—but there are some couples living there and they walk to dinner together holding hands or you can see them strolling on the grounds, arm in arm.    Between them, there are more than 190 years and I think about all the life they’ve seen and shared and while Life agrees, I scold her for allowing us to place such a negative connotation on aging.

We pay surgeons thousands of dollars to fight its physical ravages.   We pay out our sagging wahzoos for ointments, salves, creams, pills and injections to keep us looking younger, thinking younger, performing like a younger person.   We defy the natural process which is to age because most of us don’t feel as old as we are.   So, we fight it like it’s some kind of disease.

Look at the realities.   Older wine tastes better and costs more.  Art becomes more expensive the older it is and usually after the artist dies.    Antique furniture is ridiculously expensive.    Cheese tastes better aged.     Why then should humans be devalued just because they get older?

Life explains that designer extraordinaire, Coco Chanel explained it best:

….”Nature gives you your face at 20; you have to earn the one you have at 60’…

Life assures me that aging is the reward for having lived.  The entire human condition is a process and aging is a part of that process.     We’re born, pink wrinkled, toothless….helpless.   There are diapers.     We age and then beyond a certain point, we revert backwards in a way..    Life says if the entire cycle is allowed to be completed, we die pink, wrinkled, toothless and often helpless.   There are diapers.

But it’s that entire life cycle that bothers me.

Life and l are currently in a massive emotional tug of war over certain things such as the death of a three day old baby that dies or one that dies en utero.   My question to Life is why bother? That’s no life. Life responds by telling me these things certainly mattered to the life of the mother, the father, a grandmother, countless others and it altered their lives completely.    It’s painfully ironic, but Life insists that loss can provide us with our greatest gains and show us strengths we never knew we had.

She added that old people get it, but young people are too far removed from the concept. The whole idea of death is enigma to them  and they seem to regard it as a vicious rumor.  A parental cautionary tale. It’s still confusing if a grandparent dies, but when it’s a contemporary, that’s when it hits home in an entirely different way.     The kids who survived their mental and physical wounds from the Columbine Massacre had to learn about mortality and the fragility of life the hard way.

Even Life is confounded by that school shooting.  She’s always tells me She’s no better equipped with comprehending 9/11, either.    She says sometimes people become random sacrificial lambs.  After 9/11, airline security changed dramatically.   She says the the same thing about war, when cars crash because of  driver  or mechanical error.   She says we learn from our mistakes.     We learn to make cars safer and after war, there’s always peace.

But not always prosperity, I remind Her.

She laughs, but says for every thing there is a price.  Everything she repeats emphatically.   That accounts for the balance  of everything:  of good and evil, war and peace, abundance and famine, happiness and sadness…even sweet and sour.

I told her I understood the price of knowing.    And the I knew the price of ignorance.    Selma, Atlanta, hate crime…..why I wasn’t chosen Miss Town and Country Days.

I then changed the subject and told Her, I never wish people people a long life; only if its a happy one and that;s a rarity, because I know that’s not really a  human possibility.    I don’t want someone with a vicious painful disease or a mental disappears that zaps the qualify of life to live a long life.  Thats a curse.   Instead, I wish them a life well lived.

She agreed.  The options for that are greater since living well is subjective.

But then,  it really got interesting when I asked her not about death, but what happens after it occurs .    She looked at me and briefly contemplated her answer.     She asked, “What if I told you that life is energy?”.

I told Her that wasn’t a reach for me to wrap my head around..

Then She said what if I told you that the sun has been lit and stays lit from the energy of billions of souls that have gone before you;  that it was  and always will be the light of all humanity.

I told her okay, mentioned something about Stephen Hawking finding that hard to swallow and then added that I was glad we weren’t smoking pot because the subject matter would be way too heavy.

She then told me even the most gifted scientists that ever existed knew they could never know everything.

Things got quiet.   The mood shifted.   She then asked what’s important to me in the course of my existence.   I told Her I all I knew for sure is that I certainly wasn’t ready to hand it in yet, but that I feared aging would limit me even more than some physical issues I have .     She suggested that I die young as possible, as late as possible.

We both laughed, then things got serious again.   “When it’s your time to help light the sun, what do you want left behind?”

To be remembered, I suppose. .

Don’t suppose, know.   KNOW how you want to be remembered, She demanded.

“I want to be remembered as someone who made a positive difference in other people’s lives in the biggest of ways, in the smallest ones.”

She then said, I had nothing to worry about.  It would be a while before people would only be able to remember me, but for the time being, she asked me if I thought it was  nice to be known not by name or face , but for what one does?

I simply smiled and nodded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On The Road To Zen

I’ve just learned that one of my passions has an Italian name.  Dolce far niente  means the joy or sweetness of doing nothing, which is what I’ve been doing a lot t of and and as it happens I’m, very, very good at it.

I have been writing though, and nitbjustbin this blog.   I’m writing a screenplay (grab pearls and gasp).       Guess what it’s ab A smartbass once high snd nighty dame ehomteisyed hervsnkke getting off  her high horse and  has no luck in love.   The ubiquitous they say, write what you  know.

The blog is just a lark, but I think I’m going to start curtailing my involvement.   I’ve resorted to reposting oldies but goodies updated to some degree.    My readership used to be huge.    It barely ever reaches 100 these days and I get “likes”, but I think they’re just click and runs.     Other bloggers click like  in the hopes  I’ll “like” theirs in  return.    I’m assuming this because no one leaves comments anymore.     Either I’m not as witty as I once was or peoplevcsnt comment becsuse they can’t comment on what they haven’t read.

Im not fishing  for compliments, but a limitless correspondence would  be nice.    Constructive criticism but trolls need not apply.     I’m a moil when it comes to trolls.    I’m old, kinda pissed off these days.  I’ll slice it, ducebitm julienne the damn thing and teach Ron Popiel a thing or two.     See?   Right there.    That was a reference someone 55 and over would get.      Maybe I just answered my own question sboutnlower readerdhip,and my blog bring such a comment free zone.

Or perhaps it’s because my NEED to blog has dwindled.

There was a time–eight years ago to be exact–when this blog meant a great deal to me.   I was out of work and broke (fiscally and in spirit), I had little else in my life.  It allowed me to be funny…or do I thought, vent frustrations,  be creative and see all the wrongs in my life and correct them with a string of carefully placed words.   But you can’t  redecorate or add-on to your home unless you’ve built one; unless you own one.     Convoluted but it makes sense.   It all comes back to:

O-W-N-E-R-S-H-I-P

Not long ago, I had a standing Sunday morning date with Oprah, especially her Super Soul Sunday stuff.   I though some of  some of it was psycho babble bunk, but some of it made sense.    I never think any member of her happy stable of life coaches and teachers (especially that short-haired African-American woman with the hard to pronounce name , especially when drunk)  have reinvented any inner peace mousetraps,  but they have the ability to repackage age-old principles and sell them to a populace that knows it needs so much help….’cause Oprah told us so.

For a while now, they’ve known so many sojourners are trying to learn what they need to grow, to feel whole and less guilty.   All this returning to source stuff.    The light.   The child within.

Personally, Oprah and her cohorts plus books on similar subjects make  me think I’m going on this really Wild Ride, sans Mr. Toad and I know I’m not the only passenger., yet I feel as though I’m  riding alone..    I can’t speak for any of my fellow travelers, if there are any,  but I’ve never  felt change as palpably as I do now and the signs…oh my God, the signs!!!!    I’m in such synchronicity with the Cosmos.    I’ll see a word in print and hear it uttered on TV at the exact same moment.   There’s a little flush that goes through me when that happens; like the tiniest of electrical surges.  I guess you could compare  it to the process of charging a car battery.    The charge can only happen when you make the right connection and when and that ONLY when that happens, power is restored.

It’s true.  I know this for a fact.    I used to report the news.   I felt something beyond the standard  disconnect one feels between who she  was while performing her job and the person she is off camera….while still at  work, not necessarily in the privacy of her own home.

Every day,  I was bombarded with the reality of just how fragile and errant we are as a species.  My colleagues did too.   I think that’s because we all felt, even with 50 people in the news room, like we were all walking around as if we’d been fragged;  shot by one of our own.    The unfriendliest of friendly fire.     You know, like Lt.  Neidermeyer from “Animal House”.    Wounded by someone we once loved and trusted who promised they’d never hurt us.   Jobs, parents, lovers…Roth IRA’s.    But how naive is it to think  we could ever be that Teflon coated, that impervious to pain.    Oprah and company had high hopes that we could spend a few hours with her friends each week, then instantly feel all right about life.    But that’s not how it works.   That’s never how it  happens.   We’re all walking wounded, in varying stages  of healing.  We might react differently to  our afflictions, but  they’ll heal in their own unique ways, in their own time.

But heal, they will.

Even armed with this relatively new understanding of the uniqueness of pain, I still reach out to embrace my inner Laurie more effectively by reading about roads less traveled and efforts to find Zen and harmony.

Author, Elizabeth Gilbert did it by leaving her life and ultimately, her body and based on the book and movie,  “Eat, Pray, Love”, she might have lost a bit of her mind, too.  I’ve only seen the movie and it was in my opinion, a bit of a train wreck.

But…

This isn’t to say that the film didn’t have its moments.

CONFESSION:  I am an incurable romantic.   Close friends know this.   Colleagues find this notion hard to believe.  My hard-shell exoskeleton is far more deceptive than  my emotional sinew.   You see, in spite of so many self-generated arrears of love and faith, I still believe the sanctity of commitment and relationships.      And it was the romantic in me that forced me to watch this movie.   It was the journalist still in me that only allowed me to watch it in ten-15 minutes sessions..   Carefully timed sessions.   To have watched the whole thing,  from the lion’s roar in the beginning to the display of the production company’s logo before that final fade to black at the end of the credits, would have had me Googling  how to properly perform hair-kari.

But there was one scene–when the Julia Roberts’ character was learning her own path to bacchanalian hedonism in Rome ,and some friends or traveling companions or perhaps a tour guide took her to some ancient, structure and she marveled at its simply beauty and rugged, architectural staying power that’s defied the centuries.

“A friend took me to the most amazing place the other day. It’s called the Augusteum. Octavian Augustus built it to house his remains. When the barbarians came they trashed it a long with everything else. The great Augustus, Rome’s first true great emperor. How could he have imagined that Rome, the whole world as far as he was concerned, would be in ruins. It’s one of the quietest, loneliest places in Rome. The city has grown up around it over the centuries. It feels like a precious wound, a heartbreak you won’t let go of because it hurts too good. We all want things to stay the same. Settle for living in misery because we’re afraid of change, of things crumbling to ruins. Then I looked at around to this place, at the chaos it has endured – the way it has been adapted, burned, pillaged and found a way to build itself back up again. And I was reassured, maybe my life hasn’t been so chaotic, it’s just the world that is, and the real trap is getting attached to any of it.     

Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”

I agree with this, and I’ll take it one step further:  transformation is vital, but so is resurrection.  A classic analogy of both these things  are the Watts Towers, in Los Angeles.

Built over a period of 33 years, from 1921 to 1954 by an Italian immigrant, the towers are ostensibly made of trash.    They’re constructed from the real stuff—steel pipes and iron rods, wrapped with wire mesh and coated with mortar, but they’re decorated  with found objects–discarded  bed frames, bottles, ceramic tiles, scrap metal and sea shells.  Sabato Rodia built the towers with no special equipment or blueprints.  he worked alone, too,  with a few hand tools and little else.    Neighborhood children brought him  pieces of broken glass and pottery.

I love how this now recognized historical landmark has such a random genesis.    And lo these many years later, it’s perceived as ugly to some, visually stunning to others but unarguably made from things taken from garbage cans or discarded wherever some rude, careless shmuck decided to leave what he no longer wanted…or needed.    It was trash turned into substance that was valued once again.

What Oprah has spent years trying to tell us is simple;    like an old  Coke bottle, we humans are redeemable.  But Unlike the imprinted vintage glass bottle (redeemable for 10 cents.  Void in Michigan, Iowa and parts of Colorado), we get to  establish our worth, if we want it.

But make no mistake:   WE get that choice; no one else.

Sure, if you’re all evolved and  rational like Oprah but I’m not, so leave a comment or Poochie  gets it.

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Pic is from the classic, the hilarious National Lampoon Magazine.

SAD SIDE NOTE REGARDING THIS ICONIC MAGAZINE COVER:

Cheeseface was the name of the dog who featured on the now famous “Death” Issue of the National Lampoon magazine, released in January 1973.    I remember it well.  I bought the issue..as I did every month…. and read it front to back.

The cover, photographed by Ronald G. Harris, which showed Cheeseface with a gun pointed to his head, and the caption read, “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog”. The cover was voted #7 in the Top 40 Magazine Covers of the Last 40 Years by the American Society of Magazine Editors.

Tragically, inexplicably, unimahinabky,  in early 1976, an unidentified person or persons tracked down Cheeseface to the farm where he lived and killed him.    How and why he or she did this remain unknown.    I can only blame complete evil and total shit biscuitry.

Dear Much Younger Self

My darling younger Laurie,

What I am doing is nothing new.  In fact, writing letters to one’s younger self is downright hackneyed.   Everyone does it.   Oprah did it a few years ago and the world went ape shit,  she then wrote her own eulogy and all  of Alpha Centauri had a brown out.    Ah, the infinite power of The Oprah.

I guess I could take it one step further and  write my  own epitaph while I’m at it.

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First, we’ll address us when we were 20.     Nice time.    We are/were was young and thin.    Still living in Austin before the severe leftist intrusion the late 80’s.    College was fun, like high school with ash trays.   It was a raucous time to be alive.   Back then, no one tried so hard to be different.   Uniqueness just was– not a lifestyle pursuit.

You’ll look back one day and laugh at how during your college years, you moved every time the rent went up.  Silly.  Don’t do it.  it’ll only cost more in the long run.   The $72.00 a  week you’ll make at that retail store will be tough to live on, but it’ll be one of your greatest teachers.   Yes, a paycheck such as it,  will be a wonderful learning tool……you’ll learn to go without.  But that’s important.     You’ll learn how to moderate moderation.

It’ll be a hassle to be a  full-time student working at a crappy job that introduced itself to you as a crappy job.   We knew it when you said “Yes to the stress”.    But you’ll  do just fine.   You’ll learn to live within your means and you already know about talking in a higher octave to buy a cheaper Happy Meal without the guilt.

Never forget get those insidious roach infested apartments we lived in.   They were and for some time, will be, tiny and cramped.  They will, be lean to’s with a few shingles, some with indoor plumbing.   But you’ll appreciate that you have a roof over your head.   . But never forget, the DNA of a hundred previous tenants will always be swirling on every surface.   Avoid the petri dish that will be your kitchens.   Look into healthy ways of employing anorexia in your life, if possible.   You won’t want to place food, much less eat it, anywhere near most of your kitchen counters.

For a time in your  early twenties to age 30 or so, the only letters you’ll receive will be returned check notices from your bank.   You’ll learn to hate that distinctive shade of pink paper that shouts  “welcher…..loser” from behind the envelope’s cellophane window.   But I beg you, don’t beat yourself up about this. Why?  Because you will survive the “student experience”.  And bouncing checks..on purpose, .with intent, is part of that survival experience. I didnt say ethical but it woo bevomecan necessary evil.  In fact, it’s survival  101.   You’ll make those particular sacrifices several times  while still young in life.    And I promise there’s, an end to what seems like an impossible student loan payback process.

You’ll live in neighborhoods that were shady because like your neighbors, you didn’t have a choice.    At least not in the fiscal sense.   And yes, the chasm between you and “the haves” will exist, especially while still in college, You’ll look enviously at those rich, indulged sorority types who were subsidized  by parent-ships, mummy and daddy paid for everything,     You used to think their only goal for four years was to pledge the right sorority, date the right guy from the proper Texas zip code and study, in between winters in Cabo and spring breaks in Gstaad.   But I want you to let go of any resentment ASAP.   It’s beneath your humanity   and besides, everyone has a veneer, a lovely candy coating…..and consequently, everyone has a price they must pay for everything.   The Big Mental Get Even comes later, I promise.    You’ll be amazed how once you’re in the real world, the playing field will be leveled.     Not completely, but more so than it was during your college days.  You’ll grow up, mature and see the error in your thinking.    You’ll eventually right your listing ship with emotional ballast you never thought possible.

Oh and while I’m at it, don’t date a jock at while at The University of  Texas.   It won’t end well.     For him, as it turned out.   Avoid pilots at all costs.  There’s a shoe salesman, a smart yet immature and confused engineer and an selfish actor wanna be in the mix.    Avoid them all.   Run from them…head west, head west!!!

You’ll have a kickass career, especially at the very beginning and while the money isn’t flooding in, your star is rising and you will be heralded in ways you envidioned at age six.     On air, you are loved unconditionally and disliked with as much passion.   Learn to edit criticism from viewers and listeners and for God’s sake, run like hell from broadcast consultants.     All they know is resentment from on-air careers  that went to hell or worse, never went anywhere.   They’re Satan’s spawn on a salad plate filled with nettles.     General Managers with few exceptions are generally full of hot air too, their hands still aching from all the knives they plunged into other people’s backs.    They will eventually stumble and fall as well.   You’ll learn that failure and disappointment are viable and unavoidable  facts of life.    Embrace them.  They are lessons indeed, but not necessarily pass/fail courses.    You can choose your mode of testing.

In order to do that, I urge you to ignore the tall, handsome Canadian.   Avoid the lessservrelationshipscthstbtook morevthsnnthry’ll hive.     Stay clear of the lure of fame even if regional, even if it’s on lowest rung on the show biz latter.  Try to abstain from all the stuff that feels good and either sounds like, or actually includes the letter “x” anywhere its title.   Imbibe less.  Learn that Love is more, much more than having a a few commonalities,    A mutual love of chicken coop welding will bring  you together, but it’s not enough to keep you together.   Love is complicated, regardless of how easy and effortless  it might feel.   Use common sense, don’t be a doormat.   Reinforce your spine constantly.

Please let go of that precious little lion cub by 1975.    Trust me, your life will be easier.    Adolescent first loves are too often idealized and never a reason to seek a vacuum cleaner hose to attach to the exhaust pipe before shutting the garage door.  Not that you’d ever do that,.   But this break up will feel like the absolute end of the world.  It’s actually just the end of a phase….that just feels like forever.   .But please let go early.   There’s power in release.    He never loved you like you loved him.     Seek emotional parity and let him go in the process.  He’s  nothing more than a greasy  kid stuff  memory .

Learn that donuts aren’t sweet bagels, don’t date co-workers.   Madonna will always be thinner than you AND might I add, always a year older.    Calibrate the mania in your life, keep stress on low and battle the inertia, where possible.  And please know this—it’s perfectly fine to be vulnerable, just not to the point of exploitation.

So, be kind  to yourself.   More than I was.   I’m sorry for some of the decisions I made….not so much what I did, but who I did.   Had I been wiser, the tone of this letter would be far less cautionary.  But in spite of all the warnings, there will be good times in your life and yes, you will know joy, but understand that (unless you did an unscripted  180 and became a cloistered nun), it’s not a constant.    It should be, but it can’t be, no matter what bill of goods someone  is trying to sell you.   You’re an errant human and you’ll know joy’s varying degrees throughout your life.    Revel in its presence.     Use time wisely, it never seems to stop until it has passed.   Oy.   Enjoy your memories but stay focused on  your dreams and goals.      And uh….being the first female broadcaster in space, isn’t one of them.

Marriage and motherhood can be in the picture should you choose to form a civil union or procreate….but it’s not an all or nothing scenario.   Don’t let anyone tell you you’re selfish because you don’t want kids…..if, you decide you don’t want kids.  My ability  was compromised after the wreck we had in 1992′.   It’s quite different to not want kids, yet still have it be an option..    It’s quite another thing  to be told you can’t.    But  you’ll  survive that, too.   Welcome menopause and be okay with aging, as long as you don’t attach anything numerical to the process.  Stay away from fun house mirrors and laugh, loudly and often.  Walk tall, learn to accept and respect your gifts. You have more than you have allowed yourself to realize.  Avoid complex carbohydrates and refuse the urge to celebrate your birthday during Fiesta in San Antonio, 1991. As we discussed earlier,  the trip there will literally wreck your life.

You wil lose your best friend to AIDS in 2007 and another very dear friend will be taken by a massive heart attack ten years later.    You’ll lose many colleagues and very close broadcast mentors between  2000 and 2017.   These things will happen in rapid succession and it will eviscerate you emotionally.  Cry all you want, and trust me, you will.   Don’t even bother wearing mascara.   But you’ll recover.   A few will even serve as guides from the other side.   And even if they aren’t really, , it’ll make me good to think so.

Jettison  from your life negative,  needy people, the poseurs , the petty narcissists  and general assholes who are mean spirited and cruel,     This will be easy since station  closures help with attrition.

Invest heavily in Big Pharma and BioMed in 2017.  Oh and something called Alphabet….Google it.

Lastly and perhaps the most important thing Older Me can impart to Younger Me would be this:  your mother wasn’t Kreskin, or Einstein.     She was wrong about a lot of things.

Huzzah!!

Hugz,

Me at 58.

As The Writer Writes

I watched the movie, “The Outsiders” a few days ago, from the comfort of my uncomfortable old couch.   If memory serves and it really hasn’t been lately, I the book was assigned reading in High School.    At the time the book has already been on your friendly neighborhood bookstore shelves for about 12- years.   I remember finding it rather dated even then.     Move ahead many years and I saw the movie when it premiered,

So no, I really didn’t like the book or the movie and watching it recently only made the whole premise seem even more ludicrous.

I kept the book which I had to buy whilein HS.   I kept it for years.   I remember reading SE Hinton’s name on the paperback’s spine.

I had no idea who she was, whether this  was a person with a nether region that included  either a PROtrustion or INtrusion, but whatever the gender was, I thought he or she had a weak grasp of how a 60’s era Greaser would think, talk and act.  Not that I would know myself.   I was  six years old in 1965 when this schmalz was to have occurred and I was also living in South Texas about seven hundred miles or so south of Oklahoma City or Tulsa or Enid or where ever the hell this story took place.

To me, the word “Greaser” was someone covered in Crisco or at least, a fry cook.

But…

The dialog drove me crazy.   Unfunny.

 I hear they stamp your face to make gorilla cookies-– Keith “Two Bit” Matthews

And speaking of names, I always thought the names Hinton chose were so silly.  Her Wikipedia entry says she based most of them on real people; namely her boyfriend at the time and her brother-in-law.  Names like  Ponyboy Curtis and his brother, Sodapop and elder brother, Darry which I think is short for Darrel.    Then, add Dallas (Dally) Winston to the mix, along with Two Bit and you have a juvenile salad with a toss of effeminate dressing.

I fell on my knees and  thanked obscure gods I don’t believe in when I read the wonderfully normal character name of “Tim Shepherd” mentioned in the book.  Johnny Cade was an acceptable name as well.   Call me foolish,  but shortly after I began reading the book, I started thinking–even as a young, concave titted sapling auteur– that this was a book written by a chick who thinks she writes as a dude would think while writing.     Based on guys I knew at the time this book was published, which included cousins and neighbors–hell, even my own father–I found it nearly impossible to believe that these rough and tumble male children from the wrong side of the tracks could be that caring, that loving and that compassionate while styling their hair with 30-weight Pennzoil.

I give props to Hinton (which in Laurie-ese means I “forgive” her) for the areas where I think her book lacked.   She was just 15 when she started writing the book. Very admirable.  It was published during her Freshman year in college, several years later.  Even more admirable.    My Freshman year in college the most I dared to attempt from a literary standpoint was to write my name, the date and my college ID number on my tests–which at times were the only things I knew for sure on the whole damn exam.

But here’s where I have an issue…

As an aspiring writer myself, I’ve  been told time and time again that one must write what one knows.   This book was based on two rival gangs at  Barry Switzer High School (not sure of the exact name of the institution OTHER than it was in Oklahoma)  where she attended.   The were the Greasers–named as such because they slicked back their hair with enough grease to make an axle jealous) and Socs (which until the movie came out, I thought was pronounced like ‘socks’, which I NEVER understood I realized later that term was created for the kids from higher socio-economic classes)  The Greasers  lived on the north side, next to (one would assume) a sea of loan sharks, pawn shops, bars, pool halls and every train track known to man while the Socs (pronounced Soash-long ‘o’) lived in the well-to-do part of town…the Southside  in palatial homes with manicured lawns; where residents were well healed and well wheeled.

And the jargon!!!!

Man, that was one tough car.  Mustangs, they’re tough.-Johnny Cade

I know times change.  The bee’s knees was a phrase that was all the rage in the 20’s, Hubba-Hubba served its purpose in the late 40’s and early 50’d.      Hollywood and Ralph Malph revived ‘ sit on it’ from the late 50.     Cool, groovy, far out, solid and right on, took us through about 1975.

Of course there are more, but my point is I get it—hip phrases change with the times, but something about terms Hinton used unnerved me.  Annoyed me.   Like fingernails on a chalkboard.   The torturous sound of cats mating.    Like any music made, sung, produced or hummed by Justin Bieber.

As for  SE Hinton the girl/woman, as best I can tell, she was neither a Soc or a Greaser.   She was probably somewhere in between; a good girl who dreamed of being bad; who had perfectly normal impure thoughts of Paul Peterson on “The Donna Reed Show” and Bandstand appearances by  Gary Puckkett   and Mark Lindsay–especially when he wore his very tight, religious-revealing Paul Revere and The Raiders pants.

Maybe even Donovan,too.

An additional  “Outsider” condemnation, the lovely Cherry Valance was actually named Sherry but in keeping up with Hinton’s penchant for crazy ass nicknames, Ponyboy et. al., readers would come to know her  as “Cherry” because of her red hair.   In later years, I envisioned her looking a lot like Diane Lane.

And wouldn’t you know it,  Frances Ford Coppola thought so too.

Johnny Cade is a little runt of a guy with abusive, alcoholic parents who don’t  ‘give a gosh darn”about him.   Dallas “Dally” Winston ( played by that Dillon  guy) is a hood, also shaped by parental neglect and glorified (by other Greasers as an  enviable rap sheet that reads like a scroll.  His character is hackneyed– a rebellious, angry young man with a huge chip on his shoulder–portrayed  in similar roles by tough guys actors such as Marlon Brando, Robert Blake, Judd Nelson, Johnny Depp and last but not least, Jodie Foster.

I’ve read several of Ms. Hinton’s other works, and dare I say  “The Outsiders” is by far her magnum opus.  One other book  she wrote is entitled, “That Was Then; This Is Now” and personally, I think it pales in comparison.  This book focuses on the late Sixties drug culture and acid-dropping with a long-haired, soft spoken, gray-eyed  character named M&M or Hershey or Zagnut–I can’t remember, it had something to to do with candy.  But based on this and other literary efforts, I think “Outsiders” is the best.   It was/is a very successful  manuscript which over the years, won a plethora of awards.   It was critically acclaimed at a time when young women weren’t writing books.   Hinton, Anne Frank and Laura Ingalls Wilder pretty much summed up the short list.   With Hinton being more contemporary,  I can say she broke an acrylic ceiling and for that, I admire her.    Someday, I hope to join her on the successful author dais.   So, with all sincerity, I say mozel to her for her gumption, her success.   She’s probably a lovely woman.

I just didn’t like this particular book.

However, because I respect and admire Hinton’s tenacity at such a young age, I’m thinking about naming my next  dog, “Bronco Bottle Cap Scranton Two Rubles”  as an homage to the book and movie.