Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Simpler Time

I have been thinking quite a bit of what it was like when I was younger and didn't have to worry about adult responsibilities. When the biggest decision was whether to play Chinese jump-rope or hopscotch. Should we make chalk drawings or go on a walk to the "Grove", our local shopping locale.  What memories. Special, care- free days. Sundays spent with family not surfing unless you lived in California. Nothing was open on those Sunday afternoons; just Sunday School and dinner at 3 and then Lassie and Wonderful World of Disney. Safe sex was when you didn't get caught by your parents. Nobody came out of the closet unless they were searching for a lost shoe. No MasterCard or Visa, but my mom had a charge-a-plate. Discover was reserved for the Scouts and 4H clubs.

I miss those days. I see my grand-kids on crazy, dizzying schedules. How do we tell them to slow down, watch that sunrise/sunset. Yes, stop and smell the flowers and look for ladybugs. Spend a pleasant afternoon lying on your back and imagine the shapes the clouds are making and collect the lightening bugs on a summer night. What happened to Red Rover, Kick the Can, Freeze or Flashlight Tag  and Red Light/ Green Light? These are not replaced by Wii or Xbox. I have come to enjoy hearing the basketballs pounding the pavement and even the occasional wiffle hitting the siding.

I hope I never really grow up inside, my inner child. I want to remember all the great theme songs to those TV shows we knew by heart: Gilligan's Island, the Partridge Family, The Monkees. Black and white and only 4 channels to choose from. No remote control, that is what we kids were there for, to turn the huge knob and try to fine tune with the larger plastic wheel behind it. Remember the small dot left behind when it turned off? And how many out there stayed to watch how long it took to disappear? 

I will take my magic mirror now and look for my friends out there...I see Kathy and Nancy and Sandy and Karen and Marge and Chris and Cindy. And so many more who shared these great moments with me. Cherish these memories and pass them along to your kids and grand-kids when they come along. See you out on the lawn on our backs looking at the clouds. I think I see a camel, no its an elephant, nope, a dragon. Well, you get the idea!

A very good friend of mine sent me the following email:
Long ago and far away, in a land that time forgot,
Before the days of Dylan, or the dawn of Camelot.
There lived a race of innocents, and they were you and me,

For Ike was in the White House in that land where we were born,
Where navels were for oranges, and Peyton Place was porn.

We learned to gut a muffler, we washed our hair at dawn,
We spread our crinolines to dry in circles on the lawn..

We longed for love and romance, and waited for our Prince,
And Eddie Fisher married Liz , and no one's seen him since.

We danced to 'Little Darlin,' and sang to 'Stagger Lee'
And cried for Buddy Holly in the Land That Made Me, Me.

Only girls wore earrings then, and 3 was one too many,
And only boys wore flat-top cuts, except for Jean McKinney.

And only in our wildest dreams did we expect to see
A boy named George with Lipstick, in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We fell for Frankie Avalon, Annette was oh, so nice,
And when they made a movie, they never made it twice..

We didn't have a Star Trek Five, or Psycho Two and Three,
Or Rocky-Rambo Twenty in the Land That Made Me, Me.

Miss Kitty had a heart of gold, and Chester had a limp,
And Reagan was a Democrat whose co-star was a chimp.

We had a Mr. Wizard, but not a Mr. T,
And Oprah couldn't talk yet, in the Land That Made Me, Me.
We had our share of heroes, we never thought they'd go,
At least not Bobby Darin, or Marilyn Monroe.

For youth was still eternal, and life was yet to be,
And Elvis was forever in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We'd never seen the rock band that was Grateful to be Dead,
And Airplanes weren't named Jefferson , and Zeppelins were not Led.

And Beatles lived in gardens then, and Monkees lived in trees,
Madonna was Mary in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We'd never heard of microwaves, or telephones in cars,
And babies might be bottle-fed, but they were not grown in jars.

And pumping iron got wrinkles out, and 'gay' meant fancy-free,
And dorms were never co-ed in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We hadn't seen enough of jets to talk about the lag,
And microchips were what was left at the bottom of the bag.

And hardware was a box of nails, and bytes came from a flea,
And rocket ships were fiction in the Land That Made Me, Me.

Buicks came with portholes, and side shows came with freaks,
And bathing suits came big enough to cover both your cheeks.

And Coke came just in bottles, and skirts below the knee,
And Castro came to power near the Land That Made Me, Me.

We had no Crest with fluoride, we had no Hill Street Blues,
We had no patterned pantyhose or Lipton herbal tea
Or prime-time ads for those dysfunctions in the Land That Made Me, Me.

There were no golden arches, no Perrier to chill,
And fish were not called Wanda, and cats were not called Bill..

And middle-aged was 35 and old was fifty-three,
And ancient were our parents in the Land That Made Me, Me.

But all things have a season, or so we've heard them say,
And now instead of Maybelline we swear by Retin-A.
They send us invitations to join AARP,
We've come a long way, baby, from the Land That Made Me, Me.

So now we face a brave new world in slightly larger jeans,
And wonder why they're using smaller print in magazines..
And we tell our children's children of the way it used to be,
Long ago and far away in the Land That Made Me, Me.

If you didn't grow up in the fifties,
you missed the greatest time in history. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

In Memorium: Ruth Grace Waldman Weiner, 1934-2012

On Sunday, February 5, 2012, my mother passed away. She was alone, meaning she did not have any of her family surrounding her. I always thought I would be by her side as I was when our dad passed away. At that time only my brother was away at college. But even he got to say goodbye over the telephone. Eric and I had seen her just that Thursday to bring her clean clothes. She was on her way for a shower and anxious to go. So we hugged and the CNA wheeled her to get cleaned up. She really enjoyed her showers and loved to feel the warm water run over her. She always said it beat the hell out of the brief bird bath she got every day. I talked to her Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. That was my last time, Sunday at my dinner break.

My husband Larry and I had just gotten home from watching the Super Bowl with our friends. We had settled in for the night and my son Eric arrived home from his father's. We were catching up on our weekend activities and rehashing the football game when the nursing home called to tell me mom had another episode of respiratory arrest, the ambulance arrived and started an airway and gotten her breathing again. Somewhere in the less than ten-minute ride to Jeanes Hospital, she stopped breathing again. Even though the ER staff worked on her for a half hour, she never revived. I had asked my brother Glenn to call the hospital and find out what had happened as he had the Power of Attorney. When he told me "she never revived" I was uncomprehending. I actually asked him if he was kidding. Of course he was not, our 77 year old mother was gone.

We rode over as soon as he could get dressed and went in with extreme trepidation. I was not sure what we would find. When dad died, he was in his hospital bed and seemed like he simply went to sleep with one last gasp of breath. Mom had already passed. Her eyes were closed and mouth was open a bit since she had an airway in. Her hair was messed up like she also had been in bed. Her color was very pale, her lip color non-existent. I took a breath for her. I was waiting for to hear the all too familiar snoring. I looked for her chest to rise and fall. I could not believe it was real, that she was gone. Forever. And we were not there when it happened. 

I touched her arm and help the hand that was left exposed. Had the ER staff left it there knowing we would want to hold her one last time? My heart hoped so. Her skin was still warm to the touch so how could she possibly be gone? This was impossible. I sat in the chair by the bed and laid my head on her side and the tears fell. I still was in disbelief. Then I bowed out and let Glenn have a private moment with her. We left. The next day the funeral home would pick her up and prepare her for burial.

One thing I am grateful for is that the funeral home gave us an opportunity to say goodbye one last time in the chapel. She was resting. Her hair and makeup made her look so beautiful. She was dressed in a plain white cover with a lovely lace collar. Eric got to say goodbye to his beloved Mom-Mom. Larry got to say goodbye and he kissed the top of her head the same way he always had. I got to see her looking pretty and "normal", it wiped out the last image from the ER and I was able to see her as she looked even before her health was failing.  When I told Glenn how she looked I could see how more ease he was. She looked much more like she did at Eric's Bar Mitzvah in 2006.

(The following is what I wrote and my sister-in-law read for me at the burial service)

When we spoke Monday night with Rabbi Carr, it was hard to focus on just what I felt was most important to tell him about our mom. Then I realized this morning that all of our memories were valid, significant and valuable. We each had our own memories. We all had ones that were centered on a particular event. Some quite personal, some general observations. Many shared by all of us.

Music was always part of our lives. Fortunately she carried a tune slightly better than daddy and from when I was little until as recent as last week, a tune would spring out, especially on a car trip and we had a family sing a long. I grew up knowing all the WW2 songs and the score from most musicals! We still have the song list from her teenage years spent in Wildwood and I remember most of them.

She surprised us all many times. We knew her favorite singer was Ed Ames and movie star was Sean Connery with Charlton Heston a close second. But then I found out she harbored a passion for the Beach Boys to the point where we had all their CD’s and also Johnny Cash. And Steven Seagal movies were some of her favorites. We rented each one as it came out at Blockbuster. 

Her capacity for love and helping others was endless, whether family, friends or one of our friends. She was tough as nails when she had to be, especially in business. Her nicknames bestowed upon her from subcontractors ranged from Coach to General. But kind and gentle too when the situation called for it. She did harbor a strange quirk. Mom had this nervous reaction when one of us was in the doctor’s office getting stitches or a minor procedure. Mom would laugh through the entire time. Not just a giggle, full blown laughing.

I am going to miss her very much. I am overwhelmed at the emails and comments from friends on Facebook and the memories they have of my mom. She was my best friend, teacher, comrade in arms, and confidante. No matter what path we decided to take, she was behind us totally. That is not to say she didn’t put in her two cents but when it came down to it, she would defend our decisions to any and all who doubted.

When I look back at her life, it was full. She had a soul mate and true love in Daddy, two children who have found their own loves in life and 3 beautiful grandchildren who love her too. A huge void is in all our lives as she touched everyone in her own way. 

Love you Mommy. To paraphrase her favorite song to sing to Eric when he was a baby: You are my sunshine, my only sunshine and your memory will make me happy when skies are grayest. I hope you knew how much I loved you. My sunshine has been taken away but the warmth of it lingers forever. And may I borrow your favorite phrase whenever someone was leaving, Watch the way you go.


Since the funeral and the two days of Shiva, I have had many emails and posts on Facebook. When my dad died in 1989, these things did not exist. I am grateful to hear how she affected others' lives and quite taken with the memories. 

It has been almost exactly 33 years since my dad passed away. I looked online to see if the number 33 has a special meaning. Apparently it does, something profoundly spiritual. I am moved once again! This is from lovetoknow.com:
In numerology, 33 is often thought to be a deep and spiritual number. The number has had many religious connotations throughout the years and is associated with the beginning of monotheism 3,300 years ago. The number also bears religious weight in Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam. The number 33 also carries weight with the Freemason group.
In numerology, the number is not easily obtained. As any student of numerology knows, double digit numbers are normally not recognized in numerology as the first and second numbers are just added together to get a single digit number. However, certain numbers are special in numerology (33 being one of them), and their double digit form is recognized as a life path number for people special enough to be have these numbers in their life.

I will say Kaddish, the memorial prayer, at services. I will remember her with love. I will make sure her grandchildren know who she was. I will miss her terribly.

A very close family friend told me something at Shiva Wednesday night:
"You get over the death of your father. But when your mother passes away, it is so much different. This is the person who gave you life, your first breath, healed you, dressed you, shaped your life. It may be years before you really understand it but never will you forget how this feels and your heart never heals."
It helped last night and I hope to remember to pass these wise words to someone else who needs help healing. And also to remember, Zichron L'vracha: May her memory be a blessing.

My favorite memories are of our visits to mom's lifelong friend since they were in First Grade. We would travel to Pittsburgh and they came East to visit with us and their family. In 1975, we had a picture taken of all eight of us and this is the way I will remember my parents:


If anyone is so moved to honor our mom, please make a donation in her name to FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, 1607 Tampa Palms Blvd. W, PMB #373, Tampa, FL 33647. You may be asking why FORCE?. In the mid 1990's we tested for the BRCA genetic mutation. I had genetic counseling when I found out I carried the BRCA2 mutation which increased my risk of breast cancer by 85-95%. I had my ovaries out in 2002 to reduce the  risk of ovarian cancer and the risk of breast cancer to 50%. Nobody really questioned my choice after all I was 42 and who had babies at that age? Then I opted to get a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction to reduce my risk to less than 3%. My mother encouraged my choice so that I never had to go through what my dad endured and would live to see my grandchildren. When someone mentioned that I was mutilating my body, my mother stood her full height of 5'3" and gave them a piece of her mind, including some choice expletives. She appeared to me to be seven foot tall! I loved her more than ever for that.

One of my college classmates had forgotten mom's parting phrase she always used and was reminded of it when I posted my speech. A high school classmate said his mother always said, "You are loved". He was so taken by my mom, he combined both.

I leave you with "Watch the way you go-you are loved."


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fridays for FORCE: A Bit Late!

So many things have been happening this past week, including my return to work after a 3 week leave of absence. In catching up, the Komen v. Planned Parenthood debacle occurred.

In response, there are many articles and opinions.

For my response, I have added pages to my Blog. At the top, you will see tabs. Please click on the one marked IMPORTANT VIDEOS. On this tab, I will update with more videos to look at. Right now there are just a few. But important they are indeed.

Happy viewing!

Love and hugs,