Something About Mary

heart of gold

I apologize for the late post. I went to New York for a funeral. Pleas read on. 

The first time I met Mary, she was moving into the house next door to mine. She was tall, Italian and had short black hair, curled and coiffed so it never moved.  Her seven-year-old daughter, Beth, asked me if I wanted to have a picnic on the front lawn. I was nine and wary of hanging out with younger kids, but she was so nice and she was right next door, so I said yes. Beth and I laid a blanket out on the tall grass that grew above the septic tank. We could hear her mom and dad, but mostly her mom, directing the movers as they emptied their truck. Mary was  multitasking, taking care of Beth’s baby sister while she got the house in order.

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Saying Goodbye

grandmaYiaya Julie was my birth-grandmother. I met her three years ago, when we went to New York and met my birth family. She cried and told me “I wanted to meet you before I die.” The sentiment was funny at the time. But now she’s gone, and I see how lucky we both were for those three years.

I’d never known an old person like Yiaya Julie. The old people in my family were bitter and complained all the time. Yiaya Julie was full of life, always smiling, hugging, and apologizing for her (perfect) English. We spoke to each other in a combination of English and Greek, and she was forever taking me or my kids to her apartment to do or see something special. She showed me pictures of her late husband – my grandfather – and the daughter she lost too soon. She showed my kids her pet parakeet and played games with them.

Since I only knew her for three years, I don’t know that much about Yiaya Julie’s story. I do know that she immigrated to New York from Greece and made a good life for herself. I admire her because I know I could never be that brave. read more

About My Dad

old_man-2Friday was the first anniversary of my father’s death. As my long-time readers know, my dad used to be the star of this blog. So as a tribute, I’ve gathered some of his most memorable moments.

The main thing anyone should know about my dad is that he loved money to the exclusion of everything else. This incident happened last year when we went to New York to take care of his affairs.

Our lawyer got the court to allow us access to his safe deposit box while we were still in town. We talked to the bank manager. She was very nice and led us into her office, which was right across from the safe deposit boxes. We handed her the key and she unlocked the box and put it on her desk. She asked us to sign that we opened it, and handed us two stapled signature cards. My dad had signed at least 50 times. Why would someone go to their safe deposit box that much? In our box’s three-year history, I’d opened it twice.

“How often did he open it?” I asked.

The manager laughed. “He came here about three times a week. He’d open his box and go sit in the room with it. It’s right there, next to my office. I’d knock after a while – I do that with all old people. We want to make sure they’re okay. Plus he usually came about 4:45 when we were getting ready to close and we wanted to go home. He’d answer me and sit there a while longer.  We can’t kick them out. When he was done, he’d come out and hand me the box to lock up.” read more

Damning the demons of Dad doubt

old_man-2Ever since my dad died, I’ve been thinking about what I did for him, what I could have done, and what I should have done.

When I called my aunt to tell her my dad was dying, I told her that the doctor had recommended a pacemaker but Dad’s living will forbade it so we didn’t do it. “A pacemaker?” she said. “Why didn’t you get a pacemaker? Pacemakers save lives.” The day I made that decision, Dad had been flirting with reality for a while already. His living will said that if he wasn’t expected to make a full recovery, I shouldn’t allow the doctors to use any “artificial means” of support. And I looked it up. Pacemaker was at the top of that list. But when I talked to my aunt, all the doubts came back. read more

Politics, Paranoia and the Past: The things I’ll miss most about my Dad

I didn’t know what I’d miss about my dad — the calls during dinner, long rants about President Obama, tales from the geriatric dental world. But what I do miss comes as a surprise.

Last night we ate at a sushi restaurant – the kind where a conveyor belt slides little plates of food by you and you pick up what you want. The kids love it. My five-year-old loves to grab the food and my two-year-old likes to cheer “That one! That one!” until his sister gets it.

old_man-2On our way out, I thought that I’d like to tell my dad about the place. When I was a kid, he told me about eating at the Automat – where the food sat in little compartments and you’d put your coins in to get them out. I think he’d like to know that the concept was alive and well, sans the little compartments, at the sushi place. He would never have eaten sushi but I know he’d love hearing about it. But now that he’s gone, I can’t tell him. read more