Monday, April 27, 2009

My dad died this morning.
Mom told me they had never been
separated for more than a week or two in 62 years.
They were apart for ten days.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

the week after.

I lived the week after mom's death like I was flicking a light switch.

I turned the switch on and went to work and oriented the new person who took my position. I smiled at people, laughed.......tried to download the information about my job to my replacement...even felt grateful to be among familiar people who would give me bear hugs.

I'd leave work ...get in the car and turn the switch off.....then I was quiet....exhausted....sad.

The last two months have gone so slowly and so fast at the same time.....heartbreak....pain....they slow the clock down so even a second feels like a the financial and legal business....I start making phone calls, pulling out the calculator...look up and hours have flown by. is coughing, exhuasted, wincing in pain. He has entered the hospice program....I can not believe it maybe time to go through this has arrived so quickly....time is moving slow again.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

My mother died last night.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Like father...... Like daughter.........

I'm up here in cold windy gray Chicago....doing a little business for my parents....repairing a window....looking for insurance and other tax a bit.
I have my faithful pup, Ozzie with me, but it's lonely solo-ing up here and I still find it grim business to go through their house....despite discovering the occasional old picture from my childhood or even something from my grandparents.
Today I focused on my parent's bedroom.....where I discovered a box of bills on my last trip.
I got down on my hands and knees to search under their bed. I didn't find anything on my mother's side....although something was on my father's side of the bed.
On hands and knees again....I peered under his side of the bed........and laughed.
. daughter....a big ol' baseball bat.
A classic Louisville slugger.....a left over from the old neighborhood.
I admit.....I have a baseball bat under my bed's the preferred burglar alarm and intruder weapon for any self-respecting person from the south side of Chicago.
I've never used my bat (even when angry at my hub) and I probably wouldn't remember it was there....even if I did hear a strange noise in the house....but the tradition continues.
So I called my daughter up.
"Listen....when you come to Chicago in May....I'm going to give you your grandfather's baseball bat."
"You put it under your bed...a south side burglar alarm."
"I think you showed me the one under your bed."
" now you'll have one don't have to beat anybody up with just put it under your bed and leave it there."
"Okay," she said but I could hear the slight hesitation in her voice....exactly what you would expect from a modern young woman who did not grow up in an old ethnic neighborhood.
"Anything else Mom?"
"No," I said...and with one hand.... pulled the bat out from under my father's bed.
"What are you doing ?"
"Trying to insure a good night's sleep for myself."
I slipped the bat under my side of the bed.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Trouble below.....

"Oh my stomach feels bad....maybe I have the flu."
"Really," my friend said, "What's wrong?"
" My stomach is gurgling and there's a bowling ball in my abdomen."
"Ahhhhh....." he said, "You don't have the flu you have Matzoh belly."
"Matzoh belly?"
"Matzoh belly."
"Matzoh balls and fish and horseradish and hard boiled eggs and chopped fruit plus all those cups of sweet wine."
I felt queasy just listening to the things I've eaten in the last few days at various celebrations.
"Rest rest and just have broth...nothing else."
I hung up the phone and rested my head on my desk.
Then I had a vision.
I couldn't help it.....
I saw Moses on a mountaintop...(who looked surprisingly like Charlton Heston)....he raised both arms up to heaven.......his long gray hair and beard tossed by the wind......the sky dark behind him.
"Lord Lord I beseech you......"
(You've probably guessed what's coming.....)
"Let my peoples intestines.....go"
Hmmm....I wonder if you can flunk Jew School because you don't have a cast iron stomach?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

They Float! or Thanks Julia or Does this mean I pass?

"They float ....they float!"

My husband walked into the house and looked confused.

Was this really his wife standing over the stove peering into a boiling pot with a wooden spoon in my hand? Does he have the wrong house? Wrong wife?

"They float!"

I was estactic.

I'd been anxious all afternoon ....hoovering over the recipe for Matzoh balls.

I had spent 13 hours with Julia Child last week....and I was actually convinced that there could be some pleasure in cooking....which rubbed against my long held belief that the most pleasure I could ever derive from cooking was watching men....cook for me.

Of course, I really didn't spend 13 hours with Julia....she's moved on to cooking heaven....but during my long drives back and forth to my parent's house in Chicago over the last few weeks....I started listening to audio tapes and finished "My Life in France," a memoir detailing Julia's love affair with French food and cooking.

I expected lots of foodie talk and sections about cooking....but what I didn't know or expect was that Julia was not a born cook.

In fact, she didn't start cooking till she moved to France and was in her forties!

My jaw dropped open and remained so for many interstate miles.

I thought good cooks emerged from the womb with whisks clenched in their little chubby fists.

But here was this woman....starting her cooking career mid-life.

So last week.....a bit inspired.......I texted my husband...... "I'm cooking something for dinner."

He called back.....

"You're cooking?"

"I'm cooking"

"You are cooking."

"I am cooking ."

Silence.....he probably thought it was a delayed April Fool's Day prank.

But no joke, I pulled a tattered copy of my Southern Ham soup recipe out of the kitchen drawer and began.

Southern ham....unlike anything I ever eaten up north.....has a thick coarse coating of black pepper.

I was raised on Krakow ham which arrives in large tins from Poland.

My mother and grandmother pulled the formed meat out of the tin then covered the top of the ham with a thick blanket of brown sugar.

My job was to secure pineapple rings and a cherries in decorative patterns with toothpicks when the ham was almost done baking.

In contrast to this delicate pink ham ....Southern ham is spicy, meatier, and sliced thick........ and there's no such thing as a dainty ham down here........ which means lots of left overs.

Faced with a mound of peppery ham after some holiday and not enough freezer space.....I decided to make soup....combining regional veggies with the peppers....onions.....and some cherry bell peppers....and of course it had to be in a red base....after all this is the South. good....I exhausted my entire supply of innovative recipe ideas....and haven't created anything since then.

I admit.... hoovering over the stove as the aromatic soup cooked was a pleasant and pleasing experience....and combining the soup with a fresh warm loaf of multi-grain bread plus my favorite French butter....would have made even Julia purr.

This week....of a special week.....Easter celebrations for some....but for Jew school.....and celebrating Passover....a challenge.

Could I actually make at least one traditional food ?? With one recent soup success under my belt......I decided to try Matzoh ball soup.

Although there's a recipe on the Matzoh meal can, I found one on the web by a woman with a comforting Jewish-sounding name and cast my fate with her.

I made slight variations to her recipe....using organic brown eggs.... and kosher sea salt....and I decided I wasn't going to sink my balls (so to speak) in just plain broth (very traditional) but would make my soup with fresh vegetables and kosher chicken.

But as I placed the Matzoh in the boiling water.....I started to panic.....I felt like I was looking into one of those Magic 8 balls ...the mini bowling ball with the transparent window....where a little triangle answers your whispered question..... and a bobbing piece of plastic floats up and says....Yes....No.....Uncertain....Maybe.

I would like to lie....and tell you I had an interesting question....a funny question....or even a cooking question......but....(and I am embarrassed to admit this) was like my Matzoh balls were my Jew School Final Exam.

Float and she passes.......Sink and remain doughy.....and she fails.

It seemed touch and go at first......

they sunk....(is that what they usually do?)

but then......

they rose....they bobbed.....they floated up and down in the brisk boiling water.....

like ping pong balls (sort of).

I had passed!


I even had class in the I could tell everyone I made Matzoh ball soup from scratch and it was Good!

I told the Rabbi about my accomplishments....and that my balls floated........he chuckled....

"Well you know Gina, traditionalists don't eat Matzoh would be the equivalent of ordering a turkey sandwich the night before Thanksgiving...the idea being you should wait till the Passover celebration."


My heart sank.....but at least I know my Matzoh balls floated.


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Another ending......

I sat in the car on this windy cold spring night and rested my head on the steering wheel.
In a week full of ouches....I could hardly believe there was one more to feel...actually I was surprised I was capable of feeling any more.
My mom's minor leg infection...started a cascade of medical events....and after a conference with all her doctors midweek....we decided to make her a hospice patient.
My dad suffered the massive stroke.....and is paralyzed and unable to speak....but my mom started sliding medically downhill also in the last couple of weeks.
It is heartbreaking....with a capital visit and interact with them.
No matter how hard I try to keep myself a float....I hit the exit door of their facility....and feel a knife ripping through me.
Tonight.....I had to run into work....a place I have ignored for empty my desk and shove the few decorations I have in a the next manager, who will replace me, can begin with a clean slate Monday morning.
There's no way I can work right now....but still....running into the store in my jeans in the evening....reminded me of the many times I ducked into work in my finish a project or read emails....or get a head start on my week or even catch a little end-of-the-week gossip.
My office mate was there tonight....and so was his sandwich.
Months ago....he left a sandwich wrapped in plastic from the cafe on his desk. I'd watch the thing week after week...thinking ...damn....we put too many peservatives in our food.
One day....I couldn't resist...I poked the sandwich to see if it was getting squishy....but it wasn't was was also made of wax. I actually felt relieved we weren't selling sandwiches with a 100 year shelf life. I thought for a second about chucking it in my memento box.....but couldn't figure out if that would be considered employee theft....I'm sure somewhere in some company booklet there's a..."thou shall not covet and remove thy office buddy's wax food" clause.
As I walked down the aisle towards the exit, juggling my memento box, I could hardly believe I've worked at the store for 7 years...or that I worked as a manager these last 8 months....the place and people seemed so far other worldly....I wondered if I was making my employement history up.
At customer service....I hugged employees...smiled at a familiar customer......but felt disjointed and removed.....the type of feeling you have at a reunion where you hug people you have known but at the same moment realize how far you've traveled without them.
And I have a done a lot of traveling in the last few weeks....
yes...literally....between here and Chicago.....but also in my very core.
Whatever rough edges I have and have had....have been beaten smooth.......
when you watch two people you love... struggle and hurt each me you feel beaten.....but oddly's not a negative message that comes pounding down on your head.....but rather a lesson....that's weighs on you.........something about kindness......about how unnecessary ....grudges...meanness.... objectification is your dealings with people.
Every day I go someplace and say something like....I'm doing this or that or not doing this or that because I have ill parents...and someone says to me.....oh I've been there....oh my sister is dealing with that....oh my son was daughter husband.....and I look at these people and go damn.....everyone has their struggles beyond their public persona.....and I look back and feel like a jackass for all the times I've been insensitive.....or missed chances to be thoughtful..
So my career as a manager ends tonight.....and tomorrow I will get beaten up again.....and the universe will tell me to be kinder and better....
and I just wonder.....
where I am going and what will happen next.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Foiling the lawn guys.......

Every spring.....when the leaves start budding....when the dogwoods bloom....when the azaleas start opening....the lawn guys come through the public part of our development with huge industrial weed eaters.

The easement....the space between my backyard fence and the sidewalk which runs along the street is public land.

Some easements are wild patches of woods....other easements are bare with just a bit of grass...the easement goal is natural but neat.

Because of the location of our house on our lot, the builder brought trucks through our easement so the forest was leveled...but I've wanted to return the easement to a wild place.

Over the last ten years....I've planted a few trees...encouraging red buds, dogwoods and wildflowers to grow.

You'd think in ten years I'd have a forest growing....but I don't..... because the openness of my easement the lawn guys come through in spring and mow down anything over 5 inches tall thus keeping it in a perpetual grassland state.

After the first couple of years.....I got the message....wilderness meant I surrounded my desired trees with flower stakes. They lasted a microsecond against the lawn guy and the weed eater.

The next couple of years....I tried stakes PLUS green landscape tape....wrapping the plastic green tape around the little tree and the stake.....making it look completely any reasonable person would say....hmmmmmmm effort has been placed to protect this little twig....perhaps I should leave it alone.

Green tape must mean GO not stop to landscape guys....because their weed eaters shredded the plastic AND the stakes.

I got serious the following year and bought chicken wire....creating little metal fortresses for the tender shoots.

As long as the cage stood....the young twigs were safe.

Trouble: wind, storms, dogs, and people... knocked the little enclosures if I wasn't vigilant....the lawn guys would descent upon the street ( a random day and time) and pooooof!! .....bye bye foliage.

This morning ...I put my garden gloves on...gathered some tools and decided it was a perfect day to fortify the easement....but I felt sad looking around at the young wildflowers and soft lime green leaves on the small trees. How will I save them?

Lost in thought, I tripped over a large limb laying on the ground (the lawn guys leave tree debris alone) and froze.

I thought of Star Wars.....really.....remember the scene when the teddy bear Ewoks release stockpiles of logs and the Imperial Walking Machines with their bird-like feet lose their balance and fall over?????????

Light Bulb!!!!.....if I place enough limbs and tree debris around parts of the easement.....the lawn guys won't be able to walk in there and mow everything down.
I can't imagine they'd try and walk on limbs and debris's too much trouble...and one of the primary rules of the lawn guys is be quick.... don't think.... keep moving.

Unfortunately, I can't pepper the entire easement with logs.....but I scrounged up some fresh fallen storm limbs and tree debris from my yard and like a little happy Ewok.... placed them in strategic places....where young sprigs are attempting to get a foot hold.
Chicken wire is still on my list for the hardware store for little enclosures....but for once I think I might have a chance against the lawn guys....and if it fails....well let's hope they wear leather chaps...cause like the Imeperial Walkers.....they might find the footing a bit challenging.