Only 15 More Shopping Days––

––until my next visit with the oncologist. Where did the time go? It seemed like only yesterday I was stressing about my pre-Christmas appointment. We ended up having a celebratory Christmas Eve dinner with my wonderful son and his wonderful girlfriend. I have a hell of a lot ahead of me now and it’s all going to be hard work for good fun. I’m looking forward to all of it. I’m thinking about all the hard work I have to do, all the planning, all the writing, all the problem-solving, including problems that haven’t even happened yet. Because concentrating on all those things keeps me from working up a case of what-am-I-gonna-hear-from-the-oncologist-this-time anxiety. A couple of my fellow-travellers have had very good news in the past few months and I concentrate on that, too. Good omens. A rising tide lifts all boats. (Yeah, I know it doesn’t always work that way but when you gotta keep going, you go with whatever you’ve got.) 

Meanwhile, here’s a photo my friend Ellen took of me in Hay on Wye last month. The Silver Fox curls itself with no help from me. The fur coat is totally fake, I promise.


Throwback Thursday

For Throwback Thursday:

Me and…

…my best friend, Farfel, in our first trailer. Yes, for those who may not know, I spent my very early years in a trailer park, one of many that flourished after World War II. It was a way for returning GIs to get onto the property ladder––the idea was to start with a trailer and gradually move up to a house.

At this time, we lived in a beautiful spot in Wallingford, Connecticut. The trailer park was located well off the highway; you drove through a wooded area to the clearing where the trailers were. We all had yards to play in and a playground. The people who owned the trailer park raised ducks. I used to go down the road to their house and help the wife feed them. There was a nearby pond where wild ducks stopped over when they were migrating. I had a lot of friends and we were all free to roam around unsupervised, in a way that would have social services on red alert if you did it today. I mean, I was three when I trotted down to the duck pond to see the wild ducks. Sometimes I went with friends, sometimes I went by myself.

When things got bad and my father lost yet another job, one of the neighbours would give my mother and me a lift into town so we could hide out in a movie theatre. I remember seeing The Ten Commandments one afternoon, at an age when my mother claims I should have been too young to remember anything. I don’t remember the whole movie; what I remember specifically is what happened when Moses came down from the mountain and found everyone worshipping a golden idol.

The thing about a trailer is, when you move, packing is easy. You just nail down anything breakable and go. We eventually moved away; my father parked us behind the gas station he owned with his brothers in upstate New York. No park there; things deteriorated. Old Eternal had to call the police for help when she tried to leave. The Highway Patrol had a barracks right across the road from the gas station and they sent a couple of strapping young men to make sure we could remove our belongings and put them in the U-Haul my Aunt Loretta and her partner D had hooked up to their car. It wasn’t the first time the police had come to our house but I knew it would be the last and I was right.

The move meant I had to drop out of kindergarten but that didn’t bother me a bit. The school was also right across the highway, not far from the State Trooper barracks. Most of the kids weren’t very friendly and neither were the teachers. I overheard my kindergarten teacher referring to me as ‘that trash from the trailer behind the gas station.’ I didn’t tell Old Eternal until after we left. Old Eternal assured me she was just jealous because she was only plain old trash.

Strained days, but Old Eternal managed to make a lot of silk purses out of those sow’s ears.

Happy Birthday, Sorry You’re Dead

Well, it happened again…I wished someone a Happy Birthday on Facebook and then discovered they had passed away last year. This is what happens when you have an impossible number of Facebook friends, most of whom you don’t know personally.

Some people would say this is an example of how social media blunts the human experience. I say, it’s nothing new. Mass media already did that, and has been doing it ever since the assassination of JFK and the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was the first conflict of that nature that came into people’s living rooms with Walter Cronkite. A few decades later, we were calling the first Gulf War the First Nintendo War. By that time, the desktop computer was virtually commonplace. By the second Gulf War, a home without a computer was as unusual as a home without a telephone.

My chronology may not be perfect but the upshot is, we can’t blame social media for things that actually began with mass media. And while the human experience as a whole may be blunted, that doesn’t mean we’ve become worse, somehow. In fact, the human experience has to be blunted for us to function––we can’t feel every tragedy, every disaster keenly or we couldn’t stop crying long enough to get out of bed in the morning. Or maybe ever. It doesn’t mean we don’t care. If anything, it means we have to think, not just feel bad.

Anyway, thinking or not, I have committed a birthday faux pas. And as usual, I feel awful about it. When the person’s loved ones saw that, they probably wanted to go upside my head. Because that’s how it is when you’re on the sharp end of a disaster, whether it’s something of epic proportions or the personal loss of a beloved friend or relative. Your life has changed forever, and yet the world goes on like nothing out of the ordinary has happened. Like, WTF? The stock exchange opens and closes. The sun rises and sets and rises again. People go to work, go home, go grocery shopping, go online, tweet, check Facebook––and they can’t even take a few extra minutes to find out if someone’s alive or dead? Seriously, WTF?

I could come up with some bullsh!t about how a person is still alive in the memory of those who loved her or him. Yeah, it’s true but I don’t have any business saying that about someone I never actually met in person. There’s no good way to spin this kind of mistake and it would be weaselly even to try.

What might help is getting a notice that someone has passed away when it happens. Granted, it’s not exactly a priority for families and loved ones––”Oh, damn, Charlie’s dead––better update his Facebook status.” And then what do you put in the ‘About’ section––”Currently Works At: A Better Place”? “Personal Information: It’s complicated”?

I’m sorry. I’m not really being flip. It’s just that I spent all last year whistling past the graveyard and I’ll be doing that till I can’t whistle any more. But what I need to remember––what we all need to remember, I guess––is, everybody leaves behind people who care about them. Their feelings are important. However we speak of someone who has passed, good or bad, affects them directly. 

Me, I’ll be trying harder not to add insult to injury. I doubt I’ll always succeed but I can live with that.