St. Pat’s, the Ides, Anniversaries, Joes

According to my mother, her grandfather emigrated from Ireland to Jamaica.  This is not unusual.  My father was Eastern European Jewish.  St. Patrick’s Day was always huge in my house.  We always had corned beef, cabbage and beer, even for us littles.  Amongst the most played records in our house was an Irish sing-a-long record.  I am constantly amazed that my husband, whose father is the first of his siblings born in the States, does not know the words to any of the old songs.  A few times, when I was older, I treated the parents to the Chieftains on St. Pat’s.  All that being said, I can’t stand the holiday, never could.

St. Pat’s was insane when I first started working in Manhattan.  Firstly, and the one thing I am in agreement with my brother-in-law, was that the trains were crammed with non-professional commuters.  This had nothing to do with work classification but rather with knowing how to commute.  Secondly, it was the era where smoking was allowed on the train and the revelers would smoke even if it was a non-smoking car.  The streets were clogged with drunken teenagers and others.  By the end of the day, the celebrants were vomiting on the streets and in the train.  If I could, I’d call in sick.  As to driving at night, it wasn’t happening for me.  Even in that relaxed era, I was not voluntarily putting myself in the path of drunk drivers.

On the other hand, I am writing this on the Ides of March, which as a teen, I did celebrate.  I was part of a group of nerdy, good kids in high school.  Today, the weather is similar to those long ago remembered Ides, warm with wind.  Our group would cut school and walk several miles to what was then called Salisbury Park.  We would run around and walk home late.  We had read Julius Caesar and it had captured us.  Bear with me and this will come together.

I have written before of my postal worker.  He is extremely Irish so my husband reminded me this morning to make sure I ring him this weekend.  Another thing about me – I remember lots and lots but lack a certain feminine snetimentality.  I rarely remember the dates I met some of the important men in my life.  For example, I know I met my college boyfriend at the PhiGam TG but not a clue as to date.  He used to send me anniversary cards.  I never remember my anniversaries for either of my weddings.  Well, I realized after my husband said to call, that I actually met  K St. Patrick’s Day 1984.  35 years!  I only went out that night because a girlfriend was depressed and begged me.  It was at a club across from Salisbury Park, so very close.  We were fairly inseparable until 1988 when I left him briefly for RC, direct from Ireland.  We stumbled back together until 1991.  I married in 1992.  We have never, ever not been in contact with  each other.  As I have said before, in many ways, we have had a marriage.  We have stuck by each other in sickness and health; through our relations with others; richer or poorer. PostalOld Girlfriends, Postal and Rituxan

Years go by and I am working with a fellow named Joe S.  He is 12 years younger than me.  My first marriage is over and I am licking my wounds.  Joe S begins taking me to Karaoke nights at the local bowling alley.  He is an aspiring actor and writer.  I see him in plays.  He allegedly has a girlfriend.  He kisses me.  I spend evenings at his mother’s house whilst he plays the piano.  She looks at me meaningfully and tells me she will build an apartment upstairs for any girl Joe marries and babysit the children.  One night I have to tell her that I am only 12 years younger than her.  He rings me one St. Patrick’s Day as his girlfriend has stood him up and he needs a “date” for a party.  I used to be good “arm candy”.  OK.

The  phone rings again.  This time it’s Joe T, also much younger than me.  Where were these people before I married?  He, too wants to go out on St. Pat’s.  He has taken me to parties before that remind me of my youth – arty and weed filled.  We compromise on a drink for the following week.  I enlist my best friend to go with me.  It’s a club up the street from me.  It used to be a roller-skating rink and an ice cream parlor.  We walk.  Joe T falls hard for her.  In the meantime, I meet JoeBe.  He is much older than me for a change.  My father can’t stand him.  Every time he calls and says, “It’s Joe.”  My father replies, “Which one?”  Daddy delights; JoeBe steams. He lives across from Salisbury Park  I go onto live with him  someplace else for several years.

So, I remember my “anniversaries” with K and Joebe.  Joebe and Joe S are both dead.  I was at work one day and saw a 1 year memoriam on Joe  S’s passing on the Ides of March, March 15.  Joebe died a few years back. Mortality, Perspective and Balance,Men, Gypsies and a Funeral

This is a weekend for remembrance – the giddy, happy celebrations of my childhood, the anniversaries of important adult relationships and passings. Our journey is an unknown road with bumps and detours.

Valentine Venting and….

I have never been particularly fond of Valentine’s Day. My parents were completely unsentimental. I can remember being shocked when I was about 4 or 5 that Daddy came home with candy for Mommy and me. My mother didn’t particularly like chocolate or sweets. I was not allowed. Our chocolate and candy consumption was strictly monitored. I was an odd child without tons of friends so the card exchange was always scary for me.

I remember in college not even checking my mail freshman year and by then I was cute and popular. The next day I found someone had left me a rose.

In our 16 years together my husband has given me two stuffed animals. I hate stuffed animals. My late ex-husband gave me Russell Stover chocolates the year we were married which I believe he ate. Joe, the man I lived with after that did give me chocs but also called me Gordita. So, so much for that.

Kevin, who has been the love of my life, didn’t really do it. Though I do remember one year buying a red flapperesque dress and going out for Japanese food.  It was a charming, small restaurant.  I felt pretty and sophisticated.

Valentine’s this year was horrid. My first thought on waking was the Parkland shooting anniversary.  My relationship with the holiday as always been ambivalent.  These children do not have that luxury.  It will be a day of sadness and death.  Did anyone in your high school class die?  You are supposed to be invincible at that age.  Worse, did they die of something other than illness?  Someone in my class did and we still talk and muse about it decades later.  I cannot begin to imagine the pain these kids are in and will be in, along with others their age that the day was completely altered forever.

There’s still the personal. I have been unexpectedly blue all week.. As part of selling the house, I have been decluttering so this wee kI went through tons of paper. I found that I was diagnosed with this condition 10 years ago. I should be grateful but I am not feeling it. It was February and I was about to teach a class.  As I recall, I was getting ready (I was a technical trainer) and was fiddling with AV equipment and plugs and was underneath desks.  The doctor rang, said you have PPMS.  I went back to my plugs and taught my class.  I thought it was the good kind.  Ok, so if I look at my “progression”, I am in good shape.  Me, being me, I am not.  I was so confident and oblivious.  I hate how my world has become confined.  I swore that would never happen and it did.  I am battling back.

The realtor had a realtors’ open house on Valentine’s. Everyone who came said the house was worth much, much less. This is devastating and hard to believe. I was able to go upstairs for the first time in months and understand. It’s a wreck but one that can be fixed. Of course, struggling upstairs didn’t help. It took forever and tons out of me.  It was scary.  However, it was better than last time when I had to go down on my butt and then struggle and crawl to stand.

Now, as to Kevin, he is in a nursing home in another state and has paranoia and Parkinson’s.Postal Old Girlfriends, Postal and RituxanI am trying to ring him every Thursday. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Kev.” “You are two days late.” “No, today is February 14.” From there the conversation totally devolved. I can’t even repeat it as it made no sense whatsoever. For example, he said something about my car and I told him I drive a Buick now. He told me he was surprised I bought a Swiss car.We always helped each other with cars.  There is so much we have shared over the years.  When Buster the Biker unceremoniously dumped me, he arrived with a stack of blues cds.  I held him when he cried several months later when the woman he had been seeing for years, went back to her husband.   I always tell him I love him when I call. We have known each other since 1984 and supported each other through good times and bad. It has been like a marriage.  We have been a constant in each other’s lives.  Valentine’s, he did not understand what I said. It was the start of spring training and even that produced nonsense.  He used to walk 8 miles a day for his job and when it was light, catch a round of golf.  After we definitively broke up, if one of us wanted to see the other, we’d head to the beach.  Either one of us was likely to be there.  The beach has a four mile walk. It didn’t matter who was where, the other one was, we’d turn around and walk the rest of the way, anywhere from 2 -8 miles.  Now, we both can barely walk.  Ironic, isn’t it?  My heart is broken.

I have a friend who is 95. I was speaking to her this week and long before it became popular, she told me I was unusual as I was so resilient. I didn’t understand.  I thought everyone just tried to stand up again until they could.  Many years ago, I worked for a man who used to say about me, “The child does not understand the concept of NO.”  And indeed, I have not.  I integrated a primarily all male university.  I have worked in all male companies/industries.  I have changed industries.  I have been David and gone up against a corporate Goliath.  I though I ignored my diagnosis and kept fighting.  She told me again this week about my gift.  It sounds good on paper and when I look back.  It’s never felt like resiliency or grit.  It has felt that I have lived my life as a Joe Palooka punching bag; one of those toys with the weighted bottoms that when it is hit, it pops right back up again and again.

ocean waves.jpgKevin and I loved the beach, all year round.  I have likened life to the beach and the ocean.  After Hurricane Gloria, we rode down to the beach.  We laughed at ourselves as we did so.  We wanted to make sure it was still there.  There were huge waves crashing against a diminished shore. The sea was calm within a few days. The sea is like that, sometimes calm and clear, other times waves knock you off your feet.  The waves can erode your shore or build it up. I guess I just have to wait for that wave to catch me again and build me up.

Auld Lang Syne

New Year’s Eve of course has been a topic of conversation for the last week or so. It’s been discussed with the kids, online friends and my friends.  I always say that I don’t like it and I can count the number of times I’ve been out on both my hands.  I preferred being home, either with my loved ones or by myself.

So a walk down the New Year’s of my past.

The first time I went out I was a teenager.  I am thinking about 16-17.  It was a group of girls – Debbie L, Susan W, Judy G and me.  We had become friends through political action.   It wasn’t a sleepover, someone’s parents must have picked us up.  All I remember was almost from the beginning, I wanted to be home.  I had been looking forward to it, first New Year’s out and all that.

Next time was in Jamaica.  My mother and I went down to see my Grandmother.  I already knew I didn’t like going out.  My favorite cousin asked me to come out with him and his wife.  I said no.  Grandma said yes.  I thought it might have been the last New Year’s I would ever spend with her and it was.  She died in December the following year.  She insisted.  So at the last minute I said yes and put my gown on.  Cousin rustled up a “date” for me with the name of Elvis.  Elvis was the same age as my baby brother. It was a fabulous party in Kingston.  There was a private tennis court, in ground pool.  I was MISERABLE.  I put such a damper on things that we left almost immediately after midnight.

Glutton for punishment.  The next year I went out with my two friends. See my previous blog “Politics, Friendship and Mortality”.  That so did not work out.

Skip to almost a decade later.  I was seeing someone, an alcoholic in recovery, my specialty.  He asked if I wanted to go to a party.  I told him I didn’t want to go to anyplace crowded mostly with people I didn’t know and noisy.  It was a Black and White themed party but he told me it wasn’t formal.  You know me and my clothes. I had the gowns. In fact, when I was married the first time, my mother-in-law didn’t understand why I didn’t want a wedding gown.  I was gowned out.  We arrive at the party.  It is formal.  We are the only two people not dressed formally.  It is packed with people I don’t know, noisy and crowded and he doesn’t kiss me at midnight.  I miss my family desperately.

Ah, another one.  I broke up with above.  Very messy and a story for another day.  My family always hated him.  My brother announced that I couldn’t be alone and scooped me up for a party at his former girlfriend’s house.  We are that kind of people.  Miserable again and all I can remember was that the little children had dirty feet.  I made my brother take me home before midnight.

Fast forward almost a decade.  I was mad at the man (we always got back together) I had been to the previous party with and thrown him out the house on Dec. 29.  He had turned on Howard Stern on my radio.  What can I say?  I went out that night by myself and met someone.  We went to brunch the next day and New Year’s Eve he asked me out to dinner.  We went with another couple and it was bearable and I was home well before midnight.  Everyone said I must like him since I went out on New Year’s  I guess.  I married him disastrously.

Two years after that we went to Watch Night service at the church.  I liked it. He hated it. There were less than 5 people there.  One of whom was 90!  Praying the New Year in made sense to me.

The marriage was done by the following year and I spent the next years either home with my parents, or alone or had dinner out with the man I lived with for awhile.  Even then, I hated being away from my family.

Just about a decade passes and I am dating Buster the Biker.  He has disappeared for most of the week after Christmas but we have plans to go to the bar we drink at.  My brother is there.  I don’t hate it but am not really happy.  I wanted my parents. Continue reading

Flip Flop Girl

Somehow I never posted this:  And it’s summer and no flipflops:

I love flip flops.  I always have.   When I was little, the other little girls wore them.  I wasn’t allowed except for the pool.  We called them zorries or thongs.  My mother called them slam patters.  My mother had very definite ideas about children and shoes.  In the spring I wore saddle oxfords, white.  They had to be polished every Sunday night with that horrid white polish.  As soon as I was old enough not to wear them.  They became fashionable.  It is one trend that will never work for me.  In the summer, something like the Greek fisherman’s shoes.  Buckles and perforations.  In the winter, suede ghillies that had to be brushed.  Not fun.

I got away from home and started wearing them in summer on the beach.  They were like 19 cents and unfashionable.  I had more than one pair.

I met a man who wore flip flops and loved the beach.  Well, I still have his flip flops.  I would get all colors and kinds.  I would wear them with everything.

I went to a party in a turquoise mini skirt at the start of fall with black patent flip flops with a fake diamond in the center.  Diamonds on the soles of her shoes.

Then I married someone who didn’t wear flip flops and things just spiraled downwards.  He didn’t like the beach because there was sand.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I left and moved home to my parents.  By that time, my mother would wear them to water the lawn.  And I did have a few that I wore with censorious views.

I moved in with another man, older.  He knocked the joy right out of me.  I left.

I got an apartment and bought pink platform flipflops with pink flowers.  My best friend same over and said Thank God you are back.  “What do you mean?”  “You are wearing flip flops again”  From then on, it was flip flops in the summer, even at work.  And I work in a bank.  During the blackout of 2003, I walked out of New York City in a pair of black platform flip flops with glitter straps.

People bring them back for me from trips.  I have ones from the Far East and from Hawaii. I could go on and on.

And up until two summers ago, I was still wearing them at the bank – gold ones, silver ones and black patent. The gold ones are still under my desk.  At one time I had over 10 pairs of shoes under my desk.

I can’t wear them any more!  My feet no longer grip them.  This destroys me.  It’s my persona.  I miss me.  Instead I have been reduced to tie shoes – back to my childhood.  This is not right.  I mean really. No flip flops?  Also no beach, no walking.  This cannot continue.

So what do I do?  I’ll tell you, I haven’t thrown out a pair, even the pink platform ones.

With work this summer, maybe I can wear them again.

Bell Bottom Blues

I started thinking about Bell bottom blues after I referred to it in a blog about the death of an ex.  Song was on my brain so I got the Ipod out at work today and blasted it.  Howled in my mind.

I always referenced it for breakups.

I never wanted to fade away and apparently I didn’t. We have run out of days.  And I never ever wanted to crawl across the floor to anyone or beg. “I don’t want to lose this feeling”  I listened to the words today with a whole different slant.  I always thought of it from my perspective.  I never thought about it from the ones I left, it was always about me.

And in your heart I want to stay, I guess I did. It’s odd to think of someone loving me like that after all this time.  They always stayed in my heart.  I may not have loved them but I went out with a guy who said once you had slept with someone more than once they were part of your life, like it or not.  By the way, aside from my first husband, he’s the only one who doesn’t speak to me.

“You won’t find a better loser”  I have done that well.

My favorite part was always “don’t be surprised if you find me with another lover” .  It’s what I always wanted. I felt it was the ultimate f.u. and the horse you came in on. And Joebe found me with a few lovers after. Isn’t it the fantasy?  I survived,  I am over you and look how well I did.  I swapped you out.  It’s part of being a better loser.

But Joebe and I have run out of days.  And I ran out of them with Bobby and Richard too.  I wanted them to see me, see that I had made it to the other side as it were.  I guess they did, too.  Richard, I saw again.  Ran into him and disappeared for a few days together and realized what’s done is done.  He tried to call me before he died.  I didn’t take the call and chastised a friend who knew us both for giving up my number.  When I found out he had died, of cancer, before he was 40, I was glad that I had not taken the call.  “No regrets, coyote.”  What would we have said?  Who was sorry?  The outcome would always have been the same, the relationship was dead.  But wouldn’t it have been great to run across him with another lover and me with another one and feel all’s right with the world.

Bobby, I never saw again.  I used to look for him in the New York streets.  He died of AIDS before we were thirty.  He was the one when I have been to therapy and they say well who was the one that you coulda wouda married?  Well, aside from the fact that he was gay, we had the best time.  It was that young in New York kind of thing, hipsters before there were hipsters.  Doing all the cool stuff and wearing all the cool stuff.  He left me for a guy.  I didn’t know it  at the time.  His family blamed his death on me.  I couldn’t, didn’t keep him from himself.

I have always wanted to get to the end of the chapter, see the summer rerun and find out what really happened.  I realized when I was 18, life wasn’t really like that.  Still I keep on hoping and every once in awhile you get one of those moments of clarity.  I am approaching one now.  Maybe there’s a reason why we are not supposed to.  This is hard.  This is not satisfying and full of sunshine.

You did make me cry.  There are no more days.  It’s time to say goodbye.  And it really is, and the irony is on me.