A Painful Anniversary

Three years ago on this date, my dad lost his battle with esophagus cancer and entered eternity.

I remember him waking up in the wee hours of the morning, unable to catch his breath. We called the paramedics, who rushed right over and strapped him to a gurney for the trip to the hospital.

‘Do you want us to give you something to help you breathe?’ they asked him.

Dad nodded.

His eyes were huge. I’m certain he must have been frightened. And worried.

A ventilator was inserted, and off they went.

Some time later, Dad’s doctor came to the waiting room to inform us Dad wasn’t going to win this round.

‘He’s pulled out of these things before,’ Mom argued.

The doctor’s face was as grim as his words. ‘Not this time.’

He went on to explain what was happening to Daddy medically and, based on his experience, what Daddy’s foreseeable future would entail.

‘He wants to tell us something,’ my mom insisted. ‘Can’t we take the ventilator out?’

‘Yes, I’d recommend that. Let Nature take its course.’

Meaning, Daddy would die?

‘It’s time,’ the doctor said. ‘There’s nothing more we can do other than keep him comfortable.’

After the ventilator was removed, Daddy still couldn’t speak to us. His eyes held ours as he lay on the hospital bed, propped up amid pillows and hooked to various monitors.

We talked to him, held his hands. Prayed.

And tried not to let him see our tears.

Our parish priest came to administer the sacrament of the sick (last rites, it used to be called).

We prayed some more.

By this time, Daddy’s eyes were closed. His breathing was shallow.

‘Is he in pain?’ we asked the nurse.

‘No, we don’t think so,’ she said. ‘This is going to take a while. You all look exhausted. Why don’t you go get a bite of lunch?’

Food? At a time like this?

‘You have to eat,’ she insisted. ‘I’ll call immediately if there’s any change in his condition.’

Grudgingly, we left, but didn’t go far.

About forty-five minutes later, we re-entered the hospital corridor, and Mom’s cell phone went off.

‘We’re here,’ she told the nurse. We raced back to Daddy’s side.

‘This is really it?’ I asked.

The nurse nodded.

‘I’ll turn these monitors off so you don’t have to see or hear them,’ she said.

She pulled the curtains shut, plunging the room into semi-darkness.

Tearfully, we said our goodbyes as Daddy took his last breath.

Beating those Holiday Blues

It’s easy to feel let down after the Christmas presents are opened, the relatives and friends have packed up and moved out, and it’s time to return to work.

After all, some of us have spent more money on gifts and activities than we’d planned. Others built the holidays up to such euphoric heights that day-to-day life can’t possibly compete. And still others might have experienced quarrels with family, bad feelings from over-eating or failure to exercise, and the “sadness” that often arrives during the shortened grey days of winter.

While I don’t profess to be a therapist, I know several tricks for beating the blues that can come after the holidays are over:

  • Eat healthy. Okay, so you slacked off your diet during Christmas. Big deal. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just start today to eat healthy again. Back to the fruit and veggies; away from the cream pies and liquor.
  • Exercise. Join a gym or the Y. Put on your sneakers and walk at the mall. Start a yoga program. Try some new exercises described in magazines. Just get moving! And you’ll stick with it longer if you have a buddy join you (like maybe your dog or spouse?)
  • Leave your decorations up. Don’t be too quick to haul the tree, garland, and lights back to the attic. Leaving them up until mid-January frees you from the immediate stress of having to take them down, as well as can evoke good feelings of your Christmas get-together.
  • Or not. For some people, getting the house “back to normal” waylays depression. Perhaps you can enlist your family’s help, rather than trying to do it all yourself. Make it fun and reward them afterward.
  • Cut back on unnecessary expenses. Do you really need to eat out that often? Can’t you wait until that movie comes out on DVD? Don’t you have enough clothes and gadgets without shopping for more? Don’t bring yourself down by putting yourself in a financial hole.
  • If you make New Year’s resolutions, be sure they’re realistic. Failing to meet your “goals” can lead to more stress and depression!
  • Find things to look forward to. If you’re creative, you might want to catalog your Christmas memories in a photo album. If the holidays found you smothered by too much family and friends, perhaps you can take 20-30 minutes a day just for yourself — to meditate, to read, to regroup.
  • Give to the less fortunate. Christmas probably brought you some new things. Maybe after-Christmas would be a good time to donate your used things to others.
  • Listen to music. And while you’re at it, dance! And sing! Doesn’t matter if you’re good at it. Nobody needs to know but you.
  • Get professional help. If you find your sadness and lethargy lingering beyond what’s reasonable, you might consider talking to a professional counselor. Depression is treatable, you know!

Home for the Holidays

When I was a college student, I looked forward to coming home for the holidays.

School food was good, but it wasn’t homemade by Mom. My room was comfy, but I had to share it with a roommate. My living quarters were clean, but they weren’t home.

Coming home meant I could impress my parents (and my sister) with how grown up I’d become. How I could set my own schedule and choose my own clothes without fear that someone, somewhere, might disapprove.  How I could drink a soda in the middle of the afternoon if I wanted, or stay up ’til the wee hours of the morning and sleep until noon.

But two days after I’d arrived home and seen everybody, I was ready to go back to campus. Back to my world. My life.

Because family was stifling me.

Mom, of course, wanted to fuss and worry over me — was I getting enough to eat, was I making friends. Daddy didn’t like my new independent streak; I was supposed to stay shy and fearful, I guess. And Sis pretended to hate me for leaving her, when what she really wanted was a chance to grow up and go away, too.

The family dynamics change when a young person goes off to college, especially if the teen goes far enough away to where she can’t come home on weekends. The teen, of necessity, becomes more of an adult, responsible for her own life, but the family still sees her as its little girl.

Conflicts are bound to arise.

This situation came home to roost for me earlier in the week.

Now that I’m the mom, I was looking forward to My Favorite Domer being home for the holidays. To fuss a bit over him. To make him special snacks. To buy him things he needed for school or play. To wash his laundry and iron his dress shirts.

But he wasn’t having any of it.

Just like his mom before him!

‘I’m tired of you hovering over me, trying to stuff food down my face,’ he told me one day.

Yikes, was I becoming my mother??

Has one of your mom’s traits popped up in you lately?

Be Careful with Your Words

Earlier this week my mom tearfully apologized for something she and Daddy did two decades ago — they refused to attend my wedding.

‘Daddy wanted you to know before he died,’ she told me. ‘We both did.’

But Daddy died three years ago this month, the words still stuck in his throat. And the only reason Mom was confessing is because without my marriage, she wouldn’t have My Favorite Domer (my son) around.

Domer is, in her opinion, better than sliced bread.

Her apology sent me right back to what was supposed to be one of the most wonderful times in a person’s life. Having met the one I thought I wanted to spend eternity with, I was happy. Busily planning our wedding ceremony. Attending pre-wedding parties. Shopping for a gown. Sending out invitations. Basking when someone complimented my engagement diamond.


Mom and Daddy told me over the phone they wouldn’t be at the ceremony.

‘We don’t approve, and we don’t think it will last,’ they said.

I thought they’d change their minds.

Then a terse, formal rejection to our invitation came. In perfect Emily Post wording.

They really weren’t coming.

So be it, I thought. I was over 21 — shoot, I was over 25! I was an adult; so was my fiance’. We didn’t need anyone to “give” me away when I was old enough to walk myself down the aisle.

Which I did.

Until that moment, I’d hoped Mom and Daddy would show up, maybe with an apology.

It wasn’t to be.

Shortly after our wedding, my new husband and I moved several hundred miles away, seeking, I suppose, a way to strengthen our bond without the interference of family and friends who didn’t approve. We found jobs, built a house, made new friends, and loved our new life.

Eventually we got the happy news I was expecting. However, that coincided with my husband’s job loss.

As my midsection grew, our finances tanked. The bank repossessed our beautiful home two months after Domer arrived. We separated, Domer and I going to stay with my sister, and hubby to stay with his brother. The plan was to put the fractured pieces of our life back together after we were stronger and he’d found work again.

That didn’t happen. Instead, we got divorced.

And while Mom and Daddy didn’t say, ‘We told you so,’ neither did they do much to empathize. Their philosophy seemed to be, Better to erase all traces of that phase of my life and move on.

So Mom’s apology is two decades late, and while it might be the “right” thing to do, I find it hard to forgive. The hurt just goes too deep.

The one good thing to come from this is my conviction that even wild horses couldn’t keep me from Domer. Whether it’s a major occasion or a minor one, I’ll be there, cheering him on, supporting him with my love and attention, and never ever forcing him to choose between me and somebody else.

I’m not posting this to play on your sympathies. Rather, I’m hoping you won’t leave unsaid the words that need to be spoken to those you love, that you’ll think twice before doing or saying things that can’t be undone.

Whoever penned the old quote, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,’ didn’t know what he was talking about. Words do hurt — sometimes for a very long time.

The Debate Continues

A columnist for my newspaper this morning extolled the benefits of having a real — as opposed to artificial — Christmas tree.

As “virtues” he cited the “fresh pine scent,” the joys of buying local from a Christmas tree farm, and the delights of getting your tree home to decorate it.

Obviously, he didn’t grow up in my house.

I recall far too many Christmases trekking through the cold and snow to find a real tree, wrestling the thing into the trunk of the car, driving back home, maneuvering the prize out of the car, and discovering it was too “fat” to fit in the stand.

Then we had to hoist it onto the front porch, dig through the garage to find a saw, shave the sides of the trunk, and place it back in the stand, where it quickly became obvious the tree leaned a bit to one side or the other and had unusual “bare” spots. By the time it was erected and inside, nobody wanted to continue the decorating — needles were strewn all over the floor; angry and hurt feelings thickened the air.

No wonder something like 50 to 75 percent of people now go with an artificial tree! Consider the advantages:

* Cost. Once you’ve made the initial investment in an artificial tree, it’s yours. No more shelling out money every year for gas to search for that perfect specimen. No more annual cash outlay to purchase it.

* Convenience. Store your artificial tree in its box, get it out as early as you’d like (hey, even keep it up all year if you want!), and know just where to find it when next Christmas rolls around. Most are easy to put up, too.

* Upkeep. Artificial trees don’t need to be watered. So you can keep Fido from lapping up the sugar water and forcing someone to constantly refill the stand.

* Fires. Real trees eventually dry out. A dry Christmas tree can go up in a blazing inferno. Who wants to come home to find their home in flames?

* Cleanup. Artificial trees generally hold their needles whereas real ones don’t. If you get a real tree, you’re going to be constantly running a sweeper or something to keep the dried needles picked up so Fido won’t swallow one.

* Allergies. Many people are allergic to Christmas trees (in particular the sap but also the pesticides used to grow it). Don’t force your guests to choose between visiting you in your home and avoiding you like a plague!

* Snakes. I suspect the last thing most folks want in their homes is a snake or other critter. However, there have been occasions when just that has happened (do a Google search and see how often!)

* Practical. Trees belong outside, you know. If you insist on having a real tree, get one that can be re-planted outside rather than using one for a couple of weeks then tossing it out with the trash!

What’s your preference — Real or Artificial Trees?

Let’s Try This Again

When I was a kid, I looked forward to maturity.

Not old age, mind you. Maturity. When you could stay up as late as you wanted with no one to tell you otherwise. Eat dessert first if you wanted. Drink hot chocolate and read all day.

Maturity, when you’d become a poised, confident, serene woman, instead of an often-clumsy, tentative, ‘fraidy-cat child.

So when is this maturity supposed to arrive? ‘Cos it hasn’t yet, and I’d have thought it should have by now.

Take the other night for example.

I’d driven my mom somewhere and pulled into the driveway expecting to push the button on her rear view mirror that would open the garage door. It didn’t work.

‘Where’s your actual remote control?’ I asked.

‘Inside the house,’ Mom said.

Great. Since the front storm door was latched, one of us was going to have to traipse around to the back door and through the house to get to the garage.

‘I’ll go,’ Mom volunteered.

Sure. Who wants to be responsible for an 80-year-old woman stumbling around in the dark, trying to open a door?

‘Let me,’ I insisted (and she didn’t try to talk me out of it!)

I left the car and approached the gate (the same one the yard man seemed to “forget” to close earlier). After several attempts to unlatch it, I grew irritated when it refused to open.

Glancing around, I decided I’d simply hop (!) over the fence.

No big deal. I’d hopped many a fence when I was a kid.

No chain-link fences, but what difference could that make?

Ditto for not being thirteen any more.

So I threw one leg over the top of the fence but found I had no toe-hold. My jeans leg and boot got caught in the top of the fencing and, before I could blink, one leg was suspended mid-air while the rest of me was scrambling around in the damp, muddy grass!

Such poise. Such grace. Such bravado.

Such maturity.

I’m fortunate I didn’t break something. Shoot, I’m fortunate it was dark and the neighbors weren’t glued to their windows!

Goodbye Falsies

Call me a sucker, but recently I fell completely under the spell of a mascara ad on TV.

You’ve probably seen it. Strikingly attractive ladies travel around New York City to the 1980s “Magnum, P.I.” theme song.

Their eyelashes are Out. To. There.


What’s implied is that Maybelline’s new Falsies mascara can make any woman’s eyelashes look just as long, just as thick, just as upturned.

Like wearing false eyelashes without the aggravation.

Who wouldn’t want that?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. At least, it didn’t for me.

I bought a tube of the waterproof kind (doesn’t wash away or make you look like a raccoon if you cry or sneeze). And I opened it with excitement, knowing I was going to see myself in a new light with my thick, long, flared eyelashes.

The Falsies brand contains a non-smearing keratin fiber formula. Swirling the special “spoon brush” inside the tube, I eagerly applied it to my lashes, attempting to coax every single one out of hiding.

Nothing. My eyes still looked average.

Okay, maybe I didn’t have enough mascara on the wand.

So I tried again. And again.

Same result.

Hmm, I thought, this is taking a long time, longer than I usually give my morning face.

The more coats I added, the clumpier my lashes looked — thanks, I guess, to the quick drying nature of the formula. They didn’t turn up either, though maybe if I’d used a curler. . . .

Nah, those things look like torture devices.

For two weeks I fought the battle, telling myself I really ought to toss the tube out.

But who wants to throw money away in this economy?

Finally Fate intervened. I broke the brush. Snapped it right in half.

What a relief! No more frustration. Or guilt.

Now maybe I’m not supposed to have long, lush eyelashes. But I want ’em.

And while Falsies doesn’t do it for me, maybe another Maybelline product will. Something I won’t have to layer on, something I’ll have to fan to dry.

Which product claim have you bought into, only to be disappointed with the results?