life

Best! Week! Ever!

Last Thursday afternoon, my friend Kim had just arrived for a visit with me and the dogs. I went out to let her in from the guest parking area, and as we returned to my apartment we could smell what we thought was incense. Within minutes, I was calling 911. We grabbed the dogs and ran through a hallway filled with dense black smoke to safety. The whole episode was swift and terrifying. But we were fortunate; no one was hurt, or worse.

Several apartments were destroyed in the fire, which started in the unit adjacent to ours. The fire burned up, but the smoke filled our place, coating every square inch of everything with acrid soot. Walls, floors, furniture, clothes, rugs, art, electronics… the smoke found its way into closed closets and drawers. But again, we’re fortunate to have insurance that will cover the restoration or replacement of these things.

hornplaza.fire

We stayed with friends for a few days over the weekend. Their upstairs neighbor just happened to be spending this week with family in Boston, so here we are, taking care of her chocolate lab, Luna. Our dogs Charlie, Bernardo and Tiger are rolling with it – but I know they are wondering, What the hell is going on here?!

That same thought has crossed my mind once or twice in the last few days. But we managed to find an apartment to sublet for October and half of November, just a few blocks from our smoked-out mess of a home. And hoping that will be enough time to get it all shipshape. There have been a few other mini-dramas along the way, but I am too tired to conjure them for you tonight. Perhaps another time, when I can see more of the humor in it all.

Today was kind of funny, though. I was scheduled for a colonoscopy and was tempted to cancel, but the prospect of being zonked out on high-grade anesthesia was too good to pass up. I asked them if they could wake me in November.

Some wisdom I earned this week that I can now pass along to you:

1. If you smell smoke, get out. If Kim and I had waited even one more minute, it might have been too late.

2. Things are just things. We all know this. When we are reminded, it can be an oddly comforting lesson.

3. If you are old enough to be needing a routine colonoscopy, stop worrying about it. I would rather have ten colonoscopies than one teeth cleaning. You do the ‘cleanse’ the night before by drinking a month’s supply of laxatives mixed in a gallon of fruit juice. Catch up on your favorite Netflix series and be prepared to hit the pause button. Frequently. The next morning you go into the hospital, lots of very kind people fuss over you, and the next thing you know you’re waking up and being given some cookies and apple juice. It’s over. And then you can pig out on lunch – you’ve earned it.

Best week ever? Hardly. But the thing I was dreading wasn’t so bad after all. And the dreadful thing could have been far worse.

The End (so far)

Advertisements

08.21.2014 Seventy-nine Weeks

How do we survive the loss of a loved one? of a child? of a partner? “Time heals” – and that’s true, to a certain extent. But the passage of time alone cannot mend a shattered soul. It takes a collaborative effort of the head and the heart to escape the crushing gravity of deep grief.

Last year, my friend Lisë endured unbearable loss. The sudden death of her 18-year-old son Eitan… and three months later, the sudden death of her partner Larry. No warning. No mercy. But over these past 18 months, I have witnessed the extraordinary journey my friend has undertaken… to somehow rescue herself from her darkest days. I share this blog entry from Lisë marking 79 weeks since the death of her son. It is such a poignant and uplifting moment that she shares. If you have suffered such an unthinkable loss, or if you know someone who has, I hope this post will offer some hope for the future.

Eitan Stern-Robbins z"l

Seventy-nine weeks.
So this happened.

Connoisseurs Marketplace, Menlo Park, California, 7.20.14

He is grown but young.
The attack from within knocked him flat backward,
tight curls torn open staining black asphalt crimson,
in front of a statue of jeans with a pig snout jutting from the fly,
and a coffee shop.

Aunt’s hands, grandmother’s, cousins, holding, supporting, cradling that head,
eyes rolled back white frozen
cold unseeing but alive, the barest hint of terror.

I recognize this stare,
suspended immobility after the shakes,
gaze blank.

And I stop, and freeze, and stare, seeing, and wring my hands,
an action I thought only appeared in writing, but there they are, the left, the right, holding each other, washing with fingers and skin, pressing against my heart.

A crumpled cream colored towel appears in the relatives’ hands,
supplied by someone,
to prop, protect, that head so it will rest on softness instead…

View original post 1,096 more words

From Thailand With Love

My friend Chris (a big sap) shared this tv commercial from TVC Thai Life Insurance.

Lovely message. Kindness is its own reward.

[hanky alert]

 

.

The End (so far)

The One Who Got Away

babyboyAt the age of 10 weeks, I was adopted by Bill & Nancy Rosenberger. The first day of June 1962. By all accounts, that was the happiest day of their lives. I must have been at my most charming. Some would say my powers peaked in that moment… and they might be right. But I had other mad skills. For instance, I was apparently a fully functioning fertility idol. Within four years my fiefdom was invaded by three sisters – at 16-month intervals of the Vatican-approved rhythm method. After that, it all gets a little blurry…

Anyhoo, it’s a beautiful sunny Sunday morning here in Los Angeles. I was about to pick up the phone to check in with my mother in Connecticut, as one does. But then I saw the date – and the protocol of June 1st dictates that my mother calls me. To wish me a “happy anniversary”. My friends have always found this to be absolutely delightful. To be honest, it always made me squirm a bit. Even though I’ve known since I was a toddler that I was adopted. It was a story, like a fairy tale, Mom would tell me as she dried me after a bath. So, I grew up with this personal factoid fully integrated into my psyche, never a moment’s trouble with it. (Well played, Nancy.)

But the “anniversary” business was always a little awkward for me. I mean, we’d celebrate my birthday in March. We’d celebrate my sisters’ birthdays in June, September and December. Everything normal, A-OK. But then June 1st would roll around and there’d be a card and a little gift. It just seemed so… unnecessary. No one else had these ‘bonus’ anniversaries. Actually, it’s the only time in my life I ever felt self-conscious about being adopted. Oh well, I lived.

ckmemoI came to understand that it was important to my mother. This is a woman whose philosophy of life can be summed up in one word: Hallmark. If there is an occasion, she marks it with a card. The appropriate card. The card whose message agrees with the occasion and recipient(s) in gender and number. It may require a bit of editing, as “We” becomes “I”, or “You” becomes “You two”. Words like happy and love tend to get double underlined for emphasis, with exclamation points sprinkled liberally throughout. Lovely sentiments, even if penned by anonymous copywriters in Kansas City. As the cards kept coming through the years, I’ve smiled as I deposit the checks with memo notes like “have a drink” or “do something fun”.


But I digress… That wasn’t the story I intended to share when I fired up the blog machine this morning. This is what I thought you should know today:

I follow a blogger named Matthew who writes a blog called Gay Dinosaur Tales. (Click here to see why I’m a fan.) Every once in a while, I do a quick survey of the blogs that are followed by the bloggers I follow. (You follow?) On the theory that if A likes B and B likes C, then A just might also like C. (That’s algebra. Never trust anything requiring more advanced math than that.) Anyway, I recently came across another gem of a blog in Matthew’s horde, this one called Dawn 4 Dinosaurs – written under the nom de guerre of Jim McTrip. Here’s a guy who is my age, living in LA, whose recent life experiences (for better or worse) are tracking quite closely with my own. He’s slightly ahead of me on the trail. So when I realized he had already paid for the life coach, I decided to start at the beginning of his blog (last August) and piggyback. I figure, if he falls down an open manhole, maybe I can avoid that fate. His writer’s voice is also eerily similar to the (one, thankyouverymuch) voice inside my head. This may reflect some sort of profound narcissism on my part… but I’m hooked.

Jim McTrip’s April 15th blog post, Skating Through Life (<< that’s a link) recounts the unusual story of John Kitchin – which is captured so beautifully in Slomo, an award-winning 16-minute short film by San Francisco filmmaker Josh Izenberg. Whoever you are, you should watch it. Now would be a good time.

 

So if you hear that I was last seen rollerblading down the coast, blame any or all of the above-named people. I’m not there yet, but… After half a century of “happy anniversary” cards from my mother, I do think about the lump of clay I was in 1962, the state of that clay today – and the clay’s next play. Mr McTrip refers to our chronological circumstances as “mid-life”. But we are in all likelihood well past the midpoint. Tick tock.

The End (so far)

 

05.15.2014 Sixty-five Weeks

Lisë and I met early in our freshman year at Clark University, 34 years ago. Last year, she suffered the most immense losses. Her 18-year-old son Eitan died in his sleep in his freshman dorm on Valentine’s Day. Three months later, her partner of seven years, Larry, also died without warning on Mother’s Day.

Lisë is a writer, and her struggle to find her way out of this sea of desolation led her to begin posting on Facebook. That soon became a weekly post, every Thursday (the day Eitan died). Recently, Lisë created a blog, including all of her posts from Facebook, and continuing on from there. Today’s post is “Sixty-five Weeks”. And I share this because my friend writes so eloquently about the journey that has brought her to this point. Of needing to summon memories of her son and her partner, without being crushed by grief. I am inspired by her courage and moved by her honesty.

I hope this will find its way to someone who needs to know that their darkness can be dispelled. It takes time. And hope helps.

Eitan Stern-Robbins z"l

Sixty-five weeks.
Fifty-two weeks and four days ago I lost my beloved Larry,
twelve weeks and three days after Eitan.

I’ve been thinking a lot about love, during these three months when I still had Larry, suffered just one tragic loss, held up by his immense love and support. It was not at all easy for him, how could it be, yet he was there, a rock for me to cling to in a tempest of grief.

Love isn’t physically tangible, you can’t box it or touch it or divvy it up into individual portions. And yet it is, we feel it in our beings, at a cellular level, and so I felt the strength of Larry’s love for me, holding me up through all those first days of living without, shiva, saying kaddish with me during the 30 days, coming here for Shabbat dinner, staying here and coming with…

View original post 2,909 more words