LOOK A LITTLE CLOSER
Four people at a restaurant
could be found interacting
Flash forward to today
at the very same place.
All four are also talking
and sitting face-to-face.
But look a little closer
and you'll be able to tell
they're not speaking to each other...
they're each talking on their cell!
Or perhaps some are texting.
It really doesn't matter.
I miss the good ol’ days
of interactive chatter.
What if I suggested
in a manner most polite
that all phones during mealtimes
should be off and out of sight?
I suppose that's unrealistic,
an outright fantasy.
What will likely happen is….
no one will invite me!
We have been going out to eat a little bit more than usual lately, and the dynamics of the people sitting around the table are hard to ignore. Everyone's talking, but to whom?
Is it hard for you to turn off your phone? Have you ever told anyone to please turn theirs off?
Although the journey of every year is characterized by hills and valleys, some years may be defined more by one altitude than the other. This year, specifically the last few months, has been a year of valleys in my household. In the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I am clinging to a message of gratitude and hope, hanging on and climbing up the slope.
We lost a matriarch and a patriarch within six weeks. Both my mother-in-law and my father were icons in their individual ways. My mother-in-law was the heartbeat of the extended family, the keeper of the traditions and the quintessential Jewish Martha Stewart. She was the glue that held us all together. My father was the personification of The Greatest Generation, a veteran that survived the beaches of Normandy to go on to build a family out of love and and a company out of sheer grit and a fierce intelligence.
These two forces of nature will be sorely missed at our Thanksgiving table this year. Similarly, many other family members that used to be part of our nuclear family around a large table of thirty or so will be missing as well…off to different homes, even different cities, where their new extended families take them. Our table that once filled a large room is whittled down to a small table in a much smaller room this year. This may be considered a valley, and yet…there will be new faces at the table; the significant others of our children who enter our lives and thereby begin to build new family.
The annual Thanksgiving table truly is a microcosm of our lives.
I am grateful for the faces that will be at my Thanksgiving table; young adults brimming with ideals, solid moral compasses and a myriad of talents…young adults who are also committed to making the world a better place for all who inhabit it. I will look around at the faces at my table and be grateful, even joyful.
I'm normally very even-tempered, non-confrontational and not prone to anxiety. These are not normal times.
We had the gift of 95 years on this planet with my Dad. No one, he least of all, thought he would enjoy this longevity. And enjoy he did...right up until the end.
Hard-working. Respectful. Brilliant. Honest. Strong. Frugal, but generous. Cautious visionary. Loving.
My earliest memories are not true memories, but reconstructions extrapolated from old photos. My very handsome young Dad holding my very young self high in the air. My very tanned young Dad posing with us in front of the Colonial Inn in Miami, Florida.
My true memories kick in later and are predominated by a visual of my very exhausted Dad sleeping in his favorite spot on the den couch where he collapsed after work, a newspaper strewn across his chest and a half-eaten apple in his relaxed, open palm. I was always aware that he worked long and hard days at the scrap yard. Indeed, he was up and gone before I woke up to get ready for school.
One clear memory is the cigar smoking episode. As a young teen, I climbed into his car and complained about the "yucky" cigar smells emanating from the upholstery. Although he enjoyed that vile habit, he declared then and there that he would quit. And quit he did.
Dad was never a big talker. He didn't have to be. My Mom was the big personality. When he did speak, however, one tended to listen. I realize in retrospect that it was because when he did speak, he had something valuable, insightful and erudite to add to the conversation. That continued until last week. I think he always was the smartest guy in the room.
To this day, I can barely tell even a tiny white lie, take cuts in line or lie about my age (unfortunately). In a million almost imperceptible ways, my Dad imparted a very clear moral compass. One distinct memory is the theater ticket episode. After standing in line to go see a movie with my Mom, sister and brother, we approached the ticket agent. My Mom whispered to me that I could be eleven-years-old for the moment, even though I had recently celebrated my twelfth birthday (and looked more like ten), thus qualifying me for the children's ticket price. My Dad overheard this exchange, cast a mildly disapproving look our way, walked up to the agent and requested four adult tickets and one child ticket for my younger brother. This incident left a deep, lasting impression on me.
Dad's strength of character could only be matched by his physical strength. This, of course, became a relative concept as he entered his 90’s. Growing up, I was aware that he had a reputation as a fine athlete. He won trophies in racquetball, squash and handball. He continued besting men half his age in these sports as the years progressed. Later, tennis took its turn, golf, and long distance biking.
The most recent athletic developments were very telling of his perseverance. First, as the hand-eye sports became less feasible, he took up weight-lifting at the club. At the age of 85, he outlifted my sons, both in their thirties. I kid you not. On some machines, he lifted the entire stack of weights. It defied nature.
In his early 70’s, Dad was the founding member of the Delray Chain Gang, a group of long distance bikers. As his long distance biking adventures began to wane as a result of his diminishing vision, he began to ride a ten-mile circuit within the safer confines of his gated community. As that became challenging, his last efforts in Florida consisted of driving around and around his cul-de-sac until he clocked exactly 10 miles. Really? Who does that?
FRUGAL BUT GENEROUS
The frugal stories could fill a book. My Dad, a self-made, hard-working man carried his formative, Depression years deep within his soul. The most recent examples are explanatory. We were
shopping at Whole Foods together. He loves honeydew. He asked me how much they were as he could not see the sign and I told him $5.99. He harrumphed and said, "Forget it...they should be no more than $4.99." He did not buy his beloved honeydew.
Around ten years ago, against my Dad's wishes, my sister Linda bought him a winter coat. Having recently sold his Florida condo and staring down his first Michigan winter in years, he insisted that he didn't need to spend the money on a new coat. My sister overruled that decision.
Frugal? Oh yes. But generous beyond words. He willingly and graciously invested in every reasonable venture his children proposed. He never permitted his children or grandchildren to open their wallets on any of the numerous family vacations or dinners we enjoyed over the years.
Financially cautious to the core, he nevertheless was a risk-taking visionary. In addition to acquiring a competitor many times his company's size (talk about chutzpah!) he also risked his entire business when he became only the seventh company in the country to acquire a sophisticated Rube Goldbergesque machine that revolutionized the car-shredding industry.
Although not verbose in expressing his emotions, my gestalt memory of the essence of my Dad was that he was dependably there for me, a solid, supportive constant in my world. I can only describe this as love.
My Dad's father and other male relatives died in their 50s. He had no expectations for living a long life. Each morning he awakened with a sense of appreciation for still being on this earth.
Our Dad. Devoted, respectful, brilliant, honest, strong, frugal but generous, cautious visionary, loving. I appreciate the world-view he bestowed on me. Not a bad role model for my kids either….not bad at all.
Last weekend, I joined four friends, along with hundreds of others, on the walk for JDRF, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It was inspiring to see so many people rally around a important cause. After the one-mile walk along the river downtown, we decided to walk to the Eastern Market. It was the blind leading the blind. I am always lost, so it was reassuring that I am not alone in this challenge. After a bit of debate, some laughter and sheer luck...we made it! It's not easy being directionally impaired, but everything is easier with friends.
Does anyone have a good "getting lost" story? Any advice, other than Siri, who does not always cooperate?
Non-traditional or alternative medicine seems to be coming up quite a bit in our conversation lately. Supplements, acupuncture and essential oils are just a few. One of the most familiar of these options is chiropracty...many people swear by it...so I tried it. No offense to the practitioners and their clients, but this it what I have to say about it:
Have you had any experience with this? What do you think?
Although quite personal, I guess this is my blog and there is only one thing I can talk about today. That is the passing of my mother-in-law, our 90-year-old guiding force: the incomparable Gramma Shirley.
Not too long ago, we vacationed with another couple. Between the four of us there was a cacophony of sounds, a symphony of groans as we finished a hike and climbed into the car or labored to dismount from our bikes after a ride, even as we simply got up from a chair or couch! Thus, the inspiration for this week's post.
You are invited to one of the five remaining performances of this production this weekend and next. With a total lack of bias, I must say the Producer/Director and the actresses do an amazing job and it is a wonderfully fun experience. Come with your friends, significant other, your sister, your mother, etc. But don't just take my word for it. Read excerpts from the first review by Jenn McNee.
Judi Schram’s What Am I Doing Here? ...starts with four mature, dressed-in-black women entering the stage holding full wine glasses, plus a bottle for refills during the show. And just like that, as each actress took a seat in an armchair, I felt cozy and comfortable in the company of ladies I already liked. Drawn from material published on Schram’s blog, “What Am I Doing Here?” is a reader’s theater show – with the actresses reading from scripts – that takes various aspects of aging as its subject.
...the show’s four actresses deliver the material with winning, sisterly charm, occasionally ad-libbing for laughs. These sparks of spontaneity provide the show with additional warmth, energy, and the scaffolding of female friendship. As these four women commiserate with each other, sharing war stories in the nurturing, teasing way that girlfriends do, they invite us in – and the invitation is hard to pass up.
Performances are tonight at 8:00, tomorrow at 2:00; and next weekend Friday and Saturday night at 8:00 and Sunday at 2:00. The Yellow Barn is located at 410 W. Huron in Ann Arbor. Advance tickets can be purchased at papaweezeinc.org or call 248.701-2643.
Last night was the Premier of the first professional performance of "What Am I Doing Here?" I must say (with complete objectivity) that it was fabulous! The actresses did a wonderful job of interpreting the material, adding extra elements of interaction and ad-libbing which was hilarious (sipping from wine glasses all the while). Please come join the fun: Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sunday Matinees at 2:00 PM this weekend and the next two weekends. Even for those of you who saw it already, it is a fresh take with a professional touch. Pictured on the left are the four professional actresses and on the right, three of the five original "actresses".