Friday, February 28, 2014

What Was That?

       Sharing the last post with my has been a decided extrovert was most constructive. Therapeutic even.  For me.  His role was clearly uncomfortable.  Since by psychological nature his "way" is to act rather than to react, questions like, "Why do you think I wrote about that? I mean, what was the point?", clearly throw him. 
Had I posed the question before I began writing, asking for direction or inspiration his role would have been clear,

His ideas at the ready.  Like  any good life coach:  "What should you write about? Why this? Well clearly you're at a juncture in life where there is time for reflection and analysis - two of your favorite main courses - why not reflect on the past as you would audit a story after you closed the book, finishing a chapter.
       Choose a time frame - crisis, celebration whatever - and re-tell it with enough distance and experience to also see what it meant for you or us.  Perhaps it could develop into a tutorial - "Honey Dos and Don't Lists - and Why".  Then back to watching the Olympics, a ballgame, the lawn not being mowed or raked.  Safe.  Comfy.

Unfortunately, I was switching roles - asking him to re-act, NOT act.  Not comfy.  Irritating.  Borderline, "There she goes again", sigh.  Because my second most dominant function is intuition, I saw the potential approaching the threshold and going on to action so I intervened with some clues.
       "Out of nowhere, considering the really jolting experiences we've lived through, I dipped my quill into the 'hard-to-open-because-it-is-so-rarely-used-jar of ink and scrawled several pages all about early chapters of our marriage, parents of only one child, professional neonates, social misfits as well as  using an insignificant social event as the vehicle to present this ineptitude to possibly three or so readers (who are probably scratching their heads wondering "A glimpse into the book she's 'not writing'?", "Evidence that I missed a few posts?", "An ominous hint at a split with Phil?", Somebody slip her some Ouzo?". What?")
       Relieved, and thinking "that was close", he'd rush full speed into a-c-t-i-o-n mode: "You don't need a 'why' to explain something you've written.  This is not rocket science here.  You're just reiterating thoughts about what you've learned over time about people and relationships.  It was a simple but very important lesson-sharing session. (Hint of a smile.  Acting.  Doing.  Makes the man giddy.).
A casual is you have a avuncularr pat on the shoulder
and he it was on his way to the fridge to stock up for a few more runs of skeleton or maybe a hockey game.  Overcome with the sheer weight of this comforting conversation, I am charged with continuing, carrying on as they say.
       He raids the fridge.  I scan my blog posts.  That there is no particular pattern is a fact driven by decision not serendipity today.  I write what moves me.  And this day I am driven by two things, both of which fell out during the answer to my query.
A chapter ends.  What was it about? (topic selection in the prior post would seem to imply that life - as a story - poses questions the answers to which are in the past.)
That people are not always what they seem to be might be a lesson we must learn for future chapters to be smooth and told with candor.

There must be a reason for this preamble; a door that has to open in order for me to tell my story.  Instinct tells me that the answer lies in my having shortchanged the facts.  So let's go back and fill in the some of the blanks that surrounded the early part of our marriage.
       I spoke of living in a flat while the navy had my husband in the Mideast.  After his return it wasn't until our little guy was almost three years old when we found our first home.(That would be the little white Dutch colonial on "The Days of our Lives".) The adjustment to having daddy home was both a challenge and a joy.
       Philip was a very imaginative and spirited little guy.  I guess I was a rather lenient and easily amused mom.  So, when he decided that like his dog Max, he too would have his meals on the floor and bark rather than speak, it really didn't concern me.  Dr. First Lieutenant was not as amused.  Fortunately, Philip was a dog for only two weeks.  He easily reverted back to being a happy little boy. 
Perhapstomorrow, we will see where things were not always going so smoothly
Later, Lorane. . . .

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Hello, My Name is. . .

       Wow.  As my father used to say, it's been a long time between drinks.  There is a reason.  In fact, it is more than one reason.  It just seems a waste of time and ink to recount them.  So I'll just dive in.
       I don't recall whether we discussed this before, but 'my way of being in the world', according to Dr. Carl Jung is as a true introvert.  By this he means that I observe what's going on in the world and respond or react to it.  The reaction is in no way passive or to be seen as negative.  Rather, many introverts are responsible for bringing about very positive change in their environment.
       Recently, a cluster of events involving friends and family caused me to reflect on the early days of our marriage.  My husband and I came from two entirely different backgrounds or worlds as they say.  His dad was a cardiologist and he was heading for the field of medicine following in his father's footsteps.  My Dad, bright but unfortunately not educated, had a very strong work ethic and labored tirelessly for the American Chicle Company in their printing department for 35 years.  I had one sibling, a brother, and my parents' main goal - mother also having been denied an education - was to ensure that their children would  have an education.
       When we married, then, we were a medical student and a nurse with a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University.  Our finances were such that the United States Navy was very helpful in my husband's attaining of his goal.  In return for this assistance he owed the Navy three years of his beginning medical career.  He had hoped to be assigned to the medical/surgical ship, Hope, treating the injured who were fighting the war in Vietnam.  At the completion of his officers' training in Rhode Island, the Hope was pulled back.  We were  pushed forward - in the eyes of the Navy - and  downward -  in our eyes - to Norfolk, Virginia.
       Three weeks after arrival doc Phil was deployed on the destroyer Harold J. Ellison to the Mideast on a "friendly mission".  All of this 'friendship' would take approximately 11 months.  During the deployment, I lived with our then 10 month-old son Philip, in comfortable navy officers' town houses.  You can only imagine our unblemished ebullience upon his return.  Imagine as well our craving to restart our marriage in our own first home.
       We were most fortunate in finding a small, white, Dutch Colonial in a neighborhood that was both close to the only catholic elementary school available as well as to the largest civilian hospital  in which my husband wished to work after discharge from the military.  Within weeks of our moving in, the diocese closed the school and sold the property to a condominium developer.  Contemporaneously, a phenomenon formerly alien to me - busing - was in its inchoate phase.  Therefore, Philip would walk two blocks where he would join youngsters who had been riding for over an hour to begin their preschool education at Taylor Elementary School.  A large stone building planted on tree-lined streets engendered awe in these tiny day travelers.
       I could strongly identify with these youngsters as I had attended elementary school in Brooklyn, New York where, rumor has it, trees do not grow.  Well you can scotch that rumor because they do.  Trees that is.  A more valid rumor extant when I was a kid in grade school was something called "segregation".  The main thrust was that white children and black children did not play or go to school together.  The prevalence of wise guys in Brooklyn told me that we little kids were having our chains jerked.
       Fast-forward us to June 1969 - 1970, plunk us down in Norfolk, Virginia sending our first little guy to preschool and you have the recipe for feeling sorry for these kids who were trundled back and forth like baggage every day to school.  It wasn't so much the traveling.  You get used to that.  I took two subways and a bus just to get high school.  It was more the force feeding of an alien culture to a child and telling him it was good and good for him.
       I also found myself feeling sorry for my parents.  They had worked so hard to give us the gift of being comfortable among the 'smart' people and now that we had an education, we found ourselves still having to prove ourselves and our 'smartness' to our colleagues and peers.  The right  loan and a steady job got us the house.  But what price acceptance?  Or friendship?  Or asparagus for that matter.
       It was tradition in our new neighborhood for one of the community leaders to host a welcoming party for new neighbors.  Preparing for the evening of this festivity, we were nervous all day long.  We memorized names and tested each other by describing their owners.  We practiced walking the half block to the party in our empty living room.  (The standard answer to any queries about this void was always "We're strong believers  minimalism.") And when the curtain actually went up, we could be seen standing in the driveway between two houses - one of which would be the correct address.  Smiling and admiring the sunset,  we argued about the house number.
       After what must have been an agreed-upon length of time for this misery, our host came bounding down the perfectly manicured lawn to lead us to his majestic front door and our potential future.  With revelers spilling into the entrance hall, we were each labeled with stick-on labels reading, "Hello, my name is" and with the gold metallic pens proffered, we each printed our first and last names (which caused amused giggling and winks the likes of which served to break the ice but confuse us completely.)
       Thusly adorned, we entered the exquisitely- appointed living room.  Color-coded napkins and coasters, printed stirrers and miniature banners - "AND NOW, THE LEAVYS!" were sprinkled about.  We were led to the bar, generously supplied, and I dare say we sprinted to its offerings.  Next on to a completely covered groaning board.  Our hostess, Olga, the neighborhood's cherished and accomplished chef, had really outdone herself.  (Or so we were told as we had no knowledge of Olga when she was 'in'- doing.)
       Muted classical music swimming in the background, the evening proceeded smoothly, abounding with greetings - "Welcome, dears", "We've heard so much about you.", until at one point I thought I heard our host call/whisper my name.  Turning in curiosity, I did indeed see our host crooking his finger at me in a fetching manner.  I approached cautiously, trying to arrange my face into something of a "You called?" expression.  After meticulously wiping no crumbs from each side of his smirk, he said simply, "We all know the kind of woman you are." Intrigued, I allowed my eyes to plead for the definition.
       By way of response, I was treated to a monologue the focus of which was my leaving the house in the evening with my young son and returning rather late with my son alone.  These  excursions apparently took place only when my husband was working at the hospital.  He went on, un-invited, to add, "By contrast, my wife, Olga, is standing by our open living room door with our two children at her side when I arrive home each evening.  And she is completely ready to give me anything - and I mean anything - I want at that moment." Popping a cheese ball into my mouth, I turned focused intently.  His eyes followed my gaze.  We both then enjoyed the vision of Olga making her way across the room with at least 10 "Hello, my name is" labels affixed to her derriere.  A male name was neatly printed on each label.
       Brushing the no crumbs off both of my covered shoulders, I proceeded gracefully to the cloak closet.  Having seen but not heard the exchange, I felt my husband in tow.  With an expression exuding pleasant exhaustion, I waived  kisses to the assemblage, allowing my shawl to be draped on my shoulders and preceded my husband across the meticulously manicured but now punctured lawn to the sidewalk.  Ambling back to "Castle Leavy", I wondered aloud whether the moat would be chilly as there seemed to be an unusual frost in the air.
       Irish anger having subsided, we spoke mostly of correcting/healing any wounds.  It had been one week since Mr. Simon's play, "Prisoner of Second Avenue", had opened to raves at the local dinner theater. I was fortunate to be cast in the lead as Edna.  We decided to treat all of our new neighbors to an evening of dinner and the show.  It was important to both of us that while waiting for child number two, I was very involved in community theater, especially in productions that lifted people's spirits.  I have always felt laughter is a wonderful medicine and the genius of Mr. Simon is found  not only in his wit and through his quill but in the message one ultimately leaves the theater feeling. 
       In this case I truly believed that seeing the performance would be therapeutic for all involved.  At the opening a middle aged couples'  apartment has been robbed and Edna, the wife, is calling the police.  She then calls Mel, her husband, who, as only a husband can inquire, says, "Robbed?  Whaddya mean, 'robbed'?" Her response is just as typical.  "Robbed.  Robbed.  They come in. They take things out.  Robbed." The playwright then walks the audience through the response of each of the marriage partners.
       Egalitarian  as Simon is, he allows each character to crash and burn and then to recover.  In my mind, the two stars of the performance are the recovery and the fact that they recover together.  These are both very positive and necessary things in a marriage.  For my husband and I, we had been wronged but after discussion, we not only got over it, we got over it together and we reached out to those who had wronged us.  It was our sincere hope that as a little neighborhood community, the response would be the same.  At curtain call, dressed in pajamas and a terry cloth robe, I looked up and was staring into six sets of steely eyes.
       The following morning I visited Hillary, a young gal with whom I really thought I had bonded.  Sitting in the living room waiting for Hillary to get her coffee mug, my eyes were fixed on her husband's bronzed kicking shoe that his parents had given their son when he graduated from UVA.  (Looking back, seeing that little spectacle would have put most sensible women on their guard with regard to its owner.) Hillary returned, wearing her terry cloth robe, and sat, hugging her coffee mug as if to protect it from my attempt at stealing it.  "Was there something special on your mind because I'm running late," she said.  (That she would be running at all, let alone in a robe, never crossed my mind.  Pretty Hillary, a docent at our local museum, could have used a Jane Fonda tape for Christmas.)
      Fast forward four months.  Ironically, she did start jogging.  She joined a group that met each morning at 6:00 AM then jogged for an hour.  The effect was most dramatic.  She looked fantastic and had an affair with a young man - father of seven - who had also decided to become a strider.  Thus began an avalanche of broken hearts and marriages that became viral in our 'smart' little community. Does this story have a ring to it? (Or a point, you're probably asking yourself. Fair game.) Or does it only have morbidity?
       Yes, we've been robbed.  We can crash and burn but don't even try to fix it - let alone together.  It's all about, "I've got a brand new pair of roller skates; you've got a brand new key.  Let's see if we can get together and try them out and see. I've been lookin' around allot. You've got somethin' for me." (Dory Previn)  Nobody even HAS to know your name. 
Later, Lorane. . . .

Monday, February 10, 2014

This and too much That

       You know regardless of what you say you may have in mind (or remnants therefrom), it seems that with each passing day your plans, dreams, activities (or avoidance thereof), relationships (or non) are in a process of RE-orchestration.
       When I was a child, nightmares (on occasion)  followed "scary stuff" - rumors of aliens taking over our world, threats of wars and the dropping of bombs, the prom invite NOT materializing.You remember.  That stuff.  Now, decades later, we can chill out.  Relax a bit. Because it all happened for real and we made it through.  And  because we made it through, we can have stuff 'in mind'.
       Those plans, dreams, activities - it's all there.  And it's ours. It's our turn.  Gotcha!  You forgot.   RE-orchestration is the CEO.  It's subtle - this process - and very well marketed.  But the bottom line remains - you are not running the show.  And there's no point whining about it.  Like rats in a Skinner Box, Simple Simon said and we did.  Nobody wants to be a misfit, odd-man out, not cool and up-to-date.  
      With social media at the helm, we get on board - Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, YouTube.  We connect, befriend, like - and quickly, because there will be more stuff to learn tomorrow - and lots of it.  All those dreams of sailing into the sunset came true.  Unfortunately, instead of boarding "Happily Ever After", I got on to the "Ship of Fools".
       Why just today, I learned that I am already history.  One of my granddaughters asked if I would help her with her Kindergarten project.  She called and requested that I answer several questions.
"Certainly," I said.
"When you were a little girl, did you use a tin tub or did you have a bathtub?"
"A tin what?"
"Tub. For your bath."
"Of course we had a bathtub," I said laughing.
"Did you have to pump your drinking water?"
"No, Emma.  We had faucets in the house.  Just like you.  But I did pump water to drink once.  We were visiting family who lived on a farm during vacation."
       "Poppy used to visit family in Mars, Pennsylvania all the time and they had to pump their water."
Our daughter had the speaker phone on.
"I'm sure the children will find that very interesting."
"And when he played baseball with his cousin, Phil, they made the little pillow bases out of cow droppings."
"They may not find that quite as interesting," Jennie added.
It was difficult to follow the interview because both my cell phone and my Surface tablet were on my desk.  Did I turn them off?  Of course.  But "(Tee, hee) we're here." Softly bonging whenever an email came or a voicemail registered in the phone.   
       "I'm sorry, Emma. What was that about houses?"
"Did you and Poppy live in your own house?"
"Well Poppy's family had their own house.  I lived in an apartment house.  It's a big house where several families live."
"Oh. Like Jay and Ashley's?" Jennie's brother in law and his wife live in an apartment so Emma had a frame of reference.  But she found it very hard to believe that we had only one telephone in the house and that sometimes other families used this same number.  I told her that we would be happy to answer any questions that her classmates may have after she gave her report. 
       Yesterday we were helping our oldest grandson with his project.  He was to be dressed as an Irish immigrant in the early 20th century just arriving in America.  He asked us whether we had an old trunk and perhaps an Irish, raggedy wool cap.  My husband told him every family that was Irish had raggedy caps and he was sure we had one.  I rushed to the garage to spray his father's army trunk with some muddy brown paint.  Just as I was dragging it outside to dry I was busted.  "You better be able to splain, Lucy,"  he said.
       What's to explain?  We spend our days learning new technology from the young children.  But when we are asked to be or to make an antique, we shine.  That's how we roll - holding each other in a death grip for fear of fracturing something on the way down. Later, Lorane

Monday, February 3, 2014

Turn, Turn, Turn

      It occurred to me today, which is a rather dreary, gray Monday, that it doesn't have to be.  Having made this decision, at the end my usual chores, after belting out a few verses of the Carpenters', "Rainy Days and Mondays always Get Me Down", I resolved to come up with some  resolutions (that do no involve 'belting' and 'down'.).
       Donning this new mindset with admirable resolve, I sat at my desk and began by turning the page of the calendar to the month of February.  And right before my eyes in glittering, exciting technicolor, I was faced with the vision of the most inspiring seascape I have ever experienced.  I was looking at very clear cyan blue water peopled with scurrying tropical fish and the centerpiece of what I was to learn was the Andaman Sea -  Andaman Island.
       Rising majestically from the pristine waters, an enormous, vertically trapezoidal, green moss-covered blade of earth dominates.  It could very well be a form of natural lighthouse set atop a huge undersea  mountain.  It was a vision that at once completely erased any thoughts of gray, of rainy, of sad Mondays.  Moreover, it heightened, punctuated my resolve to make changes.  Such is the power of natural beauty.  It awakens the spirit, stirs the soul.
       Propelled as I was on this lofty course, I decided that change number one would take the form of some type of follow through.  By way of example several days ago we spoke of job- seeking and of what I thought would be my guardian - a company called Thumbtack.  As that wheel of fortune turned, the guardian became one of anger rather than angel.
       Suffice it to say that (face it, we all want to catch the 11:00 news) Thumbtack presented one mislead after another.  My attempts at correcting errors went either unnoticed or ill- followed.  In the end, it was the end.  I refer of course, to the termination of our relationship, certainly not of my job seeking.  It was a 'miss-tack'.  I also spent some time talking about the indomitable spirit of our young in the face of what others might perceive as adversity.  No changes there.
       This morning I spent time catching up with emails and notifications.  Apres B-ball games on Saturday we lunched at a New York deli.  I guess that's put me in something of a Broadway mood. 
And that, in turn, led me to begin my catchup reading with friends from the theater. One of them must have been in something of a pithy mood as she shared with us a quote, to wit, "The poet sees what the philosopher thinks."
Unfamiliar with its author, I reserved comment.  I mean the guy could have been nearsighted or astigmatic.  We just don't know.
       The quote, however, put me in mind of a piercing query presented in one of the literary discussions to which I contribute.  A writer had asked, "Do you see the story through your own eyes or, like an actor, do you see it through the character's perspective?".  Putting the quote and the question together reminded me of something I had said to you, dear readers, recently.  "My 'stories' are the spate of observations regarding the activity in the world as it was spinning around me."
       I lay no claim to philosophical knowledge but can say with authority that the world has been spinning around me for lo these 60 plus years.(Had things gone in reverse, I probably would be the proud owner of quite a collection of brass rings by now.) I believe that all characters are in fact a composite of the writer's personality/ experience.  Therefore, any 'story' must be self revelatory.
      Very early on today (seems like years, doesn't it?) I mentioned my calendar art vision of the Andaman Sea and Island.  As it turns out they are located due west of Bangkok, Thailand, an area that took a few spins around me some years ago.  EN route to Hanoi with Operation Smile and plans to help with several weeks of cleft palate surgery, Bangkok had simply been a pit stop.  And what a pit it was.
       It was quite a surprise, then, to learn that so very close to this pit is what the recherche consider the 'pet' stop for leisure and fun.  (Special February deals at this very moment - five days and six nights - starting as low as $29,000.  But ya gotta hurry!) I'm afraid that's one spin I'm going to have to miss.
       So.  Poets see what philosophers think.  Beauty is probably still in the eyes of the beholder.  Stories are conglomerates of our split personalities.  And $29,000 is better spent on the transport and supplies needed by those who donate their time and talent to fixing deformed children.  I gotta tell you, though, if you still have that hankering to see Andaman and it's environs, this calendar does a sterling job.
Later, Lorane. . . .