Monday, February 20, 2017

Stray Thoughts

       Been a while since last we met.  People - family and friends - are askin', "What's up?".
       Thinking, mostly.  It's good to stop and take stock every now and then - especially when another year of living is about to become history.  Catalogued, as it were.
       Be warned, dear friends however, that mine is a living and thinking of parentheticals, ellipses, dashes.  This because whereas most folks, be they right or left-brained (the 'right' thinking logically, rationally; the 'left' thinking metaphorically, I think), still maintain a fellowship with consistency, order, flow and relatedness.  When they write or tell a story or describe an encounter, the reader or listener or visualizer follows them.  They understand.  They 'get it'.  They can imagine, if only analogously.
       My constant companion, the 'good fellow' I hail is known today as "ADD" or attention deficit disorder.  Arguably, the single thought process or mode of expression or descriptive ability that I consistently 'maintain' is the IN ability to 'stay on point', shall we say to completion.  Moreover, this phenomenon is ill-suited to my gender as the end point for women IS completion unlike that for men which is perfection (To be sure, many of my married sisters would experientially argue this point.)
       So, it would seem I'm a majority of one in a 'non-category' of folks.  That said, (BTW, have you noticed lately that respected, educated people, when speaking a response, begin their peroration with the word "so"?  What's up with that?), I can embark on sharing my "What's up?" utilizing every arrow in my quiver of loose associations, flights of ideas and oxymorons consoled by the knowledge that the recipients of this malapropismic outpouring, armed with the ability to discern that some sequitors are perfectly logical and some are non, will select with ease the material intended/enriching/informing for them, casting inapplicable detritus aside.
       My dearest buddy from high school, Kathy, whose friendship and personality I love AND admire, is presently the object of a rarely felt emotion by me - jealousy. (And why are some window blinds dubbed "jealousy"?  I welcome any and all takers.)  She, with hubby Will, are in Florida, having extended their annual visit with the ONLY one of their seven children who does NOT live close to their home in New York.  Kathy's rheumatoid arthritis fares better in the warm clime and she immerses herself in the morphed relationship of friendship with Elizabeth who, by virtue of age plus the longevity/depth of her many other virtues, has become more of a confidante than daughter.
       This new found but predictably gratifying development is definitely in the 'more-bang-for-your-buck' category - rather like the little 'roadmap' that Russel Stover illustrates (I've seen examples) on the inside of the lids of their boxes - a reassuring, more enjoyable type of indulgence of "quality ingredients in small batches" - one that insures both participants that they'll NOT 'get into' something unappealing.
       Of my three children, two live close by but are struggling through some rough patches presently and the third lives in Boston (buffeted by an Eskimo Winter with all of its vagaries), well out of 'coffee clatch'-range but with her hubby and daring little troopers:

visit from VA cuz Emma

AND baby cuz ZOE below welcomed warmly by "The Troopers"

 "The Troopers" - MIA AND WES

Mia welcomes "chilly cousins"

       I DO relish decorating our new home for their anticipated visits, though.  I've recently 'bonded' with Martha Stewart (VERY unlikely bedfellows) in spirit as I certainly cannot afford her recherche concepts save a visit from The Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol.
       And I feel blessed by the proximity of the other six of our eight grandchildren, ranging in age from twenty-seven months to fourteen years.  Taking care of, playing with (when MY arthritic joints permit),talking and listening to as well as watching them at play and study is a priceless gift.  They are so close and caring with each other, share many of the same qualities and activities but evince impressive and strong individuality.
       The youngest - unplanned and to date, seemingly unbridled Zoe - currently stands out in the individuality arena.  It IS true (so scotch any kind rumors to the contrary) that several weeks ago, on a rare "Mommy and Daddy are gussying up to attend a fancy-dancy dress-up party hosted by Daddy's boss night", while Mommy was chatting with her and trying to find and apply some makeup, little Zoe was quietly (too quiet) 'borrowing Mommy's red nail polish to carefully paint her entire foot and toenails.  Hmmmm.  Decision time.  Dad in his tux; Mom, gown and heels.  Do we can the formal OR call and plead with the sitter to come early for a special 'cleanup' project.
       Their sitter ran with the ball and Mommy and Daddy danced the night away at theirs.  But.  This is the same little Zoe who happened to be with her parents, Granddad and coloring travel gear when, during a visit to very ill Paternal Grandmom, her doctor took the family into a conference room for the saddest of possible words (and they were NOT Tinker to Evers to Chance) with Zoe and her portable playroom in tow.  That she would remain seated, let alone quiet was a long shot.  Well, when they come in against big odds, long shots pay off big.  At some point, Granddad broke down.  Zoe, twenty-seven months of pure decorum, slid noiselessly out of her chair, walked the length of the conference table to a staunchly-seated but clearly beat Granddad, climbed up his very long legs, sat in his lap, arms around his neck and settled her soft towhead gently on his shoulder.
       This kind of precocious, loving, intuitive behavior is rarely seen - even among the non- astigmatic.  When one DOES see it, the proper response is the purchase of one or ten bottles of "Jungle Red" nail polish.  Just leave them in her crib, next to Lovey, turn on the humidifier and exit the room, silently pulling the door behind you.
       The VERY special ingredient in all of these grand parental (Grams to all but the Boston battalion.  Mia had trouble pronouncing the hard "g" when she started talking, so I'm 'Gigi' among the Yankees) relationships is the reciprocity.  I watch THEM learn and, in turn, learn FROM them.

             The Other Local Contingent

              The Local Contingent
       Theirs is a new world for me. While, of necessity, I appreciate (and take advantage of)  the advances in learning resources that propel their education, research and overall progress, I fully agree with author Charlotte Moss who tells us, "It requires discipline to power off and not get sucked into the digital rabbit hole.".
       I take every opportunity to stress the importance of - every now and then - doing what they consider some very old-fashioned things to jump start their minds, their souls and get the creative juices flowing.  When they become frustrated and whine about NOT being able to select an essay topic, I remind them to slow down, to allow themselves to fully experience their "now" - take a walk down an old street when they are on a field trip, really see how people used to live, smell the air, stare at the crowds, listen, eavesdrop, commune with the stars, BE INSPIRED. These are the experiences that will become the memories that influence, define the rest of their lives.
       (I still recall with a chuckle what a pro my paternal grandfather was at 'defusing' a potentially unattractive scene involving him and his spouse, Grandma Stella.  My recollection is, of course, based on eavesdropping - a habit of which he was acutely aware.  On one of our compulsory two week "whole family" vacations to a forgettable Jersey 'resort', he had JUST finished pitching baseballs to his four sons, at least two of whom were quite athletic.  None of them could hit him - left or right-handed. He lay down on the grass, arms crossed in total self-satisfaction (which ANY observant onlooker would say was highly deserved), when Granma Stella approached, shattering the glow of his sunny-day victory with a dismissive mutter of, "Willie.  Time to wash up for suppa.". (I daresay Stella's mudder was no girl's best friend)
       Of course Granpa ignored her.  And of course she persisted times three as she stealthily approached.  FINALLY, he uttered with the perfect smidge of indignance, "Stella.  Can't you see I'm talking to the Sun?"  Never even opened his eyes. Noting no support forthcoming from her audience, she stomped off, one foot collecting an unnoticed cow pie.
       His other diffuser (what with the little ones afoot and all ears) was song.  Indeed.  Stella would attempt to goad him into an argument about a long- forgotten, inconsequential disagreement (an all-inclusive category)  and he would spin around, hand over chest, crooning, "Ya gotta GIVE a little, TAKE a little, and let (down on one knee) your poor heart BREAK a little. . ." followed by applause from the kids and a bow from him and - ready? - a mudder from Stella.  My favorite was his rendition of  "Peg 'o My Heart, I love ya. . .". None of the other kids thought that one was funny.  And it wouldn't have been had her name been Margaret. The point is, the guy - the MEMORY of the guy - has been topic and character and behavior fodder for yours truly for a lifetime.  Hope you get the chance to catch my "Second Hand Rose" some day.)
       So, when my 'grands' can't come up with a topic, can't articulate a design scheme, convey/describe a color - they can turn to their 'hard drive' of experience, of really being present in their "now".
       When my fourteen year-old grandson asked me why it was so hard for him to come up with an idea for an essay while his dad could easily think of five right off the top of his head, I told him it was part longevity and part recalling experiences with  clarity and exactitude because he'd taken the time to fully appreciate the present moment.  (So much so that he earned himself a 'gentleman's C' at Georgetown but an A plus in 'person'.)
       By way of example and as a means of giving him something to which he could relate, I shared/gave him one such example that I own.
       I had the privilege to know (well) the "mental coach" of the US Olympic Diving Team during the era of the inimitable Greg Luganis. It was during the few years following Greg's terrible accident, crashing his head into a platform during a badly-timed/executed very high and difficult dive.
       Coach thought he'd never climb that ladder again.  I was in Florida with Greg and his mental coach when Greg was helping coach our team for an upcoming competition.  I asked him - during a break in their daily twelve-hour practice.  "Greg, how did you ever have the guts to get up and, after the doc cleared you, climb that ladder AND execute a perfect Gold Medal dive?".
     His response:   " I looked at Frank (the mental coach).  He approached me and in his gentle, dulcet voice said, 'Greg.  Try to remember what it felt like when you did it right.'"
       Greg had been coached to fully experience every important life challenge.  He closed his eyes for a moment, then calmly and fearlessly began the longest of ladder climbs to the platform from which he was to execute the Gold Medal dive.  He never heard the crowd.  His focus was completely on the memory of what it felt like to do it right.  With this vivid memory, he perfectly executed the best First Place dive of his life.
       Like Greg, dear readers, die really KNOWING SOMETHING.  You are not here long.
Later, Lorane. . . .