Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Finally, after nearly 13 years of book-writing silence, I have just published a book!

Okay, so it's not that kind of book.

But it may be one of the best books I've produced and I hope its target readership agrees.

Last summer, as our family lazed on the Wildwood Crest beach, I told a story about my grandmother. Nothing special, just a snippet from the myriad memories that tumble around in my mind.

My older daughter commented that she'd never heard that story and then proceeded to admonish me (gently, of course) for not sharing tidbits like that with the family. After all, she didn't say, but I heard, Mom isn't going to be around forever and then who will know these things? Who will go through the boxes of photos, some faded and torn, and know who was in them?

That's when the idea came and on Friday, the result was in my mail.

I gathered photos from those bottomless boxes, selected from an old autobiography that lies fallow and incomplete on my hard drive, did some research and found blurb.com, selected a template and created "Where Did We Come From?" to gift my grandchildren and my daughters with a brief look into their ancestry.

While the book is 22 pages long, it could easily have been doubled if the cost had not been prohibitive. There are still many, many photos for them to look at some far-off day. I will have to deal with the pictures perhaps one cold, blustery winter night as I take on the next project... scanning, naming and cataloguing them all. Sadly, by the time I got custody of the photos, there was no one left to tell me who many of the folks who peopled them might have been. Many contain men and women who were directly related to my grandfather. They will wind up forever unidentified.

But the 22 pages of the book I created contains enough information to serve as a start on my effort to leave the kids a picture of their ancestors... the men and women I knew as integral parts of my life.

So even if the photos are a bit blurry or worn with decades of being shuffled from one album to another, from one box to another, I was able to tell them about my wonderful grandparents, my mom and dad and some of my own history. It's what I wish I had been given by my parents.

How silly we are, those of us who have a rich mine of photos or written histories, not to sit our grandparents and parents down, grab an iPad or iPhone or any of the amazing recording devices we have at our disposal and ask them to talk about their childhoods, their memories. Not only would we have a lasting record of their pasts but we would have the joy of hearing their voices and seeing their smiles long after they are gone.

It's too late for me to do any of that, so I did what I could. I hope that, even though there may be little interest in the book now, my grandchildren will some day dig it out from their put-away treasures and share it with their children.

That's what it was created for. That's what I wish for it.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

For once in my life, I am struggling to state an opinion.

I want to write about the 2016 presidential election. I want to find the right words to talk about how I feel about the candidates and their messages.

I've never been a Hillary Clinton fan, although I think her husband's presidency was good for the country if not for the reputation of the man.

I despise Donald Trump and everything he stands for (or not, considering he doesn't seem to actually have any principles upon which he stands).

Above both feelings, I am sad that Bernie Sanders didn't make it to the nomination. He started too late and then faced the obstacles set up by the establishment Democrats that made it impossible for him to succeed.

But he came sooooo close.

I remember back in the mid-60s when the resounding message of Bobby Kennedy began to echo around the country and he mounted his campaign for president. Like so many liberal-minded people, I was enraptured. He embraced every ideal I hold dear. He offered the kind of world that fulfilled the promise of peace and universal compassion and caring.

When Bobby was murdered, it seemed a pall settled over the land. Not only people like me, but legions of others who were drawn to his message, mourned and, I believe, entered a phase of depression, cynicism and doubt from which we have never emerged.

Bernie revived that hope, that yearning for what could be if only the system we have watched becoming more and more fashioned against us were changed. Millions of young people, for whom the name Bobby Kennedy probably only evokes a page in their history books, were caught up in Bernie's message just like I was at their age (okay, I was a tad older). Without the filter of cognizance of the progression from Kennedy to Obama, the millenials knew only that Bernie spoke to them of the way it could be and they loved it.

Now I wonder if, regardless of Bernie's efforts to help defeat Donald Trump, those young people will feel the incredible letdown we did post-Bobby. Will they believe the system is indeed unbeatable, unchangeable?

The next four years, no matter who wins in November, will be crucial, I believe, to the survival of our nation. Hillary, if she surrounds herself with wise statespeople and if she includes Bernie in the planning, might be able to fashion a new optimism and the changes needed. Donald Trump, if he wins, will, in his own unpredictable and frightening manner, lead the country into the kind of darkness and ugliness in which he thrives.

So, without a lot of enthusiasm, but with the terrifying thought of the end of America as we know it, I will vote for Hillary. It really isn't that I see it as a choice between the lesser of two evils. It is a statement that I can't allow the evil that is Donald Trump to triumph.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Sometimes emotions surprise

I didn't think I would care.

Just last week, his wife of 30-odd years and my younger daughter drove to a dementia care facility nearby and admitted my ex-husband.

He's a victim of the same horrible disease that claimed Robin Williams ... Lewy Body disease, a combination of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's.

At various birthdays and Thanksgivings, I have observed his steady decline, both in mental capacity and physical appearance. It was gut-wrenching to see this once-athletic high school coach and phys ed teacher descend into such transformation.

I can only imagine how difficult the whole process has been on his wife, my daughters and their two half-siblings, the kids of my ex and his wife. Occasionally, my daughters shared their need to vent their anger, sorrow and fear at what was happening to their dad.

It was only a few years ago, 1998 to be exact, that he and I finally put aside our bitterness and pain and buried the hatchet. It was the day of our older daughter's wedding and we agreed that there had been enough anger and that we should apologize to one another for our respective parts in the ruin that had been our marriage.

So we had some good years when we could come together, laugh and reminisce about the times before the bottom fell out. We could enjoy our grandchildren. He was a wonderful grandfather, in his glory with the little ones hew could toss into the air and savor the giggles.

Like everyone in the family, I knew the disease was rapidly claiming him. I knew it would not be long before he required 'round the clock medical and watchful care. So I wasn't surprised when the day arrived. Very sad, of course, for his wife and the kids, all grown adults and prepared for the day.

That night, knowing it was his first night in a strange place, surrounded by unfamiliar furniture, sounds and people, I thought about what must be happening in that room, I knew he was frightened. Change is difficult for patients with such a disability.

And I couldn't sleep.

My heart ached for the way his life had turned. For the lost years he should have had, the memories he lost almost daily, the steadily vanishing knowledge of the love of his wife, his children and grandchildren.

I lay awake for a very long time, worrying about how he survived that first night without the comfort of his home and the woman who loved and cared for him so faithfully for so long.

I was surprised at my own reaction.

I didn't think I would care.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Even a house can be lonely

There is something special about a house.

Many times in recent years, I've driven past the house my stepfather built for my mother and me, looking for more changes and marveling at the memories that flood through me every time.

The white fence around the yard has been gone for years, as has the flagstone walkway to the big front door. The wrought iron rail around the porch is gone too and there is a new second story and an enclosed back deck where only a concrete patio stood. I often wonder what the inside looks like, whether the massive Jersey stone fireplace Dad's friend built in the living room is still the dominant feature of the house.

Memories are mostly all good about my years in that house. And someone still loves it... fresh curtains adorn the windows and the yard is maintained well. One of these days, I'll summon up enough nerve to knock on the door, identify myself as a former resident and ask for a tour. I hope I will be welcome.

I spend a lot of time looking at houses. Realtor.com is one of my favorite sites and I like to scout out possible places to live if we ever decide to put our house on the market and move.

I even look at real estate in my old home town, picturing streets on which some houses sit.

When I was a junior in high school, my date and I stopped by his house for photos before the prom. It was a home filled with love. In subsequent years, his mother nurtured a spectacular garden alongside the house, complete with gazebo, in which many a local couple posed for photos after their weddings.

I remember the address of the house just like I remember my own, so when I saw it on Realtor.com last night, I was filled with sadness. Whoever purchased the house after that lovely family dissolved through death or distance had left it a ruin, in the hands of a bank, described as "once-loved."

I can only imagine that the garden was also a casualty.

Call me crazy, but the once-sweet white cottage with its lavish landscape, looked forlorn and broken-hearted. All vibrancy was gone and only a sad remnant of what it once was sat there in the photo.

I recalled all the days I pedaled by on my bike, hoping to catch a glimpse of the boy I loved since I was ten. All the days I wished for a big family... brothers and sisters with whom to grow up. They probably took that house for granted...their safe harbor from childhood troubles.

Now it belongs to no one. Still there is something special about a house. Even now.