Monthly Archives: March 2011

That’s Him All Over

I was fortunate in that Mark always said when he died at age 120, he wanted to be scattered into the Atlantic at Newport, RI. Although he unfortunately died much sooner at 48, his final resting place was one decision I didn’t have to make. And since he died on Halloween, I didn’t have to act right away, giving me time to focus on other things like Christmas coming,…and remembering to wash my hair.

Nothing in life prepares you for picking up your loved one’s ashes at a funeral parlor. I’m not quite sure why I thought that would be Just Another Errand on my list for the day, but when they put that ominous box in my arms my mental strength reserves depleted to nothingness. As I sat in the car, unable to drive unless it was deliberately into oncoming traffic, the CD I’d just bought kicked on. The words to Pete Yorn’s ‘Come Back Home’ jolted thru my despair: “And you know you’re hard enough; And you find you’re strong enough; And you feel you’re strong enough.”

I made it home and put the ashes at the bottom of my closet where they rested for the next eight months. I peeked inside just once because I wanted to bring some to a few local spots and also give some to each of Mark’s parents. Again, nothing in life prepares you for what cremated human remains look like…I wasn’t sure I was going to be up to the final scattering moment. But I still had time, so I closed the box and pushed it where I couldn’t see it all the time.

Some months later, I took Mark’s two boys and my two girls back over to Newport for one last summer vacation, partly to scatter the ashes, partly to let them have their fun ritual one last time. When it came down to the very last day and the ashes were still sitting there, I told the kids, “This is it, so who’s with me?” None of them wanted to accompany me, and I didn’t feel right forcing the issue.

I left the kids at the condo and drove out to the spot I’d selected across from Brenton Point Park [should you ever find yourself on Ocean Drive in Newport]. I climbed out the rocks and opened the box after all these months. FYI, should you find yourself in this same position, remember to check the wind direction. Like in ‘The Big Lebowski?’ you need to stand upwind. [“Just because we’re bereaved, doesn’t make us saps!”] After having ashes blow back on me, I shifted directions and completed my obligation. When the last speck of Mark pixie dust was gone for good, I reached a new low point in an ongoing rocky journey through uncharted widowhood waters.

If I thought picking up the ashes eight months ago was hard, NOW I was ready to give up, having been tested enough, thanks. The vast Atlantic before me was looking pretty good, if I could just swim somewhere to safety from the weight of the world that had placed upon my unworthy shoulders. Then I remembered that I didn’t believe in destiny and master plans, so no one was testing me but  Fuck-it-all-anyway, I’m-outta-here. No one was there to shore me up afterwards; no one to maybe make this surreal moment a little easier. I lost my soft landing place eight months ago, the person who always made things right for me when he chimed in with “Now, Love, it’s not as bad as you think because…”

Just as I got into the car, a Newport-based friend rang my phone about our intended dinner that night, and I spilled my guts like a crazy person. A survivor of the same cancer [we actually found her on-line], Kendra talked me down from my personal clock-tower with the wisdom of a cancer survivor and the support of a friend. And I remembered Mark’s constant refrain, “It is what it is.”

I dusted myself off, literally and figuratively, squared my shoulders and just kept on livin.’

“Life is not what it’s supposed to be. It’s what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.” ~Virginia Satir


Celluloid Heroes Never Really Die

One of my early influences:

Fit vs. Athletic

For years, I claimed to be a fit non-athlete. ‘Athlete’ always brought to mind sports. And sports and me, we just don’t roll together…know what I’m saying?

Then I started running three years ago.

~At first glance, it could perhaps be construed that I was running away from or towards something, in an attempt to recover life upon losing my emotional balance big-time.

~Perhaps I was trying to prove something to myself and to others.

~Perhaps I was just lonely and bored.

~Or all of the above.

However, my natural tendency is to either love something or hate it. Take sports for instance: don’t really like the stuff. The thought of balls flying at me has always been nothing short of horrifying [dirty jokes aside]. Then long ago my older daughter started playing hoop; eventually the younger one followed suit, and subsequently played for eight years. And hoop turned out to be Mark’s favorite sport, so I absorbed a little bit of knowledge by Lawrence osmosis, along with a severe case of bleacher-butt. Yet it was worth it because sports helped bring our family unit together, and provided us with a wonderful community of caring people when we most needed it. Sports kept me connected to what my younger daughter was up to, and her friends’ parents became my friends. Lots of good memories came from driving the sportsmom mini-van lo those eight years.

Fitness, however, is a whole different realm which most definitely started with wearing well as the years wore on. Then it became about getting better at something I loved, namely weight training:

~How different muscles are worked together for a specific result.

~Why you need to employ muscle confusion if you want to make gains.

~Why clean eating is so important.

~How all of the above translate into anti-aging prevention.

It took me until running 26.2 miles to realize that team sports do not an athlete make, any more than wearing a jersey with some professional athlete’s name on it makes you him. I’m still a girly-girl who lives for the next pedicure and enjoys many of the finer things in life. But I’ve learned not be content with fitness status quo, to humbly appreciate the camaraderie of my running peeps, and to unequivocally love competing with myself for the next PR.

That’s Personal Record for you non-athletes.

Widowhood For Dummies: On Sale Now

“Grief is not a linear event; we try to make it so, so our puny minds can handle it.”

I glommed on to this recently and have been mulling it over ever since.

Rewinding to March 2008, I was deeply mired in the everyday aspects of widow survival mode, where just having my birthday was enough to throw me into a state of epic panic. Running into new people, those who knew that Mark had passed away but hadn’t seen me yet, was always an exciting opportunity to fall apart in a grocery store or some other public place.

I know, “they meant well.”

Being somewhat organized and task-oriented, I used to joke that “If only I could find my trusty copy of the Widow’s Manual, this would be so much easier.” As it turns out, such a thing does not exist. Not only that, “Everyone grieves differently at different paces.” Well, isn’t that special.

“You need to move on.” How about, “You need to shut the fuck up about something you know nothing about?” As another wise person has stated, it’s not about holding on or moving on, but about integrating the experience of having loved and lost into the changed person one becomes. That makes much more sense than everything happening for a reason to someone who thinks as I do that life happens here and now.

So how does the karma of the Mark experience fit into the new and possibly improved me?

I’ve become more adventurous: I’ve traveled alone without feeling like I was wearing a ‘One Woman Wolf Pack’ t-shirt. I actually like being able to set an agenda and do what I want on my own timeframe. And no one walks as fast as I do from midtown Manhattan to the Lower East Side in search of adventure.

I’ve become much more introspective: I’ve spent time looking back at my past relationship choices and evaluated my role in the process. Self-reflection isn’t always easy, but in comparison to the loss of a life partner it’s a cakewalk.

I’ve become someone who gives back: I look for 5k races I can support for other worthwhile causes and have taken a much more active role in Hope Club publicity efforts.

I hope I’ve become more empathetic, although I’ve gained another ounce of impatience with human foibles. I mean, really people, make things happen rather than lament what you can’t change.

I guess that last one proves I am still a work in progress.

I Am Big, It’s The Pictures That Got Small

I grew up in a blue-collar based home with eight people sharing one black & white TV. We crowded around together on our crazily mismatched furniture watching movies, mostly because our father controlled the dial [no such thing as a TV remote then!] and he liked to watch movies…or baseball games. But he really hit his stride when we got cable, and he could then enjoy the OTB Channel. The drone of a baseball game and the excited call of a horse race are indelibly etched in my brain for all time.

 My bond with my father was quite strong, considering he grew up without sisters. But he was very much his mother’s son, so perhaps he developed sensitivity towards girls that benefited me. I may have looked and acted like my mother on the outside, but inwardly I was definitely marked by my father’s interests.

Father and daughter bonded over a shared love of old movies, the films of his youth where you could literally stay all day for the same admission price. For him, it provided a safe haven while his mother worked to raise three adolescent sons after being widowed young [gee, what’s that like?]. This is where my life-long connection to the cinema developed, whereupon I am now a cinch to win any ‘Jeopardy’ category involving film facts. Indeed I am often called upon to bail out people  in a pinch when they can’t remember the name of a film or who starred in it.

Not a talent for making a living, but certainly one which rocks any trivia-based competition. “I’ll take Ridiculously Obscure Movie Lore for $600, Alex.”

I will never pass up the opportunity to re-watch ‘Casablanca’ or ‘Goodfellas’ over the crap that’s on network TV these days. And how can you not love the latter, where ‘Fuck’ is said 296 times for an average of 2.06 fucks per minute. Who among us doesn’t want as many fucks per minute as possible in their life? However, due to the power of the internet, research indicates that there are another 8 movies which employ more variations of ‘fuck’ than GF, so it’s possible to have even more ‘fucks’ per minute. But I am proud to have seen ‘the top fuck movie of all time’ which is ‘Summer of Sam.’ Having lived thru that particular time period, it was a freakin’ good although not a farkin’ great movie.

When I die in about 50 years, I want to be cremated with no religious observance. But I’d like my family and friends to convene at The Spectrum movie theater for a life celebration. Then I’d like the ending of ‘Cinema Paradiso’ to be shown, a movie about people who love movies…like me.

Fuckin’ A.

Openin’ Up a Can of Man Repellent

…or, “Have I Told You Lately That I Hate You.”

 Thriving in the middle-aged dating scene is a testament to one’s mettle and humor, both of which become shaky upon continued interactions with the Indigenous Middle Aged Male species.

 To whit, I offer you the first 2011 installment of Men Who Suck.

 Thinking this dating year could not possibly be worse than 2010 [see Bitter With Baggage post], I once again threw caution to the wind in search of age-appropriate responsible-professional-with-an-edge male company. I was off to somewhat of a good start after having 4-5 dates with the same person, an almost unheard-of experience following the 2010 dating debacle. I mean, once you’ve exchanged business cards and have been asked to experience your natural suburban 3-bedroom habitat, things must be looking up, right?

 However, as things so often roll in the Queendom of the Buffoldbroad, guy in question quickly moved from Knight in Shining Armor to Jerk in Aluminum Foil.

 His folly: not really being ready to date. I realize ‘being ready’ is subjective, and that we all have prior relationship histories that we bring forward with us that often cause sticky wickets when relating to newbies. Being widowed is a vastly different way of being single: my spouse is gone and the trajectory of life moves forward. Moreover, I was in a good relationship that ended tragically, so my feelings about the Male Species are mostly positive. Dare I say this: I actually like men! During the early months of the grieving process, and at other times over three plus years, there were times that I didn’t belong out in the dating world mucking up the psyches of those ready to date and searching for a true companion. So why is it I keep finding men who, while meeting the requisite social and fitness parameters of my dating realm, turn out to be unready to date?

 Yeah, yeah…it’s not me, it’s them. On the other hand, the intrepid dater that I am usually comes away with feelings of disappointment when yet another one bites the dust.

 The cure for this: spray liberally with Man Repellent and never be let down by Men Who Suck ever again!

 However, remember to read the warning label on the can for adverse side-effects. After all, if you spray liberally to self-preservate against Indigenous Middle Aged Male cooties, you could risk becoming immune to the exquisite scrumtrulescence of male companionship.

The Queen has spoken.