Friday, June 27, 2014

Missing you

Today is the last evening I have to myself. I pick up Mini-me from camp tomorrow morning (can’t wait!)  It’s been a few crazy weeks at work and tonight will likely be spent having a few cocktails with a good friend. As delightful as that will be, what I’d really like to do is talk to Rona.  You see today marks 15 years that she has been gone.

And, as much as I would really like to sit at a bar and have a cocktail and talk to Rona, I’m reasonably sure that talking and laughing out loud with myself – laughing so hard I may snort – would all be frowned upon.  And just saying the words in my head doesn’t seem the same.  So, I will write her a letter. 

Dear Ro,

How the hell are you? I miss you like crazy.  Life has been good, bad and all the stuff in between. There is much to tell you and much I want to know.  I have so many questions and while I know you don’t have all the answers, you make me think differently about things and often, offer some twisted humor to put it all in perspective.

Mini-me is growing quickly – she would certainly be your shopping buddy. Girlfriend loves a good bargain.  While I never forget I’m her parent, she can be quite the pal; you would love that and she would love her tante Rona.  She loves Hebrew and Sunday school – the ritual and tradition, learning the songs and taking pride in writing Hebrew words.  I never had that background but know it was so important to you.  Each week it reinforces that giving her your Hebrew name honors you in the best possible way. You will be there with her as she experiences each new rite of passage – you will be honored. You will be remembered.

My family is fine – growing, changing, and moving but all are healthy and reasonably happy.  I’m learning to be simply grateful that I have such a great relationship with my siblings and their families. To take things as they are and put much less stock in what they think.  After all, they have no choice but to be related to me and for the most part, love me as I am.  I miss my folks terribly. I imagine you miss your mom, too – and that your dad is near you, lecturing everyone on exactly how fast they should drive on any given road.  I miss our talks about our parents – what drove us crazy and our fear of turning into them.  Guess what? That shit happens.

My friends are good, great and everything else. Neiman just had another clean scan – remaining cancer free two years to the day after her diagnosis. And no, it doesn’t escape me that the date of her diagnosis is the date of your death.  This date always feels a bit “off” to me.  This time of year is crazy for me at work – it helps to keep my mind busy but weird thoughts creep in and I never feel quite like myself. 

I’ve been lucky to have a summer of great time with friends both behind and in front of me.  Geek and Kooky were here a few weeks back – good times spent poolside and the cool of the house.  I spent a weekend in the mountains with Belle, Handy and our sweet kids - so nice to get away and have a chance to really just visit without worrying from moving from point a to point b.   I am taking Mini-Me and my dear friends Geek and Kooky to Bethany next month – and can only hope they embrace the sand, surf, Nic-o-bolis and Thrashers fries as much as you and I did.  I will visit old friends, see old hangouts and drive roads once so familiar.  This trip will be full of memories as I introduce Mini-Me to my old world, one in which you were such a central character.  I will miss you but have a feeling you’ll be along for the ride.

Neiman visited me last weekend – a grown-up few days of shopping, eating, drinking and just visiting. Bless her for being such a good sport and visiting me in the summer, when my town feels like the surface of the sun.  And Runner will visit again this summer with the youngest in her flock.  You know, Ro – Runner has not aged one bit. It’s most infuriating.  You were one of the few that was never surprised by my long-lasting friendship with her.  She’s become the religious compass that you once were and I’m constantly reminded of you when I go to her with all my Jewish questions – be it political, religious or a new recipe to get me through one more Passover. 

Who are you hanging out with up there?  Are you sharing scotch and off-color jokes with my dad?  Is my mom complimenting your always perfect hair?  Are you having coffee with her and Big Susan? Is Jack cooking for you, offering to cook for you or making pickles?  Do you see some of our old classmates and reminisce about the old days?

I miss you Rona. I miss our talks. I miss gossiping over California Chicken Salads (and can you believe White Flint is gone?It never mattered whether we connected on the phone, with a card or letter (days long before the immediacy of email or texting) or were face-to-face in one of our regular haunts.  We could be chatting, laughing or sitting in comfortable silence.  It all worked. No words were ever necessary. 

Except for now.  Rarely a day goes by when something does not make me think of you. I miss you. More than you will ever know.


Monday, February 10, 2014

My name is Randi and I can't....

My name is Randi and I can't live up to Pinterest, Pottery Barn or West Elm.  I can’t live up to a single Lifetime movie about friendship, sisterhood or the bonds between women, women and men, sisters, brothers or those that share an obsession with a boy band.  I most certainly can’t live up to all those perfect mom’s out there – those that create those fucking Pinterest crafts in the first place, those who have children that never get into trouble, always do as asked and never say anything inappropriate.  I am not that mother and I most certainly do not have that child.

I just read this awesome post about a mom who hit rock bottom.  It totally inspired me to look at myself and acknowledge my own rock bottom. I have judged. I have acted badly. I have not understood.  I have made less than stellar choices that go beyond a bad haircut and 80’s fashion (70’s doesn’t count – we had fewer options.) I wielded my sharp tongue and hurt others.  I was less than empathetic.  I didn’t apologize.  I've been a total jackass.

In my world, the TV is probably on too often, we sometimes eat on the run, stay up too late and my floor needs washing.  I’m impatient, bossy and anyone who knows me will agree that on some topics, I have very strong opinions.  I will admit to earning my “bitch” patch years ago.  I've been rock-bottom more than once. 

I have forgotten.

More than once I have forgotten a birthday, a meaningful time or a friend in need.  I’m so caught up in my own bullshit that I don’t always pay attention to what is happening around me. This happens to everyone – I know this. I just need to remember that before I get my knickers in a twist about someone forgetting about me….that they may be so deep in their own shit that they can’t wade over to help me with mine.  To my friends, I apologize for forgetting, for forgetting that I’ve forgotten and for what I will likely forget tomorrow.  Let’s talk over a drink – if I can remember.

I’ve gotten on my high horse.

Yep, I’ve been there. And let’s be honest – you probably have, too.  You’d like to think the view from up there is better…but really, it’s pretty lonely when no one wants to share it with you. To my friends, I’ll walk beside you. The company is so much better that the view instantly improves.

I have been more judgey than Judy.

Yep, I’ve passed judgment. I formed opinions and sometimes made them known.  To be clear, I’m not talking about knowing the nuances of a situation and thinking someone is taking the wrong path. I’m talking about knowing nothing or close to that about someone, something and deciding you still know best for them, how you would do it better or dismiss their reaction. I’ve looked at someone else’s situation and made an assumption – if for no other reason than to make me feel better. I should know better. I’ve been judged long, loud and often and I hate it every fucking time.  To my friends, I promise to ask to borrow your shoes so I know what it feels like to be you and if they don’t fit, to shut the hell up.

I’ve not taken the time.

Sometimes, I feel like my life is the autobahn and frankly, I am not built for speed.  Geek tells me
all the time that my weekends are busy and well-planned and then I complain I’m exhausted and don’t have time to just be.  I found myself home this weekend and really just wanted to chat with a friend – not in a self serving way. I truly wanted to know – how were things going? Does Lips like her new gig?  How did Kooky do at her sleepover?  Was Geek feeling better?  How was Crafty holding up in the cold weather she hates so much? I wanted to thank Stretch for a really well timed email I got last week – and let her know it made the difference.  And Patron, we haven’t talked in while – how are you?  I want to stop planning to do things with friends and practice just being a friend.  To my friends, I will take a deep breath and have a drink at the ready – when you have a moment, just stop by or call and we’ll visit if even for just a few minutes. I will drop a line or leave a message. I know it will mean something and you’ll do the same when you can.

I have forgotten.

Did I already write about that?

I have been impatient.

I hate waiting. I’m painfully prompt – it’s a family thing.  We’ll circle the block to get to the party on time so that we’re not there early. If you told my parents to come over at six, they’d be there at five.  Now, in my defense, being late is a huge pet peeve and I honestly don’t believe there are that many valid reasons for it.  But, that is not the type of waiting I’m talking about. I’m talking about waiting for the right time, the right moment, the right deal. Waiting for things to happen or be dealt with on a schedule that works for someone else or the bigger picture – not just for my immediate gratification. Now, I’m not the kind that reads the end of the book first – but I’m always in a rush to finish.  To my friends, I promise to smell the roses, sip my drink (well, most of the time) and enjoy the journey.

The fact that you are my friends despite my imperfections continues to astonish me. Some of you have pulled me out of a rock bottom moment more than once (many of you way more than that.) To you, I am so grateful that you stood beside me when you may not have wanted to.  You called me friend when I was undeserving.  You were your best when I was at my worst. That you held my hand, loaned a shoulder and dried my tears.  These are things I have not forgotten.

So my friends, in this Valentine week – I promise to be a better friend.  I will try to remember, to be more patient. I will not judge (okay, who am I kidding – let’s aim for judging less) and I will catch my breath.  And, I will totally continue to support you in your rock-bottom moments.  I will sink to your level as you have sunk to mine – just so you are not alone. I will not say “I told you so” or ask you why.  In fact, I will offer you a cocktail to celebrate because the only way to go is up.  This, I won’t forget.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

In his words

It was one of those “share 5 things about yourself or your relationship” things on Facebook. I never participate but love to read them.  My dear old friend, Biff, fell into the trap this week and while perusing the comments left by his friends who followed into that hole, one really caught my eye. The candor, the choice of words – the clear importance this person places on relationships resonated with me for obvious reasons.  What I found really staggering is the clear connection still found in loves long gone and the admission that each of these people – lovers or friends – have forever altered who he is.

I have never met this person.  I am re-posting this with his permission. Aside from a few minor edits for easier reading and the changing of names, these are his words.
Share five relationship things eh? Hmmmn... Ok. I'm not married, or close to it, so I shall reveal some important relationship events to me.  In reverse:

5.   Abigail
When I left for college, I had started dating a spunky brunette, Abigail, a fireball with an extra tank of kerosene! I know, I know I was young- but young love is still love! We wrote letters and talked once in a while, best of friends with benefits, best indeed! We last talked at Easter about my birthday in May, I was going to be flying home that day and we were going to catch up that night. My flight was on time. I landed at BWI. Hopped into the car for the ride home. On the way we came across a car accident. Mangled metal. Glass everywhere.  Somber EMT's going about cutting a car open... I found out later that that was her car and that she had been struck by a drunk driver. The tears that streamed down my face tried to fill the void in my chest to no avail. Every birthday, I blow my long gone friend a kiss & never have I ever driven drunk.

4.   Tara
My sweet Tara, New England gal, Mayflower Blue Blood with strawberry locks. Loving and kind: a true gem. Six months to our dating, her mom passed away. A year to the day of her burial, the house she and her younger twin sisters grew up in burned to the ground. Their father lost his mind and shut down as he fell down from all of this. Meanwhile the twins were prepping for college. The young ones were sad, lost, hurt, confused about what their future was going to be, where would they live, how to get buy...So Tara & I became the guardians of twin teenage girls: signed their loans, moved them from Mass to Va, clothed them, fed them, gave them a home and a sense of stability.  In the process of this, we lost each other. We lost 'us' as we became 'all of us.' It was a tough, honest move for us to part ways, and we are better because of it.  Some years later, on the night before her wedding, two things happened:

--> The fiance's mother came to me with a ton of town folk to meet and thank me for having been a good man to Tracy and the twins for all those years. It was humbling. She also wrote me a lovely birthday card because my effing ex had to get married on the first available spring day, yes my birthday..We had never met prior and now I cannot go to Boston without saying hello.
Tara’s hulking father reached over at the bar and lifted me up onto his 6'8" frame proclaiming, 'This my friends & family that do not know is Texas! Yes, THAT TEXAS!! This is the man that took care of my girls when I could not! This is the man I had hoped was going to be my son in law!', Humbling and crazy all at the same time.

3.   Ellen
Ahhhhh Ellen! All 6'3" of javelin, discus and volleyball Latina Amazon! We drove from El Paso to San Diego to go to a football game and chill with her family only to find out that her cousin’s daughter was having her Quinceanera that weekend. We rode with the family to Mexico City. Partied like it was our birthday and danced til dawn! Still drunk from the night before we went out into the city, ate and drank and drank some more. We passed out at the house & woke in a panic: it was Sunday and we had to get back to school. So we limped our besotted selves to the train station, boarded, napped, woke, napped again until we arrived in Juarez and strolled to the border to march into El Paso to eat and pass out in our bed.  It wasn't until I was in the middle of my Physics lab at 10 the next day that I remembered that the car was still in Cali. Some eight years later she waited for three hours to see me for 15 min at an airplane exchange at LAX in order to meet my momma.

2.   Lena
Lena! Lena! Lena! A PhD student studying nuclear physical chemistry from Lebanon. Whip crack smart Mediterranean beauty. She had to teach her grade school classes from under the desks because of the constant shelling going on, it was a civil war after all. On one of our outings with her other 'refugee sisters' (a Serbian & an Iranian) we decided to stop at the Georgetown Diner for late night drunken eats. The diner was busy busy busy! Amidst our joking & eating, the table behind us started speaking (in Arabic) 'highly' of Hezbollah: they are great... they will do so many things for our people... they will liberate the Middle East and unify the Arabs... getting applause and cheers from most of the room.  Lena started yelling back at them in Arabic & some poor fool chimed in for her to 'shut up' in French, where all three of the women went off, cursing every soul in the room that supported terrorist regimes. Lena hoisted herself on top of the table to make sure EVERYONE could hear the three of them curse the room out in Arabic, French, Farsi and English. By now, I too am standing, waiting for the onslaught as Lena calls them brave cowards because they are here in the US and not back at home working towards a solution.  At that moment as half of the room stood up, two of DC's finest strolled in quelling the issue by accident before it popped off.  She finished her degree and went home to help rebuild Beirut from the rubble it had become into the Paris of the Middle East once again.

1.   Jacqueline
While in school in El Paso, I dated & loved a young woman, Jacqueline. Long legged, West Texas, red head: Slue-Foot-Sue to my Pecos Bill. Sweet, sunny, funny & smart. We got stuck in a highway close in Colorado due to snow and called her ma to say we were not making it back for a few days until the pass was clear. Her ma told her, “I know he saved you when the arroyo flooded and y'all were tubing, or when you passed out at that party before you started dating and he carried you home and slept in a chair to make sure you were going to be ok, or for that matter the rock climbing incident in Big Bend, or his getting stung by scorpions helping you and Jan out of that mineshaft hole you fell into in Arizona, or the sun stroke he stopped y'all from getting at White Sands... look Jackie, if you get pregnant we won't be mad, that's how much I love that boy. He's done a good job thus far of keeping you safe or helping you when you can't help yourself.' We should have gotten hitched, and our lives are different because of that. My ma & pa became ill and I had to return to DC without a true idea on a return to Texas... The two of us were heartbroken and did not speak for several several years. While traveling to South Carolina for a wedding, I stopped for some gas & thought I saw her drive away. 'I'm tired', I thought to myself.  A minuet of a minute later I heard a car crash and called 911.  We drove by the accident: a truck ran a red light and T-boned a car, the EMT's were busy talking to the driver and cutting the auto away. 'Whew!', 'Thankfully they are ok', I thought as I drove off.  Not being able to get Jackie out of my head, I wrote her a letter and mailed it from the Carolina border.  A few months later I received a phone call.  As it turned out: that was her in the accident. We were in the town next to where she was living. She was driving down the highway thinking she had seen me at the gas station.

My life is strange…fun, funny, sad, honest, humbling, loving & strange. And I would have it no other way!
So to my new friend, Texas – we may have never met but I feel like I know you already.  May your journey continue to fun filled with such wonderful people, may you continue to share your stories…and may you and your Big Susan’s laugh long and loud.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

'Tis the Season and All That Other Crap

I’m having a hard time feeling the season this year. Maybe it’s because Hanukkah was so early that all the other fun stuff happening around me feels like background noise. Or maybe it just feels that way because I’ve been sick since the day before Thanksgiving and I’m so congested and clogged I feel like I’m in a tunnel. I digress.

This time of year is always so busy. There are so many things going on – deadlines at work, school projects, parties, gift buying, travel planning, visit anticipation and more.  I find it so easy to say no and just hibernate because a.) Mini-me is a home body and really loves just hanging out, and b.) I can still pretty much prevent Mini-me from hearing about cool happenings out and about so she doesn’t nag me to go.  But now, I want to get out, see, enjoy and relish.

Everyone has lots of traditions this time of year. As usual, we will repeat some, tweak a few others and cast a few aside to embrace something new or special, even it’s only this year.

Every year, we go to the boat parade. We bundle up (yes people, it gets cold in Arizona) and head down to Tempe Town Lake where boat owners decorate their rides for the holidays and then drink until dark when they then navigate down the watery parade route while singing very off key Christmas carols.  This year, we got invited to a party for the same night.  A party where friends we don’t see nearly often enough will gather to visit and celebrate the season. I readily accepted…and forgot about the conflicting date. Upon this realization, Mini-me tilted her head, pushed her glasses up and decided that we’ve seen the parade so many times and that putting on some party clothes and seeing friends would be well worth the break in tradition. (Holy shit, when did Mini get so grown up?)

So, this weekend we won’t go to the boat parade but we will have some much anticipated time with friends.  Mini-me will be baking horse treats with her Barnstormer friends, we will finish our holiday shopping, there will be Sunday schooling and present wrapping.  Somewhere in there, we will be cookie baking and chili making. I will not let any grinchiness invade our days.

Like other years, we will celebrate Christmas with my family in CA.  We will take walks; there is lots of hot chocolate, some baking, drinking (okay, probably more than our fair share of that) and lots of visiting.  I’ve decided to embrace the craziness that is the season, especially in that neck of the woods, and take Mini-me to see what happens in those communities.  I’m breaking the tradition of Mini watching too much TV and me sitting on my ass reading the cool catalogs and magazines that pile up and we’re going to get out and do. I’ve got some ideas….and even if no one else is brave enough to join us, we will embrace it. Fuck the traffic, screw the crowds - there are beautiful decorations up, lovely music playing and amazing windows to admire.  We will fully embrace it because this tradition may change next year.

And, upon our return home – the celebration for Mini and I will truly begin. That is when our time with my Big Susan, Geek and her mini-geek, Kooky, begins.  There will be visiting, nonstop chatting, shopping, sleepovers, desserts before dinner, just dancing, roller skating and lots of laughs.  That is when our friends that are our family surround us – Tia Bra and Tia Crafty (sisters to Geek) and their families – it’s not the holiday without being with this bunch.  Mini-me is already complaining she won’t be there for Noni’s Christmas Day schnitzel but I’ve promised her we’ll make some just for her. This is where Noni hugs Mini-me and yells at her like any of the other grandchildren. It is where the Tia’s include Mini-me in the kids’ activities.  It is where I sit with my crazy half-Mexican/half-German pseudo-sisters and gossip and laugh.  It is where we send the kids outside to play, where we all visit and catch up, where we shake our heads at how much the kids have grown and where I realize that I’m so lucky to not only know these people – but love them.

I’m excited about my time off. There are lots of projects around the house calling my name. There is cleaning to do, organizing that has to happen. None of it matters. I will celebrate the season – and cast those things aside for one more visit with family or a friend, one more long walk to admire the lights, another exhausting outing with all the kids or one more cup of tea with Geek. I will let the Mini-Me and Kooky stay up way too late and eat too many cookies.  I will not spend my time trying to get just the right picture but instead live in the moment and treasure the memory.