Thursday, April 12, 2012

So long, but not too long to wish the Grand Diva a birthday wish!

This time last year I wished one of my favorite family members a very Happy Birthday.

Last time we spoke, I promised her I would resume the blogging.

There's been a lot that has happened since I last wrote.

So, birthday girl, I made a promise, so here it is for you:

my first foray back into writing.

I will write more tomorrow, as today there is only one thing to say:

Happy,Happy Birthday!!! 
to the belle of the ball,
the icing on the cake,
the cherry on top,
the end all to be all.

As the kids say:


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Out of Sync: From a Whisper to a Scream to a Thud.


Let's see. Where to begin.

Yes, where to begin, indeed.

There were a lot of little things.

Well, an email came through - a particular e mail from my tenant in Los Angeles, stating that April would be her last month in my apartment.

My Aunt stated she had not been feeling well for the past 5 months.

My Doctor friend was to be in a town 20 miles from my Aunt in the next week.

My ID went missing.

So, I decided I was to leave to leave NYC, drive to my Aunt's meet my Doctor friend there so he could examine her.

I thought to make this trip worthwhile, I would film a birthday video for my Father's upcoming birthday in August. I would re-rent my apartment. I would get my ID squared away.

I had a mission, a purpose to this trip.  I had to. Because I didn't want to go. So I convinced myself if there was a purpose, all would be worthwhile.

I didn't want to leave. So much so, that I didn't depart Southampton until 5:30PM on a Wednesday night to be in Texas by Saturday morning.

That's 1700 miles.

I left Southampton on a foggy Wednesday night,
My dog on our last (very) foggy day in Southampton

but first stopped in the city to have a bite to eat with a dear friend. And with tears in my eyes I said goodbye and got in my car, headed for the Holland Tunnel.

But I wasn't feeling it.

And my inner GPS knew it - I managed to get lost in New Jersey FOUR times. Btw, this seems to be quite common according to my unofficial survey.  I think the NJ transit peeps do this on purpose. This is  probably how half the population ended up living there - they couldn't figure out how to get out of the state, and said screw it, this is nice enough, let's just settle down here.  Seriously, it's that bad.

On the fourth wrong turn, I pulled over and called my friend. It was 11:00PM. I told her I don't think this is right. I think I need to turn back. She reminded me of my mission. Reluctantly, I soldiered on. After 6 hours of driving and making wrong turns, I ended up only 200 miles away in Harrisburg, PA.

I drove, and drove the following day, ending up in Tennessee. Crushed and crestfallen, the further I got from NYC, my heart seemed to sink even deeper. I drove through the night, in silence. Single lane roads with nary a peep except for a semi or two streaming by.

In silence comes clarity. And, I knew. I knew that I had just left home. I reminded myself of my mission. I would be back. This would be a short trip. I mean, I left winter clothes in

My Doctor Friend texted me, the video camera that was supposed to be dropped at his home and that he was to bring to Texas, had not arrived.

Oh. One part of my mission had already been dismantled.

But there I was crossing Arkansas. Another forgotten state. And while we're all clamoring about birth certificates, I want proof that President William Jefferson Clinton was indeed born in Arkansas.

Because, I say: IMPOSSIBLE.

And if he really was born and raised there, well, it's nothing short of a miracle that he ended up President of the United States.

My favorite Arkansas sighting: I have pulled up to the gas pump in a town large enough that it can boast a Starbucks (btw, the only one I saw driving across the state, and if that says anything where Starbucks are as common as 7-11's, I don't know what does) and I look to my left, and I see a morbidly obese woman sitting in her sedan at the gas pump, smoking a cigarette. And I think:  Great. This is how I'm going to go, blown up at a gas station in Arkansas. And I look again, as something has caught my eye: in the passenger seat - a THREE year-old child.

I count all of the things wrong with this picture: We've got obesity; smoking; smoking at a gas pump; a 3 year old in the front seat. A three year old in a car with a smoking adult at gas pump. I am more enraged. I phone a friend

I cannot urge enough for all Americans to drive across this country, to really SEE what this country is, to see its beauty, to see its ugliness, its ignorance, its lack of education (See item above) I think if more Americans could truly see and experience this country, state by state, town by town, they may just have a different view point. To all of those that think the tea party is where its at, I implore you to travel to Southampton and stroll along Gin Lane, and ogle at the 60 Million Dollar ocean front estates that your "heroes" built, which by the way they use approximately 30 days a year. I urge you to speak to the youth in Tennessee or Virginia who cannot complete a proper sentence, who could not tell you where their home state is on a map. I want you to see those small towns with shuttered businesses and absolutely no hope except for a military recruiting office. I  want you to see the garbage that people casually toss out of their windows, the animals abandoned roadside, the smoking pregnant teen mom (Tennessee, that would be you) the rusted slaughterhouses with the cattle crammed ass to elbow in the adjacent field awaiting their fate. The Veteran's cemeteries that dot the country, with rows upon rows of white markers. I've a feeling if we mandated cross country road trips and a 2 year military service for every citizen and legal alien, we would be a very different country, indeed.

Did I get off track? Oh. Sorry.

I pulled up to my Aunt and Uncle's at 11:00 AM, my Doctor friend with his father arrived a short while later.  After lunch, it was the good Doctor and my Aunt discussing things al fresco, or rather, ranch side:

Then it was time to leave. My Doctor friend had plans, my Aunt had a guest from France  arriving the next  morning. 

I wanted to stop to see my Mother, but in my exhaustion, I couldn't remember where the cemetery was. I tried phoning my Aunt, but she didn't pick up. When she phoned back, I was well on my way east. Too far to turn around. 

I drove, and drove. I ended up in Wichita Falls, Texas in a flea bag motel with a hourly rate scent to the room.

In the morning I awoke to a message from NYC, about a job in a few weeks. 

I drove until I reached my Father's in Santa Fe. I was exhausted. It was 9:00PM on Sunday night. 

The next day, my tenant in Los Angeles called to ask a question of me: Would it be alright if she stayed for the month of May? I was speechless. My anal retentive tenant who always let me know well in advance if she was even thinking of walking across the living room was asking me to stay another month. After all of this, and here I was in Santa Fe.  I was gobsmacked. I said um, yeah, sure. Okay. 

My plan was to stay in Santa Fe for a few days. This turned into a week. My friends mother was in town coincidentally visiting her son, which was a nice surprise. I was scheduled to leave on Monday morning - but first a late breakfast with my friends mother. As we were getting out of the car at the restaurant, my phone rang. NYC was calling. About another job. Then another call. And a email. Was this some sort of cruel joke? Why was everyone calling at once? 

Apparently, I was out of sync. 

My friends mother advised me to stay put in Santa Fe until all got settled. 

And I did. 

Until the following week. In the meantime, I spent more time with My Father as an adult than I ever have. I bought a flip cam and was able to interview him here and there. He told me stories about his life, stories that I had never heard. He got a glimpse into my life, and the work I do. 

I visited him at  School and watched him with his students in their garden - this was part of their "Life Skills' class. Learning how to plant a garden, fill a pitcher with water, and feed the garden.  Some could barely get a word out; one was missing the lower part of her arm, one lumbered back and forth with determination to fill his pitcher without spilling to return to sprinkle the flowers with the much needed water.  Determination to do the simplest of tasks. And all done with a smile.

I strolled the hallways amazed at the texting the speaking of Spanish and  the same teen surliness that still exists in a large public high school. I wonder how these teens and others ever make it through - throw in family and financial hardships and that is an achievement in itself to get out with a degree.

As I prepared to leave on Monday, the Sunday prior, my Father asked if I would like to go to Church; I declined. When he returned he asked if he I would like to go to Starbucks with him; again I passed. I was taking my dog to the dog park, and I would meet him back at his place afterwards. When I returned, my phone rang, it was my Father. I picked up. Silence. I called him back, and said: "Dad? Did you just try to call me?" And my Father said: I've been in an accident. I asked him where, and said I would be right there. Thankfully  and I knew where he was and it was around the corner.

When I arrived, the paramedics were already there taking his vitals. His car was smashed, and they were lifting him onto the gurney. Nearby, I saw a White Pick up truck, and standing next to the truck was a woman and her 5 year old son. 

Apparently the woman  had blown through a red light and crashed into my Father. I attempted to get the insurance and registration information from the woman. The police wouldn't allow me to. 

I drove to the hospital, where Dad had all sorts of plugs and monitors hooked up to him. 

I called my brother's phones. No one was home. It was a Sunday after all.  My sister would have to wait. I didn't have her numbers.

And in true 2011 fashion, I googled my sister and found her office number, and then tweeted her to let her know.  I found her work email and included her on the group email.

My Father was alert, though his blood pressure went through the roof. After a few hours of monitoring him, the Hospital released him to my care.  A sore banged up in shock, but alive walking Father. He later told me how the high blood pressure scared him the most, as that is a sign that a stroke could happen at any moment. 

He kept saying: I guess it wasn't my time. 

No, it wasn't, Dad.

NYC was on hold, LA, a vague destination. 

We still had time, and for that I am grateful. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Birthday Wishes for The Legend and Diva Extraordinaire.

Today is a very special day.  And the person that makes this day so meaningful to me is unequaled. Unequaled, I tell you.

Today is my Aunt's Birthday. Oh, how I wish I was with her to celebrate such a fantastic day. Instead, I wish her the happiest of birthdays from the east coast, thinking of her daily with love and warmth.

She is magnifique, extraordinary, marvelously opinionated, just fabulously chic, funny, and I mean funny, smart as a whip, and a classic beauty. Someone I have always looked up to, and at the same time feared -- just a smidge. But, I think that is to be expected when you hold someone in such high esteem. She has never waivered in my eyes. Not once.

My Aunt 1950's. 
She may have my head for using this photo, but this is what I have here. 

And on a daily basis I think of my Aunt. I think of the life she has lead - the life that took many turns from Bordeaux all the way to Waxahachie, Texas.  I'm sure she never imagined as a young girl in France that she would end up one day on a ranch in Texas married to an all American Cowboy.  But I think most of us never envisioned the place or the people that we ultimately end up settling down with. We just don't. We can't.  Life has too many twists and turns to map out in a linear fashion and then adhere to.

I was on a plane the other day and I remembered a flight my Aunt and I took - I can't remember where, but there was horrible turbulence; of course I started to panic a bit - she took my hand, and she laughed -- that great laugh that has a little  bit of co-conspirator but also says "Oh, come on!" "Enough!"  "All will be fine", and at the same time the laugh is filled with sympathy. I love that laugh. Just love it.

Whenever she calls and leaves a message, I save the message. If and when I am feeling blue I know I can always re-play the message. The way she says my name in that sing song manner she has, with the accent on the é,  always, always warms my heart.

My Aunt has shown me strength, ethics, standing your ground (and watching her do it with elegance) and continued that no nonsense (or is it the no patience) familiar French way of looking at life.

She has cheered me on, laughed with me, and there's something to be said for someone who has experienced the life she has - a witness to the atrocities of WW2, to navigating a move to a rural farm town in the United States  - a far cry from her privileged upbringing and creature comforts. But she persevered. She created a mini-Bordeaux in the Baptist fueled dry town, tongue waggers be damned. I think most would have high tailed it right out of there and back to France to be swaddled it their Chanel and red wine. Not my Aunt.

After instilling her mini Bordeaux she set about creating a life, raising two children and somehow never losing herself or her identity in the process. Not many Mothers or Wives can say that. And I Imagine hardly any at all from my Aunt's generation.

My Aunt is a woman of courage and great strength, something I don't see much in my generation or the generations after me.Which to me is quite sad.  And it's not to say that her life has been smooth sailing; but it's the WAY she sails it (lipstick always on!)  that makes her so damn inspirational.

When her sister passed away so many many years ago, my Aunt inherited three additional children, whether she like it or wanted it. She didn't have a choice as far as we, the motherless (albeit, adult) children were concerned.

In total, she has five children and three grandchildren. I'm sure something she never envisioned.

So, to my Aunt, my love, I wish you the happiest of birthdays. This song is for you:

(In my dreams this is Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour, Edith Piaf and Serge Gainsbourg all singing at once to you -with a dash of Johnny Hallyday to add some edge!)

Happy, Happy Birthday!