Who Are They?


I had the grandchildren today, for the first time in almost two weeks. I was absolutely filled with joy to have them back.

But I was also absolutely beat beyond belief when they went home.

So after they left, I started dinner, and poured a big glass of wine. Then I went out into my hot tub.

I turned on the jets, aiming at the sorest parts of my neck and shoulders. I sipped. I sighed. I laid my head back against the side of the tub. And I looked up.

I saw the many stars arching above me. I saw the undersides of the trees around my yard.

And I saw the blinking lights of the jets passing by so far overhead.

I couldn’t help but wonder. Who’s up there? Where are they going?

I live in Northern Massachusetts, so I know the general flight paths that cross over my head. I know that many of the flights coming from my West will turn toward the North, to Canada and the maritimes. The ones that come from my South will eventually make their way toward the Canadian maritimes, and will then swing out across the North Atlantic toward Northern Europe, or they’ll turn toward the South and aim for somewhere to my West.

I watched the lights crossing my sky. I thought about the passengers whose flights I was seeing.

Of course I had no idea who was up there, but that’s the beauty of it, right? I was able to make them up. To imagine the lives of the people who were silently intersecting with my own life.

Maybe, on this flight from West to East, there was a woman in her 70s. Maybe she had lost her husband five years ago, and was struggling mightily to move forward into some kind of future. I pictured her opening a letter from an old friend, someone she’d known decades ago in college. “Come to visit, please!” I pictured the note saying, “I’ll meet you in Shannon and drive you out to our place in Connemara. You can meet our friends and have some fun.” I saw the women frowning, shaking her gray head. I saw her waking up in the darkest part of her lonely night, reading the note again.

I imagined her buying her ticket, telling herself to go.

I wished her all the best as her flight crossed my path.

Then there was the jet that ran from South to North, too high in the sky to have come from Boston.

On this one, I saw a young woman. I imagined her feeling stuck in a dead end job, wondering where all of her dreams had gone. I saw her in her little apartment in Charleston, eating a lonely take out meal and opening her mail.

Now I pictured her on the flight above me, heading toward a meeting with a man she had so far only met online. I could imagine her friends telling her to go, but to be careful. I saw her mother, looking very much like me, telling her not to go. Telling her that she could find someone right here, right in our very own town.

I saw her, as my head lay back against the edge of my hot tub. I saw her brown hair, recently done up with highlights. I saw the hope in her heart and the caution in her mind.

I watched her fly across my deck. I waved as she passed. I wished her luck and courage and strength and love.

Our lives cross back and forth every day with so many people we will never meet. How lovely to imagine their paths. How powerful to wish them well.

Who are you up there?

“Time Keeps On Slipping Into the Future.”


Sometimes, like all of us, I wish that I could make time run in reverse, and go back to earlier days.

I wish that I could visit my childhood again. I’d still have both of my parents. My Dad would be alive and full of fun and handsome and strong. My Mom would still be his beautiful bride, and their six kids would giggle as he pulled her into his arms for a kiss before dinner.

I wish that I could reclaim the sense of endless hope that pervaded those days. When I’d sit in the backyard and gaze at the full moon and dream of the adventurous and romantic life I’d lead one day.

More than that, though, even more than that: I wish that I could hit rewind, just for a few minutes, to see my three little children playing on the living room rug. I wish I could hold each of them in my arms, my beautiful babies. I wish I could hear those voices, laughing or crying, or calling “Mom!”

But time doesn’t work that way, does it? No matter how much we want to hold onto the past, or hold onto today, all of it keeps slipping into the future. And as impossible as it seems, here we sit on the eve of the year 2019.

I will turn 63 this year. My Mom will turn 89. Both are impossible from the vantage point of my heart.

My oldest child will turn 33, and her oldest will turn 4.

Impossible. Unbelievable. Somehow all of it simply wrong. Too soon, too quick, too rushed.

I am not ready.

And that’s the beauty of the whole thing. Time doesn’t care if we are ready. Time doesn’t care if we have grasped our own mortality, or if we’ve accepted the losses that it has brought us.

Time keeps on slipping into the future.

So what is that I wish for in my 63rd year of this wonderful, tiring, surprising, inspiring life?

I wish for another year with all of my children and their partners happy, healthy and filled with hope. I wish for a year of growth and new adventures and continued good health for my grandchildren, my best beloveds.

I wish, with all my heart, for another year with my Mom on this earth. I wish for more shared meals, more jigsaw puzzles, more hours spent pouring over old photo albums. Her memory is weak, so sometimes these jaunts into the past are more upsetting than pleasant. Even so, I wish for more time with her as the rudder in my life.

For my country, I wish for a year of healing. Somehow, some way, I hope that we can find our way back to the days of arguing without hatred. I hope and I wish and I pray that something will change to bring us out of these dangerous times and help us find our way back toward some sense of national unity.

Time keeps on slipping into the future.

We can’t turn it back. We can’t stop it.

We can only keep moving forward, faster and faster every year, keeping our minds and our hearts open to each other. Trying to grow and learn and improve.

Wishing all of you a Happy, Healthy, Joyful 2019.

Time Keeps On Slipping

Bathrooms Are So Very….Necessary


Our house is an interesting place these days. I mean, like really, ya know….”interesting’.

We are renovating two bathrooms. That means that we are now tearing apart two out of our two bathrooms.

Ergo: we don’t have any bathroom sinks this week. And we only have one working toilet. The one that is in the hall of our main living area. The one that has (cough, cough), no DOOR.

Now, let me be clear. Our house is about 35 years old. We’ve been here for roughly 28 of those years. We have been in the same bathrooms all this time.

Oh, sure, we’ve painted and put in a couple of new medicine cabinets after the original $3.95 cabinets kind of fell apart. We did a little bit to make things better, but still.

We were bathing in a wicked old tub and a wicked old shower. The drains were…in a word….gross. The bathrooms had those horrific “popcorn” ceilings. 

It was PAST TIME to update.

And we are.

We have hired a crew of very skilled men who are ripping things to pieces while adding plaster, paint, a new tub, new shower, new toilets, new vanity. It’s gonna be LOVELY. 

But. 

In the meantime…..

I am here in my house. With two or three toddlers every day.  One is in a diaper, so he’s safe, but the other two? Well….they need a toilet every two hours. Or less. 

So I have to call out to the nice worker men, “Can we use the toilet!?” They say “Yes!” and go into another room. Then I take the identified toddler and put her on the pot. I stand in the doorway, since both are suddenly all about “privacy” and we have NO. DOOR. on our bathroom.

Here it is:

Sure, there’s a working toilet, but…….no door…

This means, of course, that the kids sometimes pee in their pants. It means that the working men have to tell me, “Just a head’s up, gonna use the bathroom!”

And it means that old Nonni here holds it in. All. Day. 

Like….all day.

Nonni is channeling her inner teacher. But still…..yikes. 

It means that when the kids go home and the worker men go home, and Papa hasn’t arrived back from work yet….Nonni rushes right into the incomplete bathroom and finds some relief.

New shower! New floor! No toilet or sink!!!!

It also means that at 3 AM when Nonni feels the call of nature, she has to stand up, turn on her phone’s light and stand there for a minute. She has to think “Wait. Bathroom. Huh? Bathroom? What bathroom? Oh, yeah in the hall….with no door….in the middle of the freakin’ night…..”   Nonni finally gets there, but she is left with a strange feeling of “what the FUCK?” as she climbs back into bed after answering the call of nature.

This is a very strange place to be.

And here we are now. At 6PM. The kids and workers have gone home. I have organized and cleaned the living room and started dinner.

And I look around the house, thinking about Nonni’s needs.

We do have one working toilet (thank you, dear Lord, for the half hour with nobody home except for poor old backed up Nonni!). We have a new floor in our small master bath (Nonni will sing the praises of these worker men for months….) We have smooth walls, with no paint or color….we have no sinks, but we can brush our teeth in the kitchen sink for a couple of more days…..

Nonni is working very very hard to remain calm and serene. She is overlooking the plaster dust, the missing toilets, the lack of bathroom doors. She is trying to embrace her inner camper woman, she is trying to recognize that many people around the world are in much worse shape…..

But.

Nonni is kind of “all done.” I will be thrilled to have new paint, new fixtures, new smooth walls. 

But I am ready to have this all done. Nonni is ready, thank you, to have a nice, private place to go to get some relief from nature’s most primitive urges.

I. Can’t. Wait.

Pez Hoarding


I had a great day today.  I took my sister Liz to see a live production of the Wizard of Oz. When we were kids, she absolutely loved that movie. It used to run on the weekend after Thanksgiving, back in the days of yore, when you could only watch a movie if it was shown on network TV. We waited all year for it, and my parents would let us all stay up late to sing along with the Munchkins and shrink in fear from the flying monkeys.

When we were in High School, my sister performed in a spoof of the Wiz of Oz at her Senior Talent Night. That meant that for the next few decades every birthday, Christmas and joke gift to Liz had a Wizard of Oz theme. She’s got the flying monkey signs, the Wicked Witch cups, the planters, dish towels, earrings, ruby slipper socks and Tinman toenail clippers.

She even has two complete sets of Wizard of Oz Pez dispensers.

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I know this because my three year old granddaughter Ellie came with us to the show today. As usual, Auntie Lizzie was her generous and thoughtful self. After the show, when the three of us went out for dinner, Liz pulled out a beautifully wrapped gift with Ellie’s name on it.

Inside the package was a really cute t-shirt with Dorothy’s blue gingham dress printed on the front. Ellie gave it a quick glance, but then went right for the second item in the wrapping.

It was a complete set of those Pez dispensers.

You remember Pez, right? Those weirdly creepy plastic toys wearing the heads of popular figures from TV and the movies? The heads that you could flip back with just a quick flick of your thumb, nearly decapitating the character you loved? And right there under the wrenched-back head, right where the old Adam’s apple should be, you’d find a rounded rectangular piece of candy in some pastel shade. That little coffin shaped goody would poke right out of Mickey Mouse’s slit throat and you’d pop it into your happy little kid mouth.

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Sort of explains a few things about the mental state of today’s adults, I guess. But I digress.

Anyway, Ellie recognized the familiar faces of the characters from the show, but she had no idea what the toys were supposed to do. We took them out of the plastic and she started to play with them. The Cowardly Lion was dancing around the table with the Wicked Witch and all was well.

But then she noticed the candy. “What are these?” she asked in pure innocence.

Now, Auntie Lizzie loves us all very much. She doesn’t have any intention of poisoning her great niece. So she pulled out one of the packages and reminded me that she’d been hanging onto the set for a while.

“These candies are OLD,” she said sternly. “Like….old.”

“Years,” I suggested.

She shook her head. “Decades.”

The people at the next table were listening in. They were about our age, so they recognized the Pez dispensers for what they were. I could tell they wanted to see us fill up all those plastic necks with pastel coffins.

Ellie sat there quietly, holding onto the packaged candy, waiting for one of the adults to make a move.

“They probably shouldn’t be eaten, ” Liz said.

I held one pack in my hand. It was wrapped tightly in cellophane. Under that was a paper wrapper that contained a foil wrapper. And of course the whole damn set had been sealed in that super thick plastic that you have to cut with a blow torch to even open.

I decided it would be safe to try one.

Besides, I wanted to see if I could still remember how to load them up.

So for the next five minutes Liz and I, the people at the next table, and one young waitress all worked on remembering how to stuff candy pellets into the Scarecrow’s esophagus. We had to do it one at a time, even though I’m pretty sure that in my youth I could slide a whole package into the plastic gullet with one move.

Anyway, at some point, I popped one of the pink candies into my mouth. It sat there for a minute, tasting like a chunk of plastic. Gradually, slowly, it softened just enough to emit a faint taste of something between chalk and sugar. It was hard as a rock and I had to use my imagination just a bit to detect anything you might call “flavor.” I tried to bite it, but feared that my jaw would break. So I tucked it into my cheek and waited.

The crowd of onlookers was spellbound.

“Well?” Liz asked.

“It tastes exactly the same as it did 40 years ago! Hasn’t changed with age!”

Everyone took a breath and we all started to chatter. We realized after a little bit that Pez were invented back in the days of “Tang“, the powdered orange juice that was supposed to be preserved well enough to travel into space. It came of age in the time of freeze dried soups and Velveeta cheese product.

In other words, those little pastel coffins will probably outlast both Liz and me, not to mention the folks at the other table.

“In fact,” I said after swallowing the last bit of candy, “If there’s ever a nuclear holocaust and we’re the only remaining survivors, we could probably live off these things!”

Can’t you just picture it?

A dark bunker, somewhere deep underground. One dim light burns. There are a few human figures huddled around. Two of them are chubby gray haired ladies wrapped in baggy sweatshirts.

One of the old ladies is clutching something in her hand. She shuffles over to her sister and the two crouch in a corner, stealthily sneaking a life saving snack into their now toothless mouths.

What is it that they hold so closely, so secretly? What is it that keeps them alive in such stark surroundings?

Why, it’s Glinda the Good Witch. With one swift move, the older sister tears back Glinda’s shiny pink head and a little yellow coffin pops out below her chin. The younger sister grabs it and tucks it between her gums.

They cackle.

“Good thing we were hoarding Pez for all these years, right, sister?”

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“I’m even creepier with my head ripped off.”

 

 

If A, Then B


As we all squirm, worry and heart palpitate our way through today’s national vote count, I have a few questions for my conservative friends and family.

I just can’t quite figure out the logic behind some of conservative, GOP talking points. I’m trying to use simple, basic reasoning to make sense of some things.

For example, I don’t understand the sudden panicked hysteria about immigration. As some on the right keep screaming, “Illegal immigrants are ruining the country! They are stealing jobs!!!!”

But, if that’s true, how can they also be boasting about the fabulous economy and very low unemployment numbers? If A is true, B can’t be true at the same time.

I can’t figure out the fixation on voter fraud, either. I mean, Trump and the GOP have been ranting about the “rigged” election since before it happened. They keep trying to convince us that millions of people voted fraudulently.

I mean, OK. So the election was somehow completely inaccurate, false, rigged, tainted.

If that’s true, then wasn’t the WINNER of the election the beneficiary of those failures? Then why do those on the right keep claiming that it is the Democrats who refuse to accept the legitimacy of the Presidency? You’ve heard those claims, I’m sure. “The Dems just refuse to accept that they lost!”

But it’s the R’s who keep telling us that the election was a mess, full of illegal votes.

If A, then not B.

I just don’t get it.

Anyone care to explain?

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Those Marching Migrants


MEXICO-HONDURAS-US-MIGRATION

I’ve been thinking a lot about the people who are walking from Central America to the US-Mexico border.

I’m really fascinated by the way they are being described. I know that words have power. Words shape our beliefs and our opinions.

Words can be weapons, and words can speak truth.

Are the people walking across Mexico a caravan intent upon invading our country? Or are they desperately poor families making a nearly hopeless attempt to save their children from violence and starvation?

Are they criminals with evil intentions, some of whom have arrived inexplicably in Honduras from the Middle East? Or are they completely innocent, loving, kind families with beautiful babies who need us?

Let’s see if we can find some actual facts to help us figure out what is actually taking place to our South.

According to the Heritage Foundation, Honduras is the second poorest country in Central America, and has one of the world’s highest homicide rates. The government is unstable and corrupt, and often works in tandem with drug dealers and gangs.

The same foundation reports that Guatemala is in equally poor shape economically and politically. It, too, suffers from an unstable government, poor infrastructure and low quality education and health care. Drug trafficking is rampant there, as it is in Honduras.

So it is a fact that many families in these two countries are living in poverty, with little hope of improvement. There are few educational opportunities and therefore little hope of improved economic conditions. Got it.

Are some of them criminals? This one is a little tricky to fact check. I can find lots of information on news sites that have their own political agenda. Fox News assures us that there are loads of gang members and criminals in there. They say that this information comes from our own Department of Homeland Security, although there are no real specifics in the DOH report.

Other sites focus on individuals within the migrant group, exposing their stories of suffering and fear. One Nicaraguan family was highlighted by US News & World Report. The story is powerful, gripping and incredibly sad.

There are hundreds of photos of children from the migrant group. Those photos will break your heart, no matter who you are. Little babies crying from hunger, toddlers crossing flooded rivers in the arms of their parents. We know that there are in fact truly desperate people in the migrant group.

So.

Where does this leave us?

We know that there is a group of human beings of various ages walking all the way from the southernmost border of Mexico to it’s northern border with the United States. We know for sure that some of them are true refugees who want to seek asylum. We know that some are kids. We know that a lot of them just want jobs, any jobs, here in the land of relative safety and decent education.

We are told that some are criminals. I haven’t seen any actual factual information on this, like a story that gives locations, ages, names, histories. But you know what?

I’m willing to admit that it is very likely that SOME of the migrants coming our way have criminal histories. It seems to make sense to me, that if you have a large group of adult humans in one place, some of them will have criminal tendencies.

But does that mean that ALL of them should be stopped, kicked out, lumped together as a group of bad guys because of the company they keep? Some people (like Sen. Chuck Grassley) seem to think so.

I’m not so sure.

I mean, yeesh. If every group of people in our country had to be held to the lowest standard, what would happen? If every teacher was judged by the few who dressed up as a wall for Halloween? If every doctor was judged by the few who steal drugs? Where would we be if every religious leader was judged by the actions of Catholic Priests?

Yikes.

And….well….what would happen if every member of Congress was thrown out because some of them have been convicted of crimes???

Welp.

We’d pretty much be ruling ourselves, wouldn’t we?

#AnthonyWeiner #TomDelay #JohnEdwards #MikeCrapo #JesseJacksonJr #TreyRadel

 

 

Saving George


happy-spider-cartoonOh, brother.

In an effort to prevent my beloved granddaughter from sharing my ridiculous arachnophobia, I think I sort of went too far.

First of all, I hate spiders. I know, on an intellectual level, “spiders are good for the environment, they eat the bad bugs, they can’t hurt you” blah, blah, blah. Still, I wake up at least twice a month from the world’s most vivid dream that a HUGE BLACK HAIRY SPIDER IS ABOUT TO DROP FROM THE CEILING ONTO MY FACE!!!!!

I hate them.

But I am a good Nonni. I am a wise Nonni. I am an enlightened Nonni.

Yay me.

Last week, my sweet granddaughter Ellie looked up during breakfast and asked, “What is that scary scary thing on your ceiling, Nonni?”

It was a very small spider. As in, wicked small. Like the size of a sesame seed. It was black and had 8 cute and tiny legs. I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to teach about the wonders of spiders. I figured if I did it right, it might just spare Ellie 45 years of night terrors in which a giant spider lands on her face.

“Oh,” I said with a benevolent smile. “That’s our kitchen spider. His name is….um….ah….George!”

“Hi, George!” Ellie chirped, before returning with serenity to her waffles and blueberries.

As for me, I kept an eye on ol’ George. He seemed pretty calm, just moving his way long the ceiling, without ever once giving me the idea that he might intend to pounce upon my actual face.

I was cool. I was calm. The kids and I have been smiling at and chatting with George for about a week now. All eight of his tiny legs have remained the same size, and he has never once made any effort to come off the ceiling.

Nice George. Good George.

Nonni was pretty impressed with her ability to stave off severe arachnophobia. Nonni was doing the hippy environmentalist yay-me dance all week.

But. This morning, while Nonni was trying to get a pot of espresso going, she heard this little tidbit:

“Oh, good morning, George!! You got really really big last night!”

Holy heart attack.

I snuck into the dining room, where I found Ellie smiling down sweetly at a HUGE, HUGE, H-U-Fucking-GE wolf spider on the floor under the dining room table.

To my credit, I said, “Oh, my. Oh, gee.” instead of “What the HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU????? THAT IS NOT GEORGE!!!!”

We paused for a moment. Ellie had a waffle bit on the end of her fork. Johnny had a blueberry in each hand. I had a spatula the size of Minnesota in my hand.

“Nonni”, Ellie looked at me with her beautiful innocent eyes. “Please save him!”

Heart pounding. Every horror movie since the dawn of movies flashing before my eyes.

I do NOT want to scare her! I don’t!

“Sure, honey. Let me try! I sure would love to save George’s wicked big Uncle….Tony…..”

I grabbed a juice glass and popped it over the giant spider on the floor. Said giant spider immediately hurled himself upside down against said glass. Every single inch of Nonni skin crawled.

Then I took a piece of sturdy but thin paper and slid it under the glass. Uncle Tony was writhing, but he was contained.

“Oh, look, Ellie!,” I cheered “I captured him!”

Only no I didn’t.

Uncle Tony got one horrifically articulated claw under the glass and pulled himself out from on top of the paper. In less than a nanosecond, I could envision his horrible bendy legs rushing over the side of the glass and right up my sleeve.

With a soprano shriek worthy of the Metropolitan Opera, I hurled the glass, the paper and old Uncle Tony out onto the floor. Then I backed up, sat on a chair with my hand on my chest, gasped and said, “Um….no, no I didn’t.”

At this point poor Uncle Tony was desperately trying to escape by rushing across the floor toward the wall. Unfortunately for him, he was pounced upon our intrepid/stupid puppy dog, Bentley, who tried to snuff the spider up his nose.

The horror of that thought propelled me out of my chair, cloth napkin in hand. I dropped the cloth onto the spider and stomped down with so much force it probably left him as nothing more than a stain.

Gagging, I scooped up the cloth, rolled it into my hand, shoved it into a plastic grocery bag and stuffed it down into the trash. Which I then tied into a knot.

I was gasping at that point. I was soaked in sweat.

I fell into a chair and looked up to see both Ellie and Johnny staring at me with huge brown eyes.

“Nonni, did you KILL him?” asked Ellie.

Gulp. “Yes. I’m sorry honey. Sometimes we try to save our spider friends, but it doesn’t work out.”

Ellie looked at me solemnly.

“Good.” She said. “He was creepy.”

She took another bite of waffle.

 

Nothing Lasts Forever


When I was young, and newly in love, the song “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas was a big hit.I loved that song. I still love it. I love it for its harmonies, its tender thoughts, its melancholy.

I remember being a young wife, thinking, “I don’t want all of this beautiful life to simply fade into the wind! There has to be a way to make it all last!”

But you know what?  Now that I am a grandparent, I have a very different feeling about that song. I feel differently about the idea that nothing lasts forever.

Now, instead of feeling bereft at the thought, I feel comforted.

Let me try, in my limited way, to explain what I mean.

At the age of 28, I was so filled with life and new love that I thought the world must surely embrace and celebrate my feelings. I knew that I was only one tiny person in a wide world of others, but the strength and the depth of my feelings were so intense that I could not believe they would ever go away.

Then I gave birth to my first child, my perfect, most beloved, most cherished little girl. When I held her in my arms, it was impossible to me to imagine that the universe could fail to recognize the power of my love and the impossible gravity of her life. As I rocked her against my heart, I could not believe that there could exist a time in universal history when her life would not have the power to move us all.

I honestly did not believe that anyone else had ever felt this same miraculous love. I thought we were unique.

Back then, “Nothing lasts forever” was the worst thought that I could possibly hold in my head. I held myself firm against the very idea. I WOULD keep my love for my children alive! I would! I took photos, I wrote notes, I kept cards and letters and little mementos. I loved my kids so hard that I thought I had created an eternal monument of my devotion.

We were here. Our love for each other was too strong to ever fade. We mattered in the life of humanity, and I refused to believe that at some future point we might simple cease to register.

“Everything is dust in the wind….”

I hated that. Hated it.

But time has passed. Time has changed my view.

Now.

Now I have a whole different view, although it’s no less loving and embracing and proud. It is just maybe a bit more wise.

Now I understand that the love my grandparents felt for their children was every bit as intense, as strong, as deep as what I felt when I first held my own. Now I understand that the families that my grandparents created were meant to be islands of strength in a world of turmoil, but they were not ever meant to be eternal.

My maternal grandmother, my Nana, was such an important figure in my life. She was the matriarch. She was the hostess of the holidays, the provider of Sunday dinners, the center of our Italian-American existence. She was Nana. She was the center of it all, of all of the family tradition on my Mom’s side.

But when she died, I began to realize that her time in the spotlight had died, too. I mean, I still teach her recipes to my granddaughter, Ellie, but they don’t help to bring the real, true Nana into existence. Nana was the center of my Mom’s life, a huge part of my life, an important person in the lives of my children.

But Ellie doesn’t know her. Ellie and Johnny will never hear the sound of her laugh or eat a piece of apple that she sliced for them. They will never have the “Nana” experience that we have had.

Because they can’t. They shouldn’t.

Life can’t be all about the past. It can’t be a ceremony of love for those who have come before us. Life has to be about life, about this moment. It has to be about the people we hug and touch and love every day.  Life has to be about the new loves and the new families and the new memories that shape the world today.

So.

I don’t think I’ve don’t a very good job of expressing this at all, I truly don’t.

But let me end by saying that I am now happy to be “Dust in the Wind.” I know that for every day of their lives, my children will remember me and think of me with love. I know that my Ellie and Johnny will live every day of the rest of their lives knowing me and understanding my love for them.

As for their children? I hope that they grow up having heard my name and maybe a funny story or two. They don’t need to hang on to my old possessions or my faded photos.

Love goes on. Love moves from one family unit to another.

That’s just the way it should be.

Nana

Nana with her great grandson, Atticus. 

 

Happy Labor Day


I have to admit. I have not always been a big supporter of labor unions. At one point in my life, I served on my local School Committee and was charged with negotiating a new contract with our education union.

I admit it. I was frustrated by the union, even though at the time I was a teacher myself. I thought that sometimes they were more focused on themselves than the kids. It made me angry.

But a couple of years after that experience, I took a class on the Industrial Revolution. We went to a bunch of mills, tenements, factories. We read a lot of first hand accounts of the young men and women who worked in these places. We learned about the originally altruistic intentions of the factory owners.

And we learned what happened when competition began to make it harder and harder for the owners to maintain those rich life styles. We learned about the increasingly long hours that were required from each worker, and of the decreasing salaries.

I was surprised to learn that when it became too expensive to pay local workers, the factory owners turned to immigrants to fill those jobs. At the turn of the 20th century, millions of desperately poor immigrants flooded into the United States. Legally. All were welcomed, because they were hungry enough to provide the endless hours of working hands that the new factories required.

Men willingly went to work gutting fish, shucking oysters, canning fish. Women and men signed on for 90 hour work weeks in the textile mills, spinning, weaving, cutting cloth. And children went to work, picking berries, harvesting potatoes, working in the mills and factories of the newly affluent United States.

Our class looked at photos of those immigrants working in our new industries. I saw these.

And I thought about how I would feel if my children were forced to work as these little ones were, just so that our family could survive.

I was shocked. I was brought to tears. This could have been my child. My Italian child. Instead of snuggling in my arms and reading books, or going to kindergarten to learn how to share, my child could have been in this field.

picking-berries

When I learned all of this, when I found out what had happened in my country just around the time that my family arrived from Italy, I was overwhelmed with anger and sorrow.

How could this have happened? How could children and desperate mothers be forced to work in such terrible conditions? How could this be the story of my country?

Luckily for me, our class went on to study the labor movement. We read “Bread and Roses” and “Triangle“. We learned about corporate greed and about desperate workers. We read letters and news reports and books and stories.

We learned about the people who stood up for their basic human rights.

We were taught the story of the American Labor Movement. And I was able to shake off my grief and embrace the power of united workers, united and supportive average Americans.

The professor taught us about the first Labor Day, and the significance of it’s recognition.

So.

I no longer feel frustrated when teachers demand a quiet place to work and plan. I no longer think that unions are simply self-serving.

Now I know that in the absence of workers’ unions, we would not have a forty hour work week, or mandated weekends. We wouldn’t have sick time, or vacations, or health insurance.

We would have no child labor laws. Can you even imagine?

Now I know that on Labor Day, we need to look at the tender faces of those little children working endless hours in terrible places. I know that we need to pull up the images of five and six year olds facing a life of physical labor, with no hope of education or betterment or a happy and healthy future.

Happy Labor Day.

I hope that on this Labor Day you will enjoy your cheeseburgers and your families and your ice cold beers. But I also hope that you’ll take a minute to think about the 146 young workers who died in the Triangle Fire. I hope that you’ll spare a thought for the thousands of little children who labored in our textile factories and our fish canneries and our berry farms.

I hope that you will raise a glass to the Union movement and that you will give a silent salute to those workers who fought and suffered and sacrificed so that we could have a weekend like this one.

10201

Dear CVS, I Hay Chew


Generally speaking, I live a pretty easy life. I’m retired, I get to spend the days gardening, reading, playing with my grandchildren. I don’t have many stressors.

And that’s a damn good thing, because the ONE huge issue in my life is my ongoing war with CVS.

The trouble started a couple of years ago, when my Mom realized that it was time to give up her car keys. She came to this difficult decision after her kids and grandkids gently persuaded her that she had become a menace to herself and to everyone else on the road.

It only took a few weeks of endless haranguing, but Mom eventually agreed and gave up both keys and car.

Phew.

At that point, I had the brilliant idea that we should switch Mom’s prescriptions from the local CVS to the online Caremark/CVS system. Smart, right? No more worrying about needing a refill every thirty days, because with Caremark, we can get three months worth sent right to the house!

No more multiple texts to figure out who can pick up the medicine, and who can call the doctor to reorder.

So.

Smarty pants me went online and signed Mom up for Caremark. Awesome!!!!

I checked all the boxes, filled in all the information, clicked where I was supposed to click.  Thirty days later, right on time, Mom’s three medications were refilled! Huzzah!!!!

Annnnnnd….30 days after that (even though CVS/Caremark had sent us 90 days worth of meds), Mom got a call from her local store asking her if she wanted to refill her scripts.

Huh. I thought I had clicked the “no longer refill at local CVS” button….Oh, well. No big deal. I called Caremark and spoke to a nice lady. She promised to fix things.

One peaceful month passed, and then, you guessed it. CVS called Mom again. She got confused but figured they knew what they were doing. So she got refilled AGAIN.

This time I called both CVS and Caremark. The local store promised to take care of it and change the status in their computer.

But Caremark, the same place I had called four weeks earlier, told me that they couldn’t speak to me about my Mom.

“But you did speak to me a month ago.”

“Well, we can’t speak to you now. You need to prove that you have power of attorney.”

“Uh…Will her medicine be refilled when it’s due?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

Grrrrrrr.

Fast forward about 4 weeks. My older brother has sent proof that he has power of attorney. I have walked into our local CVS to explain the situation. I’ve been reassured that they won’t try to refill her meds at the store any more.

Time for the Caremark three month order.

Which did. not. come.

Double grrrrrrrrr.

Log back into Caremark, click more boxes, check more checks, remove Mom’s phone number and replace it with mine. Fill out the “Automatic Refill” form. Again. Put my name on as “medication manager”.

Feel satisfied.

Until Mom calls to tell me that……CVS CALLED HER AGAIN TO REFILL THE MEDS!!!!

This has been going on for months. Months, I tell you!!!!

I have called the local store 3 times, been in there twice, called the 1-800 corporate number twice and gone to CVS online at least five times.

The last time I went into Mom’s local store, I begged the pharmacy lady, “Please, please, forget you ever knew Mom! Pretend she died! Can you mark her record as deceased??”

They were horrified, but I was getting desperate.

I swear, I don’t know what to do!

Two weeks ago I had to get on line again because one of the Caremark medications, one that is marked “automatic refill”, failed to refill.

SCREECH!!!!

Got that sorted out without resorting to any felonies.

And three days later I got a text from CVS. The store. The one that is supposed to  think that Mom has crossed that rainbow bridge. The exact same frickin’ text that I have been getting every thirty days for eons.

“If you want to refill your prescription for C, text YES. If not, text NO.”

I kinda lost it.

I texted back, but it wasn’t NO. It was something more along the lines of “What the FUCK is wrong with you people???”

Answered with: “Invalid response.”

This went on for a while.

“Go to hell!”

“Invalid response.”

“Stop bothering me!”

“Invalid response.”

“Never darken my door again!”

“Invalid response.”

“I fuckin’ hay chew.”

“Invalid response.”

Finally I started to feel a little silly. Also a little vindicated. So I texted NO and figured we were set.

Nope.

Mom called me yesterday, feeling confused and embarrassed. It seems that CVS, or the tiny brains that run the place, must have decided that I was too insane to deal with. So they apparently dug out the old phone number that I had spent a year getting them to delete. They called my poor Mom, who tried to tell them that she didn’t need any refills because her kids are taking care of it.

I can’t even imagine how that conversation went.

Because not only did CVS decide to refill the meds, they also decided that Mom needed a welfare check. So the poor lady got an unexpected visit from a local police officer.

Yeah.

I will not report on the conversation I had with CVS after that. I just hope this time they believe that Mom is “in a better place” and they don’t try texting Heaven to see if she needs more blood pressure medicine.

CVS.  I seriously hay chew.

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