I weep.


Why on earth should someone in my situation find herself all teary eyed tonight?

Well. Part of it could be that I keep watching the stupid news. North Korea wants to kill us and they’re making plans to get it done. Puerto Rico, a place I have always wanted to visit, is desperate, dying, begging for help. The world is getting hotter every day, both in terms of the climate and in terms of the international relations.

And I miss my old dog. I miss my sweet, loud mouthed, running away old hound so much. And every morning when I bring my granddaughter Ellie into the house, her first comment is “Tucker died. Him all gone. Tucker died. I miss him.”

Me, too, little girl. Me, too.

I am weepy because the season is ending. Summer is slowly giving up her last heated blast of breath, and the leaves are slowly turning yellow and gold. Winter is out there, waiting for us. The year is dying. So my eyes fill with tears.

I cry because I am tired, too. Because I have spent the past few days with my best beloved grandchildren, and they have not been well. The baby is stuffy, coughing, cranky and wanting to be held. His usual bright eyed smiles are mixed with tears and head shaking and fits of coughing that remind me of my own little babies at his age.

And Ellie. Our Ellie. Last night she slept here, having a “Pajama party for Papa!” and snuggling into bed with Paul and I. She laughed, she chatted, she sang songs. And as she drifted off to sleep, her hand gently stroked my cheek. I heard her murmuring, “Oh, Nonni. My Nonni. This Ellie’s Nonni. I love you, Nonni!”

So my heart filled up, and it overflowed, and it keeps on running. She loves me. He loves me. Their Mama loves me.

But I didn’t get very much sleep last night. Or any today. So I’m feeling fragile. And weepy.

And my puppy Lennie, trying desperately right now to get me to play tug-o-war with his favorite chew toy? He loves me. And he reminds me of the one we lost. He misses Tucker, too.

So I’m weepy.

Tired, and really just “I sprung a leak” sloppy.

Life is good, for as long as it lasts.

I’m just feeling a little bit…I guess…well, I feel kind of weepy.

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We miss you, Tucky. 

Worth The Effort?


What is it that gives a person “worth?” I’m old enough, and self aware enough, to know that worth is not measured by money.

Hey, I was a teacher! I’m married to a therapist. Money has never been our goal.

But what is it that lets us move through our days with a sense of self-worth?

At the tender and transitional age of 61, I’m struggling with this question once again.

You see, I used to find my sense of worth from my work. I have always worked, and had a purpose.

When I was only 22, I was a Russian interpreter. I took new immigrants to the doctor. I sat in therapy sessions, helping patient and doctor to understand each other. I helped with surgery, translating what the doctor wanted the patient to do during cataract surgery and cardiac catheterization.

I even helped to interpret at a baby’s birth. I was valued. I felt my worth.

Later, I became a speech pathologist, a job I held for 20 years. I helped families learn how to communicate with their disabled children. I helped those children to find their voices.  I was valued. I knew that what I was doing was helpful and important.

And after many years I became a teacher. I taught fifth graders. I was a fun teacher. I was funny. I made learning interesting. No matter what, I will always know that I was very good at my job.

I felt so good about myself in those years. I felt worthy.

Then things changed. I lost my teaching job, and moved into retirement.

And this is where the question of worth has reappeared. When I have my granddaughter in my arms, I know that I am the most important person on earth. Ellie needs me. Ellie loves me. I am NONNI.

But it’s summer.

Ellie is home with her Mom and Dad and new baby brother. They are close by. I see them almost every day. I love them all more than I could ever express.

But.

Now I have no role. I have no job. I have no way to measure my worth in this lovely world.

So, dear blog readers, I guess I’m fishing. (Phishing?)

Now I wonder, is a gray haired lady still useful if she isn’t physically able to manage her garden by herself? Is she still worth keeping if her husband works hard every day while she stays home and cleans things?

Does it count that this house has NEVER been this clean? Or that the closets are completely organized?

What do I do with myself on these long days? How do I define myself?

Is it legal to actually have three months of vacation while everyone else is working?

I swear, in September I will be back to working hard. I’ll have both two year old Ellie and three month old Johnnie. My arms, my heart and my day will all be full.

But.

What about now? Do I earn some kind of Donna Reed points for the incredibly clean kitchen cabinets and the very fluffy towels in the bathroom? I was raised by one of the first feminists. I know that just being a “homemaker” isn’t an actual role in life.

But what else do I do while I’m waiting to go back to Nonni extraordinaire? How do I feel good about so many days where nothing is actually accomplished?

Sigh.

I have to admit. I think I’m nuts. I hate the fact that I do this to myself.

On the other hand, if anyone needs any alphabetized spices, come on over.

 

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Poor useless Nonni

First World Problems


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I am such a first world, spoiled, entitled old lady.

Truly.

I should just shut up. I should accept the fact that I am truly privileged. Honestly, I have a great life! My complaints are pointless, self-serving, and unworthy of a progressive, open minded woman like me.

But, jeez.

I mean, like, come on.

See, my husband and I saved up for years to buy a hot tub. The first time we had put away enough money, our furnace keeled over and died. There went the money.

So we saved again, slowly, month by month. Our backs hurt, our shoulders were getting achy, our necks were stiff. We really, really wanted a hot tub…..

At last! We had saved enough! Woohooooo!

Then we realized we needed a new roof.

Sigh. No nice steamy soaks before bed for us.

We saved again.

And then it happened. Do you hear angels singing?  Well, I sure as hell did.

We got our hot tub. It was glorious. It was rejuvenating, hypnotizing, enthralling. It was every multisyllabic word I can find.

I love my hot tub with a devotion that I have previously  shown only to my husband and kids. And on an icy night when I’ve been shoveling, I’m pretty sure I’d pick the hot tub over any of them.

Don’t judge.

I work hard every day. I garden, I shop, I cook, I lift a toddler.  I deserve my nightly soak. Right?

I have had my starlit late night soakie pretty much every single night for seven years. Ahhhhhhhhhh.

Then. It happened.

Two weeks ago, we sprung a leak. Oh, the horror!!! We called Hottub Man, and shut off the power.

And we waited. And waited. You see, spring is pool season, and the hot tub/pool company is very, very busy. We called. No call back. We waited. We consoled ourselves with hot showers, but it wasn’t the same.

Let me take a little side trip here, and tell you that poor old Nonni has been pruning bushes and trees, burning brush, dividing perennials, tilling, composting, raking, planting. Which means that Nonni’s back hurts. Her knees hurt. Her big old backside hurts. And her right arm is like one big, giant toothache that will not go away.

This is where my first world, entitled self bursts out and smacks me right in the kisser.

I’ve been good for the past two long, painful, sad, hottubless weeks. I haven’t complained. That much. I have had boo-boos and ouchies, but I haven’t had a tantrum.  Not a real, kicking and screaming tantrum.

I have been a brave, brave Nonni. Dealing silently with my pain. Oh, poor me…

Today, at last, Hottub Man came. I groveled a bit, and he fixed the leak. Angels sang, yet again!  Hot Tub! Oh, glorious, pain relieving hot tub! How I love thee!

But the power has been off for two weeks. So Hottub Man turned it on again, took my check and said bye-bye.

And I have spent the last four hours doing this.

Lift the cover and peek into the hot tub. 68 degrees. Sigh.  Wait.

Peek. 70 degrees.

Wait. Drink wine. Wait. Peek. 76 degrees.

Walk around. Grumble. Eat olives and cheese. Drink more wine. Peek. 80 degrees.

It’s almost 7 pm. At this rate, achy old Nonni will have to stay up until midnight just to soak herself in that glorious water.

Now don’t you feel sorry for me?  I mean, yes. This is most definitely a first world problem. But I have OUCHIES and BOO-BOOS!! And I want my hot tub!!!!

Excuse me. I need to peek.

Shit. 73 degrees.

I’ll be up all night if anyone needs me.

Oh, No. My Eyesight Is Going.


I turned 60 this spring.

Sigh.

My back aches most of the time. My muscles are all flabby. My boobs and my belly button end up in the same place when I sit down.

I don’t hear as well as I used to either.  I’ve noticed that I have to mute the TV if Paul talks to me, or else I think he said “Spaghetti in the laundry” when he actually said “I’ll get the laundry.”

It’s sad, really.

And now my eye sight seems to be going, too.

I know that not only because I wear bifocals, but because when I look at my kids, I don’t see them all that clearly.

For example, this is pretty much what they look like now:

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Mate, Kate and Tim K

But when I look at them, I actually see this:

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Tim, Kate, Matt

Matt had some surgery this past week.  The poor guy broke his ankle really badly, and had to have three bones repaired with screws and a metal plate. He was willing to let me drive him to and from the hospital, and I was in the room with him as they put in the IV and moved his leg around. I saw him turn white and break out in a cold sweat from the pain.

I heard the nurse ask, “Are you OK, sir?” and I heard a man’s voice say, “Yup.”

I’m sure that the medical staff thought that they were working on a 25 year old 6’3″ man with a full beard. But you know who I saw in that hospital bed? I saw him:

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Yup.

My eyes are definitely going.

But at least my memory is fine.

Music Can Break Your Heart


Ah, today our past is right there in front of us.  We can’t escape it.

Today the images of our fashion faux pas are right there on Google Images. I can no longer deny that in 1978 the love of my life took me to the prom in a mint green tux because I told him that it matched his eyes.

There was a time, I’m sure, when people of my age could pretend that they never wore those outdated clothes or clunky shoes.

Not now, though. With the internet, we can find 1,000 awkward photos from our youth.

But the hardest part, for me, is the fact that YouTube has every single sappy, beautiful, compelling, heart wrenching song from my most tender years.

There was a time, long ago, when I sang in a small folk group at a weekly church basement “CoffeeHouse”.  Yes, I did think of myself as a young Joan Baez.  I did. We gathered in the church once a week to rehearse, the green grass outside the door smelling so sweet. And once a week, in the evening, we sang for a small audience. I remember sitting on the edge of a small stage, the lights bright on our faces.  I remember the sound of our harmonies.

I sang with my more talented friends, who played guitar as we performed.  I harmonized with them, working out our own special chords to “Suzanne” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.”  I felt so incredibly accomplished as I made my voice blend with theirs.

I remember singing with my friends in their basements, too. Harmonizing to Crosby, Still and Nash. Who would do the lowest part? Me!!!! Let me!  We sounded amazing to ourselves as we hiked in the mountains, singing. Or as we sat in the cafeteria of our High School, singing.  We loved each other, so we made music that filled our hearts.

I remember those times.

So tonight, when I looked up an old song on YouTube, I ended up in tears. My whole musical youth, right there for me to relive and cherish.

Peter, Paul and Mary…..Joan Baez…..Judy Collins…..Crosby, Stills and Nash.

It was only a few weeks ago, wasn’t it, when I sang these songs with Cindy and Mo and Doris and Chris and John?  When our dear Steve tried and failed to hold the tune?

It was just the other day when Sue and I discovered “Where do you go to, my lovely?” by Peter Sarstedt. We were so sure that we were unique in our love of this sophisticated moving song.

It just happened. It was just the other day.  I’m sure of it.

Ah, how music can break your heart.

 

 

All is Not Lost


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“Whoah, Nonni, you ROCK!”

I am about to turn 60 years old.

This is very old.  There are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 60 years in a life that started way back in the olden days.

As a (gulp) 60 year old, I am used to forgetting things.  For example, tonight my husband and I were reminiscing about our college days. “Remember the time we were driving Lisa D. home from school?”, he began.  “Wait”, I had to interrupt. “She went to school with us?”

This is not uncommon for Paul and I.  I often get frustrated when he doesn’t remember that I told him about the party on Saturday.  He often gets frustrated when I tell him for the fourth time about the party on Saturday.   We are forgetful.

We sometimes joke with friends in our age group. “Aren’t we funny?”, we quip, “Trying to talk about a movie that we liked?”  We laugh because this is how we sound when we try to recommend a movie to those friends. “Yeah, its great! It stars that guy, what’s his name? He was in the TV show….you know the one with that woman….what’s her name? The woman who looks the one who used to be in the other show….about the, um…was it a mechanic?”  This can go on for hours before anyone in the room is able to make an actual connection and figure out the name of the movie in question.

If anyone even remembers that we were recommending movies.

So sometimes I feel like a daft old broad whose brain is made of swiss cheese.

BUT!  All is NOT yet lost!

Today I was sitting with my baby granddaughter Ellie, playing with her toys, stacking cups and reading board books. It seemed like a good time to find some music for her. So I opened up my computer and found Pandora.  I clicked on “Create a Station” and entered, “Sesame St. songs.”

Oh. My. God.

My youngest child is almost 24 years old. I haven’t watched Sesame St. for a wicked long time!

But that didn’t matter.

I am happy to report that this 60 year old grandmother was able to sing every single word of “Rubber Ducky”, “Let’s Go Driving in an Automobile” and “The Sesame St. Theme Song” without missing a beat.

Oh, yeah.

I may be chubby and gray and I may have been born before the word “hippie” was coined, but I still got it, baby!

Ellie was highly amused as I danced her around the living room today, crooning, “Rubber Ducky, joy of joys, when I squeeze you, you make noise!”

She thinks I’m awesome.

 

Hearts and Broken Hearts


Sometimes I just want to roll back time.  Just back, back, back.

I have been in love with my husband since we were 17 years old. That’s 42 years.  Holy crow.

Sometimes I wish that I could wind back the movie reel of my life, and see Paul as I saw him so many years ago.  What did I think of him when I met him at the tender age of 12? Did I notice him at all on the first day of seventh grade?  Did he notice me?  What did we each see and feel when we became friends over the next few years? What exactly was it that made us begin to see each other differently, to fall in love? I think I know, but I wish I could go back.

I wish I could go back to see.

I wish I could wind the clock back, back, back.  Back to the time when my Dad was still alive.  Back to when he used to play with my children. Back to when I could hear him laugh. Back to the night when we ate cioppini together and laughed and slurped and dunked our bread into our dishes.

Back.

There are times when I wish I could roll it all back and back and back again.  Sometimes I miss my own childhood. I miss being the little girl who was so carefully taken care of. I would like to see my world through that girl’s eyes once again. I’d like to go back to the easy days.  When finding a little bag of Fritos in my lunch was the most exciting thing in a week.  When my biggest problem was the mess in my closet.

Back to the day when my siblings and I were a pack, like a bunch of puppies. When loving each other was effortless.  Back to when we could give each other “noogies” or “Indian Sunburns” and scream and cry, but be best friends again an hour later.

I wish I could roll it all back.  I wish I could go back to those days with the knowledge and the wisdom that I have now.  I would look at each of those people, my husband, my father, my big pack of brothers and sisters, and I would look each one in the eye and say, right out loud: “No matter what.  I will always, always love you.”

 

 

Turned Upside Down


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How I spend my days

Life is such a funny old thing, isn’t it?

I remember way back when I was in my twenties. There were definitely times when I stayed up more than half the night and then slept through half the day.  That’s just what we did back then, you know?  Friends would be getting together to see a band in Boston at 11 pm, so we’d head out at 10:30 and get back home at dawn.

I remember those days. I do!  Lots of Scotch, lots of dancing, maybe a stop at an all night diner for waffles before the sun came up.

Then we grew up.  Got jobs.  Got married.

We gave up the all nighters in favor of early to bed and early to rise.  We became responsible.

When Paul and I had our babies, the day/night thing got sort of all mixed up again for a bit.  I remember those middle of the night nursing times, watching really really bad TV (this was before the 500 cable channels) and trying to stay awake long enough to change a diaper.  I remember stumbling through my shower and getting through a full work day when my brain really wanted to be completely unconscious.

Once I was co-leading a social language group with our school counselor.  I had been awake every two hours all night to administer a nebulizer treatment to my son.  We were all sitting on the floor of her office in a circle. I had a cup of coffee on the rug in front of me.

I woke myself with a loud snore.  Ten learning disabled kids were staring at me.  The counselor calmly stated, “Karen had a bad night’s sleep.”

Then my kids grew out of those difficult nights, and life settled into a pretty normal cycle. We are awake and productive by day, we sleep by night.  I understood this concept.  It fit quite well into my daily life as a teacher.  All was well.

But now I am retired.  I have no pressing need to be articulate, alert or entertaining during daylight hours.

Now I spend my days as Nonni, and life has settled back into that old familiar upside down pattern.

Now I wake up early, shower and have my coffee.  I am alert, happy, awake and ready to go.  My sweet Ellie comes to spend her day with me, and we have a wonderful two hours of cuddles and books and toys.  Then there is a bottle.  Then there is a blanket, and a yawn, and that warm sweet bundle of baby relaxation settled herself on my chest.  The recliner goes back, my cheek rests on her head, and the snore fest begins.  I sleep the deepest and calmest sleep of my life while my hands cradle that round little diaper wrapped bottom.

And after a couple of hours we wake up, and there are diaper changes and snacks and books and some toys.  There is tummy time and sitting time and music and another bottle.

And the cycle repeats itself.

Yup.

I pretty much sleep my way through half of my daylight hours.  With that beautiful child held tight in my arms, I am so happy and at peace that my dreams are filled with rainbows and ponies and fairies and glittering stars.

Its the BEST.

But all that daytime sleep means, of course, that I am usually awake in the darkest deepest part of the night. I get up, I make tea, I read a bit, I stroke the dogs.

And I don’t mind at all.

My life is turned upside down once again, putting me back in touch with my youthful, carefree self.  Reminding me of my young mommy self.  I can watch the moon set. I can sit alone on my couch and think about life.

I know that tomorrow Ellie will come.  And we’ll play and laugh and eat, and then we’ll cuddle up and sleep our peaceful sleep together.

Life is such a funny old circular rhythm, isn’t it?

 

Now I lay me down to sleep……


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Time for bed!

So there I was, standing in the bathroom as I got ready for bed last night. Paul was already under the covers with a good book, and the house was cozy and warm.  It occurred to me that I was one very lucky woman, still married to my first love after 37 years of wedded bliss.

I thought back on the many years of getting ready for bed, with my dear Paul waiting for me.

I remembered the slinky negligees, the light floral scents of the lotions, the candles. Sweet memories!

And then I looked in the mirror.  And thought back on the previous 30 minutes.

And I suddenly realized something.  When they tell you how things change when you get old, they don’t warn you about bedtime!

I mean.  Jeez.

I had shut the lights in the living room and headed for the bedroom a full half hour ago.  I thought back over what I had done to get ready to sleep.

Well, first I’d changed into my nice flannel pajama’s.  The ones with the stars and moons.

Then I had washed my face carefully with “Retinol Wrinkle Reduction” or some such thing. I’d dried off and then smoothed on a coat of “Age Spot Reducing Lotion”.  You know, just to keep those little brown smears in check.

I had dutifully brushed my teeth with my electric toothbrush and my “Sensodyne” toothpaste. I had flossed.  I had used mouthwash, not so much because I was anticipating anything romantic, but because I want my gums to stay healthy.

Sigh.

Then I had to use an astringent on my nose.  See, I have developed a certain congestion of the oro-pharynx that can result in a vibratory pattern.

Yeah. I snore.

Like a freakin’ freight train.  I not only wake Paul up several times a night, I wake myself up too.

So I use those nose strips to sleep. And you have to make sure they stick. So, astringent, check. Nose strip, check.

Then I had to rinse off and insert my mouth guard.  The one that stops me from grinding away my back teeth while I sleep.  I cleaned it, popped it in, tested my jaw movements. Check, Check, Check.

And then I had to refill my water bottle and place it next to the bed.  What with the mouthguard and the nose strips, I get pretty dry at night.  Check.

I was almost ready to sleep.  All that was left was to find the menthol patches and stick one on each elbow, one on my right thumb and one on my knee.   All set.  The smell of camphor and spearmint filled the air.

I spritzed a little coconut oil on my hair (its supposed to improve the thickness and make the scalp healthy), ran my fingers through it so that it stood up in greasy gray spikes, and headed to bed.

I had to stop once on the way to smooth cocoa butter on my dry ankles. But eventually, I made it to the bed where Paul was reading.

I pulled back the covers and snuggled against my dear beloved husband. “Night, honey”, I said.  He smiled, kissed me and said, “Night!”

He is one lucky, lucky guy.  Don’t you think?

 

 

I Resolve to


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  • I Resolve to:  stop making resolutions.   I mean, jeez, I already work pretty hard at being the best human being I can be.  What else is there to add?
  • I Resolve to: give myself some credit already.   OK, so I am not Martha Stewart.  My curtains don’t match my socks, my hair color isn’t coordinated with my napkins.  But I’m not a convicted felon either.  I guess I’m ok the way I am!
  • I Resolve to: laugh more often.  The hell with it.  I will watch stupid TV when I want to, and I will laugh out loud at Gunsmoke if I want to.
  • I Resolve to: stop telling myself that this is the year when I’ll suddenly become hip/svelte/athletic/spontaneous.  I will NOT run a marathon this year.  Nope. Nuh, uh. Ain’t gonna happen.    I will NOT suddenly decide to fly to Paris to pursue a singing career.  Seriously, dude? Nope.   I will not decide to sell my house and finally buy that bungalow by the beach.
  • I Resolve to:greet January 1st as that annoying day when I have to find the new calendar that I bought in October and transfer all of the family birthdays to it.
  • I Resolve to:look at January 1st as the first day that I have to try to remember what the hell the new year actually is.  AND I resolve to forgive myself if at any time between January 1st and August 31st  I sign a check and date it as 1991.
  • I Resolve to:to be mostly happy with the me that has evolved over the past 60 years.  I resolve to smile at her, to pat her on the back for her herculean efforts at keeping her old dogs alive and happy.  I resolve to remind her that she will never be this young again.  I resolve to put an arm around the 60 year old me and whisper in her ear, “You did a pretty damn good job with those kids, honey.”
  • I resolve, in this new year, to be happy with myself while still trying to learn more, grow more, evolve more and accept more.
  • Finally, I resolve, in this year of our Lord 2016, to cast my Presidential vote for someone who will not disgust or dishonor us, for someone who shares my views, for someone I’d be proud to call my President.
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