Tag Archives: mother

10-4

2 Aug

Phyllis DanzigIf birthdays are a time to celebrate the fact that someone was born and became part of your existence (or the reason for your existence), then, today, I celebrate my mom. She would have been 83 years old! But, since birthdays are mostly a time to celebrate turning a year older or, perhaps, reaching a milestone, then I can just feel crushed.  No matter how hard I try to remain upbeat and no matter how easy it is to feel my mom’s presence even now, I cannot help but be angry that she/we were robbed of the last 20.5 years of togetherness.

That being said, I must go on with a thought/question I’ve had for a while: If my mom were alive, would she have a Facebook page? For some, this might seem like a very trivial issue and perhaps even completely not worthy of contemplation.  However, I am curious. I first thought about this years ago when an alumnus of the high school where I work stopped into the library to look at old yearbooks. She had been a widow for a few years and started her first Facebook page to get back in touch with people. Whether or not she had hoped to connect with eligible men (I did not inquire), they started popping up. And, she did not recognize the men with whom she had graduated 40 years earlier. She had lost her yearbook in a fire and wanted to check out their names and graduation photos before “friending” them. How smart- and safe! I enjoyed my chat with her and learning about her current quest. And, it was fun to see her reaction to finding the names and photos – “Oh, that’s him…still cute. Oooh- I do remember him… Hmmm, I still don’t know who he is.” For a while after this interesting visit, I wondered who she decided to friend and if she made any platonic or romantic connections.  I hope her research yielded happy results.

Back to Phyllis Tabak Danzig’s potential profile and posts and why I think she would have, at the very least, given Facebook a try. First, we were a big CB Radio family. Do you remember those things? My dad was a technology tinkerer. CB Radios brought him back to his morse code army days and connected him to like-minded people. Our family took many road trips for vacations and my mother’s antique business. CB Radio jargon and chatter gave them something fun to do and even my sister and I got caught up in the craze. My sister and I can recall our “handles”- she was Sunflower and I was Buttercup. I know, how cute. My dad, with his full head of thick brown hair, took on one of his favorite American symbols: The Bald Eagle. Strangely, neither my sister nor I can recall my mom’s handle. Whether in the car or our home’s office, the CB Radio was an absolute obsession for my parents during the mid/late 1970s. Also, like my father, my mother learned to navigate a computer and the early Internet way before they were easy to use. The technology might have intrigued her and certainly would not have stumped her.

So, if I am right, my mom’s profile would include Tabak, her maiden name. I am not sure about the photo- she was camera-shy. And, her birthday might be listed, but not the year, for sure. As an antiques dealer, she would want to “advertise” her vocation/hobby. She certainly would “like”  The Red Bank Antiques Center page and probably post photos of her booth and inventory. She would be part of a few groups, mostly antiques related, but perhaps also exercise since she had become a Pilates devotee.  We certainly would have friended each other. She would not Like with abandon. She was too honest and even critical for that. And, I, as her daughter and Facebook friend, would appreciate her choosiness. At the very least, even if she would not have become a Facebook fan, my page would be littered with photos of her and us during our shared adult years. 

Of course, all of this is not realistic and is relevant only if…. I am not usually an “only if” person, but this day brings out that wonder and longing for what could have been.

As postscript, I am curious if you are of my mom’s generation, do you have a Facebook page? If you’re closer to my generation, does your mom have a Facebook page? And, how is that going for you or her?

 

 

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February – Bitter and Sweet

21 Feb
Grandma Phyllis with Jordan.

Grandma Phyllis with Jordan.

February 20, 1989 was one of my mom’s happiest days—the day her first grandchildren were born. She had endured the saddest year, grieving my dad’s death just one year earlier, March 1988. The arrival of twin grandsons lifted her spirits and truly changed her outlook.  She was forever enamored with them. She had a new purpose—helping my sister and obsessing over these two, most adorable boys, Jordan and Aaron.

Grandma Phyllis and Aaron

Grandma Phyllis and Aaron

When I get sad thinking about how she did not get the chance to know my children and they were jipped out of having her in their lives, I picture her with Jordan and Aaron. My mom’s bleakest year became her brightest. The announcement of my sister’s pregnancy, the discovery she was carrying twins and even her subsequent bedrest,  relieved my mom’s malaise and gave her a new purpose. Sure, she was worried about my sister for 9 months, but that was healthy and therapeutic.  Their birth gave her new, awesome grandmotherly duties! She loved these boys so much that she even shed her dog anxiety and  warmed up to their Border Collie, Kiwi.  I was shocked and thrilled to see her invite my two-year old nephews to bring Kiwi over for a playdate. She helped my sister and entertained Jordan and Aaron even during her chemo. Playing with her grandsons provided more good therapy than any drug she received. When my children ask about her and when I find myself telling them stories about her, I really do feel a sense of gratitude that I got to see my mom become a grandmother. I know that she was and would have continued to be a great grandma!

Five very short years later, just ten days before my nephews’ 5th birthday, my mom died. Our happiest month, February, became bittersweet and very sad. I was sad that my nephews’ birthday celebration had to be postponed as if that really mattered at the time. In accordance with their nature then and now, they adapted and coped. They did not complain about the long New Jersey stay. Some five-year olds would not have been able to understand. Fortunately, they were probably just young enough to not have their birthday forever marred by our grief.

This year, I did not write a post on my family’s funereal February 10th, the anniversary of my mom’s death. I find solace writing about her any day of the year, but certainly prefer this day over Feb. 10th. On this day and during this month,  I accept the two necessary parts of life—death and birth, bitter and sweet. And, I am thankful for my sweet sister and the joy she and my brother-in-law brought to my mom’s and my life. Happy, Happy Birthday Aaron and Jordan!

If She Could Teach Me Now

6 May

Singer Sewing Machine

I readily admit that sometimes my longing for my mother is triggerd by my own needs—wishing she could do something for me. Rather than feel guilty about this selfish desire, I rationalize that the nature of  the child/parent relationship is about what we do for each other. Right now, in my teenagers’ lives, I do so much for them. I do not expect a “pay back,” but I hope to experience some reciprocity. More importantly, it is a goal, however idealistic, that as parents who do many things for our children, we ultimately teach them to do these things for themselves.

Why is it, then, that I did not learn how to sew?

That is the need I had/have that got me thinking about how much my mother did for me and how much I did not want to learn some of the skills needed to fend for myself. My mom was a master seamstress. She made curtains, slip covers, clothing and even doll outfits (see Barbie’s Runway post).  She altered clothes to make them shorter, longer, etc. I do not wish to create clothing, all I want to do is sew a simple hem. My mother saved us all time and money. I can remember her sitting at our dining room table with her old Singer Sewing machine fixing something for my sister, father, or me. She wanted to teach me the basics and often asked me to sit with her and learn. But, in keeping with typical teenage culture, the more she asked the more I resisted. I recall responding with the all-knowing, “I’ll never have to do that myself.” I remember thinking how boring and tedious sewing looked. And, now I wish for the ability to do more than sew a button onto a shirt. How smart it would have been to learn to sew a simple hem. Almost every pair of pants I buy needs to be shortened.  When making a decision to buy pants, I add the $10 – $12 tailoring charge and figure in the time it will take to be fitted and to pick up the pants. Sometimes those qualifications make the pants not even worth buying! I fantasize, “If I only knew how to sew….I could wear these pants tomorrow… and they’d be a real bargain!”

There is even more I could have/should have learned from my mother, including basic handyman skills and shopping for antiques. She could hang any frame on a wall, drill holes and hang shelves as well as find valuable antiques and sell them in her shop. And, this is just a partial list of skills she had and wished to share, but that I refused to learn.

What I wonder is what special or even ordinary skills you learned from your mom. Which of her talents did you take for granted or refuse to adopt? If you could be her apprentice now, what do you wish she would teach you?

Running as One

29 Apr

Run as One 2009

I’m back from a short blog hiatus. I’ve had a busy few weeks as my daughter, Sandra, debated her college choice, but I am excited to write after being inspired by this morning’s activity. Sandra and I participated, for the 6th time, in the Thomas G. Labrecque Run as One . This is always a very special and emotional day for us and is even more so this year since it is the last time we will participate together for at least the next four years since she will be at her chosen school!

We ran our first Run as One in 2006 after our friend and neighbor died from lung cancer 32 days after being diagnosed. Felice Jentis, a non-smoker and one of the warmest and most gregarious women we’ve known, was only 39 years old. To help her and her family during her illness, her friends created Team Felice. After her death a foundation, was started to help fund research and each year Team Felice raises money and awareness while running and walking with the Thomas G. Labrecque Foundation.

When Felice died, Sandra was 12 years old and was preparing for her Bat Mitzvah. Struggling with a desire to do something commemorative, she decided to base her Mitzvah Project (a service-oriented project intended to make a difference in the world) on lung cancer. After all, my mom died from the same type of lung cancer when my daughter was only 4 months old and she had always felt gypped and sad. This was her chance to do something about it. She created and sold bracelets and donated the money to the  Felice Lipit Jentis Memorial BAC Research Trust . And, we ran, together.

Each year, we meet Team Felice in Central Park and after hellos and hugs, we run. The gathering gives us all an opportunity to remember Felice and talk about her. Then my daughter and I go to the whiteboard that the Thomas G. Labrecque Foundation sets up for people to write messages. We write notes to my mom. Today, I wrote, “I’ll always miss and love you mom” and I include her name. Sandra added, “I wish I could have known you.” Today we looked for a special color and chose a fuscia sharpie marker. It matched the bright sunny sky and strong feelings we experienced.

I love this day. We struggle with the sadness and grief, but find energy and hope through today’s event.  We said our goodbyes to Felice’s family and friends today with the usual, “See you next year.” Then, we left Central Park with the bittersweet feeling that, although we cannot share this day while Sandra is away at college, whether together or not, we can always run as one.

Michael Bloomberg Doesn’t Go Home Much Anymore, Do You?

25 Mar

As I read a recent New York Times article, Mayor’s Ties to Hometown Fade, But for a Few, They are Still Felt, I wondered why this observation is newsworthy. After all, I thought, I have visited my hometown only a few times after my mom’s death. Why is it so unusual to stop visiting your hometown after it is void of your immediate family?

Unlike some people who are disappointed that Bloomberg does not visit his hometown, Medford, Massachusetts anymore and unlike others who (in comments entered after the article was published) do not care if Bloomberg visits any town, I thought his devotion to his mom and donations to the town are admirable. In a 2009 biography, Bloomberg admitted to not liking his hometown. He found it boring and uninspiring. Yet, he did visit his mother who remained in town, living in the same house he grew up in until her death last year. When approached to donate to the Medford Arts Council, Bloomberg gave $25,000. He has given even more to the public schools, a local orchestra, a hospital and a sports complex. He has even donated over one million dollars to the town’s synagogue. He did not stop there. He started a fund for the town’s public library. Due to his suggestions, Medford residents and New York City corporations have given generously to the library, certainly a project that wins my approval.

So, after reading about Bloomberg’s continued dedication, albeit financial, to his hometown, I was impressed. He has very strong, perhaps eternal, ties to Medford.

Unlike Bloomberg, I have very fond memories of  my hometown. Like Bloomberg, after my mom left Old Bridge, my ties to Old Bridge quickly faded. In fact, I have gone back only a few times, most recently when I found out about a neighborhood reunion at our pool club. Unlike Bloomberg, people who still live in Old Bridge did not pine for my connection and I certainly would not have expected them to.  It was great to see both the people who still live in Lakeridge West and those who returned for the reunion. Since I still live in New Jersey and, even more relevant, since I work in a school district only 20 minutes from Old Bridge, I do find out about what’s going on there. I have driven through the town a few times and I always love to look around and see what has changed. I might not have reason to return to Old Bridge again and that’s really okay.

All of this makes me wonder, what ties, if any, do you have to your hometown? Do you keep up with news about the town? If you no longer have family in your hometown, do you still visit?

Citation:

Grynbaum, Michael. “Mayor’s Ties to Hometown Fade, But for a Few, They Are Still Felt.” New York Times. 03 19 12, A14. Print.


							

Honoring My Aunt Joan

18 Mar

I was reluctant to write a post about the very recent death of my Aunt Joan, my father’s sister. She requested and had a very small funeral on March 13, one day after her death—there were just 10 of us. I’m sure she did not want to draw attention to her demise from emphysema.  My sister and my aunt and cousins (from the “other side” of the family) shared sentiments and sadness via phone calls and e-mails as we grieved. As I thought about her and our relationship, I recalled mentioning her in a few posts and even giving her a spotlight when I wrote about my Other Mothers . I soon felt compelled to share my thoughts about her and honor her with a post.

After a complicated kinship with my aunt: living in the same neighborhood for most of my childhood, sharing holiday celebrations, family feuds that lasted years, we settled into a comfortable and reciprocal relationship. After my father died, I could not wait to sit with her and make sure I knew details of his childhood and early adult years. At age 23, I was eager to have adult conversations with my dad, to get to know him on a different level, but it was too late. Aunt Joan was the perfect substitute. And, she enjoyed reminiscing.

We continued weekly phone conversations until just a few weeks ago. While I was growing up, she had the unfortunate distinction of being obstinate. She did things her way, the right way. As her disease progressed, she seemed to become more mellow and positive. And, she gave advice with compassion and without judgment. If I told her I was frustrated with my son’s random and unruly behavior, she told me how my cousin acted as a child and what she did. She provided that “motherly wisdom.” When she told me about some strange health issues, I asked her if the doctors conferred with each other on her medication. She later credited me with saving her life because the doctors had mistakenly prescribed medications that should not be taken together. I provided that “daughterly care.”

While she was distraught over my mom’s illness and death, she did not heed my mom’s request that she quit smoking. That remained a sore point during my mom’s last few years. Her diagnosis of emphysema 8 years ago gave her no choice but to quit smoking and shocked her into the reality of what she had done to herself. I am glad she did not choose to be angry at herself and instead just accepted the fate she brought on.

A few weeks after starting my blog, I told her about it. Honestly, I was nervous she would be offended that I chose to write about my mom and not her brother. Since she never became comfortable with technology, I printed and mailed her the posts I had written. Her response overwhelmed me—she loved what I was doing. She immediately understood the need I had to explore my bond with my mom. Her mom, my Grandma Lena, lived to be 93 years old and she still thought about and missed her every day.

So, another void opened with this passing of one of my “other mothers.” I almost did not write about her and now I can’t stop. This is just my point, we sometimes wait too long to think about people who have been a part of lives forever and the impact they have had on us. Yet, it is never too late to appreciate them—and even write about them.

How Kim Kardashian Inspired this Post

10 Feb

Strange—coming from someone who does not watch reality TV and knows very little about the Kardashians. Yet, somehow I stumbled upon a story about Kim reaching out to John Edward, the psychic, to communicate with her dead father, Robert Kardashian. Triggered by the story, my son asked me, “If you could ask your mom one question, what would it be?” I found Kim’s quest and my son’s query apropos since today is my mom’s Yahrzeit (18th anniversary of her death) and the one year anniversary of my blog.

Like Kim, or maybe to avoid a difficult decision, I replied to my son that what I’d really like is to have a conversation. One question would not be enough. But, what if that’s all I had, what would I ask? I truly feel stifled by this limitation. I have so many questions. Lately, I wonder what my mom’s childhood was like. I remember some stories she told about walking home from school and living near The Bronx Zoo. There are the mundane things I want to know: What did you wear to school? What was your favorite subject? Who was your favorite teacher? As I brainstorm, I wonder, do we really think to ask these questions while our moms are able to answer? And, I have serious questions about my childhood and her mothering: How did you endure my tantrums? What did you worry about the most while I was a teenager? And, then there are the questions about parenting, how did you decide when to give me an open curfew?  Did you know what went on at parties (not sure how I’d respond….)?  And, there are the philosophical questions—what do you most regret?

The real question I’d love to ask my mother is to have a lunch date with me. We did not indulge in enough leisurely lunches. Simple lunches. More than dinner, eating lunch out, a ladies’ lunch, is a treat. I’d ask her to got to Coco on Main Street because they serve Hale and Hearty soup and I remember her stories about eating lunch at Hale and Hearty in Manhattan. At lunch we could talk about the mundane and the heavy. We’d have the conversation I so desire.

I’d want to tell her that as time goes on and as I raise my children, I become even more certain that she and my dad were amazing parents.  I would ask questions, but really just hope for reassurance and guidance. I started this blog to express how much I am still influenced by my mom. I enjoy exploring our relationship, remembering details and imagining what could have been. I am grateful for your interest. And, I would love to know what question you wish you could ask your mom. And, if she is part of your life, maybe you can still ask.

I Wish I Could Hear Her Voice

13 Nov

Although I recall things my mom said to me and conversations we had, I miss her voice. I had not put much thought into hearing her voice until recently. During a visit with my (very wonderful) cousin, he mentioned watching his wedding video so we could hear my mom talk (and relive that most precious day). We did not get around to watching the video, yet his thoughtful and thought-provoking comment resonated with me.

I’ve heard stories about terminally ill people who make videos and tape recordings to leave for family and friends. Perhaps because I’ve always thought the idea is sweet, but eery or because I was too caught up in the tragedy surrounding us, I did not even think about recording my mom’s voice when we knew her situation was terminal. Yet, now that I am thinking so much about my mom’s voice, I realize how clever it is. I could choose to listen to my mom and she would speak directly to me. It would never replace our daily phone call, but would certainly fill part of the void. Just as important, my children would hear her.

While my mom’s mother, Grandma Ray, was alive, we made a point of asking her to tell her history. She lived into her 90s and certainly had substantial stories of life in Poland, her pious father, emigration to the US via Cuba, raising a family in Harlem, The Bronx, etc. It made sense to record her –her stories could add important personal reflection to a course in world history! I fondly recall my Grandma’s wise sayings, many taken from reading the Bible and Torah: “Who is rich? A person satisfied with what he has.” In Yiddish, “Besser be gornit (better than nothing).” I now think about the impact any saying or story would have if heard in her voice. Although my mom’s history couldn’t  measure up to her mom’s (thankfully), she certainly had plenty to say!

I am going to satisfy this newly discovered desire to hear my mom’s voice by watching and listening to my own wedding video. But, as I think about this, I must stand on the clichéd soapbox to encourage you, if it’s not too late, to record your mom’s (or dad’s or any significant older/ ill friend or relative) voice. Keep filming events and saving the film. Use your phone or computer to record a conversation. Tell your mom (or other person). I am not sure how my mom would have reacted, but I think she might have appreciated the idea of being heard eternally.

Is Your Mom Your Guru?

12 Sep

While my blog’s focus is mother/daughter relationships, I must divert temporarily. I recently read and connected with Anderson Cooper’s contribution to the “Blessings” column in the September 2011 issue of Good Housekeeping (http://www.allthingsandersoncooper.com/2011/08/odds-ends.html).

I was immediately intrigued by the introductory blurb, “Talk show host Anderson Cooper found his anti-aging guru close to home: his mother.” Guru and mother—what an interesting connection.  While he has come to this heartwarming description of his mother’s influence, like most children, he did not always recognize her impact. He admits that “There were times during high school when I wished my mom were more conventional. My friends’ homes had kitchens full of home-baked cookies….”She’d been an actor, designer, businesswoman, painter and writer: she’d worked hard and achieved remarkable success.”

Cooper’s mom, Gloria Vanderbilt, has had an effect on many people. And, it is obvious that she will continue to affect her son, whether or not she is alive. Her impact is awesome and inspirational. Cooper helps us think about what makes our moms special. He makes his relationship with this extraordinary woman something to which we can relate. And, it is the type of relationship I aspire to have with my own children.

My mom was a guru of many things, but most importantly and just like Anderson Cooper’s mom, she continues to be my spiritual guide.

In what way is your mother your guru?

Shout Out to my sister-in-law

1 Jul

During the last 2 weeks, I have had the great fortune of spending time with family and most intensely with my almost 6 and almost 7 year old nieces from Montana. They stayed with us while their mom and dad worked. I couldn’t be more impressed with these little ladies. As sad as we are to see them go back home, I was excited to get to this post and write about what a truly wonderful job my sister-in-law is doing as a motherless mom. Her mother, who would have been (I can only assume based on knowing her for a few years) a wonderful mother-in-law, would be SO proud. Her mom died when she was just 16.  She was a huge presence in the family’s life: orchestrating celebrations, gatherings, travel. While the family does not dwell on the sadness, she has been sorely missed; largely for her warmth, generosity and style. I could go on….

I am just thrilled to see her daughter thrive as a mother, loving her life with her daughters and husband. And, her daughters are the fun, spirited, respectful, gracious and stylish girls their grandmother would relish.  It’s a great tribute to her that a few of us have remarked about her grandaughters’ genetic link to her personality. I often say (and people easily agree), that my daughter’s great sense of style comes directly from her paternal grandma!

But, it’s not all nature. I firmly believe that nurture plays a key role. It is obvious in my sister-in-law’s certain je ne sais quoi that she received more than enough of both.

What genetic links, even subtle personality traits, do you see in your children? What parenting techniques do you think you’ve inherited from your mom? Doesn’t all of that help keep our moms in our lives?