Tag Archives: motherless

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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What If….

11 May

I imagine you have worked on plans to celebrate your mom or yourself tomorrow. Mother’s Day can seem like a “holy day of obligation.”  Either we must treat our mom and/or mother-in-law to brunch or we must enjoy a day our family plans for us. Of course, there’s nothing we’d rather do more than celebrate motherhood, being mothers or having mothers. But, it can seem forced and fake. I’m torn. On the one hand, it’s nice to have an excuse to make special plans, buy or receive special gifts and celebrate. I like almost any excuse to celebrate. But, on the other hand, what if the celebration causes stress or, worse, exhaustion!

Growing up, we used to joke that every day should be Mother’s Day. Maybe there is some truth to that—why wait until the second Sunday in May to celebrate one of the most important people in your life?

I hope the day is filled with fun for you and the women you celebrate. It should be a  wonderful day, but perhaps there are other days of the year that you (would) actually appreciate time with your mom more than this one day.

On this Mother’s Day weekendI would love your response:

If you are fortunate enough to have your mom in your life, but you were told you could spend only one day of the year with her. Your choice, which day would you choose?

Or:

What if  your mom who passed away could be in your life just one day of the year, which day would you choose?

Is there a specific day of the year that you need your mom more than any other day? Or a day you did or do enjoy her company more than any other day?

Which day strikes you as a day you really need (or wish you had) your mom? And, of course, why?

Rather than write my answer, I truly want to hear from YOU.  I look forward to you sharing your thoughts.

Thank you for reading my blog and contributing.

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!

College Mom

19 Aug

I’m wondering what kind of college mom I’ll be. With my daughter just starting her first year at the University of Miami, I’ve had many mixed emotions. I’ve gotten through the initial separation with the expected anxiety, tears and joy. Walking alone in the airport for my return trip, I was feeling sorry for myself because I’ll miss my daughter every single day (her charm, spirit, companionship, fashion advice, chatter….). And, then I had an epiphany—this is not a sad time! Sure, it is bittersweet, but we are so fortunate that my daughter is where she should be right now. How lucky she is to have this amazing opportunity! And, how lucky am I to be able to witness this next chapter of her life.

So, now that I am home and she is away until Thanksgiving, I have a mission—to be her mildly doting, but not at all intrusive mom. I am completely confident that she will flourish in her new, independent environment AND will be thrilled to get a card or care package from me. After all, up until the end of junior year I made her school lunch and periodically included personal notes ( including “Hope your day is great,” “Good luck at your game today,” and simply, “I love you xoxo.”) We laughed about how she was fully capable of making her own lunch and would happily do so, but she did not hesitate to allow me the personal pleasure of this mommy task. She was thrilled when she’d get a note and show it off to her friends. It makes sense then that within 24 hours of being home, I sent off a package of things she couldn’t fit in her luggage, eager to include my first note. I kept it simple, saving a store-bought card for next week’s mail.

Where in all of this does my mom fit in? She was not exactly a role model in this situation. She was just not the doting type. Other moms of girls in my college dorm brought their daughters food, clothing, etc. My favorite story is of a mom who would leave a pizza pie on her daughter’s car just minutes before she knew her daughter would get there—leaving so she would not interfere at all. My mom had to be asked, but if I did request clothes or dinner, she would follow through. A few years ago, my sister and I discussed the different recollection we each have of our mom’s involvement. I insisted that my mom made college care packages—giving food and supplies when we returned to college after a vacation. My sister does not recall receiving anything at all. I think reality is somewhere in between. My mom did not initiate any package. But, if on my way out I asked, she would allow me to fill a bag with a variety of things from her cupboard—soup, crackers, laundry detergent. Perhaps subconsciously, I brought this bag to Rutgers feeling like my mom put it together and handed it to me. My distortion helped me feel like I fit in with my roommate whose mom gave her bags of good things.

As with any new event or monumental moment, I think of how much I wish my mom was here to share these times. I wish I could tell her about my care packages and notes. And, with these changes going on in my life, I wonder what other moms did for their college children back then. Did moms typically send care packages or even letters to their daughters (my peers) while they were away at college? What do you moms do now? Has our helicopter parenting habits led us to excessive involvement when our children go off to college? What is excessive and do we keep our involvement under control?

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.


							

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.

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?

It’s All About Me

8 May

I celebrated my birthday yesterday and Mother’s Day today and yet I wish this weekend was NOT all about me! Without having my mother to share these days, they end up being more about me—I do not get to share the attention.  Without a mom or mother-in-law, Mother’s Day is a simple family day for me. It passes more easily than my birthday. Interestingly, I have found similar feelings among a few friends whose moms have also died—we miss our moms more on our birthdays than on Mother’s Day. It makes sense, though.  Which came first? Which day enabled the other (our moms might not have been mom without us). I always felt such a strong and close connection to my mother on my birthday. In some ways it was our day. While she did not shower me with huge gifts or celebrations, she was always the first to inquire about my plans, the one to make sure that I had plans and the last to check on my day. Sure, she made me an amazing Sweet 16 Party—in our backyard with the most delectable homemade foods that I chose, including the sweet and fruity ambrosia she made that day. But, it was really the little things that made a mark, including making sure everyone knew to say happy birthday.

Mother’s Day brings so many mixed feelings. First, I try to avoid  (what seems like a trillion) people who ask what I’m doing. Those who do not know me well and do not know about my mom, make an assumption that my plan is like theirs-a meal with mom. I find the discussions about this day’s celebration almost annoying. Why does the day have to be full of obligatory and plans? I do have more freedom than most of my friends on Mother’s Day—without a mom or mother—in-law to plan for. But, do not be envious. How I wish I could “suffer” through the brunch, lunch and/or dinner we’d have to honor them!

It’s ok to be sad for me on these two days, but let’s not dwell on what we do not have. Instead, if you and your mom can share even a few moments on your birthday or on Mother’s Day, enjoy your time with her. I like to think that this “Hallmark Holiday” forces us to share those clichéd good times together.

There are so many questions to ask you and I hope to continue this conversation. To start, if you could (or do) celebrate only one of these days with your mom, which would you choose? Which day strikes you as a day you really need (or wish you had) your mom? And, of course, why?

The Bronx

4 May

I wish my mom could have been part of my conversation tonight. She would be so proud! Sitting on the bleachers during my son’s baseball game, a friend and I were chatting about many things and discussed where we grew up. When she told me she is from The Bronx, I immediately thought about how much emphasis my mom put on the very important article, The, before Bronx. Actually, it is important because that is the proper name, my mother used to assert. I was touched by my friend’s allegiance to her “hometown” and it struck a special soft spot since my mother also defended the name and spirit of The Bronx. This friend added some trivia that my mother would have enjoyed—the fact that there are only two other places in the world that have a mandatory The preceeding the name. And, they are very important places, indicating that The Bronx can be placed on the same VIP list.

You never know when thoughts and conversations will come up that make you remember your mom and recall your or her past. I started the day not knowing what I would write in the post and, as it turns out, I did not have to brainstorm. Afterall,  if we, even if we are “motherless,” allow our mothers to be part of our thoughts and existence, we are likely to make connections constantly.

What aspect of your mom’s past did she feel strongly about? Did she have allegiance to her hometown and why?