Past Loves, Loss & Memories

Jerry taught a fiction writing workshop that I signed up for sometime during the two years I spent as a stay-at-home mom.  Full-time parenting didn’t fill my creative spirit, and maybe writing a short story about my failing marriage might be less costly than seeing a therapist.  (I eventually saw a therapist.)

I don’t remember if that was during or after Jerry and I became lovers.

Jerry was different from my husband and from other men in my past.  (Not that I had that many.)  He was a runner before running became fashionable.  He ate all kinds of nuts and seeds and other “food” stuffs that smelled funny and tasted even worse.  I was enthralled but not converted.

Every Wednesday at 2 PM, I sat on Jerry’s front steps, waiting for him to get home from work as a probation officer.  He loved kids, knew how to talk to the most unruly and disturbed and, as a bonus, had no problems with me having a son.  (I’m already ten steps ahead and imagining him as my son’s step father.  Oh, naive me!)

When my husband and I finalized our divorce, I counted on seeing Jerry as often as possible—maybe every night.  When that didn’t happen, I put out a call to friends that I was “available.”  I met my current husband and dated both men for almost two years, until Jerry made the inevitable decision for me by kicking me to the curb.  “You son is not the problem,” he explained on his way out the door.  “It’s you.”  Ouch!  Truth was he had met another woman and was smitten.  I guess I helped him see what he didn’t want in a partner.  (In truth, I can’t blame him.  I was an inexperienced partner who had lived with just one other man, and my track record was not for the record books.)

I saw Jerry off and on during the intervening years.  He edited the 1st edition of Dead Serious, my book about teen suicide, and was my biggest cheerleader.

I was a student in at least two of his writers’ workshops held in his home.  The last time, his knees from all that jogging were in poor working order but, in all other ways, he was just the same.  “Women,” he said.  “She (his wife) made me go to counseling.”

With the publication of the 2nd edition of Dead Serious, it seemed only right to give him a call.  We hadn’t talked in what seemed like maybe two years.  In fact, it was more than four, and Jerry was dead.  He’d succumbed to mesothelioma, probably from exposure to all the asbestos in the walls of the houses he’d renovated.  He’d been dead for four years.

I don’t know if I would have visited Jerry during the four months of his illness.  Probably not.  I wouldn’t have felt comfortable as the old girlfriend from another lifetime.  But I would have sent him emails, maybe even called.  I would have told him how important he’d been in the launch of my career as a “real” writer.  I would have told him how much he’d taught me about communication with other humans—and about love.  I would have thanked him again for helping me make the transition between being an unhappily married woman to becoming a single woman with confidence and independence.

R.I.P., Jerry, even if my condolences are four years late.

 

 

 

“Stand Up, Sit Down, Fight, Fight, Fight”

I don’t know about you, but we chanted that cheer at every high school basketball, baseball, football game.  (I don’t remember if the girls’ team even had much of a fan base, let alone cheers.  Most of the cheerleaders were also the jocks, so the pickings were slim.)

Right now, I want to stand up and fight.  Two nights ago, my neighbor hosted a Meet and Greet for NARAL, Pro Choice America.  (If you’re a woman [or man] and don’t give a damn about a woman’s right to choose, then you can peel off now.  Or maybe it makes sense to read on and consider changing your mind, even getting involved.)

Seven in ten Americans believe that abortion should be legal.  But Trump’s nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavenaugh, has ruled on one abortion case that indicates that Roe v Wade (1973), the landmark decision issued in 1973 by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of the constitutionality of laws that criminalized or restricted access to abortions, may be overturned.

So, stand up and fight, fight, fight.

I’m a writer, not a lawyer or political scholar.  But based on all that I’ve read, there is potential big trouble ahead for 70 per cent of the American public who think the government should stay out of the decisions women make about their own bodies may be ignored.  What else is new?

In October 2017, I (Brigitte Amiri, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project) went to court to stop the Trump administration from blocking a young immigrant from obtaining an abortion. She had crossed into the United States the month before and discovered she was pregnant soon after. She never had any doubt about what she wanted to do. But the Trump administration had other plans for her.

Her plea, which I relayed to a three-judge appeals panel, was: “Please stop delaying my decision any longer.” That panel included Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and her plea went unheeded.

Brigitte Amiri, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project

With a Republican-controlled Senate, chances look good for Kavenaugh to become the next conservative justice who would tip the Supreme Court to an expected six to three right-leaning majority.  (BTW, the three liberal-leaning justices are all women.  What does that tell you?)

The invitees at the NARAL Meet and Greet in my neighborhood were excited to be part of a movement whose first goal is to defeat Kavenaugh and then to “turn” the House of Representatives in November.  (Come on, you suburban white women who may be on the fence—who may have voted for Trump but kick themselves regularly for making that choice.  We need you!)

After drink, conversation and h’ordeuvres that made for a dinner (our host tried her best to give goodie bags to even those claiming to be on a diet), the group of more than fifty settled down in lawn chairs or on their feet and listened to a rousing talk about NARAL’s goals and how to get involved.  I was ready to grab my phone, call Republican Senators who have signaled that they may not vote for Kavenaugh, and march.  I’m a child of the sixties and have marched in anti-war demonstrations (That’s the Viet Nam War), the women’s movement (No, I didn’t burn my bra), and in marches against segregation.

It is a wonderful thing to be part of something important and to do something instead of throwing a shoe at my TV or switching channels to watch “Love It Or List It” or “The Property Brothers.”

So, grab a pair of comfortable tennies, go to https://uniteforjustice2018.com/?source=naral, and sign up for the National Day of Action on August 26.  If there isn’t an event close to you, call the NARAL national headquarters in Washington, D.C., and ask what you can do.  I called and was told there WAS an event planned for Chicago where I reside and that the organizer would call me today or tomorrow.

Stand up and fight, fight, fight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You Don’t Look Your Age” (Musings on Turning 73 and What Looking One’s Age Means, Anyway)

I used to relish what I interpreted as a compliment when someone looked at my driver’s license and said, “No, way!  You don’t look your age!”

And I’d feel all warm and fuzzy and say, “Oh, yes, that is my birthdate.”

And they’d say, “Well, you could have fooled me!” (or something to that effect).

And I’d walk away, smiling—grateful that the crows’ feet at the corners of my eyes or the slowly deepening wrinkles on my face didn’t yet scream out, “Get thee to a plastic surgeon for a few shots of Botox.”

But, now, I’m not so sure how to respond to “You sure don’t look your age.”  What does that mean, anyway?  That I don’t resemble the physical stereotypes of senior women?  That my hair is not thinning?  My skin not sagging? LOL  My eyes not squinting or not wearing trifocals a mile thick?  My clothes outdated?  My bones breaking?  (Oops, that would be a “yes.”)  My hip or knees buckling?

Is it truly a good thing to have folks constantly move the goalposts?  You know, 50 is the new 60.  Or 70 is the new 80.  Like the next woman, I want to believe that I’ll outlive my mother (She died just short of her 92nd birthday) and that I’ll be healthy with all my faculties intact.  The memory thing is a question mark.

But what’s wrong with looking our age?  Aren’t the lines on our faces symbols of lives well lived and the wisdom that accompanies decades of experiences, failures and successes, love and loss?

Full disclosure:  I do stare at young women’s unblemished legs, their unlined faces, muscular arms often tattooed, and I do get a modicum of comfort knowing that they, too, will be seniors before they know it.  But that’s a cop out, really.  I want to be able to embrace my body (and my spirit) and to wear all the scars with pride.

How to proceed: One strategy is to befriend younger women.  Actually, that’s easy to do because the pool of women in their 70s+  is beginning to diminish.  These younger women can keep us up to date, so to speak, about what life is like today for them and can, in many ways, use our experiences to enhance their own.  I often find myself channeling my mother and her generation, saying things like, “Well, when I was _______.”  Or “Back in the day, we ______________.” It does peg us as Boomers but, hey, I’m thankful I grew up when I did and felt the strength of being able to make changes in our world. That optimism is currently in short supply.

Another strategy:  Honor your voice.  “The truth will out.”  (Kudos to Will and his Sir Lancelot.)  Yep, no matter how often you hide under a desk or keep your mouth shut for fear that someone won’t like you, the harder it becomes to “get what you need,” and the more difficult it is to have open, honest relationships.  (I once backed out of returning a pair of shoes because I didn’t want to disappoint the salesman. [I was twelve.])

I realize this isn’t always easy.  I took a class in active listening when my son was maybe five (He’s pushing 45 now) and thought I had this whole “Say what you want to say in a nonjudgmental way” all wrapped up.  LOL.  It has taken me maybe 60 years to refine this way of communicating and up until this moment to use it more than—I don’t know—80 percent of the time.

And give this a try:  To allay your fears of your demise, look back at, say, twenty year chunks of your life: 40 to 60 or 50 to 70.  Consider all that happened—the fun, the accomplishments, the hard fought changes that made your life better.  As a 73-year-old, I’m shooting for at least another twenty years.  And that gives me relief, knowing that there is still much ahead—so much to look forward to and to check off all those items on my bucket list.  (Right now, it’s little stuff like look down and don’t trip, hang on to the railing when walking up and down stairs, don’t lean against doors until they are securely shut.  I missed that last memo and ended up with a spinal compression fracture.  Oops!)