The Chicago Bulls were about to win their first of six NBA championships.  George H.W. Bush would be elected President in a matter of months. And my son was going off to Syracuse University.

And now here we are.  His 25th high school reunion a few weeks away.


He’s almost a middle aged man.  And I’m . . . well, I’m en route to a senior citizens’ home.  Still, my memory is in tact, and the details of my 25th reunion are as “fresh” as I was at the time.

I strutted into the Friday evening party like a diva about to prance on stage.  All gussied up in a white pant suit and a black stretchy halter top.  No bra required.  (My, how things have changed!)

For me, the reunion validated the person I’d become.  A teacher turned writer.  A wife for the second time around.  A mother of a teenager who was . . . okay, so I didn’t have that one down yet but was really, really trying.  (That Parent Effectiveness Training workshop I took didn’t always do the trick.)

And now that teenager is all grown up.  I wonder how he’ll feel when he walks into the Friday night cocktail party.  Pleased with the path his journey has taken?  Unfulfilled? Just damn happy to be alive?  (Did I mention the automobile accident in which he drove his car into a tree, broke his back and just missed severing his spine?)

It’s been a wild ride for him and for me.  (BTW, it was his dad’s new Lexus that he totaled.)

It’s hard to fathom that it’s been twenty-five years since my son managed to get his high school diploma and waltzed off to Syracuse University.  I remember crying every time I passed his empty bedroom or heard a song he loved.

Then about three weeks in, I woke up and realized that I was free—free from pushing him to finish his homework, filling out college applications, making curfew, not driving into another tree.

(In retrospect, the joke was on me.  I wasn’t really free.  “Out of sight, out of mind” didn’t apply.)

Where has the time gone?  Twenty-five years and counting.  Each day here and gone faster than the one before.

Hopefully, I’ll be around for my son’s 50th high school reunion.  If not, I hope he has one hell of a good time!









The Bagel Bopper and the Jesuits

After my parents died within less than a month of each other, I decided it would be best to find a full-time job.  That way, I would have somewhere to go each day and the chance to meet and mingle with a group of what I hoped would be new friends.

I’d been a freelance writer and author for many years, and the chance to bring in a regular paycheck and, hopefully, ease my grief seemed the perfect antidote to losing my parents.

Years before, I’d been a high school English teacher, then a writer/producer of educational filmstrips.  Remember them?  (If you’re weren’t in grade school by the early 1980s, you probably never heard of these rudimentary frame-by-frame  visuals with recorded sound.) I’d also written a slew of books and figured I was the perfect candidate for a job at Loyola Press in Chicago.  The head of the editorial staff agreed.

Loyola Press is a Catholic press started by Jesuits back in the day.  As a Jew, I wasn’t sure how that would go down, but my first assignment was to edit a series of books on reading and writing for elementary and middle school students.  Okay, I could do that.  And I did. The only signs of religion were the crosses that dominated the office walls and the prayers that began every faculty meeting or special event.  I put my head down and pretended to go along.

The Jesuits would have been proud because I prayed that my next assignment would augment the English series—maybe a focus on writing or literature or critical thinking. No such luck.  I was asked to edit and update Finding God, one of the faith program books.

I couldn’t do it.  Heck, I wasn’t sure I even believed in God.  And I wasn’t interested in finding Him/Her.

“You know I’m Jewish.”

“Of course, I do.  But this won’t be too much of a stretch.”

Were they kidding?  I couldn’t come in to work every day, sit down at my desk and read the New Testament or revise text about the importance and finding and keeping God in our lives.  I could easily sabotage the whole deal and write about bagels and lox instead of wafers and wine.  I could underscore the pure fantasy in much of the Biblical stories.  I could scream profanities so loud that the Jesuit priest in his second floor office would come running—well, running is a bit of an exaggeration.  He was getting on in age and walked with a cane.  (At least, that’s what I remember.)

So, I started searching for homes in northern California.  I’d wanted to live there since I’d graduated from college and decided this would be the perfect time to get the heck out of Dodge.  A move would be a perfect excuse that even the Father could forgive.

I was uncomfortable about quitting after only a year+ on the job and put off my resignation as long as I could.  But the Finding God project was scheduled to get underway, and I couldn’t hold my cards any longer.

“I can’t do it,” I told my immediate boss.  She was Catholic, too.

“You’ll be great.  You can be more objective.”

Objective?  I doubted she or the higher ups wanted objectivity.  I was, after all, a Bagel Bopper who, while not religious, resented the notion that Jews were Christ killers and that the Catholic church had remained silent during World War II when they knew damn well about the slaughter going on right under their noses.

But I’d heard that Jesuits were tolerant of other religions and believers in free education. I couldn’t argue with that.

Still, I quit.  Before I packed my bag and walked out the front door, I made my way up to the second floor office of the Father and titular head of Loyola Press.  I don’t remember what I said.  Probably some bogus about being needed to care for an elderly relative or needing time to write a novel.  I couldn’t possibly tell the truth and confess.

Father (I wish I could remember his full name) was generous and kind.  He wished me best of luck and thanked me for my service.

I felt like a—well, like a traitor.  Maybe I was getting religion, after all.





Okay.  I injured my lower back.  Like most, I have no idea why.  Sure, I’m not a spring chicken.  But I’m strong and active and shouldn’t have dropped to the floor in pain while putting on my yoga pants.

It’s been two months and counting.  In the scheme of things, that’s no time at all.  And my injury is neither life-threatening nor chronic—at least, I hope it isn’t.  Not like my friend with MS. Or my dear friend with severe arthritis, fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome and all kinds of other stuff.

Experts estimate that 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some time in their lives.  So, I’m just one of the crowd.

I’ve seen two chiropractors for a grand total of twenty-five times.  I’m working with an acupuncturist once a week (though I forgot my appointment this Tuesday, even after figuring out how to use Cal, my new cell phone calendar.)  I have a series of stretches that I do daily.  And I’ve added walking to my exercise regimen.

So, here’s the thing: There have to be some grand lessons from all of this.  Well, not exactly grand.  Those who have survived cancer or other horrendous diseases talk about living each day to the fullest, about letting go of all the “little stuff” that used to impede their sense of happiness and contentment.

I’m not in their shoes.

But maybe this injury heralds a new growth spurt.  Maybe I shouldn’t be frustrated because I have to ask my husband to bring the basket of laundry up from the basement or to roll up the rubber garden hose or to carry bags of groceries from the garage into the house.

Maybe I need to learn how to ask people for help and not feel guilty or weak.  I’ve always prided myself on my independence and need to learn that it’s okay to rely on others to pick up the slack.  Crap.  I’m sounding like my mother the day she announced she would no longer drive a car and would happily rely on my father or friends or even the retirement home bus to cart her around.  But if she could do it, so can I.

This injury is prompting me to stop my complaining—well, at least to think about not complaining.  No one wants to listen, and bitching accomplishes nothing.  Now, I like to complain.  To feel sorry for myself and to have others feel sorry for me.  But I’ve got some important people in my life (think the friends I referenced earlier) who rarely, if ever, engage others in their woes.  I need to learn from them.

It’s the benefit of positive thinking on health both physical and mental.  Who can argue with that?

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

I’m betting there are some spiritual transitions in all of this, too.  I probably need to get back to meditation.  I started when I had my first grand mal seizure and continued twice daily for five years.  That was a long time ago.

Meditation gave me a sense of humor about my condition.  It enhanced my creativity.  It helped center me so that I wasn’t a ball of fear who had panic attacks whenever there was a ping in my head.  Meditation made me a calmer, more empathic person.

All of these lessons from a stinking back injury?  It’s a good thing it’s nothing more serious.  I might become a crone after all.