Thanks, Bruce

No, I have not seen the Bruce Jenner interview.  Yes, I have every intention of watching it…just not sure when. No, I don’t have a reason for avoiding, er, not tuning in.  Yes, I realize those are two hours of television I should most definitely have watched by now.

bruce

Okay, so in the three plus years since Jess has transitioned the public awareness of transgenderism (I think I made up that word) has exploded.  Way back in 2012 it was way weirder, way less common and certainly way less publicized than it is now.  Admittedly I am more tuned in, but I am quite certain that there was not a seemingly daily story on the subject like there is now.  My kind and well intentioned friends send me links to stories on television, the radio, online, in print and overheard at the local CVS nearly every day.  Many I have seen by the time they are forwarded to me, others I have not.  Some I read, some I do not.  Each time I skip reading the story I feel a pang of guilt; I should be well-versed on and interested in everything good, bad, thrilling, infuriating, scary, despicable and ground-breaking that happens in the transgender community, right?  I should be a loud and proud voice for my child, right?  I should know the what, where, why and how of the LGBT community so I can educate, explain and improve the world view, right? Only here’s the rub: sometimes I just want to be a regular mom with a regular kid with regular issues.  Sometimes I literally cannot bear the thought of hearing one more tale of transition or acceptance or rejection or triumph or catastrophe…so I do things like avoid, er, not find the time, to watch the Bruce Jenner interview.

To be clear: I am all for educating, explaining, protecting, supporting, and normalizing the transgender experience.  I applaud Bruce Jenner and Laverne Cox and Brad & Angelina and Cameron and Aiden and Connie and Rogina and Jill Soloway and Diane Sawyer and Jazz and Mimi Lemay and every other man, woman and child who puts themselves out there.  In fact, I have been one of those people.  With each new story I already know what the comments will be…they never change:

“A child is too young to make this decision.  If they said they wanted to be a pony would you let them?”

“G-d doesn’t make mistakes.”

“These are the most wonderful parents ever!”

“These are the worst parents ever!”

“Crazy mother didn’t get the girl she wanted, so she’s doing this!  For shame!”

“I wish I had had parents like this…it would have saved me years of pain.”

This cycle is, as I am sure you can appreciate, exhausting.  What’s more: at this point in the game, I sometimes forget that Jess was George.  I see her as my very cool, very complicated, very interesting, very unusual, very artistic, very independent thinking kid.  I think of her as my kid and not as my transgender kid.  I don’t bring it up in conversation, nor do I hide it.  It is what it is.  Maybe your kid has issues with anxiety or anger or learning or obesity or is so obnoxious that it is legendary…and you don’t need or, frankly, want every article, story and debate over your given malady because you are living it.  Yep.  It is the same thing here.

I know that each and every person who has ever sent me a text about or a link to an article or story is doing so with kind, loving and supportive intentions.  I really do.  I know that the media has latched onto the transgender story and that it is doing wonderful things for the community.  I really do.

From everything I have heard, seen and read since his interview it is clear that Bruce Jenner did a wonderful thing for himself, his family and the world by sharing his story.  I am grateful for that.  I hope it throws some tar down on the newly paved road for kids like mine.  I also hope it takes a little bit of pressure off of us parents who, despite enormous support and love, often feel like we are flying solo.  By not watching, and not weighing in with an opinion, I feel a sense of relief that someone else can talk the talk and walk the walk for me, if just for a few days.

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What Was I Scared Of?

scaredof

Well…

I was walking in the night

And I saw nothing scary.

For I have never been afraid

Of anything. Not very.

Then I was deep within the woods

When, suddenly, I spied them.

I saw a pair of pale green pants

With nobody inside them!

I wasn’t scared. But, yet, I stopped

What could those pants be there for?

What could a pair of pants at night

Be standing in the air for?

And then they moved? Those empty pants!

They kind of started jumping.

And then my heart, I must admit,

It kind of started thumping.

So I got out. I got out fast

As fast as I could go, sir.

I wasn’t scared. But pants like that

I did not care for. No, sir.

After that a week went by.

Then one dark night in Grin-itch

(I had to do an errand there

And fetch some Grin-itch spinach)……

Well, I had fetched the spinach.

I was starting back through town

When those pants raced around a corner

And they almost knocked me down!

I lost my Grin-itch spinach

But I didn’t even care.

I ran for home! Believe me,

I had really had a scare!

Now, bicycles were never made

For pale green pants to ride ‘em,

Especially spooky pale green pants

With nobody inside ‘em!

And the NEXT night, I was fishing

For Doubt-trout on Roover River

When those pants came rowing toward me!

Well, I started in to shiver.

And by now I was SO frightened

That, I’ll tell you, but I hate to….

I screamed and rowed away and lost

my hook and line and bait, too!

I ran and found a Brickle bush

I hid myself away.

I got brickles in my britches

But I stayed there anyway.

I stayed all night. The next night, too

I’d be there still, no doubt,

But I had to do an errand

So, the next night, I went out.

I had to do an errand,

Had to pick a peck of Snide

In a dark and gloomy Snide-field

That was almost nine miles wide.

I said, “I do not fear those pants

With nobody inside them.”

I said, and said, and said those words.

I said them. But I lied them.

Then I reached inside a Snide bush

And the next thing that I knew,

I felt my hand touch someone!

And I’ll bet that you know who.

And there I was! Caught in the Snide!

And in that dreadful place

Those spooky, empty pants and I

were standing face to face!

I yelled for help. I screamed. I shrieked.

I howled. I yowled. I cried,

“OH, SAVE ME FROM THESE PALE

GREEN PANTS WITH NOBODY INSIDE!”

But then a strange thing happened.

Why, those pants began to cry!

Those pants began to tremble.

They were just as scared as I!

I never heard such whimpering

And I began to see

That I was just as strange to them

As they were strange to me!

So…

I put my arm around their waist

And sat right down beside them.

I calmed them down.

Poor empty pants

With nobody inside them.

And now, we meet quite often,

Those empty pants and I,

And we never shake or tremble,

We both smile and we say…”Hi!”

So goes my very favorite (and seemingly little known since anytime I quote it I am met with blank stares) Dr. Seuss story, “What Was I Scared Of”.  I used to read it to my kids when they were little, particularly enjoying the singsong verse and fantastic message that I wanted to teach them, despite my inability to necessarily abide by it.  The opening line frequently pops into my head as I, admittedly, am a person who has struggled with what I know (intellectually, anyway) are silly fears.

I have just returned from ten days in Chile – a gloriously beautiful country with breathtaking views, delicious food, incredible wine and wonderfully warm people.  But perhaps more important than the scenery, food and companionship was the number of fears that I faced and, damn!,  conquered.

Admittedly, many of said fears will seem ridiculous, silly and even slightly pathetic but, as I often remind you, I am nothing if not honest.  So, in no particular order, here goes:

  1. The plane ride. The thought of being on a plane for any amount of time, let alone nearly ten hours used to bring me to my knees and, truthfully, kept me home.  My plane would never crash…it is the knowledge that I cannot get off if I find myself in a situation in which I want/need/absolutely have to or I will die in a flame of hysteria.  While I long ago learned that taking a Xanax would ease those fears, over the past decade I have moved from taking a Xanax, to just having it in my handbag (only occasionally clutching it) to not even filling the prescription. Check.
  2. Illness or Malady. Every single time I ever go anywhere I spend an inordinate amount of time prior to departure worrying about getting sick while there.  (Of note: I hardly ever get sick when I am home, so why I would worry about it when I am away is a sign of bat-shit craziness. That being said, I did get quite a nasty upper respiratory infection last year while in Las Vegas…but I also lived to talk about it.)  Interestingly enough, during my trip to Chile not one, not two, but three of my travel companions came down with an antibiotic-requiring ailment.  I did not.  Check.
  3. Climbing a mountain. Okay, I have never had a fear of climbing a mountain, per say, but the symbolism of finding myself somewhere inconvenient to medical (or emotional) intervention should the need arise not only left me on the sidelines but made me a prime candidate for a shrink’s field day.  The “what ifs” were bigger than me: “what if I trip and break my ankle?” “what if I have to go to the bathroom?”, “what if I freak out for some ridiculous reason?”.  Nope, nope and nope. Check.chilemountain
  4. Sticking my head in a sink to cool off. While I never put any thought to the pros and cons of submerging my head in a sink, it was nothing I have ever nor thought I would ever have even contemplated, let alone done.  My hair, the origins of the water, all that wetness…yeah, no.  Well, I learned that once you are halfway to the top of the mountain and it is 90 degrees and you are offended by your own smell, dunking your head in a sink is awesome.  Obvious Freudian explanation notwithstanding: Check.sink
  5. Eating empanadas on the side of the road, a steak and avocado sandwich from the bottom of a backpack or strange looking soup with filled with stranger looking fish. I firmly believe that milk should be taken from the fridge, poured into the glass and then promptly returned to the cold, lest bacteria begin to grow and cause a violent case of vomiting, cramps and/or the trots.  Lesson learned: if you work hard and climb a mountain you become infinitely less insanely neurotic about food borne illnesses.  Metaphors abounding and: CheckIMG_0163
  6. Sharing a bathroom with your boyfriend’s parents. Well, this one did not come to fruition and the discovery of a second full bathroom in the cabin (which happened to be situated in perhaps the most beautiful spot in the world) was an emotional deal changer, but I am confident I would have lived through it had it actually happened.[1] Pre-worried (extensively) over that one for nothin’. Check.

This trip was a big deal for me.  Despite being wrapped up in a beautiful package with incredible scenery, food and companionship it challenged me.  It forced me, in a very four star environment, to step out of my comfort zone, kick some ass and allow myself to just relax…because really, what was I scared of?

boots

And a special shout out and thanks to this guy…for holding my hand literally and figuratively…

bts

[1] I love his parents, but certain things need to remain sacred.  Love to FS who, sensing my apprehension lovingly told me, “Mi bano es tu bano”…

Angelina: My Hero

I will unashamedly confess that I have a girl crush on Angelina.  She is, brave, talented, driven, accomplished, insanely cool, wildly accepting and, of course breathtakingly gorgeous (Aside:  In the picture here she had the chicken pox.  Seriously, who looks like that when they have the chicken pox?  Angelina, that’s who.)  And I thank her for making so little of something that so many find so huge and so scary.

f_fh_joliechickenpox_141213.vembedmed

When she and Brad realized the sincerity with which Shiloh insisted she is John they had a choice: go underground or give their child a voice that many (no, most) others in his shoes do not have.  They could easily have quelled the story.  So, too, could they have told him that their celebrity and fame stood to be tarnished by such an announcement.  And they could have used their myriad “people” to keep it out of the press.  They did none of those things.  In fact, they let loose and sent a very clear message: who the fuck cares?

They are, without competition, the coolest people alive.

The matter-of-fact attitude of the Pitts is utterly fantastic.  Their willingness to allow a person who they chose to bring into the world to live authentically and not according to script should be a lesson to every parent, no, every person, who ever happens to comes into contact with someone different from themselves.

The Pitts are not worried about John’s happiness or whether this is a “phase”.  They are worried about the very real fact that not everyone in the world sees things the way they do and that John definitely faces different challenges than Shiloh would.  They worry about the assholes that will pop up and create problems for their kid just because he doesn’t have a penis.  Why on earth it matters to anyone else is a mystery that will likely not be solved in our lifetime, but perhaps Angie and Brad’s unbridled acceptance will put a dent in things.

I love that the arguably coolest people alive used their power the way that they did.  They were not defensive, did not feel a need to further explain the decision of their family and are doing what good parents do: walking alongside their child, helping him to find his way in the world.

Your kid might not be transgender, but I am willing to bet that they have something that makes them unique and presents them with challenges: maybe they are autistic or ADHD, or have huge ears or just happen to have an obnoxious personality (what? it happens)…do yourself a favor and take a page from Angie and Brad’s playbook and support the hell out of them.  Teach them to accept rather than reject.  Remind them to be kind and empathetic.  And then follow their lead.

The Pitts are my heroes.  Make them yours, too.

Keep Calm, It’s Not Contagious

Recently someone expressed their concern over their children having been “exposed” to Jess.  Let that sink it.

notcontagious

I don’t know about you, but when I consider exposure and concern in the same sentence here’s what comes to my mind:

  1. The flu
  2. The chicken pox
  3. Ebola
  4. Tuberculosis
  5. Yellow Fever
  6. AIDS
  7. Stomach bugs
  8. Pertussis
  9. Syphilis
  10. Pink eye
  11. Legionnaires Disease
  12. Strep throat
  13. Meningitis
  14. A cold
  15. Rabies
  16. Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E
  17. MRSA
  18. Bubonic Plague
  19. Chlamydia
  20. Diptheria
  21. Malaria
  22. SARS
  23. Athlete’s Foot
  24. Typhoid Fever
  25. Herpes

Here’s what doesn’t:

  1. Anything, anything related to LGBTQ

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

There is a Christmas tree in my living room.  It is understated, with glowing white lights (which do me the favor of not blinking) and simple silver ornaments.  It is situated perfectly in the middle of the window, shining out in the darkness of night for everyone to enjoy.  I actually love that Christmas tree.  Only it is not my tree, nor is it my living room.

xmastree

I spent twenty years in that house.  I raised both of my sons, and then, three years ago, a daughter there.  During my tenure I lived through construction of a big addition,  various paint jobs,  rearranged furniture, new carpets, replacement of appliances that all decided to die at the same time, play structures being constructed and ultimately, outgrown, great times and, frankly, some pretty dark ones.  My children, in all their incarnations and phases (some more pleasant than others) spent the entirety of their lives there.  And now, there is a Christmas tree not far from where the Menorah was illuminated for all those twenty years.

The end of this year rests in stark contrast to the end of last.  Everything, it seems, feels different.  And, for the first time in longer than I feel ashamed to admit, I feel blessed.

My children are doing fine.  Better than fine, in fact.  They have their moments (oh, who am I kidding…it is never just a moment) but all in all, they are good.  Harrison, (begrudgingly) home for semester break continues to make me proud.  (Well, makes me proud when he isn’t forcing me to use words to describe him that are unbecoming of a mother.)  He, as a sophomore (warning: brag ahead) was elected president of his fraternity.  He’s always been a leader and despite the fact that I really do not quite get the whole frat thing, is (when not home) wildly happy at school having surrounded himself with a great group of friends. For that I feel blessed.

Jess continues to be work in progress, but, despite her “significant” learning disability, rocked this semester with all As and Bs.  She is finding her way and is content.  (Full disclosure: I still worry about her.  Always will, I suppose.) She is an artist to the core and I fully expect to see her one woman show at The Whitney some day.

I’ve established two wonderful relationships; one being with my former husband, Rich.  The process of the dissolution of our marriage was unpleasant, no fun, felt interminable and nearly crushed my spirit, but we’ve both moved on and twice (yes, twice) in the past week have broken bread with our children in celebration of Jess’s birthday and then Hannukah.  No tension, no anger, no animosity and a bill split down the middle.  That’s how it should be.  The other is with my guy Barry.  His support of every single one of the complications that come along with me has been unfailing.  He loves me, my children (and I, his) and, with his ringside seat to the changes of the past year, has kept me laughing.  That is a gift.

2014 is ending high.  On paper, I have always had so much to be thankful for: a wonderful family, amazing friends, a nice home and good food, but, if I am being honest (which you all know I always am): I was having a hard time feeling blessed.  I truly do now.

Other than my, gulp, 50th birthday and a trip to Chile, I haven’t a clue what 2015 will bring.  In contrast to years past, I enter it not with trepidation, but with happy anticipation.  My ducks are in a row straighter than they have been for, well, a decade or so and I intend to keep them that way.

There is a Christmas tree in my living room, shining on me.  May it shine on you and yours, too.

November 18

The alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 5:30 a.m.  but I need not have set it at all as I had been wide awake praying for sleep since ten o’clock the night before when I crawled into bed, Ambien on board.  It was the pre-Facebook, pre-Words With Friends, pre-iPhone era, so my options were limited.  I knew I needed to rest, to prepare, to go in strong, but there was just no damn way I was going to sleep.

I was due to arrive at 6:30 a.m., thirty minutes prior to my procedure.  I took a shower, washed and pulled through the curls of my hair, styling it to within an inch of its life, but (and this is notable) stopped short of applying any makeup…even my beloved mascara.  There would be no need for it where I was going, and, in fact, it would only become a smeared mess which could well have been the thing that put me over the edge.

My mother arrived promptly at 6:15 a.m.[i] to get the boys off to their respective schools – Georgie[ii]  to daycare, Harrison to his first grade classroom.   It felt sneaky leaving before they were awake, but I couldn’t bear to say goodbye, so we split as they were just starting to stir awake.  It was better for everyone.  Well, for me, anyway.

As we got in the car, I noted to myself that the fact that I had not slept for weeks did not seem to be impacting my energy level.  In fact, I felt as though jumping directly out of my skin was a very real possibility.  I popped a Xanax, took a deep breath and settled in for the ten minute drive to the hospital.  It was time for me to actually have the bi-lateral mastectomies that we had been discussing for weeks.

There are parts of the day and following weeks that are so vividly etched in my mind that they could have happened this morning: walking into the pre-op area, not nearly as looped from the Xanax as I would have like to be and being warmly welcomed by the team of nurses that were going to take care of me; my surgeon, marking my breasts and commenting that I had great tissue..but I was quite sure, positive in fact, that I heard him say “great tits”; and chatting with the orderlies about how my surgeon just told me I had great tits.  And then, not a single memory until nine hours later when I woke up, thrashing not from pain or anxiety, but from the cuffs around my ankles which were keeping my circulation going and, of note, driving me out of my fucking mind; sweating and not being able to lift my arms to secure a ponytail; wanting my glasses so I could see, but learning that they were already in the room that I would occupy once I was deemed stable enough to be transported from recovery.  And the little mounds that my doctor (yeah, the one who liked my tits[iii]) made sure to create so that when I awoke there would be something, anything where my breasts used to be.

The two days I spent in the hospital are a blur.  My one recollection is the walk I took around the hall with my father who was, at the time, dying of lung cancer.  It was the first time ever that I was actually walking more slowly than he.  We were shaky, tentative and scared.

That was ten years ago: November 18, 2004.  It was the Thursday before Thanksgiving which has become a holiday which threatens to knock me down every year, but has yet to succeed.  In that time so much has changed that it is nearly impossible to believe.  In 2004 my two sons were approaching respective birthdays: George would be three, Harrison ten.  I now have a nearly 13-year-old named Jessie and a soon-to-be 20 year-old who is far more man than boy.  My father is gone…for close to nine years now.  I am no longer married, no longer live in the home in which I raised my children and no longer have two sons.  Those ten years were my forties.  And now, with my, gulp, choke, egad, 50th birthday on the horizon I feel so many different things, but mostly grateful.

ten

Not only am I alive, but I have cancer in my rear view mirror and the scars to prove it.  I have met so many incredible people along the way – my team of doctors, the oncologist and the plastic surgeon (who I affectionately refer to as the one who took ‘em off and the one who put ‘em back on), my nurse who was considerate enough to go through a divorce at the exact same time as me and has become my friend and the people who have been with me through every single upheaval that has defined my forties.

Today is a big deal for me.  I never quite know how it is going to go down.  I have had November 18th s that have been marked by shopping sprees, crying jags, malaise and euphoria – and sometimes all of the above.  I do not know what today will bring.  I do know it is an anniversary I will never ignore, forget or not appreciate for what it has given me.

[i] If you know my mother, you know this is notable.  The “promptly” part, that is.

[ii] Name choice intended

[iii]  He did NOT say I had great tits (which I did) but to this day, every time I see him I remind him just so I can see him blush.

 

It’s Not About The Parking Spot

Last night I cried over a parking spot.  Well, it wasn’t over a parking spot as much as the lack of one.  I had been out for the evening, arrived home itching to wash my face, brush my teeth, crawl into bed to play Words With Friends and crash for the night.  Only, I couldn’t because there was nowhere to park.  It was just enough to put me over the edge.

parking

For twenty years I lived in a nice (enough) four-bedroom house with a double wide driveway which was always there for me.  Not once in those twenty years did I arrive home unable to park my car.  I never put any thought to it.  I never reconsidered an evening out for fear that it would end with my not being able to park and, well, crying over it.  Now that I have downsized (significantly), the parking void is real.   And last night it was just enough to make me cry.

Only it wasn’t the insanity of not being able to park that made me cry.  It is certainly what set me off, but it was, like the lack of sex in a failing marriage, symptomatic of other things.

Today was my date with the judge.  After two years of rankling, discussing, acquiescing, negotiating and conceding, it was time to get divorced.  I was emotionally ready.  I had the date circled on my calendar* and awaited its arrival with calm and even a little bit of excitement.  It has been a long time coming, I was entirely resolute and ready but the anticipation of it kinda snuck up on me and, as a result, the fact that there was not a space in front of my door laying in wait for my arrival was enough to reduce me to tears. (Okay, full disclosure: it was a little bit of an exaggeration when I said that there was “nowhere” to park.  There were places to park, but they were further away from my front door than was acceptable to me. There, I said it.)

In the past two years I have separated from my husband, sold my house, moved to a two bedroom apartment, held a job, did freelance work on the side, raised two kids, fallen in love and now, gotten divorced.  It’s all good, but it is also a lot and ya wanna know something?  I’m tired and, therefore, parking challenges make me cry.

My mother has often pointed out to me, with more than a hint of frustration, the fact that I consistently crash through big, scary things with aplomb and a decent amount of grace.  I plow through situations that might bring others to their knees with strength and my sense of humor (almost) always intact.  However, throw me a curve ball as ridiculous as not being able to find a parking spot and I am ridiculously, embarrassingly and frustratingly destroyed, albeit it temporarily.  She is right.  Guilty as charged.

To my credit, however, I have a very quick recovery.  As it is happening, I am one million percent sure that my angst and agitation are directly related to whatever little tiny issue sets me off; like the other morning when I nearly (but didn’t) screeched, “what do you mean you are out of salt bagels?!?” at the poor pimply kid behind the counter.   It usually takes me just a few minutes to realize and (eventually) acknowledge that it isn’t about the parking spot at all.  It is then that I muster all my fortitude and remind myself, “I can do this.”  And I do.

Most of you started reading this blog because you wanted to follow Jess’s story.  I realize that for the past several months my entries have been sporadic, seldom about Jess and frequently about me.  Rest assured, she still has plenty of story left in her.  She’s been along for this ride and has (as recently as this afternoon when I nearly lost my mind over her coat and backpack being strewn across the floor) been subjected  to my emotional-episodes-that-aren’t-about-the-parking-spot-or-sold-out-salt-bagels.

Hang tight.  I am getting closer to establishing a new reality that is not built around the next huge thing I have to deal with…at least I hope I am.

*Not really.  I don’t even have a calendar on which I could circle something, even if I wanted to.  It was, however,  noted in my handy iPhone, along with a note to schedule the kids’ annual check-ups.

Nailed It

Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that for the past twenty years, one would be hard pressed to find me without perfectly manicured nails.  Not long and never red, just clean, polished, perfectly filed and, even (especially) during the worst of times, flawless.  It has been the thing that made me feel in control and, I assumed, conveyed to the world a psychic unity that often eluded me.  I readily and frequently professed that I would give up food before I gave up my beloved bi-weekly manis.  And then last week happened.

I had put exactly zero thought to what I was about to do.  I had not, in fact, even entertained the idea.  Yet, as I sat in the familiar chair struggling with my aluminum foiled covered fingernails* to turn the pages of the most recent “People” magazine I felt not the comfort and calm that always came with manicures, rather I felt agitated and irritated by the process and a little ashamed of the time I was wasting while I should really have been packing up my house to move.

The guy who has been doing my nails for years sat silently scraping the remaining “Dizzy Feet” (which, incidentally, is the perfect shade of pink)(I know because I spent an embarrassing amount of time over these past 20 years seeking just that: the perfect shade of pink)(it’s Essie for those who are going to go looking for it) off my nails, preparing to paint them yet again.  “Wait” I nearly shouted, “No polish…just buff them and throw on a shiny clear coat.”

He literally stopped and stared at me.  I think he jaw might have dropped open a little.  It was then that I knew that I was done with this whole ritual, habit, commitment.

photo (18)

The symbolism is not lost on me.  This has been a (ten year) period of all sorts of crap coming at me from left, front and center.  It all began in November, 2004 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and has been a steady stream of stress, change, upheaval, mishegas**, anxiety, transition and general shit-storminess.  Yes, there have been some wonderful things thrown in there, too, but, all in all…it’s been a rough patch.  Through it all, my nails were always perfect.  In fact, the day before my surgery I made sure to have my nails done so that when I woke up I would feel like at least a shadow of myself.  Same with the day before my father’s funeral, the day George told me she was a girl, when my husband and I decided to separate…

Now that we are approaching year three of Jess’s transition, my house is sold, I’ve found a place to live, I have a wonderful man in my life and the world is continuing to spin on its axis I realized I don’t need perfect nails any more.  To be clear, they are well groomed and will remain so.  I actually kinda like the way they look and found myself (almost) getting a little judgey (that’s my made up word for being judgmental) when I see a woman with nails that resemble the way mine used to look.  But, rest assured, it has been a fleeting thought as I, perhaps more than most, deeply appreciate the value of a perfect manicure.

Pathetic as it may sound, I consider this a victory, a success, a milestone.  I feel liberated on many levels.  I do, however, reserve the right to relapse and return to the perfect pink someday…

 

*Gel manicures changed my life…but in order to prepare the nails for a new coat, one has to wrap the nail in foil and acetone to melt the crap out of them.  As noted, it makes for very difficult trashy magazine page turning which, I realized, was a good 75 percent of what I actually needed when I walked into the nail salon.

** That’s “Jewish” for craziness.

The Power Of An (Eskimo) Kiss

It happened so quickly as to be almost imperceptible and could more easily have been missed than been caught.  It was as quick as it was gentle, organic, sweet and utterly heartwarming.  I’ve not been able to stop thinking about it.

We’d just eaten a delicious Indian dinner and had taken our place in a long line at the ice cream shop; me seeking to cleanse my pallet with a tart yogurt.  They had declined the opportunity to order anything for themselves, but would willingly sample my dessert when offered a spoonful (or two as the case may be).  Married for a mere fifty-seven years,  they stood in comfortable, well-fed silence waiting for the rest of us to indulge when, with no fanfare or trace of contrivance, they exchanged a warm glance, their eyes sparkled and they  gently touched noses.  I felt goosebumps erupt on my arms and warmth run through me.  It was a moment that I felt lucky to have witnessed, although admittedly, the intimacy of it forced me to reflexively turn away, allowing them a modicum of privacy among the waffle cones.

Just an Eskimo kiss…and one, I am willing to bet, was not the first or one they will even recall.

eskimo

I have thought a lot about why this moment was so powerful to me.  I’ve considered the fact that their relationship began exactly when my own parents’ did and how both unions are/were so solid.  I’ve noted the ease with which they maneuver together and apart.  There is, too, such a profound, unspoken understanding of strengths, weaknesses, quirks, foibles and neuroses that their dance is seamless and secure.  Isn’t that what everyone ultimately wants?

Through these past few years of seemingly endless transitions, I am acutely aware of the comfort of sameness and the human need for a degree of consistency.  Two people touching noses are two people who are in sync and, while they are well aware of the guaranteed certainty of uncertainty, they got this.  It is that ease, that comfort, that even slim semblance of certainty which has eluded me .  Observing it in others, however, brought me comfort and peace knowing that it still exists.

My son is my daughter.  My marriage is no longer.  I’m nearing the time when I enter a new decade.   My home of twenty years is on the market, kept in a permanent state of immaculateness (sterility??) should someone be interested in traipsing through, judging every nook and cranny of the place that worked just fine for its four most recent inhabitants.  I’m working on a (fuzzy, at best) plan for the next two years which, if history is worth a damn, are sure to be as irresolute as the last two.

With so much up in the air it can feel as though the chance of landing on something absolute will permanently evade you.  And then you catch a nose rub in an ice cream shop…

Daniels, Elisabeth R.

As a kid, I remember my parents scanning (okay, they were reading) the obituaries listed in the newspaper. I didn’t think it odd as it was something they always did and was, in my child’s mind, “normal”. When I inquired as to why they did it, they responded with a jocular, “just making sure we’re still alive” and that was that.  I, too, am a scanner/reader of death notices.  Have been for as long as I can recall.  I’ve even been known to check them online.  Sounds creepy when I see it written, but I assure you, it is not.

That being said, I am immersed in this habit deeply enough to have a system. First I check the town in which I live, then my hometown and, finally, I scan for Jewish names. More often than not, I happen upon a familiar one: usually a parent or grandparent of a friend. Sometimes I have heard of the passing and seek out the announcement for the pertinent information, but more often than not, I just peruse without purpose. I’m not sure what I am looking for but assume it is my love of a good story that keeps me coming back for more.  Many (most, actually) stick to the basics and tell very little by way of a story but do serve to confirm that the name I am reading does indeed relate to someone in my world. I’ve seen them depressingly brief  and overwhelmingly detailed. None, however, has captured my interest as did this one:

photo (17)

Interestingly, Elisabeth R. Daniels did not hail from either of “my” towns, nor was she Jewish. I’ve no recollection as to what made me read her obituary, but I did and, as you can see, went so far as to tear it out and save it (admission: it was on my fridge for a few days).   It is, without competition, the Best.Obituary.Ever.

We all hope to leave some sort of mark on the world, some kind of legacy which will serve to define us years after we are gone. I cannot speak for the masses, but would venture a guess that most (all) people hope that theirs is a positive, honest (assuming the two are not mutually exclusive) and, if we are really lucky, meaningful one. We were kind, or philanthropic, or funny or a trailblazer of some sort. Or perhaps we flew under the radar and made little impact other than to live quietly and not bother anyone. Most (all) of us would prefer not to be remembered for the time we behaved like an asshole or forgot to filter our words. Elisabeth was true to herself (and, so too, apparently, were her mother Sally and sister Dinah). I cannot help thinking that she sanctioned (and maybe even penned )the delightfully honest memorializing of herself. Talk about going out on your own terms. Have at it, Ms. Daniels!

Being honest with ourselves and knowing who we are can be totally awesome or can suck big time: sometimes all in the same day. Digging deep and owning the good, the bad and the ugly ain’t easy, but is it freeing, for sure.

I’ve always admired (envied maybe) the honesty with which Jess has lived her life. Like Elisabeth, she is a “unique creation” and I hope that (many, many, many) years down the road, when her legacy is being written it will be done so with the same love that Elisabeth’s has been.

I hope the same for Harrison. And, frankly, for me.