Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Lisa: "You know, what the heck. I'm having a glass of wine." (pause while uncorking and pouring) "S.E!"
Maria: "OH...you know what? 'S.E'. right back. I've been 'S.E-ing' for a while now!"
Lisa: "'S.E'. Mmm, that's good."
Maria: "SOPHIA!! I know you can come up with a sentence for 'single'! This kid, I swear...she can write poetry and you should hear the songs she writes! But she can't come up with a sentence for 'single'! You know what, Sophia? I know you can come up with a sentence for single!!" (distant whining in background: "But I need help!! You have to help me!")
"SOPHIA!! That's it! You're going in your room to do your homework. Let's go."
Lisa: "I used to go through that with Dylan all the time. Drives you crazy."
Maria: "You have 31 minutes from right now to get this done!! You stay up here in your beautiful room at your beautiful desk, and you get this done. And for every minute over 31 that you don't get your homework done, you lose that much time watching TV. And I'm not kidding!!" (more whining in the background)
Lisa: "...So, what's going on with that house you were thinking of buying?"
Maria: "Oh, that's funny that you asked that! We had a long discussion about that one and the other one today." (An hour-long conversation ensues talking about the pros and cons of both houses in consideration, plus a trip to the internet to view said houses online by Lisa. Maria's son is on her computer, so she attempts to view said houses on her television, which produces a stream of semi-obscenities from her mouth) "What the hell!! What the hell is wrong with this damn thing!! OH!! THERE IT IS!! REMAX!! Wait a minute. WAIT!! Oh, for crying out loud! I just missed Remax!!"
Lisa: "You can't just go back and get it?"
Maria: "No, I can't explain it. Stupid thing. This thing is so stupid. And I can't even find the damn house. OH MY GOD, I'M FREEZING!! What is up with this thermostat? I gotta raise the heat. And my kids are walking around barefoot. Sigh."
(Dylan now bellows, "MOM!! I'm hungry!! What're we eating?" from upstairs)
Lisa: "Dyl, one minute, I'm coming. (stands up) "WOO!! HAHAHAH!! Wow, that was some glass of wine!! Oh my gosh, I'm so woozy...how am I gonna go to work in an hour?"
Maria: "Work?? Why do you have to go to work tonight?"
Lisa: "Monthlies are due. That's part of the promotion, I have to do a bunch of paperwork. But I can't go there until 8:00 because they have two yoga classes there tonight."
Lisa: "Yeah, for the guys. Dylan, one second. Hold the plate steady, because when I drop the cranberry sauce into it, it's gonna fall. You got it? Okay, hold on." (an attempt to loosen cranberry sauce from the can ensues) "DYL!! I told you to hold the plate!!"
Dylan: "HAHA....Mom, I got it!! Hurry up. I'll take that peice. Just give me that one."
Maria: "SOPHIA!! I'm not helping you!! You can write a sentence for 'single', this is ridiculous!! This kid is driving me crazy. Did you see the kitchen on the house in Pheasant Run? We really wanted a center island. I can't explain it, it looks smaller in person."
Lisa: "Well, the house is beautiful, and it has everything you want except a center island. I think it's a no-brainer."
Maria: "I know, but I can't explain it...SOPHIA!! You do NOT need my help!! You've been working on your homework for three hours!!"
Lisa: "Maybe you should tell the teacher that she takes three hours to do her homework. They might be giving her too much."
Maria: "OH, she just doesn't want to do it. She wants me to give her all the answers, and she just putts around and plays with the dog while she should be doing her homework. It's so frustrating!! Oh, my God, I'm freezing. I can't take this."
Lisa: "I'm cold now, too."
Maria: "Me too. Sigh. So what else?"
Lisa: "Nothing much. I'm just on EBay looking for rooster clocks."
Maria: "...Rooster clo....AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!!!!! OH my God. You're looking for Rooster clocks?!? HAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAA!!!!!! Oh, I can't help it. That sounds funnier every time I say it!!!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!!!!"
Lisa: "HAAAHAAAHAAAHAAAA!!! I know...HAAHHAHAHHAAAA!!! Rooster clocks!!!! "
Maria: "Sigh....that was so funny..."
Lisa: "Hehehe...rooster clocks...ha!"
Maria: "Oh, here's the other peice of pajama...I was looking for this..."
Lisa: "HAHAHAHAHA!!!! 'piece of pajama'??? Chuckle.
Maria: "SOPHIA!! YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN FIND A SENTENCE USING THE WORD 'SINGLE'!!!! HOW ABOUT, 'MY MOTHER LOSES HER MIND EVERY SINGLE TIME HER DAUGHTER DOES HER HOMEWORK!!!!"
Lisa: "HHAAAAHAAAAHAAAHAAHAHAHAAAAA!!!!!!! I CAN'T TAKE IT!!!!!"
Heh heh...that was some gooood wine. ;0
...and that definitely wasn't the rooster clock I ended up with!
Monday, February 26, 2007
(I have decided to delete this post due to the sensitive and personal nature of the subject matter. Although it wasn't read or responded to by anyone involved, I felt that it was more important to keep the peace that we've all worked so hard for rather than to dredge up the past. Once you've healed from something, there really is no point in bringing it all up again. I feel that I've moved on and I'm happy with my life...a life I wouldn't have had if I hadn't gotten divorced.)
So there you have it. A cross-country move when I was 11; my mother’s death when I was 22; and a divorce from my first husband when I was 33. I turned 44 a month ago—another “eleventh year”—and I’ve decided that his will be my year of success. If my life is going to change, it’s going to change for the better. It has to—I promised myself. And I won’t break a promise.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
I guess I should go back in time just a little to explain the circumstances regarding my birth (okay, so that’s going back more than “just a little”). My parents married when my mom was 19 and my dad was 23. A year later, my brother was born. My parents, who both came from families with four children, tried for years to have another child. Both of them went through testing to determine if there was some sort of physical problem as to why my mother couldn’t conceive. After years of being told that there was nothing wrong with either one of them, they gave up trying and accepted that their son would not have a sibling.
When my mom was 36, she had something called an “umbilical cyst” removed from her abdomen. A short time later, she found herself pregnant—with me. Needless to say, it was almost like the Second Coming when I was born! My parents were overjoyed, and I was spoiled something terrible, not necessarily with physical things, but with getting my own way (the phrase, “Can I have some cheese and crackers with that whine?” comes to mind).
That being said, I became a lazy kid—and I got even worse as I entered my teens. Why bother cleaning my room when my mom would eventually do it anyway, because she hated a mess? I didn’t have time to help her cook or do the dishes—I was too busy with my social life—and she never really pressed the issue, anyway. To ease my guilt (I guess I actually had some kind of conscience and wasn’t a total monster), I would tell myself that she liked everything done her way anyhow, so what was the use of even trying?
The years went on, and my mom continued to do everything for me…and I continued to go on my merry, selfish way. I remember her saying that she got me into “Driver’s Ed” a semester early so that I would be able to drive her around (she never drove due to “macular degeneration” and there was no such thing as “Lasik” surgery back then). What’s sad to me is that I can remember driving my friends everywhere—sometimes even in a compromised condition—but I really can’t remember my mom sitting next to me in the passenger seat. I know I must have driven her around sometimes…I must have. But I can’t remember.
The height of my self-centeredness came the night that my mom gathered our little family together to tell us that she had cancer. She was upset, and so was everyone else…but in pure Scarnato fashion, my brother went back to his apartment emotionless; my dad poured himself a drink; and I asked my mom if she would mind if I didn’t cancel my plans to go out “clubbing” that night…after all, it was Friday. She looked at me in a way that reflected sadness and expectancy. She wasn’t shocked at my request, nor did she ever want to disappoint me in any way. I left the house feeling a twinge of guilt, and proceeded to drown my sorrows on the dance floor and in a glass. I was well aware of how much I sucked as a human being that night.
That was when I was 20. For the next 2 years, my mother dealt with chemo, radiation, hair loss, weight loss, even friend-loss (you truly find out who your friends are when you’re sick). My brother’s wife, who lived upstairs in our two family home with my brother and their two kids, took on most of my mom’s responsibilities, including cooking and washing the clothes. Sadly, I have no recollection of why I wasn’t doing those things back then. Perhaps I was too busy running away and holding on to any semblance of my spoiled existence. It may have even been possible that I knew that she would die, and I’d be left with all of the responsibility for my dad and myself—and that was too harsh a reality to face. I can recall yelling at her to get off the couch and fight for her life…asking her why she was just laying there, day after day, waiting to die. Begging her to go to Sloan Kettering, by far the best cancer research hospital in our area, perhaps even the entire country. She refused, saying it was too much for her, and I shouldn’t worry because her doctor knew what he was doing. I questioned myself as to why I was pleading with her to get off the couch. I knew I really wanted her to get well; no matter how I behaved, I loved my mother. But sometimes I get a sick feeling in my soul that maybe I needed her to get better so that MY life could go back to normal.
I finally began driving my mother around…not to the stores or to a friend’s house as I could have before…but to the hospital for testing, or the doctor’s office, or to an occasional treatment. Why didn’t I ever drive her to a restaurant for lunch when she was well? Why did I always give her a hard time? Why was I so damned difficult and selfish? While the “why’s” fell down upon me like cold, hard sleet, my mom’s condition started to deteriorate. The end was drawing near and not one person in my house was prepared for it.
There was a round-the-clock nurse at our home, a lovely woman who supported the family and eased our burden. My mom’s condition was to the point that when she took a breath in, she exhaled a moan of pain. Constantly. It was the most horrifying thing to listen to, knowing full well that we were all helpless to comfort her. I used to pray at night to God that if He wasn’t going to let a bolt of lightening strike her and cure her, could He just take her home with Him so that she could finally be in peace? Again, the guilt engulfed me, as I wondered whose pain was going to be eased more if she died—hers or mine.
The last day of her life is both lucid and a blur. I know that, after a fight with the oncologist and a prescription for an increased dosage of Morphine from our own family physician, my mom’s pain started to subside. Her moaning decreased, but her visions increased—she was muttering “Hi, Mom” about an hour before she passed, apparently to her mother who had died seven years earlier. I know that there were family members around, people sitting all over our living room while the clock ticked, making small talk about anything and nothing at all. I know it was a beautiful, dry, hot first day of August, and that I took a walk to the hairdresser down the block where my cousin was getting her hair cut. I remember thinking how clear and blue the sky looked, and how fresh the air smelled. My cousin drove me home, and I remember when we walked in the door that I didn’t hear my mom anymore…and I thought she had passed while I was gone.
The nurse called me into the room and told me that my mom had a few minutes left. I looked at her frail little body, so weak and yet so beautiful. I kissed her forehead that had the aroma of peaches or some kind of fruit…I’m not sure what it was, but she smelled like that often during her last few weeks. I spoke to her gently and told her I loved her. I told her some other things that I just can’t remember. But when I touched her arm, it felt cold. I noticed that her chest was barely moving. A wave of something came over me—I’m not sure if it was fear, sorrow or regret—and I started wailing, “Mommy!! Mommy!! Don’t leave me!!” To this day I don’t remember who dragged me out of the room. But two minutes later, the nurse came out, walked directly over to me, placed her hand on my shoulder and said, “Lisa, I think she’s gone now.” That was it. It was over.
My mom died on a Thursday. Since the cemeteries on Long Island don’t bury the deceased on Sunday, and we needed time for our relatives from California to come out, we decided to bury her on Monday. I say “we”, because at some point in the last few weeks of my mother’s life, I became somewhat responsible. This became apparent the day after her death, when we went to the funeral home to make arrangements. I went with my dad, my brother and one of my uncles, who supposedly came with us for “moral support”, but did little more than sit in the office in a drunken stupor. As the funeral director spewed out various necessities to us in succession, I noticed my father becoming more and more confused. At one point, he looked at me and said, “What do you think?” With those four words, I entered into adulthood.
I took control of everything from that moment on, from picking out the casket to lending the director a picture of my mother and telling him, “Make her look like that.” I held my head up high at her SRO wake, welcoming long-lost friends and relatives, dealing with a godmother I never knew that I had and chuckling over an ex-boyfriend who cried harder than I did. I was strong that day, and in the days that followed. I felt different. Life, as I knew it, was over. I was now a full-fledged grown-up, and there was no turning back.
(The third installment of "The Eleven-Year Glitch" will be posted next week.)
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Several years ago, while reviewing the altering events that happened in my life, I came to realize that they all happened in an “11th” year. The first event, when I was eleven, involved a huge family migration from New York to California. I admit; at first, I was excited to go to this far away land that my father spoke of so enthusiastically. But as time went on (and I listened in on more of my mom’s phone conversations with her friends), I realized that the only reason he wanted to move was because his sisters and father wanted to move…and they only reason they wanted to move was because their famous brother had just moved there (he was Frank Sinatra's comedian, Pat Henry). Everyone was enamored with a vision of endless celebrity encounters and the promise of a more glamorous lifestyle (at least, that’s what it seemed like to me). I will admit that the thought of leaving for California with my cousins (even down to taking the plane flight together) made the event all the more bearable. But once we actually got there, we ended up moving to different towns--my cousins to Calabasas, my family to Thousand Oaks. Although I got to see them often, I wished we were going to be in school together.
The harsh reality of moving to California for me was that, although it was indeed beautiful, I was at the worst possible age to move to a place where I felt as if I didn’t even speak the language (and was reminded of it every single day of my life by my peers). From the very first day of school, the other students taunted me. At recess, a dirty-blonde, long-haired, tan-legged typical California girl walked up to me with her accessory Barbie friend and told me that if I wanted to fit in with anyone, I would have to actually look like I lived in California, and not on Mars. She informed me that “We don’t wear nylons here.”
Of course, I was forced to go to school every day anyway. I would stand on the lunch line listening to the strains of “NEW YAWKA-PAWKA!!”, or my all-time favorite, “GIMME A KWAUGHTA FOR A CUP-A-WAUGHTA!!” I cried every single day for several months. Then a funny thing happened…I hit puberty in the middle of sixth grade, along with a few other awkward girls. We became friendly, and by seventh grade, I was feeling as if I could finally fit in with most of my peers. I created a couple of close friendships (I still talk to one of those friends every couple of years), and life went on. By eighth grade, I was totally adjusted to my California lifestyle. And of course, as fate would have it, as soon as I felt comfortable I was told that we were moving back to New York.
I don’t remember much from the final few weeks in Thousand Oaks. I can’t even remember packing up my room, or what I did with my beloved Elton John poster in his jeans and short fur jacket. But one memory that’s always been crystal clear to me is the car ride up my street, leaving my house for the very last time to go to the airport. It dawned on me that I didn’t feel as if I were leaving home; I felt as if I were going home. And I was happy.
Next week I’ll post about my second decade “Eleven-Year Glitch”—stay tuned!