WELCOME TO THE PERILS OF EILEEN

Glendalough, Co. Wicklow Ireland

Glendalough, Co. Wicklow,  Ireland

This might have been a very short story. When I was born, my mother and father lived near Highland Park, a high plateau area between Queens and Brooklyn, close to my Beatty grandparents’ home in East New York.  Family legend has it that one day an aunt lost hold of my carriage, and it began to roll down a sloping sidewalk towards busy Hillside Avenue. Stopped in time by someone walking up.  My Guardian Angel?  There was more to come.

As we all do in time, I’ve faced my share of “dangers, toils and snares” along the way,  but am still here in my 80th year. In pretty good shape for the shape I’m in. Eternally grateful to have come this far, mostly intact, only slightly scarred. My rousing rendition of that grand old hymn, “Amazing Grace,” at Sunday Mass sometimes startles people nearby.

A while ago I began to to think I may have earned a memoir, even if just for family and friends. Therapy for me, maybe help someone else stay strong, not give up. Besides, picturing my plight in print diverted me from troubles. God’s bargain package deal for a  lifetime journey covers both blessings and trials. There’s no free ride.

Among my gifts:  Loving, caring parents.  Happy childhood in a comfortable home.  When my dad died at 45, a mom who courageously raised three children alone.  More than a few true friends.  Tuition free Queens College degree.  Before it was trendy — At 38, married a good man.  At almost 42, after prayers, tears, tests and surgery, gave birth to what the doctor pronounced “a perfect baby boy.”  At 52, decided what I wanted to be when I grew up, returned to Queens for an M.L.S., worked as a librarian for 21 years, pension and medical benefits for life.

Some of my challenges — Struggles with depression since adolescence, two adult hospitalizations. Breast cancer, mastectomy, chemotherapy, poor prognosis 32 years ago. My husband’s callous downsizing, then his sickness and death.  Our son’s life-threatening illness the next year.  Hurtful, even malicious, words and actions — some from loved ones — more painful than than bodily injury.

But I’ve been too busy hanging on for dear life, haven’t had time to do more than jot random notes now and then.  My working title: “The Perils of Eileen:  Still Hanging in There.”  My inspiration:  the intrepid heroine of the silent movie serial, “The Perils of Pauline,” first filmed in 1914, not long before I appeared on the scene.

Born in Brooklyn in 1931, I’m now the same age as Grandma Moses when three of her colorful folk paintings were included in an exhibit, “Contemporary Unknown American Painters,” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. George Eliot’s  inspirational line is taped to my refrigerator:  “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” Though gymnast might be a stretch!?

Played by the actress, Pearl White, Pauline cleverly foiled her wicked guardian’s pernicious schemes to collect her inheritance by hastening her death.  She’s seen on a boat rigged with explosives. Held captive by sinister gypsies. High in the sky, drifting away in a runaway hot air balloon. Trapped in a burning building. Just a few of the evil villain’s dastardly plots. Never fear. Brave, resourceful Pauline always survived at the end, sometimes with the help of Handsome Harry, her faithful fiance. Not to worry. She’d be back again, ready and able for another adventure.

Later, what came to be called cliffhangers left the hero or heroine in a petrifying predicament, the audience in suspense till the following episode. Hanging from a cliff as the dirt crumbled away.  Tied down while  moving closer to a circular saw.  Bound to a railroad track as the train chugged nearer. Not rescued till the next chapter.  I haven’t encountered any of these calamities  so far. However, in the mid 1960’s, I fell through one of the infamous gaps between Long Island Railroad cars and platforms as the train was ready to leave  Laurelton for New York City’s Penn Station.

Imagine the trailer:  Running late that frigid winter morning, I dashed up the stairs, sprinted to an open, empty doorway — all other passengers had boarded — started to step over the space, slipped on a patch of ice, and dropped feet down to the gravel bed, head not visible above the platform. Over 40 years after my horrendous experience, a young woman was killed by a train in Woodside in 2006, after falling through the wide opening there. Long Island’s “Newsday” then ran a series of articles exposing the many accidents and lawsuits not disclosed till then. How I survived in a future post.  Hang in there.

A former friend, mocking my modelling Pauline, once sarcastically remarked:  “Eileen, you could never be in a silent movie!”  She was wrong. My son, after graduating with degrees in Psychology and Communication, his chemotherapy and radiation treatments for Hodgkin’s Disease completed, enrolled for classes at Pittsburgh Filmmakers.  At that time he aspired to be a movie maker, stand-up comedian, or both.  He starred me in an assignment, a silent film, and got an A for his opus “Lights Out for Grandma.” Told me his classmates chorused “Aww” when I died at the end, silently and dramatically.

While dreaming his dream, he toiled as a  waiter in several Pittsburgh restaurants, including a Friday’s where he met his future wife, working there part-time till she finished college.  Now she’s a Speech Therapist in a children’s hospital.  He’s an Occupational Therapist in a nursing home.  Who knows what they’ll decide to be when they grow up?

I loved being a librarian, but since childhood had wanted to be a writer, often reading treasured books — “The Bobbsey Twins,” “Little Women,” “Jane Eyre” — by flashlight, under the covers, way past bedtime.  I’ve since written poems and children’s stories, timidly sending some to magazines and publishers.  None accepted.  Gave up trying. Unlike J.K. Rowling, determined to deliver Harry Potter, her brainchild, into the world.

But I do know a little of the thrill of publication. “The New York Times” printed my terse comment on W’s Iraq fiasco.  And “Newsday” accepted two letters, one about the LIRR Woodside fatality, and another about breastfeeding’s protection about breast cancer after a Long Island pollution study failed to find a definite association. And came close when Mothering” magazine first accepted, but then rejected my article:  “Missing Link:  Vital Connection” on the same subject.

I’ve had what can kindly be called A Motley Career.  Back in 1953, with my  B.A. in English i  hand,  TIME Inc. hired me as a file clerk in “Time Magazine’s” Letters to the Editor Department, where a tear or two sometimes plopped into a folder as I pondered: “Is this all there is?”  So I learned to type and take shorthand, and in 1954 transferred to the new “Sports Illustrated Magazine”as a secretary in the Advertising Department.  “Mad Men” got it right!

After seven itchy years, I found more meaningful work at Dr. Tom Dooley’s MEDICO Foundation. When he died the next year, at IBM Communications. Then, as an elementary school teacher in the South Bronx, very briefly. Seven sensible years as a legal secretary at Proskauer, Rose, Goetz & Mendelsohn, Esqs. Five blissful years as a full-time mother. My son safely launched in kindergarten, part-time jobs in the community. After my mother’s sudden death and the family drama that followed, I bravely boarded what in library school was pretentiously called Librarianship.

You’e noticed I’m hardly at a loss for words,  happen to be the latter of two Irish types. Private and closemouthed.  Outgoing and talkative. In  1969, on my first visit to Ireland with my sister and a cousin, I couldn’t miss the chance to kiss the famed Blarney Stone, a custom said to bestow the ability to speak the blarney,  the gift to beguile and cajole. It’s possible that smooching that stone polished my powers of persuasion, resulting in traveling with Honey this trip. The doting Aer Lingus attendants said she was the first pet ever allowed in the cabin.

I’ve never had a problem showing my feelings either, and had honed the facility in a summer acting class at NYU.  When I phoned The Irish Department of Agriculture about bringing my dog to Ireland, I tearfully pleaded my cause —  At my age, this may be the last time I traveled to the land of my ancestors. Honey was an emotional support animal, certified by a mental health professional as my necessary comfort companion for flights on Jet Blue and Southwest Airlines.

Kissing the Blarney Stone is a sly, wry way of pulling the leg.  Literally and figuratively. Back in 1969,  a jolly man — he enjoyed his job — grasped my ankles as I lay on my back on the castle floor, stretching my neck outside a wall opening to peck the designated  block of rock. Somewhat uncomfortable, but not dangerous —  a grating underneath prevents plunging to the ground in case the guide slips his grip.  My kin looked down on the daffy procedure. The custom was beneath their contempt. They’d never lower themselves to such an awkward position. Puns intended.   Their loss.  Might have loosened them up a bit.

Fabled, beautiful Ireland is the birthplace of my maternal grandparents and paternal great grandparents, probably most of their forbears.  My husband’s grandparents and great grandparents on both sides were born there, too. He didn’t really need to ask if I’d mind going again the next year on our 1970 honeymoon.  This year Aer Lingus made another offer I couldn’t refuse, and several days after our arrival my son and daughter-in-law joined me and Honey in Dublin.

One gorgeous, sunny afternoon, wandering a long time by myself in lushly blooming Mount Usher Gardens, I saw a woman across a stream and called out: “How do I find my way out of here?”  She crossed over a small bridge, and led me to a refreshment pavilion where my son and his wife were waiting. We’d walked different ways. Barbara, a Dubliner, was much taken with Honey. No dogs permitted in the park!  Barbara took a picture of my pet, saying she would write about our chance meeting on her blog, “Just Add Attitude.”

When I read the post, Honey’s photo attached, I knew that’s how I could tell my story.  That day I’d been led to take exactly the right path.  Barbara cited Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” so I’ll return the favor and quote Herman Melville’s Ishmael as he wisely observes:  “I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right, that everybody is one way or other served in much the same way — either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is, and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each others’ shoulder-blades, and be content.”

These words didn’t make an impression when I first read “Moby Dick,” but struck me when Peg Bracken repeated it in her “I Hate to Housekeep Book,” a title that caught my attention as a newlywed.  Ms. Bracken was cautioning us not to judge careless homemakers  — we can’t know what worries may be distracting them. Melville was saying we should be there for one another, have our shipmates’ backs in stormy weather. To belabor the metaphor:  We’re all in the same boat.

I now know that faith and endurance are rewarded. When a door closes, anoone or more open.  Disturbed by an irritating grain of sand, an oyster covers it with a lustrous pearl that wouldn’t otherwise form. Troubled waters have sometimes made me change course, navigate to a safe harbor, mend my sails, chart a new route, then set to sea again. (Couldn’t resist. Slipped my moorings.  Got carried away on an irresistible tide.)

 To be continued, God willing.

 

 
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ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH” Part Three

Forgot to mention (what will someday be) amusing incidents at Hopkins Bayview — to lighten previous two posts.

After several days of large portions of blah, tasteless food –trays checked to see how much we ate — needed help with my regular after breakfast routine.  Went to medication window, told humorless technician I wanted laxative. He turned around and silently picked up a syringe.  “Is that for me?” I asked in alarm. He kept his back to me and muttered “It’s for someone else,” kept filling syringe.

I’d asked Kieran to bring a tweezer and small hand mirror  when he visited early one evening.  Nurse supervised grooming at still bright window in Common Room. Tweezers and mirror kept at nursing station for future use. No clippers or files allowed at all — took ages to do nails with emery board.

No Q-tips allowed either, but a more relaxed nurse led me to supply room, retrieved two long swabs, watched me clean my ears — necessary for functioning hearing aids.

I wore same long pants most days, hadn’t brought many clothes. One morning,  feeling slightly spry, put on knee length denim skirt.   Nurse followed me down a hall, tapped me and said:  “Please go back to your room and change into something else,” apparently concerned that the small, narrow back slit may reveal a provocative peek at 84 year old thighs.

By the way, had dinner and stayed overnight at Kieran and Bethany’s Saturday night — so good to see them and wonderful grandchildren again. When I went to get car, heavy rain began, dangerous storm on my way home, I was invited to stay. Didn’t want to take Kieran’s temporary bed in guest room, but I did, gratefully.  My son  in charge of Nolan and Jack  in room next door — Jack sometimes wakes crying.  Bethany and Maeve together in another room for nighttime breast feeding.

Kieran slept on futon mattress on floor in dining room. And Sunday morning persuaded me  (very reluctant) to work out on exercise bike at the their Y in Baltimore, and added me to their family membership.  Knees and insteps a little sore today.  But intend to go regularly to Abingdon Y — my son claims exercise boosts spirits.

Collected Angel at Kieran’s, drove to noon Mass at St. Margaret’s, stayed for blessing of the sick as I’ve done before, then to moving  memorial gathering for Charlotte, my good condo neighbor,  who died after bravely enduring several illnesses.  Her family served a generous lunch for relatives and friends in our community room, and spoke movingly of their happy times together. I’ll miss her in apartment C next door.

Have appointment this afternoon with psychiatrist at Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace who monitors  medications.  Not sleeping well with Trazodone at home.  And  an hour or so after taking 150mg of Efexor with breakfast, start to feel groggy and confused. I keep moving anyway, but it’s hard after not much sleep. Had to correct lots of typos on this. Will close for now and take Angel and myself for walk around condo, thus increasing our melatonin and endorphin levels.

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“ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH” Part Two

Somehow clicked Publish by mistake.  To continue…

Discharged last Tuesday, well enough to continue meds at home, the doctors decided, and I agreed, would visit therapist in Bel Air and psychiatrist at Harford Memorial to monitor prescriptions, do more volunteer work.  Going to see Maeve at last.  Walked to Emergency Room parking lot where left car 16 days before, gave grumpy attendant at exit a letter from social worker stating I’d been an inpatient, forgive fee.

Woman in booth frowned, made phone call, asked me for license, gave me a form to sign, sternly said I’d be billed for $150! I pleaded to no avail, she called for security guard who took his time coming, but was kinder —  went into booth and lifted the gate .  I’d been delayed from Kieran’s, was there over an hour, sometimes standing outside car in hot sun. But social services is now on the case!

Then to Kieran’s, finally got to hold Maeve in my arms, saw Mommy, Daddy and Nolan — Jack napping — couldn’t wait for me. Later went to get Angel from vet — happy to be together again — and home at last.  Saw therapist today, said I wasn’t sleeping well on Trazodone, had tried unsuccessfully to reach Hopkins and Harford Memorial psychiatrists.She reminded me that meds “take time to work.”  I know that, am trying to be patient. Keep me in your prayers

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH…”

Showing off quoting Shakespeare. Almost titled this “Into the Cuckoo’s Nest,” but thought better of it.

I’d told my son I wasn’t doing well the week after coming home from St. Joe’s, and he called on July 7th, persuaded me to come for dinner and stay overnight. It cheered me that afternoon to see Nolan and Jack happily splashing in a backyard wading pool. The next morning, Kieran talked me into walking a mile long trail with him — exercise creates endorphins and lifts mood, he said — and though I felt a bit unsteady on my feet — he didn’t  seem to notice — I kept up, didn’t want to worry him. His baby daughter due soon. Maeve Copelyn Gallagher arrived Thursday, July 14th, weighing in at a bouncing eight pounds, fifteen ounces!  A beautiful baby — Kieran showed pictures when he visited.

I’d been taking  Paxil for three weeks — two weeks at St. Joe’s and a week at home — taken off Zoloft and Lithium prescribed at Meadow Wood — now waking often at night,  walking somewhat wobbly, head muddled — and a urinary infection, a possible side effect of Paxil. On July 11th, after seeing Dr. Naguib to follow up urinary infection, now cleared, I panicked again and drove to Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital in Baltimore for admission to their behavioral health unit.  Spreading my medical care around.

Kieran very upset this time.  I’d broken my solemn promise to talk to him first, but knew a brisk walk wasn’t enough to help. After sadly leaving Angel to board at the vet, called to tell him I was on my way. Overnight in the Emergency Room, admitted to the In Patient Psychiatric Unit the next evening, then off the St. Joseph’s medicines and prescribed Effexor — an anti-depressant I’d been on for fifteen years until last January and felt had stopped working.

Very long days at Hopkins — working crossword puzzles, reading, taking notes for “The Perils” in the Common Room, talking to other patients. Few group sessions, an occasional craft workshop and sessions led by a nurse or social worker — “How to Find Happiness” the theme of one. Not sleeping well again, given Ambien several nights, then off and prescribed Trazodone and Remeron — Ambien not to be given with Effexor — and prescribed Trazodone and Remeron at bedtime. Helped some nights but not others.

Many patients spent most of the day in bed in their rooms, only coming out for meals. And the food was lukewarm and unappetizing — we all agreed — one lunch featured “roast beef au jus” — an odd color and tasteless, even with the “jus.” Not that I expected a gourmet menu.

I was discharged last Tuesday, July 26th, well enough to continue my meds at home, visit my therapist and psychiatrist at Harford Memorial to monitor the prescriptions.

 

 

 

 

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STILL HANGING IN THERE

Today is July 4th — haven’t posted since April 30th — been battling another round of depression. In early May, gradually feeling lower, waking often in bed, panicking after no sleep one night, I contacted the Bel Air Crisis Team, was advised to drive to Meadow Wood Behavioral Health Hospital in Delaware this time.

Kieran was understandably upset — only called him when I arrived there. For seventeen days I was prescribed a potent mix of five medications — Zoloft, Lithium, three others — assigned to the geriatric unit, mostly patients with dementia — sad and disturbing.  Moved to a quieter unit the second week despite my advanced age. Too much free time, just a couple of group meetings a day, telling our moods on a scale of one to ten, our daily goals. Mine was to get out of there!

Struggled at home for a month after discharge, feeling no better, the Lithium apparently causing diarrhea, shakiness and loss of appetite. And was attending out-patient therapy at Harford Memorial three times a week.  About ten patients sitting in a circle, in various stages of wellness, filling out work sheets, a social worker leading discussions and writing on a board. Each three hour session seemed endless.

Still sleeping poorly, and after another night of no sleep, called my son — had promised I’d never again  admit myself to a hospital with talking to him — and we went to Sheppard Pratt, nearer his home.  Sent to GBMC emergency room for tests, Kieran staying with me till admission at midnight.  No beds at Sheppard Pratt, transferred to St. Joseph’s Hospital.  Immediately taken off Zoloft and Lithium, and prescribed Paxil and other meds — discharged after two long weeks.

St. Joseph’s less traumatic than Meadow Wood  — not hard to do — but several trying group sessions a day, including one with crafts or coloring picture books. Tried  to work crosswords and read a novel, though difficult to concentrate. Kieran visited bringing puzzles and snacks — he’s been so caring and wonderful — it  breaks my heart to trouble him and Bethany now — their baby girl due in about a week. Two weeks in St. Joe’s then home.

They visited me with my grandsons yesterday on their way to a friend’s Fourth celebration in Bel Air, and hung room darkening curtains in my bedroom —  Kieran was concerned that the early light woke me up.  I love them all so much. Don’t know what I’d do without them.  So many I met in hospitals without family support.

Another comfort — Kieran and Bethany’s friends Aaron and Kathy, took Angel into their home while I was away this time — my pet recently diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease, on meds twice a day, tomorrow due for blood work to see how they’re working. I love her so much, too, and am worried about her as I was with Honey’s diabetes..

Kieran just called to invite me to a cookout today.  Am foggy and shaky, but know it’s better not to be alone.  Feel like a weakling.  Here I am at 84 in good physical health, while friends my age are having health problems –Marilyn’s heart surgery tomorrow, Charlotte has a recurrence of cancer, Monty in the hospital again, Therese still with a blood clot in her leg and now a broken arm after a fall.

Have been praying and holding on tight to hope. Please remember me in your prayers. Thank you all for hanging in there with me till now.

 

 

 

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RANDOM RAMBLING

Still wasn’t ready to write April 1st. Have tried to post every month, but on the last few days it feels like “deja vu all over again,” as Yogi Berra poetically put it. I’m back in Queens College with a term paper due!?!

Sometimes it’s a slow slog to get the words right — they don’t flow as trippingly from my fingers as they do from my tongue,  often edit after publishing. Speaking of “deja vu,” if you have nothing better to do, see my Introduction’s new first paragraph (April 2011) and additions to “More Dangers, Toils, and Snares” (November 2015).

Now have a grand total of 42 followers — a select group after five years — but loyal and hardy.  Still can’t persuade many to take a look. Back when I began  I emailed friends and relatives about my venture — my brother’s wife immediately replied: “Bill and I don’t do blogs.”   When he called before they left on their latest cruise, I suggested he take a chance, “Be Brave,” I said.  But he reminded me: “Cyn  and I don’t do blogs.”

Am not into Facebook, so have been passing out business cards to people I meet along the way — luring ten more subscribers.  Remember the rich man in the Bible gathering strangers from the highways and byways after those he’d invited didn’t show up at his party?  As I’ve noted, this is a kind of therapy for me.  It’s a bonus if you smile or nod in recognition now and then. That said, here’s what’s been going on since March.. .

The “Downton Abbey” English Tea Party was delightful, though the promised “three course tea” was rather scanty — a three-tiered serving of scones, tiny sandwiches and cupcakes shared by about six guests.  But the final episode was completely satisfying, loose ends neatly tied up, most characters on their way to happily ever after.  I’ll  truly miss the Crawleys and their servants.

The Hogan’s St. Patrick’s celebration was wonderful — open house for babies up to grandparents.  Kieran, Bethany, Nolan and Jack drove from Baltimore, staying several days at Bethany’s sister’s nearby home. I’d flown there that morning. Was happy to see my nephew and his wife, Matt and  Stef, all the way from California. Tim served mounds of  corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots — washed down with gallons of beer, wine and soda. A bagpiper played all afternoon.

The next day was sunny and mild, and we sat outside eating corned beef sandwiches, listening to Irish music, the children improvising step dancing. As Tim’s five-year-old, Caroline, held three green helium balloons, I playfully tapped one too hard, and we watched dismayed as they drifted high, caught in a tree, and floated out of sight. Caroline ran to her mother crying. I know it didn’t comfort her just then, but I said they might land somewhere else, make another child happy. She sniffled and looked thoughtful.     .

I’ve cancelled my trip to Ireland in June, realized  I wouldn’t have as good a time myself at this stage of my life as I did with Kieran and Bethany five years ago. Was so glad they joined me after three day in Dublin on my own. And Angel isn’t as spry as Honey was at nine years of age, pulls back on her leash when she gets tired  walking.

Besides, I’ve had to pay for a new hearing aid — the right one went missing — had already replaced that one under warranty  after Angel mistook it for a chew toy on my coffee table. And I need a new electric dryer — the old one died very inconveniently.

While mommy attended a speech therapist conference in Philadelphia, Kieran brought the boys here last Saturday –games and pizza at Chuck e Cheese; fun at home with books, toys, and a boisterous round of hide-and-seek; spaghetti with meat sauce for supper, vanilla ice cream and strawberries for dessert; baths and stories at bedtime. Among the memories  — in the middle of playing, Nolan suddenly looked up, announcing:  “I missed you Gramma.”

Sunday morning my domesticated son loaded the washing machine with sheets and towels.  Followed by silence from the adjoining appliance.  Picture damp laundry draped over door jambs and furniture for a couple of days.  Home Depot to deliver new dryer Tuesday.

After my family left, went to Mass, then drove to Towson to see the play “Detroit ’67,” presented by Center Stage, temporarily at Towson University while their Baltimore theater is renovated. A gripping story of a black brother, sister and  friends during the violence in that tormented city, beautifully acted and produced. Talked to a pleasant woman sitting next to me at intermission — she’s been enjoying Center Stage offerings for 30 years. I’ve subscribed to the 2016-2017 season starting in November.

On the national front, I’ve donated $100 to Bernie’s campaign and voted for him in the Maryland primary.  I’m more optimistic after his  winning streak, am weary of hearing Hillary is inevitable. It’s a gut feeling, but never liked her as First Lady, Senator, presidential candidate, or Secretary of State.  And here she comes again –the Energizer Bunny, beating her own drum.  The motley assortment of 18 Republican candidates has been winnowed down to three — Trump as strange as his hairdo, Cruz just plain scary, and Kasich seemingly sane and reasonable. I’d vote for him over Hillary if, by some fluke, he’s nominated at a contested convention.

Bernie is real,  and his plans are possible with grassroots support. What’s so outlandish about free state college tuition?  Queens College was free when I went there. Our country is heading in a disastrous direction, the middle class disappearing, the wealthy living in luxury, the rest waiting on them. “Upstairs Downstairs.”  “Downton Abbey.” My grandmother a maid in rich people’s homes.

More in May. Maybe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SHORTEST POST EVER

Wanted to send a post by today.  But it’s suddenly the last day of the month again — time  does really fly when you’re having fun — even when not so much. But Angel and I are just back from another long, leisurely walk on the boardwalk at Havre de Grace on this balmy last day of March. Talk about going out like a lamb. And I’m enjoying a glass of Yellow Tail Riesling before dinner, feeling lazy and relaxed, not in the mood to update you on what’s happened since February 29th.  So you’ll have to wait till tomorrow.  No fooling.

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SMALL STEPS AND A GIANT LEAP

Since posting “Endings and Beginnings” on New Year’s Eve I’ve been living my life, counting my blessings, enjoying smooth sailing, and suddenly it’s  February 29th, Leap Day, last chance to post this month.  Am feeling very well — happy, hopeful and grateful — even a routine, uneventful day is delightful after navigating troubled waters. Yesterday, Angel and I strolled on the boardwalk at Havre de Grace, soaking up the sunshine, my pet attracting many smiles, children asking to pet her.

No physical or emotional ailments worth mentioning now, thank God. A laser procedure has restored somewhat clearer sight to my left eye, though the second trabeculectomy caused more peripheral vision loss. Have been weaned off Effexor/Venlafaxine for over two months — had been on that anti-depressant since my previous hospitalization in 2000.  Am keeping monthly appointments with an empathetic social worker for talk therapy, and eating more healthily, including foods rich in vitamins D and B complex.  But won’t ever give up an occasional Friendly’s Coffee Fribble — each calorie is decadently therapeutic.

Bethany and I had a lovely time at the “Downton Abbey” premiere of this season’s first episode at Baltimore’s The Grand Hotel on January 3rd. As I savored a glass of wine, she sipped water, mindful of the baby girl she’s carrying. And when Carson proposed to Mrs. Hughes at the end, I stood up, cheering and clapping with many others.

On the way there the Uber Driver remarked:  “You look stunning!”  (Of course, I tipped him well.) Dressed in a long black velvet tunic and skirt, my Aunt Betty’s cropped Persian lamb jacket with sable collar, my mom’s strand of crystal beads, and the high-heeled red suede shoes she wore  on her honeymoon in 1929, I felt elegant. Would have welcomed the Dowager Countess’s cane by the end of the evening.  And being with my grandsons afterward topped all that!  Kieran took pictures of me in my  finery for posterity.

Had a disturbing conversation with a niece, one of my late sister-in-law’s daughters, in early February.  I’d called about a possible family get-together in the spring, but when I wondered if her mom may have suffered from sleep apnea, she became angry,  then more so when I sympathized that one of her siblings had been troubled by their dad’s request for the family’s proper behavior at the wake and funeral — no undignified displays of emotion.  Soon after we hung up, my son phoned, delivering a long lecture —   he’d received an email from one of my niece’s brothers, complaining I’d upset his sister.

A few days later, I decided to treat myself to a weekend in Manhattan, driving to The LaQuinta Inn on 32nd Street — not yet pet-friendly — Dominique minding Angel. Arriving too late for the matinee of “Burial at Thebes” at the Irish Repertory Theatre, changed my ticket for the evening performance. Had a chill as I was ushered to the front row, where Peggy and I sat our last time there together. She had fallen asleep during the performance, as she’d done at another play the year before.

On Sunday, missed  noon Mass at St. Francis Church — the bellman wandered off as I waited for him to mind my luggage — so left earlier to visit my friend, Eleanor Glaser, at Sunrise Assisted Living in Lynbrook. Now 93, she’s more frail each time I’m with her, but still good, cheerful company. Never complains, but her aide told me she hardly hears from, let alone sees,  her daughters and grandchildren. Their loss!  And she’s always been  loving and generous to them, troubled by their difficulties, proud of their achievements, showing me pictures, beaming as she shared their milestones.

Took Kieran, Bethany, Nolan and Jack to a pre-Valentine’s dinner at The Dizz, a fun, funky restaurant near their house. John Waters of “Hairspray” fame has been known to patronize the establishment. “We’re all booked up,” said Elaine, the owner, when I phoned  for a reservation, but found a table for five, with two booster seats, when I teased her, saying I’d like to meet the filmmaker someday.  “He’s a good guy,” she laughed.  I savored a Grey Goose martini, straight up, with a lemon peel, waiting for my family to arrive. Much hilarity, in the meantime, as  Elaine sat down on a male diner’s lap.

Next Sunday afternoon, I’ll watch the last chapter of “Downton Abbey” at an English Tea Party  in North Bethesda for MPT patrons, then stay overnight at my son’s home. Can’t wait to get my arms around the boys again  Was disappointed Bethany couldn’t join me, but she’d committed to substituting as a speech therapist at Kieran’s nursing home.  I won’t be wearing the three inch heels, but had a shoemaker shorten them a quarter inch for a future suitable occasion. I’ll bequeath them to my granddaughter when my dress-up days are done.  This time may try for a more Cora look — feeling more spry than Violet.

Coming up:  Stacie and Tim Hogan’s annual St. Patrick’s party on March 12th in Natick, Massachusetts. Dominique again minding little Angel, thus avoiding the possibility of  being injured underfoot during joyous jigging. Will fly Southwest from Baltimore to Boston and return, staying overnight at the hosts’ house — my nephew claimed his three darling daughters, my great nieces,  would be disappointed if I didn’t.  How could I say no?

And am looking forward to another sentimental journey — On June 6th, the anniversary of my dad’s death in 1943, Angel and I will fly Aer Lingus to Ireland, returning  June 13th, St. Anthony’s Feast Day. Will be well protected coming and going.  We’re staying at a pet-friendly hotel in Rathmines, near Dublin City.– there happens to be an “award-winning” musical pub next door — my pet even welcome in the Beer Garden. Five years have flown  since  Honey and I traveled to Erin.  Who knows what adventures await Angel and me this time?

 

 

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