Archive for July, 2013


I decided I wasn’t up to my 60th college reunion.  If you read “Fasten Your Seat Belts” you’ll understand.  My disappointing eye surgery, the car scares, and Honey’s illness dampened my  enthusiasm. Besides, I was just too weary for all that socializing and driving.

I found a pet friendly hotel near Queens College for the night before the festivities — breakfast at 7:30AM, followed by gowning, followed by lining up by class, followed by ceremonies, followed by lunch. Honey needed her insulin morning and night — every 12 hours after a meal — too complicated even if I skipped some events. I was sorry to miss my graduation anniversary, visiting friends on Long Island, and, especially, relaxing at the beach.

My smart sister bought the cottage near the bay for the proverbial song in the mid 1960’s. Fifty years ago no bank would give a woman a mortgage, so Mary put up some IBM stock — she worked for Big Blue as a systems engineer. The little house was humble but sat on a third of an acre — with a water view worth more than gold. When we married and had children our mom spent summers there, watching them grow up together. She doted on our brother Bill’s Billy, Christine and Tony, and now had six grand-children to love.

Full disclosure: For several previous summers my sister and I had rented homes in the Hamptons with friends — part of the singles scene. The swinging housemates on the Jersey Shore reality show wouldn’t get us — but we had good times and lasting memories.

One stands out. We were having a party, and just after 11:00 PM were startled when a young policeman rushed into our well-lit house, gun in holster, but flashlight aimed. Our next door neighbor had called to complain. He’d been rude and unfriendly since we arrived — we’d asked him and his wife in for drinks early in the season, but he declined for both of them and never spoke to us again. His wife ducked her head when she saw us. A rumor, which he probably started, was going around Southampton Cove that we were airline stewardesses — with questionable morals.

Our guests happened to include a priest, a detective and a fireman — the latter the neighbor’s calling. We later heard that Mr. Gaffney was known for his difficult disposition. The officer noticed nothing illegal or noisy and soon left. But just to be safe, we closed the windows that beautiful, cool evening. Then Declan Larkin enthralled us for a lovely while with his melting Irish tenor. Mr. Gaffney never knew know what he was missing. We weren’t bothered again.

My sister died in 2010 after a long illness, never complaining, grateful to live to love and hold her first two grandchildren. Her husband has given the house to their sons, and now they’ll meet there with my son — they’re as close as brothers./p>

Next month my son and his family are driving from Baltimore to Southampton with a carful of baby equipment. Honey and I are going the easy way — flying to Islip, Long Island — and my son will drive us the rest of the way. I’ll watch my grandson splash in the bay, dig in the sand, and pick up shells as his daddy used to do. And I’ve been promised a ride on the motorboat my son and his cousins bought last winter. The three of them launched it this spring, exploring surrounding waters, fishing, and docking in Greenport to sample local food and brews.

I’ve been feeling very tired and somewhat down, but am working on it. Over the years I’ve learned how to help myself.  Mostly, I try to keep moving. (I move, therefore I am alive.) Honey and I walk around the pond in Bynum Run Park. We drive around the gorgeous green countryside — the corn is thriving in all this sun and rain.  This week we bought some at an inviting farm stand, along with tomatoes, blueberries and flowers.

I work crossword puzzles to exercise my muddled mind. Since I was a little girl, reading under the covers by flashlight (my parents weren’t fooled) books have lifted me up. I’m not a purist — just finished a relaxing beach book and am now reading “The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs” about a vet and his human and animal clients. Movies carry me away, but I avoid slam-bang action films. I’m looking forward to Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” opening soon.

Years ago I read the poem “Desiderata” posted on the door of a psychiatrist’s office and thought I wouldn’t need to be there if I could remember all that.  I hung a copy over my computer to remind myself.  Look it up — it’s beautiful and wise.  I cry when I need to.  I nap when necessary.  And I take a maintenance dose of Venaflaxine, the generic of Effexor, which I began taking after my hospitalization in 2000. I’ve been skipping my evening glass of wine or two with meals lately — doesn’t help my mood when I’m sad. Instead, I’ve been treating myself and transferring the wine calories to Friendly’s coffee Fribbles now and then — without gaining weight.

Honey has helped me more than any psychiatrist — haven’t seen one since we’ve been together.  A couple were strange, even unprofessional.  One  yawned frequently, sipping from a can of Coke, as I shared my deep thoughts.  Another actually blurted out:  “Don’t dump your bag of troubles on me!  I’m under a lot of stress.” A few years ago I had some rewarding sessions with Andrea, a nurse practitioner specializing in psychotherapy. Now in a wheelchair with multiple sclerosis, Andrea was warm, empathetic and reassuring. Her gentle black lab, Nautica, was always there in her office. She gave me a letter for airlines to allow Honey to fly with me as my comfort companion — Southwest and Jet Blue honored this request. And so did Aer Lingus after some debate — hence my blog. (See “Welcome to the Perils of Eileen.”)

I count my blessings — have had so many I’m sometimes ashamed when I’m low. Looking back, I’m amazed I’ve been able to live as fully as I have with this problem. So many people have it harder. Like Khadija, a young woman who had her left eye removed recently after losing sight three years ago. And Megan who told me her mom had been killed in a freak car accident. Her attached horse trailer fell sideways, pulling the car over with it — and her beloved horse had to be put down later. Shortly before my eye surgery, I met Christopher, whose wife Yvette died in a car crash last year. He and their six young sons moved in with his mother — they’re at peace knowing Yvette is with God. Yet, that dark morning in March my son and I were miraculously saved from a fatal crash.

I’m relieved to report that Honey’s injections are getting easier for us both. When I tearfully told the vet I couldn’t manage them, he suggested putting her down.  I cried harder. Then I bought a plastic cone collar to keep her from nipping me, and my son showed me how to straddle her while inserting the needle in her loose neck skin. She had been shaking her body, knocking the needle out of my hand. My Honey is sweet but feisty, too.

The vision in my left eye is disorienting but may improve with time, I’m told. The quizzical look is almost gone.  Meanwhile, I’m grateful Our Creator has generously given us two of most parts.

My grandson turned one on June 23rd and his parents hosted a happy party at their home.  The birthday boy put his hands in his own little birthday cake, decorating himself with gooey, colored icing. He was adorable through the whole afternoon, clapping his hands, smiling his dimpled smile. He’s the most wonderful baby ever born since my son came into the world. And I can’t help saying he’s the icing on my cake!

Queens College mailed me a 60th anniversary medallion, a blue sash,  and a program listing alumni who came. I didn’t remember anyone. Ten years ago, on my 50th anniversary, I had such a good time with classmates, including a college boyfriend who still looked good. So did his wife.  My friend Joan and I led our class procession, wearing gold caps and gowns, all of us ringing little bells. And though I’d called to cancel, Eileen Copeland Gallagher appeared in the program if not in person.

So, as someone once wrote: “All’s Well That Ends Well.” (Once an English major, always an English major.) And God willing, it’s won’t be over for some time to come.

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