Saturday, July 28, 2007

It's too early to be coherent

The Funeral That Wasn't wasn't as bad as I'd worried it might be, though it certainly didn't start off auspiciously. (Five hours on the road--more than a full hour in dead-stoped traffic--for a three-hour trip resulted in us being nearly an hour late for the memorial, and arriving way after everyone else. You know. Two of his three daughters, late to his memorial. Freud woulda had a field day, no?)

It was very casual, but still, people spoke. I spoke, briefly. One of my aunts spoke. Dad's girlfriend's son, who organized the event, spoke. Even Em summoned up the nerve to say a little something (about the backwards dinner we had last year when we visited with Dad and his girlfriend). She was so nervous about the whole speaking-at-a-funeral thing, and worried about it all morning, despite my telling her MANY times she didn't have to say a word if she didn't want to. But she was so pleased with herself afterwards for doing it.

We left after a few hours of drinking (yes, caipirinhas) and talking, but went back after nightfall, to scatter the ashes, and that was...kind of profound. And yes, that was, again, much to my surprise. Also much to my surprise, Em and my nephew both really wanted to play an active role in the ash-speading. And so they did.

I can't really think of what else to say. I'm staring at the screen, sort of in overload. I slept remarkably well the night before the memorial, considering how nervous I was (very) and how overtired I was (very). But last night? All the voices of my past haunted my sleep. I've been up since 5 am (i.e., 2 am in my Cali-entrained brain) and just could not go back to sleep. There are too many memories, even just from yesterday. Little bits and pieces keep popping into my head...a funny anecdote from yesterday reminding me of a slight from two decades ago, one voice leading to another voice leading to another voice leading to some kind of brief, sharp pang of hurt or regret.

Clearly, I need either some very strong coffee or some even stronger psychopharmaceuticals. Probably the latter.

I will say that my very favorite part was the tumbler of scotch--his signature, but by no means only, drink--that Dad's girlfriend's Irish family put on a table in the center of the circle of chairs. Definitely gave me the "Dad is among us" feeling. I told them I thought he would have laughed until he cried over that touch.

My sister and I have planned our own version of a memorial service for Monday: We're going to take Em and my nephew into Manhattan to do a "post-divorce Sunday with Dad" tour. In other words, we're going to the museums of our childhood, the places that, in the early-to-mid-1970s would be almost embarrassingly packed each Sunday with dads trying to figure out what to do with their kids on Visitation Day. My Dad was very much among them. Now, of course, I realize that in large part that weekly museum tour was due to the fact that we couldn't spend much time at his apartment, where he was living with the woman who would be my stepmonster...but nevermind that right now. And see what I mean about those ghosts from the past?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Caipirinhas. Good for what ails ya.

If there was one thing my Dad knew, it was booze. And his drink? Caipirinhas, an artifact of the dozen or more years he spent living at least part-time in Brazil, during his import-export phase. (He claimed he was importing and exporting textiles and sneakers and such, but considering the number of times he made side-trips to Colombia...I'm just sayin'. He lived a fairly colorful life, even for someone with bipolar disorder.)

And so tonight, right before heading out to our not-to-be-missed Sunday Music in the Park, I ran to the supermarket where, much to my surprise, they actually sold cachaca (pronounced ca-sha-sa), the main ingredient in caipirinhas. I bought a bunch of limes, and came home to whip up a big old batch of the stuff.

Once I had all my homegirls gathered round--including yet another guest-starring appearance from my beloved Po herself--we raised our glasses to my Dad, and wished him happy trails. For the first time since I'd gotten the news, I felt like I was doing something right...something appropriate to the occasion. Dad totally would have approved. Hell, Dad totally would have finshed off the pitcher before anyone else could have thought about pouring seconds...and then launched into hours of hysterical, off-color jokes and bald-faced lies, each one of which he would have claimed was a "totally true story, I swear."

Cheers, Dad. L'chaim.

The Non-Funeral

[First, thanks for all the condolences and comments, both public and private. I'll reply one of these days, I promise.]

So, the funeral. Well, here's the thing. There isn't going to be one.

I think I mentioned, back on my old blog when Dad was first diagnosed, that he was talking about being cremated. I think I also mentioned that I found that somewhat of an, um, interesting choice from a man who escaped Nazi Germany in the late 1930's. ("So, what?" I asked him soon after his diagnosis, when he had made his choice clear. "This is your way of saying, 'Haha, Hitler, you couldn't burn me, so I'll do it myself'?")

For background: My grandfather, so what little family history I know goes, had been in a work camp and been released before the death camps really got going. Still, the work camp had given him enough of a glimpse into the future, and he grabbed what family members were willing to take him seriously--my grandmother, my aunt, and my then-six-month-old father--and headed for The Netherlands. Some time later, and I wish I knew the timeline better, they managed to find their way to the U.S., coming in through Ellis Island, where my grandparents decided to change my father's name--originally Chaim, meaning life in Hebrew--to Jack, as in Jack Armstrong, The All-American Boy. Ellis Island officials added a middle name--Israel--which my father jettisoned as soon as he possibly could. It was his contention--and I know I've said this many times in the past--that religion was merely one man's reason to hate another man, and he wanted nothing to do with it. That said, he did have a bar mitzvah, and has asked for his tallis to be given to N, so he must have had some religious upbrining...just not one that he told me about.

OK. So my dad wants to be cremated (a process that is apparently already underway), wants his ashes spread in the yard of the house where he lived with his girlfriend these past few months and where they had spent a lot of time these past several years. Does not want a rabbi, does not want a religious ceremony (see above). We are to have a 'casual' get-together at the house, where we're going to...I'm not sure what, actually. Eat. Talk about him. Hang out together.

So, yeah. That's what's ahead for me this week. No comforting traditions, no ritual to hide behind. Not the way I would personally choose to close out my father's life...but, now that I think about it, it's sort of fitting, since most of the way he lived his life was not how I would personally have chosen to do it, either.

[A completely detached aside: Wow, that post came out a lot more bitter than I had initially intended it to come out. You who are bloggers and do your entries by the seat of your pants, the way I almost always do, may have experienced the same. I was thinking I'd just post a little bit about how so many people seem to think that at least there will be peace and closure at the funeral, but that, in this case, there will be no funeral, and I doubt there will be closure. Instead, it turned into a kind of rambling family history that then morphed into a slam at my dad. How dull. How predictable. Feh.]

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Dad died this morning

There is a God. He was so sick, and so ready to go, and I was so afraid he'd hang on for weeks more in needless torture. This is--accepting and getting past the inevitabilty of it all, knowing that there was no chance for it to go any other way--a good thing.

I got The Call from my sister about half an hour ago. When there's a terminally ill family member and the phone rings at 6:30 am on a Saturday morning, you don't have to ask what's up.

I was up until 2 this morning, waiting for Em and Baroy to get back from some Harry Potter-related festivities and then getting Em into bed. I suppose that I should refrain from making some bad joke about how I now know who dies in the end, huh? Because that would be inappropriate, and it would make you all uncomfortable, and...Yeah, I know. Too late.

I know there are no 'should's in mourning, but I really wish I felt more like crying. Or at all like crying. A man's death--my father's death--really should be worth a few tears. Maybe they'll come later. Maybe they won't. Maybe I'll mourn in other ways, in my own way.

I also wish I knew more about him so that at some point--not right now, because while I'm not crying, I am too raw to do much in the way of 'real writing'--I could do a bloggish eulogy for him, to tell you all a little bit about him. Maybe at some point I'll dredge up some of the less-painful memories of him to talk about. Maybe I'll just let him rest in peace. Time will, I guess, tell.

Sometimes, on Saturdays, I go to my synagogue to attend Shabbat morning services. This is not something I talk a lot about to people. It seems to weird them out, and rightly so, since I spent approximately 41 years being either neutral or outright anti-religious. And I don't talk about it that much here, either, because I'm not quite sure myself what to make of it. But there you have it. I go, and because I'm not yet comfortable with the idea of doing an aliyah, I usually get called up to dress the Torah--I'm becoming an expert Torah-dresser--which is probably making my mother wonder who the hell this person writing is...

But I digress. Let me start again. Sometimes, on Saturdays, I go to my synagogue to attend Shabbat morning services. I go alone, because Saturday services are no place for boisterous 6-year-olds. When we were at services last night--it was the monthly potluck and one of the two Fridays each month we try to attend as a family when and if possible--I said I'd try to be there. But then it got to be so late last night, and I didn't go to bed, and I was thinking I'd probably just sleep in instead. Until, that is, the phone rang this morning with the news. My first really coherent thought after I hung up? Well, that decides it. Someone needs to go say kaddish for my dad, and that one might as well be me.

Like I said, maybe I'll mourn in my own way.

Yit'gadal v'yit'kadash sh'mei raba...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Mind Meld

Em, who will turn 10 in just over a month, still likes me to lie down with her at night while she's falling asleep. I do so on alternate nights, when I'm not lying down with N.

The other night, she was tossing and turning a lot, and I was getting annoyed at having to stay there for longer than usual, but I didn't say anything. Eventually, she started to settle down, but first grabbed my hand and pulled it over her. As I felt her start to slip off, I also felt her squeeze my hand three times, our signal for "I love you." I squeezed it back four times, our signal for "I love you, too."

I waited a beat, then added another four squeezes, to which she squeezed back twice. I laughed out loud.

"What do you think I was saying in my squeezes?" I asked.

"Now go to sleep," she said, then giggled when I gasped a little.

"And you squeezed back, 'OK,' right?" I asked.


"How did we know what the other was saying?"

"I guess we're just a lot alike," she said with a yawn, and she was off, and I lay there for a while, feeling both tickled and slightly weirded out that my daughter can read my mind.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Um, yeah, so...

Already bought it. Already loaded it up. Already reluctantly loving it.

(Also already rolling my eyes at Ambre and her "fanboi," whatever the hell that means. Mwah. Kisses to you, my geeky friend. You know I love you anyway.)

Yesterday's post, then? Never mind.


Monday, July 16, 2007

An iPhone? For ME?

Baroy is TechnoBoy. I am Amish girl. Not only do I generally not understand technology, I oftentimes actively dislike it. I certainly actively distrust it.

When I turned 40, my beloved girlfriends gave me a then-just-recently-introduced iPod mini. If I had only been able to listen to music on it, it might never have done all that much for me. But I discovered audiobooks. And I discovered just how many audiobooks you can cram onto a 4 MB iPod mini. So when the original mini died an untimely death after just 18 months, I grumbled about how it was all a scam, that this was planned obsolescence, that Apple could bite me if they thought I was going to plunk down another $200 for a portable mp3 player with a battery that *you can't replace" when it goes bad.

Apparently, Apple did not need to bite me. I'm not sure 48 hours had passed before I realized how badly I needed that pain-in-the-ass piece of crap...and how much I loved it.

It's been another 18 months, and today, my recently sputtering iPod mini (same sleekly, unobstrusive silver color as the original) gave up the ghost rather spectacularly. I threw a full-fledged temper tantrum, complete with tears and a remarkable number of curse words, none of which were unobtrusive in color.

I came back a little while ago from a very long post-tantrum walk--listening to an audiobook on Baroy's video iPod as I went, of course--with some perspective, and allowed in conversation with Baroy as to how maybe, just maybe, the fact that my iPod goes EVERYWHERE with me, gets knocked around in my purse and even sometimes knocked around on the floor of my car, and how, yes, once or twice it's fallen from a height onto the MAYBE that might account for its no longer working. But hell, we don't have the money for a new iPod right now, and my 50th birthday isn't for another seven years, so I can't really look longingly in my friends' direction. So, what am I going to doooooooooooooo, Baroy? Oh me. Oh my.

Which is when Baroy looked at me and suggested that rather then sink money into a Nano that might go the way of my minis, I instead buy myself an iPhone.

No, we can't really afford it. But, he pointed out, it would save us about $30 a month in phone charges, since I currently carry a Blackberry. And so in one year, it would more than make up the difference between itself and a Nano. Plus, we could sell my Blackberry on ebay and recoup some costs. And then I wouldn't have to carry both an iPod and a Blackberry hooked onto my pants everywhere I go.

It sorta kinda a tiny little bit makes sense. But ME? A first-generation iPhone? BEFORE Baroy gets one? It just seems...obscene somehow. Wrong. Very, very wrong. I don't even WANT one, really. But I have to admit it makes some amount of sense, if you throw out completely the idea that I not get a new iPod and get a cheap mp3 player instead and only load one or two CDs of each audiobook onto it at a time. Which...nah. No way.

I just don't know. Help!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nothing more than self-promotion

And if that isn't enough to scare you away, I don't know what will be.

I recently took on a freelance gig writing a once-a-week blog entry about bipolar disorder for, and now that they finally have their blog tool up and working, I was able to put up the last five weeks of posts. Ignore the fact that they all have the same date...they were actually written each Friday in June.

Here's the link: LoriO's Bipolar Blog

I'd love for you to come over and check it out, but even better, for you to pass the word on to anyone who might ultimately find it useful--either people with bipolar disorder, or people who care for/live with/interact with someone with bipolar disorder. As may or may not be obvious from the first five entries, this is supposed to be a blog that does a little bit of everything: gives advice, tells my personal story, keeps up with news...the whole shebang.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to hearing/seeing/reading your comments, if you have any--and if the site will let you leave a comment, which it does apparently only intermittently and usually only if you're using IE. (I was going to sigh and just say, "Ah, startups." But this actually isn't a startup. It is, however, the debut of the site's blogging capabilities, which explains the bugginess. So I apologize on their behalf for any frustration you might encounter. And if you don't wind up frustrated, just pretend I never said anything.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stop it. No, seriously. STOP IT.

So there are a million and one work stressors, which I won't even get into, because it's neither professional nor appropriate. Just trust me. Unusually stressful.

On top of that, since Friday, there have been no fewer than seven phone calls about my dad, who--according to himself and his girlfriend--is nearing the end. This would be sad enough on its own, particularly considering that I got to hear about it from him in his very weak, very shaky, very confused voice. But sadder still? From the outside looking in, I don't think it's all that near the end. He's still making phone calls, and he's still walking around the house. He's still even taking showers by himself. His girlfriend says he's spending enough time in bed that she thinks he has the beginnings of bedsores, but what I fear, paradoxically, is that he's not sick enough. He's sad and confused and you can just HEAR how terrified he is...and I think he's still got a ways to go. It seems unfair, somehow.

Then, yesterday, I got a call from Baroy, who had taken Em and N to see the 'kids' from Harry Potter put their handprints onto the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His car had overheated; he thought it was probably because his fluid levels were low, and it wouldn't be a big deal, but he was going to take it in to the mechanic's shop on his way home. $500 later, he has a new radiator. It's just money, but we needed this?

But wait! There's more.

Yesterday evening--after seeing the Potter handprints, after swimming across the street in S and B's kiddie pool for hours, after having dinner at J's house (with Em swimming in J's 'real' pool and N just hanging out)--N looked like he might have either gotten too much sun or some mosquito bites or something. By the time he went to bed, it was definitely mosquito bites...or maybe a couple of hives. When he came up to my room at 1 AM, it was...I don't know what the fuck it was, but it was something else. Huge, burning red, itchy-as-hell splotches across his entire chest and belly, under his arms, on the inside of one leg and on the back of the other, across his shoulders, etc., etc., etc. I gave him a big dose of Benadryl, slathered him in this Aveeno product I have that's a mixture of calamine lotion, a skin anesthetic, and colloidal oatmeal, and made him sleep next to me in bed so I could listen to make sure he was breathing OK, since he was clearly having a full-body reaction to SOMEthing. (Baroy slept in N's bed; both of our kids are AWFUL to have to sleep next to even when there's only one other person in the bed. WHY do children insist on turning sideways on a queen-size mattress and either ramming you with their hard heads or kicking you with their hard feet? Sheesh.) So, yeah. THAT was a good night's sleep.

He seemed much better this morning, and all day...until around 5 pm, when they were over S and B's house again and Em called to say that N was "all red and blotchy on his back and his face and it's kinda scary."

Long story short, I Benadryl-dosed him again then dragged him over to Urgent Care where the so-brand-spanking-new-I-have-more-medical-experience-than-he-does doctor took one look at him...and went to get an attending. Thank goodness. A real doctor. (I hate July, when the latest crop of newly minted physicians is loosed upon an unsuspecting public.) I was thinking this might be a viral rash rather than an allergic reaction, because his nose was stuffy and he was coughing, but the doc said no, that it was likely the other way around, and the stuffiness and coughing was a result of the allergy to we-have-no-idea-what that was causing these blotches. He showed me the difference (a viral rash doesn't turn white when you press down on it, for instance), gave us a prescription for a low-dose steroid ("to make sure it doesn't get a chance to get into his windpipe and affect his breathing"--yup, I'll be sleeping well again tonight!), told me to keep up the Benadryl and Aveeno, and sent us on our way with orders to try and see The Best Pediatrician In The World, who we haven't visited in a long time due to my lack of good insurance, in the next day or so.

I know. It's not like the world is ending. But, really. My job, my dad, my car...and now my kid? What happened to the frickin' rule of three? Shouldn't I have gotten a break by now?

I'm expecting the locusts to arrive in the morning.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

He's the One That I Want

I swear I thought "the haircutter-lady" was going to physically gobble N up today as she trimmed his hair and he yammered away (and away and away) to her. More than once, she squeezed and pinched and kissed him on his head. I was pretty close to taking a bite or two out of him myself; he was just that edibly and incredibly adorable.

My favorite part was when she had combed his hair up and over to the side, slicking it over with some water to keep it down while she cut another section.

"I look like Danny," N announced.

Haircutter-lady and I exchanged confused glances.

"Danny who?" I asked.

"Danny. Like the one you like?"

It took me a second, but then I hooted with laughter. "You mean Danny like in You're the One That I Want?"

"Yeah," he said.

Now it was Haircutter-lady's turn to hoot. "You are right, sweetheart, you do look like Danny. You look like Austin!"

"Yeah," N said again, preening. "I know it."

Em and I have started reading my brother-in-law's new book, Nacky Patcher. Tonight, after we'd worked our way through the first 10 pages or so, stopping often for me to define words and phrases, she looked thoughtfully at me.

"Uncle Jeff does the kind of writing I like so much, where he really describes his characters so that you really get to know them," she said, in her I-should-be-used-to-it-by-now, much-too-mature-for-a-9--year-old way. "And he uses so many difficult words."


"He's the one who, when he comes to visit, goes out into the back yard with Uncle Bruce and burps. It's hard to believe that that's the same uncle who writes like this."

I can't decide if that's a compliment or a total smackdown.

Finally, a little self-promotion: I recently took on a freelance gig writing a once-a-week blog entry about bipolar disorder for, and now that they finally have their blog tool up and working, I was able to put up the last five weeks of posts. Ignore the fact that they all have the same date...they were actually written each Friday in June, and will be added to on a regular basis from here on out.

Here's the link: My bipolar blog

I'd love to hear/see/read your comments, if you have any. And feel free to pass along the URL to any and everyone who might be interested.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Apparently, I'm second to God

I spent some time this afternoon interviewing candidates for Religious School Director at our temple. When I got home, Em asked me if the rabbi had been in on the interviews.

"He gave each candidate a tour of the syngagogue," I said, "but he's not really supposed to hire anyone; that's someone else's job."

"Ooooh! I know who's job it is!" N, who was listening in, exclaimed. "God's!"

"I think God trusts us to find the right person ourselves," I told him.

"So who does God trust?" he persisted. "You?"

"Yeah, me and [some of the other parents on the religious school committee]."

"Wow," he said. "That's cool." And he stared at me for a while. Me, God's chosen personnel representative.

I could probably be in a worse mood these days, but I don't know how. Dad's heading downhill, and slow. (Downhill and fast would be a blessing. Downhill and slow means having to deal with the decline and his poor, long-suffering girlfriend's difficulty in dealing with it for many more days and possibly weeks.) That and work stuff have made it difficult to get up the energy to post, but my sister guilted me, and then my son was funny, and so...

Back to the Quiet Place for me, though.