Posts Tagged ‘2002’

Widow’s Night

May 24, 2013

Until I was 21 I thought members of my family were immortal. But in a couple of days, one of my grandmother’s sisters is going to die.

She’s 96, and she’ll be singing ‘I Did It My Way’ until the curtain closes.

There were nine of them — six sisters and three brothers — and until a few years ago, eight of them were going strong. Suddenly we are about to be down to three. There is an update. Please see comments.

The youngest is 80, but you wouldn’t believe more than 60 if you saw his tanned, laughing self dismounting his motorcycle.

I’ve got great genes.

Starting in 1992 and within eight years, all the sisters’ husbands died. Just after, I was in the grocery store buying avocados, and an old lady struck up a conversation about guacamole mix.

“I buy this Holy Guacamole,” she said. “My husband died, and there’s no point cooking a meal for just one, so every night I heat up frozen taquitos and make this Holy Guacamole.”

She told me she eats in front of the TV while Wheel of Fortune is on. She followed me around the produce section talking about Pat Sajak. This was a lonely woman.

I imagined all my aunties eating microwave taquitos in front of Wheel of Fortune. I thought, ‘I fix a homecooked meal every night. It would be no big deal to double the recipe have the aunties join us.’

So I called them all up and invited them for dinner and games. We had a blast. We decided to do it the first Friday of every month. We called it Widow’s Night.

The news of our private parties spread quickly through the family, as my cousins tried to plan things with their moms. They got denied. Widow’s Night was sacred.

There was laughter, especially with my kids’ answers in Balderdash or clues in Taboo, or when the sisters criticized each other’s card dealing, but there were tears too.

They talked one night about how it felt to give away their husbands’ clothes.

Auntie Martha saw teenagers at the mall holding hands, and realized she would never walk around holding hands again. The others nodded. ‘We had the same moment.’

Auntie Roxie heard her husband’s voice one night telling her it was late, put the book down and turn off the damned light.

Sometimes Auntie MaryAnn would get on the piano and play songs from back when, and the others would dance around. They rarely left before midnight.

We did this for years. Then we started our kitchen remodel and had to put it on hold. During this time Auntie Martha died. Then my son started high school and football games got in the way. Then we moved to a house with no dining room.

Auntie Mags died last spring at 97. Auntie MaryAnn is Hospice care. We’ll be down to two widows.

I was wrong to let all the ‘and thens’ get in the way. Widow’s Night was supposed to be sacred.

Link to photos

The Twilight Zone

January 27, 2013

Today my daughter and I stayed home sick. We bundled under Granny Jane’s afghan with tea and watched a Twilight Zone marathon.

When this show is on, one of us has to say, “Remember that time…?”

Here’s what happened that time.

We were on a road trip to see everybody and everything worth seeing in the USA via minivan. We had six VHS tapes packed with Twilight Zone episodes and a portable TV/VCR in the back.

We weren’t watching it, because I was reading Tom Sawyer out loud, and whenever I tried to stop, everybody hollered for more. But on a stretch between Boulder and Mount Rushmore we decided to pop in an episode so I could eat a PB&J. It was July 21.

The first episode on the tape was “One for the Angels,” in which Ed Wynn is visited by a man — death — come to take him to the other side.

Wynn argues with him, but death insists, showing him his appointment book, “Look here, it says I am to pick up Lew Bookman, that’s you, at 1:36 p.m. on July 21, that’s now.”

Dad called from the driver’s seat, “What’s today’s date?”


We all looked up at the clock. It was 1:36 p.m.

Whoa! We had been changing time zones everyday, and we watched only one episode out of 70.

So we did what all red-blooded Americans do when faced with eerie coincidence. We sang the Twilight Zone theme.

The rugby reunion story

December 17, 2012

Today we got a Christmas card from the Rooney family. I must tell you what happened during our stay at their home.

When we made our Road Trip USA (one month, one mini-van, the whole country), we planned our route to include not only every major landmark in the country but every significant person in our lives.

Over the years I’ve tried to plan reunions of various kinds: family, high school friends, my bridal party. It never works. People are spread out hither and yon. It was either go to them individually or live on Christmas cards.

We went out a-visiting.

Among the stops were two of my husband’s college rugby foursome. One was in the Colorado mountains, and one — Rooney — was in Long Island, New York. I had never met and couldn’t find the third.

We drove to Long Island from my in-laws’ house in upstate New York and spent the night at the Rooneys’. It was great. Our children played together. We had barbecue and beer on the deck. In the morning we would linger over goodbyes and head for Uncle Jer’s in New Jersey.

The doorbell rang as we were getting coffee. It was the Sanchez family, just in from Colorado. Grampa had died, and they came for the funeral, figured to swing by and catch a visit with the Rooneys.

We pulled out two more coffee mugs and the doorbell rang again. It was the mysterious fourth family, down from Connecticut for a sister’s wedding, swinging by for a catch-up with the Rooneys.

All four of those rowdy boys were together by happenstance, eating bagels in the kitchen — seven children in the yard, four wives in the living room talking about births and hairstyles.

It had been 15 years since they’d all been together, and may be 15 over again. It may be never.

We’re back to living on Christmas cards, but now I believe in magic.

A celebrity sighting

November 5, 2012

One afternoon a co-worker friend and I went to Los Angeles for thermal imaging.

My friend had had a mass show up on a mammogram, and I’m just plain freaked out about breast cancer, so we were going to have infrared photos taken of our chests.

This is an exciting technology, I think. Cancerous tumors give off heat, and heat photos don’t expose a patient to radiation, like mammograms do, adding to the breast cancer risk.

Also, we didn’t have to wait for results. We got our photos right then.

There were also downsides. Each of us during our individual appointments had to strip from the waist up and sit with our arms above our heads. This was to cool the body heat in the armpit area, which would show up red on the photo and hide a tumor.

It was also embarrassing. The guy, who may have been a doctor, I don’t remember, made conversation with me as if we were at the corner coffee house, only with my breasts a-dangle.

The worst factor was the doctor guy’s eyes were whack. They didn’t point in the same direction. He was very like Cookie Monster.

This would have made me uncomfortable under normal circumstances, but sitting there topless with my arms over my head wondering if one of his eyes was looking at my nipples was more than unsettling.

After we had each had our turn, Shannon, who had lived in Santa Monica before she started working at The Press, took me to her favorite restaurant. It was a take-it-home-and-bake-it pizza bistro that sold by the slice to walk-in eaters. It shared a wall with Blockbuster.

We sat on high stools, appreciating having covered breasts, and talked about all the celebrities she used to see when she lived in the neighborhood.

She used to see Meg Ryan running in the morning, for instance. Mel Gibson was more than once in line with her at the grocery store.

She listed so many I can’t remember them all. By the time we were tossing our plates and napkins into the trash, I was dying to see a famous guy.

Shannon poked her head out the door, “Well, Sting is about to go into the Blockbuster next door.”

Now, Shannon is funny. She’s always funny, and I would have expected her to say that.

But he really was.

I didn’t want to be that idiot that calls out, but I would have loved it if he had noticed me. Suddenly I didn’t appreciate having my breasts concealed anymore.

The disc jockey in the sky

October 16, 2012

This morning I was listening to my iPod, which I have named iCaramba, and singing along with Question by The Moody Blues.

Parts of this song go right under my crusty exterior and force tears. I can’t prevent it.

On the plane ride home from Hawaii, ending the week of getting to know the love of my life, I plugged my rubber headphones into the armrest to discover an in-flight Moody Blues marathon.

I am the biggest Moody Blues fan you ever heard of. This was clearly some kind of supernatural message.

I closed my eyes, smiled and listened. When the chorus came —

I’m looking for someone to change my life.
I’m looking for a miracle in my life.
And if you could see what it’s done to me
To lose the the love I knew
Could safely lead me to
The land that I once knew.
To learn as we grow old
The secrets of our souls.


— I was a goner. To this day, I’m a goner.

But that’s not the story I’m here to tell. That’s just what brought it to mind.

There was a copy editor at The Press who had been there 50 years. She took her job seriously, and, like me, was proud of what we did. She was in her 70s.

We were close.

One summer day there was a posting for employees. Helen’s daughter died unexpectedly while on vacation in Hawaii. She was 50.

Lots of us went to the funeral.

Helen’s surviving daughter gave the eulogy. She had received a postcard from Hawaii the morning of the service. It said, “It’s so beautiful. I never want to leave.”

She said when they were little girls they would sing “Sisters,” the Rosemary ClooneyVera Ellen duet from the movie “White Christmas.” That was their song.

They were close.

She broke down as she described flying to Hawaii to collect the body.

And putting the armrest headphones in her ear.

And hearing “Sisters.”

June Lockhart

October 12, 2012

Today is my mama’s birthday. One year for her birthday we went to Los Angeles to see the Phantom of the Opera.

I had made my daughter a fancy ball dress of  ivory taffeta and lace.

We got to the theater a little bit early, and had to wait in a line for admittance to the lobby.

I had to pee.

We were toward the front of the line, but a classy-looking lady walked right up to the front of the line, bold as brass, and got let in. She turned to my grama as she ducked in the door and explained, “I have to pee.”

I was aghast. “Who does she think she is?”

June Lockhart,” my dad said. I made a face of not understanding. “Lassie‘s mom.”

Ah, she was on TV in black and white.

I was thinking of all the things I had done in my life more honorable than acting on a sitcom, but there I stood needing to pee.

Finally we were heading into the ladies’ room. Queen Lockhart was coming out, and she spotted my daughter. I made a face of not liking.

“Wow!” she froze. She knelt down to my little girl’s level. “That’s a beautiful dress.”

OK. I forgive her.

I am an imp

September 28, 2012

At my house, country music is not considered cool.

I don’t even know if I hate it. I just know there’s a stigma. If it comes on, we rush to push a new station.

One night my husband and I were shuffling cars around in the driveway. I was in his new car. It has a touch screen.

There are three FM screens, with six preset buttons each. He didn’t know how to manipulate them, but I did.

While I was moving his car, I set all his presets to KFROG.

The next morning just after he left for work, the phone rang.

I knew it would. 

All I heard was “AAAAAAAHHHHHHH.”

The angel story

May 11, 2012

This morning I was reading a book we bought at the Winchester Mystery House. It’s California ghost stories.

I was reading one to my daughter while she skimmed the pool, and she said to me, “What if you were those people? Would you move?”

This made me laugh. “I didn’t.”

Tonight we were at my mom’s for Mothers Day dinner, and I told her what my daughter had asked. She laughed and said, “We didn’t.”

As you know, we lived in a haunted house until I was 18. Just like in the story I read my daughter, we heard voices and footsteps. The appliances turned on. We got the whole show.

Before we moved in, it was vacant and the toilets flushed. We were standing right there.

Anyway we got to talking about spirits contacting the living, and I remembered when I wondered if my grampa had reached out from beyond.

He had been a watercolor artist before he died. Everytime we see a sunset I announce he painted it for me.

I don’t believe it. I just say it.

When he died the mortuary gave us a selection of sappy poems for the program. I rejected those and wrote my own sappy poem. I ended it with a take on something I stole from the movie ‘Fried Green Tomatoes.’ A character said some angels walk around this earth disguised as humans.

Three years after Grampa’s death, we took a road trip in his van around the whole USA. At sunset on the last evening of this month-long adventure, we drove straight into a beautiful sky of purple and yellow. I said, “Look at the sunset Grampa made us!”

And everybody yelled, “Whoa! Look at the cloud! It’s an angel!”

It was clearly a full-body profile of an angel crouching and blowing something off the palm of her hand.

I didn’t think it was a supernatural occurance. At first.

But then Aerosmith’s ‘Angel’ came on the radio.

I’m with the band

April 16, 2012

I have an aunt and uncle who lived and raised three boys in Modesto. The youngest boy and some friends formed a band in my aunt’s garage.

The next thing we know we’re getting reports they’re touring, making albums, showing videos on MTV. David Bowie named them as his favorite artists. We heard them on the “I am Sam” soundtrack. Two of their songs were in car commercials.

I was a proud cousin. I got a button made that says, “I’m with the band.”

One year they played at the Troubador in Los Angeles right before Thanksgiving. Later that week my aunt and uncle, my parents, the band and their spouses joined us at my house for dinner.

My Oldest Friend and her husband were in town from the coast, having Thanksgiving with her parents. They were supposed to stop by to see us.

After dinner she called to apologize for running late, “My husband has just discovered this band called Grandaddy, and he’s downloading all their CDs off Napster. He’s almost done, and we’ll be over then.”

“Grandaddy’s here,” I said.

For the first and last time in our lives, I got to be the cool one.