Sunday, June 29, 2008

My brother died on June 23, 2008

The sibs -- Sheila, Madeline, and Kenny -- August 2007 -- Ken's 70th birthday

The Sibs -- Madeline, Sheila, and Kenny -- June 2006

We buried my brother on Wednesday, June 25, 2008. It was 90 degrees out at the cemetery, and we sat there with sweat rolling down under our arms and wet between the legs while we eulogized him and then covered him with one shovel full after another of dirt. It still hasn’t sunk in that he’s gone. I look around his house and don’t see him there. When someone sits at his chair in the breakfast room I want to say get up, that’s his chair. This was a man who will be missed – and very much. He was a wonderful, unassuming guy who was so smart and so cultured – like his wife, Barb, said, a modern Renaissance man.

Actually, the service was very short – the Rabbi’s eulogy that was quite good considering that he got the main facts from us just yesterday. Sure a few details were wrong but they really didn’t matter in the scheme of things. Then he called Ben to read my poem – one that I had written almost two years ago when he still could walk around the block and didn’t have to have oxygen all day and all night. Here it is:

Brotherly Love

He made me walk across the street
away from him and his friends
to avoid me, his little sister,
on our way to school.
He’d rub my arm until it burned
whenever he could take hold,
and flicked me with a dish towel
when it was his turn
to dry the dishes.
He called me fatso,
He called me Madeldini
He shut the door
of his room in my face.
Growing up, my mother’s mantra,
“He teases her and she screams,”
echoed throughout our house.

I only retaliated once.
I threw a pair of scissors at him
that landed just under his eye.
It hurt me more than it hurt him.
Instead I wanted to copy him
to get the same grades, to see the same movies,
to read the same books, to go to all the Cubs games.
I was happy tagging along even if it meant
being two steps behind.

Now he’s so thin his shirts fall off his shoulders.
The lines around his mouth are deep and black
like the strokes of a charcoal stick.
His white hair combed flat
barely covers his skull.
His voice is raspy and weak
like my father’s in his last days,
and he has to suck regularly
from his oxygen supply.

The only walk he takes these days
is around the block.
Not trying to hurry his dog as she sniffs along the way
he takes short steps and short breaths
until he’s back inside.
In his chair in the sun room,
he reads, he snoozes,
he watches his grandchildren play
breathing more easily with a hit or two
from his oxygen tank,
his new-best friend.
He looks out to the yard
while the birds flit from one feeder
to the other
and sing their songs.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More about choices

I've been asked to submit a memory book page for my 50th high school coming up next September. And, of course, for me the subject is the choices I’ve made and where those choices led me.
It really is a matter of the road taken and not taken, and looking back, I wonder if the road I took was the right one. It seems that early on I made rash and wild choices – like deciding to transfer to UCLA for my senior year in college and marry my first husband before I even graduated. That that marriage didn’t last was predictable because I entered into it for all the wrong reasons, yet, it did get me to settle in Southern California where I’ve lived most of my life since. If I hadn’t I wouldn’t have ended up with my second and last husband, Bob – definitely one of the best choices of my life.
This theme of choices seems to be very much on my mind these days. My early choices laid out the pattern of my life so far. My next choices will lay out the rest of it. Not a complicated concept. Just another affirmation that we are the creators of our own destinies. There really are no accidents in how we are to turn out. And, there really is no reason why we have to be stuck in any choice we make. We are at choice to change our minds.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A little success story

I feel as though I’ve reached a major milestone at work. For the last couple of years I’ve been talking up and even going as far as channeling a new director coming in to take over our department. I picked out the person and talked to him about how perfect I thought he’d be for the job long before an inkling of a job opening existed. And today it finally happened. He is now the new director of my department. It’s like I willed it to happen. How the powers above me got on my wavelength I’ll never know, and right now I don’t even care. I just know that our current guy is leaving on August 1, and we have a younger, smarter, harder worker to take his place.

This new guy is innovative and has the corporate visibility to get his innovative ideas accomplished. The old guy was just that. Old. He let things just sit. Today, I was trying to find out what happened to a product I helped develop over four years ago and with a little digging, it turns out it was never approved and signed off. The old guy’s email Inbox is a deep hole. Emails come in and are never responded to. In fact they are completely forgotten. So many times he asks for things to be sent to him again because he can't find them in his deep Inbox hole.

As a contrast, just a few minutes ago I asked the new guy for some information, and within a minute I had a response. Now, there’s a big change right there. Responsiveness. What a simple concept. It makes the person who needs the response feel important rather than brushed off with nary a nod in his/her direction.

Needless to say I’m happy about this outcome. I know I won’t be around long to reap the benefits of this change, but at least I’ll have played a big part in making the change happen. That kind of legacy is perfect for me.

It's all relative

I've been wanting to share these photos for a long time -- one taken while visiting the NYC Central Park Gates by Christo; the other in my neighborhood, the Greenbelt Gates, an art project created by our local grade school students.
What a thrill to get up one weekend morning and see the little "gates" just across the street from my house.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Though it's absolutely beautiful outside, the Dow Jones went down almost 400 points, the price of oil rose $10 a barrel, and I still haven't heard from the agent about my book. It’s about seven weeks now since she's had it, and I’m getting more and more nervous by the minute – actually by the second. My cell phone rang early yesterday morning while I was in my room getting ready for work, and until I looked to see who had called, my first hope was that it was a call from her. That hope is not too farfetched, because it is just about time that I hear something from her. My friend, Ursula was very cute. She sent me a card with signatures of famous authors pasted on it saying they all want me to be published. And, then again, I can’t help the stinking thinking. There have been a lot of memoirs out lately on the subject of death of a child and madness. One by Isabel Allende, in particular, is definite competition. She wrote letters to her dead daughter, Paula, telling her about her family. A wonderful idea. Of course it’s nothing like my book but it still deals with a dead child. Anyway, I have to keep my confidence up. That’s all I have right now.
Tomorrow we're flying to Denver to visit my brother and his family, and next week I start Italian class. The first step to living in Italy. Ciao!!!!