Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy Birthday

This is the thirteenth year we are celebrating Paul’s birthday without him. He would have been forty years old today.

So as I’ve done in past years, I’m sharing some of my memories of him. It’s amazing how clearly these things continue to stay in my mind and continue to beget even more memories of our boy, Paul.

Happy Birthday, Paul, always with love.

·      I’ll always remember he slept without closing his eyes all the way
·      I’ll always remember he walked fast and way ahead of us
·      I’ll always remember he had long, thick, black eyelashes surrounding clear-blue eyes
·      I’ll always remember he played the piano, legs crossed at the knees, leaning
way down over the keyboard
·      I’ll always remember he liked to wear second-hand clothes and didn’t mind
if they were ripped
·      I’ll always remember the way he stood at the pantry door munching almonds
·      I’ll always remember he liked to climb – trees, rocks, up the highest diving boards
·      I’ll always remember he was meticulous about his things
·      I’ll always remember he could play almost any tune by ear
·      And that he was always a loner
·      And how much he loved Janet
·      And wasn’t hugged enough after she left him
·      I’ll always remember he was sensitive
·      I’ll always remember he drove too fast and erratically
·      I’ll always remember he got lots of parking tickets
·      I’ll always remember he was in love with John Lennon
·      I’ll always remember he liked Doc Martin shoes
·      I’ll always remember he tapped his foot when he sat down
·      I’ll always remember seeing him on the stone stoop drinking coffee at Starbucks
·      I won’t ever forget the feel of his cool pale skin the last night I saw him
·      Or the sound of his voice
·      I’ll always remember his hair was thick
·      I can’t forget he knew all the nursery rhymes by the time he was two
·      I’ll always remember that he and his brother called the back of the station wagon,
“the really back”
·      I’ll always remember he loved to fish.*

Putting a Face on Suicide also remembered Paul today. I am so glad I connected with this powerful project this year and that I can promote its mission in even a small way.

The PAFOS Mission: Every 40 seconds somewhere around the world someone dies by suicide, that’s 99 people every 66 minutes. Every day, that’s almost 100 people in the United States alone, and over 2160 worldwide. Putting a Face on Suicide (PAFOS) is a suicide awareness project that creates posters and videos to pay tribute to those we have lost to suicide with dignity and respect. PAFOS humanizes the daunting statistics; lovingly replacing numbers with faces.
PAFOS, is an ongoing project soliciting pictures of your loved ones who died by suicide. Its objective is to collect 99 photos of people who have died by suicide for each day of the year; i.e., 36135 faces will represent 365 days of loss by suicide in the United States.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The eve of New Year's Eve

I think this is a perfect day for looking back. Usually we go to an eve, eve party where we always share about our events of the year. Since it was cancelled this year, I'll share our major happenings of 2011 here.

Major Happenings of 2011:

1.  My husband, Bob, and I traveled to Amador County and Sutter Creek, CA with Manhattan Beach friends to taste some native zinfandel wines in January. On our first night there Bob fell and broke the three metatarsal bones in his right foot. Bob had foot surgery to repair and pin his broken bones together in February and had to be off his foot for eight weeks. He got around on a knee scooter (Rolleraid) or crutches. I was his driver.

Bob on his knee scooter (Rolleraid)

2.  On May 8 (Mother’s Day) my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On was released by Lucky Press.  My successful book launch reading and signing at our local independent bookstore, Pages, was held on May 12. A couple of weeks later we celebrated my birthday in Lake Oswego, Oregon with my sister’s family and their sister-in-law from Denver.
Madeline reading at Pages book launch

3.  In July we went to Reno, NV to celebrate the marriage of dear friends.

4.  Our great-niece Alyssa traveled from Denver on her own to visit with us for a week in August just before we traveled to Frankfurt and Berlin Germany, Stockholm Sweden, and Oslo Norway. Our first stop was to attend the Bar Mitzvah of the son of friends we met on our Northern European cruise last year.

5.  Our son, Ben spent four weeks at CBS studios in Burbank in November acting in a major movie called “7500” that will be released next August. He also passed the National Association of Sports Medicine test. Besides being an actor, he is now a certified personal trainer and a tennis coach.

6.  Ben’s wife, Marissa, appeared in a commercial for Transamerica Insurance. She also learned to be a Reiki practitioner and is now regularly seeing clients in her home studio.

7.  Bob worked sporadically at a small engineering company. He is now there until the end of the year.

8.  I still write and have poems published, and I am a regular contributor to three websites: Huffington Post, Naturally Savvy, and PsychAlive, besides writing for my blogs at Choices and Red Room. I also promote my book at book fairs, signings, and speaking engagements as part of my non-stop book marketing activities. And I am currently over 50,000 words into a novel.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Family photos

I was practically obsessive about taking family photos – especially toward the end of Paul’s life. Like I had some sort of premonition. Unfortunately we don’t have a lot of early ones without my mother in them. She never wanted to be left out, and she always stood right up front and center. 

This first here was at the time of Paul’s graduation from grade school. The last was just a few months before he died. 

I am so fortunate to have this many. (Scroll down, there's a poem at the end.)

First Trophy

So after all
the dishes are washed
and put away
and she checks her emails
one last time
before closing her computer down,
she comes across an old photo,
a little crumpled
and faded
of her boy at age five,
her first-born son.
His blonde hair cut like
an upside-down cereal bowl
around his face,
his dark blue eyes twinkling,
his wide smile showing a gap
where his two front teeth should be,
he proudly holds up his
first soccer trophy
to the camera.
And she wonders if
she had hugged him more
would he be alive
and smiling today.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Paul and his brother, Ben

Although our boys were very different from one another – Paul was a brainy musician and computer nerd and Ben is a brainy athlete and actor – they always loved each other very much. They respected each other’s differences and talents.

I’ve gathered some photos of them together. How could I not celebrate the brothers during this month of celebrating Paul’s life?

 A Poem That Wants To Be for Ben*

They are always about Paul, my dead son
the one who died of his own free will
so many years ago.
My hordes of poems go on like a mantra:
his mania, depression, his delusions, escapades,
his suicide. They never fail to mention
his piercing blue eyes, the little half smile
that never showed his teeth, the smoky smell
and the way he slumped over the piano like the thinker
as he played.
Paul and his death have been my muse.

Ben’s living eyes brim over with love
as he looks down and folds me in his arms.
He is the son who says
I love you
every time we speak.
His smiles are wide
even when he faces disappointment
in his own life.
This son is the reason I choose to live.
Why isn't he the reason I choose to write?

*From my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On (Lucky Press LLC, 2011).

Friday, December 23, 2011

My favorite holiday ingredient

I also blog over at Red Room, the author's website. Last week we were asked to blog about a secret holiday ingredient, and I'm pleased and proud to say that my piece was one of three to be honored and receive a prize of a book. Here is the piece in its entirety.

Most of the people in my family celebrate Hanukkah, and it had always been our tradition to give our nieces and nephews money – Hanukkah gelt – every year. The amount always varied depending on how wealthy or not we felt in a given year. However, as they grew up and married and had children of their own we felt our measly little check was insignificant and probably went to help pay for a half a bag of groceries. 
So we decided to look for something a little more meaningful and more in keeping with our tradition of giving to charity at year’s end.
Every year on December 31, my husband and I sit down and make a list of the non-profit asks we have amassed through the year. Then we first make a decision about which charities we’ll donate to and then how much we’ll give to each. The amounts all depend on how much money we have allocated for our charitable giving at year’s end. Once that is done, we both take part in writing the checks, stamping the envelopes, and taking them to the post office. This process is my favorite part of the holidays. It feels so good to give back.
A few years ago I found an organization called Tis Best, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and the original and No. 1 ranked charity gift card. Tis Best is a donation gift redeemable to any of TisBest's 250+ charity partners. We decided to buy a gift card for each of our nieces and nephews instead of sending them the usual check.
We make a direct tax-deductible donation to Tis Best, designating an amount of money to put on each of the cards we buy. Once our nieces and nephews receive their card, their job is to choose a charity to receive the money. We also get a notice when they’ve spent the amount on their cards and the names of the charities they chose.
They all tell us they love this gift, so we plan to continue this tradition for as long as we can. We like the idea of inspiring our young family members to make regular donations, and we hope that they in turn will continue charitable giving on their own in the years to come.  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What I Miss

Paul loved playing the piano

What I Miss

Twelve years didn’t erase him.
He is still with me everyday.
The memories haven’t dimmed.
I clearly see his face,
his clear blue eyes, his buzzed hair
in my mind.

I miss hearing him
play his music
as his bent fingers
lightly trickled up
and down the keyboard.
I miss hearing his footsteps
on the stairs and
hardwood floors
as he prowled
around the house at night.
I miss hearing his deep voice
as he said, “hello”
when he came home from work

I also miss his expertise.
He solved our computer problems at night
leaving carefully written instructions
in his childish printing
for us to find the next morning.

I don’t miss his smoking,
I don’t miss his bad moods
during his last few years,
I don’t miss that his sickness
sometimes made him angry
and me angry at him.
No, I don’t miss those things.

But, I don’t think about them.
I just think about the things
about him that I miss.

2008, 2011