As Long As You’re Up…….

grantsAt times I feel like I’ve been transported back to the 60’s and am trapped in that old ad for Grant’s Scotch.

Remember that ad?   Don’t try to tell me you weren’t born yet.  (Well some of you weren’t born yet, but very few.)

I’m not sure how many bottles of whiskey they sold, but the slogan As Long As You’re Up, Get Me a Grant’s had a major impact on popular culture.  It went viral before there was such a thing as “viral.”  It was a subject of a famous New Yorker cartoon and found a home in the Yale Book of Quotations, in the company of such other blockbusters as I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.

The Grant ads were staged to ooze upper-class sophistication.  Each one featured a photograph of either an affluent-looking, elegant, well dressed, not-so-young man or woman.

The ultra-thin, perfectly coiffed, attractive woman was dressed in a simple, but clearly expensive, gown, and was sitting in a chair which looked like it was recently bought at auction from Sotheby’s.

The handsome, graying-at-the-temples-with-just-the-right-amount-of-gray, man was in a tuxedo, also sitting.   Each body was turned slightly as if addressing an invisible off-stage partner.

Although the ad for Grant’s Scotch faded from usage a long time ago, I’m happy to say that the slogan, at least the first half of it, is alive and well and living in our house.  With some slight revisions.

The man (my husband) is not wearing a tuxedo, but is instead dressed in golf shorts.  His graying temples can no longer be distinguished from the rest of his hair color, and the chair he sits in was purchased for comfort rather than its antique value.

The woman (me) does not wear a gown, but is attired in jeans and a tee shirt, and is not now, and never has been, as thin as the woman in the ad.

However, the operative words remain unchanged: As long as you’re up….

Perhaps built into every long-term relationship there emerges a “requestor” and a “requestee.”    These roles are not so easily predictable, because in my experience, they’re not always gender-dependent.   Not counting extenuating circumstances, like a broken leg, for instance, women are just as capable as men when it comes to asking for little favors, and men can be just as compliant as women in granting them.

In my relationship, however, I have become the “requestee.”  Possibly it’s my inability to sit in one place for extended periods of time that has cast me in this role.  So as I am frequently up and about during the course of an hour-long TV show, it does not seem unreasonable that a voice from the other room calls out As long as you’re up, get me a glass of club soda.  Although he swears he has no recollection of ever seeing that ad, the words seemed to flow from him as easily as scotch over ice.

It’s not always club soda.  Sometimes it’s a piece of chocolate.  Or it could be ice cream.  Or a sweater because he’s chilly.  Really, it’s all okay.  I’m happy to do it.  As long as I’m up.

Occasionally, however, a request with a slightly different tone of voice finds its way into our marital discourse.  This request is preceded by if you’re getting up…, or, when you go upstairs…, and usually occurs when I’ve been in a holding pattern in my chair for longer than usual.  These, of course, are not-so-subtle indications that my darling is desirous of something, and would prefer not to get it for himself.   This causes me to look at him through narrowed eyes, but more often than not, I will grant him his favor.

Have my hyperactive tendencies created a monster, or at the very least, a spoiled spouse? Not really.   Because at the end of the day, I know there is a balance.  I bring him a pillow, and he brings me a……. Remind me, what is it that he brings me?

Oh yes, the favors do go both ways.  He graciously, plays golf with me on Sundays, which cannot be much fun for him, and doesn’t make me watch football, which is never any fun for me.

Most importantly, he is someone that I can rely on, someone who is always there for me, someone who loves me unconditionally.  So I will happily continue to bestow him favors.  As long as I’m up!

Posted in Relationships, Spouse | Leave a comment

The Meaning of Life (Time Warranty)

Come on, admit it.   We are all subject to occasional morbid thoughts, especially at that point in life when the number representing our chronological age exceeds the highway speed limit.  Don’t tell me that you never think about the Grim Reaper, the Dark Angel, or any of the other euphemisms you can name to avoid the “D” word.

I confess to having morbid thoughts on three different occasions during the past month.

Maybe it was prophetic, but what most recently got me thinking about time and mortality was the need for a new watch.     An awkward movement of my left elbow while leaning in to apply mascara had landed my old, faithful, expensive timepiece on the unforgiving tile floor of the bathroom.    Its poor little face was smashed to smithereens, and even with my untrained eye, I knew it was broken beyond repair.

The next day I called upon my friend, the consummate shopper (every woman knows one), who of course directed me to the absolute best place to purchase a new watch.  As I perused the jewelry case, looking for watches whose numbers could be seen without the aid of reading glasses, I was approached by a salesman who offered to help.  He removed several models from the case and laid them before me on the requisite piece of black velvet cloth.

watchesHe pointed out the virtues of each model, stopping at one that he declared to be a little more expensive, but came with a life-time warranty.   His comment was the catalyst for Morbid Thought #1.  Whose life-time, I mused, mine or the watch’s?    At that precise moment, I happened to glance at another customer who was at least thirty years my junior.  Pointing in her direction, I asked the salesman:

“See that woman over there? If she buys this watch, does she also get a life-time warranty?”

“She certainly does,” he replied as if talking to someone recently declared incompetent.

“Then I should get a discount, shouldn’t I.”

“A discount?” he repeated, with an unnecessarily steep rising inflection.

“Of course,” I answered in my best isn’t-it-obvious tone of voice.  “She is clearly a good deal younger than I.  Therefore, her life-time warranty will be in effect much longer than mine, so why should I be charged the same?”

He opened his mouth to speak, but said nothing.  I left him to ponder my logic, and decided not to purchase a new watch that day.

Morbid Thought #2, by sheer coincidence, also occurred during a shopping trip, interrupting an otherwise very pleasant afternoon.  This time, I was accompanying my husband, who was on a quest to find the perfect sweater.   We were in the men’s department of a fine store, and since I knew what he liked, we separated to cover more territory in less time.   I wasn’t successful, but when I rejoined him, he had found two potential candidates.

Both sweaters were the same style, both flattering colors, both a fine wool.  One, however, was significantly more expensive than the other, and therein was the dilemma. Rationalizing the possible expenditure of some extra dollars, he stated that the sweater that cost more would probably last longer.

That’s when it happened.  I thought, but didn’t dare utter, at our age, can you be sure you’ll get your money’s worth?

He must have read my mind, because in the next instant we were walking to the check-out counter with the black cashmere V-neck sporting the lower price tag.

Morbid Thought #3, which was, in reality, a morbid utterance, snuck up on me during the performance of a very ordinary domestic task – replacing a missing button on my husband’s shirt.  My hand stopped in mid-air as I thought of other small, maternal-like functions I had assumed over the years, such as re-threading the draw string which, for some reason he was forever dislodging from his sweat pants.

“Honey,” I called to him.  He responded on my third attempt to get his attention.

“Yes,?” he said, as he raised his head from his iPhone.

“I was just thinking,” I said, as I lifted the shirt towards him, “In the event that I should pass on (euphemism) before you, would you like me to teach you how to do this?”

He laughed heartily, though I’m not sure at what.

I’m pleased to say that I haven’t had another morbid thought in at least a week.  Maybe this is predictive of a trend.  I hope so.   I am, in fact, feeling so optimistic that I went watch shopping again, but to an all together different store.

The friendly salesman spread out the black velvet cloth, upon which he placed three different models, all fashionable, all with numbers that could be easily read without intense magnification.

“And this one,” he said, lifting one of the watches off the cloth, “costs just a little more than the other two, but comes with a twenty-five year warranty.”

“Great,” I said.  “I’ll take it.”

Posted in Aging, Death, Shopping | 6 Comments

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up (or, My Love Affair with Olivia Benson)

I consider myself to be a peaceable person.   On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing the highest tolerance for any situation that portends violence, I would rate myself a minus 5.

I’m against the death penalty.   I bring a scarf to the movies so I can pull it over my eyes if the background music suggests that something ominous is pending.

I contribute to the ASPCA.  I don’t even kill the insects that find their way into my home, but instead, try to shoo them outside.  Except for mosquitoes.  But I consider that self defense.

So I am at a complete loss to explain my fatal attraction to police dramas.

This is not a recent infatuation.  It started when I was quite young, about the time I was first introduced to the phenomenon called television!  One little friend was lucky enough to be the first kid on the block to own a TV.  After school each day, five or six innocents would gather around the small box in his living room to watch cartoons, The Small Fry Club, and of course, Howdy Doody.

I clearly recall the afternoon of my transition from animation to criminal addiction.  My aunt was visiting and I overheard her comment something to my mother which I thought related to my grandfather’s health.  My reaction quickly turned from grief to elation as soon as I realized that she, in fact, had not said that my beloved grandfather had gotten TB, but had bought a TV.

Now someone in my very own family had one! And thus began my almost daily visits to my grandparents to partake in the new American pastime.

Perhaps it’s genetic, because one of the programs they regularly watched was called Casey, Crime Photographer, starring an actor named Darren McGavin.   Each week, for thirty minutes, I watched Casey, camera and flashbulb always ready, solve crimes.  I was smitten. Buffalo Bob Smith was so over, unless one afternoon he took an axe to Flub-A-Dub!

(In actuality, “Casey” was so bad that it lasted only one season and I dare you to find a rerun, even on the most obscure cable station.  But what did I know? Television was brand new and I was only ten.)

One evening, as we were watching Casey solving the murder of the week, I announced with conviction that that was what I wanted to do when I grew up.  In response, my dear grandmother let out a shriek, which today I can only liken to Lenny Bruce’s description of his disapproving aunt sounding like a Jewish sea gull,  and gravely forbade me from even considering such a thing.  It was much too dangerous.  And, besides, I was a girl.

I don’t know if I consciously heeded her advice, but I never did become a detective.   Instead, I became a speech therapist, and consoled myself with solving lisps instead of crimes.  But my enthusiasm for car chases never waned.

If you were a fan of police procedurals, the following decades did not disappoint.  Dragnet (“just the facts, Ma’am), The Thin Man, The Untouchables, FBI, Baretta, 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaii 50.  There were endearing tough guys, like Colombo in his smarmy trench coat (wonder what he did on the weekends?), or Kojak on a perpetual sugar high from sucking his lollipop.

I love shows with the word “blue” in them — HIll Street Blues, NYPD Blue, and more recently, Blue Bloods.  Shows that rhyme, such as “Cold Case,”  and “Without A Trace.”  Gritty shows, like The Wire.  High brow PBS Masterpiece Theatre series with amazing British detectives, and versions of Sherlock Homes, both old and new. And, hey, Grandma, too bad you weren’t around in the ’80s to witness Cagney and Lacey. 

What happened next was truly amazing.  In 1990 the world was introduced to the first episode of the phenomenal Law and Order.  Over the next 9 years, I was a loyal fan.  But in 1999 I realized that all those hours of watching were just foreplay compared to the climatic occurrence of  the spin-off “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.” know I’m too old to have imaginary friends, but in my fantasy world Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler are real people.  I refer to them by their first names.  I am enmeshed in their fictional existences, and Olivia’s different hair styles.  I’ve almost forgiven Elliot for retiring two years ago.  The rest of the cast continues to change, but fifteen seasons later, thank goodness Olivia endures!

While all of the Law and Order series featured major roles for women, Olivia stands out.  She is my hero.  She is both strong and vulnerable, in a constant struggle to come to terms with her past.  She is toughness with a soft core.  She’s fiercely dedicated to her job, loyal to her partner, and very smart.   She’s fearless,  but cautious, charismatic, but modest.  She is empathetic towards the victims, and dedicated to bringing perpetrators to justice.  She is everything that I would have wanted to be if I had not listened to my grandmother.  Oh, and did I mention she was also a babe?

So please don’t call me on Wednesday nights from nine to ten.  For an hour, the outside world no longer exists for me as I escape into a new episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.  By the way, may I brag? Olivia has made captain.

SVU is the last of the Law and Order trilogy to remain  with original shows.  But we fans do not have to go hungry.  There’s a rerun on every minute of every day all over the dial.  L&O:Criminal Intent officially ended in 2011, but Vincent D’Onofrio’s tilted head can still be seen regularly if you are willing to flip through a hundred channels to find him.  For his loyal followers, a small price to pay.

Perhaps being a pacifist and loving police dramas is not as incongruous as it may seem.  In almost every episode, the bad guy is caught, wrongs are made right, justice prevails, and peace is restored.  Isn’t that a perfect world?

And speaking of perfect, want to know my idea of a perfect weekend?  Rain in the forecast, and on TV, a Law and Order marathon.  (CHUNG-CHUNG!)

Posted in Entertainment, Fantasy, Television | Leave a comment


I have a confession to make.  When I take you into my confidence, I know I risk dropping several points in your estimation of me.  You may no longer regard me as one of the “cool” people.  (Is it still cool to be regarded as a “cool” person?)

But I like to believe that the relationship we have built over the years is solid enough not to crumble when I reveal to you that I am not now, and never have been, the owner of an iPhone.

Or any other smart phone for that matter.

So you can understand that I greeted the arrival of the iPhone 6, and its big brother, the 6 plus, with a general lack of enthusiasm.  In fact, my lack of enthusiasm has grown incrementally with each new rendition of this device.

I have to admit that, in general, I’m not much of a phone person.  The telephone, in all of its incarnations, remains a convenient nuisance.  I think it outlived its charm for me when I could no longer listen to other people’s conversations on our party line.

I love interacting with people, but not on the phone.  A perfect day is  making  three obligatory phone calls and having no one be home.  Then I can simply leave my message and hang up.  I feel like I hit a trifecta!

I’m not a complete reactionary.  I do own a cell phone. I actually know how to use it.  It takes pictures.   I’ve even made a concession to texting.  But that’s been my line in the sand.

They say this new iPhone is larger, thinner, more powerful, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  So why do I remain a holdout?

I fear its hook.  I’ve seen what these smart phones can do, how they gradually pull you in until you become addicted.  It becomes the single most important appliance that you own, even more important  than the coffee maker, and eventually you can’t live without it.

It lures you into giving it more and more responsibility, and so it becomes as indispensable as a body part.

iphoneWe no longer look at each other, or where we’re going because we’re always looking at it.  We have become a generation constantly at risk for stepping in dog poop.

You can never put it aside for too long, because it calls to you.  It rings, buzzes, chirps, sings and requires an instantaneous response, possibly even during sex.  Oh, you can try to fool it by turning it off, but too much lack of contact makes you jumpy.  So instead of reaching for a post-coital cigarette, you reach for it.

I don’t disparage all electronic advances.  I actually rely a great deal on my computer.  It’s a desk top, with a large screen and a keyboard.  Sometimes hours go by before I realize how long I’ve been sitting and staring at the screen.

But when I’m ready, I turn it off and walk away.  I like walking away.

I leave behind my e-mails, my Google searches, my bookkeeping, my writing, and whatever else has made another day go by.  And it’s a relief that I can’t pick it up and take it with me.

Some people are astonished when they learn that I don’t own a smart phone.  They act as if I’m  still communicating with smoke signals.

My friends continue to chide me, and shake their heads in disbelief at my attitude. But I have yet to recognize an unmet need that can only be satisfied by an iPhone.  Although I’m sure if I had one, the phone would quickly demonstrate all the unmet needs I had no idea I possessed.

I had a conversation the other day with one particular friend who has made it her current mission to convince me that I don’t know what I’m missing.  “Once you have it, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.”  She tells me about all the wonderful apps she has, and how convenient her life has become.

She is talking to me and moving her touch screen.  And I find myself  communicating with the top of her head.   Uh oh, I think.  Watch out for the dog poop.

Of course, I don’t say this out loud.  She would have no idea what I’m talking about.  It’s probably for the best.

I try to tell her that for all its virtues, the smart phone creates an exclusive dependency.

“What dependency?” she counters.  “I can quit whenever I want to. “

So I pose this hypothetical to my friend who needs two hours to get ready each day because she blow-dries her long tresses to perfection.

“What if you had to pack up in a hurry, and could take only one appliance with you.  Would you take your iPhone or your hairdryer?”

She thinks for thirty seconds, then responds.

“My iPhone,” she says.

“There, you see!” I reply smugly.

Then I pose another example.

“OK, what if you had to choose between your iPhone and your vibrator?”

She pauses for forty-five seconds before she answers this time.

“I’d still take my iPhone,” she says.   As for the other, there’s probably an app for that!”

Posted in Communication, Technology | 2 Comments

Habits and Other Pastimes

Oh no!  Did I just say that? I can’t believe I just said that!  But I know I said it because I heard myself.  The auditory center in my brain is the expert witness.  But another part of my brain, the part that hovers over the top of my head and monitors me from outside myself,  is  in shock.

Of course, you have no idea what I’m talking about.  You’ve come into the middle of a conversation.  So for you to fully appreciate my dismay,  let me backtrack.

It was early Wednesday morning.  My husband had been up and working for at least an hour before I finally conceded to wakefulness, an act which I try to postpone for as long as possible.    I went to seek him out.  He was cheerful.  I generally hate people who are cheerful in the morning, but for him I make another concession.

“I’m ready for coffee,” he said.  Then he asked me if I would like to go out for breakfast.  And that’s when it happened.

“But it’s Wednesday,” I said.  “We never go out for breakfast on Wednesday.”

This was no insignificant statement, but cause for serious concern.   Did my response indicate another giant step towards the porch and the rocking chair?  Had I demonstrated a characteristic commonly attributed to OLD people.  Was I presently in grave danger of becoming (gulp!) “set in my ways!”

You see, the pattern of our life has evolved so that we typically treat ourselves to breakfast at the diner on Fridays.   So to be thrown off kilter by the suggestion that we partake of pancakes outside of the house on a different day was a sure sign of impending senescence.

Before my last birthday, would I have picked up on his radical suggestion that we go out for breakfast on a Wednesday and simply said “sure.”  Had I crossed some arbitrary line where adhering to a regular routine was more rewarding than spontaneity? Was I becoming inflexible? A person driven by habit? Did I no longer embrace change? Or was I simply overreacting to an innocuous response emanating from an early morning foggy brain?

The latter explanation was by far the most comforting.  For now, I’ll stick with that one.

But even if none of the above is true, the very concept of becoming “set in one’s ways” warrants considerable  reflection.

I began to wonder about other habituated behaviors I might have developed over recent years, and how they might impact  my decision-making.

For instance, I realized that I always do my laundry on Thursday morning.  So what if my best friend suddenly phoned and told me she had just won a trip for two to Paris on a game show, and that she would like to invite me as her companion, but we have to leave right away.  Would I say, “I can’t.  It’s Thursday and I’m about to put the clothes in the dryer?”

Would I really give up a trip to Paris because of a pile of wet socks and underwear? What an absurd question, almost as absurd as this example. No.  Of course not.  Probably not. I don’t think so.

As I  pondered the implications and ramifications of leading a fixed lifestyle, such as foregoing travel for laundry detergent, I recalled an incident that occurred several years ago involving my elderly aunt.  (At least I thought of her as “elderly” at the time.  In reality, she may have been only a few years older than I am right now.)

tumblr_m25baqk2DR1rohj65o1_500She lived in Florida; I still lived in New York.  I had the occasion to be in her neck of the woods and I contacted her without a whole lot of prior notice.  I hadn’t seen her in a while, and I wanted to take her to lunch.  The only day I could make this happen was a Friday.

Even though the invitation was last-minute, I thought she’d be delighted to see me.  Instead, she said “Thank you dear, but I couldn’t possibly.  Friday is the day I wash my hair.”

Shoot me if I ever get like that, I remember thinking.   So how do I feel about it now, when I might actually be facing those gun barrels?

When people are described as being “set in their ways” it is usually not meant kindly.  On the other hand, what’s so wrong about being set in your ways? Is it really inherently bad? What’s the matter with having a routine and liking it?

Perhaps one of the perks of getting older is the privilege of arranging  life the way I prefer to live it.   There are no longer children to rush off to school, or a desk to report to at a certain hour.  The structure of my life has become more or less of my own making.

So I ask again.  What’s wrong about being set in my ways if they are MY ways? I’ve had sufficient opportunity to figure out what works for me and what doesn’t.  What pleases me and what doesn’t.  So to the extent that I can be in control of my days, I’ve earned it!

Therefore, I will continue to do the wash on Thursday and eat bagels only on Sunday.  I will continue to crawl into bed at 10 PM on most nights and watch an hour of TV before I read myself to sleep.  These harmless little traits don’t make me intractable, but simply comfortable.

And, In spite of my campaign  to remove the stigma from routine, I like to think that I will  happily accept a last-minute dinner invitation even if I have just defrosted a pound of chop meat, or be willing to try Net Flix, though it took me a year to master the DVR.

May I never become that old dog who can’t learn a new trick.  Shoot me if I ever get like that!

Posted in Aging | 6 Comments

House (Not So) Beautiful

I hope you’re not angry with me because I haven’t invited you to dinner lately.    I’m aware that you have had us over a couple of times, and I have not reciprocated.  The truth is, I would love to.   But there is a major problem.  I no longer have a dining table.

You see, my husband has undertaken the redecoration of our home.  In contrast to my affinity for the minimalist, uncluttered look, he seems to favor a very different style.  The new decor has a contemporary motif based on two design principles of his own creation.

Principle I:  Nature abhors a clean surface.
Principle II:  Every electrical outlet must contain at least one, if not two, charger cords.

It is the former that has prevented me from being a gracious hostess.

This aesthetic should not surprise me, however.  Over time, I have visited several of the business offices that my husband has occupied and I have to say he has been very consistent in his design sense.   File folders of various sizes and colors can be seen covering his desk, his conference table, and when space is at a premium, piles begin to spring up on the floor.

Since he has recently declared himself  to be “semi-retired,” he is inclined to spend part of the week working from home.   This calls into question what he will use for work space.

For a while, we tried sharing a room.  We installed two desks and hoped for the best.  Our hopes were in vain.

My need for peace and quiet directly conflicted with his need to talk on the phone.  Sometimes two phones. ( I often wondered, was he a lawyer or a bookie?)

So an amicable separation was in order.  I stayed downstairs; he moved upstairs.  Since he still had his city office, I got custody of the larger office at home.  That seemed fair.  At least it did at the time.

So he was kicked upstairs with his lap top, his printer, his I-Pad, his I-Phone, a land line, a file cabinet, office supplies, and an array of colorful file folders.  I helped him get organized.  This solution seemed rather promising.  At first.

But shortly, In an insidious progression, sheets of paper and entire file folders began sneaking out of the file cabinet and onto the dining room table with a very proprietary attitude.  Noticing me noticing the potential impact this might have on our eating habits, he promised to have them all put away by the end of the day.

Which he did.  For a while.  And for a while, I was able to push the remainder aside, and still manage to set two places for dinner.

dr-tableBut did you know that file folders have this nasty way of reproducing? Sort of like rabbits?  You can’t leave them unsupervised because they begin forming stacks.  First they cover the table.  Then they move over to the top of the buffet.  Finally, when you can no longer see the wooden surfaces, they start stacking on the floor.  This was starting to look way too familiar!

The files and other assorted papers have now taken up full-time residence in what used to be our dining space.  It’s been months since I’ve seen my table.

Presently, I’m keeping a very watchful eye on the living room.

I turn now to Principle II, the matter of decorating the electrical outlets.

I personally never felt there was anything particularly objectionable about a naked electrical outlet.  But, apparently my spouse does not share that view.  Little by little, each socket in my abode is becoming the permanent home of a charger cord.

While I do not deny the ease and convenience of devices such as the Smart Phone and the tablet, they are hungry little devils and seem to require constant feeding.  My husband relies on them heavily, and as a result, has determined that he needs to accommodate their hearty appetites from every room in the house.

Let me further explain that the cords are in residence even when they are not engaged in their designated purpose.  This, according to my husband, minimizes the risk of misplacement.

As I write, there are two cords gracing the outlet in our entrance foyer, laying on the floor looking like dormant anorexic snakes.  (One of them actually is for his GPS golf watch, which he uses only on the weekends.  Nevertheless, the cord remains.)

A long white cord graces the bedroom night stand.  In the living room, two more cords are artfully draped over a formerly lovely piece of sculpture that decorates a counter top.

My personal favorite happens to be the one dangling from the outlet in the bathroom.

So now that you understand the situation, I want to add that you are more than welcome to come for dinner.  As long as you don’t mind sitting with a tray on your lap.

Oh, and if you need to wash your hands in the powder room, check to see that the electrical cord has not landed in the sink, preferably before you turn on the water!

1,000 Things To Say……. will be taking some time off.  Taking a cue from the broadcast media, the month of August will feature two reruns — particular favorites of mine.  Check them out.  You might have missed them, or will perhaps enjoy reading them again.  And stay tuned for new episodes in September.  Hope you enjoy the rest of your summer!

Posted in Clutter, Housekeeping, Spouse, Technology | 8 Comments

Daughter of a Beach (Hater)

The inevitable has happened.  The insidious process has reached its  conclusion.  The final step has been taken, and the journey is over.  I can deny it no longer.   I have become my mother!

Despite our self-righteous cries as young girls that we will never be like her, one day we look in the mirror, and there she is, peering back at us.

This should not be shocking.  Certainly our own aging process was genetically designed to parallel hers.  Mine started in my twenties with the appearance of the first prematurely gray hairs.  Which, by the way, I used to pull out.  But this only works for so long, unless you prefer bald spots to gray patches.  So I stopped pulling and started dying.

Familiar patterns of lines and wrinkles begin to emerge.  The threat of a double chin avoided with just a touch of liposuction.  Recognizable facial expressions and gestures.  You catch yourself in mid-sentence and realize that you are about to say something that is exactly what she would have said.  Something you swore you would never say.

And the list of similarities goes on.  But in my case, the ultimate surrender was The Beach!

Two blogs ago I attempted to evoke your sympathy by revealing my deprived childhood and how I never went to summer camp.  But there was compensation in the form of weekend family trips to the ocean.

My father was in charge of the food.  He would cook roast beef and make potato salad, and start the sandwich preparation early in the morning.  Coolers and jugs and beach chairs, blankets, toys and towels would be loaded into the trunk of his latest used car.

This was accompanied by hats and shirts, and changes of clothing.    Heaven forbid we should get a chill from wearing our wet bathing suits.  (Weren’t bathing suits supposed to get wet?)  We were embarking on a fifteen minute drive to Coney Island with enough gear to travel the Alcan Highway!

I was happy.  My brother was happy.  I think my father was happy.  The only one who was miserable was my mother.  My mother intensely disliked the beach!

Her attitude was a complete enigma to me.  And so contrary to my own.  I was thrilled to be at the beach.  I loved the sense of freedom.  I loved the sun, the  gentle waves, collecting shells.   I loved playing in the sand and burying my brother, wishing I didn’t have to dig him out.

My father seemed content.  He swam, then relaxed and read the newspaper.  And where was my mother while all of this was happening?

Where she always was during these forays.  Covered from head to toe and sitting under an umbrella.  Occasionally she could be coaxed to wade up to her knees, but after five minutes, she would scurry back to her hiding place.

There was nothing about the beach that pleased my mother.  She hated the sun.  She hated the feel of the sun lotion.  She hated the sand.  She had a special facial expression that she reserved for when some of it got in her food.  Sort of a cross between seeing a dead animal with its guts hanging out and biting into a lemon.

Her favorite part of the day was when it was time to go home. Then she could get into a shower and wash away all the gritty unpleasantness.

Could this beach-hater be my real mother?   I was convinced that I had been adopted.

When I reached adolescence, and could travel to the beach on my own with a group of friends, I think my mother ceremoniously burned her bathing suit.

My own romance with beaches did not end in childhood.  Any opportunity to spread a blanket, I was there!    Domestic beaches, foreign beaches, man-made beaches on a lake,  it didn’t matter.   Beach vacations were the best.  Despite being enveloped in total inertia, you could still feel like you were doing something.  You were at the beach!

When my children were young, I took them to the beach, and once again, the trunk of the car was packed to overflowing with stuff!

It was always my dream to own a house at the beach, which we did for 10 happy years.  My own children now grown, I lived my fantasy of walking with my dogs every morning and watching them joyfully take on the challenge of the crashing waves.  It was back to being easy.  Dogs don’t require a lot of stuff!

Then my husband suggested moving to Florida.  When I could finally speak again, I told him that one of my conditions was that we live near the beach.   And so we did.

But gradually the universe began to shift.

Now on the beach, you will see a woman, covered in protective clothing, with hat and sunglasses, sitting under an umbrella.  She does not appreciate the sun and has slathered herself in sun screen.  She fears skin cancer and more brown spots.  She might venture into the water for a quick swim, but feels safer under the shelter.

She hates how the sun screen causes the sand to stick to her skin.  She tries to open a bottle of water and is annoyed by the pesky sand that has affixed itself to the cap.  But for the sake of her husband, she endures.  Finally he’s ready to leave, and she is once again happy.

This woman could be my mother.  But it’s not.  It’s me.  The transformation is now complete.

Posted in Aging, Change, Mother | 4 Comments