Friday, January 22, 2010

The "Kid" is Mine

Back in 1985 I was a newly single mother of two small daughters. I had to find a way to support myself so I went back to the restaurant that I worked at when I first moved to Simi Valley. I am not one to feel regret but I know that taking a job as a waitress again made me feel as thought I’d failed myself somehow. It turned out to be one of the best moves of my life. Alphys Restaurant is where I met John, my husband of more than twenty years.

Our first meeting, however, gave me no indication we would be spending the rest of our lives together.

When I went in to ask for a job the female manager hired me to work the graveyard shift. Desperate, I took the job. I also figured I would be able to spend the day with my girls and work while they were asleep. I am not a night person, and after that first shift came to an end I approached the night manger and said, “You can fire me if you want to, but I’m not working graveyard again.” That took courage; I needed the job but there is something inside of me that knows how to take care of myself. I didn’t get fired and began working right away on day and evening shifts.

That night manager was a young kid by the name of John. I must have made quite an impression on him that night: first I dare him to fire me, then I lock my keys in my car and had to enlist his aid in getting them out. Over the course of the next few months John and I got to know one another but nothing indicated we would be more than boss and employee. In fact, I didn’t really like him much at first.

He was pretty cocky and I just didn’t have the time or the humor to find him amusing. He would pull a comb out of his back pocket, run it through his thick wavy hair and point outside and say, “See that Porsche (it was a 1966 model) out there? It’s mine.” Puhleeze! Yeah, John thought he was pretty hot stuff back then. If I’d thought he was a romantic prospect, I am pretty sure I would not have been all smart-alecky with him, but to me he was just a kid. I was all of 27-years-old, you see, with kids to support and he was just a 23-year-old with no worries in the world.

I think I can pretty much guess when I caught his attention, though. It was a busy time in the restaurant and while John was holding court with all the cute little waitresses that hovered around him, I whisked by and said to him, “Hey, there’s people at the door that need to be seated.” A few moments later I was summoned to the back office where Mr. Manager reprimanded me with a “don’t talk to me like that” scolding. I shot back at him, saying that if I’m busy and I see he’s not, well then he needed to take care of the customers. See, I saw him as a kid and not necessarily as my boss. Told you – guts!

Once again I was spared from being fired. Soon after, a flirtation between the Kid and me began. We would talk and he’d tell me about some of his failed relationships; I played the advisor telling him he should ask this waitress or that one out on a date. He would look into my eyes and tell me how beautiful they were. I wasn’t affected at first but I remember saying to him, “It may be on the shelf, but it’s not dead. Stop flirting with me!” “It” referred to my dormant desires; I think I had a pretty explicit dream about him, which stirred some feeling I didn’t have the time to attend to.

Tell a young, cocky kid that you are having dreams and that he’s getting under your skin, and then tell him to leave you alone; it’s the ultimate game of going after someone who is playing hard to get. But, I swear, I didn’t have an agenda in mind, I really wanted to concentrate on getting my life in order.

He asked me out. I said yes. The rest is history.

Last August was the 30th anniversary of our first date. Back then we went to Miceli’s, an Italian restaurant in Los Angles where we ate, where I opened up to him about my life in a way I’d never done with anyone before. After dinner he took me to the beach where I had to initiate the first kiss. When we got back to my house I opened up even more, something I had also never done before on a first date. He never really went home after that first night.

There were a lot of “firsts” that took place for me because of John. Two-plus decades later and we are still discovering one another. I don’t know what I did right but I am one of the luckiest people in the world and I owe so much of it to the Kid who married me.
First dance at our wedding

Friday, January 15, 2010

Let it Rain

I am one of those people that have loved every single step of my life, even the times that were not so pleasant. While I contend that the tragic, difficult, challenging, and sad moments have been more than some people experience in a lifetime, I count those events as a blessing as they have made me who I am today and have opened my heart, made me feel deeply and given me empathy. But my trying times are not what this post is about.

Today I write about a time in my life that is so precious to me that when I daydream I call these memories up more than any others. That is when I was pregnant with my two daughters and the pure joy I felt when they were birthed from my body, when I held them to my breast and was the one person in the world that they were most bonded to.
I am in this nostalgic place at the moment because I just viewed a DVD of a 3-D ultrasound of my granddaughter, Rain Catharine.

Rain is due to arrive in early April. She will be my second grandchild. Aiden Thomas is 7 ½ now and his mother, my second child, will give birth to another son just a month later than Rain’s arrival. Baby Boy #2 is as of yet unnamed but he will join his brother and cousin in that place in my heart where the most precious of gifts reside.

Pregnancy wasn’t the most enjoyable of physical states. It was cumbersome, I could never get comfortable, and the labor hurt like a son-of-a-you-know-what.

                            I was fortunate to carry it all in the belly

It is true, however, what they say: that a woman forgets all about the pain of childbirth once she holds her child.

Erin just a few weeks old                   

Adrian about 24 hours old 
 There is one thing I have found to be the most true in this world – there is always room to love one more. My heart is big enough for each of them and then some.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Time Marching On

I’m heading home in the morning from a four-day visit with family I have not spent much time with over the last twenty years. It’s nearly midnight and I suspect that sleep will elude me for some hours to come. My mind is awash in memories and rather than try and fight them for the sake of sleep, I would rather give in and go on a journey into my past.
My host is my Uncle Russ, who is the youngest child of my grandmother, the woman who raised me from the time I was a year old. Uncle Russ is really more of my generation than that of his older siblings, but until this past year I saw him only as uncle and placed him in a category apart from me. However, I have discovered how much alike he and I are, and his wife Mary Lou, only months older than me, has many of my same interests and philosophies of life as well. I can see spending more time with them in the coming years, getting to know them both in a way I never considered before.

It was the visit with my Uncle Chuck and Aunt Donna, as well as with my close-in-age cousin Kellie that set my mind into memory overload. Although their family and mine lived 3,000 miles apart for the better part of our growing up years their family holds a significant place in my heart and memories. It was the hours spent pouring over the photo albums that Aunt Donna has so carefully preserved that makes me remember how intertwined our families are.

I often feel as though I am orphaned, not only from the parents who died when I was a baby, but also from the aunts, uncles, and cousins I left behind as I ventured out into my life and away from familial connections close at hand.

It was the pictures that took me back in time; pictures I had never seen before, some I had, and all of them taking me to the places I have only recalled in my dreams and vague recollections. In the pictures I was once again in my grandmother’s home surrounded by family whose faces from that era are so familiar to me. There were pictures of aunts and uncles from their childhoods, before I was born. Imagine! These people who disciplined me, guided me, and who I placed on the highest of pedestals were themselves once children who answered to their own elders.

It was looking up from those black and whites, those color-faded Polaroids and at the lined faces of my aunt and uncle topped with white and silver hair that made me so utterly aware that time is moving forward. As my cousin Kellie and I reminisced, both of us with our own faint etchings of lines and wisps of grey in our hair, that I realized soon it will be our children and grandchildren glancing up at us and understanding that mortality is very real.

So many that smiled in those long ago photos are gone: my mother, Uncle Arnie, Grandma Oberlander, Kitty, Aunt Rose, Grandma Siepp, Aunt “Tuffy” Helen, my sister-in-law Sharon, Grandma and Grandpa Wleklenski, Aunt Irene and Uncle Roy. As I hugged my uncle, kissing him on the cheek that is wrapped in an oxygen cord, I felt such a pang of regret that this could possibly be the last time I get to see him. It’s that thought that prevents me from a sound sleep tonight.

It is my generation that is moving into the slots vacated by my elders, those who taught me so many of the things in life I take for granted. I happily forgo sleep this night as I am spending some quality time with family, those that are gone from this earth now and those that are still here, unknowingly the recipients of my thoughts and blessings.

The next generation........

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Don't Call Me! Why the Twilight Zone Makes Me Afraid of My Telephone.

I love the old television series, the Twilight Zone. Every year on the New Year’s holiday they run a Twilight Zone marathon that I record and enjoy whenever there’s a spare moment to watch an episode. Reading the information about the episode that’s provided, I realized I was about to watch one that elicits a strong memory in me and when I begin to watch it I recall why - it scared the begeezus out of me as a child and now I was about to revisit that emotion some four decades later.

While many of the Twilight Zone shows cause me to have deep philosophical thoughts, very few of them truly frightened me. The exception is the one titled, “Night Call” (1963). The description reads, “Mysterious phone calls haunt a disabled woman.” I knew right away this one is about the woman who is in bed at night and the phone rings. When she answers the call only static greets her. Over the next few days and subsequent calls, she hears a man’s voice: “Hello? Where are you?”

The episode concludes with the old woman discovering that the calls are being made from the grave of a man she was meant to marry, but who, due to her reckless behavior, died in a car accident. “It’s Brian, he is trying to reach me” the woman exclaims upon seeing the evidence of the phone line leading to the man’s grave.

I am telling you, watching that episode again brings forth a real physical response in me all these years later; my heart races, I get inner shakes and I feel anxious. I am once again that little girl who was so impressionable.

All my life I have carried an irrational anxiousness about phone calls where people are either pranking me (using someone else’s name and I am to guess who it is) or the rare pervert on the other line. My reaction is to hang up quickly. There is just something about the very personal nature of a call, me holding the receiver and the intimacy of hearing another’s voice in my ear. Is this the result of that Twilight Zone episode? Does a show have that much power to traumatize someone so that it lasts with them for a lifetime? After my recent experience revisiting the show that frightened me so long ago, I’d have to say yes.

That’s why it frustrates me so much when I hear about young children being allowed to watch movies and television shows that are clearly not meant for their age group, who have parents that do not realize the long-term consequences of the images and storylines such young minds process.

How about you? Did you watch TheTwilight Zone and do you recall any episode that stands out in your mind, any that have affected you as profoundly as this one did me?

I need to go watch a Disney film now to take my mind away from the old woman alone in her bed at night and the ringing of the phone and the haunting voice of the long-dead man. Yes, I think a showing of Cinderella or The Lady and the Tramp is in order to restore my balance. And for the time being I won’t be answering the phone late at night, so don’t call me!