July 14, 2005

"501" - Our "haunted" home???

Gina was my mother's dear friend and neighbor. She's an amazing person and was a dear friend to my mom as she grew older. It was a very mutual relationship, though we saw Gina as an angel, checking on our mom. So when we decided to stop over for a short visit I said,

"Kris, I want to see my mom's house." Kris agreed, "Okay, but I'm not going inside Gram's house yet, I just want to take Ethan's picture on the porch" She wasn't ready, but I was! It was time to go back to the house where I had lived half of my childhood, and where both my parents had lived their lives till they both died. We had moved from Phila. to North Hills when I was in the 6th grade. In those days, moving from the large 3 story, 5 bedroom row house in Germantown to this tiny bungalow in the suburbs, was quite a step-up for my parents.

I tried to take it all in as we drove up Central Ave. The grass was full of that creeping ground-cover weed with the tiny lovely purple flowers. Dad, being particular about the grass would be rolling in his grave, for sure. Kris whipped into the driveway that Sat. morning in April.... We always came in the back door.

"Hello Kristen! This isn't our house anymore, back the car up!!" We both started to laugh, it was just a reflex, she had done it hundreds of times, being close to Mom and living in Newark, she often came to visit. We were both a tad nervous, Baby Ethan was getting hungry too. Immediately a truck pulled up, and we were obviously blocking the driveway! I jumped out and approached the truck.

"Is this your house, do you need to get in?" she nodded yes as I introduced myself. "I grew up in this house..." the lump rose in my throat, oh dear, I thought, God don't let me cry or act sappy with this stranger!! Wendy was a pretty young woman dressed in jeans.

"Oh please come inside?" she asked tenderly. I ran back to the car to tell Kris, but she reminded me she wasn't taking the tour. Walking into the house, tears filled my eyes, not with sadness, but with memories of times long ago .....so much had happened within those walls. Wendy took me from room to room, nothing was the same but I was so touched by her sweet spirit. I walked through the house slowly envisioning the past and enjoying being in Wendy's home with "her" things. Her grandmother's piano sat in my parents bedroom, she had taken it to Colorado and back. I liked this girl and I knew my parents would too.

"When I first moved here, the man across the street told me this house was blessed!" she said she believed that was true. I nodded, she no idea, but maybe she did. We laughed and talked like old friends.

When she left the room for a minute, her quiet fiance, probably a bit uncomfortable with all the emotion, finally blurted out, "She doesn't want to tell you...but she's selling the house!!!" They were getting married and she was moving upstate. Yes of course that was a wise plan to lessen the separation until then. At first I thought she just loved the house, but I noticed she seemed to have a strange connection to my childhood home. I wished them well, but Wendy was quick to say selling the house was troubling, she wanted the "right person" to live there. We hugged good-bye, I wished her well and we took a picture of our baby Ethan on the front steps.

The house finally fell into the hands of the "right person" Mark, Gina's son. When we returned sometime later, Gina gave us the grand tour. I mentioned I had met the former owner and liked her. "Hmmmm" Gina replied thoughtfully, "Mark thought she was a little crazy." "Really...I liked her." I said wondering.

She told Mark, "This house was haunted by the couple that lived here! But don't worry, their daughter came to visit and when she left, they went with her!" We all laughed for a long time.

But I wonder about the soul of my old home, where so much life was lived; and the sweet girl who somehow felt the presence of my parents.

July 4, 2005

Rita & Fourth of July Memories

Happy July 4, 2005!!

I always loved the 4th of July! My first memory of this day was when I was almost 5, I became an aunt. I "insisted" Davy call me Aunt Ginny from the beginning....and he still does, even though he looks much older than I. (just kidding Dave!) Happy 55th Birthday!

There were always picnics and July birthday celebrations, tons of yummy food and of course fireworks! Fireworks over the School for the Deaf, over the Phila Art Museum, over St Peter's Village(they fell on the car), over Veteran's Stadium with the Irish boys, over Miami Bay, over the hill near the lighthouse in Aruba, the Heath Boys display, the Biltmore...but the best were those Jim set up in the front yard. Great memories!

But one of my sweetest July 4th memories was with Rita, my Alzheimer patient and friend. At the end of mass, Father Meyer suggested we all sing America the Beautiful, since it was the 4th! Mass had been held in the assisted living lobby because the chapel was being refurbished. It was an awkward set-up and we had taken seats that somewhat faced most of the group of 30-40 sitting in wheelchairs and easychairs. Everyone began to sing rather weakly without much enthusiasm, a normal response from such a group. Rita stood at my side, and it took several bars of music, but slowly, she started to sing. And did she sing! Suddenly it was as though a spotlight was on Rita, and she was the star! "America, America....." she belted it out with all her heart, standing there in her blue jeans and her red sweatshirt jacket, the top of her head way below my shoulder. "....God shed His grace on thee..."

I felt a rush of emotion, suddenly tears were unashamedly rolling down my cheeks, at first I thought it was patriotism, 4th of July and all, it is a touching song...no, that wasn't it..... but the feeling was familiar. Yes, it was like the feeling I'd get with my girls sometimes. Amazed that I'd be so blessed to even know them, let alone be their mom. Gratefulness..yes, that was it! "God, thank you for Rita, she's a gift," I whispered. Oh, I was so proud of her, singing with all her heart. Some of the visitors and Father Meyers smiled but most the the patients hardly noticed Rita's beautiful song. Mass was soon over, "Go in peace to love and serve the LORD" was the benediction.

"Let's go Darling!' Rita said pulling my arm.
"That was a lovely song Rita, you sang beautifully!" I said, still choked up, wiping my eyes.
"Song? Let's go Darling!" yanking at my sleeve. She had already forgotten her song, but I would always hold that sweet memory in my heart.

Thinking about it tonight, it hit me.....Rita had not only forgotten her song but she had forgotten all the 4th of Julys she had ever enjoyed. I never thought of these things before I cared for Rita. I sang America to her today, she just nodded her head, "That's beautiful, yes, that's nice Darling!" but she'd say the same if I sang the Barnie song to her.

She is now just a shadow of the woman she was long ago, not even the woman who sang "America" on a past July 4th. Rita can no longer "do" but she can "be". And in "being", she still touches me daily. Someday I too, might forget the July 4ths mentioned above but in that dark abyss of lost memories, may I "be".....may I sing a song, and when I cannot even do that.......God, please send someone to sit next to me, who enjoys the gift of a grateful heart, and appreciates the value of "just being"

July 3, 2005

The TRULY handicapped people!!

Gail is an amazing friend, and delightful to be with. Her dry wit keeps me laughing and her kind open caring ways make me deeply respect her. Having been a parapelegic since her late teens, she has totally educated me about being in a wheelchair. I have learned she prefers a kind but simple, "Is there anything I can do to help you?" It leaves the person in the chair in charge.

I went to church with Gail today. In the past, not wanting to be too judgemental or critical, we guarded our conversation about our experiences at church...today I just lost it and cut to the chase as the lady usher leaned over Gail to pass me the registration log.

"Can you sign for your friend too?" she said sweetly. I immediately pushed it back to Gail and whispered, "What an idiot! How do you stand these people and don't give it back to me, I don't want them to have my name!!" She burst into laughter and we giggled through the whole service.

When we first met, Gail often vented about experiences she had with people. "Maybe you're being hard on them", I'd tell her. "Maybe they don't know any better." "And I am supposed to educate the world?" she'd ask crypticly.

The better I knew her and we were out together, she mellowed some and I became a raving idiot! There was the man who always wheeled Gail out of the church backwards as she closed her eyes for the benediction every week. He explained he didn't want her to be caught in the rush of people exiting...hmmm more like she might be in their way!! Then there was the class we were in together, outings were being planned, a lady asked.."Can Gail eat at a restaurant?" This woman had a master's degree. Or the person who asked her to move onto the examing table 10 inches above her chair, a medical person no less. Or the unmovable crowds of people who never stepped aside as she politely asked "Excuse me please?"

I love how she moves beyond all that and always has time for the small child who asks "what's wrong with you?" Or lets a child push her chair.. She's also nice to the TRULY handicapped!!

July 2, 2005

The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments in a Courthouse?

You cannot post "Thou Shalt Not Steal," "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery","Thou Shall Not Lie" in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians...It creates a hostile work environment.

The Flag Thief

My dad was very patriotic, he loved the American flag. Shortly before he died, dad purchased small flags for all the children in the family. He had all the flags on a TV tray set up to distribute to the kids. He called all the children and individually handed them a flag. He had made little flag holders with some clay and a silver half dollar for a base. At nearly 85, in a family that respected age, he left a lasting impreession on the children.

So when Katie came home from school claiming her flag had been "stolen" the following conversation insued.

mom: Stolen? What flag are you talking about?

katie: (with a "duh-mom" expression on her face) My flag from Pop!!!

mom: Oh honey, I don't think anyone would stole your flag. Who would steal a flag, maybe you misplaced it. Is it the money you think is stolen?(finally remembering the flag with the half dollar)

katie: My money is upstairs!! It's my flag, my "Pop flag"

mom: Honey we'll get another flag.(I tried to console her)

katie: No!! I don't want a flag! I want my "Pop-flag" back....and someone stole it"

Katie was inconsolable, so I marched myself to school the next day to talk to her teacher about this missing/stolen flag. Mrs. Portante immediately addressed it as a serious issue. No, she had no clue where it had gone but all agreed that Katie had brought it to school, showed everyone and she had not taken it home but kept it on the corner of her desk, somewhat like a trophy. When it wasn't there the next day, the children were incensed and had searched everyone's desk and the entire room..but no...it was gone and Katie was heartbroken. All agreed this was a tragedy that someone had stolen Kate's beloved flag.

Katie remained sad for quite a while. but several weeks later she came running to the car, flag in hand!! Marlo had arrived at school that morning with her flag declaring with deep regret that his baby brother Ryan Jon had been found in his carseat waving Katie's flag. Marlo rescued the flag and much to his mother's dismay, declared Ryan Jon the true thief! Katie did not blame Marlo, but she had some serious concerns that he had to dwell under the same roof with a flag-thief. and that maybe Ryan Jon would grow up to steal flags everywhere.

I am sure that flag is long gone, and Ryan Jon is a great young man, and maybe Katie will always be my "drama queen" but God bless the hearts of children when they band together to fight against evil!

July 1, 2005

Measure your words before you speak Tom!

Whew!!! This guy is sooo on my nerves!! He may be a scientology expert but he is not a medical expert. First of all I would like to say, I was just as hard on Rev. John MacArthur when he judged this issue several years ago. I don't have it "out" for Tom Cruise, but I read the interview with Matt Lauer on the TODAY Show. His arrogance was disturbing. And he repeatedly said "I know, you don't know" to Matt Lauer. (Ritalin & Paxil are not anti-psycotic drugs) He did not seem credible.

Not only does Tom Cruise have resources for "vitamins", professional trainers and even paid nannies, but he also has influence over the masses. People of influence should measure their words before they speak, because it will make a difference in someone else's life. You might laugh and say, "..Not me!" But in this country where Hollywood is a god, that is a true statement.

I too, am not a fan of putting ANYONE on medication, but sometimes it is necessary. His condescending remarks might spurn people to re-consider why they take certain meds in the first place. That's good! But he has also created a doubt in the minds of people who need them. "Am I a bad person?...maybe my son/daughter really doesn't really need a med?"

Some children with ADHD, cannot perform at school even though they live in a consistent, constant, structured environment at home. Even typing the word "perform" is painful but this is especially true of foster children, suffering from neglect and abuse. Some need a psychotropic med such as Ritalin to help them focus and function OR they will loose their placements or get expelled from school, both causing further disruptions in their lives.

If we sent 75 foster kids over to Tom's house next weekend, I am sure he would make project out of them and claim to Oprah/Dave Letterman/Matt Lauer that he had redeemed the children from the clutches of meds/psychiatry. But the real heroes are people who daily invest into their lives, not promising these children a lot of solutions, but promising to work to make their lives a tad better. For these children do not necessarily hold the promise of unconditional love in their hearts.

Tom... there are tons of people out there who don't want to be on meds or don't want kids on meds, and there are all kinds of versions as to who should or shouldn't take medications. You seem to have all the answers! But you don't know their stories, nor do you seem to care. You do care about your new movie, your girlfriend..oh and your religion....I hope you are making a lot of points, because your unmeasured words are self-promoting and harmful to more than you'll ever know.

Later - The above comment sounds noble but my first response was.."what is this guy smoking??" that's how erratic he seemed.