The world swirls around with all its distractions, and I sometimes find it difficult to focus on what’s really important to me. I get caught up in budget crises and unemployment, traffic jams and email spam, and could the nice folks doing necessary work on our roads please speed up the process?! The reality is, there are certain things I can control and many things I cannot, so I should simply let it go and get back to what’s real, what matters in my small corner of the world.
Like most people, if I’m willing to look closely enough, I know exactly what is required for me to have a happy life. I love my family, music, watching funny shows on TV, walking alone or with a friend, communicating with my sisters via jokey text messages. I love being in touch with everyone I’ve ever known via Facebook, and meeting new people on Twitter, and Google+. I love the concentration required for learning new software, or knitting a scarf. Digging into an historical novel, biography, or delicious work of fiction is like heaven. Opening the fridge when it’s full of our favorite fresh foods brings a feeling of richness to my heart. Sitting in my own yard on an early summer evening enjoying a meal with my husband and sons is an absolute delight.
If I look closely, the key for me is continuing to learn and to make connections. Those are the things that drive me, make me happy to leap out of bed each day.
If you look closely, what do you see?
Photo courtesy of Barbara Garofano Photography: bgarofanophoto at gmail dot com
My friend and bandleader, Tom LaMark, used the word “panoply” in conversation recently. What a lovely word! It’s so old-fashioned, a bit like Tom himself, and I mean that in the best way possible.
The word panoply, if you’re wondering (and I was), has three meanings, according to Dictionary.com
–noun, plural -plies.
1. a wide-ranging and impressive array or display:
the dazzling panoply of the maharaja’s procession; the panoply of European history.
2. a complete suit of armor.
3. a protective covering.
is reminiscent of a long-time favorite word of mine: plethora
, which means overabundance or excess. So, a step or two beyond panoply, I guess. The word plethora became ingrained in my mind after multiple viewings of “The Three Amigos”, starring the holy trinity of modern slapstick: Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short. If you haven’t seen it, the Amigos face off against a troop of mean and idiotic bandits in the story, led by El Guapo (not Rich Garces
). It’s El Guapo’s 40th birthday and his right hand man, Jefe, is describing to El Guapo the decorations for the birthday celebration.
You can enjoy their exchange here:
Feel free to leave an original sentence using panoply or plethora in the comments. I hope you have a plethora, or at the very least, a panoply of pinatas at YOUR next birthday….
I’m not sure if it’s because it’s now expected of me, or if I just assume I cannot complete this task correctly, but I rarely make grilled cheese sandwiches without burning one side. And burning one side is actually progress, from my point of view, because early in my cooking career I would regularly burn BOTH sides of the grilled cheese sandwich. Being the child of my father, I never waste food, so would dutifully scrape as much of the burnt bread as possible into the sink, and we’d eat the sandwiches. Of course, I’d place them on the plate with the least-burnt-side down, decorated with a few potato chips, but I’m pretty sure no one fell for that ploy.
After a while I wondered if I burned the sandwiches in passive aggressive fashion, so I could give that “chore” over to my husband. If I continued to ruin that meal time after time, wouldn’t he just say “oh for heaven’s sake, just let me do that”? He being a smart man, that never happened. Nowadays I love to cook, and real food – not just grilled cheese sandwiches. I just think the sandwiches get ignored now because they’re easy, no fuss, I can do something else while grilling sandwiches, right?! Some folks may have that option; I apparently do not.
I accept this shortcoming of mine, but often wonder about myself and others in performing daily tasks at home or on the job. Do we deliberately sabotage ourselves because we’re afraid of the responsibility that success may bring? Do we fail so we can say “I told you so”? Do we mess up so we can sit in our comfort zone without the risk of reaching the next level of success? I hope not, but sometimes it feels that way.
What do you think?
My neighbor is about to die, I’m told. I never had the chance to know her – she has faced major health challenges since long before I became her neighbor, and had little opportunity to mingle in the block parties and kids’ activities that swirled around us when our families were younger. Her husband is a dear, sweet man who seems the doting husband. They’ve been together a very long time.
It’s a sad time and, I imagine, seems otherworldly to her family – they know in their hearts it’s time for her to leave, but cannot imagine life without her. The myriad worries and decisions about her health which have been a constant for 30+ years will no longer be part of their daily concern. The comfort, care, love and guidance she provided for so many years will be consigned to memory. They lose their mother, their wife, their grandmother. What a hole that leaves to be stitched back together somehow.
This kind of loss happens every day, but that fact provides little solace.
As a young person, I thought of death only in the abstract, until my paternal grandfather was suffering with cancer. It was 1979, or thereabouts. My Grampa had been sick for about a year and the time had come, I felt, for me to pray for a swift end to his suffering. I prayed daily for a week or two that he be taken from us in his sleep. I remember my last visit to him in the hospital – all the family was in and out of his room that weekend and I waited until everyone took a break, then snuck in to lean over Grampa’s bed, look into his eyes, and whisper “I love you”. I’d never said that to him before and it was perhaps both the most difficult and the most natural sentence ever uttered by me until then. He looked back at me with tears in his eyes and whispered something I could not hear. But I understood that he loved me and was saying goodbye.
Death evokes feelings of sadness and loss that may remain forever to some degree, but with lessons provided by the missing loved one to make life richer. Lessons good and bad, stories filled with love, sweetness, and humor, examples of how to be our best selves. The loss is enormous, but the memories a gift to be cherished and shared.
After 30 years together, my husband and I are dating again. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Let me tell you about our time together.
I arrive to our tryst at the prearranged time, we order a meal, then make small talk and watch TV while we wait for our dinner. You know, “how was your day?” and “did you know Carl Crawford is on the DL?” or “the boys have a gig tomorrow.” – that kind of conversation. When the food arrives, we share a salad, split a tuna sandwich or salisbury steak with mashed potatoes, talk a little more, hold hands, make arrangements for our next rendezvous, and kiss good night. I get into my car and go home, missing him already.
These evenings are much like typical dating, except for the location. Our dates take place in one of Boston’s finest hospital rooms, where the ambiance is created by beeping-booping machines, fluorescent lighting, code blue announcements, and hospital staff checking my date’s blood pressure and pain threshold (on a scale of 1 to 10) every hour or so. My guy had total hip replacement surgery and these are the new rules of engagement, at least for now. Thank goodness his roommate doesn’t seem to mind having me around.
I’ll be pleased when we progress to a real restaurant, with wine, soft music, and flickering candle light, but our hospital dates feel like starting all over again. Isn’t it romantic?