Archives for category: death

20170703_105904I just got back from a week on Martha’s Vineyard. The main reason for going was to spread my father’s ashes around the island. You see, my father is the founder of Martha’s Vineyard for our family. He went up one weekend a million years ago with a college friend, and never wanted to vacation anywhere else.

While he was never able to afford to buy a house on the island, he turned my cousins Bob & Carol on to this summer wonderland, and they own two homes – one rental and a large home that they live in during the summer. For 52 years it has been my summer place, and it felt really good to release dad to the beauty of this island.

We began by releasing some ashes into the water during the ferry ride from Woods Hole to the Vineyard. My husband, in a flash of brilliance, let one of the crew members know we were doing it, and after dad’s ashes swirled into the air, he gave the ferry horn a long, loud blast. It was very cool, and very moving.

20170702_195615We spread more ashes on the beach in Menemsha at sunset. It was a beautiful evening spent on the beach with the family, listening to music, sipping wine and noshing from a picnic spread. I think dad would have loved it.

20170703_114816And of course, we had to leave some of dad on Gay Head. My mom’s ashes are here. It was funny…when we spread the ashes by my mom, my sister had trouble with the container, and it was a very clumsy release. It makes me laugh to think of that now, because I think it’s something my mom would have found amusing.

We also walked further down the beach and around the horn of the cliffs to spread dad among the stones, rocks and ocean. It felt right.

The trip itself was pretty hectic. I’ve never seen the island so crowded….things are definitely changing there. I’m just so pleased that there are pieces of both of my parents on the beaches where we spent so much time growing up. I know how much dad loved this place. I am certain he’s resting peacefully now.

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I had to stay in town last night. My youngest had a doctor’s appointment, and my oldest was working the will call booth for the Def Leppard concert at the John Paul Jones Arena.

So, younger daughter and I poked about town and then went to a movie, trying to kill time before oldest daughter’s shift was over. She was hungry, so we stopped by Mickey D’s for a few dollar menu items for her and her dad, who had called and said he was hungry as well.

Upon heading home, we were traveling up a narrow, winding portion of Route 53 that passes both Historic Michie Tavern, and Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson. The land on either side of the road between both of these attractions has a steep slope, with many large, old that fight to keep their purchase in the Virginia clay year after year.

That night there was a strange thing in the sky…most likely a drone, with flashing red & green lights, and we were sort of fixated on it. As my girls were commenting on it, and I was grumbling about having to keep my eyes on the road, I heard a very loud crash, and exclaimed to my daughters “What the f#ck was that?”

Seconds later my headlights fixed upon the scene above. A very large tree completely blocking the highway.

We stopped, and sat dumfounded for a minute or two. Then a small commercial truck lumbered up behind me, his headlights fairly blinding me, and so close that I found it hard to try and turn around.

A man in a tuxedo walked up to the tree and began taking photos. He asked if we were okay, and I asked him if he got hit. His car was the last one to make it past the fallen tree from the other direction, and he said, “Yeah, we got hit.”

I did an Austin Powers 15 point turn…this road is very narrow, and even with my small Kia, I wasn’t taking any chances. Once turned around, I stopped behind the tuxedo clad man’s car and got out to look.

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The entire back of his car was squashed…the tree had caught the very rear of his car. Talk about lucky…this guy and his wife/girlfriend/date literally escaped death by split seconds.

And then I realized…my girls and I had been pretty lucky as well. You see, leading up to this incident, there were several things that slowed us up, perhaps keeping us from meeting our demise, or bad injury resulting in our car being under that fallen tree.

  1. Stopping at McDonalds. Our total was 7.06 and it took me a ridiculous amount of time to fish out the 6 cents from my wallet.
  2. Red Lights. We hit no less than 4 on the way to my husband’s work.
  3. Hubby himself. He was slow to meet us to grab his burger, and some time talking to the girls about their night while I was like, “come on, let’s go!”

But all that was nothing compared to the last delay. Because I am sure that had this not happened, I’d be blogging from a hospital bed, or not at all, ever.

As we were approaching Michie Tavern, there was a medium sized commercial truck trying to make a U-Turn. This caused the car in front of me to stop, and for me to have to hurriedly stop as well. The car in front of me slid past the truck, and after making sure it would be safe, I crept by too.

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The next thing I know, less than a quarter mile up the road, a mere 45 seconds later, there is a tree blocking my path… the car in front of me was the last car to make it past before it fell. That’s how close we were to getting crushed. I’m fairly certain if that truck hadn’t been trying to make a U-Turn, thus slowing us up for just a moment, my girls and I may have been in a much different situation today.

The cause? We had some torrential rain that morning, which most likely caused some serious erosion. I guess that old tree just couldn’t hang on anymore.

It’s sobering. I remember looking at the fallen tree, seeing cars stopped on the other side, and thinking like that tree separated two worlds. Quite frankly, I’m amazed that nobody was hurt. I mean, tuxedo dude has some serious car damage, but that’s peanuts compared to personal injury.

Yeah, I’m feeling pretty lucky, and pretty glad to be alive today.

 

 

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Later this month, the 4th anniversary of the loss of our cat Olive will be upon us. During the course of those four years, a tiny solar-powered $1.50 pathway lantern, bought at Walmart, has marked her grave.

Every single lantern I bought before or since than has petered out. They aren’t a quality product, and rarely last one season.

Except Olive’s light.

It’s the strangest thing. All other lights of a similar style weren’t worth diddly-squat. But Olive’s light? It shines bright every night. For four, long years.

I think that’s pretty cool.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 10.28.15 AMOn Monday, June 27th I got the call that I had been dreading for years…My father had died. He was 92, and died in his own bed with my sister and his wife by his side, which isn’t a bad way to go. It was just his time.

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to my dad, so I might just ramble on for a while and see where it leads me.

Pop was a morning man. I think this is where I get my love o’ the dawn from. Growing up, sleeping late on weekends was not an option. Before the smell of breakfast could reach your nostrils, dad was yelling up the stairs to “get the hell out of bed.”

Dad the Breakfast Cook. My father liked to cook breakfast every weekend. Anything from French toast, which I liked, to Liver and Onions, which I didn’t like, would be served up on our blue formica kitchen table. My favorite breakfast was Nana’s pancakes…Slovak crepes called palacinki. They are my daughters’ favorites to this day.

Dad was an adventurer at heart. While my mom was good for back to school clothes, or that pair of shoes you really wanted, she rarely let you walk on the wild side. But not when you were with dad…every tree was climbable, every rock was there for you to scramble up on, and every path was worth hiking down.

Dad liked to go visiting. I’ve blogged about this in the past, but Monday nights were his banking nights. He’d take us to his bank in Cliffside Park, and then we’d go visiting the various aunts, cousins and family friends who lived in the area. My father had no siblings, but he managed to make a huge family network for us made up of fairly distant relatives who felt like next of kin to us.

Dad in New York City. Many a Friday night my father carted all four of us kids into New York City. My brother and sister attended Slovak School, and my brother had accordion lessons as well. The lights and smells and sounds of New York in the 70’s is something that will always be with me. We usually ended up eating a dirty water dog from a NYC cart or a sack of White Castles in North Bergen.

Dad in front of the TV. My father had a bad back, so TV viewing was done on the floor laying flat on his back with head propped up against the couch.  He would do calisthenics and isometrics while watching “The Waltons,” or “Masterpiece Theater.” One of us kids would always make him a cup of Sanka, and bring him a piece of whatever Entenmann’s  cake mom had bought at the Co-op.

Dad on a Rant. Some weekends could be lethal at home when my dad was in a mood. Rooms had to be cleaned, the yard had to be raked, the garage needed cleaning out…you name it. I won’t even go into the lectures my poor mom got about all the food we had in the house that my mom wasn’t using – mainly because it was really far back in our ginormous kitchen cabinets.

Dad on Martha’s Vineyard. Dad was at his best up there…away from the pressures of work, and enjoying the place he loved. Mornings were for fishing (and catching a whole lot of nothing), afternoons were for the beach, and evenings were for dinner and a walk around town.

Dad behind the wheel. I’ll admit, driving with my dad could be a drag. He never got lost, but you had to listen to what he wanted to on the radio. That meant a whole lot of Bob Grant, and financial shows. I sent up a silent prayer when the Walkman was invented, and another when we could actually afford to buy me one.

Dad the Storyteller. Dad was always good for a story about his colorful life. Like how he used to get chased by the grumpy old man at the Palisades Amusement Park pool for digging holes in the sand…and then later in life, he became the grumpy old man as it was his job to fill in the holes the kids dug. Or how he and his friends would swing on a rope out over the Palisades, praying the rope wouldn’t break. And the one about him having to out-run some ruffians in his souped up car out in California. My dad had adventures, yes sir.

Dad the Healthnut. My dad was a bonafide health nut. He was always sneaking wheat germ and flax seed into our pancakes and oatmeal. When my mom boiled vegetables, he drank the water she cooked them in from a coffee cup because that’s where all the vitamins were. He took crazy vitamin pills like shark cartilage, and bee pollen way before it was hip and trendy. I am certain it is why he lived to be 92.

Dad the Helper. My father helped quite a few people over the course of his lifetime. He took my Aunt Carol, my mom’s sister, out of a mental facility to come live with us when he saw that she was never going to thrive there. She became a vital member of our family, and I cherished her presence growing up.

He was also a one-man Czechoslovakian UN.  My father sponsored my cousin Stello to come live with us for a year, where he worked in New York and was able to send money home to his family. He also sponsored my cousin Gitka, who came and stayed with us for a month and saw all the sights of the East Coast in the good old USA. He sponsored quite a few relatives to come and see the US – many of whom became citizens.

I also remember a couple who moved here from Czechoslovakia …Darinka and Louis, with their young son Renee. My father helped them get accustomed to the States, and we had them over our house many times for dinner – he let them know they had a friend nearby as they made their way in a new country.

I also recall him having the young son of a family friend stay with us over the summer. They lived in upstate New York, where there was little to do besides get high and get in trouble. This son was going down that wrong path, so he came to live with us for a few months. I had to take him to my volleyball matches, and listen to The Fixx.

I’m really going to miss him. I’ll miss breakfast at his house in Florida, sitting around the table as he yelled at CSPAN, while I did the crossword puzzle. I’ll miss his far left arguments, and his refusal to believe anything the right has to say. I’ll miss seeing him on the ferry to the Vineyard, big giant sunglasses and what was left of his hair whipping in the wind.

The world is a little dimmer without you here dad, that’s for sure. But know that you left some damn fine humans behind in your wake, and for that we are grateful.

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As many of my readers know, I tried to walk 1,000 miles last year, but my final tally was only a hair over 900. Even though it was twice as far as I walked the year before, there was little real improvement in the shape of my body.

I mean, I’m not a dope; I know all that walking did my body good in other ways…blood pressure, blood sugar, etc. But it did little to nothing in changing the shape of my body. My legs were still flabby, and the scale only showed a loss of maybe 30 pounds. I realized that just walking wasn’t the real answer.

So I kind of lost my passion for it. Here we are more than halfway into 2016 and I’ve only walked 200 miles.

Monday morning I realized I hadn’t been out to walk for almost the whole month of June. I’d been so busy with jobs and freelance that every single morning was devoted to meeting deadlines and getting work done. But with one of my magazines going to press, I finally had some time.

The walk was glorious, and I scolded myself for letting work get in the way of those cool, green morning walks to my favorite podcasts.

Then on Monday night, I got the call that my father had died. I’ll blog about that later. Now just isn’t the time.

I went out Tuesday morning, but my walk was anything but enjoyable. My legs felt heavy and my head and heart just plain hurt. I took out my earbuds and turned off my ipod and just walked, heading back home.

I thought of my dad, and how this was the first morning in my entire life that he wasn’t waking up to. How he’d never have another morning with the paper, and his slew of vitamin pills, and his breakfast with his wife Gabi.

But I also thought of how when I was a child, my dad would always go out very early and run. He’d drive down to a park in our town that had a long track, and he’d run. When I started walking a lot he reminded me of that, and said something to the affect of being a chip off the old block.

So Wednesday morning I went out again. And again today. I walked not so much for exercise, but more as a tribute of sorts to my dad. He’d want me out there, enjoying the morning, breathing deep and living life.

Both walks were phenomenal…I felt like I could fly. It felt less like a workout and more like a spiritual and physical release. It felt really fucking good.

Yes, there will be times when my walks are going to feel labored and annoying. But for now, with my dad looking over me, they are out of this world.

Thoughts & Prayers

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “No, Thank You.” which asked…If you could permanently ban a word from general usage, which one would it be? Why?

Let me start this off by saying I am NOT against prayer…or thoughts for that matter.

I am just against the banal (def: so lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring) use of the phrases shown above.

These phrases have become a Facebook phenomenon. If someone is sick or has lost a pet their Facebook post becomes a never ending feed of varying forms of the phrase “thoughts & prayers”…kinda like this:

Prayers!
My thoughts and prayers are with you!
Thoughts and prayers…
Thoughts and prayers 😦
Thoughts and prayers.
Prayers!
So Sorry 😦 Prayers!
My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Which is great…it’s fabulous in sentiment. When something lousy happens to a friend, you are thinking about them…and you might even send up a silent plea to whomever you call God. And that’s great.

But come on… it’s not really original, is it? I mean, isn’t this your friend? Couldn’t you come up with something a little more personal than echoing the 19 posts that came before yours?

Uff – maybe I just sound like a bitch – but to me simply writing “thoughts and prayers” is a total cop out. It takes zero thought.

For instance, when someone has a birthday on Facebook, I almost NEVER write “Happy Birthday!” I always strive to make it personal and funny. Sometimes it takes me most of the day to find the right birthday greeting for that particular person. Any slob can write “Happy Birthday.” That’s just as easy as saying “Bless You” after a sneeze.

But I know the people I send birthday greetings to really appreciate my special touch…they comment on them, and tell me that they always look forward to seeing what I’ll come up with this year.

So, if God forbid something catastrophic happens to a friend, take the time to craft a nice personal message. Don’t just type in “thoughts and prayers” and then scroll on down your page and take a BuzzFeed quiz. Even if it’s bible scripture, or part of a poem, it’s going to be more heartfelt than another warmed over serving of “thoughts & prayers!”

Take the time, and make them know you are really thinking of them.


Oh, and if this doesn’t fly then my vote is for the Bachelor to go through an entire season where nobody uses the phrase “looking for love” or “I’m here to find love.”

and it that doesn’t fly, then everyone needs to stop using the phrase “At the end of the day.”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry….”

for tomorrow we die. The world is ending tomorrow! Tell us about your last dinner — the food, your dining companions, the setting, the conversation.

THE FOOD

If I can only have one food for my last dinner it would be White Castles. If I can have two foods, I’d set my table with White Castles and Hot Dog’s from Hiram’s. If I can have three foods, I’d add an extra large cheese pizza from Villa Nova.

So why all the junk food?

Simply because these are foods that never let me down. They are good no matter when I get them – each and every time. Have you ever gone to a restaurant, ordered and paid good money for your favorite dish, only to have it just be so-so? This is my last meal! I can’t risk it!

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White Castles: I was weaned on these puppies. Back when I was a wee lass, murder burgers were like 15¢ each – my dad could feed the whole family for a few bucks. Eating these things is primal – almost instictive for me. It’s a part of my DNA.

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Hiram’s Hot Dogs: Another favorite spot from my childhood – dogs that are deep fried – so they rip a little. The only way to eat them for me is with mustard and maybe a little kraut. Add an order of fries and a cold Schlitz on tap. God damn this post is making me hungry.

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Villa Nova Pizza: About 5 or so years ago, a New York Style Pizza joint opened up in a small strip mall near our house. My husband and I, both from northern Jersey, had quite a few times fallen victim to the Virginia version of New York Style Pizza…slightly better than Domino’s but not even close to anything we got up in the Tri-State area.

Then we tried Villa Nova and thought it as good as our old pizza place back in Jersey, Donna’s Pizza. That is saying a lot. Last year we went back up to Jersey and had a slice of Donna’s pizza. You know what?

Villa Nova’s is better. The pizza is super thin, and when you take a bite, the cheese, sauce and spices comingle in my mouth and make a spot in the back of my throat almost tingle.

Yeah, it’s that good.

THE FOLKS

Duh, I’d eat with my family. If it was the last day on earth and teleportation was magically possible, I’d have my WHOLE family there…..brother, sisters, neices and nephews, and Pop and Gabi.

Although if Gabi is there I guess I’d have to add her pork and dumplings to the dinner table.

THE CHATTER

My family? We’d reminisce until the end came. We all grew up in the same hometown – husbands and wives alike, so we all share most of the same memories and experiences. It’s really a great thing.

And my brother and sisters and I would have to sing “The Last Long Mile” on more time with Pop.

THE SETTING

Hands down, we’d have to be at my dad’s house in Florida. Of course we can’t get any of the aforementioned foods in Florida, but if we can all teleport, then I’m sure someone could grab the food.

We’d play volleyball in the pool, look at old slides and then watch one final sunset at Flagler Beach.

Yeah, it would be an okay way to go.

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Today marks the one-year anniversary of when our family went from being the proud owners of two kitties, to the mournful owners of one. Losing a pet sucks. I’m sure there are plently of you out there who have had to endure the death of a furry friend, and know of what I speak.

It was a miserable thing to go through – finding your pet laying stiff in a ditch along the road. Putting her in a box, and burying her in the rain. Finding a heart-shaped stone the next day and putting it on her gravesite. I also put a 99¢ garden light from Walmart at the head of her grave.

You know something? That cheap little light has outlasted every other, more expensive light in my garden. Shine bright like a diamond, Olive…

The year has flown on by. Her brother Dodger spent a month looking around the house for her. But now he’s used to being the only kitty. We are more careful with him now, too. He cannot go out if the sun is down, or if we are going to be out of the house for the day. And even once the sun is up, I send up a silent prayer of thanks everytime he lopes back through the door.

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She wasn’t the most loveable kitty in the world, but I really miss her. While her brother is a big, lumbering, way too cute, dope of a cat, she was demure, aloof, and quiet, and would spend hours grooming herself. She like to sleep in odd places too.

Like in my in-box on my desk.

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or on top of our hot water heater…I actually cut her a piece of carpet and fit it on top so she would be more comfy.

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And I miss the way when you scratched her at the base of her tail, she would incessantly lick her shoulder. It was a total twitch she had – it you scratched, she licked, when you stopped, she stopped.

I miss hearing her give Dodger the business. He would come up to her and try to clean her or play with her, and she might let him…for a while. But when she tired of it, she got her bitch on and Dodger would be on the receiving end of a blow…and yes, I’ve seen fur fly. But then again, he’d tackle her a lot, so he usually had it coming.

Ah Olive. I hope you’re resting well. Know that for the short few years you were with us that you were safe, and loved, and that your family misses you.

I think I’ll plant something by you tonight.

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