Time Well Spent

This early morning hour of raindrops falling on the pavement outside, the birds (although they are exceptionally loud today) chirping, the ambient sounds of ceiling fans and tires on wet asphalt. It makes me sleepy thinking about it, and after a restless night of vivid life-like dreams, Rocky’s mewing me back to bed is tempting. Today is a cemetery day, and as soon as the rain lets up I’ll make my way to St. Charles. I had hoped for drier weather, one where I could linger on the bench near my parents’ grave and read for awhile. There’s something comforting about being able to spend time in quiet reflection.

Time, when you’re paying extra close attention to it has an odd rhythm. It’s as if someone is alternately pressing on the fast-fast-forward and pause button on a remote control. Tangible emotions but everything else is a blur. The pace of this last year moving through the grief, learning a new way of thinking, and looking back at life...it’s almost indescribable how we, I got here. One year later.

After experiencing both variations of dying, the drawn out meddling of cancer and the quick and fast accidental death, I honestly can’t say which is worse or better. I only wish that we were all lucky enough to pass in our sleep, after a fitful day of time spent with friends and family, and doing things that we love. I wish that we could all be better prepared for death when it knocks on our loved ones door. Above all, I wish we would live our lives well, following our dreams without fear and judgment, without being constantly reminded that our time on this Earth is precious and should be spent well.  


It's All in the Timing

A co-worker introduced me this new-to-me app called TimeHop. This novel utility, once you authorize access to all of your social networks aggregates your past posts, tweets and photos and pushes a time capsule of your activities so you can reminisce. This morning, curiosity got the best of me and I found myself scrolling through the iPhone app store to download and install.

This week as you may already know has its own sort of reckoning, it being the first anniversary of Dad’s accident, last days and death. (Yes, I know it may seem morbid to keep reiterating our last days together. When you experience the loss of a beloved one you will understand how feeling every moment gets you through the hardest parts of grief.) I was lucky enough to have a friend spontaneously suggest dinner and drinks after work, and that certainly helped dilute the edginess and restlessness.

TimeHop pushed a notification of this day in my past history and rather than pull content from this day last year, it highlighted older stuff. Like how this week in 2012 my Dad & I were in the Bronx. It was the first deposition in Dad’s car accident case a few years back. I just remember how nerve-wracking it was for Dad, and for me, to passively sit back and watch the lawyers grill him.

Kind of like how I had to passively sit back and watch Dad last year as his health deteriorated at a rapid pace, until we had little choice but to make his last days comfortable, preparing ourselves and the rest of the family, to say good-bye.


One Day Last Year

I’d almost forgotten. In the back of my mind, I must have known, although it wasn’t until I physically wrote the date with a blue felt marker on a lined piece of paper that the significance flooded my memory. This day last year was a Monday, the beginning of an average work week. I had plans to meet up with my dear friend Alex for the most amazing dinner at Feast and after a few hours of catching each other up on our lives, I made my way home to Brooklyn.

It wasn’t a late night, and upon my arrival I made my way upstairs to check in on Dad, who I found had dozed off while watching television. I leaned over to rouse him, chattering about my day and dinner, asking him about his day and if he was on track with his medications. He stirred but seemed disoriented. It had been a hot couple of days so I went to the kitchen for a cold glass of water to refresh him. When I got back he was mumbling, the water seemed to waken his senses. I was suspicious though, he had TIAs previously -- and the signs suggested that maybe he had an episode earlier in the evening.

I decided to go upstairs to see if everything was okay--Dad wasn’t always forthcoming with anything that suggested he wasn’t healthy as an ox, or as close to 100% as he could get.  I told him to finish his water and rest a moment. Upstairs things seemed to be in order, the bathroom and hallway were both clear.  I was resetting the portable A/C for the evening when I heard Dad make his way to the stairs. The cadence of his footsteps seemed wrong, rather than the step-step-stomp of his slippered feet and cane hitting each stair, I heard step-step, step-step-stomp. He was using the cane to support him on every other step.

I made my way to the top of the staircase, talking to him about using the cane for support so he wouldn’t fall. He was on the second to last step, I think he may have paused to consider what I was saying, the cane had not yet touched down. In that second before I could even think, before I could reach out, he fell backward, somersaulting down the stairs, only stopping as he made impact with the landing wall and fell into fetal position under the hall table. I hear myself gasp, then shriek. Everything else after that plays out like a stop-motion movie. Dashing down the stairs, calling 911 while coaching my father not to move, the arrival of the ambulance, the ride to the hospital with an EMT driver unfamiliar with south Brooklyn, and the emergency room and ICU at the Lutheran Trauma Center.

It was the third to last day in July 2013.  



Sometimes when I’m in the beginning fugue of a migraine, I have a conversational hiccup, a mental stutter or verbal Tourette. Although a complete anecdotal paragraph streams through my mind, only one or two words that make up some kind of sentence are actually spoken. The migraine haze blurs the lines, and it’s not until hours later after I’ve slept the tension off that I even remember the misstep (or offense).  

Source: Education Portal

Like today, I was talking about beautifying myself for Rich & Mikie’s wedding and during the course of the conversation talked about having my hair and makeup done vs. doing it myself because eyelashes are so difficult to apply yourself. It reminded me that the last time I had my eyelashes applied was back in March for the 2nd to last burlesque show with the girls. I pictured Suzie leaning over Kate then me, applying the glue to the lash and waiting for it to set, then lining up the fake one to the real one to layer it on with precision, one eye at a time. All that storytelling was unfolding like a silent movie in my mind.

Then in a synapse I return to the conversation at hand, a truncated sentence tumbling out of my mouth. “I don’t think I’ve shared this before but I perform burlesque and discovered the glam makeup application, so will need to get someone to apply mine. Then I'll need to find some glitter.” No context that's relatable. No transition statement. No further explanation, just vomited words into the air. In hindsight, not the most standard of water cooler conversations one has at work.


Pasta and Lamb

Roxanne and I spoke about it at therapy on Wednesday, she reminded me that I had to work through the grief when it hit me that I'm still in transition.

This is the first Easter without Dad, and the last Easter at my childhood home.

Last Easter, after months of Dad saying how much he wanted lamb I made a reservation at Tanoreen in Bay Ridge -- a Middle Eastern restaurant known for its various lamb dishes and highly rated by Zagat, Yelp and others. Easter was early that year at the tail end of March. Initially it was going to be just my dad and I. With the India trip just a month away, I decided to invite Advaitha to join us.

The three of us sat at a round table in the center of a boisterously loud room. Dad was subdued. Looking back I realize he had surrendered conversation because of the inability to hear, something he grappled with as he aged. I think also that his frustration over the noisy patrons was a direct result of his annoyance toward me for not choosing an Italian restaurant. It wasn't until we were seated with water glasses filled and menus in hand that he mentioned wanting pasta and lamb.

Source: Kate & Julio's Kitchen Blog - click for recipe.

Pasta and lamb. Pasta and lamb is Italian. The choices are endless in our neighborhood. It would have been an easy fix even if it was Easter. One year later, it makes me sick to my stomach that I didn't gather him up and take him elsewhere.

It's a silly form of regret, I know. I was a good daughter and some days I could have been a better one. Oddly those days are the ones that creep back first. Flashes of my impatience and short-temper unleashed, the moments where my cocky arrogance spewed condescension...no good comes from that kind of reminiscing but its impression lingers still.


Lost in Transition

Here's the thing about grief...you never know when it's going to hit you, what will trigger a change of heart, a change in mood. One minute you're fine, the next, not so much. Maybe it was the fresh air or the restless sleep from last night catching up to me or maybe it was the wine. Whatever it was, it hit me this afternoon. One minute I'm concentrating on framing the picturesque landscape with my camera and the next I'm retreating into my thoughts, quiet as a mouse in the tour van. I excused myself from the afternoon activities to relinquish this hollow feeling. It's hard to do when you're with friends and they're raring to go sightseeing and shopping but it's the right thing to do for them and for yourself. And it's much easier pawing through it when you're alone and the only thing that makes sense is sitting by the fire with a hot cup of coffee.

Lost in transition, any one of us going through loss, picking up the pieces...until we work through it, we are in this state of uncertainty, in limbo. There's no shortcut to healing your heart, no magic potion to make the pain go away. The only way to get through it is to face grief head on. Some people don't get it though. They ignore the pain, think it will disappear if they don't pay any attention. Some people act on impulse, make decisions without thinking of the consequences. Others get angry or fall into despair, and still some act like the grief doesn't exist, like nothing's wrong. We all know someone like that but you can't hide from grief, it finds a way in whether you realize it or not.

Grief is not easy, if anything at all, it's scary and it doesn't matter how many times you go through it. If only we talked more about death before it happened. What it means when death happens to the old, to the young, what it means for those of us left behind. Falling in love is rare, death on the other hand happens every second of every day.

When death takes someone that we love, when it hits close to home and we can feel the grief settling in...we find ourselves standing still but also moving forward.



Past Lives and Connections

Last night I attended my first-ever psychic medium session. There were about twenty-two of us in the room listening to Cathy, a psychic medium and transformation expert, and Andy, a clairvoyant and astrologer, introduce themselves.  This session was part two of an intuitive workshop the pair had led earlier in the afternoon. 

Other than the new friends I had made in the afternoon session, I didn’t know anyone in the room and didn’t know what to expect. I believe that there is more to this universe than what we can see. I believe that there is a higher power, a god if you will. I believe in the possibility of a spirit communicating from the great beyond, and I know from experience that it can happen. A month or so after my mom passed, she came to me in a dream—her presence was so strong it jarred me awake and I saw her sitting at the foot of my bed. There have been other instances too, where I’ve felt a presence guiding me or acting on my behalf—like the time I almost fell asleep at the wheel and felt something press my foot on the brake. It’s with this open heart that I settled in to listen and experience this psychic session.

I was jotting down a note about evidential mediumship when Andy first mentioned “Aunt Petunia.” I raised my head, and he said the name again, no one else in the room flinched. That’s when I first suspected mom was in the room. Petunia, or more specifically “my sweet Petunia” was my pet name, what my mom would call me when I was a child.

The evening unfolded with Andy alternating between reading someone’s past life and Cathy sharing communications from the spirits lingering in the room to their loved ones seated around me.  When a catch phrase or word struck a chord I would jot them down in my notebook, and throughout the evening it felt as if my pen never quite left the page. At one point, I looked down to find a quarter of the page covered in doodles.  

Doodling was something my mom would do. Preoccupied with her thoughts while on the phone with friends or filling out the crossword puzzle, there would inevitably be doodles in the margins of whatever piece of paper was nearby. I hadn’t thought about that in a long time, and yet the memory is crystal clear. A yellow and green #2 pencil, slightly worn, the hazy gray sheets of the Daily News, Mom drinking her coffee in a signature Morton’s Salt themed coffee cup, poring over the clues.

“Your heart chakra is glowing a neon green,” Andy says, and then asks me what era in time I resonate with most. “The 1940s,” I reply and it opens a floodgate about my past life as a 1940s French film star who rallied for the underdog and played a part in the underground resistance during WWII. I couldn’t help but smile. 

“I bet you’re a champion for your friends, too,” he continued. Next he talked about my “benevolent energy” and the strength of my third chakra, the center of self-esteem, and how it had been recently tested. “Know that you cannot be pushed.” It was a reaffirmation from the hell of last week that I can and will persevere.

Near the close of the evening, I learned that my mom had a very strong presence in the room. Cathy wanted me to know that she had always been around and would continue to be around, to support and guide me. Cathy asked me if we were close and I told her yes that we were very tied to each other both as mother/daughter and as friends.  She acknowledged that it was the nurturing of the intuition that tied us, and was at the root of our strong bond. It was surreal hearing those words but also distinctly comforting, I could feel her presence holistically.

Maybe I’ll get to see her in my dreams tonight, too.


Unlocking Intuition

This week was a different kind of intense with disconnected communications at work to the fluctuating temperatures of a winter season that refuses to let go. It was very draining and stirred up a vortex of emotion. Add that to the current state of uncertainty that I’ve been dealing with these past few months, it was no surprise that Friday night was spent vegged out on the couch.

I had signed up for a workshop on Saturday and was contemplating attending the evening session as well. Both events explored how to nurture intuitive communications, something I’ve been longing to get back in touch with. As a child, I had always been tapped into my intuition but in recent years the connection has been a bit faulty. 

Intuition identifies your true heart and with practice can assist with your life’s journey—it has many synonyms but most people refer to it as listening to your gut. It’s a gift my mom and I shared, and in earlier days, I actively nurtured it with my writing, through yoga, and art classes. I have fond memories of attending workshops and classes, participating in a women’s circle where we shared life stories seated around a burning sage bush, learning meditation and occasionally walking the labyrinth in Union Square. All these activities brought with them a sense of calm and peace, and I wanted to rediscover how to access that feeling again. 

That’s how I found myself in Windsor Terrace this afternoon, searching for the Prospect Range in the pouring rain. The workshop, “Using Intuition in Business and Life, A Pathway to Creativity and Abundance” was led by Cathy Towle, a psychic medium and transformation expert, and Andrew Brewer, a clairvoyant and astrologer. The 2-1/2 hour workshop was an interactive discussion about how to sharpen your intuitive skills to empower yourselves creatively and with instinct to ultimately manifest change.  


Snowfall in Cincinnati

The skyline alight in neon red, I leave NYC behind, flying northwest over the great island of Manhattan, the Hudson River and New Jersey destined for a different tri-state area. Cincinnati International Airport touches Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. It seems counter intuitive to fly north when your destination is due south but I think we can all agree that the enigmatic code that goes into air flight scheduling is not decipherable by many. 

The flight attendant's voice on the intercom is garbled, as if I'm on a Manhattan-bound subway car. The plane is full and tiny, 21 rows deep, 4 seats wide with a sloped ceiling where anyone over 5'7" has to stoop to get into the carriage and to their seat. The flight is uneventful and less than two hours later we arrive to a snow-covered runway. The snow fury is marking its passage every which way.  The terminal is deserted and I make my way through the concourse on an inter-terminal airtrain. The baggage claim and ground transportation are accessed by a set of escalators, where only one is in service. There is a gurney at the top of the non-moving escalator, and although my mind registers it I'm too tired to process what that could mean. 

As I step onto the escalator and make my way down it all becomes clear as the firefighters and EMT crew come into view. They are assisting an elderly gentleman who had fallen face forward onto the escalator. He could have been Dad's age, or younger, and he is battered and bruised, and seemingly alone. His injuries are visible and worrisome, a huge bump on his head, blood running down his forearms. I can't help but think of Dad's accident, the similarities uncanny. Flashes of his own fall, the blood on the landing, the EMTs examination, his insistence that he was fine. A guy standing behind me points out that you can never be too sure of what the repercussions of a fall like that could mean, "most folks that age are on blood thinners." I shuddered, remembering all too well.  
At the bottom of the staircase, the baggage claim is hopping with passengers, queued up at the American Airlines help desk. The DoubleTree shuttle is just outside, where slush of a different kind is piling up. A family of four from Massachusetts joins me in the van. They are making their way to Disney World in Orlando, this is their second flight in as many days, the final one tomorrow will hopefully get them closer to the sun, just like me.  

Snow fury and contemplation...

I’ve questioned my sanity these last few days as I try to make my way to a sunnier locale in the middle of this godforsaken snow fury hitting the eastern seaboard. Do you remember The Gods Must Be Crazy? It was a movie released back in the 80s, that’s sort of how I feel right now.

I was supposed to leave yesterday morning, which means I would have already been acclimated to the balmy equatorial climate of Cancun, nearly adjusted to the refreshing sea salt in the air. Instead I’ve been sequestered in my apartment, wearing fluffy pajamas and going stir crazy as I bide my time until a night flight to Cincinnati.

Yes Cincinnati as in the hometown of the fictional WKRP radio station. I’ll have an 8-hour layover before I fly to Mexico, and unfortunately it’s an overnight so I won’t be able to visit any of the recommended points of interest. As luck would have it the Doubletree where I’ll be staying straddles both Ohio and Kentucky so I’ll be missing out on exploring two states instead of just one. I guess I’ll have to mark them off my bucket list another time.

two hours later  

In a burst of clarity this afternoon, I thought it’d be best if I repacked the suitcase. Except I couldn’t find the key to unlock the damn thing and then I remembered the metal cutter was stashed in the shed under a drift of packed snow. It’s amazing how MacGyver-like you can be when you’re in mitzvah. After I nicked the lock with gardening shears + a wrench, I remembered (thankfully) that I put the keys in my coat. That probably saved the zipper’s life.

The suitcase has been packed and repacked. Electronics are charged. Plugs are in the bag. I’ve got forty-five minutes until the car service arrives, enough time for a coffee and if I stop typing, some scrambled eggs. I haven’t eaten much of anything these last two days, an unhealthy side effect of anxiety and stress. Yep, making them eggs now.