Last time I wrote about my brother-in-law Joey was July 10, 2013. Today I am very sad because Joey is now at the very end of his life and I will miss him. His struggle with Alzheimer’s has been a long hard road, especially for his wife, daughter and grandchildren. Everyone else who has the privilege of knowing Joey will also feel the pain of his passing because he will no longer be here in any form, so it is for our own feelings of loss that we will share in this sorrow. You see Joey has touched so many people in his lifetime, some he may have known about, while others haven’t realized until now, just how much he gave to them.
Joey was never boisterous or even talkative, but I remember his smiles and his laughter. I can still hear his corny jokes in my head and even though I didn’t want to laugh, I couldn’t help myself. I can see him making faces when my sister would tell one of her “stories” as if we shared our own secret about them. I can remember my own children and some of my nieces and nephews telling me stories about Uncle Joe and the way he either taught them something or shared a trivia knowledge with them which made them appreciate him all the more. I remember him liking sports and family dinners and vacations. I remember how much he liked to laugh.
I know how he adored his daughter and grandchildren and would move mountains if he needed to in order to protect and care for them. I know how much he loved my sister, his wife and would spoil her without hesitation or remorse. I know how kind, generous and solid he was as a man and a person whom anyone would be proud to know and call a friend. I know how the world will miss a soul as good as his.
I have to be honest and tell you that I have prayed for God to take him away from his pain lately. To allow him to leave this earthly life of struggles, misery and anguish in a dignified and peaceful way. I know now that my prayer is being answered and this wonderful human being will go peacefully into the night free from fear and worry. When his spot in heaven is prepared and ready God will finally bring this loving man home. I hope my sister and niece will be able to rejoice in the knowledge that this great man was in their lives for so long and his life was full and all their lives were blessed despite this awful disease that afflicts so many. I know I feel blessed that Joey was in my life and a part of my family. I know I will love him always and never forget his goodness and kindness. I will miss you very much Joey, but I know, I truly know you are going to a better place. I know one day we will meet again and when we do it will be as if you never left.
And that is The Way I See It, here in Brooklyn!
As I sit here reflecting upon the passing of 2014 my mind is clear and clouded both rendering indistinguishable. I always believed life would get better as a person aged. I am finding that it’s truly all an illusion. Life is really what you make of it.
As the body breaks down and the mind grows wisdom, emotions remain the same. Whether you are blessed with health or devastated by disease you stand the same chance of finding economic concerns, memories of past successes and failures, lives lost, lives saved, loves that have faded with time and love that still fans the flame.
Those losses could be the people, or they could be the jobs one held, the career one had or the possessions once believed to be signficant to your well-being. Perhaps there is a new spiritual connection as one grows older or perhaps it lessons. Whatever applies to an individual the most is what seems to be the driven force within one’s self.
“Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don’t freeze up.”
― Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again
Although not much has changed for me individually in the past year it has changed for many others I am close to. There have been serious illnesses, weddings, births, graduations, engagements and even deaths. Their changes have added to my wisdom and have taxed my physiological trials to the max. My mind had suffered in a way that is surprising even to one as optimistic as myself. Those days where I was too busy to think, I now find I cannot achieve much more than thinking, rethinking and thinking even more. Can I share those thoughts? Most probably not, and not because I can’t, but because I don’t choose to share most of them as yet. They are still indistinguishable and therefore, not easy to distribute nor select here or anywhere. Insight from them comes to me slowly, yet discernible. Just putting them into action gives them wings so widely stretched that it covers my rationality from end to end. I suppose it is meant to be this way for most of us and so, in reality, they are nothing new.
At this stage of life , as I embrace 2015 my desire is to complete a collection of written work that I will pray gives a message and reveals a hidden truth both for myself and for others. Perhaps I will succeed, or perhaps I will fail, but no matter which way it turns out, I will treasure them, believe in them and hold strongly to them. The illusion I have lived will fade into the past just as 2014 dissolves into oblivion. From what remains, I will gather and keep the wisest and happiest in order to “not freeze up” as Mr. Wolfe suggests.
Attempting to change individual choice is futile because the argument isn’t strong and the mind with its newly constructed paths will adjust because it needs to in order to stay alive. So my life remains as it has with a renewed hope that my words will make a difference to those who may need a rope to cling to or only a hand to hold.
2015 can be whatever we each make it to be. It can revive us or destroy us, give us joy or pain, yet no matter what is to come, those of us who are here in whatever state of our body or mind, we are still here. That realm of existence, within itself, provides the power of hope. Here’s hoping each of us exercise our wills to make our lives better. Ideally to make a difference if not for ourselves, than for others.
Happy New Year!
And that is The Way I See It,here in Brooklyn.
Christmas time is one of my favorite times of year. My heart rejoices remembering that once a year a Man was born who influenced millions with His acts of kindness, His teachings of love and peace, the sacrifice He made of His life so that people would believe that His Words were true and that He worshiped God in every way. His birthday allows me, among many others to give gifts and to have hope that peace will spread by remembering this Man’s wondrous life.
It is also a time for joy and laughter. Family and friends who gather together to express their love for one another and to share in the happiness that this season brings. How can one not be joyful? One of my favorite activities is to decorate my home and try to make it welcoming and warm. Of course, I never have enough time or money to make it the way I would truly like it to be, but like so many others, I do the best I can with what I have.
Recently, the news has been filled with acts of violence and hatred, war and strife. It breaks my heart. I believe we have come so far along in our attitudes toward each other and our hope for peace and harmony, yet what I read in the paper or on the Internet or TV, frightens me. It dashes the hope that I had, especially in the year 2014, that people would end their historical biases and replace them with understanding, acceptance and goodwill. Extremists in every walk of life seem to be on the rise and their warped and hateful ideas are influencing people to harm one another. Those of us who believe as I do that the world is not such a bad place need to step up and overtake these extremists by acting with the example that the Man, Jesus Christ left us with. To truly honor His birth we need to spread peace, hope and charity. We need to believe in the goodness of all mankind and accept that people are different only on the outside. Inside we are all human beings who experience the same emotions, the same health issues, and the same inquisitiveness. Only we can change the course of the future. Only we can have the faith in humanity it takes to make that difference. One person at a time, one idea at a time, one act of kindness at a time is all it will take to begin the spread of peace. My remaining hope is that people wake up and realize the power they possess to change the way things are currently. Help yourselves and help the world by remembering that Christmas is a Merry time. Chanukah and Kwanza as well are Merry times. Let’s rejoice in the fact that we are all human beings and celebrate that very miracle. For it truly is a miracle that creates human beings and it bonds us together as nothing else could or would.
It truly doesn’t matter what color your skin is, or what job you hold, or how poor or rich you are those outside appearances are only superficial. What truly matters is how open your heart is, how curious your mind is and how willing you are to have peace and harmony rule your life. Christmas is the perfect time to set these ideas in motion. Spread this joy, this peace, this merriment. Keep the positive side of this humanity alive and I am certain you will find that you have squelched the extremists because of it. Believing in the power of humanity is the only “weapon” any of us will ever need to right the wrongs, gain the strength, and become joyous in every thing we say and do. There is always going to be suffering. People will get sick, people will be poor, people will have violence around them. It is all part of the human condition. There is always hope that a cure will be found, money will be earned, and the violence will end. There is hope because the birth of a Man on Christmas Day gave us that. Remembering the possibility of hope because we are all human is most times all we need. So have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, a Happy Kwanza and a wonderful, hopeful, peaceful New Year!
And that’s the Way I See It here in Brooklyn
People always say you should write about what you know. Maybe so. Lately, however my muse has been missing. For me a muse can be a person, an idea, a feeling. I’ve been stuck in a rut and fighting my way out has been a complete uphill battle. My gut tells me to write everyday, but my physical condition says, “haha” don’t even think about it”. There has been lots of things in the news of late that I could have expressed my opinion about such as the discrimination issues happening in New York lately and then there is the NFL spousal and child abuse issues, and yet again, there is the ISIS/ISIL situation. However, each one of those issues would take pages and pages of this blog and frankly, I believe my followers, though few and far, would be bored to tears. So, Muse, where are you when I need you?
The last few weeks, (I admit) have been topsy-turvy for my family. My brother, Tommy developed some major health issues and was hospitalized for two weeks. The worry about him took its toll on me and I have been filled with stress, which is only now subsiding. He is out of the woods at the moment, but will need further surgery within the next two months. Maybe for most people my attachment to my brother would seem strange (to say the least), but he is the one person who has been there with me my entire life. He is not only a terrific brother, but also a “surrogate” dad to me, and an overall wonderful person. The thought of him suffering or worse is not a thought I can allow to penetrate my mind or my heart. I am very grateful that he has come through as he has from this last episode and I am also grateful that I have the wisdom to know things could be much worse. So yes, the optimistic side of me stays positive and thankful for the little things. Unfortunately, I also have another side, that mostly stays hidden; and every once and while it rears its ugly head trying its’ damnedest to overtake me. That is why I have an inward constant uphill battle these days.
Maybe writing this today will break the ice for me and I will be able to do what my blog song says very soon, but until then, I am still here grasping at the straws being offered by the Universe. I am hoping that soon my very opinionated expressions about life will come about and my Muse will allow my fingers to fly upon the keyboard to talk about life as I see it. If not for any other reason, than to keep me sane!
And that is the The Way I See It, here in Brooklyn.
You cannot run from your past. No matter how deeply your mind’s self-preservation hides those experiences. Doesn’t matter if they are good or bad, happy or sad. Those memories of the past are still there. Every once in a while they get triggered.
A recent family issue has brought one of those memories to the very forefront of my mind. All of the feelings I had arose right along side those memories and they hurt no less today than they did back then. Doris’ birthday is July 7th and there is not a day that goes by that something or other makes me think about her, but none are more conscious than on her birthday. She left this world on February 27, 1982. Five months shy of her 47th birthday. Her death was not an easy one. Her life was not an easy one. Yet, her kindness, her intelligence, her beauty never diminished until the very end.
My sister Barbara and I flew to California that week in February of 1982, trying to prepare for the worst. We received a call from her significant other and her son telling us that she was dying from liver disease and if we wanted to see her we should fly out immediately. It wasn’t until we arrived that I found the real reason for the calls. They needed me to sign off on her death. She was on a ventilator. Her body deteriorating to skin and bones. Her once vivid red auburn hair now a dull grey. Her eyes so full of life and promise now gazing far away as if she could see something none of us could. My heart was so heavy seeing her lying so helplessly in that hospital bed and Barbara, I am sure felt the same.
Here is where my past comes back to haunt me. Since the age of 13 I knew Doris gave birth to me, but I didn’t know her as a mother, only as a sister, but that is another story for another time. It seems that the doctors in California needed consent to turn off the ventilator. They were telling us that her brain was dead and that the machine was breathing for her. I couldn’t bring myself to admit that. She just looked at me. She gestured for me to come down to her mouth so she could say something in my ear. I couldn’t really make out what she was trying to tell me, but I had a deep feeling inside that I knew without the use of comprehensible words. She thought I didn’t know how much she loved me and how she loved her two children just as much. I could see it in her eyes that she didn’t want to go, but had no choice now. Same as most of her life she had no choice but to make the decisions circumstances presented to her. How could I, knowing this turn off a machine that kept her with us? I just couldn’t do it. I had to consult with the rest of the family. We had just lost “our” mother in December of 1979, how could we now be expected to lose Doris as well? It couldn’t be this way. There had to be another answer.
For five brutality hard days we stayed in California. Everyday calling home to Brooklyn to report on any progress she had made, but there wasn’t any. She remained the same and seemed to be melting away before my eyes. She never opened her eyes after that first time when we arrived. She was sleeping I kept telling myself. Just in a deep sleep and soon she would wake up and we would remove that machine then and she would breathe all by herself. The doctors kept bursting that idea everyday. Her significant other and her two children were also of the same consensus. They kept telling me I had to let her go. She was not there, her brain was dead. I had to sign off on papers that would shut off that machine and agree to DNR orders. She had no will so I didn’t know her wishes. All I knew about her was the things she would tell me during our phone calls. She was a drinker so she would call me in the middle of the night and talk to me for hours about her life and dreams and her hopes. She would tell me her concerns about her young daughter and her pride in her son. She would beg me during those calls to watch out for them, to protect them. I could never really make that promise because our lives were so separate, although I have tried in the past to mend those fences, it just was too torn down to salvage. So her wishes for herself never arose in those conversations. She was very unselfish by nature and would never think of herself first in any instance. So those thoughts were with me as my sister and I walked through Doris’ life in those five days.
We met her friends, we saw where she lived. We did things that she would have done on a normal day in her life in California. After a few days, we were able to get a clearer picture of her and how she lived. Her life wasn’t perfect, but then no one’s life is perfect. She was, however, surrounded by love and as far as we could tell she was happy for the most part. I found comfort in knowing that. Finally, the fifth day in California had come and I could no longer delay the decision I knew I had to make. The family back here in Brooklyn didn’t want to give her up, but they couldn’t see her. Back then we didn’t have the same technology we have today. It was my word and Barbara’s word that they had to rely upon. After confirming with doctors one last time, I signed the order to remove the machine and a DNR order. Within an hour she was gone. It was just the machine keeping her alive. It didn’t matter how I felt or anyone felt, her body and mind were finished on this earth. The disease decided for her. I still have no doubt that if she had the choice to live on she would have, even though most of her past was painful. Somehow I know she never really forgot those painful past memories and experiences, but for a short while she found a way to live with them instead of resisting their constant power over her will, hence her drinking problem. I could say “if only” forever, but it won’t change what was or what is. People would say she brought it upon herself. I will tell them they are wrong. Her past brought it on her. Things that she lived through from a very young age haunted her short life and even though she was smarter than most women I know, she just never put herself first and that in the end destroyed any chance she ever had of a full life.
The decision I had to make that day changed my life forever. It placed a crack in my heart that has never healed. She was my invisible support system. Her words of advice no matter how seldom she had a chance to give them to me were chosen wisely and I listened. Her love of life, her passion for new things, her love of people are my legacies from her. How could anyone think the decision that was placed upon my shoulders to shut off the machine that kept her breathing was an easy one for me? Something that profound is never easy on anyone who has the responsibility. The most important part to remember though isn’t what we need or want, it is what the person would want. If Doris would have been a vegetable with the machine, she would have wanted to turn it off and I know that. Her quality of life was gone a while before she wound up in the hospital because the disease was eating her alive. Trying to save her would have been easy, letting her go was the hardest thing I ever had to do.
Today I sit and I watch as another family member is going through a similar heartache. My heart aches for them. I know, I really know that they can’t see beyond the need they have for the person to remain alive and I hope that it will be okay for everyone involved. I hope that the person isn’t suffering as I believe they are and that the person’s family will find the courage and love to let the person go one day soon. It won’t be easy to do and it will hurt beyond recognition. It will, however, also be the most unselfish act they could ever perform. It will also be that memory that stays hidden in the mind, where it resides so that your life can continue and where along with all the other memories it only gets triggered on occasion just so you never really forget or escape from the lesson in life that it taught you. So happy birthday Doris. You are not forgotten. You are forever imbedded in our hearts. Your life was worthwhile and your soul lives on.
And that is the Way I See It here in Brooklyn.