January 19, 2010
I have a mere handful of memories of Dr. Taggart’s father that do not involve him working. I remember flashes of an Easter morning, his hands holding my basket of eggs, the sleeve of a blue cardigan at eye-level as he bent down to encourage me. I remember his arms as they created a shelf for me, as he carried me facedown into the house so that the blood streaming from my cut forehead wouldn’t get in my eyes. I remember a birthday party, where someone had made a paper hat for him using wrapping paper. And I remember, towards the end, as he lay on the medical cot in what had been their dining room, as my mom and I showed him the prom dress he’d given her money to buy, before he started to forget the years I’d been alive.
I remember wondering, at various times, how he did it. How he could have worked in factories and stockrooms and grocery stores, hours and hours of work. How even into his seventies and eighties he never stopped – tending the roses at the house in Hawthorne, or painstakingly pulling up weeds and trimming hedges at my parents’ house. Mowing the lawn. Peeling and grating horseradish for our Easter feast outside, because he was the only one who managed to do it for any length of time before the fumes mandated a break.
I also remember him telling me to call my grandma “Babka”, and her being semi-furious with him in that way that long-married, long-suffering, long-loving wives are. He found ways to have his fun, found the time to play, occasionally, with his granddaughters. He found time to pick me up at school, sporting a black and white houndstooth cap, driving the dark green Buick with the tan seats, that smelled just like their house and that had a loud, clicky turn signal. He found time to sneak himself platefuls of fried spaghetti, and found room for Grandma’s golubki and pieroshki a scant hour later. He walked Grandma to church and back, walked me to the park. And I never heard him complain, never witnessed discomfort.
He must have been tired sometimes – but he chose to do something besides think about it, to focus on what he wanted to accomplish rather than how hard it might be. I must have inherited some of that, I think. I just need to find it.
December 21, 2009
I give up. I don’t know if it’s exhaustion from completing 19 of the recipes on my list, combined with present wrapping and last-minute shopping, plus a side of car-clearing. It might just be that I’m tired.
Or, it could be that I’ve been filled with a sense of holiday spirit – a feeling that I’m trying to make other people’s lives better, that I’m trying to increase the overall amount of happiness in the world.
Likely, it’s a bit of both.
But I just want to give everyone a big hug and start with a fresh slate.
That’s all I want for Christmas this year, for everyone. Can we have a fresh slate, please?
November 23, 2009
My office line has rung quite a few times in the past several weeks. Work’s been pretty busy, and that’s a good thing – though I could have done without the 2.5-hour chat with our general counsel first thing on a Friday morning.
My parents have called a few times – they’re planning a trip to the area in a few weeks, to see what I’ve done with my abode and to check out some of the museums. Anyone know of a good, non-chain restaurant in the Dupontish area where the food is American or Italian (maybe slightly nicer than Pizzeria Paradiso, and not Tabard Inn, because they’ve been there already)?
Notably, S.E. has not called. Under normal circumstances, we’d be speaking at least once weekly – and if I didn’t call her, she’d call me. I’ve sent her a couple of emails, because I assumed she was busy and that at least she’d be able to respond at her convenience. But I haven’t felt like calling her was my place – like she’d call when she was ready to be normal again, and I suppose she’s not. It hurts. And it’s pissing me off.
Because when I called to wish the twins a happy birthday, the call where she told me that she was really bothered by the fact that I wasn’t coming up for the twins’ birthday party, that she felt I was rejecting a chance to share in her life… I felt judged.
When she asked, “So, what are you doing this weekend”, I heard, “So what reason could you possibly give that would be good enough to warrant not coming to the party?” And I felt as though my plans, as much as I was looking forward to them, wouldn’t be a good enough answer for her. As though confessing my decision to dress up in a hilarious (and yes, skimpy) costume and hang out with a very entertaining group of people (I had a fantastic time) would only make things worse.
The impression that I got was that she resented me for not choosing to make myself miserable. That doing something for her should have superseded what might actually make me happy. Granted, that’s just my impression. But she hasn’t called.
And I really, really don’t want to get to a place where I think that maybe that’s a good thing.
November 13, 2009
…about to put up a post that was all outraged and thinky about the Archdiocese of Washington and the whole social-services-contracts vs. same-sex-marriage thing. And how annoyed I was at the Church for threatening to withdraw from those contracts if DC passed the laws permitting same-sex marriage.
Because I? Am totally for anyone getting married who wants to. I mean, I have my own personal opinions on what people should probably think about before they do that, but I don’t really care so much about the chromosomal makeup of the parties involved.
And then I read something suggesting that it’s actually the District that would end the contracts if the Church didn’t modify the definition of marriage that it’s held for… well… yeah. The Church has been around for a long time. And I don’t really agree with their stance on this, but… it’s a religion. And people have a right to be religious ignoramuses if they want, and I have a right to not associate with them. And some other states have granted limited exceptions on these issues to make sure that the homeless continue to have some refuge – in the District, these exceptions would mean millions of dollars in social services, to people who really really need them. As I understand it, it also means that the Church wouldn’t marry same-sex couples, wouldn’t provide benefits, as a private employer, to same-sex spouses of Church employees, etc.
And so, it seems like it’s a lot more complicated than it looks, on the surface. Because, well, people should be able to get married, and have those marriages mean something to employers who have benefits plans. But religions shouldn’t have to change basic tenets in order to do good things for people, at least some of whom would likely die without those good things. And practically speaking, it’s hard to say that the District would be right in denying someone food, because someone else couldn’t get health insurance. I don’t know if it’s impossible to say that, but I definitely find it hard.
So, I’m not so sure where I stand on the issue now, given how strongly I support the 1st Amendment, and how strongly I support people in love being able to make a lifelong commitment to each other and attain the social benefits thereof, and how strongly I support people having food to eat, and a place to sleep at night. Maybe the misery of the population whose lives are normally improved through those services, some of whom are undoubtedly same-sex couples themselves, is the price we have to pay for equality AND freedom of religion to coexist.
I just really hope not.
November 5, 2009
Yeah, not THAT kind. Perhaps another time.
Because, you see, I’m not sleeping again. I mean, I am – from roughly an hour after the Nyquil is ingested until 4:30 am, and then from 5:15 until whenever I wake up (thank you, 6:10 alarm this morning). That time while I’m waiting for the Nyquil to kick in, and that lovely intermission during the wee hours? Have been spent wanting to have a conversation with S.E.
We have a history of doing a lot of the same things. She played the oboe, I played the oboe. She did certain activities in high school, I did certain activities in high school. She went to a certain school in upstate NY, I very nearly wound up at that same school. She majored in English and Psych., I majored in English and Gov’t. She went to law school, I went to law school.
And eventually, she got married and had kids. And I haven’t. And while I’d happily consider making a lifetime commitment under the right circumstances, I’m pretty sure I don’t want kids. I look at that life, and I don’t really want it for myself.
And so, when she said that my decision not to attend the birthday party felt like a rejection of her life, I didn’t know what to say. She’s not entirely wrong. I don’t want that life – if I wanted that life, I’d be in a mommy group of my own, right now. I feel as though when she got married, I realized something she didn’t – that we wouldn’t have as much in common anymore, that we’d have to redefine our relationship to one another.
I feel like she just assumed I’d catch up at some point, the way I always had. That I’d find my own Husband v 1.3, reproduce a couple of years later, and we’d be in the same playdate-scheduling, chauffering-to-preschool boat.
And that’s not going to happen. I love S.E., and I still think she’s wonderful in so many ways, and there are a lot of ways I’d still like to emulate her as I grow up. But… I can’t decide to arrange my entire life a certain way just so we can continue to be close, easily – so that it can be more convenient for her to be my friend as well as my sister. I’m not asking her to make multiple trips down her to immerse herself in my life – I don’t think she’d enjoy it. I just want her to accept the life I’ve chosen for me, the way I’ve tried to do for her.
September 11, 2009
“To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom – and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.
To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required – not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge – to convert our good words into good deeds – in a new alliance for progress – to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbours know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.
To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support – to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective – to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak – and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.
Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.”
– John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States of America, in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961.
September 2, 2009
…for whom I am allegedly a priority treats me as though I am anything but, I cannot be held responsible for any dietary and/or retail transgressions I may commit.
July 13, 2009
The problem with passive, you see, is that you don’t get anything done. And if you don’t get anything done, then you can place the blame squarely on yourself when things don’t work out the way you wanted them to.
For example, say a friend confronted you because you attended a party hosted by someone with whom she was having issues, instead of attending a party of hers – and you didn’t make it explicitly clear that you were going to do so ahead of time. And so she found out about it from someone else, and was fairly pissed. And you thought she was being immature about the situation with the hosting friend, and that she’d get over it in time, because you thought she’d kind of known that you were going to go to the party in the first place. And so she was sitting there annoyed at the situation, and irked that you hadn’t apologized, and gradually moving closer towards writing off your friendship and forging closer bonds with other people, and you didn’t notice because you had inconveniently gotten mired in yet another emotionally abusive relationship, and the next thing you know you’re staring at a laptop, noticing that you weren’t in any of her photos at her wedding, and feeling a little sad because you’re still not entirely sure how all of that happened, but wishing you could go back in time and fix it.
And now you have an overdeveloped need to let everyone know about things that they might care about so that they hear it from you, and not from someone else.
And so when you’re in a position to watch another set of friends go through a similar dance of letting everything else in life get in the way of having a straightforward conversation with each other, telling themselves that they’re not sure how much they cared about that friendship anyway, you just want to shake them and tell them to take the chance to talk to each other NOW, because in a year or two they’re going to look back and wonder what the hell happened and how the rift got too big for them to bridge.
And then you realize that maybe it’s not your place to tell people how to manage your friendships, and yes it makes you sad to watch them throw one away, but that’s their prerogative and trying to help them fix their friendship won’t get you yours back anyway.
June 19, 2009
Who has time for it, really? I mean, we’re bombarded with decision-making opportunities every day, with barely a microsecond between one decision and the next. Doubt paralyzes, makes all decisions harder to some degree, because it allows for the possibility of erroneous choices, and thus places on us the burden of more thought, which takes time, and brings to mind all of the decisions we’re not making while we take the time to think. And doubt, like a fine mist, creeps into those microsecond cracks and permeates.
It’s easier to push doubt aside, to say that one is choosing not to doubt, that one is choosing to insulate with faith.
But what if doubt is healthy, there for a reason? What if doubt is merely another name for the astigmatic haze around the red flags lining the path of a particular choice?
May 5, 2009
He was my first cousin, once removed (“once trown out”, he’d say in accented English, a crooked smile gracing the words). He was also closer to my grandfather’s age than my mother’s – the oldest son of an oldest son to my mother’s youngest of the youngest.
I knew him as the sometimes cranky man who’d show up to family gatherings and tell the same stories over and over – stories about working on a farm in Poland, about stocking shelves, about factory work, about Pearl Harbor. He was there. His U.S. government-issued camouflage traveled throughout the South Pacific before he returned to the East Coast.
My mother told me once, why he’d never married. Some silly girl thought he wasn’t good enough for her, and he’d never really thought about anyone else after that. Given how well he looked after his family, both here and in Poland, I have to think that she must not have known him well at all.
He’d always have 7Up in his refrigerator, for his little “cousin once trown out” who was allergic to cola. And this weekend, as we remembered the way he’d enriched all of our lives, I thought about 7Up, and listened to Taps, and said goodbye.