Feeling Grateful

My son Ed with his new daughter My son Joel and grandson Cameron My students have been studying Clint Eastwood’s remarkable 2008 film, Gran Torino. We’ve been talking a lot about its themes. One is, of course, that “real” family is wherever you find it. The protagonist Walt is profoundly disappointed with his sons and families, and they don’t care much for him either. But, despite his long-standing prejudices, Walt becomes close to his young immigrant neighbors, Sue and Thao. They are worth dying for: they are his family of choice. The theme of creating our own intentional family has permeated my own work. We all need loving and caring connections in our lives, and when they’re missing on the home front, life is hard and painful. The reality is, too, that sometimes, there is plenty of love, but love isn’t enough when emotional, mental, or substance abuse problems interfere. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about broken relationships in families. In the last few weeks, I’ve encountered several folks who’ve shared that their children barely speak to them. Some have been on the losing end of a child taking the other parent’s side in a bitter divorce. Others have children who blame them for a multitude of sins while they were growing up, and have held on to their list of grievances for decades. The pain of these parents is palpable. It has reminded me of just how lucky I am that this has not [...]

By |2019-01-18T11:45:23-04:00January 18th, 2019|Family, Gratitude|0 Comments

Gratitude Grows with Age

  There’s no question that aging involves losses—of loved ones, youthful energy, and physicality. But one thing I find I’ve gained as I’ve gotten older is the appreciation of life and the richness of everyday experiences. This past weekend, I was almost overwhelmed with a tremendous feeling of gratitude. It began with my annual trip to a local high school to present the Smith College Book Award to a junior who excelled in English. As both an alum and a writer, I was thrilled to present the award to a beautiful young woman of color. All of these outstanding young people at the cusp of adulthood left me with such a sense of wonder and excitement. The next morning, I worked in my home office on making a few more revisions on my young adult novel that features an African-American protagonist. I felt buoyed by the supportive comments of A-A beta readers that yes, I had the right to tell this story because I’d done my homework and was writing from a place of honesty and deep respect. I sent it off, knowing that in this politically charged climate, there might be no one who would want to touch this novel by a Caucasian writer. But I felt peaceful. I believed in the work, and so did many others who’d read it. Somehow, it would find a home. And if not, that was okay, too. That afternoon, I participated in a SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day celebration in Louisville [...]

By |2018-03-26T10:14:23-04:00March 26th, 2018|Gratitude|2 Comments

Real Men Eat Quiche– and Sometimes They Cry

The year our son Eddie was in third grade, I was on the dance faculty at the University of Oklahoma, while my husband held down the home front. Bruce Feirstein’s satirical Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche was a best seller at the time.  Ed thought the title was very funny, especially since he dashed home for lunch each day to inhale one of my husband’s specialties, homemade quiche. A few years earlier, Eddie and I were checking out a nursery school when we witnessed the director admonishing an upset little boy for shedding tears. “Big boys don’t cry,” she announced. I grabbed my son and said: “We’re outta here.” No way did I want him being in a place where it wasn’t okay for him to cry or express his feelings. The fact is real boys and real men do eat quiche, and they do cry. And that’s a good thing. I was reminded of this last week when I was having dinner with my sisters and brother-in-law. He was recounting the time his grandson’s single parent mom was temporarily unable to care for him. My brother-in-law got on the next plane to California to retrieve his grandson before Social Services took over. He teared up as he recalled the little boy flying into his arms and saying, “I knew you’d come for me, Grandpa.” In that moment, I saw so clearly who my sister’s husband really is beneath his light-hearted banter —a man who deeply cares about his loved [...]

By |2017-12-19T14:48:01-04:00December 19th, 2017|Family, Gratitude|2 Comments

Life:Beginnings and Endings

Wishing all of you a beautiful Thanksgiving! Holidays invariably put me in a reflective mood. Here’s what was on my mind during my travels yesterday: The train ride between New York and Boston is a mere four hours long, but the distance I travel between my son’s Manhattan household to my mom’s Cambridge apartment seems so much greater. With my mom, I have no choice but to confront end-of-life issues up close and personal, even as I celebrate the blessing of new beginnings in my son’s family. My son and beautiful daughter-in-law gave us the best Thanksgiving gift we could possibly imagine—the news that they are expecting their second child, a baby sister or brother for three-year-old Milo. Milo is an absolutely joyful child—full of energy and imagination.  He is on the go from early morning until bedtime, serving his “customers” ice cream from his “ice cream shop,” dancing to his favorite Spanish song, and playing endless chase games. For Milo, every day is exciting and new. Spending three days with him was magical. And now, as the train speeds to my next stop, I’m headed to see my beloved mom. Her dementia continues to progress, yet not so completely that she doesn’t mourn the loss of who she once was. I often think of that old Woody Allen line: “It’s not the idea of death that bothers me. It’s the hours.”  I have a different, less funny version: "It’s not the idea of death that bothers me. It’s losing [...]

By |2017-11-21T10:10:29-04:00November 21st, 2017|Aging, Family, Gratitude, Holidays, Mental Health|0 Comments