DRUG experiences leading to trusting love

     I was not the teenager, raised in a strict religious home, who rebelled in their freshman year of college, unleashed from parental supervision.

Yet, I was rebellious, never liked the taste of alcohol, which was the drug of choice in my dormitory; to my disgust as one Sunday morning I entered the women’s bathroom, where every toilet was full of vomit. I could not bear to push my foot to flush – I hightailed out to church, where bathrooms and congregation are clean, “next to godliness.”

Trying to smoke pot several times in the seventies caused me to cough so hard, I could have thrown up. Not fun, nor did it make me float to a better place. Three of my five marriages hitched me to alcohol-dependent partners, as is my son-in-law, whose mother died early of alcoholism.

Recently, I visited my daughter and son-in-law’s home, whose 18 and 20-year-old daughters were drinking with me and their parents. I am surprised to see them pouring their third drink early Friday evening. As a nurse, (and marriage and family therapist), I know two alcoholic drinks per day is researched as scientifically healthy. I am surprised again when the 18-year-old says it is the third drink that makes you buzzed.

I am surprised a third time as my daughter respectfully asks her husband why he needs to drink every night after work to relax. She adds that she takes a shower and plays a couple games on her phone to wind down after work. She seems to enjoy a couple drinks on the weekend, offering me a sweet red wine, or I may request a white Russian, sweet like coffee with Bailey’s Irish crème.

I tell my daughter before I leave, “I am proud of your role model to your daughters.”

I tell myself; I am a lucky girl! To be carefree. Others admire my freedom to dance without inhibitions. What a buzz! Carefree. Others ask, when will you grow up?

NOTE: Today is the first day of fall…I have searched my heart…wanting to trust that while my daughter does not wish to be published (will not be to my email list or by The SUN magazine), there are no names given…and anyone who reads this will understand.

The PHONE call I wish for

 

6613 is the phone number of my childhood; a party line – you would pick up the phone not knowing who you would be listening to. Click!

By the time I am in nursing school, I call 2725690, using many quarters to ring my dad, sometimes a request for money, especially after discussing whether I could dismiss feeling guilty for buying a $100 dollar wedding dress, being from a lower middle-class family.

It was always my dad I could count on. Although my mother would drive my belongings to Cornell’s Nursing School in NYC and back home, it was dad who wrote precious weekly letters, not only about his research, or architectural design of Cornell’s Space Sciences building, but more so about his relationships with my brother and sister, or mom and grammy. Feelings even about his childhood self. And me.

America has evolved to area codes, using phone cards to call long distance, and me to imagining setting up a phone booth in NY City adorned with a large-lettered CRYING BOOTH, when in the nineties I began writing books to encourage healing through tears, our bodies natural way to let go of emotional and physical pain.

When my dad suddenly died of a heart attack in 1977, I tried to run away from my grief by running marathons, EVOLving into visits to his family still living in Germany. Phone calls to my aunt Resi, who only spoke German, me ein bisschen (a little.)

Now that Resi has died, my cousin Gabrielle becomes my closest connection to dad, from whom I recently requested the tape of his voice sent long ago to his cherished baby sister, Resi, whom he wrote weekly letters to for many years. It arrived a week ago in July of 2022. I want to hear his tender voice as if over the phone.

 

 

 

ANNIVERSARIES are more than dates

DAD is the first word that comes to mind.

The day I was born he signed my birth certificate although he is not my biological father but had fallen in love with my mother who was his nurse on the ship Huddleston, returning from Germany after WWII ended.

They made up a story, that June 8th was their wedding anniversary, to cover up my mother’s shame of being five months pregnant after having been raped.

The anniversary of dad’s death, October 6th, 1977, and his birth May 4th, 1917, I have always recognized greatfully as I placed flowers on his gravesite twice a year, but more so by feeling his unqualified and unspeakable and enduring love. Through primal therapy in the 1990s, I learned to allow my tears of grief, which increased my visits to dad’s weeping cherry tree to monthly, to honor our love.

My mother had wanted to abort me, but the doctor said she was too far along, then adoption was considered, but my DAD said he wanted to keep me. That is the anniversary I will treasure, and as silly as it may sound, when I make my bed daily, I press my pointer finger to daddy’s chest in a photo that hangs close to my pillow, saying I love you and thank you for loving me the best.

Especially now, as Roe vs. Wade was overturned a few days ago, June 24th, 2022, me being aware – as a Feminist for Life – I can be grateful to be alive while knowing women have the fundamental right to choose an abortion, to have autonomy of their own bodies at this point in our human development. Roe vs. Wade had struck down the Texas abortion ban as unconstitutional. Now it is the opposite? Who can determine or interpret “correctly” what is constitutional?

Norma McCorvey, aka Jane Roe admitted in 2017 that she was paid by the evangelical group Operation Rescue to change her stance from pro-abortion to anti-abortion, becoming pro-abortion again before she died.

Who can I trust as much as my dad and his anniversary? I miss him more every day as my loving tears display.

CHANGING your MIND with AWARENESS

 

I leave my new-used jeep at Taber Street Auto to be inspected and walk to Wegman’s for my favorite warm-hot bagel of the day. I pass by what I assume is a homeless man, a large backpack strapped to his back. I read “SEEKing Human Kindness” blackened in bold letters on a cardboard sign held to his side.

I may be 100 feet ahead of him when I change my mind from bagels to walking back to whom I learn is Steven. I ask if he is homeless and needs some help. He says he is trying to get back home to San Diego, California.

I tell him, “I like your sign a lot!” and for once in my life I do not ask WHY he chose those words. Later, I realized I was more engaged with his kind eyes underneath a red bandana. I gave him 5 dollars and wished him well.

While writing at Wegmans, saying “Yum” out loud to my hot sesame bagel, I remember that I did not bring the license plates I am transferring to my new used jeep. “Oh shit!” pops out like my automatic transmission in the third of six gears.

When I arrive home, I easily remove the screws to place CRYBABE on the front and back of my jeep COMPASS, changing my mindful direction from feeling disappointed in my forgetfulness to pride for screwing on the plates myself.

 

Part II –    Over the years, decades, it seems I have changed my mind like the movement of a snail. Thirty-eight years is too long to free myself of our family’s religious addiction – controlled by fear of hell if you do not accept Jesus as your savior. Finally, I could no longer believe in the literal biblical ‘truth’ that love can be felt while engaged with fear.

Still, the trauma of not trusting my own feelings and therefore truth super-imposed itself like a scar, not being able to accept ‘prayer’ as a positive, because prayers in church were built on rote phrases like: in Jesus name, thy will be done, or I am not worthy, a song I played on the piano by memory.

Spring of 2022 I reached for a book I had begun in 1996 and set back on the bookshelf, after reading a few untouching paragraphs. This year Larry Dossey, MD pumps my heart with truths that allow me to say I pray, like for safe journeys which I have asked for throughout the years. And, with many greatfullnesses!

“Love released. Without it, prayers don’t dissolve…prayers are not something I do or say, but something I feel…It’s what we are,” writes Larry in Prayer is Good Medicine. Walt Whitman wrote, “children are prayer,” because of their genuineness and innocence.

TOOLS…for the body and heart

I am married to a carpenter, and he is married to a Marriage and Family Therapist. Our tools are hammers and communication skills, gathering arguments as if speaking different languages. I often feel helpless.

I want the windows undressed, without curtains, lots of light to walk naked in, not caring if the neighbors see our senior bodies, which are in good shape by most standards as if that matters.

During our nearly two years together, I’ve pushed and pulled to be allowed to scrape off the creamy window glaze applied by the previous renters. Argued. Cajoled. Insisted and persisted.

When Dave skillfully uses his hammer to take down the first plywood and foam over one of the six glazed back porch windows, he tells me he likes the new light shining in, wanting to see the birds, while riding his stationary exercise bike.

Because we have a commuter marriage, we alternate weekends: he driving from Depew to Ithaca, and me driving from Ithaca to Depew for another round of persuasion to free up another window; he arguing for privacy and me for light.

I gladly scrape off the creamy glaze using “elbow grease,” which builds up my triceps of determination, no ease to please. The razor blade held in the utility knife needs to be replaced often as it becomes dull like arguing but what I view as encouraging the benefits of seeing wildlife or enjoying a brighter kitchen.

One window per month draws out the process, finding it easier to use just the razor blade, instead of it being inside the utility knife. By the weekend of window number five, Dave offers a longer-handle tool that holds the razor blade more securely, making me job as scraper, or is it as scrapper, a thankful bit easier.

I find my happiness growing as each of the nine individual panes of each window is freed to the daylight. But my greatest happiness is hearing Dave say, “Thanks for changing my mind. I really like seeing my bird feeder, and the kitchen does need more light, and sometimes I can see the moon at night.”

Learning PATIENCE and humility the HARD way

 

Patience…I say to myself and out loud to my family and friends when asked what I get out of being married five times, especially now married to a carpenter who has never been in psychotherapy, and I am a Marriage and Family Therapist.

Patience…I tell myself while attempting to become a writer since the late nineties after receiving a 65 in English as a freshman at Cornell University in 1965. I’ve self-published seven books since 1999, after receiving many rejections from various publishers. No one wants to read how crying makes me happy. More loving.

I graduated from Cornell Nursing School with a bachelor’s degree in 1969 and worked with many patients in a variety of departments: pediatrics, obstetrics, medical, public health. Finally, I spent five years on a psychiatric unit, while married to my second husband. At that time, I was propelled to leave my religious addiction and ignorance of trying to persuade space scientists the validity of the bible’s creation theory – an embarrassment I can relate to those believing Trump’s big lie that the election was stolen.

My first husband came out as gay. My second died. But it was while with my fourth husband that I was cast into vulnerability big time as did my hospitalization as a patient with a fractured skull, having been hit head on by a bicyclist while running in September darkness.

Although I have EVOLved (note capitalized letters seen backwards) a great deal throughout my 75 years, I still am not good enough to be published in the reader’s write section of The SUN, having made a submission every month since the year 2000. That’s 256 essays of learning humility the hard way.

Digging your TEETH into LOVE

My mouth is full of cavities repaired with silver and gold; a crown or two (for a goddess?). Root canals have been offered up to avoid extractions – but my holistic dentist concedes easily to my wishes after acupuncture needles are placed for numbing the pain of the drill.

Being 75 I am greatfull to not have had to follow my mother and grandmother’s gum-steps to false teeth, although I enjoyed the scary laughter when Grammy pushed her false teeth out at me as a child, for fun.

Although I do not have dental insurance, I can afford yearly cleanings and repair; but choose to smooth the rough edges of fillings chipping off like eroding mountains, saving my money for traveling to a new unknown country once a year. With very limited retirement funds and years, who cares if my one front tooth lays over another – my niece says it gives me character.

Don’t get me wrong: I care about my appearance possibly more than most my age, as I still wear clothes I wore in the 70s, not being shrunken from 5’9” and gifted with only a few gray hairs like my mother who died at age 80 with maybe a dozen gray hairs. I use anti-wrinkle cream daily along with 20 minutes of yoga.

Health is my #1 priority as an old saying goes, “Health is Wealth,” which I read at Wegman’s this week on a man’s T-shirt, which this stranger allows me to photograph. (I never have seen this saying on a shirt before). But sinking my teeth into writing Our Love Story of the first two years of my 5th marriage, showing day-to-day dialogues struggling to grow more loving, is the gift I treasure most. More painful than the 3 extractions that provide more spaciousness in my mouth so I can be seen as braver by speaking up for myself, an opening of my heart which I treasure more than silver or gold.

 

 

 

The BUS of trust

(Intro: In choosing which scenario to write for “The Bus of Trust” I became reflective on how much trust we all invoke daily when traveling the highways, remembering my scary bus ride from Ithaca, NY to Los Vegas, Nevada as a single woman of 52, writing a half page before switching to a pleasant memory of my childhood.)

My memory involves my mother and sister and brother, usually it would be about my dad whom I loved many times more. I am not riding the yellow school bus to school, but to Robert Treman State Park every Monday during the summers. Now, as I write I can feel the special sadness of white privilege during my elementary school years: my mother preparing a picnic lunch, us in our swimsuits, waiting at the bottom of the stairs of our middle-class home, for the Bethel Grove Community “swim bus.” Only white occupants.

Ithaca is Gorges is a familiar bumper sticker because of the many gorges’ magnificent waterfalls, two of which create natural swimming pools where one can swim at the foot of waterfalls where lifeguards watch you dive. At Treman Park one can carefully walk along the narrow edge only wide enough for one’s toes, as the waterfall showers you.

Most summers I would tight walk with the help of tiny finger holes, tip toeing until the ledge disappears, falling into the refreshingly clean water. Yes, I am proud to say I have held this gorgeous waterfall close to my body most years as I did last summer when turning 75, smiling brightly as I did as a kid licking the Sugar Daddy my mother bought for her three children, just before stepping back on the yellow school bus, aiming for (my other) home.

 

 

 

COOKING up memories of mom

 

My mother died in 2002, but she makes her presence known at this year’s Christmas eve dinner as I say: It’s so clear in my memory how mom, a’ born-again’ christian, vehemently said, “If I had a rifle, I’d kill Kevin,” my son-in-law whom I love and who sits beside me, because he impregnated my daughter out-of-wedlock.

Still, I miss mom’s cooking, as I often tell others, she’s the best pie maker, and I had even encouraged her to open a pie bakery, as a no pie-in-the-sky idea.

As a child, I picked thumb-sized black caps from the bushes surrounding the pond in our back field, for mom to make blackberry pie! UUUMMMM. Yet, my favorite pie became her rhubarb which I tried to duplicate without much success. Her pastry was always flaky (like her😊) and light…as she placed her bowl of flour and Crisco vegetable shortening under the kitchen faucet, adding just the right amount of water she never measured.

As I reminisce about 2021 Christmas eve dinner cooked by my first-born, Erin –  scrumptious, scalloped potatoes baked with Swiss chard, alongside garlic-chive-fresh ginger roasted carrots dressed in raw almonds, added to the most tender tenderloin – I still long for mom’s apple pie.

BIKING as a path to winning…

 

I could tell you that my dad repainted a secondhand two-wheeler for my Christmas present when I was a child. 😊

I could tell you I pushed two-wheeler seats, to see my two daughters fly and balance on their own. 😊😊

I could tell you that all three of us bicycled in several national parks during our 1986 cross-country trip in a rusty Dodge van whose odometer read over 150,000 miles. 😊😊😊

I could tell you I have bicycled 100 miles around Cayuga Lake eight years in a row raising over $1000 each year for Aids Work. 😊😊😊😊

I could tell you how I bicycle over ten miles with my friend Carol on the Black Diamond Trail of Ithaca, NY the summer of 2021 at age 75. 😊😊😊😊😊

But it was a bicyclist hitting me in the middle of my forehead – in the middle of darkness – as I was running up Ellis Hollow Road that woke me up. A fractured skull with multiple facial fractures, hospitalized me for ten days.

While being a ‘confident’ athlete running for the average runner and a professional Marriage and Family Therapist, I was smacked in the face with vulnerability. (During 1983, 84, and 85, I ran 36 marathons in 36 months, how crazy is that? creating a national record for women at the time.)

I needed to ask my two daughters to hold my hand, my eldest (20), the night before surgery. My second daughter, Megan, (17), the night of my surgery. I was no longer the ‘strong’ one – I needed help of the strongest kind: LOVE.

A love founded on the special LOVE my dad chose to give me growing up by adopting me as his own from birth.

A LOVE I am still learning to PAY FORWARD, winning over those miles on my feet and bicycle.