GIRLfriends and BOYfriends love

 

I lost my two best friends in 2019. My girlfriend Gayle to cancer. My boyfriend Antoine to a mental institution. Both were the most loving persons of my seven-decade life; the ones I could cry with anywhere, anytime, and for as long as I needed. It may not be surprising with my girlfriend as she was a psychotherapist like myself, although I remember a few years back while at the Psychotherapy Networker Conference in Wash DC where I was giving away my books at the BEYOND TALK THERAPY booth, one therapist saying: I can’t do “vulnerable” or was it be?

For me, vulnerability is what makes a best friend, (Karamo says it is the word for 2019) the best. Brene Brown says vulnerability is essential in order for us to connect with one another as her Ted talk went viral. Often, I hear ‘so-in-so is my BFF’ (best friend forever) …I guess that has to be in my heart, as my BFFs are no longer present in body. Surprisingly, Antoine was drawn to me because I cried in his arms, awkwardly for him, on our second outing together, hiking to waterfalls, where I become a waterfall of tears myself. Yes, I’ve cried with my four husbands, especially the fourth because I had evolved to becoming a primal therapist foundationally while being licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist. But Antoine is unique, saying he was drawn to ‘being us’ although much younger than me, because: “I want a real relationship where I can talk about anything.”

In my own healing process, through connecting to my childhood pain, feeling ‘overwhelming grief…into unspeakable love,” as Washington Irving says, that I also connected to some of my past lives: one as a prima ballerina in Paris. I sensed Antoine and I were together back in the 1800s, as in this lifetime he has a natural ability to dance as do I. (Maybe we are a present-day Harold and Maude?)

I have made non-gendered friends with the feeling ‘helpless’ as a child and now as an adult, because I don’t understand how Antoine’s life, after achieving a master’s degree in physics at Cornell University, being so loving, now lives in a world of mental illness.

Worst Fears?

 

I

Veteran’s Day 2019 I was feeling pleased, maybe even proud that my day was planned well, during my usual 15-20-minute yoga routine. The tree pose is held for 60 seconds as I gaze out my apartment’s large window onto a field, a pond, and a backdrop of forest. I relish my daily view.

Soon, my hot coffee made at home is sitting in my Jeep Liberty cup holder.

As usual, I park in Wegman’s lot, ready to buy a hot or warmed freshly made bagel, when I see I have forgotten my purse. Stupid! I say out loud, (I just typed ‘stuoid wrong), yet within 5 seconds, I’ve thought of the possibility of laundry-quarters being in the glove compartment. I smile, knowing now I don’t have to waste time to retrieve my purse, as it’s not needed for my next planned task.

Yes, there are several quarters loosely lying in my glove compartment! Then, I remember how smart I was, sitting in my jeep, about to leave home, and thought to retrieve my gardening gloves from the garage. Does that mean my fear of aging is lessened?

Just yesterday, I’d visited my best friend’s gravestone, held her ashes in my hand, while I tell her how much I miss her, just 70, when cancer grounded her. Today, I am one of the lucky golden girls driving to another friend’s garage to retrieve 8 boxes of my books that she has stored. They are heavy. And hard to hold onto as I step down a flight of stairs. I feel greatfull. (misspell intended)

My next task is to gather 2 large bags of mulch from a village highway departments pile, which is on my way home, sorta. A short backtrack needed. As I drive, I am thinking I’d like to try a new road to see if it connects, as it feels to be in the right direction. Sorta. Boiceville Road is unfamiliar to me, smiling as I pass a development which might pass as doll houses, each a different color, you could call ‘apartment-houses?’ At the next stop sign, I turn right and within a ¼ mile, 2 mulch piles appear along with another smile on my face. SMART girl, I think. No backtracking necessary; only aging allowed.

 

II

The first day of spring 2018, I met a 25-year-old Cornell grad student at The Range, a local bar in Ithaca, NY, where I love to dance. We became an odd pairing, – like in the Harold and Maude movie – except Antoine gleefully lost his virginity with me (and 19 -year-old Harold didn’t with 80-year-old Maude). I am 72. Although he was struggling with despair, no longer wanting to finish his PhD in physics, he was loving, fun to be with, and intensely questioning the meaning of his life. He was already seeing a school psychologist but being in love was the medicine that helped him finish his Masters: “I couldn’t have finished without you.”

Being with a Marriage and Family Therapist, utilizing a primal feeling process as a foundation, Antoine learned to be in touch with feelings of anger he had buried by being the good boy – the “pleaser.” Being from France, he returned to his homeland in July and we continued an intercontinental love, flying back and forth over the Atlantic. By December, Antoine’s anger became rage and I almost didn’t fly to Guadeloupe as he had planned for our New Years. I was afraid. He was working with a Primal Therapist and I was assured he’d be okay; a prescription of Xanax in hand if needed. We had a glorious week, processing food and feelings while experiencing hiking to waterfalls, strolling through botanical gardens, swimming, making love, kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving. He experienced two evening dips into fear, which Xanax and sleep redeemed. Just after Valentine’s Day 2019, he had a breakdown that necessitated a psychiatric hospitalization. With WhatsAp, we communicated daily until July 13th, when he showed up in Ithaca unannounced except by texts saying he’d been to Texas, bought a gun, and was threatening his own life as well as mine.

My fear upped the ante, so I had to call the police, and his parents in France. I never thought I’d have to obtain an order of protection from a man who was faithfully trying to heal his pain. He was escorted out of Ithaca by bus, flew to France and remains in a mental hospital at this time. How did this loving man turn into someone I feared?

 

III

One morning in 1976, my 2-year-old daughter Megan went missing. What else can you feel but panic. I called the police and searched our college town neighborhood. Within 20 minutes, the police called back to say she was found in a bar about one block away. Some kind man had called the police too. The rush of love, when she was returned to my arms evicts tears now.

And, when Megan found herself running in the dark at age 14. We were visiting cousins of my then husband, in Florida, an unknown neighborhood to us. Megan and I had started on a run as dark was approaching. She didn’t want to go as far as me, so she turned back, assuring me she could find her way, despite the looming darkness. When I returned, she hadn’t. My heart kept pounding, ‘I must find her!’ It’s the most monumental fear of all time, to lose one’s child. I got lucky.

WEEKEND special

This past weekend I flew to Detroit from my home in Ithaca, NY. To visit my oldest of three granddaughters, Denali. She is studying for a master’s degree in Business Administration, while I’m taking my last online prerequisite course in order to apply to Ithaca College’s Master in Education beginning June 2020.

It is our special one-to-one time, a rare gift as during the holidays other family members bite off her time too. She texts me, “Bring your dancing shoes; salsa dance Thursday night.” She’s in class, so I ride the ‘Smart Bus’ for an hour to meet her; to have dinner at Karls, one of her favorite restaurants. I’ve never been IN Detroit (only the airport), so I’m in her smart hands, and into her warm arms as she runs to meet me at the bus stop. Denali’s love is extra special (tears) to me – as if she is the loving spirit of my passed-on daddy.

After dinner, we retreat to her spacious apartment of 1930’s origin so we can change my clothes for salsa; she’s wavering on whether to go as it’s late: 10:43pm? My energy encourages us to proceed to her car. A large wooden floor welcomes us into the bar. She grabs my hand to pull me onto the dance floor where I lead her in salsa. Soon I was asked to dance which surprised me as the leaders are much much younger than me – more like Denali who is 26. Maybe a couple were in their forties. I’m 73, 5’9” with long straight hair, the natural color brown that my mother wore until she died at 80. (Maybe she had 10 gray hairs? Maybe that helps me?) Denali and I were both asked to dance until we left at 1am. Her tight dress and my tight jeans had a fabulous time! I’m extremely greatfull to be healthy and to be with Denali!

Friday, she has no classes; still we both study for 2 hours, and she helps me with my Economics quiz before we walk in Belle Isle for 2 hours. Our conversation flows like the Detroit river beside us. Gently. Easily. Deeply. Lightly.

She spotted a striped shiny green frog, colors I’d never seen before. I spotted a Great Blue Heron standing nearby us, me encouraging Denali to come closer. Quietly. Although cloudy, its reflection is seen. Clearly. I took photos delightedly. With no awareness as to why. Until, I wrote in my journal the next morning.

Denali and I continue our afternoon with a tour of the Nature Conservancy’s Aquarium and Botanical Gardens where we were photographed stooping under an Angel’s Trumpet loaded with very light yellowish blossoms. Hugely. Friday night we dance ballroom where everyone is 30-50 years older than Denali and I was surprised that she liked it…she says because she’s learning new dances where there are novices. Not so intimidating.

Shockingly, we couldn’t find any dancing in Detroit on Saturday night after we explored a couple vintage secondhand shops and ate a Yemenian dinner. Denali, then suggests she read an essay to me called, The River, by Adrienne Maree Brown.

Intimate, like realizing the Great Blue Heron’s reflection was significant as reflecting on who I am in my journal. What I feel…like great love for Denali, whose name means the great one.

Are there really accidents?

       I am one of those ‘supposed accidents waiting to happen.’ I was conceived inBremerhofen, Germany at the end of WWII, by rape.

I have written several times about my origins, because I learned that my dad was not my biological father by my mom shouting, “He’s not your father!” in anger, when I was 16. Was this an accident? It was my life’s most painful trauma; my trust was broken with the dad I loved and defended for years against my mother’s ugly accusations. Those painful moments unconsciously kept me from showing unbarred physical affection to my dad.  No longer was I able to hug him close like I do my two daughters and three granddaughters.

My dad wrote weekly letters to me while I attended Cornell University’s School of Nursing. In the 1990s, I reread those precious letters, sobbing in therapy for the loss of never being able to talk about what he addressed in one of his letters – to know the reason for my lack of being affectionately demonstrative. He never pressured me or asked me WHY to my face. I wish he had. I wonder still what I wrote back to my dad. After he died, I never found my letters to him, although I did find a few cards I’d sent to him extolling my love and appreciation, like on Father’s Day. I am sad and happy all at once, like when I take moments to look at photos of us being together hung on my living room wall. On my refrigerator door.

It’s like we’ve been in a car accident and I am the only survivor. Like when he died of a sudden heart attack at age 60; no chance to understand or repair our ‘accidental’ heart-broken distance created on that fateful day when I was 16.

Anti-abortionists say abortion is only acceptable, if the mother’s life is in danger, or if she is raped. Yet, I am glad to be alive!

So, am I an accident? Am I meant to happen?

 

 

SHORT cuts not so good?

I lost my best friend, Gaylee, May 3, 2019 – her six-year struggle against cancer lost – but never our enduring love. Her partner, Jim, and son, Damon, requested that remembrances said at her memorial June 29, 2019, be no longer than 5 minutes. I balked. Like Gaylee’s gray-silver wavy locks throughout her chemotherapy; her hair thinning, but not lost until her friend Gabrielle cut it short about two months before her leaving us. One month later, she proudly shows me her head shorn, enlarging her blue eyes to being bigger than life, like her ability to love!

I write her eulogy. I edit her eulogy. I say her eulogy out loud. It is 7-8 minutes long. I type it up as is. I have not lost the old voice which echoes please others more than yourself.

I ask myself what would Gaylee want. I hear her voice (tears) more loudly: “Keep your commitment to love.” The last, not lost, words I hear from her lips four days before leaving this earth plane. Never my heart.

At her memorial, tears sprinkle my cheeks as I read for eight minutes.

 

Parental BRAVERY

Mom volunteered as a nurse in WWII.

Dad emigrated to America, all alone, at age 17 from his homeland of Germany in 1934. More than ever, in my seventies, I continue to be amazed at my parent’s courage. In the years post war it was customary not to talk about the war especially in regards to their own personal experiences, until I began asking questions about my origins when in my twenties.

When I was 16, during one our frequent fights where I commonly defended my dad, mom shouted, “He’s not your father!” Hearing this was so shocking that for years I could not remember my reaction, only my circumstances: in my shared-sister-bedroom, mom near the window, a vacuum cleaner at my feet. Many years later, during a regression therapy session, memory returned to see myself running down the stairs and outdoors to sit in our father-made swing set. What makes me sad now is seeing myself alone. No one ever came to comfort me.

Near age 40, as a psychotherapist, I asked my mother (dad had died suddenly of a heart attack at age 60) why I was left alone? She’d said to my dad, after he’d come home from work, “Just leave her alone, she’ll get over it.” Obviously, this is not true!

My trust had been knifed. Betrayed.

I acted out that hurt by distancing myself from my dad (tears now), despite he being the only parent I could depend on, emotionally. He was the nurturer, not my mother who didn’t want me, because I reminded her of the acquaintance rape that made my conception possible.

In my twenties, I learned from mom that she’d fallen in love with my adoptive-dad while on the ship Huddleston, returning from WWII Germany. She was dad’s nurse. She was near five months pregnant when she went to the doctor to get an abortion. He denied her as she was too far along. Sometime later, they drove to Tarrytown, NY, planning to put me up for adoption. What changed their minds? Dad had said, “Keep her, I’ll sign the birth certificate.” WOW! I say to myself again and again although I have written of this most traumatic event several times over the years.

In my thirties, I asked my mom why she volunteered to serve in WWII. With her tears rising: “Someone has to take care of those soldiers.” I never had the chance to ask my dad why he fought in WWII, as an American citizen, against his homeland. Before he died, I only knew that he was against Hitler’s horrific ideologies. WOW, I say again to myself! And out loud: What a brave man!

That can be an understatement of my happiness to be brought up by my daddy’s love!

 

 

NOURISHMENT of the Heart

My first thought is a good night’s sleep. With a comforter over me; self-made from T-shirts bought at forty-some American National Parks. I am reminded of hiking to waterfalls in Yosemite, or Yellowstone, or the Grand Tetons, or King’s Canyon, or Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument where a flash thunderstorm graces me with an on-the-spot waterfall where none had been that day. I was on a natural high for the rest of that day in 2017. As I was with my French boyfriend, Antoine, under a waterfall with him while in Guadaloupe just after New Year’s 2019.

Presently, Antoine is recovering from a mental breakdown just after Valentine’s Day 2019. When he acts out his anger at me while on the phone, I must shut my phone off until he is able to express his anger at his fear of feeling inferior and insecure. Not at me. Until then, I need the nourishment from writing my feelings of helplessness in my journal. From weeding my flower gardens where I plant new Petunias, Pansies, Marigolds, around the perennials of Shasta Daisies, Datura Moon Flowers, Irises and Peonies. Tulips and Daffodils. And of course, Forget-Me-Nots that roam further every year sharing their happy blues. (What a paradox) As do the Bleeding Hearts.

When I discovered a video this morning (June 6th, D-Day), created by my iPhone, of this past year’s trips with Antoine to Paris, Lyon, Versailles, Brussels, Acadia National Park, and Guadalupe, a fountain of tears washes my cheeks, missing the real and reappearing Antoine.

When will we be standing on the top of the Eiffel Tower, and Ferris Wheel of Paris, kissing again?

 

 

Surprising INTERRUPTION

My Friday night routine is to eat dinner at the Americana winery’s cafe, where live music can either settle your stomach or flare one’s ears. I hope to dance, which depends on the type of musical group playing.

On the second Friday of the month, I leave the Americana during the band’s break and drive to Endicott, New York one hour away, to dance for two or more hours to DJ music. It’s called a California mix: ballroom (waltz, rumba, cha-cha, swing) Latin (salsa, meringue, bacchante), country two-step, along with many west coast songs, to which I prefer to dance the hustle.

While at the Americana, May 10th, 2019, I dance in my street shoes. On my return drive to Ithaca, New York, where I live, my memory interrupts my gazing at the bright yellow Forsythia, opened groups of daffodils and budding tulips.

“Hey, I forgot my dance shoe bag!” I think to myself. “And what made think of that right now?”

As luck would have it, the drive to Endicott passes directly past my home – in fact is a short cut, rather than my usual route of smoother pavement, where I can drive above the speed limit. I happily retrieve my dance shoe bag that holds a fan to cool me off. I add a dark chocolate hazelnut candy-bar treat.

 

Can I say I hate the Mall?

 

Ugh! I hate the mall, even after transforming its uptown name to the Ithaca Mall, no longer Pyramid Mall-corporation owned. Well, maybe I just dislike how I feel while walking its glossy floors, with tall windows reflecting stuff, stuff, stuff. And my consumer image.

I exclusively shop the downtown Ithaca Commons with its local small businesses until I cannot find a TV store. I wait until after christmas, hoping for sales in order to save money on a big screen.  And why do I need a big screen? I’m older and can see details better? I can place it between the tall windows where natural light will not be blocked like how my 23″ TV did? Or,  can I rationalize “I’m worth it,” as my mind reveals a screen of mal-nourished children?

Yes, half of my wardrobe comes from second-hand stores, and I no longer own a home, and I have owned second hand cars for three decades. Still, my mind mauls me with guilt.

Still, I show up at Best Buy at the Ithaca Mall and select the 43″ TV screen with the added comforting thoughts that I don’t want the 54″. (or the unbelievable 70″)

I especially like the 43″ because in numerology 143 means I love you. So, 43″ will do.

WORship self-love and babies as the divine

 

worship –  root is old English 1300: “weorpscipe”…”worthiness or worth-ship” which is to give worth to something.

 

Last week, while I was piling wet clothes into a dryer at the laundromat, a black woman interrupts me: “Can I talk to you?”

I look up from the laundry basket, knowing I am going to be preached to, a track held in her hand. I don’t want to listen but give her one of my ears. She points the track in my direction which I do not take.

I tell her I’ve been raised in christianity and am happy now I no longer believe. She tells me what the bible says. I say: “I don’t believe the bible. Other religions say they have the truth too.” I make my sermon short and sweet; something like I’m free of guilt and fear of hell and feel I am more loving now. I lean over the laundry basket, spontaneously, and hug her.

I am white. And now think to myself how innocent and pure we all are as babies.

How I grew up learning to play the piano; one of the few songs I memorized was I am Not Worthy. (of love, according to the bible, being taught we are born in ‘original’ sin.)

This senior black woman, close to my age, says, “thank you for letting me talk to you.” I think to myself what does worship mean? I look up its entomology: “to give worth to something.” LOVE of myself. Then compassion for others.

NATURE is my CATHEDRAL. Babies are my divine example.