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.

In-To-Me-I-See

I am paid to be intimate with my psychotherapy clients – even with words – In-to-me-I-see. Which I was deprived of as a child of the fifties, essentially forced to believe the born-again crap that I would go to hell if I didn’t accept Jesus as my savior.

My dad was way ahead of his time despite our family’s religious addiction barrier, by being the more emotionally connected nurturer than my mother as she never wanted me, being a child of rape.

While in college, dad wrote me weekly intimate letters about his feelings, like not feeling loved by mom, his wife, yet was always being supportive of me: his card, written 11/1/65 is a good example where he writes a list of 12 things: “Just a quick note to let you know: 3) That I am very proud of you, 9) That you make comments and ask questions in ‘Bible’ and are not afraid to think and ask and how happy I am about that, 12) that I love you.” Yet, we were afraid to say I love you out loud to one another before he died of a sudden heart attack at the young age of 60, a sadness that continues throughout the Cosmos, a flower I plant yearly to honor him, being an astronomer.

Fast forward to raising my two daughters while still attending church, wiggling my way out slowly but surely of their misleading tunnel vision, keeping me from trusting my heart. I finally left in 1984 (how fitting😊) when my girls were 9 and 12, listening to myself, although still being a difficult longer-than-I’d-like road to shed societal and church intrenched shame to talk about sex.

Presently, my younger daughter, the mother of two of my granddaughters is embarrassed to acknowledge that her 75-year-old mother makes love with her husband, or to see his beautiful nakedness alone in a photo in our bedroom like a Renoir statute in a museum. This summer they visit me for my 75th birthday celebration, where her husband confronts me in front of their daughters, as to how I make it difficult to be close to my daughter, because I do not respect her feelings to take the photo down when they visit. I express my struggle as to whose feelings to respect, hers, or mine, but the photo being in my home, I chose to risk her rejection, to be true to myself. Trust and respect myself.

That same weekend, I ask my 19-year-old granddaughter what she felt about our family discussion. She readily replies, “It was good; it bears reflection.” Gladly, my relationship with my daughter continues to grow purer love during my October weekend visit, where they live near Boston.

This past October weekend before Halloween, after our lovemaking, my expressive husband says how “fantastic,” and “incredible,” and “I love you so much.” I say, “I love you right back!” Later, during our evening phone call you tell me how loving we were that morning, how “intimate;” the first time he has ever used that word after being spiritually married for a year.

Feeling a deeper connection, as I do when volunteering to stack chopped wood for an 86-year-old stranger who lives a few miles down the road, a pile I had bike-ridden by all summer, wondering whether to knock on his door, or just begin stacking. I choose the latter, and eventually a man ambles out on the deck using a cane, asking if I need a pair of gloves.

“No thanks, I like to feel the wood,” I smile.

 

CONCERTS that make us FEEL

      Growing up in a religiously addicted family, we were not allowed to go to the movies, the theater, or to dance – to be tempted by worldly pleasures. Concerts are out of the question, unless they are of classical music, which I do enjoy. But none of them are outstanding in memory like those I attend in my seventies. My present husband has widened my world by buying tickets to see the band, Chicago, music I had loved only on vinyl.

2021, at Buffalo, New York’s Art Park outdoors, chairs on the lawn, is where I dance in the aisles. Dave is new to dancing, needing me to beg him to dance, not believing me when I say he is a natural-born dancer. Let’s have fun!

After a few beers and others dancing near the stage, Dave joins me as we dance closely, slowly, and sensually to You Are the Inspiration – my tears blinking in the moonlight, our huge smiles lifting to the trombonist, saxophonist, trumpeter, drummer, and guitarist. I am in heaven.

Unlike, a hell of a John Fogerty concert at Woodstock’s Memorial Park a month later. Under a roofed open amphitheater, the extreme loudness blurs the lyrics, hurts my eardrums, beating my chest as if I am the drum. So, we walk out under the stars where the music does not batter our bodies while I dance alone, until a slow dance, until raindrops force us back under the roofed arena. I dance in the aisles until an usher directs me and other dancers to sit down. Our fun is ruined like my mother’s outlandish rules.

I tell Dave, “I am so glad we went to hear Chicago first, otherwise maybe I would have made a concerted effort not to attend anymore concerts.

 

BEING STUBBORN throughout my life

 

It is my 75th birthday today, happy to be a stubborn child, my born-again mother having dubbed me: Francis the Talking Mule, a frequent criticism, back then feeling humiliated.

Now, I triumph, after four marriages, I am spiritually married to a man who voted for Trump; I must be stubborn. For love. He admits to coming from a “culture of lying,” maybe why he could accept over 10,000 fact-checked lies while lauding economic tariffs for China. After the January sixth assault on the Capitol, he says he would not vote for Trump again. Whew!

So WHY did I fall in love with a Trumpster-carpenter, who has never been in psychotherapy when I have been for many years as a Marriage and Family Therapist. Because I want to pay my dad’s love forward?

Or continue to advocate for a HEALTHY REALTIONSHIP SKILLS course at our local high school after 30 years? Still not implemented. I have a stubborn spirit is all I can say! Conceived by rape in Bremerhoffen, Germany, while my mother served as a nurse in the US Army during WWII, given my non-biological dad who signed my birth certificate (loving me exceptionally well as he did his two biological children), given a doctor who refused to abort me at 5 months gestation, and given a dad who would not give me up for adoption as my mother considered.

I am greatfull beyond words, music, dance. Loving my very first skydive, not letting fear stop me from flying free. To celebrate being me. I felt some fear the day before, but surprisingly, as I stepped into the two-seater plane, I feel peaceful the 20-minute ride to 10,000 feet and jumping into the cold sunny air. I ask to fly through a cloud like a bird with no cares.

The best part of my 75th birthday is 12 family members below catching my happiness feeling loved: “Hi Everybody!”  I shout gleefully as I lap dance Conor, my cute 26-year-old tandem guide as we land on Mother Earth, softly.

Without me asking, my husband video tapes, and photographs this most memorable event, creates a tailgate from his truck laden with treats and drinks, saying, “You’re something else.”

Some days later, he is not finished, planning our first zipline adventure in a Pocono Forest, presenting obstacles scarier than the skydive, my physical strength tested, my bare hands holding onto the cable. No gloves. No callouses.

“Will you ever grow up?” I hear. As well as moans and groans of pleasure while making love, which we give with each other’s hands and passionate kisses, weekends when we are together as we are in a commuter marriage currently.

On the actual day of my birthday, the 30th of August, I visit South Hill cemetery to give thanks to my dad for being the bestest loving dad, next to whom my ashes will be buried one day.

When the mail lady arrives, I open my door, walk to receive my mail, saying it’s my birthday today. 75. It can’t be she says: “You’re beautiful!” It’s the first time we’ve met; I learn her name is Joy. She learns I am a therapist, and readily says, “people expect me to be joyful, so I put on a façade. Sometimes I need to cry.”

I tell her that I give my books away for free if she would like one. “Yes, I would, how can you be giving me something on your birthday?” I run to find a copy of TEARS ARE TRUE LOVE…waiting to be known. Although I look forward to birthday dinner with my oldest daughter, Erin, I am stubbornly happy, smiling like the Rose of Sharon blossom, or maybe like a smooth silky Moon flower in my garden, at this moment as I walk away from the mail lady!

 

 

 

 

HAIR CUTS to the chase

 

I am a woman who does not like tattoos or dyeing my hair. I like being ‘oh naturelle’ I tell everyone. It wasn’t until my forties that I had truly shed my religious addiction to modesty, able to swim nude at Potter’s Falls in Ithaca, NY. It’s been a struggle to free myself from the chains of conformity; one way is to cut my own hair, even after an occasional New Years’ eve professional cut not to my liking.

My hair is mid-back-long and straight, still a light brown due to my mother’s genes, maybe allowing 12 gray hairs to appear by age 80, when she died. For the past twenty years or more, I have cut my hair into steps like stairs, each approximately 1 and ½ inches high. Many compliments have come my way, some from hairdressers.

Now in my seventies, I look at my eldest daughter’s ability to have her hair cut and colored differently when I see her every month or so. Her body displays flowers and vine tattoos, leaving spaces open to her naturally lovely skin. I want to remember her pure naturally soft skin felt in my arms when she was born.

I am looking to cut my hair differently for my 75th birthday, when I will be parachuting out of a plane, happy to have my extended family of origin watching. Witnessing my unique self, while my tears say, “It is so hard to be yourself!”

TRASHING love?

                                                              TRASH

My friend Carol and I are hiking Glen Cove creek, happy to happen on an undiscovered waterfall to add to the many we have creek-walked around Ithaca.

We find many cans and bottles left by others; I must pick them up despite it not being my assigned Adopt-a-Highway area. Carol fills her arms as well. I ask: Why do you think people leave their trash along the roads or creeks?

Carol: “Because they are lazy.”

My spiritual husband joins me on most waterfall hikes around New York state, as we feel nurtured by nature, especially by the flow of waterfalls, gently or roaring. When I ask WHY some blacks do not join the work force and collect welfare, he says, “because they are lazy.” I become impatient while seeking understanding that they have been oppressed ever since employed by slaves. Still, they are treated disrespectfully, covered by the trash of inequalities and inequities, as Black Lives Matter protests across the world now recognize police brutality: George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Daunte Wright, Michael Brown, and many more.

As a seventy-four-year-old female raised in a lower middle-class family, I enjoy the white privilege, especially adopted by a father who loves me enough that I feel special. I try to pay the love forward, as a Marriage and Family Therapist; dad being one of the few men who volunteered for Suicide Prevention in the 1970s. My father who hiked his three children into nature on Sundays, once carving a wooden paddle-wheel (tears) turned by a small grassy stream in our back fields.

Maybe that memory connects with my ability to place each of my legs on either side of the grassy roadside ditches (ditch yoga😊) from which I gather bags full of cans and bottles thrown from vehicles, easy to recycle, a total of 80 plus dollars in 2020. I wish it was as easy to recycle the easy answers, like “lazy,” blinded by the light of whiteness – when the answer might be simple: WHY should people care about Mother Earth? If they do not have someone to care about them? To love them.

Addendum: Between 2013 and 2020, black people are 3 times more likely to be killed by police than white people, despite being 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed than white people (Newsweek 2021)

Caught in the ACT out

Erin, my eldest daughter, would write me love notes, hug and kiss me until she became a teenager. When she, Megan, my second daughter, and I drove across America in 1986, to camp and hike in as many national parks as possible for one month…I ask her what it is about me you don’t like Erin?

“Your general attitude.” She couldn’t or wouldn’t be more specific.

I missed her loving affections, and being a green Marriage and Family Therapist, I was bound and determined to have my loving demonstrative daughter back. I wanted to understand and heal our relationship.

It wasn’t until we were in therapy together, learning that having a boyfriend move in when she was 15, is when I saw and felt her hurt…so deeply when she said, “I won’t give you the satisfaction of forgiving you.”

Throughout Erin’s 20s, 30s, and 40s, we continued open and honest conversations like asking her “What can I do better to improve our relationship?”

In 2020, she says you can listen better and not think your way is right. I catch Erin saying, “It’s all about mom,” periodically throughout the years.  In May 2021, while Dave, my spiritual husband, myself, and Erin were hiking, Erin states that she will wear a mask although the mask mandate has been lifted for those who are vaccinated, for the welfare of the community. I say that I won’t wear a mask to reduce the fear in our community. Erin’s retort: “It’s all about mom.”