My complacency elected Donald Trump, and for that I am truly sorry.

Oh, I voted.

In fact, I voted for her.

In my people-pleasing “don’t rock the boat” manner I wheeled my rolling walker behind the heavy curtain in our old-fashioned voting booths and quietly pulled the lever. (If I had to do it in a big open space like I saw the First Couple have to do it, I would have had some panic issues.)

I didn’t even think of it as “the lesser of two evils,” I thought of it as the only rational choice.

I even clicked on the voting machine switches extra lightly, as if people could hear me vote. I felt a sense of relief as I left the polls. Still, I told no one, as I I didn’t want to disappoint a loved one, and I didn’t want to become embroiled in debate.

Since my brain surgery 10 years ago doctors keep congratulating me. It is as if surviving a tumor that strikes primarily young men was something I deserved some sort of credit for-one Doc shook my hand like I won an Olympic gold. I never felt that way. But I felt that way about voting Tuesday. That I deserved some sort of medal for overcoming obstacles  physically, and mentally, emotionally and literally to get out and vote.

Not having my old confidence to debate (due to aphasia and the inability to hold on to a thought for more than a few seconds (think ADD on steroids), I avoid ‘talking  politics.’ On a certain level I started to feel less entitled to my opinions and that I should just leave it up to quicker, more articulate tongues.

I used to feel that everyone around me could do or say what they want but in the end, they, same as me, would go behind the heavy curtain and get one single vote. Naïve, and again, I am sorry.

I apologize to every person that will be marginalized by the incoming administration.

I am not deluded that speaking my mind would have changed the outcome of the election, but it is embarrassing that so many didn’t have a chance to know where I stand due to my conflict-avoidance behavior patterns.

Next time I will be more vocal, clearer and more transparent. The same things I expect from our government elected officials.

Next week: “Taking a knee.”

100 Words About Jell-O

Words that make no sense to a child.

“If you don’t take those ear-muffs off, you’ll be freezing when you go out.”

My Nana had this yellow enamel pan with a black line around the top edge. She made the Jell-O in it. She made that jello just for me. Oh, she made a couple of other things in that pan, like baked beans, but the jello was mine, and it was always there. I understood that my parents and my mom’s parents would always be there for me, just the way the jello was always there.
It may not sound like such a big deal, but these are the things that separate us from the animals.
100 words about Jello. There.

How to listen to jazz, or, the first time I did.

Not that I could touch them, but the thickness of these albums was palpable: Not as thick as the Victrola platters seen in antique stores in their ripped fabric covered cabinets, but heavier than the 33s that preceded cassettes. These were my very early exposures to music, along with my sisters’ trombone, banjo, guitar, clarinet, glockenspiel. My father trumpeted with the think system, and it made me think that’s how I would make music too. I understood that it was no small miracle that we had these sounds to entertain and enrich us, and I knew when I grew up that I would join the army band. Or play Sally Bowles in Cabaret. I certainly didn’t plan on teaching people to sell internet service. I digress.

Frank Sinatra didn’t play in the background (like Elvis did in some households we visited), he was reserved for special occasions – not holidays, but random days when my mother exuded a special lightness and let her (super short hair) metaphorically down. Her favorite was “Lady is a tramp” and I delighted in every syllable, looking for clues to the power this music held over my mother. It seemed the lyrics, more than the jazzy beat, where her joy came from: “She doesn’t bother with people she hates, that’s why the lady is a tramp.” Yep. That’s mom.

The string of safety-pins ever present on mom’s cotton house-dress (“so the baby doesn’t get them”) would be missing on those Sinatra days. The floors, meticulous and gleaming as the light of the approaching cocktail hour bounced off of them, the statuesque, deaf cat she rescued off a busy highway divider basking in the sunbeam like the sphinx.

My father’s office was Madmen meets Sanford and Son, and his heavily made-up secretary babysat me after school one day and played a new kind of music that we didn’t hear around our house: Jazz.  When  mom came to pick me up, she said “what in the hell is that you’re listening to?” and I somehow got it in my noggin that jazz was the devils music. I was eight.

We would wait around for dad with special eagerness on Sinatra days, with cheese and crackers and a Schlitz.  I’m not sure ‘ol blue eyes’ made it to the Chapel Hill house-we had the albums in their bound book of brown papery sleeves but no stereo that I can recall. Talk radio was ramping up with revitalized popularity, and Bernice loved it.

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I’m delighted to be transported back to those days when I hear the jazzy stylings of Audra Mariel and friends, soloists in their own right, who combine to create an eclectic set of tunes to tap your toes to or even rekindle a rusty romance (this will be easier if you bring a friend). Check her schedule here. If you’re feeling that we’re all going to hell in a hand-basket, a night of Audra is the cure.15401368964_91a9d4b5f7_b-audra

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At our house, we did our underage drinking *after* the crash.

BAP_0755-LIf you’ve been in a car accident where the windshield shattered, you know the feeling of “just get me the hell out of here” all too well. I’m not sure I ever got over it. There was not a scratch on me or the driver, but the totaled car looked like the kind they put on display at Project Prom to convince youth to not drink and drive.

I should begin from the beginning.

 

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1976 -Adirondack Mountains, Wilmington NY

Uncle Arnold,  a Notary Public in town (this, before he became a judge) stamps the paperwork to make Joe the official owner of the car. Covered in primer, one had to don the imagination cap to even begin to have a vision of what the car was capable of looking like, but it sounded and felt like a race car, low to the ground, wide wheel base. Joe did his chores and then spent several hours hand sanding the heavily compounded Firebird. Sanding with a ¾ in drill and a half a million sanding discs, I’m sure my friend always  knew he would finish this project in one summer. I had my doubts.

I had my own sanding to do, it was my job to keep the cue sticks sanded and topped off with fresh tips and I took this job very seriously. I was pretty sure the  real Minnesota Fats  would come in and I don’t know, tip me for my nice tips? Headed for college in the fall, and I still believed my little jobs around the family business would somehow make a difference.

After the chores were finished and  dusk began in earnest, there where the fires and the dinners rich in garden vegetables. Toasting marshmallows kept the bugs away, and exhausted as we might be there was a steady group of us who talked through the night most nights.

1977-Middletown, NJ

It was always exciting to have the folks from Connecticut to hang out with, whether we were at our campground or theirs, but it was super exciting to be at our home bases, to show each other where and how we lived “the other 9 months out of the year.”

It was a different time, you could go visit your friend’s school for a day with a simple visitor’s pass, and you only had to be 18 to drink. I want to underscore that we did not drink, and that we were all super cautious about avoiding trouble. I like to think it was the goodness in us, but other stories might refute the point. Somehow we broke away from the adults and went for a ride in the Firebird, which had a bright new shiny paint job and a “new car smell” air freshener shaped like a go-go girl.

We weren’t supposed to be there. Heading off to college in months, it didn’t occur to us to obey any rules or even to take any advice. We were riding around without any destination just to be out of the house and enjoy the sun, I wouldn’t even call it “joy riding” because that term, to me, elicits an image of a sort of reckless abandonment. We were definitely belted in and obeying all traffic rules. The music was Emerson, Lake and Palmer, blasting from the new technology, the tape cassette. The music played continuously, no need to flip the tape, no “thunk” between sides like the eight-track that preceded it.

PART II-Fuzzy Details

We had the car towed to the family’s gas station without thought of convenience or price. I really didn’t know where we were and as it turned out, we were across the street from a police station. Due to this convenient locale, accident investigation and cleanup were as prompt as possible. My father, in his ever omniscient and magical ability to be everywhere at once, saw and recognized the smushed car with the Connecticut license plates before hearing any news of our adventure.

When I climbed the steps on my sister’s front porch, to her dining room that overlooks her yard, I began to feel my muscles stiffen up and ache. I was not sure what was going to be worse, the physical accident aftermath, Joe four hours away from home with a totaled, prized-possession hand restored classic car, my parents anger and worry, the aftermath of getting Joe back to CT. I would have been overwhelmed had I not been so numb.

Part III-What I remember.

I know everyone loves a good accident story. The more details the better…and I guess it is human nature. I hate to disappoint but I don’t remember all that much. I saw the truck in front of us going straight and realized our left hand turn was ill timed with the light, and the next thing I can remember is freaking out about sitting in the glass all about me and a cop calming me down and finally, when I would not calm down, allowing me out of the car.

Back at the house and reunited with family, we recounted the details of the crash. My dad handed Joe a couple of tens and said “Here, take her to Langford’s. Get yourselves’ a drink.”

I was not quite 18, the legal drinking age at the time. We began in protest but my father assured us it would be alright. I remember it was weird sitting at the dark bar without other adults, just us kids. It occurred to  me to ask for a Shirley Temple, but I had a beer.

The police station still stages pre-prom hullabaloos to show the fresh new drivers what their totaled car will look like, including a demonstration of the jaws of life.

Our parents are gone, but this is a story about, more than anything , how they showed their love to us.

I asked my friend, many years later, if he ever thought about it. And he told me:

“Only when I make a left hand turn.”

Put down what you’re reading and find Jennifer Laucks (book) Found.

It's a big, big, (adopted) world.

It’s a big, big, (adopted) world.

Evoking Jurassic Park-level fear, while softly reminiscent of Eat, Pray, Love, Jennifer Lauck’s memoir Found is a quick, and at times difficult read. I swore off of adoption memoirs for the summer. I had been reading them in a steady stream for 2 years, including the classics, the best sellers, the confessional, the kooky.

On the whole enjoyed the book. My buddy Luanne  who writes at Don’t We Look Alike and Writers Site recommended it and I immediately downloaded it; so much for swearing off memoirs for the summer. Addiction? I prefer to call it dedication.

I first encountered the concept that maybe historically closed and sealed adoption wasn’t always was the best thing through Deanna Shrodes excellent, heartfelt blog, Adoption Restoration.  Deanna is publishing the “book” part of her blog, meanwhile you  can read a bunch of her writing on her site.  Yes, faithful readers, this is the woman I called a nut, in print. It was akin to throwing a rock through a plate-glass window to get the owner’s attention., so  you get to say you’re sorry.

Three things stood out while reading Found:

This book is scary because she enables the reader to share her fear. Seldom do I find myself all scrunched up over a non-fiction book, but I did just that, turning the pages that wound down to reunion and ultimately, a type of rejection. There were a couple of pages where I could hardly breathe, so universal the emotions expressed, yet so distinctly singular to the author’s personal story.

The second thing that sets this book apart is the writer’s ability to cram so much emotion into one tiny book. I didn’t have heaving “Terms of Endearment” crying jags over it but it did touch me in a stony cold place where I usually don’t allow my “work reading” to go. Adoptees looking for a book to recommend to others will find something here to spark memory and conversation.

Finally, woven throughout the fairly linear story there were a few parts (when she talks about her therapy, and her relationship with one particular man) that I found to be preachy and assuming. But for the most part these moments are sparse and expert editing keeps the fast-moving narrative on track.

It is refreshing when a memoir is honest to a fault. Although her meditation journey is such an important part of the story, I found the amount of time and energy spent away from her family difficult to swallow, counterbalanced with her own feelings of abandonment. By including this in her story, she depicts herself as a flawed character, in other words, human. That is the best of what this book has to offer…it is utterly human.

 

You might like:

 

Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age, An Anthology by Deanna Doss Shrodes, Corie Skolnick, Richard Hill and Rhonda Noonan (Jan 14, 2014)

 

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