May 28, 2014

Mother Nature has my back

   I have a friend who is an early riser. By this I mean she voluntarily hops out of bed at five in the morning. Not only does she get up with, or possibly before, the birds, she also exercises daily and recommends it to me fairly frequently. I don't understand early risers and I particularly dislike exercise.
   But as I am aging at a rather alarming pace, I realize that if I don't use some of my muscles some of the time, they may decide to retire to a lovely Caribbean island without me. This poses a dilemma. 
   Luckily for me, Mother Nature takes lazy saps such as I into account. She has perfected a daily exercise regimen for seniors and we aren't even aware we're doing it.
   We've all stood in front of a closet at one time or another and wondered why we were standing there, haven't we? What most of you don't know is that this simple brain fart, as I've heard it called, turns into an exercise form as we age.
   For instance, it's morning. I've just gotten to the kitchen and turned the kettle on, but it's quite chilly. I go back upstairs to get my sweater. I walk into the bedroom and get a tissue and return to the kitchen. It's still chilly.
   I once again go up the stairs and into the bedroom. This time I quickly use the facilities and return to the kitchen. You guessed it. It's still chilly.
   Third time's the charm. I walk up the stairs while repeating to myself, "Sweater, sweater, sweater, sweater" until I reach the closet and grab the sweater. Three trips up and down the stairs and the day has hardly begun.
   Since this type of exercise only works to keeps my creaking knees somewhat oiled and a bit of cardio, Mother Nature has supplied a variation on this theme. The carrying of objects up and down the stairs for no apparent reason. This keeps the arms from getting too flabby. It goes like this. I take the fish for dinner out of the freezer in the basement and walk directly to the closet in my bedroom up two flights of stairs. I stand there for a moment trying to figure out why the hell I am holding a fish in the closet. I decide I must retrace my steps. After walking back to the kitchen, then to the basement, all time holding the frozen fish, I realize that I intended to put my sweater back in the closet because I was now quite comfortable heat-wise.
   After two additional trips, one to take up the towels and put them away, and one to retrieve the fish from the closet where I put it with the towels, the sweater is hung up and dinner is on the table!
   I haven't actually counted, but I think that yesterday I walked up and down my stairs at least 300 times either forgetting to fetch a sweater or the like or forgetting why in the name of all that's holy I was upstairs (or downstairs or on the deck) in the first place. This could be an exaggeration, but I prefer to think not. Mother Nature, I thank you very much.

May 22, 2014

Remembering My Brother

On May 22nd, 1968 my brother, Tim Clover, was killed in Viet Nam. A long dark night began for our family. It was only our deep, abiding love for our parents, for his widow and son, and for each other that saw our family through until morning finally dawned, slowly creeping over the horizon, lighting our way once again. 

Tim was truly special - our only boy, handsome, charismatic, highly intelligent. He was a poet and a dreamer who hated the war. And he was my best friend from the day I was born until the day he was lost. Although I wrote this eulogy years ago, time hasn’t erased the sense of loss. My life is a good one. I have a wonderful husband and family, close friends, and beautiful grand-children. But I will miss Tim always.


Glancing out the window I catch a glimpse of the last sunlight of day brightening, almost artificially, the Western sky, thrusting me back to the remembrance of the last light of my day long years ago. An interminable dark night followed before a slow dawn. The pain is sometimes as acute now as it was then, only now it last seconds, minutes, instead of hours and long nights.

            Could it be almost fifteen years already? When in that time did I lose the lovely silliness of childhood? When did I become so inhibited that I ceased sitting on curbs for lack of chairs or mimicking the caged gorilla to make him talk to me? At what point was I unable to utter the beautiful little fantasies and half-truths that fall trippingly from every child's tongue?

            Fifteen years! A long time and, yet, not so long. Not long enough to heal the wound, but long enough to make other matters equally or more important. Long enough to become a woman, wife, and mother, but not long enough for the soul to catch up with the body. In many ways, I will always remain an insecure teen-ager waiting for her brother's approval.

            The scenes my mind conjures up are so agonizingly real, but without them my life would be sorely empty. His voice, his mannerisms, his face are only shadows of memory. His uncanny insight into my mind and mine into his, the need now for fumbling words where once none were needed, the total empathy of brother and sister that I now miss are the substance of the memory brought back so abruptly to me in a seconds glance at a fading sky.

            He was a part of me since my earliest memory, the person most closely entwined with my childhood and youth. He consoled me and wept with me in those horrendous teen-age years that unmercifully coincided with the sixties, that time of turbulence so unfathomable for a girl of seventeen. This is a eulogy for a beloved brother who was lost in that turbulence. Long may he rest now in peace.

May 7, 2014

Life lessons learned

Kids learn a lot of good things playing sports. My son, Matt, played baseball. This is a wonderful sport for teaching patience, concentration, team work, and how to win graciously or lose with dignity. But sometimes, some more interesting lessons can be learned!

In 1999, Matt's team had won the local championship and was headed to the regional play-offs hoping to get to the Babe Ruth World Series in Abbeville, Louisiana. The usual etiquette had been for the host team's families to house the players for the tournament. And we had been assured it was all taken care of.

Imagine our surprise when we got to Hamilton New Jersey to find that no such accommodation had been made. Good sportsmanship requires me to believe that this was a genuine mistake on Hamilton's (our chief rival) part. Others may think differently.

At any rate, there we were with fifteen boys with no place to lay their heads. The scramble began to find a motel that had room for the team, the coaching staff, and the parents. Luckily, there was such a place to be had just across Route 1 in Pennsylvania. The only catch being that this motel was attached to a 'gentleman's club'. A glance at the clientele might have you looking up 'gentleman' in the dictionary, but the rooms were clean and we were close to the ball field.  

An interesting thing about Route 1 in Pennsylvania is that you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a sex shop or a gentleman's club. There are just tons of them. Every block seems to have at least one or the other.

Well, our boys learned quite a few things that week other than the value of hard work and good sportsmanship. They learned that working girls sometimes rent hotel rooms by the hour, that adults who have had too much to drink sometimes go skinny dipping in hotel pools and don't seem to mind a couple of idiot kids jumping in with them, and that if you really annoy your coach by climbing onto the roof in the middle of the night, he will bang on your door and get you up at six a.m. for an impromptu practice.

Despite the odd week, our team won the tournament and they got to Louisiana for the Babe Ruth World Series where they acquitted themselves well coming in third. And I think the added attractions just made it all more memorable.