Category Archives: family

midday musings

Sitting just inside of the semi-open-air outer room of one of the hotel’s two restaurants…

The storm clouds are gathering (as predicted) and I watch the skies with an extra measure of anticipation. A big-un is a-coming and I can’t wait. Okay – here’s the denoument:

My body is reacting to the changing barometric pressure. There must be some ancient primordial benefit to absorbing moisture in one’s body as the rains approach. Try as I may, however, I can’t imagine what that benefit is.  I do, nevertheless, feel like a balloon being inflated. Perhaps I’ll become airborne.

Noted: I see yet another and then another individual who would probably tip the scales at 300 or more pounds. I’ve been observing this for two days. At first, I was just pleased to see that I was far from the fattest person in the room. Now, I am more interested in this as a sociological trend or a locale-linked trait. Has the word gone out to the large-sized community? “Here in Bermuda, fatties are welcome.” I’m good with that.

In my dawning awareness, I feel a communication from a VERY close, now deceased relative (NK). He’s pleased with the fare and the portion sizes. He is, however, a little peeved with me. “Get your elbows off the table,” I hear distinctly inside my head. “Yes, sir!” I reply, with alacrity.

For much of my life my father was a serious eater. Meals were not just something that one engaged in in order to survive. No. Au contraire. He was living to eat, not eating to live. Mass quantities of all manner of edibles were prepared and consumed every day. I recall there never being much in the refrigerator – because whatever was there got eaten. It wasn’t even safe to sit still for too long; you might wind up with a  Béarnaise sauce dripping into your eyes. Sometimes I thought I saw my own dear father sizing me up – Would I fit into the large roasting pan?

Okay, that’s really creepy and a bridge too far. But just barely.

I did acquire my love of food from the little big man. He was 5 ft. 4 in. tall and at times weighed more than the scale could measure. He was also a first rate chef. My mother seldom had to prepare dinner. He was on it like barbeque sauce on spare ribs.

From cook-outs at a nearby state park, when I was young…where 3-inch thick sirloins and entire watermelons were just a few of the staples, to grilled dinner for fifteen (with both indoor and outdoor cooking going on simultaneously) when I was an adult…to large scale parties with more hors d’oevres than one could count or even imagine, the preparing, sharing and enjoying of food was a main focus of his life.

Sometimes, when I’ve cooked a really good meal, I can feel his approval. I know he’s watching me – especially on Thanksgiving, our family’s high holy day.


For those of you who are married or living with someone in a committed relationship, you have an issue which must be resolved on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah…you get the picture, right? It’s: Where do we go? Your mother’s house or mine? Hmmm. This is the kind of dilemma that we need to keep King Solomon away from. Not okay to cut my mamma in half. Oh, no! If you want to sacrifice yours to the cause, be my guest. Oh, yeah? What was that you said about my mother?

And so you see how fraught this entire issue can be, and how it can burst into flames at any moment. So what’s a girl to do?

We have tried (as I imagine many of you have) to make it fair and just – splitting our time equally between the two matriarchs, for example. What does that look like exactly? It looks like an exhausting trip from Manhattan to Brooklyn in stop and hardly-go traffic, followed by a grand effort to appear relaxed and delighted with the bagels and lox (which is the traditional celebratory fare). Choking it down while trying not to look at your watch is not that easy. You know you have to be in Suffolk County for an early dinner; which means possibly four more hours on the road. Mamma number two (don’t let her hear your refer to her that way!) will be in full-on denial that you had any kind of conflict of interest. She is, in fact, the one and only mother – as far as she’s concerned.

Ah, the drive…The kids will be in monster-mode, requiring the ultimate threat: “Don’t make me come back there!” It’s equally ineffective when expressed by either the driver or the driver’s spouse. Kids know that, unless we’re on the cusp of Armageddon, there is little that will be enacted in the way of discipline in a moving vehicle. “Wait till we get home,” doesn’t really work. Those kids count on your failing memory, which is only further compromised by the kind of exhaustion that comes from a day filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic and too many carbohydrates (dinner will consist of a six course meal at ye olde Chinese restaurant – the only one that still uses MSG.)

Now would be the time to encourage one mother to move down to Florida. Expectations for holiday visits are muted by the sun and all those beige buildings. There is also another solution to this and the other comparable quandaries: avoidance.

I can’t (yet) speak from personal experience, but a dear friend can always be found on one breezy Caribbean island or another during each and every family-oriented holiday. She has found a way to turn dross into gold. Now – do you have the courage to say: “I won’t see you on Mother’s Day”? I know, it’s daunting. But, let’s make a pact, you and I. Next year in Antigua!!

Look for my new non-fiction book, FEAR OF LANDING, The stories we tell about commitment and their meanings. It’s available on

Also available on is my science fiction novel, RAYMÒN AND SUNSHINE, It’s about the relationship between an autistic man and a female android three hundred years in the future, when what was once seen as a disability is merely a difference.

You can find more information about me and my books at


…you guessed it, Bingo was his name. OH!

It was a steamy and – dare I say – sultry night in Tamarac, Florida. My visit with Mom was about to reach its zenith with a 7pm date with Bingo at Ye Olde Club House. I have had an unnatural love for the game since childhood. Fond memories flood me when I think back to the pure fun and excitement of being taken to the Officers Club at Ft. Hamilton on an evening for dinner – to be followed (be still my heart) by an only slightly militarized version of Bingo. The room would be packed with officers and gentlemen and their families. Winning was only slightly better than being in that room.

Fast forward back to the present – well, yesterday:

Dinner was called for a preternaturally early hour: 5pm. This was to make certain that we (mother, partner-in-crime and me) would arrive on time for the 7pm start of The Game. We made it – with just minutes to spare – and were soon ensconced at one of the large round tables. We had our Bingo cards: 3 for 6 bucks. One woman at our table was playing with 8 cards simultaneously. She was gracious as the looks of admiration and wonder swept over her. As the evening progressed, she maintained a consistent patter, interspersed with “God is good.”

Commentary on the numbers – called by the lovely white-haired man on the raised stage – varied between muted and an excited crescendo. There were a dozen separate games – some were of the plain vanilla variety; others more complex and requiring acute attention. Winning came in the form of a “layer cake,” a “crazy L,” and other arcane shapes in addition to the standards: a row or diagonal, four corners, or a full card. The experienced players were both helpful and a bit bossy as they checked and corrected the newbies (that would be me).

Now, it is not without significance that winners received a cash award. That $10 or $15 dollar prize was received as if it was a million bucks. I confess to feeling a flush of achievement when I found myself yelling “BINGO.”

Now for the color: I am 70. In that room of players I was, perhaps, the youngest person. Average age looked to be 80. My 92-year-old mother was definitely not the oldest. Intermixed were some younger caretakers; there was also an outdoors contingent of same – who opted out of playing, but sat smoking and chatting during the “calling of the balls.” I should mention…that phrase was a source of much sly merriment. These were oldies, but not deadies.

Now for the less than sunny sluice of emotion. As the minutes ticked away, I found myself feeling increasingly glum, verging on depressed. When I examined the cause for this state, I realized it was a reaction to being deeply immersed in the energy of the very old. Even though we were participating in a distraction, there was an awareness that hung over the space like a thick fog: these were short-timers.

I left feeling the need to intake large gulps of fresh air. Bingo is no longer “Bingo” for me. The bloom is well off the rose. My childhood associations have now been repealed and replaced. Bingo is just another word for nothing left to lose.

Look for my new non-fiction book, FEAR OF LANDING, The stories we tell about commitment and their meanings. It’s available on

Also available on is my science fiction novel, RAYMÒN AND SUNSHINE, It’s about the relationship between an autistic man and a female android three hundred years in the future, when what was once seen as a disability is merely a difference.

You can find more information about me and my books at

Two sides of the coin

Once again, here in New York, we have a lovely, warm autumn day. It’s ideal – no fault to be found. It’s a walkabout day, a stroll to nowhere day, an enlivening and uplifting kind of day. But, as is so for an immense segment of the over 40 population here, there is another locale that is flooding (NO! NO!) my consciousness. It’s Broward County in Florida. That’s where my mother lives. So, while I have been enjoying the balmy weather, I am simultaneously in an anxious state.

Nothing good is about to hit the sunny climes of southern FLA. There’s a monster hurricane a-comin’ (gently name “Matthew”) and I’m obsessively calling Mom every hour to make sure she’s okay. She is. There is no pounding rain or violent wind – as yet. And, I guess, as part of the secret to living a long life, my mother isn’t worried. She is somewhat tolerant of my concern, carefully explaining that she hadn’t answered the phone earlier because she was on another call, and – even though she saw or guessed or intuited that it was ME calling, she “let the call go.” Okay, thanks, Mom. For the gut churning minutes of feverishly checking to see if anything catastrophic had happened.

She’s got water – check; she’s got canned goods – check; she’s got her special storm doors installed – check. All good. And, by nature, she just isn’t a worrier. I do not take after her. No. Not at all. I am my late father’s daughter in this regard. My mother treats my worries the way she treated his: almost respectfully, but with that soft-voiced, barely audible disinterest that prompted her to bring our recent conversation to a rapid close with: Okay, I’m going to go eat my lunch now. Bye.

I’ll worry for two. It’s what I do.

A visit from Brownstein

I was – as you can imagine – really excited. Brownstein was coming to visit. It was an auspicious occasion, to be sure – the gathering of our small clan featuring the erstwhile but fabulous Uncle Greg. Our numbers included the quite famous Sheridy-shoo, HRH Louis the Kind, and the-best-boy-in-the-world-who-is-now-a-man, Alec Alerstein. Brownstein had organized this event; for her it was quite simple. Wizardry has many practical uses – like sending invitations via magical conduits (on the wind – which, as it turns out, is quite a cooperative force).

We six convened (Miss Amanda the Panda, the seventh of our number, was, sadly, not able to attend) at the first of what was to be two restaurants. Brownstein decided to stay in and guard the homestead. (Okay, that’s not the whole story: the restaurants in question had an archaic policy regarding those of the four-legged persuasion. That plus B’s continuing self-consciousness due to her shorn coat – and the attendant lack of her full magical ability – sealed the deal.) She would wait, singing her dirge-like song at the top of her lungs, for all who cared to listen (and that would be all the neighbors in all the adjacent apartments and anyone who entered the lobby).

I attribute what followed to a combination of random New York City crap and the pall cast by our heroine’s absence. We sat down in restaurant one – a much touted (by me!) Peruvian place. It became quickly apparent that the din was designed to push all to the brink of madness. It is more than passing true that some of us live way to close to that brink on a good day. And so, after reflexively ordering a round of drinks which we left on the table (but paid for), we fled.

Our scout, aka my PIC, did some advance work so we knew that the Italian restaurant on the corner of the same block had space for us. We effected a quick relocate and ensconced ourselves in a far more civilized environment.

We quickly ordered one of everything (or so it seemed) on the menu, and fell to. Much joy and tasty food was had by all. In the meantime, Brownstein continued to wait, with a building matrix of feelings: outrage, hunger, frustration and – did I mention hunger? She has instincts that don’t rely on her magical abilities (after all, she’s a dog, not a chicken!), and she could smell (from a city block away and through the many intervening doors) the fragrance of our meal. WHERE”S MINE, her mind kept repeating. It was truly incomprehensible: How could we do this to her? She would be much more kind and considerate if the positions were reversed. Oh yes, she would!

Finally, we returned, to receive quite the (deserved) tongue/bark-lashing from our furry girl. I mollified her with several pieces of turkey – which she more or less inhaled and then returned to her verbal spanking.

Just this side of hysterical, B gave us all “what for” and I petted her and apologized until she was somewhat appeased.

Guilt is mine, incontrovertibly – and it is well deserved. How could I put the best canine girl in the world through such a traumatic incident? I’m deeply sorry, Brownstein. All I can ask for is forgiveness. I imagine that when her coat is restored and her full wizardly powers return, there will be a second act to this drama. Be kind, O Brownstein. Be kind.

You call it grooming, I call it humiliation.

Thus spake Brownstein – more with her limpid brown eyes than with her voice. As the story goes, her fur got matted during the long multi-phased journey to see her human great-grandmother. The journey was arduous – for all concerned, but when you are a small four-legged person, trains, planes and automobiles are an infinitely greater trial. To the magnificent Brownie’s credit, she maintained her fabled good humor despite the stressful nature of traveling from New York to Florida.

So it all made sense when B’s primary roommate (some would say “master” but not me) decided she needed to visit the groomer. Sadly, said groomer felt a shave-down, to get rid of the snarly stuff, would be the best idea. All that remained of our heroine’s lovely coat was a lioness-like head of fauxmane.

Why did it have to be done? Couldn’t a well-directed nail-scissor have done the trick on those knots? Being naked and chilly and losing the very definition of her fabulous figure is a bridge too far. Grow fast, Brownie’s coat…grow fast. Return her to her glory.

Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention: The Brownstein wizardliness is offline when her fur is absent. If not, she could have abracadabra’d it back in a flash.

Going to Camp Florida

There’s a pretty big occasion today – it’s my mother’s 91st birthday, and most of our small clan are gathering together to celebrate in lovely, sunny Florida.

Okay, so this may not be the perfect time of year to be in Fla. I’m being positive and affirming to myself and anyone who will (or has to) listen: There will be NO hurricanes during my stay!!. D’ya hear that, O Mother Nature (you universal dominatrix)? NO HURRICANES (please?!!)

Among the festive celebrants, is one of the four-legged persuasion: a pup who is dear to my heart, by the name of Brownie. Those of you familiar with my ongoing saga, Coolie Coolstein, will recognize the name: AKA Brownstein, who – in the Coolie version – is a wizard. In the what-passes-for-real-life version, she is merely the cutest dog is the world.

Don’t tell my mother, but I might be looking forward most of all to seeing the scruffy and bright-eyed Brownie. Sadly, she will have to dog it in the hotel room during group dinners out, but I’ll be sure to smuggle her some fine treats and leftovers. She and I have a special bond, built mostly on a foundation of sliced turkey breast. She knows that whenever she sees me, there will be turkey for her. So, now, I have to procure some during our Florida encounter. Wouldn’t want to disappoint the sweet brown fluff-ball, who – I’m fairly sure – is keeping her real live wizardness under wraps until just the right moment…then poof! We might all turn into sliced turkey.

…And so do his sisters, and his cousins, and his aunts!

For now, let’s forget about the sisters and the aunts. Let’s focus on the cousins.

Cousins. A nice warm sound to the word: in Yiddish we say: mishpucha (there’s no way I’m spelling that right). Not nearly as comforting a sound.

Sometimes, when we imagine the reality which corresponds to a word, it doesn’t materialize; sometimes it’s just a pale imitation of our fantasy.

Sometimes…just occasionally…reality is far better than any imagining. And that’s what happened yesterday evening.

When I was a little girl, my cousins moved to Texas. That was the last I saw of them. Every once in a while I would hear something about them, but they were distant stories – I didn’t feel connected. I remember my cousin Gloria and her daughter Barbara, but only vaguely. I don’t think I ever met Barbara’s sisters.

Another cousin – Loren – and I have, in the last two years, become very close. She is my father’s sister’s daughter, and just a great, smart, funny woman, who I am proud to be related to. She has stayed in touch with the Texas crew and even visited them within the past year. So, when she told me she they were coming to New York and she was organizing a dinner, I was pretty excited. I trust that the folks Loren values are folks I want to know.

Yesterday, I got to the fabulous upper west side Chinese restaurant, Shun Lee Palace, about twenty minutes early. I guess I was anxious and excited at the prospect of meeting three of the Texas cousins.

In they walked, led by Carol, followed closely by Jan and Sherri. Loren, smiling like the proverbial Chesire cat, brought up the rear.

There was no hesitation, we hugged like ….well, like long lost cousins. And the evening unfolded: with stories of our lives, catching each other up on the significant and the outrageous.

Just as advertised, they were all warm and wonderful; I really didn’t want the evening to end.

Here’s to you all (or should I say y’all?): My beautiful, kick-ass cousins. I’m so glad I now have you in my life.


Those of you out there with adult children may be able to empathize with my plight. Both of my offspring are over forty, and have had many long-term partners during the preceding twenty-plus years. Many of them have been lovely, endearing or fascinating people, who I have come to know quite well. I have often become quite attached to them and then summarily thrown into the depths of loss when my son or daughter decides to toss the now incredibly deficient one overboard. Bye-bye! Sayonara! Get outa heah!

Does anyone ask me if I want to sever ties? No. Would it be politically correct for me to continue a relationship with said rejected ones? No. And so it goes. Each time a relationship gets “serious,” I become hopeful (see my masterful treatise, The Dark Side of Hope) that this one is the one that will last.

It may be that my wish has finally come true with one of my progeny. Fingers crossed – cause I really like him. I am a little leery of expressing too much admiration or giving too much praise. Those things can backfire in an old oppositional way.

For those who have gone by the wayside, they continue to live inside my mind: Whatever happened to S? Or did M finally get his act together. Wait a minute! That last one was about one of my ex’s. And that is another whole story…


….say, “At least it’s only a bug.”

Thus spoke my PIC as he came hurrying to save me in response to my screams.

I was innocently taking a shower on a relaxed Saturday morning. After turning off the water and just as I was about to step out, I saw A GIANT bug scurrying along the bottom of the bathtub. It was the biggest crawling thing I every saw and I’m just thankful that I didn’t have a coronary on the spot.

What is going on in the DNA, I wonder, that makes men – who get incensed over a slow patch of traffic, or who blow a gasket if their ‘team’ gets a bad call from the ref – become poster boys for calm and equanimity in the face of one of the two most dastardly of nature’s creations: bugs? (The other is rodentia.)

I know, I know. I’m being sexist. Yes. Take me to the woodshed. If you are going to be totally honest, however, you will admit to a massive biological bias in this area.

I can recall a day (not that fondly) about 25 years ago when a mouse was in my house. It scurried (they all freakin’ scurry) across the living room floor and ran into the heating unit along the wall. Well, my daughter and I literally jumped up onto the furniture. We would not put toe to floor – rather we jumped from couch to chair as the need arose – until my PIC killed the little rat bastard. He was not a willing hunter, but he dug down into his innate male-murderous nature and beat the thing to death with a shoe (if memory serves). He was and is again today, my hero.

FYI: my new science fiction novel, RAYMÒN AND SUNSHINE, is available on It’s about the relationship between an autistic man and a female android three hundred years in the future. Here’s the link:

You can find more information about me and my books at