I finally came across a copy of the KQED Perspective I did in 2007. I had taken a class of how to write and present a topic for this well-known radio format and was thrilled when my offering was accepted. I recorded it at the KQED studios in San Francisco. It is no longer in their archives, so I was excited to find a copy in my own files. For all you single folk out there…enjoy!
#10 – That broken bones bleed…a lot!
#9 – That all that blood slides down inside your arm leaving behind a gruesome kaleidoscope of black and blue and green and yellow bruises.
#8 – That independent, competent, know-it-all women with PhD’s don’t fare well when they suddenly become completely incapacitated and helpless. They turn whiny and weepy.
#7 – That I’m glad I didn’t do in my son those first weeks of his life when he was so colicky and I was up all night because at 43 he is a Godsend who scraped me up off the floor of the gym with his firefighter friends, stood by me in the ED, kept me from getting kicked off a flight by the TSA (“Look at me, Mom, don’t say one more word.”), and helped me move from pillar to post.
#6 – That my daughter is a whiz at multi-tasking: keeping us all afloat, packing, parenting, teaching, and organizing our big move two weeks after my injury.
#5 – That my son and daughter both picked amazing mates that have been equally helpful and caring through all of this, going way above and beyond the call of duty.
#4 – That my grandchildren remained their remarkable selves through this entire ordeal, Ryan winning his second scholarship to WWDC, Sam getting his Brown Belt and starring in the Middle School musical (after which I had my fatal fall), Aveline rehearsing for her starring role in Rapunzel, and Estelle being her best three-year-old self.
#3 – That Facebook messages and prayers of support can mean everything along with phone calls and visits.
#2 – That the above advice on FB is probably more important than I thought it was.
#1 – That God is good and is enabling me to heal, to laugh more, to wince less, and to begin to love sleeping nearly upright on the couch.
shall I compare me to thee
deserve I your name?
“doc” is well earned
do I draw the same admiring looks
spark the same smiles
or do I swim listless in a sea of
would I keep your sense of humor
if caricatured in pastel hues?
or would I bristle
with high and haughty hubris
even faded and forgotten
in the aftermath of some raucous party
you remain an icon of delight
absent the rage I would feel
to be so ill-used
but I stubbornly keep your name
and hope you will forgive
your pink passion gives off
a secondary glow
making me into what
I aspire to be
I can always hope for reincarnation
as the real thing
in my next life
‘Twas the day after Christmas, when all thru the house
Some creature was stirring, could it be a mouse?
Empty stockings were flung on the floor with a shrug
And Legos and dollies covered the rug
The children were wrestling on top their beds,
With way too much sugar still filling their heads,
And me with my covers pulled up to my chin,
Had just settled down for a chance to sleep in —
When outside my door there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Out of my bed, I flew like a flash,
Tore open the blinds and threw up the sash.
The sun was just rising this cold winter day,
Giving sparkle below to San Francisco bay
Then, what to my bleary eyes should appear,
A five-year-old being, who was no longer sick
And a three-year-old darling, so lively and quick,
I knew for a fact it must be grandkids
More rapid than eagles their footsteps they came,
They whistled, and shouted, and called us by name:
“Now! Mimi, now! Nonna, now! Daddy and Mama,
“Come! Mimi, Come! Nonna, Come! Daddy and Mama;
“It’s time to get up! It’s time for our toast!
Are we going to school? Or maybe the coast?”
Oh, dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
Unexpected adventures sometimes lie close at hand. My first intention was to follow a good friend’s advice and check out the North Berkeley Senior Center. I had resisted crossing that threshold into senior-dom but circled the blocks north of UC Berkeley campus and found a parking spot, duly registered, and even ventured into the dining room filled with a couple hundred seniors waiting patiently for a nutritious, if not gourmet, lunch for the bargain price of $3. I headed for a table occupied by three more spritely-looking women only to discover that they were all speaking Turkish, having immigrated to the US in recent years. The one English speaker was kind enough to engage me in conversation and generously offered me the homemade Middle Eastern salad she had brought to share with her friends. These women knew how spice up life.
At 12:30 sharp, I headed upstairs to the Center’s library, stocked by a generation that knows good literature and history, to what was advertised as the “Mixed Poets” class. No one arrived. So instead, I selected a slim volume in French, deciding that I could improve my French with a bit of translating. But I needed to find a French-English dictionary (forgetting that my iPhone had a translating app). Where to go? I drove back over to campus and headed for the Bancroft Library reading room with its thousands of reference volumes at hand. Passing under Sather Gate, I was transported back to 1963 and my sophomore year of college. I passed Wheeler Hall where I had taken a French literature class. Actually, I had only stepped into the classroom one time but had dutifully read Madame Bovary and the other selections on my own. To my dismay I discovered that 50% of the final would be based on class lectures. So I had gone to the Bancroft library, grabbed the Encyclopedia Britannica volume on French literature, boned up and passed the class with a B+. I walked passed other buildings where classes had been missed, phony excuses for non-attendance made up, and last minute cramming had taken place. Once ensconced in the beautiful vaulted reading room, I spent a few minutes using my newly found dictionary to translate the opening pages of what appeared to be a mystery novel, but then remembered my iPhone and took the easier route.
But the most fascinating part of my L’Après–midi d’un étudiant de la vie came before I even reached campus. Trolling Telegraph Avenue for a pair of earrings, my eye caught the table of an elderly (of course, I, myself, am not elderly!) gentleman, named Robert, who instantly engaged me with his bright mind, congeniality, and Irish gift of gab. A fascinating half-hour conversation ensued. He gushed that I looked like an opera singer, hopefully based on my flow-y outfit and not those extra pounds I had gained in Hawaii. I said I was a poet and he regaled me with his adventure about hitchhiking with the help of a couple of long-haul truckers from New York to California to hear Susan Sontag, the radical American writer and filmmaker, teacher and political activist, read her poetry. Somehow Willie Brown got woven into the conversation. He talked about family, how only one granddaughter seems interested in his welfare, and where he lived and insisted I visit the next 2nd Friday Art Walk in Vallejo where he displays his wares.
Before our conversation ended, he insisted I take one of his authentic Gaelic bracelets as a gift. I thought of going to the ATM to get cash to pay him but then decided that only gracious acceptance was called for. The real gift was allowing myself an afternoon of being open to the small miracles that come our way when we keep our eyes, hearts, and minds open to what life offers. And, yes, I’ll return that French novel to the Senior Center library after I finish the translation. If I learn enough French, I’ll be able to understand what my three and five-year-old granddaughters are whispering about in the back seat of my car on the way to their French school.
I scarcely recall
the donning or doffing
or even the reason
for all that put offing
were they dim
or were they full on
in deference to him
did he smile
all the while
I just can’t remember
was it love
or just lust
I hope it was tender
will they lay out the lace
in a prominent place
or throw it away
and leave not a trace of those
and outcomes so tragic
but rules are the rules
knick-knacks are proper
get tossed in the hopper
romance in fifth gear
full steam ahead
damn the torpedoes
a friend suggests
let love unfold as
rose in bloom
I nod as if in
inside my hasty heart
turns a first greeting into
porcelain held mocha
raised with seductive grace
hints at fingers that could
hold other than a
lips that could
softer harder things
his words a prelude to my
his syllables orchestrated to
fit my melody
my nagging big girl brain
throws up a red flag at
my hungry heart
rips it down
a disappearing waitress
to drag him down
my garden path
gravel embedded in his
on cracked sidewalk
he leans in for a
I wangle more with
two weeks pass
cancel order for
refund honeymoon fare to
swing wrecking ball
smash to smithereens
new beginnings are hers
give that waiting thing
move past thinking
waiting is for others
let it be a good idea for
not a good idea
I hate good ideas
let it be my idea
my wild heart
I don’t need a whole new me
just a daily tune up
every 6000 minutes or sooner
So, being 71 and not up for long car rides, I made a flight reservation at the last minute to fly from Oakland to San Diego for our family vacation. I envisioned a relaxing trip, arriving long before the rest (two parents, two little girls, and one au pair) would arrive in the mini-van after an 8 1/2 hour drive.
Sunday started as expected. Helping pack up the mini-van and getting ready to attend the 5-year old granddaughters annual ballet recital. I’m escorting her out to my car and manage to trip off the edge of the driveway and fall into the open mini-van, whacking my head on something very hard. But off we go. And the recital is spectacular with her group portraying the Lost Boys from Peter Pan.
Then I hurry back to my apartment to pass the family cat on to the other grandmother for the week. Shadow doesn’t take well to being shoved into his carrier and takes a hunk out of my hand. Scrambling through the medicine cabinet, I find a bandaid and the neosporin.
A friend drives me to Oakland airport and as I approach the baggage check, I realize my driver’s license is back on my scanner at home…having been scanned for an application the day before. Yes, you can fly without ID. The baggage check was simple, but then I went through 15 minutes of a VERY personal body pat down. I didn’t even request a private room. I just wanted to make that flight. The woman announced each time that she was about to touch a “private area”, using the back of her hands for those spots.
So I make it just in time to board along with the rest of the “B” passengers…I’m always a “B” no matter how promptly I retrieve my boarding pass the day before. I settle into my aisle seat and prepare to relax for the hour and 20 minute flight to San Diego.
Thirty minutes into the flight, the plane tilts violently 45 degrees to the left and goes into free fall for several seconds. We all thought for sure it was the end! But the pilot levels it out and calmly announces that we were caught in another plane’s wake, one passing us at a right angle. The woman next to be actually saw this plane zoom across our path…an obvious near miss.
Having arrived alive though shaken, I’m picked up by my best friend from childhood. NOW…I’m safe. She takes me to the VRBO in Pacific Beach and I’m ready to collapse. Not yet! The door code doesn’t work and someone else is occupying “our” garage. The manager doesn’t answer nor does the handyman. But my friend takes me to The French Gourmet for dinner. A pris fixe dinner of 3 pates, duck confit, and a chocolate ganache eclair along with a glass of sauvingnon blanc calms my nerves. By now the handyman has called back and given me the correct door code and garage.
I’m barely settled in when the rest of the family arrives, having made record time and a much more relaxed day. Moral of the story…the skyways are not always the best alternative to the freeways.
Waiting in my chiropractor’s office, I picked up the September 2014 Special Edition of Scientific American on Evolution and read a fascinating interview with Sherry Turkle, a Sociologist at MIT. She asked an 18 year old male, “What’s wrong with conversation [vs. emailing]?” He answered, “It takes place in real time. You can’t control what you’re going to say.” Sherry commented that that is why a lot of people like to do their dealings on email–it’s not just the time shifting, it’s that you basically can get it right.
This struck a cord with me and made me think about pros and cons of using email as the ever increasing go-to for all forms of communication.
Many, especially women, feel if they say it JUST RIGHT, that their listeners will better hear their message and behave or respond in a desirable way. Women have always rehearsed their speeches, read self-help books on communication, and sent long hand-written letters when they wanted to get their message across to a spouse, a child, or a boss. Now they email.
The first problem that arises is that email turns even the most socially cautious person into an impulsive blabbermouth. A couple of quick revisions, if that, and our pointer finger hits the SEND button. And no more being able to fish poison-pen letters out of mail boxes with coat hangers. Emailing tends to disinhibit us. We say things in emails, usually off the top of our heads, that we would never say in person or even in a letter. We shout in ALL CAPS, belying our real timid mouse personalities. Our fingers tap out insulting and derogatory words we would never dare spout in public.
The second problem is that we begin to believe we have a real relationship with the person on the receiving end of our hyperspace missives. But they cannot hear the inflection in our voice or see the smile that says we are teasing, even when our emails are filled with a slew of IMHOs, LOLs, and OMGs. Nor can we see the smirk on their face as our words fall on deaf ears nor the faster than lightning move as they send our precious words to the trash bin hell.
The time delay (even the millisecond delay in instant messaging) prohibits a connection between emotions and words that can be so painful, or even delightful, in real conversation.
So with all its limitations and pitfalls, why are we as a nation and a world gravitating to email and similar forms of communication? Why are we allowing a brave new world of technology to degradate the one thing that most defines us a human beings, direct communication. We can teach a monkey to press keys on a keyboard and a remote voice on an iPhone can spout words at us. Sherry Turkle suggests that more and more people would actually settle for a relationship with “Her” of movie fame. Less messy.
I am the first to admit that email has often been the bane of my existence. Yes, I use it for convenience, but I also use it when I’m too fearful to speak the truth, when I think that a dozen revisions will make my words more acceptable or terribly enticing. I use it to force a connection that I know would never fly in person. I use it to circumvent my natural shyness, especially with the opposite sex.
But instead of making myself clearer, I make myself anathema, offending when not intending to do so, intruding where not welcome, badgering and manipulating, and then sending more emails to try to repair the damage.
What about blogging? Many of the same drawbacks but at least I’m giving you a chance to read or not read my pontifications. Yes, you can delete my emails without reading them. But who ever does that!
Here’s to real live conversations with all their hesitations, miscues, mumbling and stumbling, stuttering and stammering. Here’s to having a red face, a sweaty brow, and spinach between our teeth. And, most of all, here’s to precarious but precious moments of being human.