A Word Bigger Than Love

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It is the eve of Super Bowl LXIX.  Tomorrow, at 6:30 pm, the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks will take the field while millions of fans watch, rooting for their faves  as they consume mass quantities of pizza, chicken wings, and vast amounts of beer. For decades, the Super Bowl was akin to a religious holiday in our house. My husband loved football. Come to think of it, “loved” is probably not the right word. Is there a word to express a feeling bigger than love? Nothing comes to mind – at least nothing that adequately captures the passion, zeal and devotion my Joe had for the game of football.

Typically a quiet man, something about football brought out a side of Joe that was the antithesis of quiet. On any given Sunday, Joe was perched on his favorite chair – prepared to root on his team, call the plays and loudly chastise the calls he considered unfair, misguided or just plain wrong. Screaming, jumping out of his chair, and swearing (loudly), it was not uncommon to hear, repeatedly, “WHAT THE (expletive) ARE YOU (expletive expletive) DOOOIIINNNGGGG?” That man had quite the colorful vocabulary on game days.

Things changed in 1994. You see, in 1994, our daughter was born. Unfortunately, 1994 was also the year Giants’ fans remember as the beginning of a dark time for the team. 1994 was the year that Phil SImms and Lawrence Taylor retired and things went seriously south.  But our girl was born in May, months before the darkness descended over the Meadowlands. Joe bought her a tiny little NY Giants’ shirt that she could wear on game days. There he was, all 6’4″ of him curled up on the floor next to his tiny little baby girl clad in Giants’ blue.

But he wasn’t curled up for long. It was a train wreck of a season – well, as history will note, it was more than one season. As the team spiraled downward, that poor man was near apoplexy. And, as our daughter matured, it became clear that it was in the best interest of her developing language skills that game day might best double as movie day – or even shopping day – for us gals. You see, my daughter attended parochial schools. While I might not be the sharpest knife in the tool drawer, I was fairly confident that Sister Elizabeth or Father Anthony would not find game day verbiage appropriate, or even mildly entertaining, for our little Catholic angels.

Eventually the team broke through the darkness (thanks to Tom Coughlin and a kid called Eli) and posted some pretty major wins. Joe’s vocabulary didn’t change much but the winning seasons made the depth of his despair less painful to witness – and the need to make movie or shopping plans less necessary.

Tomorrow night will be the fourth Super Bowl since that screaming, blustery ÜberFan was silenced. However his little girl is now twenty and, of course, she is a massive fan of the NY Giants. Although Eli and the guys are not in tomorrow’s game, she tells me that she will be bellied up to a bar in London (she is studying abroad this semester) so she can watch the big game and scream, jump up and down and, yes, hurl some expletives at those darn Patriots, the nemesis of her beloved father. I think I will stay home to watch the game. Maybe sit here, in his favorite chair, and try out a few expletives of my own. 🙂

 

Get Over It

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Since Monday I have been consumed by the news surrounding Robin Williams’ death. By today, reading the news that his eldest daughter has fled social media due to some hateful posts, I knew I had to refocus and “get over it.”  At least from the perspective of how much time I have been spending reading all the posts and watching all the clips. Enough. The news media has turned his death into a circus … one that is attacking his family. We have to look away. They have to grieve.

I hate the phrase “get over it.” While I don’t recall anyone specifically using it (to my face), there have been many versions of it swirling about me with each passing day, week, month, and year since my husband’s death. As recently as last week, a long-time friend seemed shocked that I was upset at her disregard for the grief I still struggle with every single day. You see, I made the egregious mistake of admitting my sadness. She said, and I think this is a quote “I don’t know what to do for you. It’s been over two years!”

You see – I think she wants the old me back. The me that could be counted on to do anything for laughs and didn’t take many things too seriously. The me that didn’t stand up and walk away when conversations became upsetting (I have actually done this. Honest to Pete — the first time I did this, stood up and walked out of a room because I didn’t like a conversation, I don’t know who was more shocked … the people left in the room or me. And I didn’t just walk out of the room, I left the house!  Now that I have done it more than once, it’s not quite so shocking, to me at least. Odd bit, that.) . Old friend wanted to hang out with the me with the marital status of married, or even single …. but not this widow status me. This widow status me is a horse of a different color.

This new me – this widow … well, she can be somewhat of a damp rag. Not all the time but enough of the time that it’s a noticeable difference.  The widow doesn’t want to go out. She doesn’t want to have people over. She doesn’t want to do much with the “old gang.”  In fact, due to an unfortunate, ugly email “walk out,” I haven’t spoken to one of the “old gang” in two years. Before Joe’s death, I never would have gotten into it with her on email,  much less let it go on for this long. I just cannot be bothered any more. That probably sounds harsh. Tough. Some might say “Didn’t you learn the importance of friends through this experience.” Yes, yes I did. I learned the importance of real friends and also, equally important, the importance of time.

Time is such a precious commodity.

It just occurred to me this morning that there are days that go by, often several in a row, where I don’t speak with anyone outside of work. Like tonight. I left work, came home, did more work, ate some dinner, and am now writing. I could have been with other people. I was invited to join some of the “old gang” out at trivia tonight (local bar has Wednesday night trivia contest) but I declined. Back in the day I would have been there in a NY minute. Those days seem to be gone. Now I’m more likely to make reservations to head across the country than across town.

And I am not ready to get over “it” — the big “it” that is felt at my very core. The “it” that can make me well up just sitting here writing about “it.” The ‘it” that kept me warm and safe and laughing for over a quarter century.

I love you, Joe … my big ole’ “it.”

Turn the Station, Silly

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Ah, William Congreve, you are so right! Music DOES hath charms to soothe the savage breast (not beast, as often misquoted). Just the other day, I was weeping to Gilbert O’Sullivan. While I do love the Irish, and their music, so very much…. they can be a depressing lot. So this morning, I scrolled through my playlist and cranked up my old pal, Carlos Santana. Instead of pulling out the tissues, I was dancing in the shower. OK, maybe not the safest activity but heck … feeling peppier and ready to take on the day. Thank you, Carlos … and thank you Mr. Congreve for your gentle reminder of the power of music.

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Change, Change, Change – Part One

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I am a technology training project manager primarily working on assignments for government agencies. There are a number of reasons I like my job, not the least of which is the constantly changing nature of technology. There is always something new to learn; something new to discover; something new to consider as my team designs, develops and delivers training to the end users of these new systems. It’s all about change.

But, until 2001, I liked keeping that change factor in the office. While the whirl of technology kept things interesting during the day, I loved returning home to the same ole, same ole. Joe coming in the door; emptying his pockets of coins into the jars he kept on his dresser; a quick change into casual clothes followed by a bee line to his jug wine. Yes, my dear husband was a lover of the cheapest red wine found in most local liquor stores. It’s called Paisano and made by the fine folks at Carlo Rossi. I still have the bottle he never had the chance to finish stored down in our basement. One of my favorite memories involving Paisano involves Joe and his brother, Stephen. Joe and Stephen loved hanging out on their parents’ porch sipping their Paisano out of little jelly jars that their mother had saved for such occasions. I think everyone has seen these glasses – often decorated with cartoons, especially Flintstones (why was that anyway?). It was quite a sight. Two very large men of Slovak/Polish heritage, planted in rocking chairs, laughing at God-only-knows-what, enjoying that cheap jug wine well into the night.

Those were great times. Stephen and his wife were raising their two daughters. Joe and I had our daughter. We would go on vacations together. The girls jumping in and out of hotel pools. The adults catching up and just enjoying each others’ company. We were all doing well. Or so I thought. Like the rest of the world, our first indication that change was happening came on 9/11/01. The day everything changed. As the reports of the attacks in NYC, DC, and PA were coming in, Joe and I left our offices and raced to get our daughter, get home, and make sure the rest of our family and friends were ok. We stared in silence at the tv as the coverage lasted for hours and hours. We stared in silence as the networks showed the photos of the towers falling, over and over. We stared until our daughter begged us to turn off the tv. We were incredulous. We were in shock. We were traumatized. We knew our world would never be the same – but we had no idea that the universal change brought about by terrorists was about to be followed by personal change brought about by age and disease.

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