Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Tisket. A Tasket. Surprise, An Open Casket!

“I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” 
                                                                       ~Woody Allen

I've made some bad choices in my life, but I can only think of one that repeatedly comes back to “haunt” me.
In the late 1990s I worked at a weekly newspaper in lower Westchester County, NY. It was a small paper, but a formidable one. Indeed, for local news, we couldn’t be beat. If there was something important going locally, we were on top of it.
As the sole reporter for two beats, which in this case meant two towns and all that came with them from schools to crime to town government, human interest and more, if something important happened I was on top of it.
With a writing staff of … hang on… two, I was the consummate “general assignment” reporter. One day I might cover a school board meeting only to find myself writing about a murder trial, a construction project or a wedding the next day.
So, after learning that a dearly beloved local priest had died, I was “on the case” when my editor dispatched me to a funeral home to pick up information for his obituary.
An aside: Strange as it may sound, I've always thought it would be a great honor to write obits. After all, on some level, it’s the last story that’s ever going to be written about the deceased. Wow. And to think that I wrote it… .
Well, I wasn't going to be writing this one, but I liked my editor and always wanted to be involved in “the story,” so I had no problem being the messenger service.
I drove over to the funeral home, went into the office and got the press release announcing Father Attridge’s death.
Whoa. Sorry. Make that Monsignor Attridge. He’d been elevated not long before he passed away.
I was working at the paper when it was announced that he was being made a monsignor. That was big news. I mean this guy had a serious fan base. It’s said that 5,000 people attended his funeral. Wow!
So I’m leaving the funeral home office after picking up his bio and I see this long line snaking around the corner out of some nearby room. I’m not sure how I missed the line when I went in. I must have been pretty focused on picking up the paperwork I was there to get.
Well, I’m curious by nature. That’s why I became a journalist, after all. So I can’t let a question: “What are these people standing in line for?” go unanswered. What harm can it do if I take a peek, eh?
I walked alongside the line up to the point where I saw it disappear and craned my neck around the corner. To my surprise and horror, what did I see? None other than Monsignor Attridge, in full regalia, lying in state.
Though at that point in my life I’d attended a few funerals, I had never seen an open “occupied” casket. Caught completely off guard, it was all I could do not to scream out loud.
Reflecting on the situation later that day, it was all I could do not to laugh out loud. 
After all, what did I think people were lined up for at a funeral home? The refreshment stand, perhaps?

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop #24. Theme: Your Choice!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Am Thankful ...

Inspiring and inspired writing, like the work I see here on a regular basis.

Another blogging “challenge” that drives me to stretch myself artistically.
My husband, whose presence in my life has changed it immeasurably.

Technology that has helped me learn, grow and become a better person.
Home and the feeling of security I get knowing it’s always there for me.
Acquaintances who have developed into supportive allies and partners.
New occasions daily to live life to its fullest.
Knowledge I can share with and gather from all who surround me.
Family, friends and the myriad opportunities to connect and reconnect.
Urges that move me to tap my creativity, for better or for worse.
Love and laughter, after all, what’s life without them?

For all this and much more, I am thankful.

Written for BFF Inspiration #143. Theme: What I’m Thankful For

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Loose Lips...

When was the last time you said something and then immediately afterwards thought, “Oh my God! Did those words really just leave my mouth?”
Looking back, it seems my body was mapping out my future with Gary before my brain and heart got on board. Talk about a lesson in biological priorities…
We’d only been dating about a month or two, I’d say, and were still really getting to know each other, when Gary mentioned to me that he played poker once a month with some guys from his neighborhood. It sounded kind of fun to me, having never played, and I wanted to know more.
What I’d come to find out in short order was that the game’s two key features were the low stakes (nickel-dime-quarter) and the absence of women. This get-together was boys only, thank you very much.
That, I thought, was unfortunate, because I would have liked to have gotten to know the guys and perhaps even played a hand or two, not that I knew anything about poker… I couldn't have known then that the “no women” rule would be relaxed after we got married and I would, in fact, be invited to join in. At that time, I was going to have to be content as an observer.
So be it. After all, I liked what I heard about the game and its participants. I especially liked hearing stories about Chuck, a retired race car driver.
The closest Gary will get to driving a race car.... 
Chuck, it seems, had more than a few cars in his driveway/garage. I don’t know anything about cars, but I know I enjoy looking at them. I especially like Porsches. On the understanding that they pack quite a punch under the hood, I think they’re just “adorable.”
Yeah, I know. That’s not a very “manly” description. Sue me…
In the course of conversation Gary told me that Chuck primarily raced Porsches. No way! Now I really wanted to meet this guy, who, it turns out, was also a Marine. Kinda fits, no?
So here was I with this ridiculously romantic notion of Chuck , the race driver, in my head and one day Gary tells me that Chuck is prepared to sell him a Porsche for a mere few thousand bucks. You’d think I’d have jumped at the chance, right?
Not. So. Much.
In my wildest dreams, I never expected to hear what came next.
“I don’t think so, Honey,” I said, “It’s not a family car!”

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop #23. Theme: Priorities

Friday, November 11, 2011

You Can’t Tell a Man by His …

I’m either the best daughter-in-law ever or I’m certifiable. You decide.
Next February my mother-in-law will celebrate her 70th birthday. As a gift for her milestone birthday, Gary and I are going on a week-long Caribbean vacation with her.
I could end this blog post right here, right now, because I’d be willing to guess that for some of my readers, the very idea of spending a week with your mother-in-law makes you laugh out loud. Alternatively it makes you break out in hives…
I’d like to point out that this trip was my idea. As I said, I’m either the best daughter-in-law ever or I’m certifiable.
Truth be told, I’m really lucky. My mother-in-law is pretty hip. Even so, a week with her will probably feel long.
But I digress….
Once we decided on this “gift” for her, the question was where to go?
One of my favorite places to go in the Caribbean is St. Maarten. Being ½ Dutch and ½ French, the 33½-square-mile island is a mini wonderland. On the Dutch side you have casinos, nightclubs and an Orthodox rabbi and on the French side you have an enclosed butterfly habitat, grocery stores with every kind of pâté you could ever want and … a nudist resort complete with beach (
The resort is private, but the beach is public. Fear not, pictures are prohibited.
On our first trip to St. Maarten in 2009, Gary and I stayed on the Dutch side at a timeshare property (We rent. Owning is just not for us.) complete with pool, despite being situated right on the ocean. Even so, we couldn't not sunbathe on the French side at least once, right?
Our routine was as follows: Beach during the day and pool in the evening, followed by a good long soak in the Jacuzzi tub on the balcony of our unit, which, to my chagrin, turned my skin a delightful shade of green. Lest you worry, it did wear off eventually, but not before we went to Orient Beach.
Yep, we went – twice, I think, if not more.
While there on one occasion, I took a walk on the beach and saw a naked guy who looked familiar, but I couldn't quite place him. I said hello and he politely greeted me in return, but I was vexed. Who was he? Where had we seen each other before?
Later that evening, I figured out who he was. ‘Round about the same time he and his family showed up – fully clothed – to swim in the timeshare pool …
“Oh, that’s who you are! I talked with you at length last night,” I said to myself, adding, “It probably wasn't smart for me to think that I could discern who you were by looking at your ….”
The upshot is that we’re taking my mother-in-law to St. Croix.

Written for The Writers’ Post weekly blog hop #22. Theme: Vacation!