Thursday, December 2, 2010

2010: The Year of Sorrow, Envy, and Tears

Envy: Best defined as an emotion that "occurs when a person lacks another's (perceived) superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it."

Sorrow: Deep distress, sadness, or regret especially for the loss of someone or something loved.

I’ve been meaning to get all this out for a while now but never seem to be in the right head space to do so at the right time. In short, 2010 was a year I would like to forget for far too many reasons, basically from beginning right on through to the end. Let’s set to the scene for January 2010. I was working at my first ‘real’ job and had been there just short of a year. I was basically promoted (just not given the office, title, or salary) and loving my job and my boss. On the personal side, we were watching my grandmother rapidly decline after suffering for YEARS from Alzheimer’s. It actually shoots back to November of 2009, when we got a call on Thanksgiving morning that she was being taking to the ER. She did seem to recover after that, quite well actually, until early February when things changed for the worse.

February 2010: My grandmother’s health continues to decline. It becomes quickly apparent that she will not be with us much longer. In the meantime, at work, the only boss I ever truly enjoyed working for and loved as a person, was let go. Not really a big deal in the grand scheme of life, but it changed my work life entirely. Work life is now temporarily in limbo. Last trip to the nursing home, I know that will be the last time I ever see my grandmother. Tears are shed not realizing quite how bad she was, up until that point most of the news regarding her failing health had come via email. Looking at her was like déjà vu of when I saw her sister in the hospital a few years ago right before she died. She was clearly suffering and straining to breath, all the while not knowing what was going on due to her dementia. I can’t imagine how terrifying that must have been. I prayed every night to my grandfather to please come and take her home. A few short days later she passed away peacefully with her son by her side. She was my last remaining grandparent. I had lost my grandfather back when I was in middle school and my other grandmother in my early 20’s. I understand how blessed I was to have them in my life at all, let alone for as long as I did, but that doesn’t make it any easier when you lose them. This particular grandmother I was extremely close with. She lived behind us growing up and I talked with her every day on the phone as a child if I didn’t see her in person. She always came shopping with us. In middle school I would walk to her apartment and we would hang out. We would watch tennis together, talk about the Giants, play Kings in the Corner…. She was a HUGE presence in my life. Most importantly, she was one person who I knew was and would always be proud of me no matter what, even if I wasn’t proud of myself. And she would tell me so. She often told me too how proud she was of me. A grandparent is a cheerleader, a supporter, a babysitter, a teacher, and an overall source of unending love. Losing my grandmother left a huge hole in my heart and I knew it was going to be a long road back up for a lot of us. In addition to my grief, I had to watch some of the strongest people I know lose control of their emotions. I had to watch some of the strongest people I know cry who I had Never seen cry before.

February 2010 ended with my 30th birthday, a birthday I had been dreading as I thought it was the year I would officially be ‘old’. It ended up being one of the best and worst birthdays to date. I enjoyed an amazing time with both my family and friends, but at the end of the day, my birthday is something that I share with my grandmother and I had done so since birthday #1. It was hard to not have her there with me (even if she hadn’t really been with me for years). Every year when our birthdays come around, which are 2 days apart, I will drink to her and all the amazing things she has done for me. I still miss her every day.

March 2010: The family is still mourning the loss of our matriarch and work has gone from limbo to shit with the addition of a new boss. My parents get a phone call from a cousin we hadn’t heard from in way too many years. My Uncle Ralph was in heart failure. My father and I went to see him in the nursing home. I don’t think he realized who I was, but I believe he could tell my father was there. He took my father’s hand, unable to speak, but they had a moment none the less. Being in the nursing home reminded me of all the sad times and also the funny times at my grandmother’s nursing home. At a certain point we learned to laugh at the situation. Laughter is a survival mechanism and it keeps you going. If you are able to laugh at yourself or the situation, you’ll no doubt be ok in the long run. We stayed for a while by his bedside and left, again, just as the prior month, knowing this would be the last time I would be seeing Ralph. Ralph was my favorite of all my father’s aunts and uncles. He was my grandfather’s brother and for some reason I just had a magnetic pull toward him every time I saw him. I loved him dearly through the years whether he was in my life or not. His death led to a slew of regrets which I am still struggling with and working to rectify In the future. Your family is your family, we are only here on earth for a short time. We need to make time for them; it’s selfish otherwise.

March 2010 also was the month that forever changed my friendships, old and new. It took 30 years but I had the first ‘fight’ if you even wanna call it that. Not to dive deep in to this one, but it left me scarred and slightly untrusting and fearful in relationships from that point forward. The month did end on a stressful but happy note as I got to give me new boss a big FU. Exactly as I had laid out I would love for it to happen, I was officially promoted, given an office and a pathetic raise, and I gave my notice a week later to move back to a job I had been trying to get back to for years.

April 2010: A relatively uneventful month that ended with the burial of my grandmother. She was being buried in NY State and they were unable to dig in to the ground until the winter months were over. It was an overwhelming trip to say the least. Lots of emotions, lots of family I hadn’t seen in years, and one very final goodbye.

May 2010: Uncle Bill’s Party! The family gathered together for a beautiful party to celebrate the 96 years of Uncle Bill. They did so at 96 because they knew it would most likely be the last, and sadly it would be. It was great to reconnect with cousins I hadn’t seen in years, but again, you can’t help but feel full of regret. Bill and Joan lived in Kearny, less than an hour away. Why did I never stop over for a visit or make plans to have a nice dinner and talk and catch up? At the end of the party I watched Bill’s remaining sisters say goodbye to him. I watched my Aunt Mae in particular say goodbye to her brother. It was so horribly sad watching this as Mae knew it would be the last time she would see Bill. Little did I know that would also be the last time I would see Mae.

June 2010: June started out as a good month for me. I saw Paula Deen and the new Giants stadium. By this point I had rekindled some old friendships at the new/old job and found and developed some wonderful new ones. Hung out with the posse in Philly, went to the Tony rehearsal with my mom, and ended the month with a posse trip to the beach. The day we were set to head for the beach we got word that one of our college mates had lost her short battle with cancer. Short of her 30th birthday, Caroline was the first person that had died, that was my age and shared many of the same passions as me. It was the first time I saw death as being ageless and nondiscriminatory. Beautiful Caroline lost her battle on June 25.

July 2010: A few short weeks later, on July 9th, Uncle Bill passed away. While this was extremely sad for everyone, it was actually one of the first wakes I kind of enjoyed attending. Saying that out loud kind of seems inappropriate but what I mean by that is that Uncle Bill lived an amazing 96 years! He was one of the happiest men I ever knew who was filled with such energy and love. It was more of a celebration of his life than anything else. Out of this tragedy came a newfound friendship with cousins I hadn’t seen since we were all kids…and little kids at that. I can only hope that these friendships live on for a long time.

August 2010: August 23rd, my Uncle Ralph’s beautiful wife Phyllis passed away. Suffering from dementia at the end and afflicted by what I am sure was a broken heart, she passed away 5 short months after her beloved husband. My poor cousin Joanne has lost both her parents and her children their grandparents. I am only grateful that I had the courage to go and speak to her at the repast as it would be my last chance to do so.

September 2010: September 10th, my Aunt Mae lost her battle with cancer. I drove down the shore with my mother and entered the funeral home not recognizing anyone. Again, the regrets come rushing back. Why do I not know any of my own aunt’s family? Why do I not recognize my own cousins? Are they all looking at me and wondering who I am and why I’m there? All these deaths and all these regrets!

October/November 2010: I think October is when I started my own personal decent in to the world of depression. Not that “I wanna kill myself” people need to worry kind of depression, just overall sadness and discontent with my life. I was hoping to be moved in to a fabulous apartment by Oct 1st and that didn’t happen and I fear at this rate I won’t find a place for quite some time. The search, while it may not seem like a big deal, to me represents the huge and unnecessary detour I took in my life leaving me behind where I wanted to be at this point. Sadly, with the economy and times the way they are, I know plenty of people my age who are living at home. It’s not that I’m ashamed or embarrassed, but it’s my time to go. I’m craving the independence and the privacy and the decorating! I want my own space to call my own. So, not the worst thing in the world not being able to find an apartment, but it’s annoying to say the least.

This is where the envy comes in to play. I have been ‘alone’ my whole life. I thought, because a damn psychic told me, that I would be married at 26. Not that I ever really wanted that big wedding with 400 people in attendance because that is so far from what I want….But, I do want to be married and I do want kids, that I have always craved. It seems as if this year, at least half of my facebook friends had babies. And while I am extremely happy for each and every one of them, it kills me every time I hear that another friend is pregnant. When you tell people a little of how you feel, you get the same response, “You’ll have them when it’s the right time.” Or “It’ll happen for you.” Unless you are looking in to a crystal ball, what you are saying is a bunch of bullshit in an attempt to comfort me and it only makes things worse. It’s been building up and getting worse to the point where I have a hard time listening to anyone talk about their kids. Especially when it becomes the “My life meant nothing until I had kids.” Or “Being a mother is the best thing that ever happened to me.” While I’m sure that is true, every time I hear it, and again, I am happy for these people, but I feel like a piece of me dies and I plunge deeper and deeper in to despair for lack of a better word.

On top of that, I have become equally as envious of those in “happy” and “perfect” relationships; any relationship for that matter. While I used to think I would be perfectly content raising a baby on my own (which is nowhere near financially feasible for me anyway), I don’t think I feel that way anymore. The reason for this change is two-fold. Two of my chronically single friends are now in relationships. And not just relationships, but extremely lovey dovey insanely happy perfect relationships which I have no doubt will end in marriage. I am now left the only single girl and all these people talk about are their significant others. Part two of this is that I met a man that makes me believe there actually are good guys out there, something that I have seriously doubted in the past. I’ve seen now how strong love can be, how amazing some people can be, how kind and generous they can be, and that some guys Will stand by you through better or worse. Seeing that this ‘ideal man’ exists makes me want to find one of my own. If they are indeed out there, and maybe one that will love ME unconditionally, why would I not want that? I imagine they are few and far between, but I have hope that someone is out there for me. I can recognize that my lack of love for myself and especially my body is to blame for why I have always been alone. You can’t love someone else until you love yourself or something like that anyway. I’m working on it but it seems to be backfiring at this point in time.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t recognize myself. It’s honestly a wonder that people even want to be around me these days, although with the exception of my co-workers, none of my friends even have a clue about any of this. I told people today that I should just become an asshole and give up completely on caring about anything. Nice girls don’t get anywhere anyway, they only get shit on and taken advantage of. And while the latter may be true, I don’t want to become the miserable cranky bitch I feel like I’m slowly becoming. I’m usually a kind person and it’s killing me that I can’t stop acting this way. The worst part is that I feel like I am being the bitchiest to the one person that seems to care the most. It’s because this person represents that “ideal man” I mentioned before. The one that I didn’t think existed until now. He just reminds me of what I now know I do want, but fear. I AM an asshole, or I wouldn’t be acting this way, but it stems from envy. There is a reason that envy is one of the 7 deadly sins. Doesn’t make sense to act poorly to the one person that is actually trying to help.

November 30th my cousin Tori lost her battle with cancer. In many ways I always releated to Tori even though I didn’t know her well. The most I spoke with her was coincidentally at my grandmother’s wake earlier this year. I don’t want to wait too long to let love in to my life and then lose it like Tori and Craig sadly did.

I recognize I have a lot of work to do on myself. I have hopes for the future that it will be brighter. Stop living in regret but make an effort to prevent it in the future, stop living full of sorrow but remember all the beautiful times you shared and live a life that would make your lost loved ones proud, and stop living in a world of hate, fear and envy and learn to love yourself or it will be impossible to love someone else and for them to love you in return.

I’m looking forward to 2011. I have shed more tears this year than in all the years past and I need to put the tears behind me. Onward and upward to a more positive and beautiful future. I am the only one in the way here. It’s going to be a very tough road, but this is the fork and I need to choose the road toward happiness.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


The other day, within 3 hours I received 3 messages via 3 different forms of communication informing me that 3 women of 3 different generations had 3 different types of terminal cancer. 3 women, 3 generations, one thing in common….cancer.

To this point, my life has been rather unaffected by cancer. Many of my relatives have been diagnosed and beaten it, mostly before I was old enough to truly understand their situation or the true horror of what cancer has the potential to do. When it’s not in your immediate sights, I don’t think you can really understand what it does and how many people are affected by one diagnosis. I was certainly one of those people. As time goes on, I am losing more and more people in my life. As terrifying as that may be, and being something I have always struggled with, it’s an inevitability. We are all gonna face death one day and I can only hope that something even better lies ahead. Tragically however, life isn’t as peaceful or lengthy for some people.

For reasons only known to God I guess, some people’s lives are tragically cut short, some suffering for years. I can easily see why people turn away from faith. Why the hell would an All Loving God create so much suffering in the world??? Just turn on the news and you’ll here about countless murders, mother nature taking out thousands within seconds, disease upon disease taking lives left and right…..

My outlook on life has been grim of late. How can you hear about these 3 beautiful women and not feel…..just so angry…..sad….confused….and full of so much empathy. It feels somewhat insensitive to go on with your contented life knowing full well what these women will be going through for the next few months. What right do I have to be happy when these women are suffering? How can I plan my future when theirs have been taken away? How selfish it seems to complain about having to clean or do laundry or not be able to afford the latest technology. It just seems wrong. I am angry that this disease is taking lives, I am sad for these women and their families and friends and quite honestly, I am terrified that that will be me someday.

We have cancer walks, beneifts, drives…but still no cure. We have made progress, but I think we all pray for the day that the cure is found. Cancer is taking the lives of these 3 women and millions more. One of these women is my age; a life literally cut before it’s prime. Another is my mother’s generation, recently married and finally happy, only to have everything ripped away. The third has lived a long and happy life that will end in suffering at the hand of this horrible horrible disease.

One of these women really could be me. If not me, certainly many people I care about will continue to be diagnosed. So what the hell do we do? What do the survivors left behind do to make sure that these women, men, and children are not forgotten and do not die without hope that someday there will be a cure? I feel like this has sparked a fire in me. While I’m not a neurosurgeon who can operate on a brain tumor, or a researcher in a lab working toward a cure, I can raise awareness, I can raise money and most importantly, I can make sure that those we lose are not forgotten.

Tonight I will be saying 3 special prayers for 3 special women. We all really do need to live each day to the fullest. We never know when our time will come. Love your family, love your friends, and be the kind of person you can be proud of when all is said and done.

Friday, January 29, 2010


There are so many things in my life I could write about but I keep coming back to the same thing….my grandmother. While I feel I have handled the situation presented to all of us well, on the outside anyway, there are many days I just think about what life has dealt her and it makes me want to cry.

Just recently on Thanksgiving, we had a mini grandma crisis. My mother, aunt and uncle and I spent most of our holiday in the emergency room after receiving a call that my grandmother was not doing well. Every time the phone rings and I hear it’s the nursing home, I automatically fear the worst. My grandmother is almost 90 years old and has been suffering from Alzheimer’s for many years now. There is only one way this story could end, and I always fear this time is it. This is the time we will go to the hospital, and she won’t be coming back.

Turns out she was suffering from the beginnings of double pneumonia as well as severe dehydration, which in itself can be life threatening. While in the ER awaiting the test results, another woman from my grandmother’s nursing home came in to the curtained room next door. I had actually gone to elementary school with two of her granddaughters. Now if you know me, I don’t handle death and sickness and sadness well. As the situation next door was coming to a quite tragic climax, I just stared at the machines that were monitoring my grandmother’s life signs. I watched every flash and heard every beep, anticipating that something would indeed happen. The woman next door was perfectly fine, enjoying some food and wine with her family when catastrophe struck. That could easily happen to us as well. Those distraught relatives being asked about a living will could have been us, and some day will be.

It’s also well known that when elderly people suffer severe illnesses or broken bones or have to undergo surgery, it often brings about a rapid decline. Being aware of all the factors, it was soon becoming quite a stressful situation.

When things turned around and I felt confident she was going to be ok, two nurses came in to do a very thorough exam of her, looking for any other issues, i.e. broken bones (check), bruises (check), or any other wounds (check). It was the first and hopefully last time I saw what a bedsore looked like. My recent calm had turned back to worry. Not only was I fully taking in that fact that my grandmother was suffering from Alzheimer’s, a broken bone, blisters, bruises, dehydration and double pneumonia, but now I realize she has also been living with a very serious sore that she is constantly putting pressure on. How much more can you put on a person? While they were checking her wound, it was the first time in years I saw pain in my grandmother’s eyes. She was in great pain and discomfort and a tear or two began to form in her eyes. Since she has been living in assisted living homes and nursing homes, I haven’t seen this kind of pain in her eyes. It was something that I didn’t want to see, but made me realize maybe she is aware of ALL the horrible things that are going on with her. Maybe she is suffering from all kinds of pain and we just have no way of knowing.

Recent visits have been harder. With her dehydration situation, her decline may become more rapid. We try our best every week to get liquid in her system, but short of forcing the drinks down her throat (which I feel like I sometimes do), there is nothing we can do.

Last week I saw fear in her face. Another thing I haven’t seen in quite a while. It was as if she was fully aware of everything and knew she couldn’t communicate any of her fears, pains, or feelings. You, yourself, begin to feel not only helpless, but guilty. Guilty as hell that you have put your loved one in a home. Guilty as hell that you don’t know what they want or need. And guilty as hell that you can’t do one goddamn thing about it.

I feel so envious of the dementia patients I see that live in a dream world and have absolutely no idea what’s going on. I would rather my grandmother think anything about her life other than the reality, even if that meant being completely verbal but not recognizing me.

I don’t remember how her one brother died but the other suffered an unimaginable decline as well with ALS. It was the reverse of her situation. While she (in the beginning) had a healthy body but was slowly losing her mind, he had a sharp mind with a body that became useless to him. I had to watch her sister slowly decline as well for reasons I still don’t understand. It was so incredibly hard to watch such an independent and strong woman not even be able to pull the covers over herself. I don’t understand why life is so cruel sometimes. Then again, is it worse to lose someone without having had the chance to say goodbye?

On top of all this, I feel guilt, well really regret, that I never spoke to any of my grandparents before they died. By that I mean, never really sat down to talk and ask them about their lives before I came along. How they met. What it was like to be a professional dancer. How life was with the war and the depression. What was your wedding day like? How did you feel when you became a mother or a father? That is something I feel that I lost out on greatly. Our grandparents are filled with so much knowledge and fascinating stories that I am sure given the opportunity they would love to share and reminisce. If anyone reading this still has a grandmother or grandfather alive, I urge you to just talk to them. Ask them questions. They won’t be around forever and you will truly regret not getting to know who they really were. I know I do.

None of my grandparents got the chance to see me grow as an adult. None of them will be with me at my wedding. None of them will be there when I become a mother. I take comfort in the fact that they will at least be there in spirit with me. Hopefully they are proud of the life I have made for myself so far.