Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New York Assemblyman Wears Blackface

You know they say history repeats itself and so it has again. New York assemblyman, Dov Hikind, wore blackface to a Purim Party and caused quite a stir. The Jewish Assemblyman did it in fun and so no one at the party would recognize him. The rest of his costume was a basketball uniform and an Afro wig. He was shocked to learn that people found it offensive and apologized, saying in hindsight he would have worn something else. He added, it never crossed his mind for a second that anyone would be offended. However, his apology seem to lack genuine sincerity to me because he referred to the criticism as “political correctness” and absurd. Apparently, Dov Hikind is clueless as to the historical significance why this is so offensive to many, and particularly to people in the black community. He can always call Ted Dansen and ask him.

I don’t know about you, but I recall rather vividly, the harsh criticism directed at Ted when he was dating Whoopie Goldberg and attended an event wearing blackface. It was supposed to be funny. Whoopie and Ted thought it was funny…but all hell broke loose and it was all over the news for a very long time. Many people had plenty to say about it back then. But even if Hikind’s memory isn’t as good as mine (which stinks, by the way), there have been recent similar occurrences of actors wearing blackface for fun and getting criticized. Tom Hanks was criticized, not for wearing blackface, but for being in a fundraiser video with a person who was wearing blackface back in 2004. The fallout from the video still plagues him today and it wasn‘t even his fault. Hanks didn’t know a parent was going to wear the offensive costume and appear in the video with him. And one year ago, Billy Crystal was criticized for wearing blackface and impersonating Sammy Davis Jr. at the Oscars, which caused a lot of controversy. So for the assemblyman to “play dumb” and say he didn’t realize it was offensive, doesn’t fly with me.

Oh, one more thing, we can add hypocrisy to the assemblyman’s list of character flaws. It seems that just earlier this month, Hikind criticized fashion designer, John Galliano, for dressing like a Hasidic Jew with a long jacket and curly side locks. He felt Galliano was mocking his people. Funny how people don’t like it when the shoe is on the other foot. How can he not see the two situations as at least the same thing? Personally, I think the blackface is worse because of all the history that is tied into it. Maybe he has no clue?

Historically, wearing blackface dates as far back as the 1830’s and was prevalent in the entertainment industry. It played a significant role in creating stereotypes, and misconceptions about blacks, as well as causing negative perceptions and prejudices. It was considered a socially acceptable way for white people to express their racist attitudes and feelings. If you are interested, Wikipedia has long, detailed explanation. If I had Hikind’s email, I would send him the link.

Get a clue Hikind.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oscar Pistorius, The Bladerunner

By now everyone has heard of the case of Oscar Pistorius, the South African athlete who had a double amputation on both legs and went on to race in the Olympics and win gold medals. He was a national hero because of his remarkable feat. Now he is facing premeditated murder charges because he shot his live-in girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, three times. His story, as to what happened, seems unbelievable to me and yet a judge decided to grant him bail and release him until his case will be heard in June. This decision was made even though violence against women is so bad in the country of South Africa, it is said to be a national crisis. What message does this send to men and women alike?

The story Oscar is telling is that he thought there was an intruder in the house, so he got out of bed, grabbed his gun, without wearing his prosthetic legs, and shot four times through a locked bathroom room, killing Reeva. She was hit three times. He claims he thought Reeva was in bed at the time. He claims he shouted to the intruder to get out. He claims he never put the lights on until after he fired all the shots. It was only after firing the shots and going back over to the bed, did he realize Reeva was not in the bed.

Does that make sense to anyone? It doesn’t to me, and like Judge Judy says, “if it doesn’t make sense, it’s not true.” First of all, when anyone in bed hears a noise in their home, don’t they first check to see if their significant other is still in bed? I mean wouldn’t your first thought be that they may have gotten up to use the bathroom or get a snack? And, if they were still there asleep, wouldn’t you at least wake them and alert them to the fact someone may be in the house, so they aren’t sleeping ducks OR maybe so they can call the police while you fire shots? What burglar do you know who would invade a heavily guarded house and then lock themselves in the bathroom where police can break down the door and escort them to jail? And why, if Oscar screamed to the intruder to get out of the bathroom, didn’t Reeva answer from the either the bed or the bathroom, asking what was going on? Surely that would have been anyone’s natural reaction in that situation. Did he think she slept through the whole thing? There were many more questions brought up by his explanation than were answered. All of them pointing to a story full of holes and illogical statements.

Some reports say one witness heard arguing and described it as “non-stopping fighting,” hours before the shooting. Another witness says they went to their balcony when the first shots were fired and saw the lights on at Oscar’s house, then heard a woman scream and two more shots fired. I wonder if the judge, who was so quick to grant bail, took those pieces of testimony into account?

The facts of this case are disturbing to say the least, and coupled with the social issue of gender violence in South Africa, it’s unbelievable that a judge would allow Oscar to walk freely for three to four months while the case against him is pending. One can only hope and pray, that because he is such a prominent figure worldwide, that attention and focus will be given to this case from every corner of the world. Maybe this case will create international scrutiny and pressure on South Africa to take this issue seriously and cause them to enforce their laws and punishments for rape and other violence perpetrated against women. Maybe Reeva’s death won’t be in vain. Maybe she her legacy will be in the loss of her life she will be saving the lives of other women. One can only hope to try and make sense out of the senseless killing of a beautiful lady with her whole promising life ahead of her, and pray for her family who suffered such a tragic loss.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Rob Morrison, My Former CBS News Anchorman…

Why is Rob my former news anchorman? Rob was arrested on a case of domestic violence for trying to strangle his wife a few days ago. Rob had been drinking, there were marks consistent with choking on his wife’s neck and he also threatened to kill her in front of the police, who noted it in their report. Rob then quit his job, probably knowing he would be fired. Rob has been married to his wife, Ashley, for ten years and they have one son. Ashley also has a prominent position at CBS as the MoneyWatch reporter. Rob has cheated on his wife with two co-workers during the ten year marriage. Rob also allegedly attacked his wife one month before his arrest for this incident. Apparently, Rob also likes to drink. So what s my problem with this story? Damage control for the out of control.

For one thing, Rob denies strangling his wife and says they were just having a normal disagreement, despite evidence to the contrary. He says he loves his wife and is surprised by the charges against him because he never laid a hand on her. And what’s worse, the couple seems to have made a “joint” statement to the press saying the allegations have been greatly exaggerated and they would like their privacy respected.  In fact, Ashley gave police a sworn written statement regarding the events and then later retracted it. Her original statement said that she was discussing Rob’s excessive drinking with him and he was taping it with his iphone. She told him it was personal and to stop. When she tried to grab the phone, he threw her to the ground and started choking her. A nanny witnessed the attack. Ashley later says they were both drunk and the bruises on her neck occurred as the result of a struggle for the iphone. The retraction was made because she didn’t want her husband arrested.

Ashley is a petite woman of 115 pounds, Rob is an ex-marine weighing in at 180. There is a history of domestic violence which has been documented. Ashley allegedly makes a habit of reporting abuse and then downplaying it after the fact. So what is the truth? That’s anyone’s guess. But one thing is sure, there is never going to be a “fair” fight between these two. One day, maybe as a result of alcohol or rage, Ashley may not be so lucky. The police may not get there in time. She may be the next Nicole Simpson. What is she thinking? She has a seven year old son. How is this environment going to affect him? Why would these two people, who have lucrative, public careers, jeopardize everything by staying in such an unhealthy relationship? Are they both alcoholics? Are they trying to maintain a certain “image” for viewers?

Meanwhile, Ashley’s mother and brother reportedly say that Ashley is afraid of Rob. Rob allegedly threatened to kill their son, Jack, in front of her if she ever leaves him. The police even questioned Jack about the incident, but the poor kid could only say he hadn’t seen anything. However, maybe he heard quite a bit, because there was enough of a disturbance for the nanny to go downstairs and check things out. Rob told her to go back upstairs, Ashley told her to stay because she was afraid.

What is it going to take before someone does the right thing in this situation? How many incidents and police reports have to be filed? It is going to take something tragic before this story comes to a conclusion? How many arguments have gone unreported? All I can do is shake my head. Clearly no one has given any thought for the best interests of the child. One day he may go from having two parents, to having none, if one is killed and the other arrested for murder. It’s a story we have seen played out many times before.

These people need to end their “marriage” and try to do right by their son. They need counseling and therapy. One or both may need rehab for their excessive drinking. Their son needs a safe environment and probably a little counseling before he becomes a suicidal teenager or an abuser himself. This couple has the financial means to get the help they need, there is no excuse for their behavior. If they don’t, they are a tragedy looking to happen, Next time they have a “normal disagreement,” they may not be so lucky.

P.S. I watch CBS news every day and more than once a day. I have yet to hear anything being reported about this story. It's like they want to hush up their own "news family" scandal. How can you be in the news business and pick and choose what you want to report? You want to air everyone else's dirty business and keep yours under wraps? I think CBS did themselves no favors by the lack of reporting or under-reporting this story. It's things like this that make us lose credibility and trust in journalism. Rob's "disappearance" is conspicuous and the reason is all over the internet and other news media. I am disappointed in CBS for downplayng what happened here. Stories like this open the door for discussion and awareness about domestic violence and should be addressed.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Joe Hundley, “Baby Slapper”

I still find myself at a loss for words regarding this story. If you haven’t heard about Joe Hundley, Vice President of a company that makes aircraft parts, I will give you a brief summary. Joe boarded a Delta airlines flight, apparently after having a few drinks, and continued drinking on the plane. He was seated next to Jessica Bennett, who is white, and her adopted 19 month old son, Jonah, who is black. Jessica says Joe was reeking of alcohol. She didn’t feel comfortable sitting next to him, so she stood for 90 minutes, with her baby, near the laboratory. When the pilot announced it was time to land, she took her seat again, baby on her lap. Joe called the Jonah the “N” word and slapped the crying baby, which left a scratch under his eye. Other passengers got involved and Joe was restrained. Joe later lost his job and so far is being charged with assault of a minor. His lawyer wants to make it clear that while this is being portrayed as a “racist” incident, Joe is not racist, even if he used a racial slur.

My mind cannot wrap itself around this story. First, for the least offensive part of this story, the airline allowing an intoxicated man on their flight and serving him an additional two double shots of vodka. Hello! Is that not looking for trouble on a confined aircraft with no exit? Airlines need to review some of their guidelines when it comes to serving alcohol, for the safety and well being of other passengers on board, especially those who have to sit next to these drunks and have no place to go. Maybe alcohol should be banned on flights altogether? And, if you are attempting to board a flight, while inebriated, maybe you should be made to wait for the next flight, after you have sobered up? Why should Jessica and her baby have had to stand in the back of the plane for 90 minutes when she paid as much for her seat as Joe had? The woman was concerned and disgusted enough to remove herself from her own seat to avoid any problem. Wasn’t it up to the airline and their personnel to provide her and her son with a safe and comfortable trip? I say sue the airline for their role in this mess which put her and her son in harm’s way.

Now for Joe’s use of the “N” word on 19 month old Jonah, there is no lawyer who is going to tell me that that was not a racist comment. Joe is obviously a racist. Alcohol has a way of lowering one’s inhibitions and releasing one’s truth. Of course he is racist. How his lawyer is going to try to explain this away is a mystery to me. There is no explanation on the face of the planet that can excuse Joe. And what’s more, he backed up his racism by slapping the baby. It was a simultaneous act, slur plus slap. So I want to know why he is only being charged with assault of a minor and not a hate crime? Every other story I have heard in which a slur has been accompanied by violence, has been defined as a hate crime. Congress has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” So it seems simple enough to me that this was a hate crime. Although it may be possible his lawyer will claim that Joe would have slapped any baby, not just a black baby, at that point because he was drunk and the baby’s crying was getting on his nerves. Good luck with that feeble defense.

I don’t know about you, but ever since I had my own children, I did not want so much as a hair on their head touched by anyone. I always told them not to fight and if anyone ever touched them, they should come to me and let me know. I cannot imagine the rage I would have flown into on that plane had Joe slapped one of my babies. It’s incomprehensible to me that anyone would even attempt to slap someone else’s baby.  I don’t care of he was drunk or out of his right mind. I don’t care if he has been a model citizen up to that point. I don’t care if he has serious personal issues. Is there really any defense to be made in this case?

Meanwhile, Joe pleads not guilty to the assault, which was clearly witnessed by passengers. He has been released on $10,000 bond, and told not to drink or possess firearms, and to surrender his passport. That seems fair (said in my most sarcastic voice), doesn’t it?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship...Addendum


I’ll bet you thought I was done. So did I. But something came to me and I just wanted to add it on to the story. So this is one last blog before closing the chapter on the story of my friendship.

I had mentioned, in my very long email to Marie, that I was concerned about the effect all the stress from the change in her and the friendship might be having on my health. I was scheduled to see my doctor in October, 2009 for my annual checkup. It was the fifth year of my cancer diagnosis and that is a real milestone. After five years the cancer is considered in remission or cured. Of course, when you have been diagnosed with cancer you learn to live with a cloud of dread over your head. When appointments approach, it creates anxiety and it’s all you can think of, which is probably why I wrote about it in the letter. Besides that, Marie had seen me through this very difficult time of my life and she always wanted me to call her right after each appointment, to tell her what the doctor had to say.

So I went to see my doctor and everything was fine. I can’t begin to explain what a relief it was to hear those words and especially on this fifth anniversary. Of course this time I couldn’t call Marie to let her know. I thought, since I mentioned it in my letter, she might be concerned or want to know the results. I debated with myself about it. I asked my husband what I should do. Finally, I thought I would drop her an email just to let her know and to spare her from wondering or possibly worrying about what the doctor had to say. So I did. It was a short email basically stating what I just said here. But, it wasn’t my best idea, because she wrote back and said, “I'm glad you are okay and I knew that you would be....like all the other times.  But I can't imagine that's really why you wrote back. That's what you have to say? Why bother?  I mean why should you care about my feelings concerning your health?” And then she proceeded to launch into defensive mode about the letter I had sent. Among other things she said it was me who didn’t want the friendship any more after ten years, that the examples I gave her in the letter were petty, and so what if she had changed, everyone changes. Clearly she was very angry and her feelings were still raw.

So, you can imagine how stunned I was when my cell phone rang on October 10th, 2012, almost exactly three years later, and I saw Marie’s name on the caller ID. The adrenaline shot through me and I had all kinds of anxiety. I was in shock and couldn’t answer. I reasoned that it must be a mistake and her phone or she misdialed. She couldn’t have meant to dial my number. The ringing stopped. I took a deep breath and thought that it was over. But no, a text message came moments later saying, “I just wanted to say something to you, but I didn’t want to see it written in a text or an email. It’s ok, I understand. All good things for you Nina.” So now that I knew she meant to call me, I had to make a split second decision to call back or not. I am not one to turn my back on anyone and had no idea what it was she had to tell me. I texted back first and lied, saying I wasn’t near the phone and I was sorry I missed her call and that I wished only good things for her too. But then I dialed her number, because I realized how difficult it had to be for her to call me after all this time, and what she wanted to say had to be important. She picked up after several rings. It was a little awkward, we hadn’t spoken on the phone since Labor Day, 2009. She told me she realized her call is out of the blue, but what she had to say was too hard for her to put in writing. I answered, it’s okay. Then she told me her older sister, who had had two bouts with breast cancer years ago, had died. I told her how sorry I was to hear that, she was a wonderful person and would be missed by all who knew her. I could hear the sadness in her voice. I expressed my sorrow for her loss and that I understood her pain. I think some of that sadness might have been about the loss of our friendship, because she knew I would have been there for her, even flew down there, if that is what she needed. She wanted me to know she loved me and I told her I bear no ill will or hard feelings towards her and would always wish her the very best in life. She thanked me for that. I expressed how sorry I was again, said I would keep her and her family in my prayers, and told her to please take care of herself. She replied, she just keeps walking, like she always does. And with that we hung up. If I have to be honest, I wish the call would have been longer. It was good to hear her voice again.

It was a surreal moment, like I briefly went back in time. She sounded like the “old” Marie for the few moments we spoke. I don’t know if she was hoping or expecting that I would say more or something else. I really couldn’t. I was still somewhat in shock and I think she was calling from work, during her break. That may have been the moment when she got the courage or the nerve to make the call. I am glad I called back and listened to what she had to say. I would have always wondered what it might have been, and the truth is, even after everything that happened, I still care. I could never just turn off feelings or forget all the good times we had shared. It’s not me to do that. And for her to have made that call to me, she must know that deep down there will always be a place in my heart for her. And, I’d like to think that, even though she didn’t acknowledge her part in rupturing the relationship to me, at some point she has admitted it to herself at least. And maybe part of her sadness was about something rare and beautiful, that once enriched both our lives, but now only exists in memories and remnants of the past.


P.S. Hurricane Sandy hit New York City hard on October 28th, 2012. It was all over the news in every part of the country. On November 1st, 2012 I get a text message from Marie and reply back. Make of it what you will. This is how it went:

Marie: I know you probably don't care or want to hear from me, but I wanted to see that you all were alright.

Me: That isn't true, I don't harbor any ill will or hard feelings towards to and we are all fine. I appreciate your care and concern. Thank you for asking and I hope all is well with you

Marie: I'm so glad. I wanted to contact you before. I wrestled with it but I'm glad I did. Thanks for your kind words Nina.

Me: I'm glad too, I wouldn't want you to worry needlessly.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship...Box #3

The Remnants of Box #3

There is one last box to go. The first thing I see is a lime green bow that came off a gift, not sure which one. I just save every bit of minutia. 

Under the bow is a Happy Birthday Sister card with a personal handwritten note. More of the same words of appreciation and affection. It just underscores how different that last year was between us. 

Then there are two programs from her graduation, that I attended in May 2004. This was the one I left my radiation session and went to the airport to fly down to see. I must have brought them home with me as a remembrance of the occasion.

There is a little note she sent referring to a package she took too long to send.

Here is small binder, from her church Bible study group, that we were going to go through together.

I found a small book, "Joys of Friendship, A Celebration of Girlfriends," that Marie sent me. It’s full of sayings like, “how can you ever be done talking with such a good friend?”

More birthday cards filled with more notes.

Two picture albums, one of her trip here at Christmas with her daughter and my family, the other of my trip to Texas with her and her family. 

A note that came with flowers from 1-800-flowers for my birthday and a cardboard gold bow from a box of Russell Stovers chocolates that she sent.

Restaurant menus from a French restaurant we dined at in Manhattan.

And finally, an envelope containing a long email from Marie, written in French, from September 2002 that I had printed out. Also in there is a copy of a story written by a French author, that was probably a school assignment that we may have worked on together. The email was a copy of the paper she had written on the story and was handing in. She remembered I wanted to see the original story and had made a copy to send to me.

Honestly I thought I had saved a lot more than this, even with the three boxes. Now it’s time to dispose of most of this. I still don’t know how to get rid of the notes and cards and pictures. They represent a significant part of my life and time. I guess I will get rid of what I can, and wait on the rest.

Tomorrow I will post an addendum to it all, of the last bit of communication we had after the fact. I think that will be the last of it. I know I probably forgot a lot, but it feels good to get this all out. Thank you to those who took the time to read, to comment, and to understand…something Marie never bothered to do.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship…Box #2

The Remnants of Box #2

Well, I am surprised to see, that as I open box number two, it is full of stuffed animals. Yes, you read right. We used to send little things in our packages, if we saw something cute, as symbols of affection or for humor and inside jokes.

Let’s see what we have in here. An Easter bunny that stands about fifteen inches tall and is holding a flower. She is wearing a floral dress with a pink jacket over it. I’m sure it came in a nice Easter basket one year. I had her sitting out for the longest time, but packed her away with the others after things had come to an end.

There are two monkeys, hugging each other for dear life, with a tag on them that reads: “Friends Forever.” One monkey is “Princess” the Other “Angel.”  I had that out for a long time too. It was supposed to represent “us.”

And here is a small little beanie baby bear that Marie picked up at her university bookstore one day. with an “I ♥ you” written on the tag.

A six inch angel figurine, so I would remember I was her “angel.”

Here is a beaded bracelet, with the Jamaican colors: yellow, green and black. Marie and her niece were/are very much into the Jamaican culture.

Two picture frames, each holding a picture of me and Marie in happier times. One of them was taken when she spent Christmas week with us, the other one was of the two of us in Texas one night. We looked very happy in both.

And last, but not least, there is a small violin and bow on a keychain, I’m not even sure what the significance of that was any more. The violin and bow used to make music. Now they don’t. I think that is a fitting end for this blog.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship...Box #1

The Remnants of Box #1

It’s time to go through the dreaded boxes. The first one is an over packed shoebox. I don’t know how many years of trinkets, cards and memorabilia is inside. Maybe it’s too much for one blog or for me to make a chronological representation, but I am going to give it a try. As I open the cover, on top are two poetry cds made by Marie’s niece, who is a poet and very passionate about her work. They came with a little card and note. She really is very talented. Over the years, I was always a big supporter of her poetry and her powerful use of words. Under her niece’s cds there are a few thoughtful cards from Marie, in no particular order.

An undated Christmas card that says, “I’m so glad to have a friend who has cared so deeply for such a long time. I’m so thankful for you.”

An undated birthday card calling me “sis” and telling me how much I mean to her.

A birthday card from 2006 telling me I am a blessing in her life and “let’s promise each other we’ll always have time for cake…and wine!”

An Easter card telling me that every holiday there is something that reminds her of me, like the muguets, palm leaves, and penguins, but she doesn’t need any of those reminders because she thinks of me always.

Some little momentos from Medieval Times, a dinner show, which we went to see in Texas, in the summer of 2006. Also that summer we visited Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and I have a souvenir book from there.

A mini, 16 month calendar from the Flavia collection, with special sayings on each month. I recall that I used to send her e-cards from the Flavia website because their cards were so different and had meaningful words on them.

A handmade, red heart created from two pieces of construction paper and hand stitched together around the outer edge and filled with quotations printed on little white hearts. The first random quote I pulled out reads: “There are only two people who can tell you the truth about yourself - an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly.” Antishenes

Under another Valentine’s Day card I find pictures of Marie and her children from years ago, they were still babies. I had forgotten I had them.

Then there is an airline ticket, yellowed with age, from a trip I took to visit Marie in March 2002. Why did I save that? That must have been the time I took the Easter trip when I brought the baskets and fillers for the kids. Now I also remember that we all went to Easter service together. Marie was in the church choir during the first years when we met and she went to practice every week. She had a beautiful voice and was performing a solo on Easter Sunday. That was another reason why I looked forward to this trip, I wanted to hear her sing in the church I had heard so much about. And that was also the trip she had presented me with the backpack, encouraging me to go back to school to study French, which I eventually did. Another very thoughtful thing she did was to make me crosses from the palm leaves given out at church on Palm Sunday. I had told her how my father always used to make them every year. She said she wanted to make sure I still had them, even now, after my father was gone. I was very touched by the sentiment. No one would think of doing something like that.

Another Christmas card that reads: To my sister, “Whenever I think of people who have encouraged me the most, I think of you. And I say a prayer of thanks that God put us both into the same corner of His beautiful world.”

Here is a card that says she misses me with a handwritten note in French. It came with the keychain she bought for me on her first day of class at the four year university. I still use it today.

Another a birthday card that says, “I’m glad we’re sisters.”

One year, near Christmas time, I sent her a tape I had made of myself reciting two stories my father would tell me, in Italian, to get me to eat my soft boiled egg, when I was two years old. She had loved listening to the stories so much when I told them to her that I knew she would appreciate being able to listen to them whenever she wanted. That Christmas, after we opened our presents, she said I have one more present for you…then she proceeded to recite one of my father’s stories, from memory, back to me (even though she never took a class in Italian). She knew I would never be able to hear my father recite them for me again, and she wanted to do something special for me in his memory.

A small photo album filled with pictures of her first trip to New York City and all the things we did that week.

A bracelet made of dark gray metal beads, one of the first things she ever sent to me. It was wrapped in yellow material and tied with a maroon thread. She was working at a festival one weekend, thought of me and picked it up.

The first book I sent to Marie on that first Christmas was Le Petit Prince, and I had a favorite chapter, number 21, about the fox. The chapter was really about the meaning of friendship and I had always loved the sweet way the author expressed it. For my birthday, Marie made a tape of herself reading that chapter in French and sent it to me, knowing that it would be better than anything she could buy in a store.

More old airline stubs and momentos from her first trip to NYC: playbills from The Full Monty, Phantom of the Opera, restaurant menus, brochures from Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Opera House, The Empire State Building, the Long Island Wineries, ticket stubs, subway maps…I really saved just about everything, didn’t I?

Oh and here is a program from her first graduation from the two year college in 2001. She came up to visit me for the first time a couple of days later. She brought me the program because she knew I would want to have it.

At the bottom of the box I found quite a few handwritten and typed notes, one saying “you’re one of those people that make life beautiful and bearable for everyone.” Other notes that thanked me, ones expressing appreciation for different things I had done and some for just always being there for her. There was a note reminded me of the time she had to take a class in the evening one semester, because she had to work during the day. No one was available to watch her children, who were still fairly young at the time. I told her if I lived there I would certainly do it. Then I told her, if she felt okay with it, I could call and check on the kids every 15 to 30 minutes and they could call me if they needed to. I was so far away, but this was the best I could do, so that she could attend her class with some peace of mind. I took down the numbers of her sisters, mom, and the local emergency/police department and I had her number. And that’s what she ended up doing. She would go to class and I would keep calling and checking on the kids till she got out of class. It may not have been the smartest thing we ever did, but she would not have been able to graduate without that class.

And finally here are some cassettes of her favorite French cds that she wanted to share with me.

So as far as I can tell, this box seems to have gone from 2006 back in time to 1999 when we met. That is what I can make out from the dates on some things and the order that I took them out. Nothing I saw or read from the box upset me, but it just makes me wonder all the more what she was thinking that last year and what changed. The answer is one I will never know.

Now I have to decide what, if anything, I should keep and what to dispose of. I wonder if she still has any of the things I sent her over the years?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship...Part 12

Part 12

Her text came on Tuesday, September 29th, 2009. The next few days were emotional torture for me. I could not understand how she could treat me this way after all we had been through the past ten years. On top of that, I felt bad for not being able to explain my inability to speak; to express the depth of my pain; to try to make her understand how we got to this point. I still needed for her to understand why I felt the way I did and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to explain. I wanted her to understand, but I also wanted to get all these things off my chest so there could be closure for me. I decided to write it all out in an email and let the chips fall where they may. I took out the notes I had intended to use on August 19th, when she had said she would call me when she got home, and I added what had happened since, to the beginning and end of it. The "introduction" and "conclusion" that I added were more full of anger, the original notes more full of hurt. I went over it and over it to make sure I had said everything I needed to say. It was very long for an email, at least  five typed pages, single spaced. It was clear, thoughtful and full of emotion. I knew that when I hit send on the email, it was probably going to be the end. I had to ask myself if that was the outcome I wanted, because there would be no turning back. Once she read it, I knew she wouldn’t like it. She would become defensive and offended. Even if she owned her responsibility in all that happened, things could never be the same. I took my time and considered everything. On Saturday, October 3, 2009, I felt the letter was ready.  Then I hit send. The world didn’t end. I didn’t have any regrets or feelings of dread. I anything I felt relieved not to have to keep this all bottled up inside any more. I did what I needed to do for myself, to get some closure and to give her answers to all the whys. I wasn’t looking for a response.

In the email, I wrote about many of the things I mentioned in the series of blogs, about the way things had changed. My "intro" had an angry tone because of the question she had posed in her text message: "Ten years, what was it for?" That was my springboard. I wrote, who should be the one asking that question, you or me? I have been consistently there for you in the same capacity I have always been. I haven't done anything differently. But your behavior and attitude towards me has changed, and no matter how many times I broached the subject you either denied anything had changed, dismissed it and have even blown me off. So, I think I should be the one asking, ten years what was it for? I told her she even got upset with me for the one time I chose not to take her calls the morning of September 29th, but had nothing at all to say about all the times she didn't take my calls. Then I told how how much she hurt me and told her this is what she would have heard had she come home the night of August 19th, as she said she would, to discuss what was going wrong between us. I copied and pasted the notes I had written into the body of the letter, editing a few things here and there, and basically included some of the incidents I have already mentioned in these blogs: the card in the bathroom, leaving me in her apartment while she ran over to her niece's while I was visiting, allowing her daughter to pick out my birthday bouquet, cutting back on the calls, etc. I reminded her of some of the times I was there for her when no one else was, like her graduation. And I said I don't know how she could treat me this way, pull away from me and our friendship and not even give an explanation or at least be honest with me about it. I gave many examples to show a pattern of her behavior, so she would "get it." I knew her well enough to know she was not about to accept responsibility or any of it, and she didn't. I ended with the fact that I was unable to speak about any of this at the moment, and I didn't know exactly when I would be ready to talk if she wanted to. It was going to take time. So I actually still left the door open, but she closed it.

A few days later, on October 9th, the dreaded email responding to mine, appeared. She didn’t seem to understand anything that I was trying to say. All the examples I used to show her why I felt the way I did, she made excuses for all of them. It was a blanket of excuses. But no matter how she stretched the blanket, it didn't begin to cover everything. She attributed all her actions to being "occupied, preoccupied, distracted, forgetful, circumstance and duty." Maybe it made her feel better, but it did absolutely nothing for me. Much of the reply was defensive, which is what I expected, but not what I hoped for. Some of it was even a bit incoherent. I suppose she was upset, but no where near as upset as I was. So, by the beginning of October, the correspondence out of the way, we stopped speaking and sadly went our separate ways...though she had a head start. And then, to add insult to injury, she unfriended me on facebook a day or two later. However, her niece did not. One day, shortly after the correspondence, her niece posted on her facebook something about "unconditional love." Clearly, I took that as a message for me, regarding Marie, and I deleted her niece from my facebook page. There is no reason why either of them should have access to what was going on with me and my life any more.

I was hurt, emotional and even depressed for a very long time. I couldn't understand how I could just be "replaced" after being there for so long and giving so much. It haunts me to this day. But, there was nothing to be done at the time, but to move on and create a healthier situation for myself.  Even that took a long time. Too long. When months had passed and I was still “depressed,” a friend of mine suggested I see a doctor and get “pills.” Pills? I thought to myself, “Hell no! I’ve let this go on too damn long and I’ll be damned if I am going to take pills to get over this!” I had my health to think of, my family to think of and I really had to snap out of it. Two years ago, this past January, 2011, was when I started the 17 Day Diet the first time around. It took me about 15 months or so to get motivated enough to work on my health and inactivity. Fifteen months were wasted feeling bad over something that was out of my control. You may remember I was posting songs for the daily workout? Then I got involved with the Dr. Phil Housewives page. That was also a big distraction out of which came many friends I didn’t have before. My new friends provided me with even more distractions and intellectual stimulation. Time marched on. I began to feel better gradually.

I began to write all this back in October 2012, intending to post it then, but I still wasn’t ready. I don't know why, but I was surprised myself. I stopped half way through and saved the document. It had been three years at that point that the friendship had ended. Then suddenly, I went back to it in early February and finished the story. It’s amazing what three or four extra months will do. I finished writing it all up February 5, 2013 and started posting it. I am really fine with all of it now. I am not hesitant about opening up those boxes any more. When I do, I will blog it as I go through them. I’ll decide then what I want to keep, if anything, and what I need to purge. I'm sure there are more memories in those boxes that will reawaken dormant feelings, but I think I am ready to deal with it all. It’s taken almost 3.5 years to get to this point, but I finally reached the finish line!

Now to start going through those boxes….

Friday, February 15, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship...Part 11

Part 11

My phone did not ring for three weeks. I made no calls. I felt relieved and relaxed. I was coming to terms with the reality that it was over, almost glad to be out of limbo, and done wondering if things would or could ever go back the way they were. It was done. She couldn’t blame me, I didn’t change anything I was doing. I wasn’t the one who avoided talking about it. I was just the one suffering the loss. I had no replacement lined up to fill in the void that she left. I had to deal with it as best as I could. And how I deal with loss is to fill up the void with other people and things I love. It takes time, but I knew I would get there. I did have other friends and they were there for me through the emotional roller coaster I was going to be on in the days and weeks ahead. Some of my online friends noticed, even in the way I was typing responses to them in instant messages, that something was wrong. I was honest and talked to a few of them about what was going on with me. They were very supportive. I especially leaned on one friend at the time, Carole, because I knew she was a straight shooter and tough, and she wouldn't let me fall if I had a weak moment, and get sucked back into a toxic situation. I don't know if I would have been able to stand firm in my resolve without her. I told her many of the things I have expressed in these blogs and she was angry with Marie for her poor treatment of me.

Then, three weeks and a day after Labor Day, I got a text message on my phone. It's Tuesday morning at 7 am and it's Marie is texting me to say that she misses me and has been trying to write me a letter for three weeks. My anxiety level shot up. I am thinking what happened to bring this on? Did her niece let her down, did something happen she needs help with? Could she have had a revelation all of a sudden? Who knows? I wasn't up to hearing any of it. I ignored the text, my stomach was in a knot. First of all she knows I hate texts, and especially ones about serious matters. Second, I felt she had had all weekend to actually call me on the phone, instead of trying to text me a few minutes before she has to jump in the shower or run off to work. Third, I don’t believe she really couldn’t find the words for a letter in three weeks, if she was being honest with herself and with me. So her well meaning, too little too late text, didn’t sit well with me and all it did was upset me a great deal. When I didn’t respond to the text, the phone rang; first the house phone, then the cell. I didn’t/couldn’t answer either one. By then I was very emotional and anxious. Later that morning I was chatting with Carole and telling her what had happened, crying as I typed. While we were messaging, my phone rang again. It was 10 am and it was Marie again. I still couldn’t talk. Carole told me not to answer, but I couldn’t have even if I had wanted to. Besides, it was during her “break” at work and what could be said in those five minutes? Was I supposed to try and tell her how I had been feeling for months in the time it takes to run a commercial on television? No. I was standing my ground and putting my needs first this time. And then, when I didn't respond to that text, another text came that wasn't very nice. She asked “Is this what it’s come to? Ten years of friendship? You don't want to talk to me? You want it to be over, it’s over.” Just like that. From 7 am to 10 or 11 am her whole demeanor changed from being conciliatory to angry. And all I could think of is, who should be asking the question, "10 years, what was it all for?," her or me? I was stunned. Then I was angry. How can she even think of being angry with me for not responding? How many times has she not taken my calls over the years? How many times had she blown me off because she didn't want to discuss what was happening between us? The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. Carole was livid and told me not to answer her right away. I didn’t. I couldn't even think straight. When I did respond I wrote what Carole suggested, something like, “I’m sorry. This hurts me much more than you can imagine. I am not able to talk to you right now. I have to do what is best for me this time.” That was it. Of course, she wasn’t happy with that answer and frankly, I didn’t care. I didn't understand her sudden urgency to speak to me. She all but walked away from the friendship and left me hanging out to dry. Now maybe she was having a change of heart. Maybe she was afraid I had gotten off the bench and quit the team? Whatever it was, I was not in a good place at all emotionally. I didn't want to subject myself to a 9 minute phone call and feel even worse. My heart was broken, my nerves were shot, I was grieving, I was hurt, I was extremely emotional. I simply had nothing left to give. I gave it all. It wasn’t appreciated. I wasn’t appreciated. I had gotten the message loud and clear. It had been about 9 months or more at this point, and I think my gut finally got through to me…enough is enough.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship...Part 10

Part 10

I don’t exactly recall what happened in the latter days of August, 2009. I don’t remember how much or how little we spoke on the phone. But I vividly remember her calling the Tuesday night, right before Labor Day. She was dropping her son off at college for his class, and she said to me that I needed to call her because she was so busy she forgets to pick up the phone. Knowing she was busy and probably tired too, I didn’t call on any of the weeknights. When Friday came, I thought to myself, maybe she will call, it’s a three day weekend, but she didn’t. On Saturday, I thought she might call and I still hesitated to call because I wasn’t so sure she would be as receptive as she implied. Sunday rolled around. I usually cook and spend the day with my family, so I waited. At 6 PM I called Marie, as she had asked me to do. No answer on her house or cell phone. At 6:30 PM I tried again, she didn't picked up. Now, I know for a fact that she keeps her cell phone on her at all times. While I was there in July, she didn’t miss taking one call from anyone. So this is already making me upset because I am thinking she is purposely ignoring my calls. But maybe she wasn't, maybe something was wrong. At 9 PM I call again and she finally picks up. She tells me she has been busy cleaning and was going to call when she was done. Then she asked me, "Do you want me to call tonight or tomorrow?" I said, "Do whatever is good for you" (and thought it would be nothing new). The sickening feeling returned. We hadn’t spoken all week and she couldn’t even take a break from cleaning to talk to me after she had been the one who asked me to call? I had to wonder how many other calls she had taken in between 6 PM and 9 PM. I asked myself why do I keep putting myself through this? It had been months and, instead of things getting better between us, they were getting worse. She obviously didn't value me or our friendship any more. It seemed clear to me she had moved on, whether she admitted it or not. This little exchange was just more of the same and it left me very upset.

Monday morning, Labor Day, I had made up mind that I would not be calling her any more. It was too difficult. Even seeing her name on the caller ID created a lot of anxiety. I was tired of that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and of hearing my annoying gut say, “I told you so.” I went about my business and tried to distract myself with other things. At 11 AM the phone rings, it’s Marie. She is still busy cleaning while she is on the phone, and tells me she is getting ready to go to her sister’s house. At the same time she is talking to her on again/off again boyfriend in the background. My nerves were shot and her disposition clearly was not pleasant. It sounded like it was such an effort for her to call me and I didn't want to be on the phone any more. I said, "I’ll let you go do what you have to do," and we hung up. That was Labor Day, 2009. I was done. I had reached the end off my rope. I didn't want to see her name on caller ID. I didn't want to hear her voice. I didn't want to read any text messages from her. I didn't want any emails. I needed to focus on me, my health, and my family. I had my oncologist appointment in October and it was my fifth anniversary of cancer diagnosis. I knew I had been dealing with months of stress because of this toxic situation and the way it affected me. The sad thing was that this relationship, that once brought me nothing but joy, was giving me nothing but grief and it had to end. I resolved that I needed to do what was best for me from now on.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship...Part 9

Part 9

The plane landed in New York and I could not wait to get off it and go meet my husband. As I came down the escalator, I saw him standing there and I already felt comforted. I gave him a big hug and told him I was happy to be home. He asked me if I had a good time and I lied and said yes. All these months I hadn't mentioned anything to him because I had been hoping that things would go back to the way they were and he wouldn't have to know. Men don't really understand women's friendships anyway. He isn't very observant, but even he had asked me about the diminished phone calls, and I just told him that Marie was busy, and he dropped it. I didn't talk about the week with Marie, or any of the things that upset me during my visit, on our way home.

For example, I didn't tell him about a memory just came to me this morning, about a card I had given her when I went down for her graduation. It was a special card that I had someone get me from France, and it had "muggets" on it, which is the lily of the valley flower. It had a meaningful significance between us. I wrote a heartfelt note inside and gave it to her with a birthstone ring, marquis stone, in white gold, as a remembrance of the occasion. The card was so pretty, I brought a frame for it so she could hang it up, if she ever wanted to. Well, while I was visiting Marie, I had to use the "kids'" bathroom at least 50% of the time. And there, hanging on the bathroom wall in the kids' bathroom, was the card I had given her for graduation. My heart sunk when I saw it. I knew this was the room in the house that she hated the most. I knew the humidity of the showers taken day in and day out, would soon destroy it. And all I could think of at the time was just like this card, our friendship was symbolically going down the toilet. It hurt.

When I got home I was happy to see the girls and hugged them tight. Marie soon left on her trip with her niece. I was satisfied that I was right about the past eight or so months. The change was very real, even though she would not acknowledge it. August soon rolled around and we hadn’t been talking much. A couple of days before my birthday, I received a text message on my phone, from her daughter, asking for my home address. The day before my birthday a flower arrangement was delivered from Marie. It was difficult for me to make the call to thank her, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I put on my happy voice and called to thank her for the beautiful flowers she sent me. She told me her daughter had picked them out as though she didn't want the credit. The sickening feeling came back to my stomach. First it showed me she took the easy way out getting flowers online when we always made a point of getting special, thoughtful gifts. And second, she might as well have said she couldn’t even be bothered to go online to pick out the flowers herself. It seemed like a gift out of obligation only. I tried to make a little conversation, but she wasn’t very talkative. We hung up. I felt bad, but I didn’t want it to ruin my birthday the next day. A few minutes later the phone rings again. It’s Marie. I thought to myself, oh maybe she was busy, and now she has time to talk. I pick it up and hear a warm and cheerful greeting and I answer back. She tells me, in a very different and cold tone, that she had meant to dial her niece. I hung up. I was hurt again, to say the least. Our birthdays were once very special events, now mine meant nothing. About an hour later, while I was on Facebook, I saw a lot of pictures going up on her Facebook page. They were pictures of Marie and her niece in St. Lucia, having a great time. I almost thought the timing was deliberate, just to hurt me more than I already was. That's how it felt, but I'm sure it was just coincidence.

The following morning I received a text message on my phone from Marie, saying Happy Birthday. No call. I spent the day with my family. It’s August 17th, a Monday. Typically we would have had a long conversation at some point during the day, but no calls came all day and I got ready for bed. At 10 PM the phone rings. It’s Marie wishing me a Happy Birthday. I get the sense she wants this to be a short call, one out of obligation, and that’s why she waited until my bedtime to make it. We spoke for about an hour, that was mostly my doing. I told her my family was going to Connecticut on Thursday for along weekend, a tiny vacation. The tension seemed to ease up a little. We talked on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Wednesday morning we got into the discussion about this "perceived" distancing between us. I told her I would love to talk to her about it. She said she would call me Wednesday night as soon as she got home from work. I spent the rest of the day preparing notes of all the things I wanted to say to try to make her to understand where I was coming from. She still felt it was a jealousy issue. Wednesday night came. I had an early dinner so I would be able to discuss what I waited for months to be able to say. No call came at 5 PM or 6 PM. At 7 PM I texted her and asked if she was ready to talk. She texted back she was at her niece’s house and would call in a bit. That bit lasted until 10 PM. That’s when my phone rang. She proceeded to tell me all about her niece’s friends and their problems. Never mentioned the conversation we were supposed to have. I didn’t mention it either. It was already late and I had to get up the next day and go away with my family to Connecticut. I didn’t want to get myself upset and ruin this  little family time getaway. I put away my notes. Once again I felt my perceptions were reaffirmed. Things had changed and maybe there was no point in talking about it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship...Part 8

Part 8

When I got landed, she was there to greet me at the airport with her older son. She had to rent a car for the week because her car was in the shop. Of course I felt bad adding to her expenses, especially with her second trip to St. Lucia coming up right after I leave. I went to give her a big hug, and it seemed she responded in a less than enthusiastic way. It just could have been me expecting the worst. We had a nice chat in the car on the way home. Her older son was the one who spent his birthday in New York, and the three of us joked till we got to the apartment. As soon as we walked inside, she put down my luggage and said to me, “So my situation has changed and we can’t go looking for cars or houses now, what do you want to do?” My heart sunk in my chest and my gut said, “I told you so.” We hadn’t seen each other for two years. I hoped for more than being a shopping assistant. Now, I really felt that was the reason why she asked me to come visit. On top of that, I was expected to come up with ideas of things to do. I would have been content with a few lunches, rented movies and a trip to the mall. Just spend some quality time together. There was some of that. We did go to the mall one day and we shopped. I wanted to get her some nice things for her birthday in August that she would be able to wear on her trip. Then we had lunch in the food court and came home. But I felt something was off the whole time. It was like she was going through the motions of being with me, her body was there but her mind was not really “present."

I had hoped that during this week we would have some time alone to talk about this “distancing” that I felt, that I knew was not all in my mind. But, we really never got around to talking about it. She had to be aware of it. All week long she would be constantly texting or talking to her niece on the phone, or leaving me alone to run over to her niece’s apartment for ten to fifteen minute “visits,” never mentioning once that she was leaving or where she was going. She would just disappear and come back and say nothing. We hadn’t seen each other in two years, she sees her niece every day. I felt like I was taking time away from them just being there. I tried to make the best of it and keep my feelings to myself. After all, I did ignore my gut feeling, and I knew better than to do that.

I know it might sound like I was jealous of the relationship she had with her niece to some people, but that’s not it at all. I know she wanted to believe that and put the blame on me. A couple of times when I managed to bring it up in the past and said it wasn't about jealousy, she seemed skeptical. The fact is I genuinely wanted them to be close, but didn’t expect for that to mean I would have to be shut out, little by little, from her life. I was grieving the loss of my friend and my friendship, as I felt it slipping away and changing. My gut was aware of it, but I had to see it for myself. There just wasn’t room in her life for two best friends, it was either/or. So her niece had been elevated to the spot I used to hold 24/7 for 9+ years and I had been relegated to a once in a while - touch base with you - call you if I need you, spot. It saddened me. I can't begin to tell you how much. She knew what she was doing too, but she wouldn’t be open and honest with me about it. If she was moving on, I felt I at least deserved honesty about it and the same courtesy to move on too. I got the impression, that her plan was to back away a little at a time and that I would get used to it and go along with it. This way, if she ever needed me, I would still be there for her. I guess she didn't count on the fact that I would not be so happy in the new role she designated for me or miserable enough that I would need to take a long break.

Nothing was resolved between us during that visit, but my perception was confirmed. That's what I went there to find out. For the first time since meeting her, I was happy to get on the plane and go home at the end of the week. Before I left to go through security, I gave her the money she would need to pay for the week's car rental, over $400, so it wouldn't take anything away from her trip with her niece.

Just before going through security to my gate, we gave each other a hug. I hugged her a second time and I held her extra tight as my eyes filled up with tears. I knew this might very well be the last time we would see each other, the way things were going. I took my bags off the conveyor belt and looked back at Marie one last time as I waved good bye. My heart was heavy and I smiled through the tears. Still, as I walked away, I was happy to be going home to my family, where I knew I belonged.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship...Part 7

Part 7

The beginning of the end. The winter of 2008 things already started to change. I could sense it. Her niece had recently moved into the same apartment complex, just a few feet away from her. Marie was planning on taking a trip with her niece to St. Lucia for the holidays, Christmas to New Year's. I encouraged her to do it, it was good for her to get away. I think she hesitated because of leaving her kids for the holidays. I told her they were older and she could celebrate with them the weekend before, as long as they got their presents, they probably wouldn’t care. She went ahead with her plans. I told her we didn't have to exchange presents that year so she could save her money for her trip. I even sent her a little extra with some gifts for Christmas. With all the planning for the trip and spending time with her niece, she barely found a moment to open the gifts I had sent her. She called me and said her niece would be there soon and she wanted to open the gifts before she arrived. What could I say? I agreed. It was rushed and not at all the way we typically celebrated.

Still, I was happy for Marie that she finally would have her niece living close by.  She could be there to help her, support and encourage her.They would be there for each other. In fact I had prayed that one day they would find their way back to each other. They had been very close as children and had grown up like sisters. My prayers were to be answered. After their trip, in January 2009, they seemed inseparable. However, the closer they got, the more it seemed Marie was pulling away from me. At first I thought it was my imagination or maybe a phase she was going through. But in time there was no way I could explain away the change I sensed in our friendship. We spoke on the phone less and less. I tried to express how I was feeling, it was like I was taken out of the ball game and put on the bench indefinitely. She kept saying it wasn’t true, nothing had changed. But still I knew something had changed and it wasn’t me or on my end. No more calls in the morning, no more calls after work. Days would go by and we wouldn’t talk at all. I stepped back. I thought maybe she just needs some time and she will come around again.

You can imagine I was actually very surprised when, in the spring of 2009, she asked me when I was coming down for a visit. She sounded like she actually wanted to see me and it had been two years since our last visit. She was talking about looking at new cars or possibly houses, and she knew I had my mother’s gift for haggling down prices. I had no intentions of being a third wheel between her and her niece, so the thought of visiting hadn’t crossed my mind. I still felt she had been distancing herself since January and I had been placed on the back burner. Every time I tried to bring up how I felt, she dismissed it and said it wasn't true. Yet, all her actions, her pattern of behavior told me it was true. Now she was asking me to go down there to visit and I considered it. Could I have been mistaken or imagined her pulling away? Wishful thinking was at work. I was trying to convince myself that this “phase” was ending and maybe things were going back to the way they used to be. But, the more I thought about visiting, the more my gut said no, don’t go. I kept going online to reserve a ticket and couldn’t bring myself to actually buy it. But the days were passing by quickly. I had to bite the bullet and make a decision one way or the other, go or don’t go. I had thought my feelings would change if I waited a few days, but my gut feeling was just as strong as ever, and it said, “don’t go.” I began to reason with myself. Even though I felt and believed things had changed, she kept saying they hadn’t. So, I thought that I needed to go there and see for myself, so I would know if it was or wasn’t my imagination.  I went online, overruled my screaming gut and ordered my ticket for early July, 2009.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship...Part 6

Part 6

In December of 2004 I felt a lump in my groin while taking a showering. It was just before Christmas and my ob/gyn doctor had retired. I didn’t want to spoil my family’s Christmas and New Year’s with worrying by telling them so I kept the discovery to myself. Besides, I felt fine and it didn’t hurt. I was concerned, but thought it can't be anything serious, I always lived a fairly healthy lifestyle. I asked a friend for a recommendation of a doctor and then I confided in Marie. She asked if I had told my husband and I told her no and why. My younger daughter and my husband also have birthdays in January, I hated the thought of putting a cloud over all these special days, especially if I didn't know whether or not it was something to worry about. I made an appointment to see the doctor in January and he referred me to a surgeon. The surgeon did a biopsy and when he got the results, he told me I had a very rare form of cancer, leiomyo sarcoma (LMS), a cancer of the soft muscle tissue. I was scared to death. My husband was scared. I never even heard of this kind of cancer. I burst into tears thinking about my children. They were only 13 and 16 at the time. I told Marie what the doctor said. We were both upset. I was scheduled to have out patient surgery in February to remove the tumor. After I came home, Marie made arrangements to come up and see me for a weekend, almost immediately.

Though her visit was short, it was of great comfort to me in the days following my surgery and put me somewhat at ease. I even had a doctor's appointment with the surgeon to drain the site that kept filling up with fluid, it was one of several time I had had to go. She wanted to be there in the room with me while he did the procedure.After she left to go back home, I made an appointment with an oncologist who specialized in LMS. I brought her all my records and it was decided that I needed to have a hysterectomy on April 1st, in case the cancer had originated in the uterus. Thank God those results came back negative because I later learned if the uterus had been the primary site i would have had 18 months to live. By the time May rolled around I had recovered from the hysterectomy and was getting 35 days of radiation to the groin area. Marie was due to graduate college with her BA in May, and I had always promised I would be there for that day. I couldn't disappoint her. I went online and got my ticket, it was fairly last minute. I left for the airport after my radiation appointment on a Friday. The graduation was on Saturday night and I went there with her children, to cheer her on. No one else in her family came to see her graduate. Her niece was supposed to take off from work to be there, but she didn't. One of her sister’s showed up, but had to go back home because she was in pain. I could see she was disappointed and felt let down. I thought, what if I hadn't been able to be there or decided against going because of my treatments? The timing of the graduation, during my radiation, made it difficult for me to plan ahead. I am so glad I was able get tickets at the last minute and be there to see her graduate with high honors, after so many years of working so hard. I almost felt like I was graduating too. I returned home on a flight Monday morning to get back in time for my radiation treatment in the afternoon. Marie went on to apply for a teaching position in her school district and was hired to teach both high school French and Spanish (her minor) in September. She had achieved her goal and I was very proud of her.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship....Part 5

Part 5

In the spring of 2002, at Easter time, I flew out to Texas to visit Marie and meet her family. I never heard of her kids going all out for Easter, like mine were used to doing. So I celebrated Easter a week early with my family and went out there to try and give her children the kind of Easter that mine had always had. I sent a package ahead of time filled will baskets, plastic eggs, grass, candy and little gifts. The rest I packed in my suitcase. That Easter her kids colored eggs. When they went to sleep, we made their Easter baskets and filled the plastic eggs and hid them around the house. The kids woke up to an Easter egg hunt and then opened their baskets. It was fun to watch their eyes light up and enjoy these little Easter traditions the way my girls always did. I had a special basket for Marie too. It was filled with little things I knew she would enjoy. I always wanted her to feel loved and appreciated. I don't think she had much of that in her lifetime. She, in turn, presented me with a new backpack and told me I was ready to go back to school to study French. To be honest, I had cold feet and was reluctant, at my age, to go back into a classroom after not studying French since High School, which was 30 years ago. But now I had this backpack and I didn't want to disappoint Marie. We enjoyed our week together and when I got home I looked into what I had to do to register for college and took all the necessary steps. By the fall of 2002 I was a graduate student in French and taking my first of many classes and getting all A's.

I wanted Marie to come back to see me for Christmas in 2002. She didn’t want to leave her daughter behind, she was the baby, the boys were older. I told her I would get tickets for her and her daughter to come up and it would be my gift to myself. She wasn’t okay with that at first and thought it was too much for me to purchase two tickets. She even became angry at me because of her pride and she quoted something from the movie "To Kill A Mockingbird." It was something about "entailments," and I never really quite understood it. For a couple of days we didn't speak. I asked my husband what to make of it, because I was genuinely confused. He told me sometimes people get offended if you try to do too much for them, they have pride and want to do things for themselves. I let that sink in. Eventually, Marie and I began talking about my offer and she said she didn't want her pride to get in the way of our seeing each other. In the end she agreed to accept the plane tickets for her and her daughter. They came a few days after Christmas and stayed through New Year’s Day. The first day we went into Manhattan to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. The next morning we had another “little” Christmas all together. I had gotten extra gifts for my girls and her and her daughter so we could “celebrate” a second Christmas. The tree was still up after all so why not. After the girls went to sleep, we put out the presents. They were nothing extraordinary, just some little things to share the experience. Marie and I exchanged our gifts that night. The girls opened theirs in the morning. Everyone had fun and we got to see what it would be like to spend Christmas together.

There was another Christmas, after she and her husband had separated and he had been laid off. He went back to stay with his parents out of state and money was tighter than usual. She told me they had no money to get the kids Christmas presents that year. It broke my heart to hear that and I wanted to do something. I had "adopted" that family and brought them into my inner circle. So I decided that instead of sending her children gifts that year, I would send her a check and ask her to shop for me. I told her it made no sense for me to pay postage and I couldn't send them what I wanted. I had checked online and saw Walmart was having a sale on bicycles and asked her if she would pick up three of them for the kids for Christmas. I told her she could tell them it was from her or Santa, it didn't matter. And I sent a little extra money so she could get them a few other things and maybe some stocking stuffers. She agreed to do that and the kids had a great Christmas. I could hear them in the background, while we were on the phone that morning, all excited to go out and ride their new bikes.

Another year I went to Texas to be with her on her birthday. I got her a new printer for her computer and we went to eat at a very nice French restaurant. We spent the week visiting some of the attractions in her city. We went to the dinner show at Medieval Times, we went to see the Wax Museum and the Believe It Or Not museum.  We went to a Jamaican club and everybody in the house was jumpin’ jumpin’…including me, and I hadn't been out dancing since my twenties!

I wanted to go visit Marie the summer of 2006. That was the summer her mother was in the hospital in a coma. I asked her, but she didn’t think it was a good time, like when my father was dying. I just wanted to go to support her and be with her for a few days. I thought maybe I could try to lift her spirits or give her a little distraction from the situation. But she was going back and forth from the hospital, visiting her mother daily, with one of her sisters. I didn’t want to intrude, I didn’t know if my presence would be more of a hindrance than a help, under the circumstances. When her mother passed away, I sent flowers to the funeral home. In the following days and weeks, I could hear the sadness in her voice. I understood how she felt. My mother had passed away just three years earlier. A few weeks later I asked her if she might like to get away for a long weekend and come see me. A change of scenery might do her good. She said yes right away. She came up for Columbus Day weekend in October. We spent Saturday in Harlem. She loved it there. We walked around for hours. We had a relaxing day Sunday and she returned home Monday afternoon. And the friendship went on as usual.

When her older son turned sixteen, she wanted to surprise him with a trip to New York City. That was six years ago in the summer of 2007. Her son’s birthday is the day before mine. Of course I was all for it. When she purchased her tickets, I made some plans for the places we would go and the things we would see that I thought he would enjoy. In addition to many of the things we saw on her first trip, I add the Planetarium and Museum of Natural History, because I thought he would appreciate those things and she had never seen them. We also took a trip up to Harlem because she wanted him to experience the cultural aspects of the neighborhood. We took rolls of pictures and made him a photo album of all the places he had been for him to take home and show his family and friends. The day of his birthday we went out to dinner and then came home for cake. He loved the Italian cannolis, so we got him a big cannoli shell filled with miniature cannolis. I'm sure he had a very memorable birthday and I was happy to be part of it.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship...Part 4

Part 4

Yesterday, after doing some editing and rereading what I wrote, I shed a few more tears. I thought I had reached the bottom of the well, but apparently I did not. But I am okay and going through with the story to the end. Thanks for reading.

And this is where my timeline gets blurry. I can’t recall the specific order of things, just the events. We continued our friendship on the phone and online. We sent packages to each other for every occasion: birthdays, Mother’s Day, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter. The packages had thoughtful presents in them. Things we knew the other would enjoy like movies, perfumes, incense, candy, and a lot of other favorite things. We started watching movies together on the VCR. She would get them in sync and then we would sit and watch together, with a glass of wine, while we were on the phone. It was the best we could do with 2,000 miles between us. We would send a box full of presents to each other at Christmastime and then find a quiet moment, when neither of us would be disturbed, and open our presents together, each under our own trees. I would help her with many French school assignments and, as I did them with her, I would improve my own knowledge of French. We discussed philosophy, especially existentialism, because we both loved the book "L'Etranger" (The Stranger), by Albert Camus. Of course, I had gotten us each a copy of the book because we loved it and often referred to it. We discussed religion. She was interested in knowing about every religion, and I was disgusted with the Catholic priest scandal. We shared things about our pasts, our families, our hopes for the future, the news, politics and what was going on in our everyday lives.We talked on the phone more often as it became less expensive, and when it was free, we talked all the time, any time, several times a day. That’s the way it was and then cell phones made it all even easier. Once we got cell phones we would take walks "together" for exercise, either outside or on the identical treadmills we had gotten for ourselves.

In fact, we had gone out walking on the morning of September 11th, 2001. We started out early, after we had gotten the kids off to school. She called me as soon as she got home from her walk to tell me to turn on the television. Her husband was watching the Twin Towers come down. I turned on the television just in time to see the second Tower being struck. It was unreal. It took time to mentally process what was happening and tremendous anxiety set in because my whole family was out of the house. My husband and brother were at work and the girls were at two different schools. The cell phones weren’t working. I didn’t know what to do. We spoke for a few minutes as we watched what was happening. Then I wanted to get in touch with my brother, who worked in Manhattan, I wasn’t sure exactly where his office building was located. I needed to find out if I should pick my girls up from their schools. I didn't know if it was safer to leave them where they were or try to go get them. In between, Marie would call to see how I was doing. Eventually, everyone came home safe and sound, but it wasn’t easy. Traffic lights weren’t working, phones weren’t working, television stations weren’t working. That night, we didn’t know if this was the end of it or just the beginning. But the anxiety of that day eventually passed over the weeks and months ahead.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship...Part 3

Part 3

I was not looking forward to the year 2000. I had wanted to try to meet Marie that summer, but the circumstances were not good. My father was getting progressively worse and more in pain.  The disease was progressing. It was stressful and, at the same time, my brother told me that my mother’s doctor diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s. My mother’s behavior was also getting worse. She had bouts of paranoia, she was confused, argumentative, and the medication the doctor put her on to calm her gave her hallucinations. She was seeing her dead relatives all over the house and would tell my brother when he got home, all about her “visitors.” I tried to keep things at home as normal as possible for my girls, who had grown up spending a lot of time with my parents. I looked forward to talking to Marie and my French lessons as distractions. As the months passed, I feared my father would die on my birthday, in August. He didn’t. But I did receive a dozen roses from Marie on my birthday. I got very emotional. I had never received a dozen roses before and this was quite an extravagant gift for her at the time, so I felt bad. At the same time, I was very touched that she would make such a sacrifice for me. My father died a week later, on August 24th. We buried him. And then, we had to help my mother, who was always very sharp mentally, to cope with the deterioration of her mind.

Marie and I kept chatting online and on the phone. The minutes for calls were expensive and we would buy phone cards, which were much cheaper, hoping one day the phone companies would allow us to talk for free (which eventually happened). I was spending around $100 a month on calls, and she was too. I rationalized the expense because I never really did anything for myself and this was the one thing I enjoyed. After speaking a few times on the phone, it was hard to just go back to only chatting online. And, being so far apart, there wasn’t much we could do that other friends, who lived near one another, could do. But we invented things over time. We started to have wine chats. We planned time when we could talk and have a glass or two of wine on the phone. We read books and discussed them. She would help me with my French pronunciation when I read passages to her. We talked about her visiting me in New York once she got her Associate’s Degree in May, 2001. Her family was against her visiting a total stranger she had met online. My family thought I was crazy. But once she agreed and made arrangements for her children, I got her a ticket to come see me and sent it to her. Then I made all kinds of plans for her visit. I got tickets for three Broadways shows, I planned trips to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, Carnegie hall, Lincoln Center, the wineries in Long Island, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art…I just wanted to put a big RED ribbon around all of New York City and give it to her as a gift.

A few days after her graduation, in May 2001, she was on the plane headed to New York. My husband and I went to the airport to pick her up. I can still see her as she came down from the arrival gate. She tilted her head sideways and smiled. I ran up to her to give her a very big and overdue hug. We took her home and got her settled into my daughter’s room. That week we saw all the sights I mentioned and more. We ate at French restaurants, walked through Macy’s on 34th Street, shopped for souvenirs for her to take back home and made a ton of memories. In the Museum of Modern Art there was a painting by Van Gogh that took her breath away, “Des Mademoiselles.” She had taken an art course in college and was giving me my own personal tour of the museum and artists. We saw three plays, “Les Miserables,” “Phantom of the Opera,” and “The Full Monty.” The week was a whirlwind and then it was over. That last day it was very hard to say good bye, not knowing when we could see each other again. So with another long hug we parted company at the airport, this time with tears in our eyes instead of smiles, and we went back to our families. She enrolled in a four year college, UTA, to get her BA in French. On her first day of classes she picked up a key chain at the university for me and I still use it today.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship...Part 2

Part 2

I instant messaged AnnaBelle a couple of times, for short chats, and we began to get to know each other in the days ahead. I learned that she was 28 years old, a full time college student, with three young children ages 9, 8 and 3. I admired her for being a full time mom and still pursuing her lifelong dream of one day getting her college degree and teaching French. I knew how hard it was for me to be a full time student without any responsibilities, and I also knew how hard it was being a full time mother to two children, and yet she was doing both. She also told me she had served in the navy; in fact both she and her husband  had served and met there. When she left the navy she had the educational benefits from the G.I. Bill that she intended to use to fulfill her dream to teach and make a better life for her family.

As we chatted, day in and day out, we discovered that our birthdays were just a few days apart. Hers was August 1st and had just passed, mine was August 17th and was just a few days away. I learned a lot more and I started caring very much about AnnaBelle and her young, struggling family. She lived in Texas and I lived in New York. There was no way we could ever get together for a lunch date. In time I began to open up about what was going on in my life. My father was dying of cancer. The internet became the only place I could go to without having to talk or think about it. It gave me a little mental vacation away from the stress. But, as we became friends, I shared that situation with “Anna” and she told me a little more of her life. She told me she was unhappy in her marriage. I encouraged her to seek marriage counseling, and though she tried, nothing ever came of it. Her husband wasn't receptive to the idea. Eventually, she and her husband would separate permanently. Things between them seemed irreparable. In our conversations, I told Anna, that I was interested in relearning French, that’s why I went to the chat room that day. And now that I had met her, I was even more motivated to give it a try. She found me an online website that gave free French lessons twice a week. I went to those French classes dutifully, and little by little, my French was actually coming back to me.

One day, in the middle of one of our conversations and quite out of the blue, she typed in the instant message that she had something to tell me. It sounded ominous even on the screen. I had no idea what it could be, but I suddenly had a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach, as I thought she was going to end our friendship, which was only a couple of months old, and in it’s infancy. I said, “Okay what is it?” as I braced myself for the worst. She began typing and a message popped up that read, “I’m black.” I answered back, “So what?” I recalled that weeks earlier I had asked her nationality and she avoided the answer by saying she was American, which was fine by me. But, now she thought she should reveal her race and she was being very cautious about it. She typed back, “There’s more.” I typed, “What is it? Just tell me.” She typed, “My husband is white and my children are biracial.” I typed back, “Is that it? What’s the problem?” She said, some people have ended their online relationships with her after learning that. I replied, “If they did that then those aren’t the kind of people you want in your life.” And, with that said, she told me her real name was Marie. I had long ago told her my real name, but now I had to get used to calling her Marie in stead of “Anna.” That took me a while.

A short time later we exchanged phone numbers, but neither of us called the other right away. I don’t know why. Maybe we were both leery of the internet and thought if we called, the person on the other end might not be who we thought they were. As it got closer to Thanksgiving, I realized that I needed to call Marie. I wanted to hear her voice and wish her and her family a happy Thanksgiving. So, I picked up the phone and dialed her number. She answered. She didn’t have a Texas accent, but her voice was very sweet. It was a little awkward chatting for the first time.What came so easily on the computer screen was not so easy on the phone. It wasn’t a long call, maybe 30 minutes or so. Later that day we met up on the computer and she told me how much she appreciated my calling her. That was the just first of what were to be countless telephone calls that would be made over the next ten years.

As Christmas time rolled around, I wanted to get Marie a little something special, and I decided to get her my favorite French book, “Le Petit Prince.” I got two copies, one for her and one for me, so we could read it together. My French had improved tremendously over the past three months. I was able to write a little note, in French, to put in the book. On Christmas Day, I learned that Marie had the same idea, when I opened her gift to me. She also had gotten me one of her favorite French books, “Bonjour Tristesse” (Hello Sadness). Now we had two French books to read together and enjoy. This would be just the beginning of a large number of French books we would share over the next few years.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Remnants of a Friendship…Part 1

Part 1

I’ve thought about writing about a ten year old friendship, that ended three years ago, for a while now. I’ve mentioned it here and there, but not in great detail. It took me a long while before I was able to talk about it without getting emotional. I woke up this morning deciding today is the day I would start blogging about it. I might write a series of blogs that might end up to be a novella, if I can go through with it. A lot happened in those ten years. Some of those things I will leave out intentionally, others unintentionally, and I’m sure there is a lot I have forgotten or my mind is shielding me from. In any case, it’s totally one sided, so you may have to take what I say with a grain of salt, though I typically do not exaggerate. Still it is my perspective and people often do see things differently. 

What brought this up just now? As you might know, I am trying to get ready to put the house up or sale. I was cleaning out my bedroom to get it ready for the painter to paint and I happened upon three boxes under my bed. Three various sized shoe boxes that hold the remnants of a ten year friendship that was never supposed to end. Three boxes that hold memorabilia, cards, tokens, playbills, and Lord knows what else. No, I haven’t opened them yet. I was deciding the past week if I should look through them or throw them out without opening them. There are a lot of memories packed away in those boxes. I don’t know if I am prepared to go through it all before disposing of them. I feel like I should. It might bring me some final closure on a long chapter in my life. On the other hand, it might stir up some old feelings that have quieted themselves over the past two to three years. While I decide what to do, I woke up thinking I should write about this relationship, though I can’t promise I will finish it. Let’s see what happens and what I find in those boxes over the next few days. First a glimpse of the friendship…

How We Met

In the summer of 1999, a friend of the family came over to set up our new desk top computer.  When he finished, he talked me into trying AOL for the 60 day free trial period. Up to that point, I had only heard about the internet and didn’t want any part of it. But my girls, ages 13 and 11, were tired of living in the Stone Age and wanted to go online. Before I could think about it or say no, the program was installed and we were up and running. Needless to say, we were hooked on the internet in no time. One of the things I wanted to explore was the AOL French chat room that a friend told me about. I always loved the French language, but it had been almost 30 years since I had taken it in high school. I managed to navigate my way into the chat room and saw some people, who I thought were from France, talking in French. At first I was hesitant to type anything because my French was so rusty I only remembered how to say “how are you” and “my name is” and I didn’t want to give out my name to strangers online. So I sat and read and finally got up the courage to say, “Bonjour.” I soon learned that the people chatting were not from France, but people in our country who happened to be French or speak French. I tried once again to say something in French and one of the people in the room started asking me for my name. I said I would not give my name, but the jerk kept harassing me. That’s the moment I met my future friend, AnnaBelle (her screen name). She seemed to speak French very well and told the guy to leave me alone because I was just being “prudent.” She argued with him a couple of minutes and I left the chat room. I figured I either needed to brush up on my French or not bother visiting there any more. Suddenly, an instant message popped up on my screen. It was AnnaBelle asking if I was okay. I told her I was and thanked her very much for intervening, as my French was very rusty, and I couldn’t explain myself. She told me she had seen other people harassed before and had come to their aid. I was touched that a total stranger would come to my defense the way she did. And we ended our brief conversation. The next day I found a thank you e-card and sent it to her with a short note that I painstakingly wrote in French, thanking her again, and I added her to my Buddy List on AOL on an impulse. The rest was pretty much history.