Inspiration

In Memorial

My cousin died yesterday. 

I got the news last night, as sketchy as it was, when my brother called.  When I saw his name on the caller I.D., I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be good.  When he asked, “Have you talked to Mom?”, my suspicions were confirmed.

Over the years, Mom has shared snippets of information about my cousin’s health challenges.  A life-long chain smoker, she had been battling cancer for many years in different ways and in different parts of her body. Apparently, enough was enough.  Sometime recently, she decided against more chemo.

I don’t blame her.

After several attempts in reaching K. were unsuccessful, and after receiving an random email from someone she didn’t know, Mom had a feeling something was wrong.  My mother and cousin shared regular phone calls – many in the middle of the night – as well as many many challenges over the course of their lives.  They were more like peers, even though K. called my Mom “Auntie”.   So when she didn’t receive any call backs, Mom reached out to one of my cousin’s friends, who hadn’t heard a thing either.  More calls were made and, unfortunately, the sad news was relayed.  K. passed away in a care facility up in Los Angeles somewhere at around 11:30 a.m.   She was 75.

I keep wondering if she was alone when she left this Earth, or if her husband or mom or my father were there to greet her.  Childless and a widow, we are some of her only blood family.  I’ll phone Mom later  to see how she is doing.  Personally, while my heart is heavy, I haven’t shed a tear…which is weird, I suppose.   Maybe I will psychoanalyze that later, but it won’t change anything.  I simply haven’t cried.  Yet.

My first memories of my cousin are of a young woman, fresh from a small town in Illinois, who came to California in the early 60’s to live with my family while she got settled.  Dixie (her birth name) was the only daughter of my father’s sister.  Dixie came to California with a dream in her heart and never a look back: she wanted to be a star! 

15 years apart, K. (a stage name she took and used religiously for the rest of her life) was everything I wanted to be.  Beautiful. Glamorous.  Brave. “IN”.

I can remember sitting on the toilet in our little bathroom with the pink and gray tile, fascinated as she applied makeup like an expert.  Sometimes she would swipe lipstick against my own little mouth, or brushed my eyelids with color. It made me feel beautiful, like her.  K. had a natural beauty only enhanced with color and contour, her most striking feature being her  blue “cat eyes” – a feature she would exploit to her best advantage with smoky artisanship throughout her life and career.

Because YES, as it turns out, her dream came true!  K. DID become an actress, playing many roles in movies and TV shows, as well as in live stage productions.  It was always exciting to go see her work, or to see her on a TV show.  Dynasty…Dallas….Happy Texas.  A sculptress as well, K. had an amazing voice that was at once classy, sexy and deep, with an infectious laugh.   Therefore, she was a perfect fit for the voice over work she also did. 

Over the years, K. and her husband B. (himself a famous stuntman/actor and one of the original cast of legendary TV show, “High Chaparral”) spent a lot of time with my family …. Birthdays, holidays, weddings.  B. and my father were contemporaries and loved to sit, share war stories and just “shoot the shit” over cigars and beer.  I have a collection of photos of us all together.  K. was the big sister I never had, B. and I  had birthdays 4 days apart, and while we lived very different lives, we all adored each other.

As often happens over time, we lost touch.  It began when my father died in January 2000.  Big Al was the glue that kept much of my family’s “togetherness” together, as it turns out.  After over 40 years of marriage, Mom was never the same after his passing, and family gatherings shifted to my home or my brothers …. the “next” generation taking over the traditions as happens with many families, I suppose. 

After a few more years, B. got very sick and passed away.  K. herself got sick, and, well, somehow the months turned in to years and the Christmas cards stop coming.

Life – and death – happened.  The last time we spoke was several years ago.

Turns out K. didn’t wish there to be any services, recluse that she had become.  That makes me sad, but I respect her decision.  I imagine that after a lifetime of making your living and your life around your “looks”, it would be extra difficult to face aging and illness – and to put that face in the public eye.  She was so very gorgeous, too.  This is how I will remember her.  img001

So as I go through family pictures, and talk with my mom, I will hold a little heart-shaped memorial by myself, in her honor.  Her passing has, once again, put the stark reality of my own mortality square in my sites.  None of us gets out of here alive.  Every day – every moment – is an important one, especially when you reach the age where the years left in front of you are, statistically, less than the years left behind.

Each moment is to be appreciated.  The sound of the rain falling.  The smell of baking cookies.  The laughter of a child.  These are the important things, the simple pleasures in life, that are to be valued.  We are given only so many days here on earth, and in the wink of an eye – like a wisp of smoke – they are gone.

My cousin, may she rest in eternal peace and beauty, reminds me of these things.  Her death compels me to make sure the people in my life know that I love them while I still have the chance.  I am encouraged to follow my own dreams (because even at 60, I still have some), and – most importantly – do everything I can to make the most of what a day brings.

Because it might be my last.

(Note:  I actually wrote this last Sunday the 11th.  Since then, I have cried – a lot and at unexpected and private moments.  Other than that, the rest remains the same.)

Daily Inspiration, Inspiration, Life, Love, Relationships, Spirituality, Women, Writing

True Confessions of a Terrible Blogger

20150613_112004_resizedI’m a terrible blogger.

Long gone are the days when I would write a daily post, and then go around checking on all my blog “friends”, commenting here and there and interacting along the way.

When I first started blogging back in 2004 or so, it was a whole ‘nuther world.  Blogging itself was a relatively new phenom.  This was in the days before “Smart Phones” and tablets, social media and “monetizing”.

Before the “Like” button.

Sure, the platforms themselves were pretty rustic compared to all the bells and whistles available today.  We had a small handful of options for templates and such.  Corporate websites weren’t yet using a blog as a generic marketing tool.  “Click bait” would’ve been mistaken for some sort of fishing apparatus. But oh, those were great blog times.  I sometimes miss them in the middle of the night.

These days, I “think” about writing here far more often than I actually do.  One reason (the main reason) is, I’ve lost the plot. I don’t know what my motivation is….the whole “WHY” of it.

I’m not an “expert” on anything.  I haven’t any earth shattering wisdom to impart, a book to promote,  or a service or product to sell.

I have no interest in trying to be “someone”, or garner an adoring crowd (well, actually, that part sounds pretty good.  haha!)

So why write here?  What is it that keeps me coming back (albeit sporadically), year after year, even after weeks and months of being MIA?

It’s simple, really. I long to connect.  To reach out and touch someone and maybe, if I’m lucky, have them touch back.  To write something and have someone say, “Hey, me, too!” or “I totally get you!”

Being “get” cannot be rated highly enough.

One of the most unexpected developments of having been diagnosed with breast cancer almost 2 years ago was how it would impact my relationships.  I’ve written reams about it in my journal, and mentioned it briefly here (I think….)  And I suppose much of the changes stem from how the news – and the treatment journey itself – impacted me.

Unless you’ve walked a mile in the shoes of someone who’s been told they have the Big C, it’s hard to understand, even if you are close to someone who has or is going through it.  See, you can’t be in their head.  You aren’t there in those dark, solitary, sleepless hours in the middle of the night with your thoughts running amuck.  Hell, even my own family doesn’t know some of the stuff I had to deal with – emotionally and physically – because I didn’t want to burden them any more than they already had to deal with.  I still don’t.

Long story short, and not surprisingly, I’m not the same person I was 2 years ago.  For example, I’ve essentially ditched the New Thought/New Age/Alternative spirituality stuff I had been practicing for a decade or so.  I found that 97% of it was pretty useless when it came to dealing with the diagnosis.  My beliefs were tried by fire.  I am, most assuredly, a Jesus person again.  NOT a fundamentalist.  You can’t “unknow” or “unexperience” certain things.  I love and support my gay friends and the LGBT community at large.  I still swear up a storm and I don’t go to church (although, if I could find one where I “fit in”, I would go in a heartbeat).  I still believe in the Feminine Face of God, and the Mystery of the spiritual realm.

Physically, I’ve changed, too.  I don’t have long dyed hair and acrylic nails any more.  My face is different….a little more battle-scarred and war-weary.  And my wardrobe.  Ugh!  After being away from the corporate environ for this long, and after going from 2 incomes to 1, well, the word “limited” comes to mind.

Hell, some days I don’t even put makeup on except maybe my eyebrows.  They are a MUST HAVE, if I want to avoid looking rather alien.  I didn’t have much before and, after chemo, things didn’t improve.  At least I got my lashes back.  Mostly.

Another big change is how I spend my days.  I am, by and large, living the life of a retiree – even with my part-time bookkeeping job (which, as it turns out, is VERY part-time).  My days are spent doing mundane “housewife” things like cooking and laundry and cleaning.  I actually don’t mind that, interestingly enough.  And I have plenty of time (if not money) to do the crafts and classes that I enjoy.

I never did relate to the “cancer survivor” meme, even though – technically – I am one.  Never joined a support group and don’t have a single piece of pink-ribboned paraphernalia.  Going through breast cancer was more like going through an ugly divorce or a death or some other trauma. I am doing what I can to put “that phase” of my life in the past as much as possible considering it was – well – cancer.

So I didn’t come out of that phase with a tribe of “sisters”, even though I was told I would.  In fact, some friends have drifted off into the sunset.  Why?  I dunno…Changing interests or lifestyles, maybe?  Some of that is to be expected, I suppose.  In July 2015, when my BFF broke up with me  after my 2nd round of chemo (and right after I shaved my head), I had a big wake up call.  Another one, I should say.  It was the understanding that some people can’t handle the tough times…the really tough times.  Times involving a drastic change in availability, or appearance or energy.

Times of facing one’s own mortality.

My friendships have undergone a serious pruning.  In spite of that, the relationships I have with myself, the God of my understanding, my husband and my children are all stronger than ever.  I’ve made a few new acquaintances and friends along the way, although no one (yet) to fill those BFF shoes. But I appreciate these women when we spend time together.  We laugh and have fun as we get to know each other better.

But in my heart I believe there is one special woman out there.  One who is also looking for me, wanting the same sort of “sisterfriend” relationship I want.  Someone like-minded and enjoys the same things.  A woman who  makes the best of things and lives life  – every day – to the fullest.  She’ll be down to earth with a good head on her shoulders and a smartass remark on her lips. And we’ll laugh our asses off, A LOT, even when we’re crying.  It’s just a matter of time before we are connected.

CONNECTED.

Connection.  That feeling you get when you know someone is there for you, and you for them, during good times or bad, happy times or sad.  When the people involved experience the strength and comfort that comes from doing life together vs. going it alone.

I want more of that in my life. In real-time.  Because as wonderful as online friendships are, they aren’t the same as those where you actually DO stuff together, physically, in the same space.  Words written on a page (or in a text) are not the same as those spoken face to face, eye to eye.

Maybe even heart to heart, when someone needs a hug……

CONNECTION.

I may be a terrible blogger, but I give great hugs.

It’s just a matter of time.