Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fuzzy Thinking


For those of us who arrive, with no small surprise and absolute horror, in the Land of Old People, one of the most important things we must learn to balance is the great amount of wisdom we have and want to impart to others, along with that other thing, that fuzzy thinking thing, which reminds us that Alzheimer’s is just an overlooked Sudoku puzzle away from our deteriorating brain cells.

I was reminded of that balance just this past week and it unnerved me.  In my defense, my brother had just died and I was exhausted, not only from mourning him but also from celebrating his life.

Some background info: The reception following my brother, Sandy’s funeral was at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, MD.  I was in High Cotton, folks.  Out of my element in my Macy’s easy-pack ensemble, I found a sofa to sit on while holding tightly to my Diet Coke, as the over 300 attendees visited the open bar and the buffet table and commiserated with each other,  remembering their friend and colleague.  I did find that, after a few minutes, folks started coming by my couch to tell me how much they loved my brother.  One such person was an older man in a wheel chair.  This man introduced himself as my brother’s one and possibly only Republican friend and told me of the great times he had had when Sandy and his wife, Katherine, visited at his vacation home in Jamaica.

It was later when I thought to ask Katherine what that Republican had done in his life to pay for the vacation home in Jamaica and she reported that he had been Goldwater’s “money man”.  Although I didn't quite know what that meant, I chuckled and put the shiny tidbit of info in my brain to consider at a later time.

That later time came when I was talking to Melissa, my eldest, on the phone after I’d returned to Atlanta.  Since my darling Melissa, in what has to have been an early and catastrophic mid life crisis, has made a hard right turn in her political leanings, I though she would enjoy hearing about her Uncle Sandy’s one Republican friend.

When I got to the Goldwater’s “money man” part, I figured Melissa, although a definite right leaner, wouldn’t be up on Barry Goldwater, since, unlike me, she didn't grow up during the Goldwater era.  That’s where my wisdom, based on my long life well lived, would come in handy.  I'd spent several summers as a child with my grandparents who lived in Phoenix and I'd sat in on many a debate between my liberal grandfather and his more conservative friends, debates often centered around old Barry.

Melissa took the bait.  “Now, who was Barry Goldwater?”   

And, I'm sorry to say that  this was the point at which my great wisdom (and my opportunity to articulate it) ran head on into my fuzzy thinking.  With all of the certainty that comes from being there and seeing it happen, I said, “He was president,”

“What?  Barry Goldwater was president?  Of What?” asked poor young Melissa.

“Of the United States.”

That’s when I heard the “Oh no, here we go” tone in Melissa's voice, the tone that said we need to start looking into "homes".  She hesitated and then said, “Mama, I don’t think Barry Goldwater was president of the United States.  I’m looking him up here on my IPad and it’s says he was a senator from Arizona and he ran for president but didn’t win.”

Really?  Hmm.  Maybe he wasn’t president. Damn those IPads where whippersnappers can look up everything just like that.

Okay, I know Barry Goldwater wasn't ever president of the United States.  I should know.  I was alive when he wasn't president, unlike that smart ass Melissa with her IPad.  It's just that, in my fuzzy brain, my full brain, sometimes things get all mixed up together.   Nixon, Agnew, Rockefeller, Reagan, all those Bushes.  So many Republicans, they just all run together (as do many of the Democrats).  

So, as I like to say these days:  I know a lot; I just can't remember any of it. Maybe a Sudoku puzzle would help.  The only problem is where I put it is a bit fuzzy.

Monday, December 3, 2012



If ever, in the future, I feel the need to conjure up the embodiment of grief, I’ll have only to think of my sister-in-law’s beautiful face eviscerated by it.

My brother was a saint.  We all knew it as did the five hundred or so people who attended his funeral, many from the international law firm where he worked for close to forty years and served as General Counsel before his retirement a year ago.  A lawyer beloved?  By other lawyers?  Unheard of.

My brother, the saint, left a motley assortment of sinners and merely mortal fools ill equipped to navigate life without him.  Although we promise to do better, to be more like him, we probably won’t.  Nonetheless, his daughters have years ahead of them, a new job and a wedding in their near future.  I have my home and my interests and my family.  His wife, his cherished companion, will adjust and adapt to a very different life on her own.

One morning, while I was in Bethesda for the funeral, I took a long walk in the midst of some gorgeous Maryland countryside.  At one point, I came upon a small herd of deer.  I stopped; they stopped.  I looked at them and they looked at me.  It occurred to me that we were fellow dwellers in a world my brother no longer inhabits.

A tear caressed my cheek and the deer moved on.

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