A WORLD FULL OF FRIENDS

Daily Prompt: Cut Off – When was the last time you felt really, truly lonely?


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Until this morning when I saw this prompt, I was feeling pretty good about the friends and relationships I’ve formed during the past three years of blogging. Now why would you go and ask this question? The people who write these prompts must be very young. They are forever bringing up depressing topics that are real downers. Only the young think it’s fun to explore bad times.

But here’s a real, no kidding, response. Because Garry and I were talking about this very thing last night before bed.


Years ago, when I moved to Israel, I was suddenly a single mother in a new country with no friends, or acquaintances. Most people spoke English only a little and the customs were different. Emigrating to another country and culture is hard, but that’s what I signed up for. I wanted culture shock. I wanted something different, new. I wanted to tough it out and discover I could do it on my own. I was just 30 and I was ready to take on the world.

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It has been a long time since I felt that way. Nothing I could do in my native land and language, could match or exceed the isolation of being on my own on foreign soil.

Of course I felt lonely and isolated. I really was isolated. It wasn’t a mood I was in, or a feeling. It was reality, even though it was in a place I had chosen. With all its perils, change is healthy.

I am not lonely anymore. Being physically challenged, if this were even 25 years ago, I probably would be. The Internet lets me reach out and find friends all over the world. You — yes, you with your pot of tea and crumpets — have rocked my world. You are my friends, my support. How can I be lonely with wonderful friends like you?

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Across continents and oceans, from every corner and culture around the globe, you are my friends. I have a whole world full of friends. What a wonder this blogging thing has turned out to be!

M…O…T…H…E…R … SADNESS

Marilyn Armstrong:

Motherhood is forever. I laughed a lot when I read this, but it also resonates. I think it will feel very familiar to any mother who has raised kids.

Originally posted on Stuff my dog taught me:

sad momRemember that Mormon ad from a million years ago… A little kid is happy because he got A’s on his report card and all his joy gets sucked away by the voice of a parent, getting mad at him for some minor thing he has done wrong. Sometimes (most of the time), I feel like that little boy.

Our house is a very busy place. Everyone is juggling some combination of work, school, and social commitments (except my youngest who is only 10 and Buster the Schnauzer who is… well… a schnauzer). Emotions run high. And here I stand, rooted like a bull’s eye in the center of the madness, throwing out statements that are bound to infuriate the masses. Wild, crazy things like:

  • “put on your mittens” (in my defense, it is -14 C)
  • “wrap the cheese before you put it back in the…

View original 325 more words

HE SAID YES

In late 1979, I walked away from my first marriage. It was a friendship which should have stayed a friendship. Regardless, it had yielded a son and in years to come would produce a lovely granddaughter. Clearly, it was meant to be, even if it were not meant to last.

Off to Israel I went with my son where I remained for 9 years. While I was away, Garry wrote me. Every week, 2 or 3 letters arrived in my mail box. Fan mail. As that second marriage fell apart, I lived from letter to letter, carrying the most recent one with me until the paper on which it was written fell apart.

I wrote letters to Garry too and when I got back to the States, I found he had saved them. He had a drawer full of my letters. I don’t think either Garry or I has written a letter to anyone else since.

August 1987.

I’m back. I landed at JFK Airport on August 11, 1987. Just a couple of days later, I headed north to see Garry. He would be on the Vineyard where he shared a place with work colleagues. I would join him there.

It was a magical week.

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There had always been something between us. That special something had been there before and during my first marriage. While I was overseas, that something had grown stronger. Apparently absence really can make the heart grow fonder. It did for us.

Last night, Garry and I were watching a new episode of NCIS. Garry is a devotee of the show and was enthusiastically looking forward to a brand new show on which Gibbs was rumored to reconnect with another of his former wives.

Gibbs is often described by Tony (in the show) as “a functional mute.” A man who can give a monosyllabic response to even the most complex question. Garry greatly admires this quality and last night, I had a revelation. Garry really IS Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Even though they do not look like twins, they are twins of the heart, manly men who believe apologizing is a sign of weakness.

We were on our way back from a magical week on Martha’s Vineyard where we had reconnected. Reaffirmed our attraction whatever that thing was — dare I call it love? — we had between us. Both of us had survived a horrible decade. Bad choices, bad relationships. Problems at work. The years had taken a heavy toll on us.

Garry Clean Harbors-SMALLAnd here was Life giving us a rare opportunity to “pick up each others’ option.” It had always been possible, but for one reason or another reason, including a whole host of hard to explain stuff, we had never done it. If ever an opportunity had “last chance” written on it, this one did.

On the ferry ride back from the Vineyard, we talked. Or, more accurately, I talked. He listened and occasionally commented.

I pointed out we had tried pretty much everything. Our relationships had failed. Some quite spectacularly. Remarkably, we had continued to find pleasure and comfort with each other. Despite the crap we’d gone through and having been separated for nearly a decade.

“We’ve tried everything else,” I said. “Maybe this time, we should try each other?”

Garry looked at me. “Yes,” he said.

One word. Gibbs would have been proud. Any woman worth her salt would have needed a full afternoon to respond to that question. I might have required a whole weekend. But he said “yes” and he meant “yes” and about a year later, we were married and have been ever since.

So I ask you — was that not worthy of Leroy Jethro Gibbs? I think it was. Give that man his own television show!

TO CHANGE A LIFE

On my way out the door to the doctor. This is obviously a rerun, but I think it’s appropriate and no time today to do an original. See you all later!!


I had been married about a year. It was probably the thousandth recital of my tale of woe. How I had been beaten, abused, molested, bullied from my earliest memories until my jailbreak at age 17.

That day, my husband looked at me and said: “You’ve told me this before. Often. I hear you. It was bad. Your father belongs in jail. But you don’t live there anymore.It’s time to move on. Let it go. Stop dwelling in the past. Go forward without all that crap hanging all over you.”

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There were a lot of ways I could have answered. I might have gotten angry. I could have pointed out he could take his own advice. But I didn’t. I could have told him it isn’t so easy, letting go of the past, dumping baggage. I didn’t say that, either.

What I said was: “You’re right. I’ll try to do that.”

I did try and eventually, succeeded. I can’t say I never looked back. I looked back plenty. But I never went back into those bad old memories and dwelt there. I never again let those memories dominate me. Getting completely free of all the awful stuff took long years. Half a lifetime and then some. While I worked it out, I didn’t let it control me. It was a piece of advice I needed to hear and heed.

I give to anyone who might need it, the same advice. In the end, no matter how horrible your childhood, no matter how traumatic your life was, unless you want the people who hurt you, molested you, mistreated you, or abused you to rule you, your only choice is to let go and move on.

There is no other way. When you are deep in the morass of painful memories, full of rage and pain at those who hurt you, the suffering you are enduring isn’t hurting them at all. You are hurting only yourself. Haven’t you been hurt enough? Why grant the bad guys power over you? Why would you want to do that?

No one needs to tell me it’s easier said than done. I know that. It wasn’t easy, but I got it done. So can you.

Sometimes, I get to give people who need it, a bit of good advice. That’s my little gift. Maybe I help. Someone, somewhere.


Be the Change – What change, big or small, would you like your blog to make in the world?

A CHRISTMAS SURPRISE: ORIGINAL FICTION

A family plus one holiday tale

by Richard Paschall

72-Christmas Eve_013Kyle was coming home for Christmas. He was bringing with him his college roommate. The boys met during freshmen year and became fast friends. Somehow they maneuvered the dorm manager into assigning them to be roommates for sophomore year. There was no one on earth Kyle would rather spend time with than Michael.

So, he was glad Michael agreed to come to dinner on Christmas Eve. This was in exchange for Kyle agreeing to go to Michael’s parents’ house on Christmas day for dinner. Michael was going to make a big announcement to his parents and of course Kyle had to be there.

Kyle’s father had slipped into a den on the east side of the house. All of the family noise was a bit more than his reserved nature could take. Kyle’s sister, Mary, who was 8 years younger than Kyle, was louder than usual, and no matter how many times grandma told Mary to “quiet down,” things didn’t get quieter.

The threat of Christmas carols by Mary and Uncle Roy was enough to drive dad into the den. There, he immediately made haste to the bar where a glass of sherry seemed to be in order. Dad only drank a sherry on special occasions and this certainly was one of them.

It was dark now and the neighbors across the street had turned on their Christmas lights. Almost everyone on the block had a nice display so the street was well-lit. Kyle’s dad was drawn to the window to see the lights, look at the gentle snow flurries and enjoy a moment of peace. As he stood there sipping his sherry and waiting for Kyle to appear, he finally spotted his only son walking quickly down the street with another young man right behind. As they got to the walkway that led up to the house they stopped to exchange a few words. Then a sight took dad’s wondering eyes totally by surprise. Kyle kissed the other boy. It was not a short kiss, but long and passionate which they both seemed to enjoy.

Soon Kyle rang the doorbell just to announce their arrival before he put his key in the lock and opened the door. Off the entrance way on the left was a door to the den. Kyle’s father was standing in the doorway just staring at the two. Kyle’s mom came through a big archway on the right that led to the living room. Mary was close behind and eager to see her brother and his friend. Uncle Roy and grandma did not vacate their seats. They knew the rest would join them soon.

First Kyle walked over to his father and said, “Dad this is my room-mate, Michael.” The roommate held out his hand and the father shook it. “I am pleased to meet you, sir. Kyle says such wonderful things about the family.” Kyle’s dad just sort of nodded at that, while studying this stranger in his home. The silence was out of character for the head of the household and a bit of a surprise to everyone except Michael, and that is only because Michael did not know him.

Then Kyle introduced Michael to his mother and his “little brat sister” Mary. Michael held out his hand to each in turn but the little brat held out her hand instead as if he was supposed to take it and kiss it, so he did and she squealed and ran from the room. At that Kyle’s mom offered to introduce Michael to the others. Kyle’s father then announced to all, “We will join you in a moment.”

With a more serious tone, father said, “Kyle, would you step in here for a moment, please?” This was not a question but rather a command of the type Kyle knew was not good. As the father retreated into the room Kyle followed. Before turning around dad said, “Close the door.”

Kyle only took a few short steps in before his father turned around. He looked at him as if he had never seen him before. It was the strangest look Kyle had ever seen from his father. “Kyle, is there something you should be telling me?” the “official business” dad said in an odd businesslike tone. Kyle figured it was some sort of trick question but knew he should answer it anyway.

“No, dad. I don’t think so.” This clearly was the wrong answer. His dad did not say a thing but his body language spoke volumes and Kyle became as nervous as a first grader who has been caught stealing Oreos from the kitchen. Now the master of the den, the commander of the car keys and the payer of his tuition walked slowly to the window, looked around the outside and turned to Kyle.

“You know, son, that there is a great view of the neighborhood from this window. You can see all of the beautiful Christmas displays across the street. You can see a nice Christmas snow flurry. You can see everyone walking down the sidewalk and turning up the walkway toward the house.” At that Kyle’s father fixed his sights squarely on Kyle and said, “So now is there anything you should tell me?”

Kyle stood motionless as his dad threw a stare at him that went right through and hit the door behind. It took Kyle almost an entire minute before he realized what his father had seen from the window of the den. All the while, that whole long minute of time, Kyle’s father stood there waiting.

Kyle wanted to begin “I’m sorry dad…,” but nothing came out of his mouth. He was so nervous and so afraid of his father’s reaction that he could say nothing. It is not that he wanted to be silent, he just couldn’t speak. Fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzed his tongue for the moment. Finally Kyle’s father just nodded that same nod he gave Michael when he was introduced, walked around Kyle, opened the door and walked across the foyer to the living room.

Kyle was knocked off his spot when his mother’s voice came floating into the room. “Kyle, don’t be rude. Come join your guest.” Kyle shuffled across the hall and searched around the room for Michael. He did not look at anyone else as his eyes avoided everyone but Michael. At that moment, with a room full of family, he had no way of telling his mate that he needed a hug and he thought he might need to cry. After a little small talk by grandma and Uncle Roy, Kyle’s mom asked them all to go to the dining room. Christmas Eve dinner was ready.

“Michael, you sit right there next to Kyle and Kyle will sit next to me. I have this end of the table and Kyle’s father will carve things up at that end of the table. Uncle Roy will be there next to you and grandma and Mary will be on the other side.” At that the little brat sister ran around the table and dropped herself on the chair opposite Kyle. She looked at him with a smirk as if she knew his little secret and was going to blurt it out if he did not stop calling her a brat.

Everyone sat in silence until Kyle’s mother looked down the length of the table and said to her husband. “Sweetheart, will you say grace for us?” There was a long, awkward pause before he said, “No. Tonight Kyle will lead the prayer.” At that instant Kyle prayed that something, anything that made sense would come out of his mouth. All eyes were on him as he began, “Bless us, oh Lord…” The words that fell out of Kyle’s mouth were for blessing and thanksgiving, but in his heart he was praying for acceptance. That became the only gift he truly wanted for Christmas this year.

SECRET SANTA’S LIST

Secret Santa — You get to choose one gift — no price restrictions — for any person you want. The caveat? You have to give it anonymously. What gift would you give, and to whom?


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Just one? The problem, with gift giving these days is if he/she/they need it, they either already have it, or can’t afford it — and neither can we. In our age group, no one is yearning for an updated gaming system. We want things like mobility vans. An SUV. Better hearing aids. An adjustable bed. Replacement windows. A kitchen remodel. New roof. Upgraded heating system.

Only one thing for one person? That’s rough. Everyone I love needs something and it isn’t a new iPhone.

I, for one, have all the jewelry I’ll ever need. Okay, I can always use a new pair of earrings, a cashmere sweater, new Emus that don’t leak … but please don’t waste my single gift opportunity on that. If it’s going to be one thing only, a stair lift, please. Can we make it a one gift by bundling it with a car carrier for a pair of scooters … and a pair of scooters? You could make two aging folks really happy and improve their world.

Barring that combo, how about one of the top of the line latest Olympus OMD cameras? It’s weather-proof, faster than a speeding bullet, sharp as a tack, has a built in optical viewfinder … and a few lenses, including (please) a macro for closeups of plants and other flowers.

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But what would I get for my other half? I’d buy Garry the absolutely best, most powerful hearing aids available. With a guaranteed upgrade when the technology advances.

If money would translate into something other than hard goods … I would buy for all of us good health. That we might retrieve a bit of spring to our steps, be able to enjoy things we used to love doing. But I can’t buy that. Not even if I had all the money in the world.

Finally, in lieu of expensive gifts, how about some happy times with beloved friends? Let’s share stories and laugh at ourselves — and the absurdity of life. It wouldn’t cost anything and it would cure what ails us. For a while, anyway.

THE NEIGHBOR

This isn’t a friendly town. People fraternize with the people who attend their church and seem to regard anyone else as potentially hostile.

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Of course we didn’t know that when we moved here. We knew that it was a very white town, that Garry was likely to be the first (only) person of color, and I might well be the first (only?) Jew. In fact, apparently well-intentioned people said stuff like “Gee, I’ve never known a Jewish person before” and honestly didn’t see anything wrong with this. Meanwhile, Garry got stares. No way to know if they were staring because they’d seen him on TV or because he’s brown. Both?

Our situation was made even more complicated by our neighbor, Ned. A big guy. Rode a Harley. I love Harleys, but there are Harleys and then, there are Harleys. This one was chopped and really loud. When Ned started his bike, the vibration alone could knock me out of bed.

Ned was massive. Tattooed. He hung with a bunch of skin-head friends. They had raucous parties with lots of beer. We didn’t expect to be invited, nor did these seem to be our kind of party.

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Ned flew a Confederate flag over his house. Prominently. We learned he’d always done this. It was part of some family roots thing tying him to his original home state of Georgia. Me? I think it’s time the south moved on. The war ended a more than a century ago. Time to get over it. But I’m from New York so I probably don’t understand.

Our neighbor’s house was the only one in the Valley flying a confederate flag and we were the only mixed-race couple in town. Ironic, to say the least. And we were a poster couple for hate groups.

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Garry is pragmatic and tough. His mild-mannered demeanor belies his Marine Corps interior (semper fi, and note I did not say “former Marine” because there’s no such thing as a former Marine). Moreover, he couldn’t have survived 40-years as a reporter without being tough.

One fine summer’s day, music screaming from Ned’s boombox, Garry looked at me and murmured those fighting words: “This is ridiculous!”

He marched down the driveway, through the woods that join our two houses, to Ned’s front door. Garry knocked. Loudly. When Ned finally answered, Garry said: “Hi. I’m your neighbor. Garry Armstrong. Do we have a problem?”

Shortly the flag disappeared along with a noxious black jockey statue. Turned out, Ned was a plumber. He fixed our bathroom pipes. The whole skinhead thing dissolved in the face of a brown-skinned guy who did news on Boston TV. Seemed it was less important who Ned was than who Ned, with a little encouragement, was willing to become.

Eventually Ned got into drugs. Or something. We were never sure what. His wife left. His life fell apart. One day, he vanished. Fortunately, he returned our extension ladder before going.

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Other folks live there now. They are not actively hostile, which is about the best one could say of them. In the year and half they have lived there, they’ve never bothered to say hello and I doubt they ever will. They object to our dogs barking so much. Hard to argue with that. I wish they’d shut up too, but hey, they’ve got dogs who do their own share of barking. (There are a lot of dogs around here. If you are outside in the evening, you can always hear a dog barking somewhere.)

I miss Ned. No one fixed pipes like Ned and he always gave us a huge discount. He turned out to be a funny guy and a good neighbor. Who’d have thunk it.