SHARING MY WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

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What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?

Sometimes, I’m wrong. But sometimes, even when I’m right, I should just shut up about it.

How did you meet your husband/wife or significant other? How did you know he/she was “the one”?

I met Garry at the college radio station at Hofstra College (we didn’t become a University until a few years later) in 1963. He was the Program Director and Jeffrey, who I married the following year, was the Station Manager. The two of them were best friends.

Now I’m married to Garry.

I always liked him and I found him VERY attractive. We used to meet for lunch when I worked in Manhattan. He worked at ABC, which was not far. We were friends for a long time … then we were more. Then I divorced Jeffrey and I moved to Israel. Garry wrote me every day for nine years.

We got married when I came back. I still wonder why it took so long, but he says he was married to his career and didn’t have time for a life. I’m not buying it.

If you could take a year-long paid sabbatical, what would you do?

Go someplace warm and friendly. Not hot. With some gentle water nearby. Bermuda, maybe. Or Corsica.

What is your favorite thing to buy at a movie theater concession stand? (credit to The Haunted Wordsmith for this one)

Raisenets. I never buy them anywhere EXCEPT at the movies. They are a guilty treat.

What are some Holiday Traditions you and/or your family observe in December?

We have a little tree we put up. On Christmas day, we are usually alone together and we watch old holiday movies. We used to have dinner with family, but I think this year, it will be just Owen. Our world seems to be shrinking.

Sharing My World

NOW THE DAYS ARE SHORT – Rich Paschall

BUT NOW THE DAYS ARE SHORT, RICH PASCHALL

Photo: Garry Armstrong

When I was seventeen, it was a very good year…

When I turned seventeen, I had finished my Junior year in high school and was looking forward to the Senior year at a new school.  It was a bit scary, I admit.  No one wants to leave his mates behind and start again, but that was my fate, not my choice.

At least the new school was in the neighborhood, and I already knew a few students who were going there.  Although we did not admit at the time, the final year of high school put many new thoughts into our heads.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

You may think sex or sexual orientation, but those thoughts had already arrived years earlier.  All the passing of a few years meant was that these thoughts and curiosities intensified.  As you might imagine, a few of the boys and girls were a little more advanced than the others.  I think that stands out to you a little more at seventeen.

The new school brought new friends, new interests and new teachers.  There were subjects and activities the other school lacked.  The final high school year also proved to be, as I suspect it did for many of my friends, one of the best years of my life.  Some of those friends and those memories stayed with me over the decades.  I had no idea then that it would be the “best of times.”

When I was twenty-one, it was a very good year…

Four years later, brought a similar situation.  It was time to move on to Senior year of university and hopefully finish my degree on time (I didn’t).  It did not hold the lasting thrills of 17, but it did seem in a certain way to represent the transition to adulthood.  In reality, I was no more adult than at 20 or twenty-two.  It was just a symbolic thing.

The “coming of age” also allows you to drink legally, but that did not mean too much. I was days, weeks or months older than the friends I hung around with so it is not like we all headed off to some bar.  Still, the year seemed to hold a certain energy that young adulthood will give you if you let it.

When I was thirty-five, it was a very good year…

I had finally earned my Masters Degree.

It was not about career advancement.  It was about reaching a goal I had set years earlier.  I sometimes studied for the Comprehensive exams with a woman in her 70’s.  She was pretty much doing the same thing, reaching for a past dream.

I could tell her of the courses I had and of books I read, and she pushed me to study things I was certain would never be on the Masters’ exam again.  She was right about the exam questions and perhaps the reason we both marched up to receive our diplomas on the same day.

It felt like I had hit my stride at 35, although I can not really point to other reasons why.  If you have good friends, good times, and a reason for doing things, all seems right with the world.

Well, almost all seemed right.  I did not find the one right person to share my very good years.  Honestly, I can not say I looked all that hard.  I guess I was having too good of a time.

But now the days are short, I’m in the autumn of the year…

One thing that you become acutely aware of as you get older is that the days are short.  They don’t seem to last as long as the days of youth, you don’t seem to get as much done and you certainly don’t feel thirty-five.  You realize, no matter how desperately you try to suppress the thought, that the days are indeed numbered.

Even if you are optimistically believing that there are, let’s say, thirty-five years left, you know none will be like the year you were thirty-five.

With any luck at all, some will still be very good years.

If your life is like a fine wine, there will be many years which are a fine vintage.  Wine aficionados will refer to this as a “very good year.”  I hope to still have them.  None are 17 or 21 or 35, nor will they be again.  With any luck at all, however, I will be able to drink in the rest and enjoy them as if I were sitting in a vineyard in France with one of my best friends while we recall our great adventures together.

And I think of my life as vintage wine
From fine old kegs,
From the brim to the dregs,
It poured sweet and clear.
It was a very good year.

Although many had recorded this song, it won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Male, in 1966 for Frank Sinatra.

It Was A Very Good Year, by Ervin Drake, 1961, lyrics © SONGWRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA OBO LINDABET MUSIC INC

REMEMBERING THE FAR AWAY #WRITEPHOTO … Marilyn Armstrong

Thursday photo prompt: Faraway #writephoto

Long ago in a land far away …

I remember.

You could stand in the cove and feel the sands move out from underneath your feet. You could walk a little and feel the brush of underwater grasses against your ankles and see the tiny baby fish, schools of them looking for a tiny something to nibble.

It was warm there. Especially in the morning, when all you could see were the fishermen going out in little boats. Sometimes, they would come back with a lobster, smile at you. Then they would toss you the lobster. Just because they were happy and you were smiling.

The thing about that world was people were nice for no reason at all. They would give you things because you were there, the sun was shining, and the sea was warm. We didn’t need to talk, though we did urgently needed to dance.

Oh, how we danced. Steel drums beating so loudly in a cement basement, steamy in the heat of September on a Caribbean night. I’d like to go back now, even without the dancing. Just for the peace of that place — far away and long ago.

HOW A FORTUNE TELLER RUINED MY GRANDFATHER’S LIFE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My father was a scientist and a very rational man. He didn’t believe in religion or have any superstitions, except one. He told me to never, ever go to a fortune-teller. He had a logical reason. HIS father had told him an eerie story about HIS experience with a fortune-teller, which had haunted him throughout his life.

My grandfather, on a lark, when he still lived in Russia, went to a gypsy fortune-teller in a nearby gypsy camp. He was given a long, detailed story about his future life. Most of the story seemed outrageous, if not impossible at the time. He forgot about the incident. Until, to his dismay, the predictions started to come true, one at a time. I don’t remember all the details but here are a few.

The gypsy told my grandfather that he would serve in the army. At the time in Russia, only first-born sons were conscripted into the army. My grandfather was the third son, so this would never happen. Except that his oldest brother shot off his toes to avoid military service. Then the second oldest brother died suddenly and young. So it fell to my grandfather to take up arms. Just like the gypsy told him. What are the odds?

My father’s father

Next, the gypsy told my grandfather that he would take a long journey involving a boat. He had no intention of ever leaving Russia. Until he couldn’t make a good living as a tailor when he finished his military service. Then he decided to come to America – a very long journey, part of it by sea.

The personal details the gypsy told him were the creepiest part of the story. The gypsy told him that he would marry a young woman who would bear him seven children, including a set of twins, but only two of the children would survive. Believe it or not, my grandmother had exactly seven pregnancies, including a set of twins. The oldest and the youngest, my Dad, were the only ones to survive infancy.

By now my grandfather was freaking out! The next prediction by the gypsy was that his wife would die young and leave him to take care of two children on his own. She died of tuberculosis when my Dad was three. The gypsy said that my grandfather would struggle for a few years but would eventually marry a strong woman who would be a good mother to his children. This happened exactly as predicted. His children, aged three and eleven, were latch-key kids until he met his second wife who, my father always said, ‘rescued’ them.

The rest of my grandfather’s life also played out pretty much as the gypsy had told him. He started making a good living. (He was the first to bring the pleated skirt to America). He lived comfortably until his death as an old man for the day – he was in his 70’s.

The story doesn’t end there. My father understood his father’s aversion to clairvoyants. But as a young man, he fell madly in love with a woman who was ‘beyond his reach’. He was a poor, Jewish medical student and she was a proper WASP who wanted a comfortable and respectable life. He was not in a position to give this to her.

My Dad as a young man

My Dad was so smitten, that he took a year off from medical school to pursue the woman full-time! During this period, he came across a fortune-teller. He couldn’t resist finding out if he would ‘get the girl’ in the end. The gypsy told him that the woman would never marry him. She said that the woman would string him along but eventually would marry a man from Chicago who was ‘like a locomotive’. Dad remembers this phrase because it was an unusual way to describe someone.

As predicted, again, despite a long courtship, his paramour eventually sent him a letter breaking off the relationship. She said that she had found a well established, well-off man and was moving to Chicago to marry him. She described him as strong and commanding, ‘like a locomotive!’

Unbelievable! My father had no rational explanation for any of this.

Neither do I.

CHANGING THE PAST – BY ELLIN CURLEY

This blog was the first blog I wrote and published on Serendipity in November of 2015. I have written a large number of blogs since then, many of them recounting personal stories from my own life as well as the lives of my family members.

Rereading it in January of 2018, I realize that it is a fitting epilogue to the Family History in Blogs that I have set out to write. It brings my story full circle. It expresses where I am after having spent so much time delving into my own life and the lives of other loved ones.


Folder for my Family History In Blogs

Here is the editorial conclusion to my opus of family lore and expression of family love:

 I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of time travel. I’m particularly fond of the fantasy of going back in time, knowing what you know now, and changing some pivotal moment in your past. I used to wish fervently for this fantasy to become a reality so I could undo some of my Top 10 “mistakes” and bad judgment calls. Many of those involved my first husband – like deciding to marry him and deciding, multiple times, to stay with him rather than leave.

Time machine, from “The Time Machine”

I’m a logical person, so the problem with this fantasy is that I have to be willing to accept all the drastic changes in my time line that would naturally flow from my new and improved choices.

The major change that comes to mind, if I didn’t marry my ex at all, is that I would no longer have my children. I can’t imagine life without them, so, scratch that option. If I had left him after I’d had my kids, my life still would have changed so dramatically the odds of my meeting my current husband are essentially nil.

I’m not prepared to give him up. He’s the best piece of luck I’ve ever had and the best decision I’ve ever made.

Family portrait from 1993

This means that I have reached a point in my life that I never thought I’d get to. I’m at peace with my whole life, knowing that all the crap I went through led me to where I am now. It also made me into who I am now.

My husband and I often discuss the fact that without the angst in both of our pasts we might not have appreciated each other when we did meet. And we’re pretty sure that we would not have gotten along well if we had, somehow, met when we were both young.

Tom and me last year

The result of all this philosophizing is that I don’t wish my past away anymore. I wish it had been easier and had left fewer scars, but I’m totally content with where I am now. So if I had to pay a high price to get to this place, so be it. It was worth it.

AMEN!

LOVE IN INTENSIVE CARE – Ellin Curley

On February 11, 1972, my 88-year-old grandfather was hit by a truck crossing a street in New York City. His left side was smashed and a broken rib punctured his lung. Within 24 hours he was in a coma. My mother, grandmother and I camped out in the waiting room of the I.C.U at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan.

My grandfather

Another family was also spending most of its time in the same waiting room – the Palmers, father mother and younger son, who had Tourette’s Syndrome. Their older son, Jeffrey, 18, had been hit by a car. He was a Julliard student training to become a concert pianist. His pelvis was broken and his leg was fractured in several places. He was also in a coma.

Our two families got very friendly over the next few weeks. My grandfather was declared brain-dead. Jeffrey regained consciousness but was in traction and had a cast up to his thigh. I started visiting him and hanging out in his room.

It’s hard to describe what life is like when you’re living it in a hospital. Your day revolves around doctor’s visits and reports. Every little change in the patient becomes major news. And now we were monitoring two patients, Grandpa and Jeffrey. It is all-encompassing and totally consuming.

Me, my mom and my grandmother

Me, my mother and my grandmother

The good news was that Jeffrey and I hit it off. He was smart and funny and we had a great time talking. He was a bright spot for me at a horribly depressing time. My grandfather was gone but still alive. Our family was in a horrifying limbo. We tried to talk the hospital into letting us disconnect my grandfather from life support.

Jeffrey left the hospital after about four weeks. I stayed in touch with him and his family, who lived on Long Island.

The hospital finally disconnected my grandfather from all life support – and he survived on his own. Everything had healed and he was breathing on his own! The stress caused my mom to go into heart failure. She was hospitalized for a few days in a different hospital.

After six weeks (and withholding of food and water), my grandfather finally died on March 26, 1972. My mother recovered. Shortly after, Jeffrey moved into the city and went back to school, still in a huge cast and on crutches. We began dating.

I was 22 and taking time off before going to law school. When I wasn’t with Jeffrey, I spent most of my time helping my mother sort out my grandfather’s finances. He had left his estate in total chaos. It took at least a year to track down all his assets and get my grandmother settled financially.

Jeffrey and me

Jeffrey and I were together and very much in love for a year and a half. His family loved me and I loved them. I went on a vacation with his whole family to Bermuda. Jeffrey spent time with me and my family at our summer-house in Connecticut. It was a good and happy relationship.

I don’t remember exactly why we broke up. Jeffrey had decided to quit Julliard and was starting college at N.Y.U as a pre-med student. I was leaving soon to go to law school in Washington D.C. The age difference was an issue. But I think the breakup had more to do with Jeffrey’s new found infatuation with Scientology.

We met under strange and dark circumstances. But I have only fond memories of Jeffrey. He got me through a very tough time in my life and he was my first real love. Everyone should have such a wonderful experience with their first love. I was very lucky! And how we met makes such a great story!

THE BIRTHDAY GIRL – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I write a lot of pieces about celebrities I’ve met in my professional life. They are fun to remember and share. Sometimes it feels like name dropping or playing a broken record if the story is written too frequently. Friends and acquaintances assure me there’s an audience for these stories and I should continue to share the memories.

Today’s piece is about the most important person in my life.  We’ve been friends for more than half a century.  We’ve been married for 28 years.  We share some of the most bizarre stories you’re likely to hear.

By the Mumford – Photo: Garry Armstrong

You know her well.  My Wife, Marilyn.  She is, among other things, the SERENDIPITY lady. Today is Marilyn’s birthday. I hope many of Marilyn’s SERENDIPITY friends, mates and fellow bloggers are celebrating her day.  She has opened windows on the world for countless people around the world with her pieces.

Marilyn writes voraciously, about all things great and small. Marilyn is passionate about our world and those who live on our planet. I sometimes fear that Marilyn’s passion for making things right will make her head explode.  She’s always been that way since we first met as college kids and were bent on changing the world.  That world, the 60’s and all its turbulence, needed change. Decades later, I’m not sure if we’ve left any imprints on our journey through life. The one constant in our lives is Marilyn’s determination to “out” the idiots, pretenders and felons of all persuasion who strive to pollute our quality of life.

It’s a tall order. Perhaps a mission impossible. But Marilyn is driven to make our collective lives better.  Her sword is the pen, her computer keyboard. I watch her work relentlessly, every day, morning through night, her face focused on subject matter of yet another blog.  Marilyn never seems to tire even when her body is sending obvious signals to slow down.  I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut. Marilyn doesn’t suffer fools. Yes, she’s been my rock for all these years.  Go figure.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Marilyn always makes sure that the birthdays of family and friends are remembered, celebrated in some way. Not the easy “Hallmark” way that takes little effort or imagination.  Marilyn is always thoughtful.  It’s a quality that I’ve found very unique in my professional and personal life.

Our celebration of Marilyn’s birthday pales in comparison with how mine is recognized.  Hopefully, we’ll go out for dinner and Marilyn won’t have to cook yet another dinner.  Her birthday card hasn’t arrived.  Thanks very much, U.S. Postal Service.  No, I haven’t forgotten! I know Marilyn is disappointed.  We DID have a visit from her son Owen and his friend, Dave, who have been the bright lights on Marilyn’s day. They brought a basket of Shrimp, realizing we don’t eat cake or sweets in our golden years.  I think their visit lifted Marilyn’s spirits. I’m grateful.

I’m beyond grateful to have Marilyn in my life. I leave a lot to be desired as the spouse who is admired by the public which only knows his media image. Marilyn has worked hard to make our marriage succeed when I’ve been engulfed in my own selfish pursuits.

I think we were lucky to find each other again after having gone down different roads for many years.

I can easily say the 28 years of marriage have been the best years of my life.

Happy Birthday, Mi Amor.