Archive for the 'birthdays' Category

Whose birthday card?

January 17, 2014

I got a birthday card from my father’s stockbroker’s group.  It’s signed by the people in the group, it’s addressed to me on the envelope.

It’s also two weeks after my birthday and two weeks before my dad’s.

I don’t actually have an account in my own name with them.  They know me, at this point, as my mother’s daughter and as executor to my father’s estate.

So it made me wonder whether the production of the card had been triggered by my birthday or by my father’s.  (It is also probably significant that I tend to be early with celebrating birthdays.)

And then I realized that the ambiguity (at least perceived by me) was fitting to my structural position as executor on my father’s behalf.



December 28, 2013

A local store thought it had lost its lease and I was able to pick this up.

standing Buddha horizontal_no_flash

Actually, it weighs a huge amount, it is very dense — made of ironstone — I did not literally pick it up, at all.

It is, among other things, my contribution to righting the wrong of the destruction of those beautiful large Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban.

It’s around my birthday, too, so I am thinking also of this in terms of that.

Then I realized, after siting the Buddha statue where I did for a host of other reasons, that it stands directly opposite a small statue of Kwan Yin (maybe someone can correct my spelling) which sits atop a fountain (no longer in use) that I gave Willy for his birthday the year he turned forty.  They are gazing at each other, in a sense, which seems to me quite right.

Feathers in wings

October 29, 2013

The line in the Leslie Smith song “Words of a Kind” is actually about “tattered wings,” not directly about tattered feathers.  It goes, “Our wings are older now and tattered.”  Just wanted to correct what I wrote in my last post.

I thought to do that earlier, but I forgot about it.  Until I was walking home again through the woods this afternoon.

I was studying the area where there are steps down to the ball field for the middle school.  Used to be a large tree there, then it fell, then it was cut into pieces and they lay across from where it had stood.  Now it’s all gone and the area is much more open.  I was also looking at the stonework near those stairs and wondering, yet again, if the stones ever were the foundation for something beyond what can be seen now — they look like what you see in an archaeological dig, foundations to a structure long gone.

Anyway, I was contemplating all this and saw a motion in the sky at the edge of my field of vision, which I assumed would turn out to be an airplane, but no, it was a hawk.  It was gliding in circles, they looked as if they were overlapping, like you’d make with a spirograph.  Maybe that’s how hawks scan sectors for prey.  Don’t know, but it struck me that the feathers are much better on a live bird sailing through the sky than scattered on the ground.

I guess I also liked the idea of the feathers sailing up high because this was Willy’s birthday, and there’s that section at the end of “Reunion Hill,” by Richard Shindell, about the hawk “spiral[ing] higher still / As if from such an altitude / He might just keep our love in view.”

I’m sure there’s a story out there somewhere about how the husband sails off as the hawk himself, up to the higher reaches, after he dies.  That’s actually how I hear the Richard Shindell song, but I suspect that’s my overlay.

Pristine feathers, tattered feathers

October 29, 2013

Yesterday I ended my walk by going through the small patch of woods behind the middle school and near my house.

I had run into a woman I know, while I was walking.  She was out on her regular route, I was improvising mine.  We had an enjoyable conversation about the This Old House renovation that’s been going on in our neighborhood.  It turned out we both had the same questions about it and the same reaction to it.  We talked a little about Willy, because she knew him, and knew the kids, through seeing them out walking the dog.  I told her today (it was “tomorrow” then) would have been his birthday.

At Eastern Avenue we went our separate ways, she to go up to the Water Tower and Park Ave., me to go down to Robbins Farm and sit and look at the Boston skyline.

When I finished and set off to return home, I went down a road that would lead me to one of the entrances to the patch of woods I mentioned.  Within the woods, I went up the hill, and on my way up, I came across two feathers, the first recognizable as a hawk feather, despite its being a little the worse for wear, the second, probably one as well, given its length and width and proximity to the first, but too tattered for me to be able to really tell for sure.

I am reminded of the quite pristine hawk feathers I encountered near Willy’s grave a day before his yahrzeit this past summer.

Call it what you will, I am drawn to compare and contrast and derive an interpretation.  What I come to is that Willy achieved what he needed to in order to return those tattered feathers to their pristine state.  That’s what I perceive from the inside looking out from my perspective, it probably looks quite different to someone, or everybody, else.  So be it.

I would link to Leslie Smith’s song “Words of a Kind” if I could find it on YouTube.  (Here’s a different one of her songs instead.  “Words of a Kind” talks about our tattered feathers, albeit from a different perspective, the more usual one, I think, but I love the song.  And it’s part of where I go when I start thinking about tattered feathers.  Only I can see how we may “redeem” them and return them to their pristine state.

Somebody else’s birthday

July 31, 2013

My neighbors and I have been having tree work done (yesterday and today), and it turns out today is our tree guy’s birthday.  (See previous post.)

Not my birthday

July 31, 2013

Yesterday felt like my birthday, only it wasn’t, not even close.

The biggest reasons it felt that way was that I got a laptop computer, and there’s a bunch of some of my favorite flowers in my dining room, perfuming it.  And I didn’t (directly) pay for either.

The flowers are lilies from my garden, four Star Gazer blooms and seven white lily blooms.  The Star Gazer lilies I did buy last year, but here they are again this year, re-sprouted — I didn’t do that.  The white lilies I don’t know who planted.  They seem to appear sporadically, some years and not others, and neither Willy nor I could remember choosing them or planting them.  They surprised us ten years ago, the summer he died (I remember asking him about them and cutting one for his room), and here they are again.

The laptop is my first.  I know I’m late to the party, but I only even got this one by being backed into it (I’m typing this post on it);  my father’s computer stopped working, both CPU and monitor, and I kind of need computer access while I visit my mother (including during next week’s trip) — wouldn’t make much sense not to be able to pay her bills electronically while I’m there in NJ, when I can do it while I’m up here in Massachusetts.

So I asked Tony to find me something used and appropriate (pretty basic), and he did, and my mother offered to pay for it.

But it wasn’t the payment issue that made it feel like a present — somehow getting it reminded me of getting a bicycle for my birthday, the same kind of thrilling.  And I’m no technophile, so I don’t think it had to do with the laptop itself.  So, too, with the flowers.  I love their robustness and scent, how they perfume the house even beyond the room they’re in, but somehow when I just look at them, especially when the sunlight is bathing them, I feel so thrilled, way beyond what I can explain.

I do notice birthdays this time of year.  Jonas’ official one is next week, and maybe because he has birth certificate issues (it’s quite legal and proper, but it is court created, not a record of the facts of his birth), I think of President Obama’s birthday, too, which I think is even sooner (his birth certificate issues were manufactured in a quite different way, of course).  Then there are two other gentlemen born around the same time as Obama — same year, I think — who, or whose work, have loomed large in my life:  Richard Shindell and David Brooks.

So happy birthday to all of them, while I enjoy my computer and flowers, for whatever reason.

Shutting down

January 26, 2013

I’m a little familiar with how a person approaching death may stop eating and drinking as the body goes through a process of shutting down.  My dad is going through that now, and home hospice nursing is supposed to begin for him this weekend, now that he’s agreed to it.

For him I saw the shutting down process begin earlier.  I had sent him a couple of books for his (88th) birthday, including one about Senator Mitch McConnell.  (He’s a fan, he thinks the senator is smart and clever and he agrees with at least some of his positions.)  He didn’t have time to read it between hospitalizations.  I had thought I was saving him a trip to his local library, because he’s been a regular there to check out books, but he had too many things to do to read the book.  And by the time I got there last week and he came home again from the hospital, he wasn’t up to it.

But he did read the newspapers on Saturday and Sunday.  By Monday or Tuesday he wasn’t even able to do that, and I knew he was reaching a point of fairly rapid decline.

He didn’t want me to leave and I wished I had some other way of handling all my responsibilities.  I had lobbied my parents to move closer after Willy’s death, but we were no competition for the New York Metropolitan Opera.

To be fair, I think my father gets out of opera performances what others get out of religious services.  So he would have been leaving his source of sustenance.

But I couldn’t, and can’t, pick up that slack, eliminate that 210 mile distance.

I’ll go back soon, I don’t know whether he will still be alive.  He wanted to know when I’d be back and I told him I wasn’t sure, that I would play it by ear.

For now I’m trying to listen, and to do what I need to do here before I can leave again.

In some ways I found listening while I was down there easier.  Things fell into place more easily than they had any right to.  Except for the day we spent obtaining a pain medication prescription for my dad.  But another day I knew somehow to bring with me the papers that needed a notarized signature when I took my mom to register with a pharmacy that makes home deliveries, even though it was the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and so many places (like banks) were closed.  And there on the pharmacy door it said “notary public.”  Stuff like that.

So now I’m here, he’s shutting down there.

Right before I left, I asked him if I could kiss him on the head, and he said, “No,”  with his usual dismissiveness.  So I stroked his nose, which was something I did as a child when I sat in his lap.  (He had thought it was because I thought he had a big nose, but it wasn’t — I just liked his nose.)  So he put up with the intimacy of my stroking his nose this time, too — I think he knew there was an element of teasing but also love in the gesture.

I ended up sleeping on the floor the last night I was there.  (The live-in help I had helped arrange for was in the guest room I had been using previously.)  It felt like what I call “old karma.”  I just play it out, like reading a music score and singing it at sight.  This not being there now feels like old karma, too.  At least there’s nursing and household help at this point.

For me there is clearly a challenge in figuring out what to do, what I can do, what I can’t do even though I would like to.  It’s a lesson to learn that I can’t always mitigate the consequences of other people’s decisions.



Another birthday book

January 9, 2012

I was just writing a thank-you note to my uncle, who usually sends me a book for my birthday.  I was rifling through this year’s selection, The Prague Cemetery, by Umberto Eco.  My uncle has given me a book by Eco before, one on art in the middle ages, as I recall.  However, this one contains the line, “I believe that anyone of the male sex would consider Diana a creature of singular charm …” — that made my day.  Of course, I have no idea whether my uncle has read the book himself.

Einstein, math, and Gilson brothers

January 4, 2012

Well, this is fun.  Having posted a few weeks ago a picture of me in Einstein’s lap, or at his knee, or whatever, that sat on Willy’s windowsill in his office at Lincoln Lab, and then, more recently having posted about how my brother-in-law and I were in the same number theory class years before his brother and I met and married, I received today from Michael for my birthday the book Einstein: His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson.  And it’s not as if Michael and his family usually give me science biographies for my birthday — last year I got some beautiful bookends, other years tea paraphernalia or soaps or note cards.

Sibling birthdays

December 10, 2011

It’s interesting to have my birthday fall so close to my sister’s.  We are, if the information on our birth certificates is accurate, two years, one day, and ten hours apart in age.

We used to have double birthday parties as kids; that’s half as many guests apiece, and the perennial question of who would get to invite Katie from next door (whose age put her right between us — I played with her more, but I was inviting her younger sister Peaches, who was actually my age, and with whom I also played).  And the sibling relationship with my sister looked something like this:

I’m the younger one.  With the curls (known as my “halo of curls,” especially whenever there’s a campaign on to urge me to cut my hair, and better illustrated in this picture, with my grandpa:


The 2012 instantiations of the birthdays are rapidly approaching, so I’ve been thinking about the sibling birthday thing, especially after reading about someone else’s (differently) vexed sibling relationship in one of The Life Reports that David Brooks is posting on his blog.

There’s a line in a Jackson Browne song (“Fountain of Sorrow”) about how sometimes it seems it would be easier to change the past than the future, here I feel stymied by how limited the dance steps available to me seem to be when the other person seems to think she’s dancing a solo and I’m a stagehand.  It’s clearly one of my life’s challenges, because I seem to attract other people into my life who have milder versions of my sister’s behavior towards me.  Sometimes it’s easier for me to see what little adjustments I can make on my end with these other people, that is, when the relationship doesn’t involve the intensity of family relationships, just as I find it much easier to deal with an issue (for example, promises not being kept) presented in the context of a friendship with another woman than the same issue in a relationship with a guy in which there’s a significant amount of flirting.  It also reminds me of encountering smaller versions of loss to practice on (like losing a mitten), when I’m having such trouble handling more significant losses.