Thursday, December 29, 2011

Giving thanks for the people who helped me this year/ Poem: Home Movies

I decided to take a few minutes today to thank people who had been good to me throughout the year. After I did my shopping at Giant, I stopped next door at Authorized Camera Repair to thank owner Matt for helping me w/my digital camera. Bob was on duty, so I sent him an email wishing him and his family Happy Holidays. Don't worry, I included his dog Lola.

Then I called the Hodges, leaders of our Family Member Group to thank them for all they had done for us.

Prior to that, I called one of our family members, "Theodora," whose daughter is floridly psychotic and resists treatment. I wished Theo strength for the upcoming struggle.

Then I called mom, 89, to thank her for her generous check which reimburses me for the home movies. Altho I rarely say it, while listening to my mother talk, I thot, God, I love this woman. She has such a happy chipper voice, like that of the 22-year-old woman she was when she married my dad.

After speaking to mom, I called Aunt Selma, 93, in Cleveland Heights, remembering her number as YE2-8164. She has a wonderful Midwestern twang. I guess I do, too.

"Hi Aunt Selma!" I said.

"Ruthie!" she said, recognizing my voice. "I'm so glad to hear from you."

We talked a long time. She was feeling desperate, she said, b/c she was down to her last audio book, but then her daughter Linda checked out 11 audio books from the library.

"It's all I do all day," said Selma. "I can't do anything else."

She's blind (macular degeneration). Everything else works.

I told her about my mom falling flat on her face on the kitchen floor. My mom hadn't told her. Since I saw mom yesterday - she baked a batch of peanut butter fudge for Helene, which I brot Helene at Artman - I saw how well she was healing. Her black eye looked like a smudge under her left eye.

While finishing up my James Jeffords book in bed this morning, I had an idea. Why not ask Alan Kerr, the editorial page editor of the Intell, if I could write a guest column: Make a New Year's Resolution to Become an Organ Donor.

I thought it was a great idea until I came downstairs and rethought it. It's a terrible idea, I said to myself. After breakfast, I realized what a great idea it was and I left him a voicemail and followed with an email.

Imagine my joy when he said Yes. Immediately, I began goggling for information and found UNOS - United Network for Organ-Sharing. I called their number in Richmond, VA, and spoke to their communications specialist, the lovely Jill Finnie.

She was very helpful and sent me an informative email to answer all my questions. When you call someone to interview them, as I did Ms Finnie, you should have all your questions ready. But I was concerned with the time - it was about 4:15 - and I was worried she may have left.

So while we chatted and I wrote down her answers, I kept thinking of new questions to ask her.

My boyfriend Scott is perfect in every respect. But...he is not an organ donor.

My next poetry assignment is to write a poem about being 66 years old. The best years of my life lie ahead of me, is a line I thought of. Where did I get the line? Someone was singing it on the radio today. I grabbed my pink pad from the pocket on the door and jotted it down.

My next book to read - An Educated Man, a Dual Biography of Moses and Jesus by David Rosenberg - offers two autobiographies side by side: one is of Moses, the other of Jesus. I've always been fascinated by Jesus, but never thought of Moses as a fascinating man until now. Can't wait to start the book. These two men were extremely educated - their writings make use of quoting learned people of their day or centuries earlier. Both made use of "the supernatural" when espousing their new religions.


Upon the occasion of having movie reels transferred to one shiny DVD

You’ve come back!
So nice to see you Dad.
It’s been years. So many,
I’ve forgotten you
until today.
Look, that’s you putting your arm
around me. We thought we’d have you
forever, never dreaming you would die
An awful death at 59
those cigarettes - which smelled up the
station wagon when driving us home from
Sunday school -
decided to take you out
but look, you didn’t die,
you’re here whenever I watch the DVD.

And mother! How beautiful,
plopping out babies every few years
DARDEL was the mnemonic Daddy gave us
for his five girls and his boy
Ruth Donna Ellen Lynn Amy David
Davey, m’boy, you were the first to go
your solemn photo just before your
overdose shows your pride mixed with
the shock of having autism
yes, you flapped as a child
and were clumsy
never knew it until we saw it
in the home movies.

Aunt Selma, lucid today at 93, hasn’t
changed much, that husky voice of hers,
her love of parties, there she is at my
dad’s fiftieth with Uncle Marv.

Like a many-faceted diamond
we see different ages of people
there’s my sister Lynnie at two looking out the
window on Glenmore with the mumps
not knowing she’ll be best friends with
Libby next door or that her children
Jade and Miles will make her proud.
Don’t breathe a word that
Domestic Abuse followed her
for five drama-filled years – our
beautiful Lynn? – until she paid him
off and he fled.

My father was a handsome man
a lady-killer with his saucy walk
and Jewish nose
his mane of white hair made women
want to run their fingers through it
and did
until he lost it all to radiation’s burning fire
just as the Luckies and then filtered Kents
burned through his lungs, darn it, Daddy,
we never thought you’d die and suffer so:
“Hit the tumor with a hammer” you told me.

Donna’s marriage is a dim memory to me. I call
her at Starbucks to ask where it took place. The
caption I type in reads Yonkers, New York, 1970.
She was a few months pregnant with Melissa
who later in life would give her dental implants
though sometimes they fall out
we don’t know why

My failed marriage is up on the big screen too
Millard, dead at 62, and I are shown in our wedding finery
my white size 5 Evan Picone dress I bought for $5
and Mike’s pink shirt we got ironed at a nearby cleaner
Docile, a knower of things, a darling Texas twang
It took two weeks before his temper came out
a cloud of toxins swirling like cigarette smoke
ensnaring me day and night, no surcease, until
I jumped bail and left. Shaking with fear.

His mindless mother is still alive, ninety or thereabouts
can’t initiate conversation though we love her and
her Texas twang. She was always butch, a gym teacher,
then a counselor, who found feces in the gymnasium
from one bad boy. That’s not in the movies.

My favorite? A park in Bucks County
called Ringing Rocks.
There I am, with my famous face,
traveling the rocks with David in tow
he falls sometimes but I let him be
as he scrambles back up
I am tethered to my father who is
filming all of us
you won’t find a girl who loved her father
more, though I confess life
got in the way until the movies
rebirthed the lot of us and I am
made whole again.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lunch with Ron and Carolyn - With my four new books I feel rich as a queen / Poem: The Soup Bowl

Carolyn and I drove to Elaine's funeral thru beautiful Bucks County w/its old stone houses on back roads only she knows, some with hair pin turns. I'm a very good driver, as long as it's daytime.

Went to bed early last nite so I could leave home at 9:25 a.m. for Carolyn's house and then she'd tell me how to find the chapel. I actually woke up at 9:10.

I probly fell asleep at 4 AM. I did nothing all nite. Just lay there. Next to that horrid book by Dean Koontz, which was undoubtedly casting a spell on me.

Forgot to mention that Koontz made a great point in one of his interviews. As a young man, he worked at a home for troubled young men, one of the so-called government social programs. It was a program, said Koontz, built to fail. All they did was pocket the money but did nothing for the kids.

That's when he turned against big government and became a Republican.

After Elaine's funeral, Carolyn and I drove back to her house in Chalfont, where we had lunch with husband Ron.

They're planning another trip to Alaska, this time to Kodiak Island. Ron also wants to buy the car of his dreams - a Camaro (what dat?) so Carolyn said, Do it! I'll goggle Camaro offstage and then I'll discuss it with Scott.

Hey, that's blurry me, holding a cup of hot tea. Carolyn, a great cook, gave me her wonderful carrot soup for lunch, fresh beet salad, feta cheese w/no crackers cuz of diabetes, though I made up for it w/her delicious homemade pizzelles.

The views of Bucks County are nothing short of spectacular. This one ain't so hot.

Get a load of this tree! Which would you rather have: money or a tree? No, Virginia, there's no such thing as a money tree. Add this to my Favorite Tree List.

For dinner, I had my turkey soup, made w/the leftovers from my birthday dinner. Next to it is a slice of carrot cake Carolyn's mother made. Her mom lives in an assisted living facility where she comes n goes as she pleases, and at 91, still travels by airplane to visit her daughter in NM.

After I dropped off Scott at the train station tonite, I went to the library. My life is empty if I don't have a good book to read. You know how I found good books? Take a look on my blogroll to the right of this blog. I'd printed the Times' 10 best books of the year. None were available at my library, but assistant librarian Cathy helped me find good books.

We put "Arguably" by Christopher Hitchens, the famous contrarian and atheist, on my request list. Hitchens died about a week ago and was lauded in the Times.

After I checked out these exciting books, I wanted to start reading em immediately, so I drove to nearby Panera's across the street.

What time dyou close, I asked the manager.

9 o'clock, he said.

OMG, I said, I better leave, it's almost 9.

Feel free to stay until I leave, he said.

Now that's a good manager!

I got a cup of decaf and sat and read "My Declaration of Independence," by Senator Robert Jeffords from Vermont.

This is one of the many books Jeffords, now 76, has written. A moderate Republican his entire life, he upset colleagues in the House and Senate, when he could not abide George W Bush's fiscal policies and announced he would become a Democrat.

Under intense pressure, he refused to buckle, believing it was necessary to spend money on education, health care for all, Medicare, Social Security. science education, nursing shortages, rather than make millionaires happy with tax cuts.

He decided not to run in 2005 due to health concerns from his wife, facing chemo, and his own failing health and memory, he said.

What's that? said Scott, when he saw Transcendent Visions lying on the couch.

Oh, it's my friend's magazine, I said, leafing thru the pages to find what poem I'd sent David Kime.

Ah, the Lucky Seven. He said that was the best poem I ever wrote. But, then, he said that about Enrico the Man, about a schizophrenic man I did an intake interview with over at the agency.


Whose bowl is this?

Surely not mine with its

delicate traceries, as delicate

as the woman I got it from

a small gift on the occasion of

her confinement


in a Lutheran nursing home

though she is Jewish

and has become a

reluctant octogenarian

I sip the fine Harrod’s tea

she gave me from a tin

though the taste has long gone

like the finer

workings of her mind

an early obituary causing

the shutting down of many corners,

a panic and hysteria that her home

on Bauman Drive

is missing her terribly

I took one succulent plant but

my windowsill is crowded with my

own nest and pine cones and feathers

Greeting my arrival in the Lutheran home

was a quick order from the attractive Gestapo

behind the desk

Sign in and wear a stick-on Visitor’s Badge

More Nazis on the second floor

she now calls home

Fake smiles,

bowing aides who accompany

me down the hall,

my steps watched lest I

inject The Demented with enough

morphine to kill them all off

these Busby Berkeley babes

with wild white hair

and frumpy housedresses

these once sexy bathing beauties

who made love with a passion

and now sit deadpan in a circle

eyes vacant as a dead dog’s eyes

We can’t let you die Helene

Writer, sculptor, woman with a camera

your photograph of my Sarah hangs in

my study, she was only fourteen, you

measured my children

on your kitchen wall, a swipe of a pencil

and - voila - they’re all grown

We shall keep you alive though the

grilled cheese is horrid

We shall keep you alive though your

lime-green Olds has been taken from you and

the husband you once loved is

failing in another building,

an untended bedsore on his heel

- who is watching whom? –

You’ve got your phone and your computer

and you’ve got me, too, eating peanuts

and raisins from that stunning bowl that

shall help mold me into a more delicate

and thoughtful woman

as I lick my fingers from my

late-night snack and feel the cool

porcelain of the bowl

a reminder of my own future

doom-filled days.

Elaine Restifo's Funeral - "I'm a River Poet" - prouder words can never be spoken / Poem: The Tyvek House

The River, Elaine wrote inside, is an experiment based on the message contained within the following Confucianist poem:
There was presented to me a papaya,
And I returned for it a beautiful chu-gem;
Not as a return for it,
But that our friendship might be lasting.
She continues: Since The River's inception in 1969, it has reached 18 states and 4 countries. ...It is dedicated to the Planet Earth and all its living organisms and systems, including us.

Carolyn Constable and I drove to St. Philips Chapel outside New Hope, PA for the celebration of the life and mind of the revolutionary activist poet painter Elaine Restifo.

Carolyn, a Catholic, said the Episcopal service was very similar to her own. Father Peter Pearson donned a beautiful white surplice with hood over his black priestly vestments. Handsome and small in stature, he conducted a magnificent ceremony.

Carolyn and I got there early but there were barely any seats left.

We saw - and please click on the links of these distinguished friends of Elaine:

Kathe Palke

Mason Loika, Ted Peck, and Janet Hunt, owner of the Coryell Gallery in Lambertville, NJ, and George Dabrowski, who drove Elaine around when she could no longer drive. George is a fine poet who often read his poems off scraps of paper.

Carolyn Constable

Roy Freedle

Bill Donlen

and Sandy Bender who played his bittersweet banjo, as he described it, during the service.

Many people came forward to testify what a wonderful person Elaine was and to share various experiences.

Elaine had the quality that everyone she talked to believed they were her best friend! I certainly did.

Carolyn stood up at her seat - we were crammed in - and said she'll always remember helping Elaine compile the The River. Elaine refused to number the pages, so one time when it was time to put them all together, they found a sandwich between the pages.

Ted Peck typed up all the poems. The man is about 88 years old and has written beautiful works about his family, often from his grandmother's point of view.

Still writing? I asked him when we were leaving.

Oh, yes, he said.

Elaine's daughter, Christina, a beautiful white-haired woman, read one of her mom's most beloved works: My Mother and the Gorilla.

The assistant pastor of the church read "The Ant Murderer," another favorite of the audience.

At the end of the service, Father Peter asked us to participate in an old monastic tradition of saying goodbye to the newly deceased. A living piece of greenery - in this case a pine bough - was dipped in water and handed to us - and then we placed it on Elaine's urn.

When my turn came, I danced the living pine over the urn, and then I touched the urn with my hand as a way of saying my final farewell. The lid came off! I couldn't really see what was underneath - something white, it seemed - and I quickly put the top back on.

Then I went over to say hello to her three children, the surgeon Frank from CT, the schoolteacher, also from another state, who said at the altar that he and his family would preserve his mom's tradition of making pizzelles every Christmas, and Christina, who I handed our most recent Compass. She was very helpful to me when I was losing kidney function.

During the ceremony, the priest asked us to spend a few moments of silence thinking about Elaine. She was quite a tall woman, about six foot two. "No need to use ladders," she said when I interviewed her in my 2004 Compass.

With my eyes closed, squeezed between Janet Hunt of the Coryell Art Gallery, and Carolyn, I saw tall Elaine striding over all of us, bigger than the church, just striding her way up to Heaven.

To read the fascinating interview with Elaine Restifo in the 2004 Compass mag, click here.

Elaine really liked my poem The Tyvek House, published in one of her Rivers. Here is both the house, which is around the corner from me, and the poem:


Tyvek is an insulation material applied to the interior of buildings before application of the final material such as wood or stone or siding.

Take this old house by the side of the road
Walk past its leaf-filled ditch and muddy garden
Rip out its walls and doorways
Stay there, don’t move,
Walk among the heaps of plasterboard,
the piles of rubble still unswept
Let it sear you, rush like water through you
And bring you no peace.

Don’t come and fetch me.
I’ll stay here among the ruins,
Quiet, dream-filled,
Lonesome as a stairwell,
Ringing like a bell,
One of a kind,
The house where I live.

Did you mark the days when they
Hammered the outer boards
Across the falling rot of splintered wood?
Did you see how frisky they were
Those laugh-aloud fun-finding fellows
stationed so effortlessly
on tall hinged ladders,
Three of them I counted, workmen
Bouncing words from roof to roof,
Or were they manly jokes,
Nails echoing clang clang
as they went in.
Thick-soled boots snug on tall rungs.

How we couldn’t help but laugh
the day the letters appeared – TYVEK -
blue, dark as mountains,
you’d know those letters anywhere –
ponytailed Y
Take-me-along K pointing off,
Off in the distance at some lonesome star.
How we rejoiced and continue to rejoice
at the coming of the words.

Leave it to us to notice from our
One unstained window
the predicament of the motorists
and the ditch-leaping joggers passing by,

Each one waiting,
querying among themselves,
When will it be finished?
When will the Tyvek be covered up for good?

Didn’t we fool them?
Didn’t we cause consternation?
We simply couldn’t do it.

We let the Tyvek stay.

Warm winter clothes - Two Xmas dinners - Poem: Dining with Thich Nhat Hanh

I simply did not feel like making breakfast this morning. I drove to my favorite diner Daddypops in Hatboro, which was mobbed, so I figured I go to Lochel's, but then I passed the new Galaxy Diner and pulled into the huge parking lot. It was packed.

I ordered my favorite things on the menu, things I haven't eaten in ages, partly b/c of my kidney-healthy diet before I got the tplant. Of course, now I have diabetes, so I've really gotta watch myself. In fact, I brought the terrific mag Diabetes Forecast to read while I waited for my food to arrive.

Two poached eggs, which I put over tasteless corned beef hash, and equally tasteless home fries with onions. How can you mess up home fries?

Another tasteless meal from Galaxy.

This was all a prelude for buying myself some nice new sweaters for the winter. Was trying to decide where to go when - what luck! - I passed The Sweater Mill.

The owner Robin made it a very pleasant experience. She was shocked as was "Val" (I didn't catch her name) when I said I absolutely hated clothes shopping. I think I told my entire life story to Robin when I was there. She'd been talking to a client and mentioned someone had had 8 hours of plastic surgery: breast augmentation, thigh liposuction, whatever so naturally I couldn't wait to tell of my kidney transplant.

Then Val said a friend of hers in her 60s got a new heart at the University of PA. She only had to wait three months for it. She was a perfect match.

Me, I'm going in and outa the dressing rooms, trying stuff on. I just hate doing this. A couple of times my socks get caught in one of the jeans I'm trying on so I have to bend over and fish out the sock.

What's to like about shopping? It's a colossal waste of time and I could've been home writing or submitting my work. On my way home I remembered writing a terrific piece called "We Think about Death Over Coffee," written in short little segments. That's another one I should submit. When I told my then-poetry mentor "Dave McGill" the title, he said, "You could also call it 'We Think about Sex over Coffee.'"

I wrote the piece when Sarah and I took a vacation to one of the Caribbean Islands.

I had to fire my poetry mentor, who I had a massive crush on, b/c he kept unconsciously stealing lines of my poems.

At the Sweater Mill, I also bot two warm pair of leggings, which are those women's pants that cling. I wore a black corduroy pair outa the store and will wear them to Elaine's funeral tomro.

Dyou think in Beverly Hills there's a funeral parlor whose motto is "We put the fun in funeral?"

Hope everyone had a great holiday yesterday.

In the afternoon I went to sister Donna's, where her children and grandchildren were gathering for the day. I brought them the DVD called Greenwold Family Movies that I got at DVD Magic nearby. I made a $500 downpayment. When I stopped by to see if they were ready, Joel said "Ruth, all I need is another $400 and we're finished."

Whew! I was really worried I'd need lots more moolah.

Joel put really good music on it dating from the 70s.

The family loved the movies.

I noshed on the most marvelous appetizers, including Nikki's artichoke salad. There was also some debate whether some canned olives were any good. They're used to eating the marinated ones.

I popped one into my mouth and pronounced it "delicious. This is the way they're supposed to taste from the can."

I also told Donna to make a cream cheese n olive sandwich like we had as kids and she said she bot cream cheese.

Melissa, 41, who was in the movie as a baby, loved the movies, which also showed her dad. I made captions and titled his "Roberto 'Herman' Cartagena."

I asked Donna if she wished she were still married to him and she said, "Hellooo!"

Well, his second wife is very happy with him. They have two boys in their mid-twenties.

Then it was time to visit the Demings. I'll roll the photos:

When I got home I knew I was gonna go on my exercise bike for 25 minutes to lower my blood sugar.

Look what book I've stopped reading. Yes, it's scary, but the dialogue is terrible, especially with the cop and his wife and kids. It's so forced and phony I can't abide it. Before I stopped reading it, here's what I wrote on this revised website:

Scott's buddies at SEPTA pass around books. Since Scott is finishing up Robinson Crusoe (no, they didn't pass that around; Scott's on a mission to read the classics) I started my first Dean Koontz book ever.

It's scary as hell and, to quote my story Spanish Arches, I'm a life-long 'fraidy cat and am terrified when reading What the Night Knows. So, alone in my bed, I turn on my new Sony radio - boy, if Steve Jobs ever saw the Sony design he'd say, "That's the shittiest design I've ever seen. You can't find the control buttons. Whoever designed this should be fired on the spot."

I had to put White-Out on it so I can find the On button and the Station Change buttons. It's horrible. But then I wouldn't wanna spend $700 either on a new Bose, which my 'mother/law' bought her husband for Xmas. Actually, I would spend the money but the Bose is too long for me. The Sony stands straight up. My bedside table doesn't have too much room.

So I turned up the radio quite loudly and I read the book with the loud radio on. I also, before reading each chapter, scanned it to see if it would be scary OR if there was dialogue in it b/c sometimes our hero cop John Corlina is alone in a house where a dreadful murder has just taken place and he believes someone else might be there.

And of course now I wonder if someone is in MY house, but I figure, oh, well, I've had a good life and all that.

Next morning as soon as I get up I goggle Dean Koontz. The man is a Republican. He and his wife Gerda have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican causes. He supports Mitt Romney. Honestly, I wish I liked Romney cuz I can't stand Obama tho he did get us out of Iraq and has set a date of Afghan'n.

I read reviews of his books. Where dyou go to read reviews?

I went right on Amazon, which of course means I'm getting lots of suggestions today from Amazon of what books I might like to read.

Apparently, Koontz is not nearly as good as he used to be. That is, if you're a loyal Koontz reader.

However, if you've never read him before, then he's a wonderful writer who can keep up the suspense and have your heart pounding.


When I began eating my omelet
hot to the tongue
sprinkled with scallions
and cheese
and thought of my Christmas shopping
sometime after breakfast

I asked Thich Nhat Hahn to
sit across from me at my
kitchen table.

In dark robes
he bowed his bald head
over black tea I prepared,
delicately lifted the orange cup
as he bowed toward me again
eyes that have seen much
some of it wrapped into books
or poetry or praying for peace

Taste returned to my tongue
the omelet and the goodness of
the hen who had given her life for me
I became one with the morning
The sun shone into my living room
I bowed my head in thanks for its
arrival that morning
Then I lifted my glass of water
stared at the clear cold liquid
thinking not that this is where we came from
or that never is there water enough in
Africa but that it is cold
and good to me.

And the master across the table
pinkie lifted,
and drained the last of his fine tea.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Farewell, Elaine Restifo, mother of many poets including myself

December is the month of Death.

Just learned that Elaine Restifo of Lambertville, NJ, passed away on Dec. 21. She was 79.

I can't think of how to begin to describe her. When I profiled her in my 2004 Compass, I called her a revolutionary, which she certainly was. Here's the profile.

An artist, she expressed herself in painting - a favorite was her "Gandhi" - in sculpture - and in poetry.

She also attended demonstrations for everything she believed in. "Peace" was her chief cause.

Elaine began publishing her River poetry magazine as a young woman. The covers were always spectacular, lots of photographs taken by her friends, who, in the last dozen or so years, began to pass away.

The River Poets used to meet at the homes of various artists in Lambertville. It was a long drive for me, but I so looked forward to those monthly Saturday gatherings. She lived on Elm Street. It was hard to find a parking spot b/c no one had a garage and these were long row houses.

So this is how artists live, I thought as I entered her house for the first time. A rocker sat on her front porch. Inside, she had an amazing collection of rocks that were shaped like hearts.

And she could cook! These poetry meetings became feasts. It did get to be too much so someone put a stop to it.

What's a poetry meeting? You read your poem and everyone critiques it. Then the poet decides what to do w/ the feedback.

One of my greatest memories was when I had a party of poets here on Cowbell Road and a bunch of the River Poets - including Elaine - got into one car and drove over the free Lambertville, NJ, bridge and found their way to my little yellow house.

We met in my backyard with its big tree roots - please don't trip! - from the three maple trees that grew there (two have subsequently been taken down, but I planted trees in Israel to make up for it).

How great our guilt!

And how glorious to have rounded up the poets. I remember a lovely older man named Amadeus. O where are you now, lovely man? Cynthia Marcolina was there. She was published in our last Compass.

And a man arrived for the party in a station wagon. His name was Craig Slingluff, Jr.

I have no idea how Craig found the Kaleidoscope (the poetry section of The Compass), someone must have told him about it, but we published a series of Five Poems For Janice. She ended up in a mental asylum and he wrote the poems for her even though he had lost touch with her.

Just goggled Craig and he's still writing, having published something in a prestigious journal. Read his Mastectomy poem here.

Elaine loved all living things. Even ants. She wrote a famous poem called The Ant Murderer. And she, Elaine, was the ant murderer, leading them out of her house by a trail of honey.

Buddha sat in her backyard. He is awash in grief right now as is everyone who knew this amazing woman.

After I got an email from Liz Bowman saying she died, I called Elaine's daughter Christina. Elaine had had a massive stroke and died in the hospital. She was still alive but her level of functioning was extremely poor. Her surgeon son from CT was in charge of her care. They made the decision not to keep her alive.

Elaine would have wanted it that way.

Her health had been deteriorating for some time so that she had to contemplate entering a nursing home.

She fooled them, didn't you Elaine. Good for you. Up until now, I haven't felt Elaine's presence as I'm writing this post.

However, now, I do hear her voice in my head. I spoke to her last about two months ago. Told her I would send something in to the River.

Her funeral is next Tuesday at 11 in the morning at a little chapel outside New Hope. I don't know how everyone will fit inside.

St Philips Chapel in New Hope, PA.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Back to the DVD store

Back I went to Make a DVD to finish up the next round of the Greenwold Family Movies. For previous round click here. What is this? A boxing match? That's my amateur-boxer daughter's department.

Joel had added music to it, starting w/Wind Beneath My Wings."

"Puts you in the mood, huh?" he said. Sure did.

Yesterday Joel and my sister Donna stayed late and began writing in the names of important people in the movies.

This time it was up to me to write the names since Donna FORGOT we had a 4 pm appt there!

At first I just wrote tame captions like "Jon Katz" but then I realized I could make a statement in the caption, such as "Donna Greenwold Cartagena" - showing who the 8-yo child would eventually become.

This is what we all wonder when we're children. What will become of me?

What became of Daddy, was, he died of a brain tumor when he was 59 yo! I have outlived him and so have three of his five girls.

I put some really cute captions on, which I'm not gonna share here cuz Donna's gonna read it and I want to surprise her.

I really surprised myself an hour earlier when my glucose level was 33. "You could die," I said to myself, as I grabbed a chocolate power bar, triscuits, whole wheat pretzels, cran sauce, but couldn't get the apple cider cap off.

When I took the glucose again it had only gone up to 77, so I crunched on some glucose tabs, 4mg apiece. Maybe 5 and went up to brush my teeth.

Look, I'd rather not die, but I do wanna finish my Kidney memoir w/ Sarah.

And, yes, Donna, I labeled Chip Joseph when he came to visit us on Loretta Court. You were practically dancing down the front stairs you were so happy to see him.

Loretta Court was some house. And some neighbors. Remember the adult brother and sister raising their dead sister's children? It just came to me. Joan Schwartz who Mommy still keeps in touch with. BTW, her fall on the kitchen floor that almost poked her eye out? She's much better.

Here's Katy Temple again! Everyone at DVD Magic, as I call it, has their own particular job. I asked Katy what she and her fam are doing for Xmas. At first they'll have a meal at home and then they'll drive down to Cape May and have a meal there! Such exertion on Xmas day. They have a lot of energy, those Temples!

Ah, here's my BF Paul Surovell. I mispelled his name & will have to fix it when I go back tomro. Here's Paul today.

His first cousin Jon Katz, who introduced us, is also in the movies, where he has HAIR.
Hi Mommy! She's to the left of Daddy. That's Barbara Hexter to dad's right plus her two girls. I said rhetorically to Joel, "Hexter sure doesn't sound like a Jewish name." Her husband, Gene, who's also in the DVD, suffered a miserable death from prostate cancer.

Finished watching the HBO series Rome. Three stars out of five. Acting was superb but the dialogue mostly limp. Filmed at the best film studios in the world, located in Rome, where Fellini used to film.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Countdown to Year's End - Scott's Bday - Tap tap for Tapioca (the manioc root) - joke from Dr Eisenman / Poem: The Man Who Loves Animals

Here's some fun things I've been doing. These photos are mostly Leftovers I've been wanting to use.

Went to sister Donna's condo to visit. This is the same condo that flooded so badly two months ago - the creek runs thru it - that people had three feet of water in their living room, some with fish swimming in it.


We watched the The Help on "videoDemand" - I refuse to advertise the real name of the monopolistic company. We watched on her huge curving leather sofa that is freezing to the touch, but we both had blankets.

The Help, about southern maids raising white children in Jackson, Miss. - who grew just as prejudiced as their parents - was a great flick except it didn't seem to know how to end. Tears were streaming down my cheeks by the end of the movie. Ron Howard's daughter Bryce Dallas Howard played an evil southern belle.

You know, we think of the word evil as in Hitler or Stalin or today's Republicans, but when you see all the suffering this woman caused it's fair to call her evil.

Here she is sitting on the extreme right of the park bench. Hilly was her name in the film.

What's a girl to do in these lonely winter nights except to make TAPIOCA. I'm very particular about what I eat. I cannot stand anything artificial. So when you buy a pudding mix or, in this case, tapioca, you can't buy the instant variety - all you taste are artificial flavors. But the Jell-O Cook n Serve variety tastes great!

I hit upon a great idea. After cooking, I let it cool in paper cups. Then I could eat it and throw away the cups. No washing! And it was really fun eating out of paper cups, tho next time I can eat it out of those beautiful wine glasses Helene gave me.

Today she moved into Artman Lutheran Home. I'm sure the Board is debating whether or not to remove the word Lutheran. Other religions live there, like my Jewish friend Helene.

How could anyone resist photographing this guy? New Directions attended the Marine stocking-stuffer event at the Upper Moreland Middle School in the Crematorium, oops, I mean Cafetorium.

They would be sent to the Marines in Afghanistan. What an insidious name Afghanistan has become. When my kids were growing up, they had a friend Afzali - A.J. for short - whose parents hailed from that country, though he'd never been there. We thought nothing of it at the time. What are your memories, Reader, of the country before the debacle.

Afzali's uncle owned the fantastic Afghan restaurant "Yalda's Grill" on Horsham Road in Horsham. When I drove by recently it was shuttered and closed down. I had one meal there, cooked to order, that was outa this world!

Even tho I live in Willow Grove, the nearest PO to me is Bryn Athyn, straight down Terwood Road and a left on Fetter's Mill. Hello, Mr Fetter, time to get out of bed and get your mill running. Otherwise people won't be able to bake their own breads.

Tucked in a corner is CHUCK, the former postmaster who, my friend, Rich Fleisher, has deemed the best postman ever, for his quickness and his vast knowledge. I myself had many intimate talks w/Chuck when he was behind the counter and count myself among his many fans.

This is funny b/c I was thinking I should've been invited to the Giant Supermarket's Xmas party, held in the large room at the end of the second floor.

Hello Sultan in the fish department, along with other fish friends, Debbie, who looks cute in her cap, Robert the head of the department, and Justin who also works at Pine Run Assisted Living Facility. If you work there, they will pay for you to become an RN, which is what Justin is doing!

My other friends there include Mary Ann Moylen, nutritionist, Robin and Elyse, who work in the Community Room upstairs, and of course the wonderful pharmacists Hanna, who's from Korea, and Dr Bob, whose the head honcho there. I dropped off a copy of the Compass so they could read it.

Speaking of meds, I got permission from Dr Kung, my nephrologist, to go off Zantac, which I took to safeguard my tummy from my antirejection meds.

Photo from College of American Pathologists - Renal Allograft and the BK Virus

In November my blood tests showed the BK virus had begun growing in my body. Kung immediately took action. This is why I like the guy. I think he is smart! He reduced my Cellcept and when that didn't do the trick, he took me off entirely.

Today I called Einstein Medical Center to get my most recent lab results.

You utilize the test results in conjunction with your creatinine level. Mine was very good - .089.

Last month my reading was 126,000 in my blood.
This month is was 43,000. Quite a difference.

Last month the reading in my urine was 43 million.
This month, it was 1 million.

"Way to go, Mom," said Sarah when I called her with the good news.

She and I have been working super-hard on our Kidney Memoir. She wants to mail it off to her 'readers' tonite or tomro, before she flies to Wisconsin to meet Ethan and spend Christmas with Ethan's brother Spencer, who lives in a group home up there.

When you write a book, you select readers to read it over and give you feedback. Scott is one of my readers, as is my friend from Goddard College, Jonathan Katz, the comedian.

We mention Jon in our early chapters when he was a stand-up comic and used to come to Philadelphia to perform.

So, the other day I'm going for a walk around the block and who do I see? My sister's BF Neil O'Keefe. He's been driving for Meenan for six years.

I was eager to see how oil is delivered to a house.

It takes all of 10 minutes. Everything is automized. This is not Neil's usual route so it was just a coincidence we met. Yeah, yeah, I know there are no coincidences. Everything happens for a reason. YOU can believe that, I don't.

Oh no! It's 6:02. Gotta go over Scott's to watch my fave show:

Hi, I'm back. It was a two-parter. The female lead was Carol Leigh, an excellent actress.

For Scott's 53rd b'day, I slipped his poem under his door so he'd be surprised when he came home from work at 8:40 in the a.m. He works as a mechanic for SEPTA and loves his job.


He fed them parsnips from his own table
stood next to their crouching family in the woods
they watched the winter sun rising low
he, longing to touch the majestic antlers,
and stroke the darkened coat,
their big eyes watched him walk home
soundless as only deer can be

Inconspicuous follower of St. Francis,
he fed the birds sunflower seeds
they perched on his windowbox
fearing him not
chirping when he walked home from work
tired and wearing a hat

The black cat sunned itself in his backyard
white boots hidden until she rose
to stalk a mouse across the
winter-imploded grass

Only the fox is coy
his appearance brief
so when you think
you’ve got him in your eye
all you see is
his white tail vanishing.

He believes in god and an afterlife
“I made the decision long ago and
ain’t gonna change my mind.”
He says this to his unbelieving girlfriend
who lives right next door and fears the
perfection of Eternity.

He nursed her through sciatica
when she couldn’t leave her bed
the chamberpot
the garbage bucket
visited her in the hospital when
she had a kidney transplant
his mustache tickling her lips.

Her birthday card was in his mailbox today
December 13, when he staggered exhausted
home from work
“Happy Fifty-Third”
“Only three more months of winter,” he smiled
a disarming smile his parents fussed over
long ago
as their only boy walked into the living room
alarm clock peeled open, sprouting wires
looks good on a resume for SEPTA
the girlfriend puts her arms around him
and stares into his unfathomable green eyes.

Periodically I get hilarious emails from my former BF Russell Eisenman, who makes an appearance in our kidney memoir as Marvin Weissbaum, PhD.
The following is from a comment to an article that I read. The woman writing it is from NYC and commenting on moving to a small Ohio town to be a college professor. She says she is:
married to a Black man, with a bi-racial child. One of the first things a neighbor had to say to us when we were unpacking our belongings was a question. To my husband: "What kind of Black person are YOU?"

"Um, the kind that kills people who ask me stupid questions!" --is the answer I would have given. My husband just laughed and said nothing.