Regret Regarding Crackers

The sun’s golden glow slowly turns an orangey yellow with beams of blue and purple as it begins its magnificently orchestrated dance sinking slowly into the now dimming horizon marking the start of thousands years seasoned ballet conducted by master instruction that serves as a faintly tinkling bell warning and informing the coming of night.

The darkness of night with its change in sounds, smells and sights, can encourage a difference in the way we connect with our inner selves and with one another. With me, there seems to be an intimacy associated with the night that I am not as much in touch with during the daylight hours. When associating with others, whether inside or out-of-doors on a warm summery, starlit night, with a glowing moon smiling broadly as the sounds of clinking glasses, soft music and quiet laughter, a kind of closeness fills the air that is not apparent during daylight hours. When I am alone at night, as I am most of the time, I love the change in atmosphere, sound and smell that the darkness brings.

As darkness approaches, it wraps me in a cocoon of my own making. My thoughts become more introspective and those things that I do in the daylight hours, the daily chores, bill paying, shopping, cleaning, connecting with friends and family, are to be completed before getting into and relaxing in “my best friend”, my bed. I love to wallow in its comfort. I watch television, read, meditate and think from my bed. My bedroom is my place of rest in the broadest sense. It is the place where I spend a great deal of time now – especially in the winter months when darkness covers so many of the twenty-four hours of the day.

In my last yearly medical check-up, my test results showed my doctor that I am what she calls “pre-diabetic”. My first thoughts were sugar diabetes? Surely that could not be me because I am not a great lover of sweets. I am not a big fan of chocolate, or other desserts, I can take them of leave them. I crave ice cream and a milkshake or diet Dr. Pepper ice cream float once in a while, as these are heavenly manna for me at times. However, before I assured my doctor that I’m good when it comes to sweets, it came to me that Sugar Diabetes 2 can come from an over abundance of carbohydrates in ones diet and lack of exercise. Since I do exercise at least twice a week and not much overweight (smile), it hit me… OMg, I’m going to have to relinquish my favorite pass time and accompaniment for getting into my best friend at night – I would have to give up my crackers so lovingly and tastefully eaten – slowly, one at a time – savoring the slightly salted crunchiness washed down with a glass of wine or other non alcoholic beverage.   What has been my favorite snack and my night-time companion, must now become my once-in-a-while treat. I gave up eating bread, for the most part, quite a while ago and I had cut back on pasta and other carbohydrates as a weight watching approach to good health.

If at all possible, I am not a pill taker, as I have found that the side effects of many of the pills prescribed are much worse that the problem they are prescribed for. Therefore, if I can make changes in my life-style that can alleviate the problem without taking medication, I choose to go that route. Now as I smilingly climb the stairs moving toward my best friend, I now take with me fruit, celery, carrots, or salsa and a few chips or nothing at all. Gone are the days of my favorite Cheez-Its, Triscuits, or other great tasting crackers in a bowl or plastic bag lovingly eaten as the images on television or even better, the words that come from reading a good book as my wondrous eyes draw into my imagination the sites and letters offered by a good director or writer.

I had friends and family over the other night and while shopping for the affair, I mysteriously found myself walking down the cracker aisle and as I passed the Cheez-Its they called my name. I tried to resist and not buy the ‘family sized” box on sale at a very good price; but I was weak and could not. Some strange cord pulled me back as I courageously walked pass and I did not have the strength to ignore the glowing red and yellow boxes stacked on the grocery shelf. How can one be expected to deal with the double whammy of something you love while on sale too?  So, I bought the box of little buggers and for the party filled five bowls with them throughout the spaces where my guests would gather and gave the remaining wondrous tasting cheese colored squares to my son and his family. Sometimes one must play tricks and games with ones weaknesses in order to survive.

The promise of my pre-diabetic condition is that the diet change has resulted in losing inches around my waist and a few pounds of weight. I still love crackers, but I now go into the night and my best friend with a healthier snack and that’s a good thing. I regret not being able to keep my nightly routine with crackers; however, as my body ages, I have to embrace the changes and adjustments required to keep it healthy and that’s a good thing too.

 

 

The Promise and Regret of Movies

Disappearing into a seated darkness with the expectation of being enveloped into another world, a different world planned, managed and directed by a good storyteller – relaxed, readily accepting the experience projected by flickering lights, moving objects, images, action and sound emanating from a big screen – that’s my good theatrical movie experience. Maybe something to drink, popcorn or a hot dog – a good movie, at times, is the best therapy for me.

Walking into a movie theater alone, unlike, for instance, eating alone, is a well-accepted ‘social’ experience. The patrons at a movie only care that you turn off your electronic gadgets before the trailers start. Unlike eating alone where one has to bring a book, magazine or other electronic device for busying oneself while the others (pairs or more) talk together or not, a movie is the experience of escaping into somewhere else for a couple of hours.

There are those movies that I can watch over and over again still enjoying every frame to the fullest. One of those movies is the finest western ever made (in my humble opinion), and that is George P. Comatos’ magnificent “Tombstone”. From the heartbreaking beginning to the dance in the snow at the end, I always remain hooked!

Again, in my opinion, Hollywood goofed in regard to Val Kilmer not being nominated, therefore, not even considered for an academy award for his outstanding performance as John Henry “Doc” Holliday, the well-educated dentist with tuberculosis (called consumption in those days). My sons and I would offer in jest to one another “I’ll be your huckleberry” or “I’m your huckleberry” for months after viewing the director’s cut DVD at a family night get-together. My eldest looked up the meaning of the huckleberry term spoken by the ‘good’ Doc and he found that it refers to “I’m the right person for the job” or a huckleberry is also described as a pallbearer for the dead. Either way, Doc meant business.

 I can look back at my life and the lives of my children and grandchildren and movies play an important role in our living and loving. “King Kong” the movie is a remembrance that I have written about. I took my two sons to see the Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise’s musical “West Side Story” when they still allowed me to hold their hands as we walked together.   They still watch it on DVD and sing those wonderful songs with their children.

I use movies as a way to open discussions with my granddaughters regarding issues in life. For instance after watching “The Notebook”, the opportunity arose regarding the impact of first love and the effect that has on the psyche no matter what other opportunities are offered in life. After watching the ever so cute “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” with the young multi-talented Ron Howard as Eddie and Glenn Ford as the widower father (who could forget him in “Gilda”), we discussed death and its impact on the remaining family members.

I had a life changing experience at the movie theater, one that was embarrassingly bad, but a good thing in disguise. I was an eighth grader and finally not required to take my brothers with me to the Saturday and Sunday special showings that included two full-length features, seven (7) cartoons, trailers for coming attractions and a newsreel. I had plans. I had surreptitiously saved money to buy a pack of Kool Menthol filter-tipped cigarettes that I had forged a note from my parents to purchase (in those days, one could smoke in the theater). As I slipped them into my purse along with the dollar bill for spending money and bus fare home I thought ‘at last, I was going to get Jeffery Weekly’s attention.’ He was the finest, tall, lanky, long drink-of-water that walked the Longfellow Junior High campus. My plan included lighting my cigarette, holding it in that certain way as I sauntered down the aisle, then I would slide into the row of seats behind Jeff and his crowd, lean over his shoulder from behind and offer him a cigarette as I coolly blew smoke into the theater air. I imagined that he would turn, smile at me, gladly take one and light up. He might even ask could he offer one to his friends and I would smile at him and say “of course”. I wanted to let him know that this was an everyday thing with me and we could share this wonderful habit together, just as Bette Davis and Paul Henreid did in “Now Voyager” although I had never smoked in my life.

I arrived early for the 2P showing, sat near the back of the theater in order to see all who entered the double-doored center aisle, while being able to see anyone who entered the side doors as well. At last, I saw his talk lanky frame enter with two of his friends. After they found seats in center row, middle, and sat down talking in low tones with each other, I waited patiently until the trailers played and the cartoons finished. When the lights lowered for the first movie, I slipped out into the concession area and turned left towards the rest rooms. I entered the ladies’ room in a “Now Voyager” frame of mind and confidently pulled out my precious pack of menthol tipped Kools, placing one between my lips and the pack back into my purse. I pictured the scene in the Irving Rapper directed film, when Paul Henreid lit two cigarettes at once and so sensuously placed the other one into Bette’s waiting lips. Ms. Davis held it between her fore and middle fingers and took a long drag as she threw her head back and exhaled an even longer trail of smoke from perfectly pursed lips while looking sexily into his eyes. Even though it was my first time, I could do the same, no problem. Seated behind him, I would not be able to stare into his eyes as Bette did, but what the heck; it was not going to be quite as perfect as in the movie scene.

I had carefully dressed and my hair was perfection as I placed the menthol tip to my waiting lips and lit it. I took a deep drag, pulling as much smoke into my lungs as possible, I wanted it be somewhat smoked as I approached my dreamboat.

As the rancid smoke hit the back of my throat, I coughed a cough so deep that it caused my whole body to tremble. I bent over choking in agony; I could not straighten up. My eyes teared and turned red. My nose let go of the grossest string of mucus ever from each nostril. My cheeks, eyes, and nose changed to a deep reddish-purple color as I tried to get control; however, I couldn’t stop coughing. My carefully coiffed hair flew every which way all over my head. The snot, tears and spit covered the front of my freshly ironed sweater and the cigarette and my purse somehow had landed on the tiled restroom floor. I looked into the wall-to-wall mirror in horror at this thing I had become. Still coughing and holding my throat, I grabbed my purse from the floor and through blurry eyes, ran down the hall and out the theater door. The fresh air helped as I staggered to the bus stop and waited for the long embarrassed ride home.

Jeffery moved away shortly after my experience with cigarettes at the movies. He never knew that I had a crush on him, or that I was willing to place my life in jeopardy for him (at that time Camel’s were the rage and Marlborough guy was still alive and touting the greatness of smoking cigarettes).

Nobody had to tell me not to smoke cigarettes. All the advertisements over the ensuing years warning of the health risks of smoking fell on deaf ears as far as I am concerned. Smoking was not only dangerous for your health; it was dangerous for getting the attention of the finest boy in school.

Regret Regarding Words

It was one year ago, December 31, 2013, on New Year’s Eve that One Silken Shoe, this journal about the regrets in my life, spilled out in words written in silence with hope of promise and acceptance.

Words, words, words, I’ve written thousands of them this past year and I have thousands more swirling around in my head that I want to share with you my loyal readers and friends that I only connect with through your words posted as comments on this site. And I truly thank all of you who have taken the time to post your kind responses and critiques to my thoughts put into words as an exploration of my living and aging.

In truth, I have not written in a while due to the avalanche of words called “spam” that have overwhelmed my site of late. Hours and hours of my time have been devoted to a battle that I had not expected in writing my journal regarding the pain and pleasure of life and the regrets that I recognize and pay homage to and the promise that I search for on a daily basis. Hovering over my “Shoe” every 4-5 hours was the counterattack that kept my baby safe, while reading your kind comments and deleting the mounting spam. However, with the family requirements of the holiday season shopping, gift giving and meal preparation and let us not forget the eating, I have not had the time to write about or protect my beloved Shoe. After two days absence, I opened One Silken Shoe to find almost four thousand spams waiting to attack my baby. Your five hundred comments were there as a kind offset and I am truly thankful to you for that balance. As my brother would say, “to make a long story short”, I have attempted to close comments to avoid the overwhelming spam.

However, I did open a Twitter account: One Silken Shoe @regretspromises. Remember, I am an older lady and I am not quite sure how Twitter works. My granddaughter, who is my savior in Internet things, is coming over tomorrow and she will give me a lesson on how to use Twitter and how to maybe place One Silken Shoe on Facebook. So, bear with me as I add and transition my words to other forums and options for us to communicate.

May you all have a Happy 2015 New Year, with blessings of good health, prosperity, happiness and joy. And, I further pray that the New Year brings good fortune to my search for answers to my questions regarding my regrets and how to make transparent the hope and promise of this process called life.

Yours In Silence with No Regret

The sound of silence surrounds me, creating a bubble of aloneness that can be intimidating or foster a sense of creativity – that is my choice. I listen for an internal cue, a clue to “what’s next?” The wind, seen more that heard, establishes itself by the swaying trees and the movement of the light rain on my window blown rather than falling onto the chilly pane.The ticking clock inflames and singes the wings of my spirit as I attempt to get past the burning embers and leaping flames toward the center of my being, toward that illusive tree of light that always seems blocked each time I feel convinced that I can reach out and pluck its fruits of peace, harmony and happiness.

They seem forbidden fruit for me as plans, dreams and aspirations melt into watery nothingness, dictated by uncontrollable circumstances dripping, melting away before one’s very eyes. However, as I contemplate my singed wings and weakened spirit, I realize that there is one thing that I love, even as I refuse to recognize depression and the “woe is me” syndrome, I know that I love to write. As nothing else has worked, is writing my “gift?” Is writing my path to the fruit of the light for me? Have I finally awakened to the realization of what has been the calling of my spirit all along?

As I contemplate this past year and the impact One Silken Shoe, the blog, has had on my life, I am amazed that a moment of illogical logic when I tossed a beloved shoe in the trash could become this baby that I now lovingly nourish and care for in the form of the written word.

I write in silence most times as any sound, other than that of silence, including soft music, which used to have a calming effect on me, is distracting when I’m delving into my inner most thoughts regarding my life, what it has been, where it is now and where it may be headed. And, of course, the latter is the most unknowable. However, in asking myself why about the past, and why the paths I chose, who knows what a different choice would have made in my living? My friend, Paul, has a way of dealing with even the most catastrophic of life’s events; he always says, “What is, is.” In Paul’s eyes, we must get over the whining, the tears and the blaming, just acceptance and then move forward toward a better future.

In silence and acceptance after all these years, and in honor of my creation, my baby, One Silken Shoe, and wherever it leads me (or not), I will remember with no regret, “What is, is.”

Promises and Regrets Regarding the Holidays

Today is October 31, 2014, All Hallows Eve or Halloween, the start of the holiday season.  The good thing is the parade for the San Francisco Giants, winner of baseball’s World Series, is being celebrated on a rainy day in the city.  The bad thing is it’s raining, which is a good thing.  No one likes rain on a parade day. However, California really needs the rain.

It’s an exciting rainy day. The streets of San Francisco are crowded with thousands of hats and gloves, umbrellas, plastic poncho wearing fans waiting (some since 4:00AM) along the parade route on Market Street, dressed in orange and black representing the colors of both the San Francisco Giants and Halloween and it all fits. The University of California, (CAL) marching band is playing, leading the parade. The rain is inconsequential – the excitement palpable, I can feel the joy through my television screen. Cable cars on wheels, marching horses, with the human scoopers walking behind with their ever-ready shovels, fire trucks, vintage cars, double-deck buses, white and yellow plastic rain coats, happy, smiling faces of all colors with cameras of all shapes and sizes, great floats, confetti and lights – it’s amazing to watch. I am so proud of the Giants. They were incredible to watch during the nail-biting series and edge of the seat last game win. The Parade of Champions – Go Giants!

I once looked forward to this season as my favorite time of the year. It’s not so much anymore. Regretfully, rather than the celebrations, this time of year reminds me of the losses in my life. What was once fun on Halloween has become a chore. Waiting for the doorbell to ring, with the big bowl of candy, I now worry that I’m part of the problem of childhood obesity and maybe ADHD in children by doing so. I could give fruit or some other healthy choice; however, I’m tired of trying to do what’s right and feeling guilty when I’m not. The few children who ring aren’t so cute anymore with their store-bought costumes so different from the ones we made for ourselves when I was a child.

Thanksgiving is no longer the easy holiday of eating, family enjoyment and thankfulness that I remember when growing up. Now as a family, we must first reach agreement on where we can have dinner with everyone because of family issues and uncomfortableness between family members. I look in the mirror and ask, “Is it me?”

Christmas was my favorite, now, the putting up trees and shopping for others is a chore and I’m always wondering if I am offending my saying, “Merry Christmas” when that’s what I grew up saying as I walked through the happy throng of shoppers at the mall. Now I feel a low-lying anger when I say “Happy Holidays” although I really mean it (I wish everyone would have a happy holiday season), but I really want to say, “Merry Christmas”. How far must I go to be PC?

I’ll watch the ball come down on New Years Eve, if I’m still awake. I now drink a glass of champagne well before midnight knowing that I will probably fall asleep before the ball drops, missing the old Dick Clark for the past few years and wishing him well.

I miss my mom and dad more and more and am reminded of the “good old days” when the holidays with them were so much fun. Am I remembering correctly, or am I painting the past with a forgiving brush and only remembering the good or is this a natural part of aging where memories of the past seem to trump the living of the present?

Regret Regarding Dreams

The unconscious, spiritual effect of dreams is worth recognizing in the reality that we live in as we deal with the day-to-day living of our lives. The unconscious dreams generally occur when we are in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep. These dreams are often analyzed and interpreted revealing wishes, visions and occurrences in our everyday life.

Then, there are the conscious dreams that we have regarding the expectations and focus of our lives that includes our goals and motivations for our future. Children, young adults, adults and the elderly have dreams regarding the future. The sadness of unfulfilled conscious dreams is the story of many lives, including mine.

I dreamed of a much different life than the one I am living. The struggles with family cohesiveness, mental illness, financial insecurity and lost loves are just a few of the dreams that have imploded. One never dreams of those issues as a goal. My eldest son’s grade school teacher advised me that “he is a dreamer; he does not apply himself.” I took that as a problem as she did. I’m a dreamer now. If I am quiet for more than a few minutes, I drift into another place, a dream world that I feel very comfortable in and enjoy the images and visions that are revealed.

The regret and irony of my conscious dreams never included my writing a blog.

Cranberry Red Stilettos: Another Shoe Regret

The cranberry red, open toed stilettos with the matching bag sat on the closet shelf side by side as I  smilingly thought “what a combination.” The threesome was made for the holiday season – rich and colorful, shiny and eye-catching. I was back east when I first saw the shoes on display in the upper end store where Asia, my 15 years younger, good friend, had taken me shopping. I had brought shoes with me to wear to the affair we would be attending later that evening. Asia had warned me that she wanted us both to look our best, as there would be lots of “people watching” at the occasion.

As I stood there in the store, mentally salivating, eyes aglow, unable to move pass the cranberry red colored, patent leather and snake-skin, open toed beauties, which I logically knew were much too tall for me to walk in comfortably, I was also, in another part of my shoe-warped lustfulness, justifying why I should buy them for wearing to the affair.

When the Cheshire-cat smiling sales person, trained to observe the stupefied look on a captured customer’s  face, helpfully came over to me with the matching cranberry red, patent and snake skinned, just the right sized matching purse, I became a basket case. With thumb and forefinger, I measured the, snake-skinned platform sole and mentally subtracted the ¾- inch from four and ¾, patent leather heel and convinced myself that the stiletto heels were not actually as tall as they appeared. After all, my granddaughter wears six inchers with no problem.  Perhaps, there was a chance that I could walk comfortably in them. I stuttered “size nine, please” to the Cheshire-cat smile, secretly hoping that my size would not be available, as Asia came over to me, knowing, as a true friend does, that I was hooked and she wanted to be with me as I participated the primordial dance of shoe worship and purchase. I secretly hoped against hope that she would take charge and convince me that the stiletto beauties would not be a comfortable shoe for me to stuff my 70 + years old feet into for that night’s affair. Asia looked at the shoes, fell in love and waited patiently with me for the Cheshire smile to return.

Asia and I intelligently discussed the logic of subtracting the ¾ -inch platform sole from the 4-¾ inch heel and the fact that for the walk from the car into the opera house would be a piece of cake for me in four-inch heels. In fact, Asia reminded me, I was an old pro who could make an entrance in these shoes with a big bang. We both looked up as the Cheshire smile returned with a box in hand. The smile with the box containing the ultimate fix in shoe heaven approached, as I literally, for the first time, heard the music, being piped softly into the atmosphere of the busy Saturday morning shopping scene.

The beauties fit. Then I had to stand and I did. Now, the great test, walk. The carpeted floor made it easier and as I stood before the mirror, Cheshire smile brought the purse to me and as I held the silver handles by my side, I felt almost orgasmic.  Maybe I do need to talk with a therapist.

I bought the shoes and the bag and wore, maybe wobbled is a better word, them that night. Fortunately, the affair was a seated one with staged music, singing, dancing, speeches, and short drama scenes. However, I had to walk to and from the parking garage, as well as stand in the crowd until the show started. I didn’t people watch as I usually do at such affairs as I, and others in my condition, laser-beam focused on the limited opportunities to sit down before the show began. During intermission, I remained seated and at show’s end I walked gingerly back to the car as a sympathic Asia walked slowly beside me.

A few months later, for an affair here in the Bay Area, I challenged nature and myself once more and wore the shoes and bag again, this time to an affair that ended with music and dancing. As the chairs were being moved for the dancing to begin, I carefully walked to the exit as couples swung rhythmically out to the floor to partake in a beloved pass time of mine – to dance. As the DJ played Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up,” I gave it up and went home.

Now, as I write this post, I have brought the shiny beauties here to my desk as they glowingly still perpetrate their spell over me, perhaps sensing that I won’t toss them as I did my other silken shoe loves, because they are a pair. What madness lurks in the hearts of women regarding shoes? I’m debating what to do with them. I’ve aged another three years since I bought them. I don’t regret the purchase, even though the stiletto heels with its platform soles are entirely too tall for me to walk comfortably in.

A friend reminded me that for church wear difficult shoes can be tolerated because the walk is  only from the parking lot to the pew. However, does one wear open toed, cranberry red, patent leather and snake-skin stilettos to worship? Or does one?

Regret Regarding Escape

The reality of living life can be so overwhelming that some choose to escape into an alternate universe of their own making that seems to satisfy a need that no one else can explain or understand. Of course I am not an expert in this field of psychology; however, living and observing for 73 years allows me to reveal what I have observed in this field of endeavor.

Some use alcohol, some use drugs, including medications prescribed by a medical professional, while others use their superior knowledge and ability to manipulate, to cope with the competitive nature of the reality of living. It’s not unusual. It’s a fact of life.

As I write this post while sipping a glass of red wine, I contemplate a recent occurrence regarding a friend whose daughter is in a relationship, in fact, married to a drug addict. My friend’s daughter, in trying to assist her husband’s issues, thereby adhering to the vows she committed to in the wedding ceremony, “for better, for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part” has, in fact, descended, into a quagmire of complicated issues that has reduced her own reality of living and loving, which in turn, reflects on the sorrowful concerns of her close relatives and friends.

Remember the Blake Edwards film, “Days of Wine and Roses’ starring the master actor Jack Lemon and the beautiful Lee Remick? In the film, he originally had the alcohol problem, she, in love, accommodated her husband, drinking with him and in the end, he had to leave her to a life of addiction to save himself. What a depressing scenario. I believe this is what is happening to my friend’s daughter. She, committed to her wedding vows, has thereby descended into a world that she is not qualified to control or conquer, may be the loser in the end.

As her mother cries tears of agony and despair, what does one say to her? How can those who love her and her daughter relate to the feelings of despair and helplessness, when we take her in our arms? How can we tell her to leave her daughter to the vagaries of fate as she looks at us with eyes full of hurt and sorrow? Her daughter is missing. The daughter’s husband can be contacted. Dr. Phil can provide no answer.

One glass of wine, then two, maybe a little something stronger to maintain the buzz may be required. Then to sleep, a pill may be needed to settle my mind from my feelings of despair for my friend and her daughter.

The only thing left is prayer for all concerned, including myself, for where does the click come from that tells me that I have had enough?

Regret Regarding Loss

I have cried tears of regret over many losses in my lifetime. Loved ones lost to illness, tragedy and death, lost keys that open the doors of remembrance and eternity, or lost loves that leave an empty place in one’s heart that will remain forever. However, I feel the greatest loss is what might have been.

The Promise: A Donate Button

Hello Friends, Readers and Supporters,

I have established a “Donate Button” on One Silken Shoe. My hope is this button will be used by all who enjoy and/or receive some sort of benefit from my words.

For all who choose an offer by donating, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

For those who do not choose to use the button, I wish you well and hope that I may continue to write words that you enjoy and/or receive a measure of hope and promise.

Regret Regarding Brother and Sister

I was the oldest and only girl and my father’s joy and my mother’s friendly right hand. He was born next and challenged my father’s position and power at every chance while my mother protected him in every way from my father’s wrath. At thirteen, he cried the tears that came from a place deep within as he asked, “now, can I be the boss?”

I’ve read theories regarding birth order and how it affects the psychology and family dynamics of the siblings. My eldest brother, born three years after me, leader of the pack of three boys born two, then three years after his entrance into the world resented my place as the responsible one. My mother and father placed me in that position, as they knew I could be counted on. My brother, wanted to be more than the leader of his brothers, he wanted to be “in charge” when my parents were not at home.

My eldest brother and I shared a love/hate relationship until his death a few years ago. I loved him; however, I was always suspicious of his motives. He loved me; but resented my influence with my dad. He and my dad’s power struggle lasted until my dad’s death. At the time of his death, my dad had a restraining order placed on my brother.

He really seemed not to care about being punished when his broke the rules of the house my parents made. He always did whatever pleased him, no matter the consequences. When my parents opened their own business, one of the perks for us kids was Mom would bring home a partially eaten two-day old pie, that she would cut into four evenly measured pieces for us to enjoy. My brother would sneak into the kitchen early and eat two, even three pieces, knowing that howls of rage would ensue. Once my father tried reverse psychology and made him eat the remaining slice(s) that my brother had not eaten. Evan smiled as he ate the remaining pie as we cried silent tears over this miscarriage of justice.

He grew tall and slender with an easy way about himself. He was the alpha male among my brothers who had a way with women that I never understood. Even recently, while attending a funeral (it seems an often requirement nowadays), I was in the ladies room washing my hands before the repast (serving of food after the funeral service), when during a conversation with another attendee, my parent’s business came up which lead to her mentioning my brother and with a huge smile, her saying how much she really loved my brother. My response was that most women said the same thing about him. She further commented how “she missed him; he was so funny.”

I’ve thought about that conversation in the ladies room more than once and remembered other occasions with women that my brother loved. And he loved them all. And they loved him in return. He never married. He was a rascal, if ever there was one.

He joined the army right after high school and the uniform only added to his mystic. At that time, my two sons and I lived in an apartment building that faced a twin building with a courtyard in between where the children safely played. When Evan, wearing his uniform, came to visit while on leave before being sent to another state for training, one of my female neighbors saw him and asked about my visitor. When I answered, “he’s my brother, Evan,” she became very animated and almost salivated as she asked for more details about his status. I answered as honestly as I could; because all I knew was that he was not married; however, she was. Her husband was in prison for some reason or another and she was lonely, I guess.

The two of them started an affair that had the whole apartment complex talking. When Evan left town for training, she would come over to my place and cry and whine about missing him and her love for him. I was incredulous…what was this married woman with two children talking about? In less than two weeks she was talking about divorcing her gangster husband so that she could marry Evan. My response to her was “you must be crazy, Evan will never marry you. He has other women in his life and he is not the marrying kind.” Plus, I was concerned about that gangster husband of hers and what he might do to Evan upon his release from prison (no matter how I felt about my relationship with Evan, he was still my brother). My words did not deter her. As tears rolled down her heartbrokenly screwed up face, she declared her undying love for Evan. Of course, he didn’t married her, and only saw her a few times after their few days together.

Evan had one child out-of-wedlock, a beautiful daughter who became a part of our family. Her mother, again just as the others, was hopelessly in love and hopelessly unable to get Evan to the altar. However, she did manage to receive blessings from my mother. It’s ironic how much she resembled my mother; they could have passed for mother and daughter.

Evan died a few years ago remaining uncaring even about this health. The last days of his life were lived on the streets of San Francisco where they referred to him as “Pops.” In order to find him one had to send out word that a family member or friend needed to see him. A phone call from him allowed the visit.

His capacity for management and leadership always impressed me, even as I did not understand the power he wielded over those in his circle of acquaintances. My two other brothers followed his leadership into the abyss of nothingness as lives and loves go.

My regret is that I did not understand him, ever. His military funeral seemed incongruous to the life he led and the death he suffered. As taps was played and the flag folded and passed to his daughter sitting in front of me, I wondered, what could have been? His death was expected as he refused to care for himself. He had veteran’s benefits and had very good health care offered, but he did not follow his doctor’s advice. He had a stomach problem called pancreatitis, which caused him much pain, however, although this condition did not change his life style and he only checked into the veteran’s hospital when the pain became too unbearable to function. Upon his release, he went back to unhealthy eating, drugs and living on the streets.

He also lived by his own morality. The woman who loved him and bore his child had three beautiful daughters when they met. After years, she finally moved on and married another, Evan started a relationship with her eldest daughter. She, the daughter, was something of a rebel also. That was right down Evan’s alley. I heard the daughter recently boast about her being the only person who could, at will, find Evan during his life on the streets of the city.

Sometimes an understanding of what goes on in life is not to be understood. I regret not understanding my brother. He lived life as the Frank Sinatra song written by Paul Anka, testifies, which was quoted by more than one guest at Evan’s funeral “he did it his way.”

The Regret In a Smile

When the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune surround and encompass the very air one breathes and life becomes suffocating, choking, questioning the logic of living, how does one commit to putting one foot in front of the other each day? The smile of Robin Williams had slowly begun its downward spiral and no one noticed. Or at least, I didn’t notice.

The massive tears rolling down the archetype clown’s cheeks were hidden by the persona created by the magic of his own making, concealing the obvious from the adoring ones who truly believed that one as magically majestic as he could have no real issues with living. The tears that welled up and spilled from kind and gentle eyes went unnoticed even as he made us laugh as we too laughed until we cried a different kind of tears. He is gone too soon, leaving behind an adoring public who ask the question – why? We ask; however, we will never understand the persona of the clown or why his love of prompting laughter from others may have been the very reason that would cause the shooting star of his essence to rise above the horizon exploding in multi colors, lighting the darkened cosmos, then fall back to earth in flaccid nothingness. The smile of Mork from the planet, Ork, hid the truth of his being and the reality of his existence. A smile can do that. Robin Williams, rest in peace, I will miss you and your smile.

If I were to choose a theme song for myself, my life, it would be “Smile.” I love that song. That one word makes the statement that I choose to live by. “The Little Tramp” himself, Charlie Chaplin, wrote it as the musical score for his 1936 silent film, “Modern Times.” In 1954, John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added the lyrics and title and Nat King Cole recorded the newly blended music with words. However, it was when Jermaine Jackson sang it at his brother, Michael’s, funeral that I really took notice. The words and music together form that perfect balance of musical magic that moved something inside me on that occasion. It’s such a lovely song, advising one to smile through it all:

“Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky,
You’ll get by…
If you smile with your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll find that life I still worthwhile,
If you just…

“Smile” is a blend of musical instrumentation and lyrics that took eighteen years to complete, forming a sad, yet uplifting composition that seemed to shape the persona of “The Little Tramp” and the melodic harmony of beauty, sorrow and regret seems an appropriate theme for my life.

“Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile what’s the use of crying
You will find that life is still worthwhile,
If you just…”

I drove to “The City” the other day (those who live in the Northern California Bay Area know that means San Francisco). I had a couple of job interviews spaced four hours apart. After the first interview, I drove around twenty minutes looking for a street space before finding a convenient open-air parking lot. As I sat in my 1999 car with the passenger side rear bashed in from a previous accident (another story) causing issues with opening the trunk. As I sat there, too early for the next interview, I bemoaned the fact that at my age, I still needed a job. I moaned not being able to open my trunk to place the coat that was not needed (really unusual for San Francisco), and finally I moaned about the money that I had spent on bridge fare, breakfast (mostly to waste some time) and the parking fee. The stall I selected faced a relatively busy San Francisco street, and as I stopped concentrating on myself and became aware of my surroundings, I observed life on this street in The City.

There were people of all shapes and colors, some seemingly happy, some perhaps not so happy. There was an older man sitting on a fire hydrant, leaning onto a grocery cart filled high with plastic bags, perhaps containing his life. He did not react or seem to be aware of his environment. The lids of his eyes remained in a shielding position, almost meeting the lower lids, perhaps defending his consciousness from that which he did not want to see. A younger looking, slender woman with a long, dark braid tossed nonchalantly over one shoulder walked seductively in black stiletto heels heading for some adventure or another as grateful men turned and smiled as she passed.

An elderly man wearing a blue plaid shirt, a blue baseball cap and jeans with no belt, busily worked with a tagged, years old mini van whose original color I could not discern. He patiently wrestled with a muddy orange-colored tarp as he surrounded the van with it, occasionally stopping to enter and exit the aged vehicle, at last coming out with a skillet with food that he held gingerly as he managed the tarp. At one point a dog appeared, and at another, a second elderly man; he fed both the dog and his friend, appearing happy to do so. His living conditions, I imagined, were tied to those images: two humans, an animal, a muddy tarp, a mini van and a skillet of food. What story rested inside that scenario? My imagination whirled in colors and scenes with stories of loss and possibilities of triumph as I judged my better circumstances. Or are they better?

What is happiness and contentment in this day and age? Who is the better off, that older man, his dog and his friend together in a beat-up van with a skillet? Or me, in a bashed rear in car, in need of employment, recently betrayed by a close friend, no dog and a skillet at my mortgaged home patiently waiting for me to come home and wash it?

As I sat and watched the two men interact with each other, I considered the importance of friendship and the devastation of betrayal. Betrayal causes a deep wound that punctures the heart. And everyone knows a wound to the heart can be fatal. As you grow older friends become even more important because as the years wane and the body weakens toward transitioning back to dusty nothingness, friends become the touchstone of living. Other than family, friends travel with you on the path that you have chosen. When the knife plunges into that soft unprotected area that only a friend would know how to get to, the pain and suffering caused can be overwhelming and mind numbing.

In Francis Ford Coppola’s movie “The Godfather” (based on Mario Puzo’s excellent book of the same name), when faced with an attack by the oncoming enemy, they “took to the mattress’ “ to protect themselves. When I suffered a friend’s betrayal, I took to the mattress too. I got in the bed and covered my head for days…asking why? There really is no overriding answer to why a friend would betray you. Brutus betrayed Caesar, Judas betrayed Jesus, Iago betrayed Othello, the list of infamous betrayals is long and varied and almost always ends in tragedy.

The tragedy and regret of the betrayal I felt was associated with the losing a portion of my life that required a major adjustment. The phone conversations, the companionship in hours of need and the misplaced feeling that person could be counted on, no longer applied.

“Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky,
You’ll get by…
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You will find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile…”

For the sake of giving honor to what was, I have revealed the details of the betrayal to only a trusted few; however, in my circle, some may have guessed, or know the details…I refuse to talk about it. There will remain an empty place in my heart, but forgiveness is important to one’s sanity and well-being. The trust is gone. Life moves on. I smile when I see her now.

“That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile what’s the use of crying
You will find that life is sill worthwhile
If you just smile”

Works Cited

Chaplin, Charles. “Modern Times.” Instrumental theme for movie, 1936.
Turner, John and Parsons, Geoffrey “Smile.” Lyrics and title, 1954.
Cole, Nat King “Smile.” Capital Records, 1954.