Category Archives: Holidays

A Requiem for my Father

Four years ago, I was reminded just how fragile life is when my father passed away a day after Christmas following a brief illness.  The preciousness of each day was highlighted for me  that holiday week.

Holidays often do not turn out how we  plan them.  Our lives often do not turn out how we  plan them.

This year I ended up in the hospital for emergency surgery right before Christmas, and it reminded me of the poignancy of my last holiday season with my father.  Soon after  I was back at home, I searched for the scrapbook I had made for him and found a piece of writing I had forgotten about.

The piece consisted of hastily written-down comments  my father had made and observations I had during that time four years ago.  It had been my attempt to capture and remember in writing the spirit of my father as he was leaving this world. . . .

At the end –

He was apologetic

– To me, to my daughter, to my sister (when he was confused and thought I was she)….  for hurting us in anyway.

He was quiet and reflective

     – Speaking  of his long forgotten friends from high school and remembering that a friend who was Jewish had a hard time socially in their 1940’s community.  He admired how his friend had handled it.

He was gently brave

-Trying a Healing Touch treatment offered by the hospital chaplain (My Dad was a 1940’s veteran, not a “new age” type of fellow), he commented afterwards “That was Wonderful!”  When the chaplain responded “You’re glowing”, he said “Really? I haven’t been glowing much these days.”

He was sarcastic

– Joking and laughing with the nurses, he liked that they appreciated his wry sense of humor.  Speaking of his sister, he said it annoyed him when she sat on his hospital bed without asking.  He observed… “She sits on my bed and holds court like Grace Kelly!”

He was peaceful and calm

-Listening to Christmas music we had brought, Ave Maria became his chosen favorite.  At one point he asked for us to turn off the music but to . . . “wait till Ave Maria is finished”

He was parental

– Asking my grown daughter when I was out of the room, “I think I know the answer to this question, but is she (meaning me) a good mother?”

My daughter replied “She’s wonderful”

My father replied “I thought so”

He was ethereal

– Lying so still and calm in his bed with his hands folded in prayer position, I often thought he was asleep when he was not.  If I would get up to leave the room at these times, he would suddenly open his eyes and say “Just sit with me…”      I think he wanted that peaceful protection of someone you trust watching guard while you rest.

He was illuminated

-Letting the burdens and hurts of this world pass from him, he reached out with the deep inner love that is within us all

Love you Dad!  Miss you!

Life is Fine,

Sarah

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New Year Message in a Bottle

There is a children’s song… “make new friends but keep the old, one is silver, but the other gold”  At the beginning of the New Year, I think of memories like that.  Cherished old memories are like gold, while shimmery silver new memories are just waiting to be made.

Memories, especially as I get older, make the holiday season more bittersweet, but I’m fine with that.   It shifts the focus of the holidays and the New Year to an appreciation for the people and positive events in my life, both past and present.   After this season’s reflection,  I’ve decided to write a New Year’s “message in a bottle” to one of my cherished  memories.

In the 1970’s, I was a live-in  au pair  to a well-heeled Manhattan  couple and their 10-year old daughter, Lauren.  I was twenty, attending a well-known secretarial school and taking singing and dancing classes on the side.   My goal was to finish secretarial school so that I would have a way of supporting myself while pursuing a career in acting.  Naively,  I thought I could take on the New York City challenge… “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere”.

I had lived close enough to the city to have visited frequently, but I arrived in New York young, sweet and relatively innocent.  Not only did I need to work on my acting skills, I needed to develop a tougher,  more street wise demeanor.

However, New York had different plans for me.  What I learned during my tenure as a nanny was that my softer side was my greater strength.

 To this day, I have fond memories of  afternoon walks to Carl Schurz Park with my charge, Lauren, and her dog,  Christy.  This was one of my favorite activities while living in Manhattan.

 

 I also fondly recall the many hours of laughter Lauren and I shared.  Discussions centered around her experiences of  5th grade drama and friendship politics and, of course, debates with her mother about fashion choices.  (no dresses please!)  I think I gave some pretty good advice, but as anyone who has worked with children knows, I also got some pretty good advice about my own life.

 After completing my au pair year and secretarial school,  I left Manhattan and my acting dreams behind.  I moved to another city with a slower pace that was a better match to my personality.  My goals and life focus had changed. Indeed, I had learned a lot  during my stay in NYC.

 I learned, like many  twenty-somethings, that if you don’t make it in NYC  you can still make it anywhere.  More  importantly, I learned the value of being true to who you  innately are …. perhaps, that’s the goal in this life.

Later in my twenties when I had my own daughter . . .  named  Lauren.  I hoped my own Lauren would the have  the same qualities of strength, inquisitiveness and caring as Lauren E., and, of course, she does.  Hope so often creates reality.

I lost touch with my au pair family several years after my employment ended.  But  I have carried hopes and dreams  for Lauren E. in my heart for over 30 years.  Many thoughts of good wishes have been sent to her through the years.  I hope they have added to an already happy life.   My young charge is now a grown woman.  In this age of social media it might be possible to reconnect, but I am not sure I wish to intrude.

So, instead,  I am sending this “message in a bottle”  to Lauren E . . . may it find its way to you wherever you may be in this New Year.  You,  like my own daughter, will stay in my thoughts and prayers forever.   I am an  unknown cheerleader in your life.  I send hope and good wishes that life is well with you!  Namaste!

                                                                       Life is fine,

                                                                          Sarah