Heroes Big and Small

Recently, I watched an episode of Glee (yes, I’m a big fan) where the song Heroes (David Bowie) was sung.  The whole episode was loosely based on the idea that some of the characters had started a club of super heroes.  It turns out they were not super, but heroes never the less.  While listening to the song, preformed by Blaine Anderson (Darren Criss) and Sam Evans (Chord Overstreet) I began to think of the many heroes I know and I realized, I can identify many.  I know of women who have lost children or husbands and yet kept their families together; others who battle cancer and keep a sense of wonder for this world.  Parents who watched a child slowly recover from a horrendous accident.  In my mind these people are all heroes.  But, specifically, I want to talk about an incident that happened recently.

I have a friend with a critically ill husband.  Doctors, even after 4 years, have not been able to determine why he can no longer walk, talk, and is continually dizzy.  He has gone from an over six-foot man who loved his boat, his sports car, work, friends and his family, to being confined to a wheel chair and his recliner, unable to participate in life.  My friend is her husband’s full time care giver.  In my mind she is a hero to him and her children.  Her life is difficult; she struggles to remain positive, to not lose patience, to not cry all day.  In turn, my friend has her hero, her mother.  My friend’s mother moved from her home to live with her daughter and provide support, help when she can and companionship.

As far as I can determine heroes come in all shapes and sizes.  Their accomplishments can be big, as in saving someone from a burning building.  These are the heroes we hear about and rightly so.  But, most heroes perform small tasks.  They provide hugs, a meal, an ear to listen, and a shoulder to cry on.  They may run errands or cut the grass because they notice it needs to be done.    I know how important these small gestures can be.  I relied on my heroes many times as I struggled through my journey with my mother and her slide into dementia.

Last night I was given the opportunity to become a super hero.  My friend’s beloved cat escaped from her house.  Scotch is a cat with a big personality and he provides his hero work of fun, silliness and fur therapy in a house missing most of these qualities.  My friend texted a note of panic about her cat’s disappearance.   I called her and heard the alarm in her voice and immediately my inner super hero could be heard saying,

“I’m on my way.  We’ll find him.”

I grabbed my daughter from her room and together we jumped into our super heroes’ car and sped out of the driveway.  But, before we could even make it past the neighborhood entrance my friend called again.

“Scotch is home.” She said with a catch in her voice.

“Do you still need me to come down?”

“No, I’m fine,… well actually can you come and have a glass of wine with me?”

And so, I took my daughter home, left my super human powers of cat recovery there and drove to my friend’s house.  We talked about Scotch and how bad he was that night for normally being such a good kitty.  How he had scared us.  She cried a little remembering how desperate she felt with the thought of losing the joy her cat brings her.  My friend and I shared our wine; she took big gulps of air  to calm herself, trying to regain the control she tenuously holds onto.  I was glad I got to be, if not her superhero, her small hero for a while.


Thanksgivings Past and Present

Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday with my family.  We love to cook.  Cooking, to me, is a release of my pent-up creativity.  I spend hours thinking of the menu and the recipes; combing cooking magazines and websites.  But, somehow, I always return to our traditional menu for the big holiday.

I would have to say my favorite time during Thanksgiving Day is being in the kitchen with my daughters.  Both of them have picked up my love for cooking and it is a common bond we share.  Some families discuss politics, some sports, my daughters and I talk recipes.   It brings me great pleasure to watch as they find a new recipe and tweak it to make it their own.  Cooking together is a tradition that goes back to my mother and me side by side in the kitchen.   One of my first memories is standing on a chair, stirring tomato soup, as my mother made grilled cheese sandwiches for the family.  It is no wonder that combination is still one of my favorite comfort foods.

My mother was an amazing cook.  Many times, when money was scarce she could still make an incredible pot of chicken noodle soup or my favorite, beef vegetable.  Her forte was fried chicken or round steak with heaping batches of mashed potatoes oozing butter.  Later in life, when I tried to duplicate her recipes for the chicken and steak, I realized she pretty much deep-fried them in butter.  No wonder they tasted so good.  It took me many years to modify her dishes to more healthy servings.  Still, from my mother I learned a love of creating in the kitchen.  The joy it brings to serve a nutritious, delicious, meal to family and friends.  The feeling of giving a part of yourself; a creation sent from the heart.

This is my first Thanksgiving without my mother’s physical presence here on earth.  I say it that way because my mother passed away last February of dementia.   However, for the last few years she was alive she did not truly participate in the rituals of the holiday.  The final time she came to my house for the big meal, she was anxious about not being in the routine of her assisted living home.  She did not enjoy the loud laughter of the many guests and family that mingled throughout the kitchen and family room.  She would not take her eyes off me because my face was the only one she recognized.  Just as we were carving the turkey and placing the food on the table, she demanded to be taken home.  No attempts at persuading her otherwise worked.  So we wrapped the turkey in foil, placed dishes back in the oven and my daughter and her cousin drove Mom home while the remainder of us waited with another glass of wine.  As my mother walked out the door, I felt in my being she would not spend another holiday with me in my home.  It was too much for her.

There is sadness in knowing she and my father are no longer with me.  Thanksgiving 2000 was the last time both my parents were at my house.  Dad passed away the following February.   In my mind I remember the holiday as being perfect and that is the way I like to leave it.  Mom watched as I bustled around the kitchen, Dad helped set the table and clean up.  The ritualistic routines Mom and I had established so many years before in my mother’s kitchen became mine.  That final holiday together Mom and Dad were content to pass on the family traditions to me and my budding family.  And so, I hope that with this Thanksgiving and many more to come I will be able to establish old and new traditions with my girls and create perfect memories.

Water and other essentials of life

My cat, Chattimec, loves his water filtered, with ice.  He sits outside the door of the room his dish is in and patiently waits until I notice him. When I do observe him, I coo and praise him while I refill his water dish.  Chatty enjoys the ice cubes and laps until his thirst is quenched.    Getting his fill of water is something my cat has been able to do all of his life.  Yes, Chattimec is a spoilt, suburban pet.
Lately, however, this ritual of ours has been making me think.  I live in upstate New York.  Just outside of the chaos left behind by the Super Storm Sandy.  I am mesmerized by the news, watching familiar and unfamiliar places float across my TV screen.  The destruction is unfathomable.  So it is, when I give my cat his chilled drink, my thoughts focus on those who are struggling to obtain water and other supplies essential to daily life.
On different social media sites I have read and I have seen on the news, the generosity of the citizens of these United States.  Those far away are sending what they can.  Others are volunteering their time and helping to clean up the mess.  Some, living in the midst of the catastrophe are organizing drives.  They are delivering food, clothing, medical supplies and water to their neighbors who were left with less than them.  Help, slow at times, is getting through to those who need it.
In our country many of us enjoy having our basic needs met every day, without question.   Our homes have running water, heat, and beds to sleep in.  Most of us have access to all and possibly more food than we could need.   When a disaster, such as Sandy, occurs, the generosity of my fellow countrymen always amazes me.  We see the suffering and respond.  We understand the lack of a home, clothing, food and water must be met with money, donations, and volunteers to rebuild, clothe and feed.  Americans don’t like the images flashed before them in pictures and on the news of some of their fellow countrymen and community hurting.  Thus, the response is always generous, beautiful and heartwarming.
I know that eventually, and it will seem like an eternity to those trapped inside the destruction of Sandy, order will return to that part of our country. We, as a nation have been through this before and so we know how to go about rebuilding.  Streets will be cleared, homes will be repaired, schools will be back in session and businesses will reopen.   Water once again will flow freely through pipes and into houses and apartment buildings.  Food will be found in groceries and on the shelves in people’s home.   The volunteers will return to their lives, the donations will stop.  The giving community of my fellow citizens will go back to the routines of their everyday lives.
This leads me to my next thought, as my mind wanders through these scenarios, and I set my cat’s dish down on the floor.    The reality of having water when it is needed or wanted makes me think about those who live in countries where water has never flown freely.  Where just having a drink of clean water is a novelty.  I think about those in the world who have never slept in a bed or even for that matter, had a home.  I am reminded, occasionally, with commercials of starving children of just how dire some situations are.  Consequently, for several years, I have put my money where my mouth is, and donated monthly through Childfund (www.Childfund.org) to a child in need in this country.
It would be a lesson well learned, if we Americans don’t forget the horror of the visions we see of the disaster known as Sandy; the scenes of fellow humans going without the basics of life.   I hope that we can take the generosity we display to our fellow countrymen and extend it to those in need elsewhere in our bigger community of the world.