The Grief of Babes

It was a beautiful, sunny day in July of 1999 when Maureen passed away. It had been only five days since her 31st birthday and like an abrupt ending of a movie, that was it. From the window, I saw birds hopping and sorting through life-sustaining valuables to bring back to their nest. They are full of life, I thought, but Maureen is dead.

Truth is felt – not understood.

I wondered what would become of her two children. They were still so small; Michelle was eight, Trevor was five. She doted on them with so much love, laughter and food – it seemed impossible to even offer them that now, without causing pain.

That evening, Michelle and Trevor’s dad sat them down on either side of him. He told them their mom would not be returning from the hospital – she was gone. Michelle buried her head in her father’s chest and Trevor ran off into another room. He returned with some paper and crayons and said, “Michelle! Here, draw your feelings – don’t cry, just draw! Here,” as he thrust the paper towards her.

In the days that followed, he hardly ever cried. He would often stand still in certain places of their house and look around, as if he could sense her haunting. His sister, on the other hand, would burst into sporadic tears over nothing. She became moody, irritable – even mean.

That was my first experience with children dealing with grief. At the time, I was a little surprised at their lack of sadness. I know now it was ignorant of me to expect them to mourn like adults and to think that grief was a one-size-fits-all emotion. I couldn’t discern the plethora of other emotions that children experience in trying to process the idea of death. What I saw then and only understood now were emotions like loneliness of the void their mother left, anger in the vulnerability they suddenly felt – anxiety and helplessness in the breakdown of routine, guilt because they were still egocentric, and the most heart breaking of all – yearning, as they scrutinized shadows for their mother – just to name a few.

It’s not that suddenly, I became this expert but recently, our family lost a really good friend. We had gone on Scouting events, celebrated Oktoberfest, and birthdays, and leftover Thanksgiving pies with Bourbon – it wasn’t supposed to end just yet. It forced me to recall the experience and do the research for the sake of my own children and their friend who is now facing a life without a loving dad. This may be their first rodeo but it certainly isn’t mine.

I’m not giving anybody ten steps to cope with grief, especially not children. You can keep your counseling to yourself and stick your meds up your ass – this was all part of the package from the very beginning. There is no right answer, just like there’s no wrong decision. The only true therapy is time and the hope that we have it.

There’s no right or wrong way of coping with loss. The best anyone can do is go on. Yes, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to not cry. Go ahead and laugh, go ahead and drink, eat an entire chocolate fudge cake if that’s what the moment calls for. Be a rock or be a hot mess – just be. Life goes on, however bleak it may seem.

As for Michelle and Trevor, they’re adults now. I wish I could say they turned out just fine, but I have no idea. They’ve cut ties and lost touch with everyone that had anything to do with their mother. Two years after she passed, their father remarried and that was the last we really saw of them. It seems their life was destined to be one abrupt ending after another.

For me, that’s the real loss and I’ll bet, that it’s just me. For them, it may have been the only way they could cope: to erase instead of cherish, replace instead of remember. Only sentimental fools get the luxury of being sentimental – she was not my mother after all. What do I know about the grief of babes.

If there’s anything to be said about human conditioning, it’s that strength and resilience can be cruel punchlines. We can’t say we want you to laugh but not laugh too loud. We try not to make life a joke but to get it. No adult quite believes that jokes are for kids, silly rabbit – but they can get it, too.

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Today’s Tom Sawyer: The Summer of Teen Jobbers

Nurse Jill told me that California patients get their infusion port in their arm instead of their chest, you know, because they have to look good in a bikini. I don’t know what level of narcissism (or is it unwavering optimism) one needs to be at to worry about looking good in a bikini after half a year of chemo, but for me, the line would be way the Hell over there. I’m not wearing any swimsuit, not even Hijab swimwear, which to me is a total kill-joy anyway, until I get this thing out of me.

That said, I had to look forward to one whole summer with two boys and probably some tag-alongs, and no plans to frolic in water. How does a mom stave off heat violence without an aquatic oasis? Well, the answer is – give ’em somethin’ to do.

Had we a picket fence, they could spend the hot summer days white-washing the damn thing, but alas, we’re city dwellers – we have a rusting iron gate, badly in need of a new paint job. And so they came to be, my son and his friend, today’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn – sans the river and Injun Joe.

Things were working out beautifully. It was a sweltering 90-something degrees, the work was tedious and grueling – any hotter and the situation may have constituted as slavery. Before they thought to call the labor department, I served them ice cold Arnold Palmers after an hour’s work because no slave driver would ever do that. Although the strip job was spotty and probably caused more damage than good, I commended their efforts and told them to get back to work.

That’s when my son’s friend asked, “If this is work, aren’t we supposed to get paid?”

To which my son replied, “We get paid in food – we eat lunch!”

As a matter of fact, I make lunch everyday – so that statement is out of context. You see, at the beginning of this summer, my son and I volunteered at the Cub Scout Queens day camp at St. John’s University. We enjoyed a tasty buffet lunch everyday, which I told him qualified as payment – who knew he took it so seriously?

Now in comparison, the cuisine’s pay level between the camp and this iron-fence-paint-stripping job is like the difference between working for Google and Nubble Bubble Tea and Internet cafe. Luckily for me, his friend had no idea what the spread was at camp, and instant macaroni and cheese just happened to be one of his favorites, so there were no pay-rate disputes. Then again, they didn’t quite finish stripping the fence, much less get to paint it -which only proves, you get what you pay for.

All in all, it was about five hours of work, which is well within the confines of child labor laws. Might I add, the task was more grueling for me because I had to listen to their constant complaining and their shitty music the entire time. If they kept it up, I’d have been forced to bring out my laptop and show them pictures of real child-labor abuse.

Actually, I bring it up every time they moan about going to school. I’d say, “A hundred years ago, you’d be working in some depressing factory, or shining shoes, or risking your life in a coal mine for maybe forty-eight cents a day instead of going to school to spin a mini-fan blade between your fingers for “stress-relief” and dodging the lunch lady shoving free mystery-food. Would you rather work? Huh?!”

If it were a Wednesday morning, they’d give up the complaint – but Fridays – they might be inclined to say, yeah – I’d rather work. I think they’re curious about Happy Hour, which they’ve noticed starts hopping at 3 pm – at least in Sunnyside.

Now, they can only dream that they’d ever be served at Happy Hour – but even sadder, it’s just as much a dream that they’d ever find summer work. If you thought jobs were limited when we were teens, you have to think, what idiot would hire these greenies?

When I was fifteen my summer job was delivering airline tickets, my best friend was working at a candy store and my neighbor’s son delivered papers. According to the labor review, newspaper routes have been on the decline since the 1990’s. You’d think it’s because more people are receiving the news digitally but no – we print the same amount of newspapers today.

So what’s left – babysitting? Millennials working for Millennials, is that even possible? It would take them all night just to work out the pay rate.

My ten-year-old (which is not considered a Millennial) already got a taste for making real money performing with the American Ballet Theater. After he got paid, he wanted to “invest” that money into creating a Youtube channel. He’s convinced tens of thousands, maybe even a million subscribers will watch him open boxes of Pop figures and Rick and Morty paraphernalia he orders on Amazon.

Now you know why we call him Consumer Boy.

I honestly believe consumerism ruins work ethic. Consumers don’t care about what they do, they care about what they get for it. But I do admire their focus. Yes, maybe they’re entrepreneurs; maybe they’re innovators – they’re what my mom calls “hungry.”

But will they work for Mac n’ Cheese?

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Window Shopping Merit Badge

“What kind of store is this?” They asked in unison, because all the sporting goods and camping gear is just so indiscernible.

It wasn’t even that hot of a day and the boys already wanted to go home after a 90 minute hike. They desperately needed air conditioning. They’re such dregs.

Exiting the High Line park into the Meat Packing District, I made the mistake of telling them we had about two avenue blocks before the nearest subway. They asked if we could “duck into someplace cool for the air conditioning.” Apparently, they’re snow cones.

God must’ve sympathized with my situation at hand and planted a Patagonia store right smack in our path.

“Let’s go in here.” I said “fake” cheerily.

“What kind of store is this?” They asked in unison, because all the sporting goods and camping gear is just so indiscernible.

That’s when he saw it – the ultimate sleeping bag.

Can all the Scouts say ooooh and aaaahhhh?

He immediately touched it – because that’s what boys do – see with their hands. He asked me if I’d buy it for him and I replied no fucking way. My instincts told me the price was somewhere along the lines of major home appliance or male-orphan-baby – they’re so hot right now!

Guess how much it is. The closest guess wins it as a giveaway!

Of course, I’m joking. I have nothing worth nearly as much, well, you can have our smelly cat, Oscar, and really – do whatever you want with him because he’s such a pussy or you can seriously, take a guess.

This picture is titled, “First Born Son or Sleeping Bag: Which costs more?”

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I Think I’m Turning Wolverine

Watching the news in the waiting room today, they ran no less than three stories on people cutting other people with broken beer bottles and machetes. Who the Hell drives around with a machete? That guy, apparently.

I feel like a medical test pin cushion. Blood tests, CAT scans, port-flush – a friend recently told me it’s called the “lab rat syndrome.” Whatever it is, it kills me now when the doctor says, “Good news! You’re fine – see you 3 months.” I realize I will be spending the rest of my life at some doctor’s office. It’s great, don’t get me wrong – enough with the bad news but after all that probing and prodding, drinking gallons of who-knows-what and being injected with dye or toxic metal – I should be able to grow knives out of my knuckles and get all Wolverine on everybody or something.

Watching the news in the waiting room today, they ran no less than three stories on people cutting other people with broken beer bottles and machetes. Who the Hell drives around with a machete? That guy, apparently.

It’s good to see I’m not the only one who wishes to be a hairy Freddy Krueger – makes it less disturbing. Maybe it’s just the media, because they like to string common interest stories together making life seem like some big Carl Jung synchronicity experiment. But ultimately, I blame New York’s mayor and governor. They have it all wrong – they have no idea what the people of this city want. While they’re laser lighting bridges and checking the homeless in to Holiday Inns, I’m passing by the Sunnyside village idiot pissing at the entrance to the pediatric center during office hours. I’m sure the parents in the large windowed waiting room – or the playground across the street – were truly delighted to see him exposing his shriveled penis to pee in public. And why not – it’s legal now!

What should we legalize next, driving around with a machete?

If anything, the bureaucratica feuds are amusing. Not entertaining – just amusing. They should just sleep together and get it over with. But then, that would jump the shark and we all know what happens once the sexual tension is gone – the show tanks. Moonlighting, The Office – Who’s The Boss. I might even add The Walking Dead. This Rick and Michonne thing is just not working for me. I mean, it’s okay but it’s no Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura.

We’ll see – or maybe we won’t because we’re considering canceling our cable. Finally. I mean talk about conspiracy. I looked up The Thing, The Fly with Jeff Goldblum, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers on On Demand and all the movies were $3.99. That’s like four bucks for movies noooobody wants to watch. Well, except me. For the life of Brian, I couldn’t tell you why I never collected those Sci-Fi movies on DVD but managed to have two copies of Blade Runner. But seriously, how am I supposed to raise my boys right without such classic flicks at our fingertips? How?!!

The best I could do was show them the movie trailers. It’s amazing how little they showed of the movie and yet, it piqued your interest. These days, they show all the good parts so by the time you’re watching the entire flick you’re bored because it’s just the filler. There are times when scenes from trailers aren’t even IN the movie and you feel gypped for some strange reason.

I remember the original Alien didn’t have any scenes from the movie in its trailer. Talk about messing with your psyche. The pace, the horror, the evolvement of the alien – it’s the kind of movie making that will never be repeated – try as they might. Alien capitalized on our curiosity, something we have no patience for anymore. When we want to know about something, it has 30 seconds to tell us or else we move on to the next piece of fluff. We don’t waste time figuring shit out – fuck your two-cents!

That might explain why we’ve become a “credit or debit” society. All the cashiers at C-Town ask the customer if they’re paying by credit or debit and I see all the old timers (including my husband) answer, “Plain old cash.” He toys with them by giving them cash denominations that requires advanced math skills and takes delight in their amazement. He’ll tell the cashier to just punch it in – I should get forty dollars even. She does and her jaw drops. Little thrills – that’s what he lives for.

And I get to live to see it – between sticks and needles.

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The Jolly Shawarma

It’s a chicken and Shawarma platter over rice. They ask if you want it spicy and my husband’s typical response was, “kill me.” S0, he tried to finish it and failed miserably.

The Omar.

It’s a chicken and Shawarma platter over rice. They ask if you want it spicy and my husband’s typical response was, “kill me.” S0, he tried to finish it and failed miserably. He assumes it was the spices – and to his credit, it was spicy enough to attract an empty cab from miles away – but I think he’s just getting too old to eat like that anymore.

It was the kind of meal you need to follow with a three-hour nap, which he did. Even then, he was useless. Because he’s an April born Taurus, he’s headstrong as well as super stubborn and admitted defeat only after diagnosing himself with a failing liver. The conversation went, well…maybe I should get a check up. I agreed, and then he said, nah, I won’t because I’m afraid they might tell me I have Sclerosis of the liver.

And with that, he went to bed.

I don’t know much about Astrology, but every Taurean I’ve worked with always knew when to call it day. When the whistle blew, they had no qualms about punching out no matter how much of the workload was left – but his excuse right there, was probably the best line in the history of clocking out that I’ve ever heard. Don’t bother with a remedy – just say the worst possible scenario and go to bed. I should try that the next time I stay up late crunching numbers for the P.T.A. and say, “I should finish the Treasury report but I’m afraid of finding an inexplicable electronic payment to Lips and Zippers, so I’m going to bed.”

My husband decided that he’s too young to have Sclerosis of the liver, but I pointed out the friends he’s lost – and almost lost – recently to illnesses that were uncommonly premature. He appeared to be contemplating but it turned out, he was considering having a night cap. Should I mention the pirate-like attitude to his overall health? Plenty of rum, poor dental hygiene, and a penchant for crass tunes?

I think he hates it when I compare him to pirates. I’m like that when people bring up Yoko Ono. Is she the only famous Japanese woman on Earth? Well, yeah – apparently. You’d think there would be at least one other widely known Asian sister – apart from Lucy Liu. But no.

We have Lucy Liu and pirates. And the “idea” of an ailing liver.

For all my banter, I know he’s going to wind up like Mr. T, an old family friend who’s been smoking and drinking Budweiser since the dawn of his time. Mr. T stopped contributing to his retirement fund because he assumes he’ll be dead before he had a chance to retire and to be honest, we all kind of see the logic in that. I mean, nobody can pump that much poison in his body and come out alive unless that person was actually a vampire, right? I guess it only proves that vampires can come in all shapes and forms and the best way to weed them out is to ask if they contribute to their “retirement” account.

I’m sure Mr. T appreciates my comparing him to a vampire as much as my husband appreciates being compared to pirates. Fortunately for me, they don’t read either. And really, if anyone needs to put things down in writing, it’s my husband – he forgets every word he’s said as soon as he says them. Hey, maybe that’s why pirates have parrots…who knew?

In any case, he does intend to conquer the Omar someday, and I have no problem with that. King of Falafel made the best Falafel sandwich I’ve ever had. Ever. Soft, fluffy pita, falafel balls so ginormous, they were like eggs! The restaurant is located in Astoria, Broadway and 31st Street with an awning that says, “Yeahhhh Baby!” Who can argue with that?

Yo, ho, ho.

 

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Spring Cleaning with Sissy Spacek

My son and my husband, the geniuses that they are, decided to dump 20 live crickets in the tank and watch the lizard get all Godzilla-like. Eventually, she pooped in the tank…

This happens every April, I feel like Sissy Spacek in Carrie. All she had to say was, “I’m not leaving until I have a good time,” but then she killed everybody, so she kind of had to leave. Oh yeah, Spoiler Alert – too late – I suck, especially because that’s not even the part that I relate to. It’s the part where she’s mildly on the verge of a nervous breakdown and shuts all the doors and turns the fire hoses on full blast.

Then she was thinking, “What do mean you’re not helping with clean up?” Now that’s my idea of getting people to step up. If I dressed up in a bloody gown, looked all crazy-eyed and hosed down the slackers, I bet my boys would put their dirty laundry in the hamper every – fucking – day.

Speaking of hoses, I’m doing some internal Spring cleaning as well, in the form of a juice detox. I know, sounds awful, right? It starts with The Last Infusion, and if this is a Jesus reference, then my husband is Mary Magdalene, as in he’s doing the detox with me. He’ll probably crucify me before it’s over because he can’t drink alcohol, or eat fun food and we start on his birthday of all days. That’s the kind of woman he married: prove your love by cleaning that liver!

I contemplated posting until after the treatment because anything can happen in the next 72 hours to steal that thunder: stepping in dog diarrhea, being flattened by a falling crane, waiting for an overzealous Jehovah’s Witness to go away or worst of all, epic fail. But I pictured the Sissy Spacek asking me, “What are you waiting for,” and stopped procrastinating.

Lately, the possibility of failure is a dread worse than being the target of a feces-flinging monkey. Of course, people encourage me to think positive, but I reason that somebody has to fail just like somebody has to be a “flying poo” victim. It’s just the law of chance, or Murphy’s monkey, or my incessant volunteering – whatever. Like most bloggers, if shit happens – there’s something to write about. I’m not Tom Petty, but even the losers get lucky sometimes.

Regardless of the outcome, whether it’s the treatment, the detox, or even new Alien movie, I’ve decided I’m going to roast in the sun this summer. I don’t care if I get as dark as Wesley Snipes – I’m going to take Blade’s advice and “Say No to sunblock” because I hate shellacking myself with that funky stuff. I plan on toting the free umbrella some jewelry store gave me, even though it makes me look like Chinese Mary Poppins. Perhaps you deem that statement as racist because I’m not Chinese but excuse you, the umbrella is.

Ever since I read about heat therapy for cancer, I’ve been wanting to roast myself like a turkey. Then my son had a pet-sitting gig with a Bearded Dragon and when I saw her in her tank, baking under the lamps, I just wanted to shrink myself and join that crazy looking lizard on her hot rock. My son and my husband, the geniuses that they are, decided to dump 20 live crickets in the tank and watch the lizard get all Godzilla-like. Eventually, she pooped in the tank because that’s what happens when your buffet bounces around while you eat it.

Who’s gonna clean that up?

Bearded Sissy Spacek.

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A Pain in the Journal

My tongue hurts. When I stretch it out as far as it will go, that little connecting part on the bottom hurts like John Cena’s mom. I assume it’s blood poisoning because the only other time it hurt this much was when I was partying like it was 1999. It was bourbon, not tequimo – and it was 2015. Who’d thought George Orwell, David Bowie and Prince would be so off?

I wondered if I should tell my doctor. It was his idea that I keep a journal to record every pain, mutation, and morphing that occurs. At my check up, I was prepared to say, “my tongue kills me when I do this”, while I stuck my tongue out, but my youngest son has taken to talking like that normally and it annoys the shit out of me. It’s no surprise he got it off an “Annoying Orange” Youtube video because that’s what he does – watch highly irritable shenanigans and copies them until you’re ready to strangle fruit.

Thank goodness I have the juicer to take out my aggression on produce in a pro-active manner.

So instead, I mentioned to the doctor that my fingertips were going bald. Added to my depleting hair, eczema is one of those “expected” side effects. Not only is it painful, but my stupid iPhone won’t recognize my thumb’s touch ID anymore. I get a text and wind up cursing my phone out when all I have to do is punch in the four numbers that escaped my memory when I’m feeling like the Hulk.

The doc tells me to use cream – not lotion, for my eczema. For some reason, I am baffled by his recommendation. It’s because I assumed that cream comes in a tub – like cold cream – the stuff every child has tasted at one point because it looks – so – edible. I’m thinking, where the heck does one find hand cream?! Then I discovered that hand cream comes in regular tube dispensers and apparently, I already had some.

I know – where have I been, right?

Obviously, I don’t read the labels thoroughly. Although lately, I couldn’t even if I tried because that’s another casualty: vision. You’d think with the gallons of carrot juice I’ve been consuming, my vision would improve. BUT NOooooo. Blurred vision is yet another side effect and I’m not Nell Carter or anything but GIMME A BREAK. Like, why can’t I be riding the subway with my chemo-fanny pack and lo’ and behold, Keanu Reeves gets up and offers me his seat? Why can’t that kind of thing happen? Because in reality, nobody gives a seat to a person with a fanny pack – not even Keanu. It’s just unfathomable. Fanny packs are so….80’s.

Speaking of 80’s, I’ve been contemplating wearing a beret for the spring. Yes – a beret. And MC Hammer pants. With an Annie Lenox pixie cut. Of course, back in the day, a pixie cut meant “possible lesbian” and that’s where the pants come in to say, “definite crazy-ass.” Actually, I wouldn’t even know where to find MC Hammer pants, much less know what tops even go with them. Come to think of it, I remember thinking they looked like giant sagging diapers if you weren’t dancing like an Egyptian in them…yeah, I’ll just stick with the beret idea.

And this is probably why the doctor hasn’t asked to actually see this “Journal of Pain” even though he was adamant about me keeping one. Who can blame him – we’re all guilty of that at some point in our life: suggesting people do this or that and feeling dumbfounded that the person was clueless-er than you to take your advice seriously. It makes you realize that there are bigger losers than yourself out there and that makes you feel happy and guilty for feeling happy at the same time…but at least that means there’s a little room to abuse some sort of substance – y’know, just to even the playing ground.

In all honesty, writing a chronicle about pain was rather a relief. Perhaps that’s what the good doctor intended. Because if I ever forget how scary it was to be unable to fart, then surviving that scare becomes meaningless and the possibility of it happening again becomes inevitable. Pain is a formidable teacher. And that’s really hard to say with your tongue sticking out between your teeth.

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Infusion Number Eight

It’s looking like Chemo is yet another thing that drains brains. With the brain cells I have left, I don’t recall if the doctor ever said it would be a side effect, but lately, I’ve been doing some pretty fucked up shit. For instance, I could not calculate 73 cents to save my life. I poured the change into my hand, fished out two quarters, two dimes, and just stared at the nickels and pennies – stumped. I gave up and held out the lot to the cashier and asked her to do the math. She got kind of pissed her off – probably didn’t have a clue herself.

It reminded me of this time when I was about ten, a kid named Frankie Lupo asked aloud, “I have a quarter and I have a dime, how much more do I need to make fifty cents?” Now, if Frankie was six or seven, I’d kind of understand, but he was thirteen. What was even sadder, nobody from his group of morons could answer him correctly. By the way, that’s his real name – I should Google him but I won’t – watch he turned out to be Greenspan’s number cruncher or something.

So you see what I mean about the toxicity affecting my thoughts. I can’t even stay on one subject for a single paragraph.

Originally, this post was supposed to happen at the halfway point of therapy. That would’ve been infusion number six. Yes, two cycles ago. Truthfully, it kicked my ass. The seventh was even worse. I couldn’t write about it without being super stabby, so I took it out on my husband instead. And the kitchen cabinet door, which I broke off and made him fix because it was either cabinet doors or his head that I was ready to rip off.

There are three probable causes to this brain-drain-psychosis-mode: the Chemotherapy, the medication that’s supposed to quell this maddening nausea and/or/most likely it’s my Miami Uterus. I think of it like a timeshare that’s only been rented twice and losing its market value. I can’t seem to fire the maid and tell her to stop changing the wallpaper every month, so she just – keeps – doing – it. And she’s been terribly erratic about it, like showing up two weeks late then showing up on time, sometimes doing a light job, sometimes doing a full out Spring cleaning. What kills me is, the doc said that my Miami Uterus should be shutting down during therapy, but obviously, nobody gave Uterus Maid the memo. Clearly, she hates me.

At infusion number eight, I must be in the category of Swamp Thing. Every once in a while, I detect a whiff of something strange and realize it’s me. I read about a guy who detoxed after chemo and his wife complained that he smelled like a corpse! Seriously, I have to try that. Anything that promises drawing gross stuff out of my body in the grossest way is just the cat’s meow. It’s like The Exorcist, for crying out loud – who could resist?

Yes, I did write “the cat’s meow” – because that’s how toxic monsters think. Small animals, Uterus Maids and ripping husband’s head off (I’m sorry, honey). Maybe I should consider trying that “medical” marijuana, huh.

For the record, I am adopting every natural cancer fighting regimen anyone bothers to tell me about. Chomping on apricot kernels, terrorizing fresh beets and carrots through a juicer mafia-style, popping vitamins as if they were prescribed by Michael Jackson’s doctor. But I know the real cure lies in the support I’m getting. Without the crazy bunch of friends and family telling me to get my ass in gear, I can honestly say I can take the next four infusions.

And turn into The Fly.

The Fly (1986)

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Beer and Bakery DNA

Nothing sparked my dad’s interest more than a drinking handicap. If you told him you don’t – or couldn’t – drink alcohol, he’d render that a challenge. It would become his mission to transform every Shirley Temple sipping virgin into an emblazoned dipsomaniac with the perfect elixir. Well, everyone excluding the Muslim busboy who came to propose to my sister wielding a 6 pack of Budweiser like it was a bomb.

The busboy, whose name might’ve been Mohamed but we’ll call him Barry, staged his proposal thusly: he took the day off of work because he never had a day off (never), came over to our house when he knew my dad would be home, then he pulled the six pack of beer out of the brown paper bag he had clutched in his hand and threatened, “If you don’t let me marry your daughter, I will drink this!”

My dad looked a little stung. He coolly asked,”By yourself?”

I stared at my sister for being such a loser magnet. Who the fuck uses a six pack as a dowry and threatens not to share? I hardly knew Mohamed-Barry but all I could think was how sorry I felt for the little bugger. He was either clueless to the point of absolution or just another idiot stuck on my sister, but he was not going to leave a happy man, that was for sure.

My dad assessed the situation and spoke to me and my sister through pursed lips in Japanese, “He’ll condemn himself to Hell if he drinks that beer, right?”

“Yeah, or he might just puke,” I said.

I was going to suggest that if Mohamed-Barry was willing to go to Hell for drinking a Budweiser, he might as well have a bacon-cheese-hamburger to go with it and make it Armageddon. But of course, we had no hamburger meat. Or bacon. Plus, my sister seemed to be enjoying the sacrifices this boob was willing to lay out for her and I didn’t want to be an accomplice to Satan. Or France, or whatever the Muslim adversary is.

Just when I was wondering whether my dad’s intention was to get Mohamed-Barry to leave my sister alone or to get him to leave the beer and get out, the busboy broke down in tears. My dad put up a hand of solace and said, “Okay – let’s talk about the beer.”

After a brief lecture, my dad said something along the lines of love and an ice cold beer having this in common: it’s enjoyable when you earn it. Then he shoved him out the door with the same three words he always gave me: do more research.

My dad was a hero for a day. He spared the beer from consumption by an amateur and my sister was free of another fanatic. She eventually married a moron anyway, but one who could drink without condemning us all to Hell.

My dad’s Happy Hours came to an end after he suffered a stroke. It was sad seeing him sit in front of the TV with a banana instead of his edamame and beer. When reality set in, he took to sweets to take the edge off. According to him, cake and booze DNA were one and the same – if you could eat an eclair, you could down a White Russian. That sounds good to me, especially now that I have to be dry.

Currently, my happy hour consists of a cinnamon roll from Nita’s European Bakery. I have to say, it’s the shit, yo! They usually sell out by 8:30 am, so if I manage to get one, I will literally rip the hands off the person who tries to infringe upon it. Sometimes, very rarely, I’ll share it with my boys, and unlike Mohamed-Barry, they do not have to enslave themselves to me for some. Well, technically they’re already enslaved to me, so I just make them promise not to fart at the table during the sacred cinnamon roll break. Otherwise, it’s a regular toot-and-chew.

With chemo, there are very few things that remain palatable – everything tastes like you’re sucking on a metal spoon. Yet, the cinnamon roll stays true – that’s love right there. I start singing Neil Young’s Cinnamon Girl and replace girl with roll, “I wanna live with the cinnamon roll…” If I were in middle school, the kids would tease me with, “if you love it so much, why don’t you marry it?” – which I would seriously consider, but then what would my husband do?

He’d probably search for beer-bomb-wielding-Mohamed-Barry.

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A Serene Place to Scarf Christmas Cookies

The new Path train terminal at the World Trade Center has yet to have its own Antennae Man, but really, who cares? It’s trains to New Jersey. Still, I was curious to see if it had the same serenity as Grand Central.

It’s 2017 and this is what I discovered: that my sons have a Nerf gun arsenal that makes Sarah Connor look like Hillary Clinton.

By the way, I’m convinced that Hillary Clinton is a robot. She’s gone rogue with a lust for power, but she lost the election – so the victory fireworks that would have inevitably melted her face, a la Raiders of the Lost Arc style has yet to happen. But it will. Just think about it. I’m not far off here.

But enough about Westworld meets politics. It gives me great pleasure to announce that the theme for 2017 is – space. Not Star Trek space but Place Space. As in, “this is my happy place, get the fuck out.”

On New Year’s day, I took the boys to the new World Trade Center to visit The Oculus. Among the many reasons I could’ve come up with for going on this adventure, the main reason was we needed to get out of the house. The subways were running uncharacteristically on schedule and that was a good sign as any. Plus, we had to work off the three tins of Christmas cookies we ate over the holidays.

In a nutshell, I had discovered long ago that Grand Central Terminal was my Happy Place. It’s where you would find me if I needed to think and recharge – like after my quarterly getting-fired from the family business, or a dateless Friday night, or trying to remember where I left the keys to my apartment – you would find me there, people watching.

All those people arriving from somewhere, going somewhere, meeting other people they haven’t seen in months – it’s a buzz that can be best described as serenity.

Plus, there’s Antennae Man. He’s this old black dude, dressed in 80’s punk rock black leather with a Kilt and a tin foil hat shaped like an….antennae. He’s awesome.

The new Path train terminal at the World Trade Center has yet to have its own Antennae Man, but really, who cares? It’s trains to New Jersey. Still, I was curious to see if it had the same serenity as Grand Central.

It didn’t.

To be honest, it’s just a huge mall. Inside a whale carcass. About the only interesting feature is the “Eataly” food market on the top floor. Food so insanely good looking and just as insanely priced, it’s pure toture walking the boys through it on an empty stomach (for the record, boys are like dogs – they’re perpetually hungry).

There’s also no place to sit except for the window sills by H&M. That’s where we parked our butts and scarfed down the Christmas cookies I brought from home because I’m low-budget like that. We watched a new mom and dad fussing with an extremely fat baby who was having a fit being Baby-Bjorned to his mother. She was probably about 90 lbs and the baby was at least 15 lbs with an additional three pounds of clothing and from the looks of it, they should’ve just stuck his fat ass into the all-terrain stroller they blocked the aisle with. But no, the $1,200 stroller was for the mountains of shopping bags – and mommy would carry Baby Anvil home and break her back.

So the moral of the story is, serenity is lost because people are clueless.

 

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