Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Funeral for a Friend

I'm about to take a departure from the usual laugh out loud columns that I try to write every week. You see, unfortunately, my family and I have had quite the roller coaster week. It started with our beloved cat Oliver, who has been sick for quite some time now and we thought last Tuesday that his number had finally come up. And so, after breaking the news to our kids, Darin took the ailing feline to the vet who told him that he could still hang on for a few more weeks. When my daughter came home from school later that day, she was thrilled to see that Oliver hadn't left us yet and she lavished him with attention and kisses. As we all got ready for bed that night, the phone rang. Darin answered and right away from his voice and the look on his face, I knew something was up. "Beth, it's your mom. Something happened with your dad." At this point, in sheer panic, I grabbed the phone and found out that my dad, an athletic guy of 66 whose favorite past time is tennis, golf, acting and nudging my mom, had suffered a heart attack earlier in the day. My mom tried to hide the fear in her voice as she assured me that everything was okay and that I didn't have to come down to Florida. I instantly told my mom that I was planning to see my dad for myself and raced down to my computer to book us on the next flight out. I spent the night crying hysterically because I didn't have the chance to speak with my dad (visiting hours were over for the night) and couldn't sleep until I spoke with him the next morning. While dad sounded okay, you could tell he was a bit nervous - he had already had one procedure the day before but had to go in for another one the next day so he still wasn't out of the woods. I told him we'd be there that afternoon and I could tell he was getting all teary-eyed on the other end right after I told him I loved him. With our two kids in tow - who were both under the impression that Grandpa had broken his leg or had an accident on the tennis court, we hopped on our flight, made it to Florida - and went straight to the hospital with my mom - who hugged me tight and whispered "I'm glad you're here" the moment we arrived. When we got to the hospital, dad was his usual jovial self - cracking jokes, making small talk, showing the kids how to use the remote on the TV - he seemed just fine - except for the tubes coming out of his arms and the mint green hospital gown. The next day, my mom and I returned to the hospital to find that dad had already been brought to the CATH lab for what we thought was going to be another procedure to place a stent in his artery - instead he wound up with an angioplasty. While in the waiting room, we had the most surreal encounter. A little back story to clarify why we think we had a visit from the spirit world. You see, the year before I was born my grandfather, Benjamin Goldman, suffered a heart attack. When he was admitted to the hospital, my grandmother and my mom were told that he would be okay and that they wanted to keep him overnight for observation. That night, my grandfather had another massive coronary and died in his sleep. My mom, had this experience weighing on her thoughts throughout this entire experience and I knew that as strong as my dad is, there was always a chance that something could go wrong - and mom felt the same way too. But then the waiting room incident happened. As we sat down in our seats, I looked across the room at a woman whose name tag said Lenore Goldman. Okay - so why is that eery, you ask? Well, my mom's name is Lenore. And her maiden name, if you're following the story from before, is Goldman. For the very first time in her life, my mom came face to face with a woman who shared her name - on the same day her husband was to go in for a heart procedure. Even stranger - now this one my husband says is a stretch - but Lenore Goldman's husband's name was Bernie. My grandfather - Bennie. So my interpretation of this experience was that my grandma Dora and my grandpa Benjamin wanted to give my mom a sign that they were there with her too and that everything would be okay. They wheeled my dad out of surgery about a half hour later and when we finally got to see him, he was a bit woozy from the medication and kept repeating himself a few times. But that was quite alright. My dad was okay and I was eternally grateful. We spent the afternoon with dad, sharing funny stories - the crazy encounter in the waiting room and just relishing the fact that he had survived and everything would go back to normal again. Dad received phone calls and visitors all day and you could tell that he too was relieved that he was on the mend. While he did have to spend one more day in the hospital (his blood pressure dropped in the middle of the night and he had had an arrythmia) he did get to go home on Saturday and was greeted with Welcome Home signs created by his grandchildren. Although he still felt a bit winded doing the smallest activity - like picking up the morning paper from outside, dad was almost back to his old self. He even broke out into song - practicing one of the numbers he'd be performing in March with the Palm Isle Players. As quickly as we jetted into be with Dad, we hastily made our plans to return so that we could be with Darin's family for Christmas. We flew back on Sunday and saw that our cat Oliver was still alive (barely) and we all stood around him to pet him. Actually, I grabbed all the sheets off the couch and the wing chair because he had soiled everything around him, but he was still around, so the kids were happy. On Christmas Day, we visited Darin's cousins for their annual get together and when we returned home, we arrived to find that Oliver had passed away. Rebecca was devastated - although she did ask if we could get another pet quickly after our beloved cat expired. Since we didn't have to bring him to the vet to be put to sleep we now had to figure out funeral arrangements. Rebecca wanted us to bury him in a pet cemetary and we quickly convinced her that we'd find a shady spot in the backyard and that would be Oliver's final resting place. And so, on December 26, the Feldman family had a funeral for a friend. Oliver Feldman, who passed away on Christmas Day along with James Brown I might add, was swaddled in a baby towel and buried in our backyard. Darin said a few words of wisdom, Dylan said his goodbyes, I blew a kiss and Rebecca told him that she loved him. And Rudy, the cat who had just lost his brother to cancer, watched high above from our window and scurried out of sight when we all came back inside.
And that was my week and what I've come to think is a major lesson on life. Never take anyone for granted - tell your family members that you love them - even when they're driving you nuts. Life is too short - and when you lose a pet, involve everyone in the process - I really didn't know how to teach my kids about dying but they experienced it this weekend, shed some tears and then we went to go see "Charlotte's Web." Quite simply, life does in fact go on. Now for the funnier side of our adventure in Boynton Beach, check out the Undercover Mom.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Fish

I have officially become my mother. I don't mean that in a derogatory way at all because I think my mom is amazing, but when it comes to purchasing household pets, I finally see why she never wanted us to have anything more than a parakeet and a fish. You see, I am the owner of two cats - one that's pretty healthy and the other that is pretty sick these days and leaves a surprise for me every morning when I open the door to our laundry room and he's spewed the contents of his tender vittles all over the linoleum floor. I know - not a pretty picture but if you're contemplating getting an animal - just make sure you don't have an affinity for fancy furniture or expensive rugs because once you welcome a furry creature with four legs into your home, then you have officially decided that you don't really care about leather sectional couches or karastan carpets.
Since the time I was a toddler, I always wanted a dog - but my parents stood firm and never acquiesed - and we didn't even have nice furniture - I just think my mom never wanted to deal with the added responsibility. She already had me, my brother and my dad to deal with, who needed to add a shitzu with a pooping problem to the mix? And so, we grew up with goldfish, the occasional tropical fish when they didn't croak the first week or jump out of the tank (a pregnant fish did that to us once) and Tweety, our beloved parakeet who my grandmother pretty much cared for until he bit the dust on my 13th birthday.
Which leads me to the events that transpired last evening with my daughter. We were about to go to dinner when she noticed a tropical fish store that she wanted to visit. A harmless excursion - or so I thought. You see, when we walked inside, we saw a treasure trove of fish, frogs, eels, coral, and expensive fish tanks that made my daughter's eyes light up. You would have thought she had just hit the jackpot or something - because the instant we started walking past the fish tanks, all she could keep saying was, "I want a fish. I want a fish!" And all I kept thinking was "I don't want to have to clean the tank. I don't want to have to clean the tank." Have you ever cleaned a fish tank before? Well it's pretty gross...not as gross as wiping up the latest present my cat Oliver left for me at 7am this morning, but the gross factor is still there.
As my daughter's excitement about the fish continued to mount, I quickly thought of reasons why we couldn't become fish owners. "We're about to go into a restaurant, Rebecca. We can't get a fish tonight."
"But I want one! I'll take care of it!" she begged.
"Oh really. Who takes care of the cats?"
"Ummm. You."
"That's right - I feed them and clean up after them and trust me, that's what'll happen with a fish."
My daughter saw where the conversation was going and decided to make a deal with me.
"If I promise to feed the cats for four months, will you buy me a fish?"
Seems like a fair deal - so we shook on it and she even started thinking of names she'd call her fish.
"I think I'll call that bug eyed one Goldy."
Fast forward to this morning and guess who got to clean up the mess and feed the cats?
Yup, me. Looks like it's going to be a long time before Goldy gets to pack his things and move into our place.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Princess and the Band Aid

If there ever was a sitcom called "The Princess and the Pea," my daughter would have the lead role. Today, she starred in an episode I'd like to call "The Princess and the Band Aid." You see, my determined, yet sensitive seven-year-old always has a comment about the clothes I select for her, the food I prepare for her, and even the band aid that I handed her this morning after she complained that her finger was causing her tremendous pain. It's enough to drive you to the point of insanity. And this morning, took the cake. After picking out clothes that she actually didn't fight with me to wear, she began complaining that her finger was hurting as she threw in that she didn't want to go to Hebrew School because she was in so much pain. I pretty much ignored her whining, handed her a few band aids, threw on her coat, shuffled her and my son into the car and we were on our way to our morning ritual destination...Dunkin Donuts. Somehow, while purchasing the usual, Nesquik and a donut with chocolate frosting, there were no complaints about ailments so I figured we were in the clear. I got the kids back into the car, and raced off to Hebrew school when the whining began to rear its ugly head yet again. "My finger, it hurts so much!" my daughter wailed. "Let me see what it looks like," I replied. "NOOOOO!!!! DON'T TOUCH IT, IT HURTS!" she screamed. At this point, I know all the other parents were staring at me as I shouted back at her to stop whining and let me have a careful examination. "Let me see your finger!" As she continued to scream, I yanked the bandage off and noticed she had put the band aid on so tight that she was cutting off the circulation. At this point, amidst tears, more pleas to not have to go to Hebrew school and a mangled band aid, I inspected the finger and it was a little red, but there was no sign of infection, so I insisted she head to her classroom. As I paraded her through a crowd of parents and kids, with tears streaming down her face, she approached her room and thankfully, a nice teaching assistant came out and like Florence Nightingale, went for her Sarah Heartburn routine, hook, line and sinker. As I walked behind the two of them, I watched as my daughter was escorted to the nurses' office for some ice to soothe a finger that had been suffocated by a band-aid. And thus ends today's saga of the "Princess and the Band Aid." Tomorrow's installment...the Princess and the Winter Coat...

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