Sunday, September 18, 2011

I Digress......

I was just thinking about my friend, Debbie, who passed away about seventeen years ago due to a drug overdose.  She and I were extremely close for many years and were, as they say, attached at the hip.  We looked and acted so much alike people often thought we were sisters.  And, indeed, our families and a small, close knit group of friends celebrated holidays, birthdays and other special occasions together, usually at the house she shared with her boyfriend and eventual husband, Dave.  Deb and Dave were the core of our rather unconventional "family" and we all affectionately called them Maw and Paw, though we were all about the same age.

As is often the case, we grew apart as one by one the members of our group drifted away,  moving to different parts of the state and/or the country.  Though we were spread out all over, Dave always seemed to keep track of everyone.  We rarely saw each other, but did still manage to get together once in a while.  Then, after 20 plus years together, Dave and Deb split up and there was no contact for a long while. 

My daughters kept in touch with Dave's daughter and it was through her that we found out that Debbie had fallen on hard times and was heavy into drugs.  Dave tried his hardest to help her out both financially and emotionally, even after they were divorced but even he had to give up eventually.  I heard from Debbie a couple of times after that and even saw her once.  I wired her money a few times when she called to say she hadn't eaten in a while, but deep down I knew it was going in her arm.  The last time I spoke to Debbie on the phone, I begged her to come out and stay with me until she could get back on her feet but, though she said she would think about, I knew it wouldn't happen. Then I got some really great news when her stepdaughter told me that Debbie had entered rehab.  I was ecstatic and sent her a birthday card with a little cash in it so she could get cigarettes while she was there.  After she got out of rehab, she seemed to be doing well and was living rent free in an apartment owned by her ex-husband.  I was so certain Deb was on her way back to that vibrant woman I knew and loved!

That was just a few months before I moved from California to Michigan.  About a year and a half later, I found out that Debbie's neighbors and friends had found her in her apartment, dead of an apparent overdose.  I was devastated and, as I was inclined to do when I was sad, I wrote a poem about her.  Following is my tribute to this beautiful, loving, giving woman who had played such an important role in my life.


L.A. woman, New York born and raised,
You lived your life so hard and fast but there was a price to pay.
L.A. woman, the bill came due too soon.
You were shooting for the stars, but you fell behind the moon.

So tall and proud, you drew a crowd
No matter where you were.
Quick to smile, you had such style
You always caused a stir.

They never knew what we might do
When we went out to play.
The two of us would cause a fuss
Then laugh and walk away.

Through thick and thin you were my twin,
You shared my joy and pain.
I watched your back against attack,
You sheltered me from rain.

But in the end, though we were friends,
Still I couldn't help.
I wasn't there to hear your prayer
Or save you from yourself.

L.A. woman, New York born and raised,
You lived your life so hard and fast, but there was a price to pay
L.A. woman, the bill came due too soon.
You were shooting for the stars, but you fell behind the moon.

Rest in peace sweet Debbie.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Saga Continues

As I have said, I was the 5th of six children, born in New York City.  But, I was also one of MANY cousins who also lived in New York City and who were, for the most part as close as siblings.  I even have what we affectionately refer to as "Uber Cousins".....their father was my mother's brother and their mother was my father's sister.  We shared ALL the same grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Consequently, it was very confusing for me to discover that the rest of my cousins had a different set of grandparents and aunts, uncles and cousins who were NOT related to me! 

The matriarch of my family was most assuredly my Aunt Mary, who was my mother's sister.  She and her husband, Uncle George, were never able to have children of their own, but they both played an integral part in the life of each member of my family. Aunt Mary knew all the family secrets and guarded each one. Though she was only 4'11", half Irish and half English, she was our family's version of the Godfather.  Everyone went to her with their their joy and their sorrows and she dispensed condolences and congratulations as appropriate.  And when called upon, she shared her wisdom, kindness and guidance.  She knew every birthday and every anniversary and acknowledged each one with a card and/or a gift.  She's also the reason we didn't grow up to be a bunch of heathens!  Thanks to Aunt Mary, we each have impeccable table manners, can set a proper table, and carry on interesting, but always polite conversations.  She was a timeless, gracious lady who was always "dressed to the nines", bewigged, and made up flawlessly.  And her house was always neat as a pin.  I still remember her following Uncle George around the apartment, where they lived for 42 years, carrying an ashtray to catch the ashes as they fell of his cigarette!  And, like all of us, Uncle George absolutely adored and doted on her.  His biggest gift to her was secretly taking religious instructions and converting to Catholoicism.    He worked full time as Secretary/Treasurer of the North American Reassurance Company and still he handled the bulk of the heavy house cleaning, did most of the grocery shopping, though Aunt Mary did do all of the cooking, and handled all their finances. In fact he was on his way to completing all the last minute errands prior to their leaving on yet another trip to England when he unexpectedly dropped dead on a New York street.

Aunt Mary was lost...she didn't know anything about the state of their finances and had, in fact, no clue how to even write a check!  Right after his passing, she was looking for something in the desk that had sat in their little dinette forever and found a stack of items tied together.  It contained their bank books, insurance policies, a detailed account of their assets and liabilities, passports, and other important papers.  There was even a detailed list of what songs he wanted played at his funeral!  Even after death, he was still taking care of her!

Come back again for more!!!!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Little about Me

Whenever I tell anyone that I was one of six children, there is audible gasp, usually followed by "You must be Catholic"!  I am proud to reply that not only am I Catholic, but I am first-generation Irish Catholic.  My father was born in Limerick, Ireland & emigrated to the US when he was in his early twenties & my mother came here from England when she was about 13.

Actually, back when I was growing up in a small town in the Adirondacks, having six children was pretty much the norm.  There were lots of families in that town with eight, ten, or more children and no one thought it odd!  AND, these were, for the most part, individual births....not twins, triplets or sextuplets! 

The best part about growing up in a large family was you were never alone.  The worst part about growing up in a large family were never alone!  It was extremely rare back then for homes to have more than one bathroom, which made for some pretty hectic mornings!  I can't imagine my eldest grandchild surviving if she had to share a bathroom with her parents & siblings!!  Oh the horror!

I was born in New York City, the fifth child & second daughter.  We lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Sunnyside, a section of the borough of Queens.  In one room slept my parents & my younger brother & in the other were two sets of bunk beds & a single bed where my sister & I & three other brothers slept.  Talk about a close family....literally!  And we thought nothing of it because all our friends & our many cousins pretty much lived the same way. 

Well, that will do it for now....tune back in for the next installment in the life of a little Irish Catholic girl!