Jelly Donut Love: It’s About the Filling

Sylvia: I’m thinking about life right now in terms of jelly donuts.

Erma: Of course you are. Everyone should think of life that way. Sweet and full.
****************
One year ago today, while I held my father’s hand as he left this earth with the same strength, dignity, and humility that I imagine he entered with, I thought, “Why? Why now?” And after reflection with my son and conversations with God and those in my circle, I realize that the point is not how he died or even that he died. The key is how he lived. With integrity. With conviction. With zest and appreciation. With gratitude and intention. With love. With LOVE. Jelly donuts, folks.

And now I know. My father’s purpose and legacy is one that is so simple, so timely, and so easily missed if you haven’t been paying attention. Jelly donuts.

My father was raised by a man who emigrated from Russia in 1916. A slight, sweet man who raised a family and worked hard to provide. A man, a zayde, who trekked to Cousin’s bakery (New Britain, CT) to pick up jelly donuts and bulkies for his grandchildren. My father, Sam, learned from his father, Jack, the importance of jelly donuts. Jelly donuts every Sunday morning, rain or shine. Jelly donuts equalled love.

So, Dad, like his father, brought his four children jelly donuts every Sunday along with hard rolls and Breakstone butter. (Truth be told, a dozen mixed including jellies for him, two plain for Mom, and glazed, chocolate frosted, and sprinkles for the kids.) Every Sunday. When his children began to have children, Sam became Pop-Pop and would make the rounds to his grandchildren. Jelly donuts. Love.

When my father was declining, I never thought about my actions. I just did. I went into auto pilot. Comfort and consistency. Dad loved his jelly donuts. From Cousins bakery in New Britain to Village Bake House in Niantic to O’Henry’s in Morgan Hill to Dunkin on Cape, we devoured, savored, and indulged in jelly donuts. And I vowed when my father left my home that he would never go without a jelly donut! I’d like to think he never did.

Jelly donuts. Love. Giving and receiving of both. THAT is my father’s lesson and legacy.

Dad, the first man who had my heart❤ Missing you terribly, but I’d like to think that you and Mom are enjoying your favorites today and fighting over the crossword.
****************
“To love and have been loved. That is the essence of a life well-lived.” ~ (K. Morgan)

Sweet filling. Oh, to be savored!

Happy Birthday, Mother O’Mine

I don’t know what time she was born. I guess I could dig out her birth certificate and find out easily enough. To me, my mother was born the day I came into the world. Obviously, she had a life “B.K.”(before K.Morgan), but I didn’t know her then. All I know of that woman who became my mother, both the little girl who wore braids and gingham and the young, blond-haired teen who played the drums before it was cool for a girl to play a full kit, has been conveyed to me through others’ recollections; her own accounts as she would share an anecdote from her past with the slightly or even poorly veiled purpose of teaching a lesson (Mom was not subtle in getting her points across especially as she neared death); and the photos that I have and covet, still kept in the rubbermaid container that she bequeathed to me before her passing and after my childhood home was cleaned out and sold more than a decade ago. And what connects all of the snapshots, real and those that I have taken in my mind’s eye which remain guarded like priceless treasure, are her eyes. It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul; thus, it follows and must be that my mother, B.K. and always, was and remains one of the most beautiful, trusting, and trusted souls God could have offered this world.

Most of us, not all – and I say that without one iota of judgment – love our mothers and have been loved by our mothers. I have been accused of worshipping mine. In fact, my mother often reminded me, especially as she closed in on fate, that she was indeed human, flawed like the rest of us, so she too should be allowed to make mistakes. She would often say that the one bad rap that mothers had to endure was that they were held to a higher standard than everyone else on the planet! Now that I’m a mother, I admittedly understand this so much better. I digress though.

I did worship my mother, something she never demanded or expected, but it happened nonetheless. How did it happen? Ah, that’s the question. The trusting and trusted eyes! My mother had xray vision, vision that led her to know exactly what another human needed. To many and certainly to her family, this special sense (some call it a sixth sense while others deem it intuition) was who she was and how she lived her life at the very core. And while she may have regretted not doing all of the things she had hoped to do before she died, I do believe she lived a purposeful life and her legacy is an honorable one. Her legacy? Her gift? She left it to everyone who had the honor and pleasure of looking into her eyes. My mother made those who crossed her path feel important, no matter their lot in life. She gave others hope. She found and saw something redeeming in everyone. She wasn’t oblivious to the harshness or evils of the world. She was far from naïve. She was perhaps not even optimistic. Mom was hopeful though; and I do believe there is a big difference between optimism and hope. I think, actually I know, that her trusting and trusted eyes became reflective of that difference.

I’m babbling a bit because as we all know the totality of a life cannot be put adequately into words. Indeed, my mother’s life cannot. Her legacy can though. Hope. She believed in me. She believed in my son, the only grandchild she actually witnessed enter the world. (That connection proved stronger for them than I could have every imagined.) And if you had the good fortune of meeting her, befriending her, working for or with her, she believed in you. That belief, the depth of it in those trusting and trusted eyes, keeps me hopeful to this day and through each day. I don’t believe that life is perfect and I’m far from thinking everything will turn out well in the end. However, I am hopeful.

On her birthday, I am going to trust her and her legacy. I’ll celebrate her life buying her favorite purple blooms, reminiscing about how she and my father captivated wedding crowds with their dance moves, and thinking of my son’s smile, the one he wears when he recounts either a memory he made with his champion, Nana. Her legacy of love and hope endures.

Thanks, Mom. And finally you will be happy to hear that I’ve come to realize that you never wanted to be worshipped; you wanted to be loved. You were. You are. You always will be.

Hey, you! Yes, you! Call your mother today. And when and if you have the chance to see her in person, squeeze her tightly—from me and my mom with love.

Photo credit: unknown- so grateful though

#alwaysherchild

2021. All rights reserved. “The Adventures of Sylvia and Erma” overfiftyandfine.com

Extra Weight

Sylvia, feeling restless and a bit cantankerous this afternoon, closes the laptop and begins thinking out loud:
Strength is a strange concept.
“Be strong.”
“You are stronger than you think.”
“Keep fighting the good fight.”
Tell me again how strong I am and how strong you think I have been and I might just punch you in the face. I know I am strong, damn it. And I know deep in my soul that I can survive anything—ANYTHING. Well, anything other than my own death, of course. This though, navigating these last ten months of life after loss during a pandemic no less, has tried, tested, and depleted me in ways I never could have imagined. I have tapped into reserves I never knew I had. Most days my belief in myself and my determination to thrive and find the ever-elusive (and illusive) happiness wins. It beckons an inner strength which comes disguised as stubbornness and fear of failure. Strength, or maybe it is willpower, comes cloaked in a thousand thoughts of vulnerability and self-assessment — oh yes, and a smile.

“Just because a person smiles all the time doesn’t mean their life is perfect. The smile is a sign of hope.”
~Anonymous
****************

All & Everything

Last night she closed her eyes to the sound of teeming rain and claps of thunder. She awoke to a deafening silence amidst a gray background. So that was it. Another day ended and another in the works.

“See, Sylvia, it all keeps moving along,” Erma reassures her friend.

“Indeed. I never said the loss was all or nothing. It’s been all and everything,” professes Sylvia.


When you experience loss, people say you’ll move through the 5 stages of grief….
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance
…..What they don’t tell you is that you’ll cycle through them all every day.
~Ranata Suzuki

Wait and Hope

The only one you are competing with is yourself. You’ll win the race. Slow and steady every time.

Sylvia: Love. Loss. Grief. I know time yields all and heals all, but how much time? When will I find my way again?

Erma: There’s no rush, Sylvia. Everything happens in its own time. Wait. Be patient.

Sylvia: Okay, but what do I do in the meantime?

Erma: Hope.


“All human wisdom is summed up in two words – wait and hope.” ~Alexandre Dumas


Ashes to Ashes

Sylvia carries a great deal around with her. On her mind. In her heart. And yes, especially in her purse. “The contents of a woman’s purse, or pocketbook as many of us refer to the bottomless bag of life, are sacred,” Erma declares to her friend. And Sylvia, her mind wandering to the bottom of her bag, quietly pronounces in agreement, “Mine are for sure.”

Since my mother died, I bring her with me in one of my favorite totes–yes, bits and pieces of her with me everywhere I go. Literally. Though much of her bodily remains are tucked away peacefully in a carved rosewood box she now shares with my father, awaiting their intermingling, I do keep some of “her” in one of her old medicine bottles- the ultimately inconsequential labeling has long been removed. After all, it’s been over a decade since she died and since her wish to be cremated was fulfilled. I change pocketbooks frequently too, so the little brown vessel that held one of the life-saving or rather life-prolonging concoctions she required has traveled and withstood the test of time. Those bottles don’t crack easily, but admittedly, that is not the point here.

Last week as I moved Mom from the black-and-camel Michael Kors bucket bag to the bright pink, Kate Spade satchel to the less cumbersome, multi-colored, crossbody Coach, I came to a realization. Well, two, actually. First, I’m a bag lady. Second, and more of an epiphany of sorts: I’m not bringing Mom anywhere. She’s gone from this earth. And yes, even to this day, I get a lump in my throat and a knot in my belly when I say those words out loud. Here is what I’ve been bringing with me on my travels, whether to the grocery store or local “Stomping Ground” or to Brooklyn to visit our favorite young man (there is no doubt in my mind that she would have proudly bestowed upon him that moniker). That little bottle of ashes represents my mother’s greatest gift to me. It’s the constant reminder that (1) life is fleeting; and (2) when we leave this world, everything tangible has little to no real value. Those things with the greatest meaning aren’t things at all. They are people and memories of shared experiences. The sum and total of one’s physical presence on this earth is reduced to ash, dust in the wind. The heart and soul of the person, his or her spiritual presence, lives on in those he or she loved, cared for, or touched in some way while on this earth. The ashes that I carry I’ve come to view as Mom’s ultimate lesson to me. We don’t get second chances. Make this life count.

And as I start this new day, I’m thankful for so much, the very least of which is the tiny, amber-colored, prescription bottle that travels with me. Where will I go today and who will accompany me? I don’t know every detail, but one thing I do know is that I’ll do my best to make moments count, to tell people who matter that I love and respect them, and to keep creating my life. It’s not over until it’s ash. I’ll keep adding to my bonfire.

************************

Sylvia is reminded of one of her favorite passages– and so, she’ll keep going:

Intriguing isn’t it? One day you are the king of your world. And the next day, you stand aside, watching it all burn. Ashes slipping out of your hand, you just stand and stare, your glassy gaze fixed on something no one else could see, no one else could know…

People will talk as people do talk. And they will walk over the ashes. And the ashes will dance in front of you, reminding you every second of what was and what might have been. And you will almost give in.

But my advice is, don’t give in. Because one day, you will decide to turn the corner. Put it all behind you. Just stand strong and still as the great wind comes and takes all the ashes away with with it, leaving fresh air behind. Fresh for you to make a new world, a better world.

~Aleena Yasin

Lost & Found

Erma: It’s been a decade, right? Since your mom passed?

Sylvia: Yes, ten years in the blink of an eye. She must have been counting the days.

Erma: Yes, she undoubtedly wanted him home with her. They had been apart for too long. They were ready to be reunited and to live the eternity they had promised each other.

Sylvia: I wasn’t ready though. I’m still not. I don’t know how to navigate the rest of the journey. I’ve gone from devastated to lost.

Erma: Time. The only answer. It won’t heal but it will carry you. It will give you the life jacket you need from time to time to endure the waves that will pummel you at the most inconvenient and unexpected moments. 

Sylvia: I don’t need a life jacket. I’m not drowning. I told you I feel lost. I’m numb, shivering, in a blinding snowstorm, and I have no idea of what is ahead.

Erma: None of us knows, Syl. That’s where the notion of faith enters. And you are so far from lost– lost suggests that there is something to be found. There is nothing to be found and everything to be felt.

Sylvia: Oh, okay, then I’m right on track.

It’s been a month of Sundays since he passed, figuratively of course. Much longer in reality, and certainly it feels even more like an eternity. I’m not paralyzed or empty or broken. I’m numb. 

Every morning I awake hoping that I’ll complete the journey- the journey for which none of us is ever fully prepared- the journey off and away from the path of grief and sadness. Most people describe grief and its effect as wave-like; it ebbs and flows. It washes over you. It brings you under and makes it hard to catch your breath; and as soon as you stand and catch your breath, another wave knocks you down. It’s not a wave, not a ripple or a tsunami. It is more like the breathlessness you experience on a sub-zero day in the middle of January up north. This grief, this numbness, is totally different than any other I’ve ever felt. I can’t fully compare it to anything, not yet, because I know I haven’t lived through it completely. I doubt I ever will. Although if I had to liken this trek and its encumbrances to a relatable situation, I would imagine how one feels at a “Lost & Found” bin or depot. Hopeful yet aware of impending disappointment. Each morning I wake up headed to the lost and found. 

The phone rang last night. A message was left. “Your belongings have turned up. We are holding them for you at the ‘Lost & Found‘ window. Come at your earliest convenience.”

So, I awake with a controlled eagerness to pick up what has been left. After all, it is mine. It has been left for me to retrieve. I shower, get dressed, and off I go. On my way to the “Lost & Found” today. Every day for a month of Sundays. 

The journey has not taken me away or off the path. I have yet to retrieve what I believed belonged to me. I have yet to find wholeness. Perhaps I never will. Perhaps it is never to be found. But for now, I’ll keep listening to the message each night on the machine. I will keep getting up to see if the depot actually has what belongs to me. What needs to be reclaimed. I will live with the numbness- not in wave-like motion but in a traipse, much like the plodding of wearing full winter armor in heavy, wet snow on a frigid winter’s day.  And eventually – I hope anyway- faith will melt the snow away from the path.

I hope I will recognize what it is I lost. If not, I hope I find the strength to delete the message and move forward.