Archive | October, 2014

It’s Never Too Late to be Marge Simpson

20 Oct

My husband wanted to be a “walker” – one of the zombies from the hit TV series, The Walking Dead, but I talked him out of it. I told him that there would be a kazillion zombies at the Halloween Party, primarily because of the TV series. Instead, I talked him into being Homer Simpson & I was Marge.

Plagued by Marge’s pantyhose that just would not stay up, it came home to me in the most uncomfortable way that One Size Fits All on those pantyhose packages is a misnomer & should be changed to One Size Fits Some – Occasionally. Our costumes were cool, though & we already had them from last year. We bought them for a part in an amateur film we were making & then didn’t use them for Halloween. So even with the pantyhose malfunction, the costumes were pretty cool & I sort of started liking blue hair.

I have a good husband. In the past he has let me talk him into being a caveman, a Klingon, a Sumo wrestler & a practically naked Adam to my Eve; all of which won prizes for us in costume contests year after year.  As it turned out, there wasn’t even ONE zombie at the party but we DID win an Applebee’s Restaurant gift card for having the Most Humorous costumes in that category. That somehow made up for the fact that had we been zombies we would have once again been unique at that particular annual party.  But we may not have been prize winners.

I held my blue hair on my lap as we were driving home from the party & my mind kept zipping back to the evening, our friends & the costumes they’d chosen. What is it about reasonably normal adults that turns us, once a year at these Halloween parties into headless horse people, Things 1 & 2, heroes from the Firefly series, Marge & Homer Simpson & polar bears from the Coke Christmas commercials?

What I think is that life has gotten harder. The media doesn’t allow us to turn off the radio or skip buying a Sunday newspaper to get away from all that’s wrong or bad in this world like our parents & grandparents did. It’s in our face … all the time … every minute. It’s on TV, on our iPads & on our Smart phones. We have live-action “MovieTone News” 25 hours a day & in some cases we may even be getting addicted to knowing what’s going on “out there” on a continuing basis.

We are forced to deal with a physical world filled with eyesight, joints & memories that fail, cancer, abuse, gum disease, hair loss & sexual dysfunction. There are weapons & diseases of mass destruction that even a little blue pill can’t fix. Heaven forbid that we should take a trip abroad & NOT be expecting to be quarantined for at least the first 21 days after our return home.  And we certainly want to avoid treatment at any hospital in the state of Texas with or without an excellent reputation. If you stay up-to-date with the news you know that THIS is kind of our Zombie Apocalypse, just a decade or two behind World War Z.

And I thought pantyhose in One Size Fits Practically No One was a problem.

So, no matter what our station in life or how old we may be, for that one day a year… our Halloween Party … Bonnie & Carl become Mal & Zoe & embark on a space adventure aboard Serenity. Chris & Kenny go out on a limb & become two polar bears wearing Coke logos & unusual leg warmers, & Willy & I become Homer & Marge Simpson. We play dumb games like Pin the Tail on the Klingon, Return Spock’s Brain to its original owner & anatomical position, & we toss simulated planets into simulated black holes that just happen to be buckets stuck in holes cut into a sheet of cardboard. We take an evening off to reacquaint ourselves with our “inner children” &, as God said & probably intended, “That is good.”

Young or old, as long as we can still fantasize & play … even as polar bears adrift on steadily melting ice, then there is probably hope for us. And that’s why I think we do it … take such delight in that one day a year when it’s really OK to step into the often funny world of our fantasies & just have a go at it.  It gets us away for a little while & when we come back, our perspective has been refreshed & we somehow just know we can keep on keeping on.

Even with the pantyhose, it’s never too late & you’re never too old or hardened by reality to be Marge Simpson.

We can be “walkers” next year.

 

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I Lost a Friend Today …

1 Oct

Death … almost since birth people have been preparing us for it, attempting to lessen the fear of it, to make it more acceptable. We need to know about death as children so we can try to understand where grandparents & aged family friends go when they suddenly just aren’t there anymore.

As children we were, I believe, also being programmed to accept the death of beloved pets who met untimely demises on the streets & highways that ran heavily with rush hour traffic just outside our own front yards.

If we have faith, there is great comfort in knowing that there is a better place where, after death, we will be reunited with those we’ve loved & lost; a place where we are free from pain & disability.

At the end of my mother’s life she stressed to me that she wasn’t afraid; that death was just a part of life.

Maybe we become hardened to death & the idea of it because it’s such a pervasive part of our media culture. Almost every cop show or action show includes death in some form; the bad guys getting shot, the hero dying while saving someone who is imperative to the continuation of the plot, the show & its ratings.

All this media exposure with the bad guy who died in an episode of Law & Order on Monday showing up on Thursday Dancing with the Stars has to be confusing for young people. Maybe that’s why so many pick up the family gun or a bottle of pills or toss a rope over the door on the shower stall ending their lives during times of extreme stress. Maybe, invested in the media version of death, they expect to pop back into life just in time to check their iPhone for the latest app. But life … & especially death isn’t like that at all.

Death is something most of us avoid dwelling on until a close encounter with a rabid fox, a venomous snake or a life threatening disease becomes our “wake-up” call. If we don’t succumb to any of those things at the time or on the spot, then we have a moment of clarity in which to do a little personal research into the death-thing. Primarily, & in the beginning we’re just glad it passed us by.

Having my personal encounter with cancer made me aware of a number of things including that the being mortal part of life makes us susceptible to the death-thing. A whisper of death at your ear will certainly get your attention. For me I realized that all the stuff I’d been wanting to do & putting off needed to be done because I didn’t want to miss anything. So that’s what I did & I have been grateful for that adjustment in my viewpoint. I’ve done a lot, haven’t missed much of what I’ve wanted to do & I’m grateful for each new day whether the weather is bad or good or whether it’s a great day or a suckie one. They all have taken on new significance.

But I’m one of the lucky ones. A lot of people, I believe, don’t come face-to-face with that realization until the death-thing is sucking the life out of them & their moment of clarity is reduced to that unexpected “Oh, Shit!” moment.

Today I lost a friend & she is all I’ve been able to think about all day long.

Her dying wasn’t unexpected; she’d suffered with a recurrence of breast cancer for the past 4 years that had invaded her bones & insulted her strength & tenacity. When hospice came in this summer to help out, she assured me they were only there to care for the port she’d had surgically inserted to make taking her pain meds easier. She said, “I’m not going to be dying any time soon” & I believed her. I believed her because I couldn’t allow myself to see past the trees into that dark area in the forest. I told her, “Thank goodness you’re not planning any one-way trips” & she laughed.

Cathy was pretty … not the wholesome, all-American girl beauty we so often see but stunningly attractive. Her face made anyone who met her do a quick intake of breath & that beauty spilled over into her personality.  She was immediately friendly, which conflicted with preconceived ideas one might have about the exceptionally attractive. She was approachable & easily became your friend.

Cathy lived in Las Vegas long before I met her. She met her husband who swept her off her feet, married her & moved them to New Orleans where their only child, a son, was born. Hurricane Katrina uprooted them & sent them to Lynchburg with his job. We met them because they, like us were huge Star Trek fans &, like an “enterprising” magnet, they found us & our science fiction group. At that time Cathy was just recovering from the harsh treatment she received for lymphoma.

Cathy & her family joined our science fiction club & we became personal, social friends.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, just 5 months ahead of my diagnosis, she helped me when it was my turn to deal with a “mammogram gone wrong.” She told me what to expect at each juncture, even while she was undergoing chemotherapy for her own disease. When we were both better & I started hosting my TV talk show, “Lynchburg Live,” Cathy was one of the 2 guests I had on my very first show discussing dealing with breast cancer.

Having been cancer free for several years, in 2011 she told me she’d found an enlarged lymph node in her neck. A trip to the surgeon confirmed her worst fears … her cancer was back.

So much has happened between that discovery & her death today that involves strength & courage & determination & humor. It involves Cathy meeting her mortality head on & daring that death-thing to touch her until her son was older & her husband was healthier … until she was ready. And Cathy defied the odds.

She took belly dancing lessons & performed. She went back to school at a local college & took classes in stuff that really interested her, she became active in a local theater group & performed in plays … she lived her life. She & her husband enjoyed their time together & watched as their son excelled in school & in golf & left in August to begin his freshman year at the University of Virginia.

I think Cathy finally just got tired, though. How could she not?

She has been a friend, a person who could always make me laugh, an inspiration to ALL who knew her & an example of how to live life to the fullest even when it was threatened to be cut short by that cancer-thing.

Because Cathy & I are both Star Trek fans I believe it’s appropriate to quote a line from Star Trek II. Admiral Kirk tells Mr. Spock, “How we face death is equally as important as how we face life.” Cathy was the personification of that quote. She faced life with gusto & enthusiasm & a determination to squeeze every drop out of it before putting her head down & finally allowing herself to rest. She faced death with courage, strength, determination & humor. She ran a good race & stepped across the “finish” line with grace & dignity.

I went to the bank this afternoon. Cars & trucks were streaming down the highway as they always do. The girl at the drive-thru window at the bank smiled & said how beautiful the weather was. I smiled & agreed with her but in my mind I was wondering how everything could just keep on keeping on when Cathy was gone. The world hadn’t even hiccuped or blinked at her passing. Then I decided it might be because of something like that special line, also from Star Trek II, “She’s really not dead as long as we remember her …”

 I will miss my friend; her wit, her humor, the sound of her laughter, that streak of goofiness, her rare beauty, her strength, the joy she found in life. Not only will we remember her… those of us who loved her… but we will forever be better people because she was a part of our lives.

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