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Sunday, September 21, 2014

One year later

Tomorrow will be one whole year that my dad is gone. I haven’t gone back to the cemetery since the funeral until today. It always rains when I visit Holy Rood. Today was a day after a heavy overnight downpour, but the skies were still sobbing. I bought a bouquet of fall colored flowers and drove to where I left my dad a year ago.
I have begun to find peace with my father’s death. He lived to nearly 79 years of age. He loved his life, married the woman he adored, had two great kids. He had dozens of friends and many interests and hobbies. He retired, traveled, saw his kids get married; he met his three grandkids. He didn’t get jipped a thing.
I also look at his death as a better alternative to living with Alzheimer’s- the most evil of all diseases. I truly feel that living one more day with that undignified curse of a disease would be worse. Going to be with my dad at the cemetery is something I can do with some peace in my heart. What I am not at peace with yet is that my mom is gone, too. Today was a difficult visit because I can’t ever go visit my dad only- because my mom was there first, and has been there since 1998.
I don’t make regular visits to Holy Rood for my mother. Maybe I should. Over the years, I’ve always felt her near me and I never felt the need to go to where her body lies to be with her. But maybe it would get easier if I made it something I do every now and again. I hope she understands.
I have a mental block about it; not that I’m in denial she’s gone, or that I don’t want to think about her, but I don’t think one location on the earth represents where she is, when she is no longer here. Going to Holy Rood doesn’t bring me closer to her, it just brings me to her resting place. She is not there. She is in my dreams and in the air. She is in the kitchen when I cook and in the words I write. She is in my car when I drive at night. In my uncontrollable laughter. In my salty tears.
I’m still bitterly angry and hurt about this loss. Perhaps I always will be. Perhaps I haven’t grieved her properly or fully yet. Will I ever be okay with the fact that my mother was taken from her happy life before her time? Will I ever understand why she never got to retire, never got to see her children get married, never got to pick up her grandkids? I don’t know. Yes, I do.
A good cry and then it’s on with living, right? Living with appreciation of the people in your life. Living with appreciation of every day you still get. It only sounds cliche to people living too charmed a life to really understand it. I pay my respect and my love to my mother and my father in the way I live: with generosity, kindness and truth. By being the daughter they raised: smart, strong and kind. By loving my brother and supporting him in everything he does. I may try to visit them more often and bring my mother flowers. But most of that other stuff, (which to me sounds much more important) I can do that from anywhere. Love you, mom and dad. xoxoxo

Monday, September 23, 2013

John Hederian: November 5, 1934 – September 22, 2013

When someone passes away, everyone always says that they “lived a good life.” That expression has never been truer when I consider the life of my dad. My dad John had a zest for life that was palpable and contagious. I would have to describe him as extremely active --when he wasn’t conked out and snoring- because he was always knee-deep involved in something whether it was reading the paper at the kitchen table, folding drapes in the garage or “hitting some balls” at the school yard. My dad could get more done in fifteen minutes than anyone I know. He was the original multi-tasker: he could do the laundry, while watching a tennis match, while talking to a customer on the phone, while mowing the lawn and putting down fertilizer- all while driving!!! Don’t get me wrong: He also knew how to blow a day doing nothing at all. That was his specialty. My dad had an ability to make friends with strangers in a matter of minutes. With every handshake, with every friendly conversation, my dad acquired a new friend. So many that he’d put the most popular Facebook tally to shame. There were many things he loved to do, and he spent his days doing them. His work and family life revolved around his interests, hobbies and passions- not the other way around. Savoring what he enjoyed was paramount to him: a quick dip in the ocean, a long, lazy nap on the beach, a juicy steak on the BBQ. Horse races, OTB, poker games, slot machines, ice cream, coffee, Entenmann’s frosted cake, Louisiana Crunch; vacations to Montauk and Florida, walking Waggles,… tennis. Don’t even get me started with the years and years of tennis. I’m surprised he never bought night vision goggles so he could play in the pitch dark. From morning to night, John enjoyed every last bite, every last snooze, every last volley, every last drop. My dad wasn’t exactly a morning person. Not an early riser, Daddy would be ready for work when he felt like it, which was why he didn’t work for anyone but himself. My mother used to complain, why don’t you make yourself a 9 o’clock appointment every day so you get started earlier? His reply? “Who the hell wants to get started earlier? What are you, nuts? Why don’t you mind your own business?” I am so much like my dad in so many ways- it amazes me. He was slow in the morning, and so am I. He sipped his first cup of coffee for what seemed like forever, while my mom practically chugged hers within seconds. Groggy in the a.m., my dad would leave for work multiple times. First without his keys, then without his wallet, then without his hat, then without his briefcase. Once he got rolling, he was good to go until about 6pm, unless of course he played “hooky,” cancelled all his appointments and met his family at the beach. My dad worked in the dry cleaning business since the 60s and remained in the dry cleaning business until he retired. That may sound like nothing special to some people, but then you didn’t know my dad’s passion for cleaning. My dad viewed every stain as a new challenge- whether on a garment or on carpet or on any type of fabric- he was adamant about getting it out. He knew when stains needed to be dabbed or pinched or scrubbed or soaked. And his penchant for cleaning didn’t stop there- he kept the cars sparkling clean, too. Inevitably throughout my teenage years, on a summer day you’d find my dad at some point wearing a dirty old visor, a white Hanes t-shirt and the shortest jean shorts anyone has ever seen on a man outside of the city. With the hose in his hand, and a bucket at his feet, he was washing the cars. The yellow Cordoba, the Cadillac, the white van, the Eagle Premier. And I will never forget the mortification only a teenage girl can know, when on the afternoon of my senior prom, he rinsed the limousine in front of all my friends. “Close the doors,” he said to the limo driver. “I’ll hose you down.” Thanks dad. What would prom night have been with a lackluster limo? When he wasn’t washing our clothes or the cars, he was probably folding drapes. I know this because he often forced my brother and me to help him. On any given school night, when my priorities included doing homework, watching Growing Pains, or just talking on the phone, my adolescent evenings were often interrupted by my dad’s request to help him fold. Not only was it tedious and unrewarding to fold drapes, but it inevitably came with a dose of ridicule because no one could ever do it right. Only a select few know the joys of helping John fold. “Grab the corners! Back up! Hold it taut. Jesus Christ!” Speaking of help. Let me see, did dad ever help us with our homework? He certainly tried. I remember one evening he came home brimming with pride that he’d bought me a bunch of Cliff Notes for some of the books I’d be reading in school that year. One time he even showed interest in a poem I’d written for class. He said, “Remember that poem you wrote for English? Go get it.” I flew down the hall to my room, found the paper and rushed back to the kitchen. “Here it is!” I shouted. “Good- give it to your brother to retype. He needs a poem for English tomorrow, but he has a lacrosse game tonight.” Act like you’re 11 at the movies tonight so we get the children’s rate. I was 17. Park across the street from the beach and walk so you don’t have to pay for a spot. Tennis. My dad may as well have had a tennis court in his yard because he played almost every single day. He got up earlier for tennis than he ever did for work. He even brought his own push-broom to the Elmont tennis courts to mop up the rain puddles so he could play once the rain stopped. If we ever had an event to attend, like a wedding or a party or something, Daddy would stay at the courts playing tennis, leaving himself fifteen minutes to shower, dress, put gas in the car and get a card. Thankfully none of my father’s habits drove my mother crazy. That was a joke- they all drove her crazy! My mother. My God, did my dad love my mother. It is the love I grew up embraced by. It is the love that made my childhood perfect. It is the love that my family is built on. It is the love that was truly beautiful when it was young and only thrived as the years rolled by. My father’s love for my mother set the bar for all of my relationships, and I know it set the bar for my brother’s as well. Ultimately if you knew my father, you knew he loved to have fun, he loved to laugh, and he loved people. Black, white, short, tall, fat, skinny, he loved them all. The phrase my dad probably uttered the most in his life (aside from Jesus Christ) was “I ran into my friend so and so today.” Sometimes I knew the name he mentioned, sometimes I didn’t. The point is- everyone was his friend. I used to call him the Mayor of Elmont. A friendly mayor with a smile on his face and his hand always extended. If you ever sat in the car with my dad, you got nauseous. If you ever had him over for a holiday, he definitely slept on your couch. And if you really know my dad, you probably have your own stories about him that make you say, "That's John." So try to remember John doing all the things that made him a unique individual; watch an entire show standing up, because that’s John. Fix something in your house using nothing but a coat hanger and a stapler. Wait until the very last minute before getting ready for an appointment. If you have dinner plans at a restaurant at 7, have a snack at the house at 6, because you never know how long it will take to get a table. Don’t act your age, say hello to strangers, be the best dressed person in the room, and for God’s sake- go hose down your car.

Frank Sinatra - Summer Wind

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The simple pleasures of summer

Even if you don't worship the sun, you've got to love summer. I mean come on. What's not to love?After the winters NY has known, I think we all welcome the summer months once they roll around. Everyone looks their best in the summer, once the glow of vitamin D comes back to our faces! A little tan, some accidental highlights in your hair, and we are all almost beautiful. Here are some of my favorite aspects of summer. I hope they don't sound cliche. The feel of grass, sand or even concrete beneath your bare feet. Changing back into clean clothes after a swim....aaahhhhhhh. The sound of lawn mowers telling you it's Saturday morning- time to get up. Taking a walk and purposely walking closer to the neighbor's sprinklers for a splash! Hot dogs on the grill. Sun-kissed shoulders and beach hair. Being at the beach late enough to watch it empty.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New routines...

It's incredible how human emotions are often such a mixed bag. I want to be happy and excited and joyful and jubilant and relaxed that school is over, but I'm not only those things. I'm also antsy, sad and nostalgic. I miss my kids! I miss teaching! I miss planning lessons and the excitement of a school day. Am I a maniac? This job has always felt like two extremes to me. While I'm glad my job is winding down and the summer is finally here, I somehow go from feeling extremely stressed and busy to just useless. I hate to say I'm bored- I'm not! It's not the right word. I'm used to all year NOT having any time for myself, so the new found unencumbered time is something I don't know how to use. I need direction. I'm almost finished with all my grading and then my days will be mine. I will be free to do whatever I want, but I am not sure what that is yet! Beach, tennis, walks, parties, BBQ's, pool, tanning, reading, writing, movies, shopping, home improvements, seeing friends, late nights, breakfast out, Montauk, flip flops, free time.

Monday, June 10, 2013