Remembering Mom

Below is the eulogy I wrote for my mom, who passed away on May 25, 2022. I did not expect to lose her and had not considered what I might say to honor her until her death necessitated it. I wrote this quickly and if I could do it over again, I would edit liberally. My sister also delivered a eulogy, and between the two of us, I expect Mom would have been pleased, and probably would have suggested some judicious edits.


When my parents got married, Dad was in medical school and that left Mom pretty much on her own. Susan and I have two of the world’s most fabulous husbands so it’s hard to imagine what it must have been like raising three little girls virtually single-handed, and away from her New York family, first in California and then in Massachusetts. But she managed, the way she always did, and we glommed onto her like little barnacles.

She adored her own mother, our Grandma Hannah, and worried constantly about whether or not Grandma would approve of how she was managing her girls, and what she was doing. Her faith in her own mom was so unshakable that the message was clear: your mom is the most important person in your life, and I happily bought into that.

And she was a wonderful mom. But she was a horrible reacher-outer. When I was in my 20s, we could go through long stretches without speaking. I was busy living my young adult life, and if I wasn’t calling her, she assumed I was fine. Really, she didn’t want to “bother me.” Despite her big, close, extended family of origin, she never felt secure in her place in it as an adult. After her mom died, I encouraged her to reach out to her aunts more. She said, “Oh, I was just Hannah’s daughter, they don’t want to hear from me.” I knew my great-aunts and I’m telling you, they loved her. They would have loved to have heard from her more, but she never believed that in her heart.

It’s vitally important to me that any of you who ever thought, why the heck hasn’t Barbara called, know that it wasn’t because she didn’t love you, need you, want your friendship (I’m looking at you Aunt Marge) she just didn’t want to “bother” anyone.

She did, however, want to help everyone. Mom worked for years as a volunteer for the Attorney General’s office, fielding consumer complaints. Her job was to resolve issues so they didn’t rise to the level of needing legal intervention. She was a rabid consumer advocate and she could follow a trail to the truth like a bloodhound. She did the same thing for WBZ’s consumer hotline, Call for Action. There’s a world of people out there who owe Mom a debt of gratitude for making their consumer problems go away.

There are so many things I want to share about Mom. She was a serial hobbyist. Everything she did she did well, because she studied and studied and studied until she understood how things worked. She had a silver-making phase when I was a teenager, and made several of the bracelets I have been wearing for over 45 years.

She was an avid reader and I used to go through the book shelf where she kept books that were on their way back to the library to find things to read. She was my own personal librarian. At one point, I was struggling through Dr. Zhivago and told her that I wasn’t enjoying it and felt like it must be because I wasn’t smart enough to appreciate it. She said it wasn’t my fault, it just wasn’t a very good book. “But hey,” she said, “you know what you’d like? War and Peace. Now that’s a good book.” And of course, she was right.

In her later years, when she wasn’t pursuing her hobbies, she was working with Lexington at Home, the social group that sustained her for the last chapter of her life. She was on the steering committee, in the thick of managing and trouble-shooting and taking care of business. She could be stubborn, but the fact that she was usually right made that a more palatable trait.

For a time, Mom was also in charge of their web site, a comfortable place for a nerd of long standing. She had been fascinated with computers since I gave her a Commodore 64 computer in the early 80s. Immediately hooked, she began teaching herself how to program. She became so involved with the Boston Computer Society that she was soon running the Commodore User’s Group. She also wrote articles for the Commodore magazine, Run. And then she made a business out of the Commodore. That early machine had no persistent memory. As soon as you turned it off it forgot what you’d been doing, so she teamed up with her hardware engineer friend, Brown Pulliam, and wrote software that would retain memory in the external box he designed. With their fledgling business, Brown Boxes, they traveled to local computer shows, selling their wares. The popularity of the IBM PC made the Commodore obsolete and she moved on to become a PC expert, building machines for her children and grandchildren and happily supplying IT services when required.

When I was a younger, self-satisfied, cocky thing, I said to Mom, “I like the way I turned out and if I ever have a kid, I want them to be just like me, so I’ll have to be sure to do everything the way you did.” In hindsight, I know that was naïve, but I still thank my lucky stars that she was my mom.


Like water for chocolate

Did you ever wonder what the title, Like Water for Chocolate, means? Me neither, until my daily writing prompt suggested that I write about “a meal” and waxed poetic about a great scene (or so they said) in Moby Dick where they ate chowder; how Cold Mountain was a virtual smorgasbord of country cooking; and how the author of Like Water for Chocolate wove recipes into her novel. Disappointed with the prompt, I decided to delay writing to look up Like Water for Chocolate, which I remembered enjoying, despite not knowing what the title meant. Spoiler, it’s a double entendre.

The title, Like Water for Chocolate, is a metaphor for sexual tension. When you make hot chocolate with water (which is how they do it in Mexico), the water has to come to a boil before you add the chocolate. Need I say more? If sex is too outré a subject for you, think of it as romance, an infinitely more interesting writing prompt than “a meal.”

The other night, in an attempt to avoid cooking, I put together an odd assortment of edible items. The main dish was a spinach quiche I’d picked up at an overpriced supermarket. While wandering that same store looking for inspiration, I also snagged two spring rolls full of lettuce, cucumber, and carrots, topped with sliced avocado. I wasn’t sure they would complement the quiche, but I knew I had to augment it if it was going to pass as dinner.

As the dinner hour neared, and I reviewed my plan, I decided the plates would still be lacking a certain je ne sais quoi, so back to the refrigerator I went. It harbored an elderly cauliflower waiting patiently to be noticed, so I dug out one of my few recipes and set to work. Basically, you deconstruct the cauliflower, cover with olive oil, and then mix in sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, pepper, and paprika. Into the oven it goes, at as close to 500° as you can get without setting off your smoke alarms, and half an hour later, voila, a vegetable side dish.

It was an unconventional meal, not all that unusual in my house as cooking is not something I enjoy, but it was a step up from chips and salsa, which I admit we have dined on once or twice. But no matter what I deliver to the table, my husband expresses gratitude for being fed, which I find romantic.

Since it’s almost Valentine’s Day, I’ll close with this thought. Instead of giving your valentine candy or flowers or taking them out for an expensive meal, cook for them. Nothing says romance like an assortment of edible components that someone else plates for you. Of, if you’re just not into cooking, you can give them a book with a meal in it, like Moby Dick, Cold Mountain, or Like Water for Chocolate.

God’s pricey son

For reasons that escape me, we still get a Sunday newspaper delivered, while the rest of the week we happily read the Boston Globe online. Every few Sundays, the paper comes with an empty envelope, pre-addressed to the delivery person. Once in a while I give in to this not-so-subtle request for a tip, and send the guy some money. It can’t be an easy way to make a living and it’s probably not the only thing he does.

The Sunday before Christmas, the envelope wasn’t empty. It had a holiday card and a printed insert that said, in part:

Jesus Christ, God’s pricey son, Born on Christmas, Holy and Luxurious…

I’m going to make an educated guess here that English is not my delivery person’s first language and that he used a translation app. I had a good chuckle, put some cash in his envelope, and moved on to other things.

Over the next few days, I arranged tips for our letter carrier, the trash guys, the women who take care of my mom, and the house cleaners. The house cleaners are from Brazil and between the two of them, there is very little English. So, I did what my Globe delivery person did, I used a translation app.

I wanted to say, “Happy Holidays. Thank you for taking such good care of our home.” Google told me that in Portuguese that would be, “Boas festas. Obrigado por cuidar tão bem de nossa casa.” I wrote those words on the cards, and added some cash.

I wonder what I actually said to them.

A cat’s love

The cat loved her person, as much as a cat is capable of love. Rescued from a shelter at barely three months old and promptly renamed Princess, she had lived a comfortable, indoor life for more than eight years.

If Princess could talk, she would tell you that she was content with her routine. Her person came downstairs every morning at 7:30am, and filled Princess’ bowl with food, after which, driven by Princess’ demands, they went to the cabinet, and took out the bag of treats. Satisfied that she was still in control, Princess snarfed down her treat and then ate her breakfast.

While her human ate, Princess sat on the kitchen table, watching them. She wandered around a little, sniffed at the food on the human’s plate and made sure to twitch her tail into their face a few times. If Princess was feeling particularly loving, she’d put her paws on the human’s shoulders and stand there for a moment. With any encouragement, she’d climb up and hang out for a while.

When her human went to work, Princess did what she imagined most cats did, she slept and wandered around the house. She threatened the birds and squirrels outside her windows, visited her litter box, and batted at her toys, but mostly she slept.

When her human came home, it was dinner time. Princess ate her dinner, but left her human alone to enjoy theirs. After dinner, her human settled onto the couch and turned on the television. They tended to slump a bit so Princess was able to sprawl with her paws extended on their lap, luxuriating in the space.

Her human’s weekend schedule was unpredictable and that made Princess a little anxious. She did more wandering around the house and less sleeping on the weekends. But no matter the day, her human was in bed by 10pm with a book. Princess took full advantage of their prone position to knead their bottom. Once she was satiated, she settled down on her human’s back and went to sleep. When her human rolled over to turn out the light, Princess relocated to the foot of the bed.

And so it went, week in and week out, and Princess was content.

One evening, while they were watching television, her human gasped and put their hand to their chest. Princess was startled and jumped off, moving to a safe distance to watch. When nothing else happened, she climbed back onto her human and went back to sleep.

When Princess woke up, her human felt cold. Their color had changed. It was already morning and her human had never gone upstairs to bed. Princess hopped down and went to the cabinet to demand her treat. Her human didn’t come. Annoyed, Princess went to her bowl and ate the food that was left from last night’s dinner. Then she wandered around, chattered at some birds, used her litterbox, and took a nap.

Her human didn’t smell right. She poked at them and, getting no reaction, wandered away again.

When the human hadn’t gone to work for several days, their boss asked the police to do a wellness check. The police found Princess sitting on the coffee table in front of the sofa. The human’s eyes were gone.

Princess loved her person, as much as a cat is capable of love.

Politics as usual

My friend, Bill Lowman, told me that he no longer believes that people can disagree about politics and remain friends. He says, “…today’s politics include beliefs that are immoral to some. Consider that [some] Republicans believe that racial divisions are okay; that we have no responsibility to help the poor; or that the US is a Christian nation. To many Democrats these ideas are immoral, and [therefore] unacceptable. On the other hand, the Democrats’ support for abortion seems like approval of murder to many Republicans, [which makes it] immoral in their belief system. Political differences are no longer just political.” He asks, “How can people be expected to maintain respect for those whom they view as immoral?”

It is a seemingly intractable dilemma, but I don’t think it’s a new one. In the 60s, more Bill’s time than mine, the student rallying cry was, “The personal is political.” Kimberle Crenshaw, a professor of law at Columbia, once wrote, “This process of recognizing as social and systemic what was formerly perceived as isolated and individual has also characterized the identity politics of African Americans, other people of color, and gays and lesbians…”

Bill is a marvelous human being, one of my favorites, but he is a white male. I expect identity politics haven’t played a big part in his life (although it can’t always have been easy living as a West Virginian in the Northeast). For women and minorities, politics have been business as usual, with a twist—Trump. Trump has invited racism and bigotry to come out of the closet. His behavior encourages others to give voice to opinions that are abhorrent to many of us, causing doors we had tried to close to swing wide open again.

I just saw the musical, The Band’s Visit, on Broadway. It’s about an Egyptian police band that comes to Israel to play a concert and ends up in the wrong town. The band has to spend the night there before they can catch a bus the next morning. The last song is called Answer Me. I loved the musical so I bought the shirt you see below. I don’t read Arabic and I don’t understand Hebrew, but I assume the shirt says Answer Me in the three languages.


Now, I have lots of shirts that advertise or commemorate something, we all do, but never have I experienced the kind of attention I got when I wore that shirt the next morning to the Guggenheim. I thought it was the Arabic writing that made everyone look twice and after I saw the post below on Facebook a few days later, I became convinced that was the case.

arabic bag

I discovered that the bag in the photo was created by a (now defunct) Israeli-Arab design studio. This blog post says, “…politics is not the primary reason or focus behind their designs but rather, because it is our language and part of who we are, and we think it should be part of our urban landscape…today, where we live, anyone wearing a t-shirt with Arabic words on it is making a political statement.” I didn’t think I was making a political statement when I bought the shirt, but maybe I am.

Back to Bill’s question, how do we maintain respect for people we view as immoral? I’d say it depends on how you define respect. One definition involves admiration for an individual based on their achievements. That respect is earned. The other is due regard for another’s feelings or traditions or, in the case of my shirt, language. That respect is due everyone.

I know enough about Trump to freely withhold my respect. While I will allow that, like everyone, he is entitled to his feelings, we must ensure that they don’t propel him to debase our nation any more than he already has. That means we need to be involved in politics at whatever level suits us, be it local, personal, identity, or other. If someone has beliefs that you consider immoral, you don’t have to be their friend, just be civil. Sometimes that has to be enough.


Death with dignity

It took a long time to legalize marijuana for non-medical use in Massachusetts. It’s taking even longer to overcome the NIMBY response to applications for retail space. The wheels of progress chug along at an excruciatingly slow pace, and if we have to wait a little longer to be able to pick up a joint when we go out to buy a bottle of wine, so be it. We’ll live. But when the very issue is one of life or death, we can’t afford to wait any longer.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide has become a leading cause of death in this country; it’s number 2 among young folk and number 4 among 35 to 54-year-olds. It drops to number 8 for those who are 55+. Are older people less impulsive, less depressed, or does it just become harder to find the means to take your own life past a certain age? I’m going to hazard a guess that if it was easier to do, more terminally ill people would, but in those situations, should it be considered suicide?

Only six states (and DC) currently have right to die, or death with dignity laws. If you have the resources you can move to one of those states, establish residency, and take advantage of the statutes. If not, and you don’t have the wherewithal, practically or emotionally, to end your own suffering, you have no choice but to institute a DNR and hope it is respected.

death with dignity

My Aunt Pearle was fortunate to live in California. When she was diagnosed with her third or fourth cancer, in her 80s, she decided she’d had enough. She knew how treatment would affect her and decided that the price for a little more time was too high. Pearle decided to end her life on her terms, at a time and place of her choosing.

While California gave her that right, there were stipulations. The Hemlock Society of San Diego explains what those are: The state requires three requests, two oral and one written, signed by two witnesses. You must be able to swallow a pill (or pills), because that’s the only legal way to go, and before you take the drug(s) you need to sign a final consent form. And it’s not enough for your personal physician to write the prescription, a consulting physician needs to sign off as well. That’s a lot to ask of a person with a terminal illness. But with the help of her husband, Pearle was able to achieve her desired end.

My aunt was the first person I knew who chose to die with dignity. It was hard to process the news that her death had been scheduled for a particular date and time. As said time approached, I was acutely aware that she would shortly cease to exist, and when the time came and went, I felt uneasy. I was sad, of course, but knowing that it was her choice made it less upsetting and more existential.

Years ago, my cousin, Linda, took her own life in a horrible, ugly fashion, often the only way out for a person who doesn’t have access to pharmaceuticals that might do the job. She was depressed, likely angry, and clearly without hope. She was not, however, terminally ill. What she did was commit suicide. What Pearle did was choose to end her own life, with dignity.

It doesn’t take a very active imagination to picture the difference between a protracted illness guaranteed to end in death, and a peaceful departure at the time you choose. I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t ensure that everyone could make that choice. The Death with Dignity organization tells us that once terminally ill people receive the means with which to end their life, “Some people (about 1 in 3) never take the medication. Simply knowing they have this option, if they need it, gives them comfort.”

If you live in Massachusetts, you can make an appointment to drive out to Leicester or Northampton to buy legal weed. You can then ingest it in the comfort of your own home and think about how fundamental the right to choose is under any circumstance. But you don’t have to get high to appreciate that the right to death with dignity is just another choice that every individual should be able to make for themselves.

Visit here for a list of organizations to help you explore this issue more deeply.

What happened to my ass?

David Sedaris spoke at my daughter’s graduation from Oberlin College. The speech, which I found online in its entirety (you’re welcome) was funny, as you’d expect, but it also delivered some unexpected pathos. He said, “You might not realize it this morning, but thirty years from now you’ll pull out pictures of yourself taken on this day and think, ‘Why did nobody tell me I was so attractive?’” Who knew that was a universal problem?

I remember myself as a tubby child and an overweight teenager. Family photos, however, belie that with evidence that I was a normal, right-sized kid. Sadly, there is no evidence to counteract my memories of my dad telling my petite and attractive mom, “Don’t eat that,” or, “Do you really need that?” I internalized messages that weren’t even addressed to me.

When I hit forty, though, and was still carrying around the ‘baby weight’ from my two-year old, there was no disputing that a diet was in order. I took the logical first step and cut my hair; that was good for a couple of pounds. Then the real work began. Thirty-five pounds later, I looked better than I ever had and life was good for another ten years or so—before nature began to interfere.

As you age, you change in ways you have no control over. Ask anyone who had 20/20 vision what happened when they hit forty. Most will tell you that ‘all of a sudden’ they needed glasses. Hair turns gray. Mine started with a Cruella de Vil silver streak that I thought was pretty hip when I was in my early thirties. But it didn’t stop there; over time, my color went from brunette to salt-and-pepper. It’s thinning now, too.

Are you old enough to remember Magda from the movie There’s Something About Mary? I’m not a sun-worshiper like she was, but there are other similarities. If you’re a woman, I know you’re familiar with the test where you try to hold a pencil under your breast. If you can’t, they’re not sagging yet. Lucky you. I could probably hold onto a desk’s worth of office supplies.

Another indignity is that your weight rearranges. You don’t necessarily weigh more, but your clothes don’t fit. For some, gravity brings on the dreaded pear shape. Me? My ass has all but disappeared. While I wouldn’t say it was my pride and joy, it was an integral part of the hour-glass figure I used to have. Now, I’m pretty much a straight line from the back of my neck to my heel, and I’m forever pulling up my pants.

Nora Ephron said all this much better than I ever could in her book, I Feel Bad About My Neck. So, if you feel that life is treating you unfairly, let David Sedaris and Nora Ephron put things back in perspective. Laughing is good for you. Or you can create your own blog and complain. It won’t bring back your ass, but you’ll feel better.

Adventures in Trader Joe’s parking lot

An older model beige Buick turned left around an island in the Trader Joe’s parking lot and hit the red Subaru that was parked alongside it. The driver backed up, adjusted, and pulled past the island into a parking spot. Indignant on behalf of the Subaru’s owner, I waited to see what would happen next, running confrontational scenarios in my head.

Across the lot, another woman was also watching. At an Active Bystander workshop, I learned that if you want to intercede on someone’s behalf in public, it’s best to enlist another observer, because, in part, there’s safety in numbers. Designed to empower bystanders to address harmful situations—abuse, harassment, injustice—safely, there had been no role-playing for this situation: an elderly woman slowly unfolded herself from the Buick and walked towards Walgreens without a backward glance.

Despite the fact that our antagonist presented no apparent threat, I was relieved when the other observer raised her eyebrows at me, wordlessly offering to join me to inform the driver of her transgression and ensuing responsibility.

The driver, who I will call Hilda, had no idea she’d hit a car. She thought she’d bumped the curb. Her distress was so acute that my need for justice was subsumed by the desire to reassure her that it was a minor accident of no real consequence.

We urged Hilda to leave her name and number under the Subaru’s windshield wipers so the owner could contact her, but she was too upset to understand the how and why of our suggestion. She wanted to wait for the owner to appear and when we couldn’t dissuade her, I told my partner in Active Bystander-ing that I would stay with Hilda and she could go.

I learned a lot about Hilda. She was 87, her son was sick, and her daughter was out of town. She was a religious woman and G-d was referenced as often as her son, who she was sure would be worried about where she was and angry at her “stupidity.” We stood at the Subaru, in the gray mist, watching people come and go. Each time, Hilda would say, “Is that the car’s owner?” as if I knew.

We were damp and chilly. Hilda was thin, the skin on her hands translucent. She wore a lavender raincoat without a hood. I begged her to go stand under Walgreens’ awning and let me wait for the car’s owner, but she refused. I had no way of knowing which store the owner was in, but when I saw a man in a day-glow orange vest rounding up carts from Trader Joe’s, I asked if he could have the store announce that the owner of a red Subaru was wanted in the parking lot. A few minutes later, a blond, middle-aged woman in a tan overcoat came striding purposefully out of the market.

It only took a moment to explain the situation, after which the owner of the Subaru took down all of Hilda’s information on the back of an envelope, asking for my name and number as well. With each new bit of information captured, Hilda would say, “I am so sorry. I wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for this angel here.” But I was no angel. When Hilda dented the Subaru, my response was one of righteous indignation; I was prepared to do battle for something that was none of my business.

I‘m sorry that this parking lot episode will create an aggravating, confounding problem for an elderly woman who has plenty of other difficulties to deal with, and part of me wishes I had not stepped in. On the other hand, fixing the damage to the Subaru will be a trial and expense for its owner, who deserved consideration as well. Perhaps I will look the other way next time, or leave it to some other Active Bystander to manage. Given the ridiculous configuration of the Trader Joe’s parking lot, I suspect I’ll have the opportunity to test myself again.

Decision point. (Short fiction)

Laurie and Max met at Goodwill where they sorted rags for minimum wage. Both had severe developmental disabilities and Max was legally blind. Though they were in their thirties, they asked for, and received, their parents’ blessings to be married, and set up housekeeping in a one-bedroom apartment on Turner Road. They were a good team and were often seen hand-in-hand walking to the bus, or to visit the goats at a small farm down the street. There was only one thing missing in their world. Laurie desperately wanted a baby, but despite the desire and the prayers, they still didn’t have one.

One gray, Saturday morning, Laurie walked to the grocery store and came home with a baby. Max was confused, but delighted, even though Laurie had neglected to bring home the cereal and milk that she’d gone to the store to get. Nor did she have diapers or formula or even a bottle to feed the baby with, so they agreed that Max would go out and Laurie would stay home with the baby, who had been remarkably quiet the entire time.

Max carefully wrote down all the things he needed to buy, adding in a tiny scribble at the bottom, cookies. He was supposed to be on a diet and didn’t want Laurie to know that he was cheating.

“Take the wheely,” Laurie said. “Diapers are big.”

“But I’m getting little diapers,” Max said.

“Little diapers are big, too,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Take the wheely.”

Max didn’t understand, but he was used to that, and to doing what Laurie said, so he dragged the collapsed, wheeled grocery cart out of the closet and bumped it down the stairs behind him. He stood on the threshold for a moment, studying the sky. It was pretty when it was overcast, and it didn’t hurt his eyes to look at it, like it did when the sun was out. He pried opened the cart so it became a tall wire rectangle, and pulled it down the street. When he got to the corner, he stopped and looked both ways.

A couple of blocks further down the road, in front of the grocery store, he could see flashing blue lights, lots of them. There must be something interesting happening for there to be more than one police car and Max was eager to see so he moved a little faster. But he didn’t run, because that could be dangerous. As he neared the store, a policeman held up his hand in the stop position. Max could now see that there were four police cars and an ambulance and a fire engine.

“Is there a fire?” he asked the policeman.

“Nope. Woman dumped her baby.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means,” said the policeman patiently, “that a woman had a baby, decided she didn’t want it, and tossed it into a dumpster behind the supermarket.”

Max nibbled on his lower lip. “Can I go into the store?” he asked.

“Not right now. We’re trying to find the baby, but it’s not where the lady said she put it. This shouldn’t take long, though, and then you’ll be able to go in.” He turned around and put his hands on his hips, one resting lightly on the butt of the gun in the belt full of cool things that he wore.

It was strange, Max thought, that on the same day Laurie brought home a baby, there was one missing from a dumpster. Why would a lady not want a baby? And why wouldn’t she give it to someone who wanted it instead of throwing it away? That wasn’t good. Max was diligent about recycling, reusing, and reducing, except maybe that last part. He decided he wouldn’t get the cookies after all.

Making decisions was hard. Max wasn’t sure if he should wait for the policeman to let him go into the store, or walk home and try again later. If he wasn’t going to get cookies, maybe he didn’t need to go in at all. What was he supposed to buy? He dug the list out of his back pocket and remembered, oh yeah, cereal, milk, diapers, and formula to feed the baby.

The baby.

Laurie brought a baby home from the supermarket, where some lady had “dumped” her baby.

“Excuse me,” he said, reaching out to touch the policeman’s arm.

Without turning around the policeman said, “Not yet.”

“I have a different question,” Max said.

The policeman sighed, turned around and raised an eyebrow. Max knew that meant he could ask his question.

“Does the lady want her baby back?”

The policeman snorted. “That woman is not getting that baby back. She’ll be lucky if she doesn’t end up in jail.”

Max nodded slowly. “Okay,” he said. “Thanks.”

He decided that he didn’t want to wait on the sidewalk anymore so he turned around and pushed his cart home again.




Who hasn’t thought about suicide?

Every time someone famous kills themselves, editorials and blog posts spring up cautioning us all to keep an eye out for our friends’ mental health. I read one post that I thought was particularly interesting because it discussed the difference between everyday depression, with a small d, the kind we all experience when things aren’t going our way, and clinical Depression, with a big D, where no amount of good fortune will make the person feel better because their brain doesn’t act like (dare I say) a normal one. Unfortunately, as the writer pointed out, we only have the one word for all that, depressed.

I hate to pile on with a me too (not the kind with the hash tag, thank you Michelle Wolf), but I’m depressed, too. Not the big D kind, as far as I know, but that’s the problem with depression, how do you know? Years ago I was diagnosed with anxiety, which we all know is a kissing cousin to the big D, and I often wonder, if I tipped over into Depression, how would I know?

I’ve had years of therapy (and as you know, I’m a big booster). I learned an awful lot about myself and was a good enough student to put into practice what I was learning. Once upon a time, the only emotional response readily accessible to me was anger. You can imagine how difficult that was for family and other intimates. Now I have a full range of emotions at my fingertips and can tell the difference between them. The only one I continue to scratch my head over is depression (if you’ll grant me the latitude to call depression an emotion.)

I know people who suffer from the big D, so if I slip and say, “I’m depressed,” I’ll usually add, “not depressed depressed, just, you know, depressed,” so I don’t worry anyone, and then I feel guilty, because after all, I’m not Depressed so what do I have to complain about?

Occasionally, I’ve gone as far as to indulge in suicidal ideation. Don’t panic or jump to conclusions, here. It’s a fact that people who indulge in suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts for those less inclined to show off their vocabularies) are not necessarily going to kill themselves. Most, I’d hazard a guess, do not, which is to say, lots of people think about it, but if they haven’t gotten as far as a plan there’s probably nothing to worry about. Probably. So how do you know when to worry? That’s a real question; I have no idea.

The point I’m trying to make is that I’d like to be able to reclaim the word depressed. I don’t want to feel guilty when I use it, because, dammit, I’m depressed! My father died last November, I broke my shoulder in January, I work out of my home and need to actively create reasons to leave. I worry about my mother who is now on her own and everyone else in my meshuggeneh family. I’d be crazy not to be depressed.

Unless I’m just unhappy.

In which case, as Emily Litella used to say on Saturday Night Live, never mind.

emily litella