Monday, February 28, 2011

My Parents

I remember my relationship with my mom to usually be somewhat tense. Not like other girls that were so close with their moms. As a teenager I remember going with her to Abraham & Straus Department Store in Manhasset, L.I.  I would try on lots of clothes and somehow  boss her around to hang them up for me and to go  find me another size for me to try on. When I think about it now I think that her interaction with me was quite kind, although I do remember her telling my dad that I was acting a little “crazy” or was I just acting out? I also remember her warning my old boyfriend Jay that I “was crazy”. That was something that would really upset me. How could or would my mom say those things about me to my boyfriend.
 I grew up with a dad that I had heard (from my mom’s friends) adored me and that “his eyes lit up whenever I entered the room”. Was my mom a little jealous of my relationship with my dad ?I do think my dad spoiled me although as I got older when my mom & I would not be getting along he always seemed to protect her from me or took her side.
I recall when I was in my early 30’s and married, living in Manhattan that my mom use to come in and help me heat seal all these crafts kits that I was marketing  to children. This was a mail order business that I had started.  It was called “Creative Me”, which children designed their own t-shirts using special fabric crayons. It was featured in many newspapers, magazines and also on the Joan Hamburg radio show. This time that I spent with my mom I remember being lovely and we got along quite well. She took the train in from Great Neck, Long Island(which we moved to while I was in 6th grade) then  she took a cab, and would come to my apartment to help me fold and insert the fabric crayons,t -shirt and instructions into the kits. Then we would heat seal the bags closed. In the evening my husband and I would load them in our car and drive them over to UPS to mail out.
I also remember how I always wanted my dear friend Cathy’s mom to be my mom, while we were in junior high school and for many years after that. If only Mrs. Fields was my mom. She was cool and so lovely. I would say she had a Grace Kelly style. All my friends use to hang out at Cathy’s house and enjoyed being with her mom. I often wondered if I would I have been a lovelier more “spiritual” human being growing up with Mrs. Fields as my mom. I think the kindness, softness, nurturing kind of mom might have shaped me differently, or maybe not. Speaking to Cathy about writing my memoir and how inspiring my mom has become to me, Cathy asked me the question “could your mom have always been like this and you just didn’t know it?”I really need to think about that question. My immediate response is I don’t think so.
Was I just screwed up on my own, being affected by the wealthy town that I lived in? Was it my own insecurities of not having what my friends had, which was money, live in housekeepers and large beautiful homes .My friends would never act better than me. In fact they all seemed quite lovely and not spoiled. I was the one with the insecurities and problems. They would come to my house and my mom would hang around for a while and talk to them. My friends seemed to enjoy my parents. I was the one who felt embarrassed about mom hanging out with us. As I look back now, I see that this was really my problem, not my moms. Some of my friend’s parents never ever seemed to be around. Perhaps they we’re dining in Manhattan, at the theatre, or traveling in Europe. I just got to meet their housekeepers. I remember on Saturday nights in 7th grade hanging out at Nancy Breslau’s house in Kings Point, listening to Johnny Mathis singing “Chances Are” and singing along to “Wonderful, Wonderful” which was her older sisters record collection .Nancy was one of my friends that had “real” Papagallos in every color.  They were the status symbol back in the sixties. My parents could not afford to buy them for me. So did that also affect me and if so positive or negative? I lost contact with Nancy yet I still have several close friends from Great Neck that mean a lot to me.


Friday, February 25, 2011

My Mother & Me(Dynamics of My Family)

Perhaps my relationship with my mom started way back when my brother Gil was born.Gil is five and half years older than I am, and when my mom gave birth to him she was a newly wed and only eighteen years old. My dad had enlisted in the Navy and when my brother was only 3 months old my dad was shipped off  to serve his country in World War 2.My mom was left behind and she moved in with her parents and went to work on an Army base located somewhere in Brooklyn,NY.Mygrandmother took care of my brother while my mom went to work. When my dad returned from the Navy my brother was onlytwo years old. I was told that my grandmother  had become so overly protective of my brother that she hardly allowed my father to touch or hold his own son. My dad certainly resented this and in strange ways perhaps took his feelings out on my brother .My mom seemed to always be protecting my brother with my dad and at the same time my dad smothered me with love and affection. So much so, that when I was in high school I remember pushing my dad away with all his kisses to me (which years later I regretted).
Perhaps the dynamics were then carved to form a loving relationship of a little girl and her father and a not so close relationship with her mother. I was for sure daddy’s little girl and how I loved it.
As I became older and even more adoring of my dad, perhaps my mom was (subconsciously) becoming jealous of my relationship with him. Her friends would always comment that my dad’s face just lit up when I entered the room and my mom was always around to hear them say it.
As I think back to my childhood and try to reminisce about when and where my relationship with my mom seemed to be changing was perhaps when we moved to Great Neck,L.I.  I was eleven years old and would be entering sixth grade.  Growing up in Bayside,NY  as a younger child before moving to Great Neck were filled with  many joyous moments. I was still running into my dad’s arms whenever I heard him call my name after he returned  home from a
day of work ( as I played outside in the playground ). At an early age my mom did not work so when I was not is school  or playing with friends I was with my mother who took me to ballet lessons and watched at home as I took my piano lessons. These certainly were the years of the” Ozzie & Harriet” generation.
Playing the piano which I enjoyed was always a sore spot for me because I recalled that my brother had a beautiful baby grand piano and that my mom sold it when he refused to practice the piano.It was replaced for me with an old ugly upright.  I had always expressed to my mom that I would like the same piano my brother had yet she never seemed to get me one.My mom  had a strong personality perhaps because she was only five feet tall and felt that she had to speak up to “protect” herself.I do not recall her ever  being a nurturing, soft,cuddling mother which was more the role my dad played for me.He was the one that I think of who was so loving and nurturing to me where my mom was not.My mom had more of a “tough love “personality  where my dad was just smothering me with love and affection. My mom  always stressed learning and education, she was perhaps more of the displinary.My parents were both supportive of me yet as I got older and perhaps had called for advice my mom always told me to speak to my dad because he was better at these things than she was.
I did feel some pain when during the summer months she made me do my lessons from the summer reading programs that she subscribed to called Highlights. I was not allowed out to play during the summer until I completed each lesson that she had me do.One summer was especially painful when she accidently received a year ahead of the lessons I should have been doing and she had me read until I knew every word.I remember so vividly the torture I felt. As the tears rolled down my cheeks I pleaded with her that the assignments were too difficult for me. My mom insisted only to find out that the lessons were a year ahead. I remember her being so proud that she thought she had advanced me to the head of my class as a reader .For me it damaged me for I did not enjoy reading until I became much older.
My other vivid memory that perhaps scarred our relationship was how badly I wanted this beautiful dancing ballerina that my cousin Carole had. We would visit my dad’s older brother almost every Sunday. They lived out in Levittown, Long Island and I had loved to go to their home where I played mostly with my cousin Debbie who was younger than her two sisters. Every week I would wind up this ballerina that was in a glass dome (standing only 6-8 inches tall) and watch her as she swirled to the music. I have no idea why I was so mesmerized by the dancing ballerina I just remember how I loved her so. I remember asking my mom many times if I could get one and she always said no. I was probably around nine years old and I was at the time also a “ballerina” taking dancing lessons. I have no idea why my mom said no and wonder why I did not ask my dad to get me one. It could have been that somehow I knew my mom was the “boss” although my dad would have given me anything that I ever wanted. My mom had no explanation nor did she ever try to explain to me why I could not get a dancing ballerina she just had the simple answer of no. There was no warmth, softness or as I say the feeling of being nurtured by my mom. This was how she would express things to me. Maybe I just wanted a mother portrayed like all the TV shows at that time (the late 50’s early 60’s) ,whether it was  “The Donna Reed Show “or “Leave it to Beaver .

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ruthie the Spelling Queen

February 24,2011
Today when I spoke to  my mom I asked her if she'd like to spell to help stimulate her mind. Mom answered okay and I proceeded to give her some of the following words to spell ; sensation,perspiration,company,sensitive,aggressive,exposure and with a second she spelt almost every word correctly.Everytime she does this I wonder how she does it.My brother says that it is different parts of the brain that is used and.I say, it takes a memory to be able to do that. Fo my mom this seems to be the only real memory she has.

Elaine tells me how different my mom is from other Alzheimer’s patients that she has taken care of through the years. She says that mom is so funny, and sweet. She tells me that her experience of a lot of Alzheimer patients is that they become angry and frustrated. Not my mom, so again I am so thankful. My mom has become a delight. I actually look forward to calling her. She makes me laugh and smile no matter what my mood might be. Since she will not remember what I say I sometimes share with her when I am feeling upset or down and she always has words of wisdom and life lessons to share with me. She is so amazing. She makes me laugh and she sings me little snippets of songs. And you should see how she can spell. She’s the spelling queen of Florida. Give her a word to spell and in two seconds flat she spells it. I wonder how this can be. It takes a memory to be able to spell and she doesn’t even write anything down. The mind I find is so fascinating and at the very same time my mom has no idea what time it is or what day it is, and to her it does not really matter.

Sometimes when I speak to her she sounds so sharp and I can at moments  even talk to her about something that is bothering me and her awareness and answers are so right on.The women who still can give me advice and yet she doesn’t remember that I called her the second I hang up.
I listen to the same recent stories from her over and over again just happy that she still has some memory.
I asked my mom today when she could not remember what she ate(even if she did not eat) and not remembering seeing my brother yesterday “mom is it scary to you that you don’t remember anything?” her answer to me is “no it’s not scary because I know that whatever happened yesterday  I’m sure it was very nice “It wasn’t  so long ago she would tell me that she had a very good memory(while she couldn’t even remember how old she was or when my birthday was)and I just say okay mom and smile to myself.
I miss her and also cherish every second that I still do have with her. Mom I dedicate this book(or blog) to you and all the other people and their families that are struggling with this disease called Dementia/Alzheimer’s. My mom has become my hero. I love her so much and hope that she’ll never forget that ,as she slowly fades away.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Mom I Never New

December 2009
At 85 years old with being diagnosed with dementia my mom has become a flower that has blossomed into a beautiful aging lady. With no complaints ever, all alone in herself and home, answering every call I make to her with a cheerful hello and smile.She is always so happy to hear from me. She has become funny and we laugh a lot together. She has touched me in such a way and has really warmed my heart.
She lives part in her world, whatever that may be. I hold and cherish that she still knows me not wanting to think of the day that she will not .I want so badly to be near her and she replies that she will not leave her home,that she’s happy there. My mom says that this is her home and until she becomes a sick little old lady that this is where she belongs. It’s funny because she may not remember so many things, yet when it comes to my asking her to move near me, this always is the same answer that she seems never to forget. It makes a lot of sense to me except last year the same mom had no idea what food was in her refrigerator, if she ate or how to use her microwave. She is totally incapable of cooking for herself .When I asked her to brush her hair she picked up her toothbrush and started to comb her hair. Her clothes are disheveled and dirty and she insists on wearing the same outfit every day. When she’s not looking I had to sneak her clothes away to wash them.  Her clothes were then clean for her to wear again.  She hardly showered and didn’t remember to brush her teeth or flush the toilet. My mom who was the cleanest person you would ever want to meet when Logan and I went to visit her over  2 1/2 years ago her bathrooms and kitchen were so dirty I didn’t even want to touch anything. Her bathroom mirrors were covered with dirt so it was impossible to even see yourself in them. They had so much dirt on them and her kitchen cabinets and microwave were coated with food drippings. My mom would never change her sheets. When I asked her why, she answered “why should I. I’m clean when I sleep in them so they do not get dirty.” My brother, Logan and I sat her down and told her that we were going to get someone in to help her. She was adamant that she did not need anyone, and angry that she was not a child. Anyway my brother found a wonderful lady named Elaine who now spends a few hours a day with my mom.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ruthie' Childhood

Before I tell you about my mom's childhood I just want to let you know that I call my mom every morning to say hello and hear her cheerful voice.Today mom asked me how my children are.That meant she was having a good day except that I only have one child named Logan.She does not call Logan by his name anymore for 90 % of the time she does not remember his name.My mom has only one grandchild ,who of course like
every other grandmother she adores him.Now please read on about Ruthies Childhood.

My mom lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn as a young child and her parents then moved to Coney Island, I believe when she was a teenager. She loved to tell me about her spending summers in the country and for hours reading books under the trees. How she loved words, learning and reading.She also spent summers at the beach and on the boardwalk at Coney Island.Back in those days Coney Island which is in Brooklyn had some “fame”. It was known as one of the greatest amusement parks which included the famous Parachute ride, Nathans (so famous for its hot dogs), cotton candy,jelly apples  and  some of the largest display of fireworks on the 4th of July. My mom was proud to be living there. She would tell me stories about visiting her friend Millie who lived at the other end of the beach in a private locked community called Seagate. She loved to tell me and everyone else through the years about her going in a private 2 seated plane with her best friend Jeanie’s husband Jimmy. Jimmy would flip the plane to try to scare her to death and she would say to Jimmy,” I loved it please do it again”,(using reverse psychology) just so he would not do it again. She would say that her mom, who wouldn’t even let her cross the street alone till the age of sixteen, would absolutely die if she knew what my mom did. I think in some ways my mom really enjoyed doing some “dare devil” things to perhaps rebel against her overprotective mom. Although she never said it I think she favored her father .I remember going to stay at my grandparents home  and sleeping over as a child to see the fireworks on the 4th of July  on the boardwalk.  I just loved and cherished doing that. As of today the 4th of July celebration just thrills me. I have such wonderful memories of my grandfather and yet I hardly remember my grandma.  Perhaps this was because I was quite young when she died. My grandfather Louie lived into his early 80’s. My son Logan is named after my grandfather who truly was a great man. Born in Russia he came over on a boat not speaking any English to get away from the persecution of the Jews in Europe. He went to work in a sweat shop in the garment center . I remember his tales about how he tore up his draft card (which back in Russia they did not have one)going to Angela Davis Rallies, calling to tell us he was just robbed by “gentlemen “and going to see Mayor Lindsay who my grandfather  had received a letter of  acknowledgment for something he had done. My grandfather till the day he died was always in a suit, neatly pressed shirt and tie, and always told us that it was important to dress like a gentlemen. My grandfather had no money yet he had an awareness and sophistication that money could not buy. I guess one would say that he was a very rich man. He was really liked and respected by his children, grandchildren, friends and neighbors. He was so involved and active in different causes, clubs and community organizations.. I was told that in some ways he was communist and I looked upon him as a real liberal, with no prejudices, which is the 1960’s might have been unusual. Unfortunately asking my mom now about her parents she says she doesn’t remember anything that it was so too long ago. What I do remember her saying was that her mom was very good natured and that people loved her. She also said that her mom was so over protective of her because she had lost another child (or had miscarried). My grandmother became fearful that something could happen to my mom or her younger brother, who several year ago died of Alzheimer’s.As I write this my grandfather did not have Alzheimer’s and my grandmother ( who was born in Austria) died at age 56 so I’ll never know if she would have gotten the disease. My mom always said that my grandfather would buy her presents and new outfits for my mom to wear, even though they had no money and he would take her out to show her “the world”. He wanted my mom to dress nice and have nice clothes. He was a very proud man so to speak.
My mom loved reading and learning and continued after I was in my teens to take courses at a college or to go to lectures. She did this same thing after she moved to Florida and had recently stopped which was one of the first signs now that I look back of her having dementia. She always encouraged me to read and learn which I had rebelled about while in school..My brother seemed to listen and went onto become a doctor. My mom was also quite liberal with me like her dad was with her.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wedding Bells

My brother asked in August 2010, if I could go to the Manhattan office to get a copy of my parent’s marriage certificate. He could not find it at my mom’s house and my mom had no idea where it was. We needed it so we could apply for VA Benefits for my mom. My dad had served in the Navy, during WW2 and filling out the application we needed to submit proof that they were married.
I went to the office and after filling out the form I waited for the clerk to give it to me. As I waited approximately 10-15 minutes my eyes swelled up. I was then called and gave them my credit card and I asked for two copies of my parent’s marriage certificates. As I was folding them to put in my handbag, I looked at them more carefully and tears started to run down my cheeks.
My heart hurt and I thought of the vows they took so many, many years ago. It was on October 25th, 1942.My mom was only 18 and my dad was 21.They were just kids at the time. My father’s brother, my Uncle Benny was a witness and both of their parents attended. I saw that all four came from Russia and Austria . I saw my grandmother’s maiden names, Levitt and Pasternak.
I thought of how life goes by so quickly and that many of us take it for granted. I imagined them as young lovers (or sweethearts) with a whole life ahead of them to look forward to. I then heard them speak their vows:
                               Do you Arthur Elian take Ruth Esther Schnitzer to be your lawful wedded wife.
                                 And Ruth Schnitzer do you take Arthur Elian to be your lawful wedded husband.
                                Will you love, respect and honor. Do you promise to love and cherish her/him in
                                sickness and health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse for as long as you both shall live.
                                  “I do, I do”.I now pronounce you husband and wife.
I would love to share all this with my mom when I speak to her later. Yet I will not for I doubt that she has any real memories left of this special day in her life. They have all been wiped away from her. Her mind seems to have become a blank canvas.  My mom has a disease known as Alzheimer’s. Even if she can remember any of it, I choose not to bring to her heart any unnecessary pain. 
So mom and dad, I lift the glass of champagne and make a toast ,to two of the best parents that I could ever ask for, and thank you both for always being there for me no matter what. I will always love you dearly and deeply.
Amen !

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Girl With A Curl


My mom is my hero today and forever. It all began 60 years ago when I was born in Brooklyn on July 12t, 1949.I was told that I was either singing ,dancing or crying. I was never in between. I was either happy or sad. I remember years later going to a therapist and explaining this and telling her that I wanted to learn to live in “grey”.For me my world consisted of only black and white. I did finally discover grey and I found it to be a boring place to be. And so my story begins.
There was once a little girl with a curl right in the middle of her forehead and when she was good she was very very good and when she was bad she was horrid.

After all these years I was sitting in a park today and there was a little girl with blond curly hair playing with her mom in a sandbox. After a while she went to her mom and hugged her so, and of course her mom picked her up into her arms and held her tight. She must have been around 3 years old. With no emotions attached I wonder if I had experienced doing that with my mom when I was so young. I have no memory of it at all, but what flashed into my head was a rhyme my mom use to say to me a lot. It brought warmth to my heart. I too like this little girl had blond curly hair.
                       There was once a little girl with a curl right in the middle of her forehead and
                        When she was good she was very, very good and when she was bad she was horrid.