Birthday tribute

I wrote this piece in my writing group last Tuesday. I was inspired by a quote from Joan Rivers: “I wish I could tell you it gets better, but it doesn’t get better. You get better.” Here goes: February fourth would have been my husband Bob’s eighty-seventh birthday. It was an awful lonely long day. No hugs, no kisses, no conversations, no plans, no nothing. And I kept thinking about how I could make it better, and I couldn’t find a way. He’s been gone over three years already and those three years seem so much longer than the over fifty years we were together married, having a family, sometimes working together, traveling, eating out, occasionally bickering and having long and interesting talks almost every night after dinner. I still have the beautiful jewels and clothes and artifacts that he gave me that I don’t even wear or use. But I can’t bear to sell or give them away. They are my memories of him and his generosity and love. My son will have to deal with them after I’m … [Read more...]

Not home yet

Next week I'll have lived at Fountainview at Gonda in Playa Vista California for one year. And I still can’t call it my home. It’s supposed to be, but to me it’s just a building with six stories, common areas consisting of a living room, dining room, library, gym, theater, bar, and a big room called the events center. All those rooms are nice looking but mostly empty. Because of Covid and staff losses, we haven’t eaten together in the dining room for months except for a few special occasions. My apartment is on the fourth floor. It’s a corner unit so it gives me a little more space and a wrap-around deck. I furnished my apartment with things from the family home that I sold in Manhattan Beach, and they fit in very well. But that’s because I hired a designer recommended to me who was familiar with Fountainview floor plans. She picked out the pieces of my furniture that would fit best here. And to make it more homey, I kept and display artifacts, pictures, books, crystal, depression … [Read more...]

More poems about moving

While my moving days are still clear in my mind, here's a few more poems I've written about that awful chore. So many decisions, so many memories, so much pain involved. Bob, your favorite Yellow leather chair Is going out of our lives. It doesn’t fit In my new home So I’m giving It to Joe. I know He’ll take good care Of it and remember you Whenever he sits in it. And I won’t ever forget How you looked Snuggled up in it Dozing and relaxing There even when You were the most sick. I don’t need The physical chair Or the physical you To have all The best memories Of our undying love.   This is the penultimate Moving day. The piles of boxes Filled the whole garage And now are Packed tight in two trucks. Soon the furniture Will go in. By close of business The trucks will be packed And ready For delivery tomorrow. And with every step The movers make I remember the story Of the things they carry.   We lived with an armoire In our bedroom For over twenty years. It held our … [Read more...]

Selling, getting rid of the stuff, and moving

My house  has been on the market for three weeks with no offers yet. Bub I assume that will happen in good time. In the meantime I'm nervous about  it and I work hard to make sure my home is in perfect condition when people come by to see it. In the meantime I also write my daily poems - hoping my words will help the process along.   I'm abandoned Put upon Left to do All the work. Arrange for repairs Take care of the garden Sign the listing papers And make sure Everything is perfect before a buyer Comes by. Then I’m the one Left to decide On an offer If one ever comes through Next I must take care of all the work Of the move: The throwing away, The giving away, The taking away, Handling all the things We lovingly bought together And put into this home. And touching each One by one while deciding What to do with it. I resent it I want him by my side. After he died I had to take care Of the finances Pay the bills Do the taxes Manage the money. This other stuff The selling, the … [Read more...]

Still here – old memories and feelings of guilt

I received a surprise Facebook private message two mornings ago that brought up a lot of old memories of our deceased son Paul and many old feelings of guilt about what I could have done to save him. Even though he's been gone from our lives for almost eighteen years, those things can come up without warning any time of day or night. The note, I'm sure, didn't intend to promote those old feelings. It was a lovely compliment about my book and how my book will help the writer with her work as a therapist. However, when I read it at four in the morning, I was through sleeping for the rest of the night. Here's the message I received from a young woman who was in Paul's high school class at Crossroads in Santa Monica. I don't remember ever meeting her until she asked me to be her Facebook friend a few weeks ago. "For seven years Leaving the Hall Light On was on my Amazon wish list because I graduated from Crossroads with Paul. When we found out at our reunion that he had died … [Read more...]

May flowers and memories (small stones)

I just finished my tenth month writing small stones. The only break was during  my husband's Grand Canyon accident and recovery in November - December 2016. Here are my May small stones, including a couple of photos I posted with the words. By the way, the admin of the small stones  Facebook page, Ger O Neill, creates a new name for our group every month. Last month the name was May flowers and memories. This month we're writing Jewels of June. May flowers and memories May Day and the beginning of mental health month. A great day for people watching and writing at a little café. Congress is trying to decimate mental health care. If they pass the amended American Health Care Act (AHCA), millions of Americans will lose their mental health coverage. Please tell your congress representatives to vote No on AHCA. How can so many things in my house go wrong at the same time? My stove cooktop, a water heater, and dryer are all dead. And service people are nowhere in sight. … [Read more...]

Introducing Patti Hawn, author of Good Girls Don’t

A few weeks ago two friends told me about Patti Hawn and suggested I meet her. After all, she lives in my hometown, she's written a memoir, and she's about my age. Without missing a beat, I sent her a private message on Facebook and suggested we get together. And she accepted and named one of my favorite restaurants where we could grab lunch  - I liked her already. We met for lunch a few days later (a blind date, so to speak), and we talked for an hour and a half without stopping. We also exchanged memoirs. Thus a beautiful new friendship was born. I read Patti's memoir, Good Girls Don't, almost immediately and was taken by how detailed and intimate it is (I've shared my review at the end of this post). So I asked her if she'd write a guest post for Choices about how she wrote her deeply personal memoir with such clarity.   Here's Patti: The Gift of Memories By Patti Hawn I wrote my book Good Girls Don't shortly after reuniting with the son I surrendered to … [Read more...]

Author David Berner discusses writing about our lives

Our Choices guest today, David Berner, shares with us the essence of memoir writing. He tells us what it is not - a series of diary entries that relate every detail of a life - and what it is - a story that begins with a moment rounded out with the details related to that moment. My memoir Leaving the Hall Light On, begins with the moment of my son's suicide. The rest of the book details the events leading up to that moment and its aftermath. David Berner's memoir, Any Road Will Take You There, starts with a five-thousand mile road trip  that enables him to find peace and fulfillment in being a dad after a series of heartbreaking and life-changing personal events. Please welcome David Berner. Making the Choice to Write About Your Life by David Berner A woman came up to me after a workshop I conducted several years ago about writing memoir. She held in her hand a thick manuscript and told me she was writing about her life, one full of adventures, one she wanted to share. I've … [Read more...]

Memoir – a way of keeping a loved one alive

Before I had any inkling that I would write my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living withHer Son's Bipolar and Surviving His Suicide, I wrote to keep the memory of my oldest son Paul alive. It was almost an obsession. I continually wrote down everything I could remember. I didn't want to forget one thing about him. Possibly his last photo   It turns out my notes and journal entries were a huge help when I began to put my memoir together. My journals even short entries informed and rounded out my writing immensely. What else is memoir but memories? Here is a list of memories I wrote down in the early days after Paul's death. I'm especially glad to have them this month my birthday month one of the times I miss him the most. I'll always remember he slept without closing his eyes all the way I'll always remember he walked fast and way ahead of us I'll always remember he had long, thick, black eyelashes surrounding clear … [Read more...]

What I Miss

Paul loved playing the piano What I Miss Twelve years didn't erase him. He is still with me everyday. The memories haven't dimmed. I clearly see his face, his clear blue eyes, his buzzed hair in my mind. I miss hearing him play his music as his bent fingers lightly trickled up and down the keyboard. I miss hearing his footsteps on the stairs and hardwood floors as he prowled around the house at night. I miss hearing his deep voice as he said, hello when he came home from work I also miss his expertise. He solved our computer problems at night leaving carefully written instructions in his childish printing for us to find the next morning. I don't miss his smoking, I don't miss his bad moods during his last few years, I don't miss that his sickness sometimes made him angry and me angry at him. No, I don't miss those things. But, I don't think about them. I just think about the things about him that I miss. 2008, 2011 … [Read more...]