On November, My Favorite Month…

Autumnal Leaves, Autumn, Orange

On November, My Favorite Month…

I was living in Chicago. I stood at the large bay window in my condo and looked out at the Forest Preserve. Fallen leaves covered the ground; the sky was grey.

It was then that I realized that I loved the grey days, their sense of melancholy beauty resonated with me. November in Chicago, grey days. And then November became my favorite month.

It remains so, though in North Carolina those grey days don’t come until December. November, grey days, the birthdays of those I love and those who have wounded me the deepest, Thanksgiving, a time when, bare of their leaves, trees show us who they really are, the Novembers of our lives, literally and figuratively.

I spoke to a woman in her late 80s recently. Her best friend, one she knew since her high school days, had died. She spoke of the loss, not only of her confidant, her friend, but also of someone who knew, and had shared, her history. And that is part of what aging is – losing those we knew and loved, losing those who knew us. It made me even more resolute to publish that memoir. Not only to tell my story, but also as a way of preserving that sensation of the self that I once was, complete with failings and at least a few strengths. The real, the true, as memory and imagination blur, my perception, my sense of truth as suspect as the characters in my story.

Meanwhile, from my sun porch I stare at my favorite beech, holding on to its brown, brittle leaves until Spring, unwilling to expose its bare branches except to those who look deep and hard. And that is what I want to do.



On My Outrageous Friend…

Image result for image outrageous friend

My Outrageous Friend…

She didn’t know who I was the last time we talked, but she managed to carry on a conversation with this stranger who called to wish her a happy birthday. Now a phone conversation is beyond her grasp.

My friend, my outrageous friend. I may be lost to her; she will never be lost to me. Too many memories, experiences shared. And doesn’t every serious person need an outrageous friend, a window into thinking, behaving, as we thought we never would, but always, covertly, longed to.

Cookie was that for me. We laughed until our sides ached, doubled over with breathless delight. I accepted and cherished her idiosyncrasies that placed her family in paroxysms of fury and sometimes despair. She had a flair for the dramatic, all right, and no compunction about indulging it. Many times I stood beside her, figuratively if not literally, sometimes picking up the pieces. I was happy to do it.

She loved me, that I know. She thought I was wonderful, perfect, smart. Well, who wouldn’t want a friend like that? I confided in her like no other, and she always took my side. I can hear her pithy, salty responses, always delivered in that memorable Baltimore accent. “Well, you know he’s an asshole, don’t you?” “That fucking bitch. I knew it the minute I laid eyes on her. You know she’s just jealous. Can’t stand in your light.” “I can’t stand to be in the same room with him. He makes my skin crawl. I’ll tell him. You want me to tell him? I will. He won’t know what hit him.”

It didn’t matter if it were an affair of the heart, a work issue, or an in-law kerfuffle. She was there, always, and always on my side. As I was for her, throughout her scrapes and tussles with life. She liked living on the edge, and would do what she could to make sure situations turned out that way. I was close, yet far away, enough to look at them with a wry and loving indulgence, and, most times, help her figure out a logical, reasoned exodus even if she seldom took it.

For so many years we lived far apart, as I moved to Chicago and then to North Carolina. We did manage to meet in between every year. Now I wonder why we didn’t do that more often. Our last time together, when she was who she was, we spent hours in a bookstore, going up and down the aisles pointing out books we had read, wanted to read, a reader’s frenzy. We laughed, and I wonder if she knew it would be our last time when we were really together.

She called me when she first received the diagnosis. She cried; this time I had no words or plans that could make it right. I continued to call, not often, but I kept in touch as she became more and more out of touch.

Until this weekend, when the recording said that her phone had been disconnected. I contacted her daughter. “Mom is in a nursing home. She’s happy, well fed. She doesn’t know where she is.”

But, for me, she will always be in my heart.


Memento Mori


Memento Mori

According to my Grandiloquent Wall Calendar, Memento Mori Day was January 3rd. A good time, I think – the New Year’s hangover eased, a few days into January for those resolutions to have weakened, and life almost back to normal.

Memento Mori – “Remember, you must die.”

Well, yes, I do, most of the time, though I don’t think it’s wise to keep it top of mind.  Is it a serious thought? Yes. Is it depressing? It can be. BUT, it can serve as a wakeup call to live, to appreciate each day that we have, especially for those of us who have more yesterdays than tomorrows.

This week I made a New Year’s Resolution call to an old friend, a dear friend. She and I have known each other for many decades, experienced highs and lows together that will most likely, at least I hope, not return. We knew each other as few, if any did. And I use the past tense purposely. For, yes, it is that we knew each other. Oh, I still know her. And she remembers me, sort of. She knows my name, my voice, most likely not my face. But her memories of our times together, our experiences, have gone into that nether world of dementia. And so, a part of my past has vanished as well.

She is happily demented, I would say, a layperson’s assessment of her life. She laughs, and tells me that she has many friends. I hope she is right. Only once, several years ago now, when she was first diagnosed, when her lucid moments outpaced her clouded ones, did she talk about what it meant to say goodbye. Goodbye to me, to her memories, to her past. “I can’t remember shit, Cyn,” she said, laughing and crying at the same time. And I was silent. She knew me then. No longer does she remember that she can’t remember.

And so, dear reader, as we begin this new year, let us “remember, you must die,” and pay attention, appreciate every hour that we have. Let’s seize the day, as the posters say. Let’s figure out exactly what that means, for each of us. Use the good silver, the china that was our great-great grandmother’s. Wear that velvet cape that lays in the attic wrapped in tissue paper. Figure out what’s important and hold on to it. Call the friend who knew you when. Make peace with some of your demons. But keep others around to remind you that you’re real.

Memento mori – I’ll drink to that – the good bourbon this time.

Another Sunday, http://www.cynthiastrauff.com