Posts tagged friends
As a person who has been on this earth for over a half-century, every new “methodology” or “way of thinking”, I have usually met with skepticism. Now maybe it’s because I am a born and bred New Yorker, but that’s me. Excuses for bad behavior never went over well with my family and there was a plethora of behavior that fell under the “bad” category.
That being said, everyone these days talks about “self-care”. As the COVID-19 pandemic began, we were told to stay home, “flatten the curve”, they said. I sewed our first masks together in March of 2020 and we wore them when suggested. Vaccines came out – how fast could we get an appointment? Vaccinated twice, boosted, wearing masks when in large settings, staying away from those who we know are unvaccinated.
Here’s where the self-care comes in. On the growing list of identified “pre-existing conditions” that made one more susceptible to infection with COVID-19, I seemed to be checking off more of them as we went through 2020:
Older? (Really? I didn’t think I was that old…) – Check
Obesity? (I like to think of it as “fluffiness”) – Check
Pre-diabetic? (Jury still out on this one – endocrinologist says “no”) – Possible check
As the yes went on and more and more issues made me nervous, High Blood Pressure? – Check
Blood Type A? – Check
Besides the fact that I have been a somewhat closeted Germaphobe since the age of 8 (thanks to my dad and an inundation of poinsettias at Christmas), this pandemic and the thought of catching some “could-be-deadly” virus had me beside myself. My wife’s business was completely impacted as the shutdown of the restaurant industry led to her (thankfully) being home for long periods of time but put a tremendous strain on an already strained business.
Oh yes, you might think that washing hands, using hand sanitizer, wiping everything that came in the house down with Lysol sprays and cleaners and staying home might have been the best steps in self-care one could have taken. Staying away from large gatherings of people, meeting friends and neighbors outside, cooking every meal at home, shopping with home delivery – all privileges we took as the various surges hit our area.
With older parents, being an only child, running my own business and commuting an hour both ways every day to that business, I didn’t have a lot of time, nor did I have the inclination to invest any time in “self-care”. Maybe an errant massage once or twice a year but no regular doctor’s visits, no meditation, no retreats, no journaling – just a lot of running around and appointments and expectations to be met. I am not telling you this to have you feel sorry for me – only to give context to what I will say next.
With this pandemic, I finally chose to worry about ME; to take care of ME; to keep ME (and my wife) somewhat safe; for ME to be a responsible member of the human race and keep others safe as well – this was my way of saying, “Enough! I want to make sure I’m still here to see another day”. But with events scheduled at the very beginnings of the Delta surge (which we didn’t attend – 150 people, mostly unvaccinated – one having to be postponed due to COVID infections; another “indoor-outdoor” with about 70), we became highly aware of the vigilance necessary around rising infection rates. Other events were outdoors; we even celebrated my wife’s 60th birthday in August when almost all numbers in New York were down – we did a small family gathering – 30 people and outdoors.
And yet, it has caused nothing but trouble with family and in a community that are (for the most part) diametrically opposed to science, the world community and the “Golden Rule”; dressing-downs referring to what we should do and how we should behave have been vocalized loud and clear; I have encountered push back from friends and family alike – those that I always considered close but now realize (or maybe just solidified the thinking that…) if I don’t play the game by their rules and compromise myself, I’m not going to be considered or respected or remembered.
Definite on the respected. And with every passing day, remembered less and less.
I know I missed things and if you knew me well, you know, I live with the regret of missing things, so I try my best to NOT miss things. No one has asked why I am doing the things I am as far as COVID is concerned – no one has asked me if I am concerned about others I consider “family”. No one has asked if I’ve been able to see my family during this time – no one has inquired about loss. Keeping myself safe, keeping my wife safe and also, not wanting to be responsible for bringing a germ that I might be carrying to someone else and making them ill was how I chose to choose ME first this time.
That time I chose self-care? I’d do it again – regardless of the opposition. There’s a bigger picture here and when self-care broadens itself to community-care or worldwide-care, I’m always going to come down on the side of responsible and safe.
I have always taken inspiration from the women in my life.
From when I was a very young child, I always noted how people interacted with each other. I knew what my mom meant and she didn’t have to say much, to me, my father or anyone else in the family. My aunts conveyed love in different ways – one did it with brownies, the other, with challenges to me, her children, and my cousins.
I had cousins who were very influential and more relatives in an extended family who led without ever letting anyone know that they were being led. Women who did what was expected, did a bit covertly to get what was needed for the sitjation, some who achieved just by believing in the power of support.
This past week, for me, was the end of an era. I had said goodbye to my mother’s sister, my uncle’s wife. And although I still have the gift of many of my mother’s friends from younger years (some from her childhood), on Sunday, we lost the last of my wife’s aunts.
So why are you writing this post, you ask….
I write this post, along with the others I have written here for my Aunt Flo, Mother Theresa, and my own mother. I write this post with the title “How fortunate were we” because her name reflected that – Fortunata; we all called Fay, Aunt Fay, even Uncle Fay (my brother-in-law’s pet name for her).
A long and winding history with Aunt Fay and her family, I had known her for at least the last thirty years of my life. She went from being my friend’s aunt to a welcoming hostess, to a business advisor and confidante, to one of the best friends a person could have. And although we were quite different in age, I looked to Aunt Fay because she embodied so much of what women of her generation were never supposed to achieve.
She was the second child of three, born to immigrant parents in Brooklyn. She lived through The Great Depression, World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, 9/11, and plenty of global issues, good and bad; technology, transportation, and communication innovations along with the change empowerment, education, and expectations for everyone. She wanted to go to college and did, with her parents’ blessings and encouragement. She changed majors and found a life-long love for numbers and business.
She was Valedictorian for her graduating class; she earned her CPA license in 1961, which she held until a few years ago. She served on the Board of Directors of a prominent hospital and volunteered at many school functions. Along with her husband, she ran one of the most successful dealerships in the Northeast for decades. A mother to five children, grandmother of seven, and great-grandmother of two.
Her faith was always one of the most prominent things in her life. She drove to Mass every day until a few years ago. She took great joy in celebrating with her family, her extended family and was always ready to reminisce about the “good ol’ days”.
But here’s why I have to write about Fortunata, Aunt Fay…
She welcomed me into her family from day one. She didn’t question why she simply said “Grab a plate and help yourself!” And as our friendship grew over the years, Aunt Fay would sit with me for hours and talk about my business, her business, and where things were headed in the world of business. We usually had our conversations over a nice glass of wine or a long after-dinner drink. We often went for dinner with our “Gang” – Age, Mother Theresa, Rae, Grandma – and although our group got smaller as the years went by, we always raised a glass to toast the ones who were no longer with us.
Welcoming was one thing Aunt Fay did so well. The other, for me, was supporting. She supported me like my own mother. She always had words of encouragement for me. When I graduated from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program, she came to the ceremony and told me that she was so proud of me and my accomplishment. We spoke the language of business, the language of women who were ofttimes marginalized, and understood how important it was to have a sounding board, a mentor.
So here’s to my friend, my “drinking buddy”, my Aunt Fay. She was the last of a long line of characters in my wife’s family whom I can say I had the honor of meeting, the pleasure of knowing and the gratefulness of their friendship. When I saw her for what would be the last time a few days before she passed, I said to her “Aunt Fay, we have to go for a drink soon, right?”, she perked up, smiled and said “Absolutely!”
Cheers to my friend who brought me nothing but Buona Fortuna in knowing her.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
I am in a very unique position.
Well, that sounded cool to say but it’s not really true. I am in the same position that many of us find ourselves at different points in our lives, within different circumstances and locations. People say things like they are sorry when someone passes away, happy for your when you win the lottery (I know that one most would consider to be a stretch) and more things like that. Someone can offer you a ride, pick-up a quart of milk for you at the store or just ask you how you’re doing on any particular day.
I bumped into my neighbor the other day and she looked tired. We stopped and had some conversation; she told me her mom who had been very ill had finally passed earlier in the week. She has been through a lot, my neighbor – she broke her shoulder in an accident at work; her husband died suddenly two years ago; her mother has been ill and in and out of hospitals for the last year. And in the midst of all things with getting her mom’s affairs in order, she had to run home and walk the dogs. When I saw how tired she was, I told her that if she wanted to leave me the keys, I would walk the dogs so she wouldn’t have another thing to worry about. I know how independent my neighbor is and I knew my offer would most likely be refused, but I did it anyway. I didn’t ask because it was “the thing that neighbors do” – I did it because I really hoped she would let someone help her for once! But even more, if she didn’t take me up on the offer, I thought maybe she would feel better, knowing that if she truly wanted to, I would be there to help her. I know she appreciated it as she smiled as she went into her door and thanked me.
That being said, I stumbled upon this quote from Maya Angelou and it made me think: Do we truly think about our words and actions and their effects?
Quantifying a feeling is almost impossible. One can say that they are feeling things at a certain level but that level would be relative to the rest of the things going on in their lives. Often, two people in a situation can’t understand why the other doesn’t “get it” – perhaps it’s because the first party doesn’t consider how the other person is made to feel.
I am surrounded by a lot of people every day – through business, family, friends and others. Communication has always been important in my life whether it has involved talking around the dinner table, writing letters to cousins who lived far away; talking daily on the phone to a grandparent who did not live with us, writing in a diary. You can communicate all you want to whatever entity you choose but a true communicator watches for the signals, takes the cues remembering that words “listen” and “silent” have the same letters in them. Being present in a conversation means you have to hear what’s being said and then pause…
Then think about your retort, your side, the words you wish to say.
No one realizes how damaging words like “just” and “kind of” can be when you speak to someone. I’ve heard one phrase over and over again throughout my life – “not really”, as in “that child was adopted so he (she) is ‘not really’ their child” or “Well, he’s not really her father – its a second marriage”. All are limiting words – they minimize situations, people and things. And for what point? If you use phrases like this, do you live the life of the person you are speaking about?
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Guess that can translate to “Think before you speak – the tongue is a very sharp instrument.”
Okay – I know the difference between a bad blogger, a good blogger and a great blogger is the frequency with which they post.
I am admitting – I have been a bad blogger.
I have not concentrated on writing – I have let ever single thing in my life distract me from the purpose of this blog. The very focus of this blog was to acknowledge the ironic twist one’s imagination can lead their thought process and life to. 2015 has been one of those years that has proven to expand my imagination; make me question the past, enjoy the present and be excited about the future, even as I hit the milestone 50th birthday!
The last post I made was about “The Meatball Experience”. We had a fun day with food, great company and wine!! My mom imparting her skewed side of the world and her meatballs, my cousins easing nicely into our old comfort zone (or maybe new comfort zone as we have rarely been able to spend time together as adults). That day was shortly after one of my posts “Oy Vey! Only Two Years Away”.
Well, the blink of an eye has happened and here we are two years later. I am on a flight to Miami marking my third trip down to the Sunshine State this year. I have been working with a business coach,one who is helping me figure out what I want to be when I grow up (ha-ha!) – someone who has made me look at the things that I have done throughout my fifty years on this earth and realize that I can work with others to bring about change in their businesses and help them create events, strengthening their personal brands.
I have tried to leave my pessimistic self at the door. My mantra hasn’t changed much but I don’t think it’s “I hate people” it’s more “I hate stupidity”!
I am continually happy that God gives me another day. Another day to appreciate things, people, circumstances, whatever. I can no longer pat my puppy on the top of his head; my Bailey plays with his Grandpa again since he crossed over that Rainbow Bridge in May. The news still stinks everyday – watching it becomes a trial in keeping panic attacks in check.
Then the day happens. Thankfully, the day happens.
My mom is now being well taken care of after she broke bones in her back in June of 2014; she made a decision to permanently reside in a facility in her Astoria neighborhood. We packed up, cleaned out and sold a home that had been in my family for 64 years. The uncle who had meant the world to me as a child passed away and letting go of angst that had come between us seemed the right thing to do. After a twenty-two year run, my partner and I have decided to close our businesses down – as I have always said, it’s fun when things are going right but when things go wrong, boy do they ever! Superstorm/Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy knocked the wind out of our sails and we never really recuperated fully. One of my childhood heroes, my cousin, Theresa, suffered from the ravages of ovarian cancer and succumbed to this terrible disease within months.
Amazing things have happened also.
I applied and was accepted into the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program in July of 2014. I met the best group of “Cohortians” (as I called them) and benefitted from many of their experiences, our instructors and our business advisors. Graduation in December 2014 gave me a new perspective on business, my direction and what I needed to do moving forward. I received a Certificate of Entrepreneurship from LaGuardia Community College and Goldman Sachs and also completed a business college course of study giving me a Certificate in Management Consulting. Opportunities presenting themselves in the strangest places (or right in front of you); I am a “Lord-Mechanic-Accumulator” and am embracing my strengths and running with them.
I am creating a new business opportunity for myself and will be helping other small business owners steady their foundations and move forward to build their businesses and brands.
My partner and I bought a beautiful home in a wonderful neighborhood and are looking forward to welcoming family and friends for wonderful dinners and backyard pool parties for years to come. We can finally have our moms come to a house that is more easily accessible for them and we can’t wait to see what the next fifty years have in store. I have closer friends, more relaxed days, more ever expanding experiences. I’ve become a “Networker” (VP now President of our BNI Chapter), I’ve become a consultant and, not to be forgotten, “The Third Twin” (blog post with an explanation to follow later).
But taking stock of things, as my birthday gets closer, I have to be grateful for many things. Although I make many a joke about being placed in a reed basket and floated down the Nile (or East River), I am the person I am today – slightly cracked, a wealth of useless information, a business owner, someone you can ask for anything, supporter of many (whether they realize it or not), critical of some but one who knows when they are out of their league. I believe in open-mindedness. I believe in education. Flowers winning over guns; candles to remember those lost; feeling safe again when everyone in the world remembers we are all the same. Love can and does conquer all.
This year, I am thinking definitely and positively. And instead of “Let’s see where this will take me”, how about this…
“Don’t believe me? Just watch!!!”
Actually, I think I sound more like any of my grandparents!
I was raised in a three-generation home – the kind that the Amish are known for, but the rest of the immigrant population that settled in the Northeast at the turn of the last century chose, not because it was the best thing to do, but because necessity is the mother of invention (or at least, giving everyone a home).
My mother’s parents lived in the first floor apartment of the home my grandfather bought. He immigrated from Bari, Italy and my grandmother from Naples. They were set-in-their-ways Italian: family, work and food. My father’s father died before I was born but I knew who he was from the stories everyone told. He and my father’s mother emigrated from Gibraltar (yes, the Rock; “Gib” as we descendents call it). They were set-in-their-ways Spanish/British/Gibraltarians: family, work and food.
Every one of them worked hard. Mostly laborer-type jobs, nothing glamorous, just hard work. Pop in a paper mill, Mom in household job like sewing and such; Poppa was a laborer at many different places and my Grams, she had one of the best jobs ever – she worked for Loft’s Candies, as a packager – I think of the “I Love Lucy” episode with the candy conveyor belt and the shouts of “Speed it up, Harry!” every time I think of her! They all worked hard, rested when they could, enjoyed family and good food and were happy. I don’t believe one of them ever set foot on a college campus, never mind take classes; some may have even gotten a high school diploma (or its equivalent). But they knew so many, many things! And it all seemed to just be knowledge they had – how to cook, how to take care of the house (inside for the women, outside for the men), how to build things, how to take them apart; painting, singing, joke telling and more. No one ever wondered how he or she was going to make it in this world.
They all raised children who “enjoyed a better life than they did” as the saying goes. Whether it was working for a big supermarket as a butcher (a job with great benefits and a steady paycheck), working as a “Bill of Lading” clerk in the garment district, a business manager for a township in New Jersey, a service manager for a refrigeration company or an employee of UNESCO – all of their children worked, knew what needed to be done and got the job done – providing for their families, acquiring homes and sending every one of their children to college – they knew what to do and got it done.
My first cousins and I all had the benefit of graduating from colleges and universities on the East Coast. A CPA, three teachers, corporate middle management and two business owners in the lot. We were taught from our grandparents and parents to be responsible, to pay attention, to learn, to work hard and make them proud. We succeed, albeit with setbacks along the way, but our history taught us how to deal with those setbacks and push on.
Today, I spoke to one of the many “young-ens” that I have had the pleasure of employing over the last twenty years. When I heard him say, “Basically, my generation is screwed”, I felt compelled to write this little post but felt a stronger urge to ask the readers out there a question or two. I hope you will take the time to answer and give me some feedback – yes, I need to know your age but only for perspective and what you think.
So in a few words in the comments, let me know your “around-about” age, and answer these three questions:
1. How does a person get one’s “character”?
2. Do you think your generation has learned from the past?
3. Do you agree with twenty-somethings today being on the short end of the stick? And in what areas, exactly?
4. Any suggestions on a possible “fix”?
I appreciate the time you may decide to take – I’ll let you know in follow up posts where everyone stands!!