Tuesday, April 3, 2018

IWSG: The Wrong Number


It's time for another edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh and the rest of the talented writers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

The following story is a blast from the past that I wrote in April of 2012. 

                                        The Wrong Number

Once upon a time before there was Caller ID, a young man named Stuart would call our house and ask to speak to Bonnie. I would tell him that there was no one here by that name, say goodbye and hang up. A week later he called again and we had the same conversation.

My mom overheard us talking and said, "Would it kill you to be Bonnie?"

I was 23-years-old, still living at home, and on the verge of becoming an old maid.

"No, I'm not gonna pretend to be someone else. We don't even know anything about this guy except that his name is Stuart, and he doesn't know how to dial a phone.

To which my mom replied, "Well, he seems nice."

This was a period in my life when I was working at a job that I loved, but I was in between boyfriends; while my mother and grandmother both had steady beaus of their own. Hence, my grandma hatched her own plan.

My grandma decided that she was going to fix me up with her friend's grandson, after discussing it with his grandmother on the bus. She had never met the grandson, and barely knew the grandmother, but what did I have to lose?

I thanked her and told her that I wasn't interested, but that didn't stop her from handing out my phone number.
He called a few days later, and we laughed about how funny the situation was. The fact that our grandmothers were desperately trying to fix us up, was hard not to find amusing, Since our conversation went so well, we agreed to go out on a date.

I remember that we went to see the movie "This Is Spinal Tap," and out for a nice dinner afterward. It was a fun evening, but we parted friends. We fulfilled our promises to our grandmothers, who may have sat on opposite ends of the bus from that point on and nothing more. 

My mom waited up for me to find out how our date went. I told her that we had a good time, but that I wasn't interested in going out with him again. Then she said that she had a feeling we weren't going to hit it off, but not to worry.

Before I could question why Mom announced, "Stuart called again, and I told him my Bonnie would call him back tomorrow."

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

IWSG: Is Mom Turning into Florence Nightingale?


It's time for another edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh and the rest of the talented writers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.


After spending the day visiting my mom at the nursing home, one of my 20-something sons asked me, "Was Nana always so mean?"

I thought carefully before answering and decided to ask him to explain.

He said that while he was pushing my mom in the wheelchair, she kept yelling, "Faster, faster," to lose a 90-something neighbor named Nadine who was gaining speed while pushing her own wheelchair.

In all fairness, Mom had tried on several occasions to be friendly to Nadine and though Nadine never had trouble recognizing the other patients on her floor, for some reason she couldn't seem to remember who my mom was and couldn't hear anything she said.

A few weeks later, my brother came to visit Mom after dinner and there was no sign of her. He asked the nurses and combed the floor, but it was as if she had vanished without a trace. He was particularly concerned, because it was BINGO night and she had been on a roll winning two dollars in two weeks.

After my brother turned down several nonagenarians' invitations to see their etchings, our mom finally appeared outside her room.  He hugged her in relief, as she explained her whereabouts.

Using her super hearing powers and ability to read the room, my mom sensed trouble in the dining room after dinner. Apparently a patient had asked a nurse's aid for a banana and her request was not met. Though Mom had never met the patient, she could not sit back and allow her to be ignored.

She remembered that she had an emergency banana in her room, and sought out to find the woman.

On her journey, Mom never let her one good foot and minimal upper body strength deter her from fulfilling this stranger's dream as she inched down the hallway.

Eventually, a nurse helped guide her over to the patient's room. By this time she had forgotten all about the banana and asked my mom to leave.

On her way back, my mom realized that she had created quite a stir and all of the nurses had been talking about her. Mom took it in stride and held her head high.

When she returned to her room and found my brother in tears, she realized that she didn't have an emergency banana after all.

Later when my brother relayed the story, I told Mom that the patient might have been on a low potassium diet which either restricted bananas or limited them.

"But what if she was having a leg cramp? The potassium in bananas helps with leg cramps. I couldn't just sit back and let her suffer."

My mom's now known as the Florence Nightingale of the 7th floor. Well, only a few people know about it, as most of them can't hear.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

IWSG: Diving Into Dialysis


It's time for another edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh and the rest of the talented writers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

My brother took this photo during one of his frequent visits to dialysis.

January got off to an unexpected start, as I began undergoing dialysis due to a hereditary condition known as polycystic kidney disease (PKD). Though I inherited the disease from my dad, and my brother underwent a kidney transplant about 13 years ago, I was surprised when my doctor informed me that my kidney function had decreased to 7%.

The good news is that the dialysis center is less than five minutes from home, and the nurses have been wonderful. The bad news is that it could take a few years to receive a matching kidney for a transplant in Illinois and the same is true for nearby Wisconsin.

A friend told me a CBS News story about a dad who went to Disney World wearing a T-shirt announcing that he had five kids and needed a kidney transplant. His blood type and cell phone number were also imprinted on his T-shirt. 

He met a man at the theme park who offered to take a photo of him to post on his Facebook page. The photo went viral, and the dad received thousands of responses. Months later, the dad received a new kidney and a friend for life.

 I told my friend that I was thrilled for the dad of five, but I'd prefer to have a dead donor.

Concerned Friend: Well if I live one knocked on your door and offered you something workable, would you turn it down?

Me: That's a tough one. How would I ever be able to repay the person and what if he/she had complications from the surgery? I'd feel horrible for him/her and their family. So I'd rather not be in that position.

Concerned Friend: Sometimes people do things without wanting anything in return. I'm not saying that I'm one of them, but that happens.

I decided to nip this conversation in the bud.

Me: The truth is, I just don't want to have to be nice to anyone.

For now, we've agreed to disagree and my friend still hasn't given up on me.

 I'm  grateful that my family has been so supportive. My older son has been calling hospitals to find out about donor lists and researching websites, and my younger son has made the ultimate sacrifice by finally friending me on Facebook.

Additionally, my husband/caregiver has been constantly by my side driving me to appointments,  talking to doctors and bringing me my favorite foods. Oh, and he even offered to donate a kidney, but then I'd never be able to win an argument.

My treatments are three hours, (a total of four hours start to end), three days a week, and after a few more months I might reconsider my options.

In the meantime, I take comfort in knowing that I don't have to worry about being too nice.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

IWSG: The Defiant One


It's time for another edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh and the rest of the talented writers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

The following is a repost from May 2014 when my mischievous Mom was in rare form.

(The Defiant One) 
Before we boarded our flight home from Israel, we made a quick stop at the duty-free shop at Ben Gurion Airport. We picked up some Ahava Lotion for my mom. She likes the special formula of Dead Sea minerals, and the convenient travel size tubes. When I told my husband that we needed to get a few extra he said, "She probably uses them like cartons of cigarettes in the joint." Then we rushed to catch our flight.

After our son graduated, I prepared myself for the worst. Though I knew he would be eating better at home, anything could happen once he stepped out of our house. All it took was a matter of minutes for him to get lost, robbed, or kidnapped by a gang of raccoons.

It didn't matter that he lived on his own for four years at college, now he was on my turf, and I felt entirely helpless. I've heard many stories about sneaky twenty-something kids who've gotten into all kinds of trouble. Little did I know, that he wasn't the one I needed to worry about.

I usually talk to my mom on the phone at least twice a day. This rule still applies on days that we spend together. The other night, I reminded my mom that I had an early dental appointment in the morning, and that I would talk to her afterward. She wished me luck, and said that she also had to get up early. When I asked where she was going at the crack of dawn, she replied, "Downstairs."

This struck me odd, as she usually doesn't go to early morning activities at her retirement home, but she said goodnight before I could get anymore information.

The following day I tried calling my mom, but there was no answer. She finally called me back later in the afternoon. I asked her if she was feeling okay, and she said that she was fine. Then I asked  if she went to the doctor. She said, "No, why? What have you heard? Who told you?"

I told her that her story didn't make any sense, and if she was only downstairs then she would've returned my call earlier. Then I asked what was wrong with her, and why she had to keep it a secret. She gave me her standard line, "I didn't want to worry you."

I dove deeper by asking how she got to her appointment. "My nurse took me."

She has a visiting nurse that is set up through her insurance. I didn't realize they were that close. I asked why she asked the nurse to drive her, when I could've taken her. My mom said that her nurse doesn't drive, so her husband took her to the hospital.

My Novocain was beginning to wear off, but I tried to remain calm.

"So her husband drove you?"

"No, he met us at the hospital. Her boss drove me."

"Let me get this straight. So the nurse, her boss at the agency, and the nurse's husband were all at the doctor's office with you, because you were suffering from chronic constipation? It was okay to bother all of them, but you didn't want to bother your own daughter?"

"That's right."

"Did anyone in the group bring you a box lunch?"

"No, but no one gave me any lip either."

"I'm sure your doctor referred you to a gastroenterologist. Did you make an appointment?"

"No, I need to see a spine specialist first."

"Makes perfect sense. I'm sure he'll do wonders for your constipation. And I suppose you gave your nurse a nice present for taking you."

"As a matter of fact, I did."

"The Ahava Lotion?"

"It's the least I could do."

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

IWSG: Blowing Smoke


It's time for another edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit Alex J.  Cavanaugh and the rest of the talented writers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

                                                           Blowing Smoke

It was 12;30 a.m. Monday morning, and I just finished my nighttime ritual of brushing, flossing, and looking for unsightly facial hairs, before slipping under the covers when a loud piercing sound emanated through the apartment.

No, it wasn't my husband's snoring. It was the fire alarm. I immediately sprang into action, put on my shoes, grabbed my cell phone, keys, a jacket and my husband and proceeded out of our fifth floor apartment.

My husband thought this would be a good time to start tying his gym shoes when he had perfectly fine topsiders to slip into, but I remained calm. After all, I was house manager of my sorority in 1981, so I could handle anything.

Our front door does not lock automatically, so I asked him to lock the door, in case this was some kind of distraction tactic for burglars to lure us out of our apartments.

En route to the stairwell, we noticed that many of the neighbors were huddled across the hallway. We headed down the nearest stairwell, but only a handful of neighbors had the same idea. It was raining, so one of the neighbors held the door open and we waited for the fire department to arrive.

We were waiting and waiting and wondering why it was taking the fire department so long to get there when they were only two blocks away.

A few minutes later, my husband and I cut through the garage to  see if the fire department had arrived. While we waiting to hear their report, we saw neighbors stepping off of the elevators. I wanted to make citizen arrests for not following fire safety rules, especially to one of the young tenants who had to take the elevator down from the second floor.

Afterward, the fire department said it was a false alarm and we returned to our apartments.

The next day, my husband learned that the alarm had not gone directly to the fire department, and they only responded because they received 911 calls from the tenants in the building. This was surprising, as it's a brand new building that was completed this year.

My husband notified the building manager and also alerted the leasing agent. The agent suggested sending an email explaining all of the events including that many of the neighbors didn't know how to safely respond in the event of an actual fire. She added that my husband was articulate and since I'm a writer that we should have no trouble crafting a letter.

This happened over a week ago, and there still hasn't been a response from our building. Even a note pasted in the elevator or the entryway addressing safety rules would be helpful.

Often times my husband will proofread my stories before I send them off to the editor, and in this case, he took the lead, and I proofread his letter. He did a fine job conveying the importance of safety for the tenants and how the building has to do their part to make sure the alarm company sends a signal to the fire department.

Sadly, the management company is still blowing smoke.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

IWSG: Memories of "Boy on a Swing"


It's time for another edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit Alex J.  Cavanaugh and the rest of the talented writers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

This summer I wrote about a local poetry contest where participants were encouraged to write a poem about one of the 28 sculptures in our community. Keeping in the spirit of the story, my editor asked me to join in the fun, so I unofficially waxed poetic.

Mary Block's "Boy on a Swing"

This poem was inspired by Mary Block’s “Boy on a Swing” and was written about a month before we moved from the home where we raised our two boys.

Memories of “Boy on a Swing
Swing, swing, see the boy swing,
Not one boy, but memories of two it brings.
Afternoons spent frolicking in Sunset Park,
Boys pleading to run and play until dark.
First the baby swing, how quickly time flies,
Push me higher mom up to the sky.
Swings are for babies, parks are for sports,
First T-ball, then soccer, and basketball courts.
Touch football becomes tackle, your nerves are frayed,
‘Til you’re the one who’s being played.
Sleepless nights where can they be?
Soon they’re miles away pledging a fraternity.
Swing, swing, see the boy swing,
Savor the moments and the joy that it brings.
-Julie Kemp Pick
This poem was published July 5, 2017 in DailyNorthShore.com

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

IWSG: Sidestepping Into Fall


It's time for another edition of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Be sure to visit Alex J.  Cavanaugh and the rest of the talented writers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

As the Jewish New Year is approaching, I thought I'd repost a 2014 Rosh Hashanah story.
                                                      Sidestepping into Fall

Fall is the time for new beginnings, and Rosh Hashanah symbolizes the Jewish New Year. We celebrated by filling up on the traditional holiday dinner which featured everything from matzo ball soup to brisket. The evening was pleasant but relatively uneventful until our guests said their goodbyes.

The front door is no longer an option for some of our family members who walk with aids. Hence, there are fewer steps to the car through the garage. My aunt and uncle were the first to leave, before the pile-up began. With breaking speed, Mom was about to pass-up my cousin. I told her to stop showing off with her walker, and let our cousin head to the front of the line. My brother helped her down the first step. Then she broke free, and kept walking with her cane. Seconds later, I heard my brother call out for help. Unfortunately, my cousin hadn't seen the second step, and was lying face down on the garage floor.

Apparently, this was the second time she had fallen in two days, and her face was pretty beaten up. After not taking no for an answer, our cousin agreed to let us drive her to the emergency room. My brother met us at the hospital, and we kept her company in between tests. The hours passed quickly, as she told us stories about growing up with our dad.

They were first cousins, and though he was five years older, he treated her like a sister. They even took separate trains to meet at the Cubs games when she was only ten. She enjoyed going to the games with our dad, because he told her everything he knew about baseball. Years later, Dad introduced our cousin to his fraternity brother who became her husband.

After her tests were over, they stitched up the inside of her cheek, and were ready to send her home. My brother and I both pleaded with the doctor to keep her overnight, as she lived alone, and was at risk to fall again. We were also hoping a physical therapist would assist her in using a walker. My cousin kept apologizing for ruining our evening, and told us to go home. She didn't realize how relieved we were that she wasn't seriously injured, and how much we enjoyed learning more about our dad. My cousin couldn't have been more appreciative that I stayed with her until she was safe in her hospital room, and promised to call her children first thing in the morning.

It was almost 3 a.m. when I got home. I expected to find all of the dishes piled up, but my husband and sons washed all of the wine and water glasses by hand, and set off the dishwasher. I was so grateful for their wonderful surprise.

At the end of Yom Kippur, I had my immediate family over for a casual break the fast. After dinner my mom seemed anxious to go home. She suggested my brother take his dessert to go. We couldn't figure out why she was in such a hurry. Finally, she admitted she wanted my brother to drive her home before the storm hit. None of us could figure out what storm she was talking about. The sky was completely clear when we walked her to my brother's car.

A few days later, the subject came up again. I thought my mom made up the whole story, because she was mad at me for something.  She swore she heard about the storm on TV, while I was preparing dinner. Then it hit me. She had been watching a previously recorded program from the week before. It must have been interrupted due to a severe storm watch. When I told her she exclaimed. "How was I supposed to know that? And by the way, you gave me indigestion."

I'm so glad my aunt has offered to host Thanksgiving.

Wishing those who celebrate, a very happy and healthy New Year!