Why can't I say good-bye to you?

Photo by MZ

One of my friends is dying.

I think.

Doesn’t that sound odd?

I don’t know what is going on for certain. I rely upon e-mail and Facebook updates. My friend is a former co-worker, someone with whom I’ve worked off and on over the course of two decades. We kept in touch after I left my job. Until she got sick. Then she went underground. Or her family sequestered her for their own reasons. Whatever the story, I can no longer reach her by phone or e-mail or Facebook or through written requests sent by U.S. mail.

At first I was hurt. Then I brushed away my feelings, realizing that I was being self-centered. What did I know about terminal illness? Would I want a parade of visitors, no matter how well-meaning, filing past my sick bed or the sick bed of a loved one? Would I feel added pressure to somehow put on a brave face, have coffee and snacks available to feed my guests, worry about my house being a mess or about how everything appears to the uninitiated? My only experiences with death so far have been of the swift-moving type. Here today, gone tomorrow.

However, I know how comforting it was to have friends and family and acquaintances stop in to visit, drop off a cake or send a card after our family’s loss. So, I project this feeling on my friend’s situation. If I were dying and  no one called or wrote or tried in any way to visit me, wouldn’t I feel even worse? Maybe I wouldn’t know. Maybe the sharp edge of pain or the dulling effect of medication would keep me oblivious.

If  a long, wasting illness is how I exit this life, it will be my call how to handle it. This is her wish, or by proxy, her family’s call.  I must accept it no matter how much it tears at me.

Cancer isn’t discriminating. It sharpens the arrow and aims it toward any moving target. There aren’t any bull’s-eyes on the bad folks any more than there are protective shields on the good guys. I’ve watched as so many good-hearted, clean-living, health-conscious people in my life have stepped into its trajectory. I also marvel how others who seem to have a death wish just chug along, dodging all of death’s fast-moving arrows.

As crazy as this sounds, I sometimes dread logging on to my Facebook account and seeing that I have a message. The last one said: “She’s in hospice. It could be any time.”

How the hell am I supposed to react to that? My urge is to find her and rush to her side, to give her hand a squeeze, to tell her how thankful I am that she took me under her wing when I was a cub reporter, that she had my back, that she played a motherly role in my life when I needed it the most, that she made me laugh harder than just about anyone else on Earth, that I think she is one of the smartest, toughest, most caring and diplomatic people I’ve ever known.

I suppose the next time I see her will be at her funeral. I hope I’m wrong.

One of my friends is dying and I’m sorry I didn’t have one last chance to tell her how I feel.

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Why I'm mostly a vegetarian, Part 2

Photo by MZ

Take your pick: Thumper or Rocky.
I came upon this while thumbing through a cookbook at my mother’s house. The brittle, crumbling volume held together by rubber bands and tape was a wedding gift.
She was married in 1963.
Indeed, judging by the recipes for Swedish meatballs, Waldorf salad and beef Stroganoff and the overuse of gelatin and aspic, it was pre-Womens’ Lib. The suggestion seemed to be that women spent their days hosting card parties, luncheons and preparing the family dinner.

Even more entertaining than the recipes are the illustrations. The book opens with the picture of a trim bride with a tidy flipped bob wearing a starched apron tied at her narrow waist. Her wan smile is probably the result of a mixture of Valium and a bridge club cocktail. She balances a serving platter and gazes into the distance somewhere off camera. Is she watching the frolicking squirrels in the back yard, deciding how best to trap them? Is she wondering if little Susie’s pet rabbit would be missed? Is she debating if potato or rice best accompanies breaded rodent meat? Does she need to add a Jello-O mold to the menu or would pudding suffice for dessert?

I asked my mother if she’d ever cooked squirrel for us and then lied and said it was chicken.
She gave me one of those looks. It’s the look I always get when I ask probing questions about the past.
Speaking of recipes, check out these bloggers, who do a much better job making fun of old recipes and advertising images from bygone eras. They have quite the collection.

Did you hear? Did you see? Did you discuss?

So this thing happened in the airspace over my city. Yet, I was blissfully ignorant of it for most of the day it happened.

I saw a quick headline online that said something about a problem on a flight.

It was Christmas Day. I had Christmas stuff to do. I have two children. We had to get on the rain-slicked roads to grandmother’s house in mid-state Michigan. Even over dinner that evening, the conversation barely touched upon the disaster averted. We were too busy debating political correctness at the holidays, Obama’s first year in office, and if striped cats are gassier than solid-colored ones.

By orvalrochefort via Creative Commons

It was not until our long, dark, rainy drive home that we switched on the radio and learned this airplane thing was more like a failed suicide bombing and it was here in Detroit. The next day at my mother’s house we talked at length about cheery things like if the plane exploded in the air, how big an area would the fallout cover? What was the typical incoming flight path of a Northwest/Delta plane? Are there parts of the area that are under flight paths more than others? We realized that no matter where it happened, if it had happened, it would have affected someone we know.

Beyond the bounds of family walls, I’ve heard squat. I mean the news media is squeezing every drop out of the story. But around town, the one that was in the would-be bull’s eye, as far as I can tell, not so much. I asked friends who traveled by air over the holiday if the incident affected their psyches or boarding experiences. Not much, they said. However, they traveled domestically. I didn’t talk to anyone who traveled overseas.

Huh.

This thing. It didn’t happen as planned. If I understand the story correctly, by the description of things, it wouldn’t have happened even if passengers hadn’t intervened. The guy didn’t have his chemicals mixed properly or something. He didn’t have all the details straight. Thank god. Most likely he terrorized his man parts. Oh, he did terrorize some of the passengers. I cannot minimize that nor will I make light of it.

Two things come to mind in the wake of this:

First, Jeez, can we ever get a break here? Must every bad story, losing sports team, failing industry, worst educational system, all emanate from the Mitten State and specifically from the base of the thumb of the Mitten? I know the situation was random, that it was not specifically designed to make Detroit look bad. One populated American city is as good a target as the next if you are the enemy and on a mission, right? Still, I had a Rodney Dangerfield moment in which I bemoaned “Why can’t we get any respect around here?”

Second, news about heightened security and full body scans horrify me. Are you among those who think nothing of it? Or, are you like me and shudder at the thought of some Dwight Schrute type sweating and giggling as he scans your bits and parts in search of weapons and hidden contraband?

Via NBC.com

I’m still creeped out about the jaw X-ray my dentist gave me a while back to “hang onto, please.” No further explanation. I took it home and looked it over and felt kinda itchy and twitchy afterward. Don’t count me among those who find skulls and internal organs and neural pathways to be interesting viewing.

via FOX News

However, we are a nation of entrepreneurs and mavericky rogues or is it roguish mavericks? I wonder how soon before an independent contractor sets up shop at the airport to sell copies of your scan as a vacation souvenir? You know how you can ride a roller coaster or go whitewater rafting and at the end there’s a booth with a picture of you all bug-eyed, mouth agape and you wonder where in the heck the camera was and then you pay $25 so you can have it as a memory of your experience?

Who doesn’t want a key chain or a framed collage of the family body scans from the Christmas 2009 holiday vacation?

While I love to travel and I’ve never had any fears of flying, I have come to detest airport security. My worst experiences were traveling both into China and around China. Aside from the trashing of my luggage and the suitcase searches were the confiscation of things that were in compliance with the posted guidelines. As baggage screeners dangled my stuff over the trash can, I’d point to the signs at the gate illustrating the 3-oz containers in small Ziploc Baggies and then wince as my Baggie was tossed into a trash bin anyway.  “You cannot have” was the only explanation. I seethed as I had to continuously shrug out of both a backpack and a baby carrier and unload my purse. Apparently baby wearers with backpacks are No. 1 on the suspicious list.

Since then I clench up like a sissy boy in prison every time I approach security. Give me turbulence and crazy takeoffs. I can handle that. But don’t come at me with the latex gloves, Dwight.

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