Old (dead) friends

As some of you know I’m proud of my esteemed Culver City roots. But, you might not know that The Brogdon Girls were raised in the Culver Crest. Yes, that Crest, the Bel Air of Culver City. Or so we thought in our middle class minds frolicking in a sea of ‘50’s ranch houses.
Recently my sister Carole ran into a woman who was also a “crestor” . They were excited to connect as we knew each other’s families. We quickly arranged a dinner. She brought her two brothers, one who I had known, the other I did not. They are lovely, accomplished people. It’s funny how much you have in common with people you haven’t seen in over (well over) 30 years.

I had gone to the dinner thinking, oh, I wish their dear mom was still alive, I wish my dad was still alive. But, by the end of dinner I felt like the winner on Survivor.

I found out several people of our generation were gone. Some many years ago. Accidents, tumors, drugs, all different reasons. I wrote my brother ( like a brother, long story) in Australia. He called right away. He too was shocked at the names of the people who were no longer on this earth.

It is hard to reconcile the uneven teeth smile elementary school pictures in my mind with what happened later.

Celebration for Hunter

Saturday was a celebration for Hunter. When Hunter passed away last month, I couldn’t write about it. I was too upset. And it’s not my story to tell. His mother Lenore has written about their saga so well on her blog, www.healinghunter.com where she continues to post about their life since Hunter was taken by cancer.

I was really touched to be one of the people asked to help put together something to celebrate Hunter’s life. He was a gutsy little kid. His mom didn’t want it to be a memorial, but like the Dr Seuss quote on the program, to “be happy that it happened.” Fortunately she is good friends with a couple of party planners who really did the heavy lifting. You understand, that because of Hunter’s protracted illness his parents are financially wiped. So, their friends needed to pull together to make this all happen. And we were happy to do so. It’s such a little thing compared to what they have gone through and continue to go through. Mark and I contributed food for 50 from The Point, and I brought two dozen balloons in red and silver. Colors of Lightning McQueen, Hunter’s favorite.

I won’t lie. I was dreading it. I was worn down by a week where I worked more than usual. I was pooped, and Rex has been waking up more than usual. Then my dad went into the hospital. So, I felt emotionally and physically fried.

It may sound strange, but the gathering energized me. Hunter’s spirit was there and embraced by all. I arrived at a lovely private home where a dear couple who didn’t even know Lenore and Zen (they are friends of friends) had offered to host the event. The worst had already happened; Hunter died. To see that his parents were even able to function is a cause for celebration as far as I’m concerned. The home was lovely;, it was a breezy, sunny day. I wore my Iron Hunter shirt and approached this as a house party, not a memorial, which is what Lenore wanted. Her friends, most of whom I didn’t know, were all getting things ready, and they helped me lay out the food. A couple of people came up to me and said they had read my posts or seen the Momversation I had done with Heather about what to say to a grieving parent and that they appreciated them. That was very nice. I recognized them by posts of theirs on Lenore’s facebook page. We all had in common that we had been cheering Hunter on, and now wanted to do that for his parents.

My friend Molly showed up and helped me tie the balloons to the white folding chairs in the backyard.  I wasn’t sure where they were suppose to go, and I didn’t want to mess up. I was a little nervous to do the wrong thing. There were big beautiful pictures of Hunter. And videos of Hunter played in one room. People would silently walk in and gaze at him for while thinking of him and what might have been.

Molly, her husband, and I sat down as we were told things were going to begin. She and I decided we needed a drink. I ran to the table and poured us some red wine. I’m not going to lie. I drank about three glasses of red wine while I was there and didn’t feel it at all.

There was a makeshift stage, and the program alternated between songs (two incredible gals took turns singing lovely songs) and eulogies. Some very sweet words by friends. Because we sensed how hard it was for them to speak, we applauded for everyone, and the applause was for Hunter. A balloon kept being blown down by the wind and landing in Lenore’s hair in front of us, I froze, “yikes. ”  Molly’s husband held it back. Lenore had wanted me to bring the balloons, but I think I placed them badly.

Then his parents got up. Zen said, “You can pop the balloons.” I guess they had been getting other people’s hair as well. Oh crap, well, at least it punctured the sadness for a second.

Lenore cried and talked about how much she missed him.  What more she said, I can’t even say with detail, partly because I think anyone can imagine what a mother who has lost her child would say and how she would act. And partly because I was crying myself… as was everyone. At one point I realized if I was alone I would have been heaving, crying the way you do when you are child. I thought, “I’m looking at a woman who has lost her child.” Unreal.  She said that every one’s support had helped them.

Then Hunter’s dad, Zen, spoke. He was calmer and thanked the doctors and nurses who had tried to help. He thanked all who had given their “hard-earned money” because they really needed it in order to help Hunter. Family and friends who had been at the hospital.  As they stood up speaking of their grief and their gratitude, I thought how incredibly brave they are. And lastly, as his voice cracked, he thanked Hunter for being his son. Then they took a few balloons (not the troublesome ones I had brought) that said Hunter on them and had pictures of cars. Lenore said she wanted Hunter to have them. She kissed them, and they released them into the air. We applauded again for Hunter as his mother wept.

Zen talked about what people learned from Hunter, “Even it’s just to hug your kid a little tighter.” That is very true. I have learned from the three of them. Hunter’s calmness and bravery going through so much in such a short life. And the humility and graciousness his parents showed. I was struck today thinking, “They’ve handled this with class.”

Molly said to her husband afterward, “I know I would have tried to make this your fault.” We marveled at their equanimity because we know our own shortcomings that would lead us to lash out at our spouses in times of duress and feel justified because it’s a difficult time. Now, I’m not a fly on the wall, but when I visited them in the hospital, Lenore and Zen were always so kind to each other. It struck me as not the norm. And today Zen said that he was more in love with her than ever and that most people would have “gone crazy,” but his wife was strong.

Now, here is the good news. Lenore is pregnant. She is 6 months pregnant with a boy. And there is no replacing Hunter, and the loss will always be felt, but I’m glad they will have a place to put their considerable love. I pray that this child is healthy. They can’t be asked to go through that again.

One of the people who spoke so well at the gathering was their friend Matt Nolan, and this one line stayed with me. I was quoting it to my mom and Mark when I got home. “They say when two people that love each other have a baby, they are, in fact, reborn themselves. May the imminent arrival of Hunter’s baby brother be another rebirth, and may Hunter’s fighting, loving, generous spirit fill the heart of his little brother to set Lenore and Zen’s spirit on the path to healing.” Amen to that.

And isn’t that what makes parenthood so special? That we are reborn with our children. Seeing life in a new way or in a way long buried by years and the hardness of life. A rekindling. Our hearts open wider than they’ve ever been.

Send them good thoughts.

Happy Birthday to Me!

I have never been away from home on my bday. But since the opportunity came up to be on The Wendy Williams Show, and it worked fine with Mark’ s schedule, I figured, what fun! The other thing I’m missing by being here is my Aunt Marcella’s funeral. She is my mom’s older sister and only sibling. She passed last Saturday. Heart attack, stroke, and went fast. She was my last aunt and the one I was closest to. She lived close to where I went to college so sometimes when I was homesick I would go and stay the weekend at her house. Her voice and intonation were so like my mom I felt comforted in her presence. She was devoutly catholic and had 7 kids in 8 years. I wish she had seen the world more, but in her whole life she never got on an airplane. I had hoped her service would be this past weekend, but it was Monday, my bday, the day I was going to nyc. My cousin mary said, “She would want you to go to new york.” I know this is true.

So, while it’s always hard to leave my babies I did enjoy watching movies on the cramped flight. The Blind Side, good, American film. No shading or nuance to the characters, but engrossing. And Men Who Stare at Goats with George Clooney and Jeff Bridges. Why didn’t I know about this one? So funny.

After trying three different rooms at the W Time Square (first two were noisy) I walked 27 blocks to meet my friend for dinner. My friend Christine was one of my producer’s on Perfect Partner, a show I hosted on Discovery 2002 – 2003. Another producer from the same show and a dear friend Brian showed up for a few minutes as well. You know friends who you don’t see for a year, and it’s like no time has passed? They are those type of friends. We had a lot at Cookshop in Chelsea. All good, but not as good as my husband’s restaurants!

We settled a few life issues and got a little buzzed. Christine treated me, which was far too generous. Then we walked in the rain to the subway. When she had to transfer trains at time square and I had a few blocks to walk to my hotel I felt a little sad for the first time. It was my birthday, and I wasn’t with my kids or husband. It is also the first birthday I can think of where my dad hasn’t called me, but he doesn’t know how to use a phone anymore. He probably doesn’t know what day it is. This makes me very sad.

As I walked up the street, glad I had worn my long parka with a hood, the rain blanketed all. I walked briskly, but not in a panic. I didn’t need an umbrella. It felt good. I am walking in Manhattan in the rain. I am alive. I am feeling things. I am lucky.

Finances and Friends: Momversation

Have you felt your friendships changed because you did or did not have money? Rebecca from Girl’s Gone Child asks the question. Since we have moved, I have noticed a few less invites from some friends with big houses, but real friends stay constant.

I think we have discriminated somewhat against people who have bad taste in food. It’s just hard not to with Mark as my mate. But that doesn’t mean money.   have plenty of friends who cook up some yummy vittles in their small apartment kitchens. But, even so, sometimes you have to eat the crap they want if you really love them.

Watch the vid, and tell me what you think. I liked Giyen’s comment (Bacon Is My Enemy); it rang true.

What’s With 4 o’ clock?

I really love spending the morning with my son. It’s easiest if Vivien is in school, but even if there is a day off, and I have both of them and no other adult around, I’m fine. I’m like, come on, look at these cuties! I love being with them!

UNTIL 4pm.

Sometimes I can feel that feeling coming on about 3:30. The voice inside of me that says, “Can someone else hold this kid for a minute?” I rarely have my spouse here at that time so that is why I use most of my nanny dollars for later afternoon early evening. And the strange thing is if I am alone with the kids at that time and strange thing happens, around 6:30/7p.m.

EVERYTHING IS OK.

Of course it was hell when Vivien was colicky at that time. But they can be just as they have been earlier in the day, but I feel antsy, more anxious, and feeling of, “Why didn’t I make plans?” comes over me. Why didn’t we go over to my mom’s? Why didn’t I invite a friend for dinner? Why didn’t I post a neon sign on my front door asking for people to talk to me?

I’m lucky. In a pinch I can pack them up and go to their daddy’s restaurant. Not as easy with two, but I’ve done it, and it’s a life saver. I beckon a waiter, “Please talk to me.”

As much as I would love a big house, I can’t leave the urban density. Think I would feel more lonely.

Well, I guess I could live anywhere… till 4pm.

Sleepover

When is the right age for kids to have sleepovers? Now, we are not talking a famous pop star inviting Vivien to his big ranch. Nice kid, nice family. Do you let your kids have sleepovers? Either at your house or elsewhere?

My niece was 6 when she had sleepovers with Vivien. She would arrive quite bravely with her little suitcase and never had a qualm. But then I’m her aunt, so I think there are different rules. But should there be?

Thanksgiving Doesn’t Suck as Bad as Christmas

Well, it’s true right? First off there is no gift giving. Also, when something is heavy on your heart, a break up, illness in the family, robbed of life savings, it always seems to feel heavier on Christmas. I always felt less is expected of me on Thanksgiving. Bake and eat and drink.

Last year was my favorite Thanksgiving ever. Here I am having a gay old time. We were in my dream house, and for the first time in my life I could play grown up. I had a big house and the means to host the dinner. I was expecting Rex, surrounded by friends and family, and very happy.  Content.

Well, now, my sister Carole is hosting again as she has the biggest house. But everyone is fine, so I can’t complain. It’s one day. Not a whole season with Christmas and its build up. But I did like when I was (for once) not the guest on Thanksgiving.

We’ll still play football before the dinner, and I will again host Turkey Trot Trivia, a game I have long played as dessert is consumed. I’m a game person and highly suggest a game for a mix of people. It’s bonding, and if you have people of different views it can be a nice way to channel discussion away from controversy and into American trivia. I have tchotkes for prizes.

Do you like Thanksgiving better or worse than Christmas or Hanukkah? Is it harder this year? Do you have any quirky traditions?

We always go around the table and say something we are grateful for. Other than the obvious being good health, I still maintain we should all be grateful for modern plumbing.

Friend Dating

You ever notice how old friends take more work than new friends? Often, old friends have accumulated baggage that we must contend with because now, we are in too deep. Or you made them when you were so young or needy you couldn’t screen them as sharply as you do newer friends.

It’s like the difference between dating my 20s and dating in my 30s.  In my 20s I put up with all kinds of nonsense. In my 30s at the first sign on annoyance, I was, “Get your crap and get out of here.”

Here is a thought on my present state of friendships.

Imaginary Friends

Since we are social creatures, I think it’s in parents’ best interest to support their child’s friendships. When we had to move, I rarely looked at a house that wasn’t in “Avery striking distance” as I called it. That is Viv’s best neighborhood buddy, who we use to be a stone’s throw from.  We are a long walk or a short drive now, and happily Avery’s mom and I are making that friendship work.

Of course 8 to 10 years from now, Vivien will much prefer to spend as much time away from me and with her friends as possible. That will be hard, but I am bracing for it. But what if her friends aren’t real?

Check out this article about imaginary play in the New York Times.