A Cup of Kindness

Happy New Year!

We’re in the midst of a frigid early January in most of the eastern United States. The year is still new, however. I like to make resolutions in early winter. I don’t see these as punishments for the person I was in the past. They are simply guidelines for the person I hope to be in the future.

I have never wanted to join the throngs in Times Square and other metropolitan areas to see in the new year. My New Year’s Eves tend to be quiet and reflective. I don’t always manage to stay up until midnight. (As my father often pointed out, it’s always close to midnight somewhere in the world.)

I DO always sing “Auld Lang Syne.” Like people the world over, I find the song’s nostalgic words and tune appropriate for a time in which we look simultaneously to the past and the future.

I am struck by the words “a cup o’ kindness.” I know the cup in the song is definitely alcoholic. I like to think of it in different forms, however—a sweet cup of sugar or a rich cup of cream. Whatever the cup holds, it’s a delightful concept.

As I lift my own cup, I have many resolutions. I hope to launch my new rhubarb book with fun and flair this coming spring and to perform in a 1918 centennial concert in the summer. This year is replete with musical 100th birthdays, among them those of Leonard Bernstein, Alan J. Lerner, Robert Preston, and my mother.

Jan/Taffy wasn’t a musician, but she was a great lover of song. She sang every day of her life and taught me that practice as well.

Above all, I hope we can live in a world where we pass around cups of kindness daily: for Auld Lang Syne, to make the present sweeter and more peaceful, and to teach younger generations to share love and kindness on a daily basis.

Over the Hill?

I'm over the hill--but I'm not quite ready to move into the cemetery.

I’m over the hill–but I’m not quite ready to move into the cemetery.

The day before yesterday was National Old Maids’ Day. (Who on earth thinks up these “holidays”?) Learning that it was my special day reminded me of an odd recent experience. A man I didn’t know wanted to friend me on Facebook. I sent him a message asking how we knew each other. He replied that he didn’t know me personally but that he had found me on Facebook and was interested in making friends.

He added that he was actually looking for someone to marry, explaining that he was a widower in the army with two small children.

I am always a little suspicious of men who “find” me on Facebook. I have heard stories about individuals who who say online that they are in search of romance but whose real motives are to worm their way into the confidence and finances of the women they befriend.

This man looked more genuine than most. His timeline featured photos of him with the children, and he sounded nice. (Of course, he would, if he were in the confidence game.)

On the other hand, despite saying that he “liked” me, he obviously hadn’t done a lot of research about me. He asked what I did for a living and whether I had any children; that information isn’t hard to find on my Facebook profile and/or website.

So I compromised. I told him that I wasn’t really interested in getting married, particularly not within the next few months. I agreed to be his Facebook friend, however. Perhaps, I suggested, as I got to know him a little I could find a him a suitable girlfriend.

I didn’t hear back from him, which didn’t bother me—until an odd question occurred to me.

What if this guy was on the level and represented my last chance to get married and have children (albeit stepchildren)?

When I was younger assumed that I would marry and have children someday. It’s fairly certain now—although of course nothing in the world is absolutely certain—that I won’t.

In general, I’m happy with my old-maid existence. I have friends and family whom I love and who love me. I work hard but love my work. I don’t have any romance per se in my life, but, frankly. it has been so long since I was in a romantic relationship that I don’t miss it all that much.

Every once in a while I think it would be nice to have someone to grow old with—or even someone a little taller than I (that category includes most of the adults in the world) to reach things on high shelves in the house.

I’m hardly ever lonely, however. And since I wasn’t really fabulous at the give and take of romance when I was young it’s hard to believe that I would be much better now. I certainly can’t imagine getting involved with a total stranger. My best relationships always started out as friendships.

Still … it’s odd to realize that I will always be an old maid without ever having chosen to be one.

I recognize that I am over the hill. I just don’t remember climbing up.

Return Trip

Courtesy of Franklin Medical Center

I didn’t expect my life after my mother’s death to be a straight path. I don’t specialize in straight paths.

I expected it to be bumpy—and it is. It’s also curvy.

Some of the curves have been a little scary. Every tenth day or so I turn around and don’t quite know who I am or what my future will be.

I try to see this uncertainty as a challenge. Mostly I succeed. But a girl can tire of challenges.

Some of the curves are oddly gentle.

Last Thursday night I took my 86-year-old neighbor Alice to the hospital, to the same emergency room that had been my destination with both of my parents.

Alice had fallen in the middle of the day. By evening her leg was so sore that she wasn’t sure she could get to bed. So she called me—and my friend Esther and I helped her into my car. We got to the ER around 9:30.

In strolled the sympathetic red-haired doctor who had charmed my mother on her last visit. Unlike me, my mother was not a woman to use the word “cute” lightly. Nevertheless, I believe it passed through her lips that night last August as she grasped his hand.

The whole experience could have been a bad curve for me—not to mention poor Alice, who was definitely in a great deal of pain.

It could have made the grief turn around and around and around in me as I remembered being there with my mother and facing her death for the first time, not as something bound to happen at some point in the distant future but as something almost sure to happen very soon.

Somehow instead of a scary spiral this ER visit turned into a calm unraveling, a path toward healing.

It made me smile to see the staff continue to do for Alice and others what they did for my mother on a very difficult night. Acting kind and concerned and competent. Going on.

And of course it was wonderful to be able to bring Alice home that night. We eventually found out that she has a hairline fracture of her hip, which will heal with a lot of rest (NOT something my dynamo neighbor is good at, but we all need our challenges) and lots of cosseting from children and friends.

She was sore, but she wasn’t dying. Not soon, anyway.

The night wasn’t a do-over. I love Alice, but she’s not my mother.

It WAS a comfort, however.