Funeral Planning Conversation

Since my Birthday is approaching, one of my goals was to have all my affairs in order by that date. (I don’t necessarily plan to die on my birthday but it seems like a good goal.

I told my older daughter:

“At my memorial service, I would like you to read the Native American Legend of the White and Black Woolves who live in each of us, and it’s the one we feed that lives. I also would like someone to sing Amazing Grace.”

“Okay,” she said, but would you remind me?”

The Dangers of Re-gifting

Let’s face it, most of us do it: recycle gifts which are not our style or we already have the object. Please don’t tell me you’ve never done it, as it would give me a complex.

The story I am about to share is true and it happened when my daughters were teenagers, in early 2000’s.

Eva was so sick.. God didn’t give me money or fame but  gave me good friends. One of them, a very kind woman who just had babies, so her support of my daughter was even more valuable, as time was at a premium, gave Eva a present: a beautiful, hand-made small blanket . Eva was thrilled and I was immensely grateful.

My daughter is one of the few people I know who still takes the time to write beautiful thank you notes, describing the present received in detail and thanking the person, thus showing her gratitude. So, she wrote my friend a nice thank you note and mailed it.

A few months later I went on a church retreat. At the retreat,  there were a majority of church members but many, myself included, brought their own friends as guests. It was a wonderful group of women, and a few of us took a walk on the beach. Somehow I walked close to a very nice woman who was not a church member and we started to talk. We seemed to have a lot in common and I really liked her, she made me feel at ease. It seemed mutual. Somehow the conversation reached on the subject of re-gifting.

“Oh,” she said. “After what happened to me, I will never re-gift again! I didn’t know how much it hurts.”

“What happened?” I asked curious to find out more about how re-gifting could hurt that badly.

“Well,” she continued, “I baby-sat for this woman and when one of her  kids was born, I made a beautiful blanket for her. Last week, when I was cleaning, I came across a note from some woman, Eva, who was thanking the woman for the beautiful blanket. She described it in detail! The baby’s blanket. The blanket I made putting all my love in it, was now with some Eva, whoever she was!”

“Well, it wasn’t Eva’s fault… she didn’t know,” I mumbled.

I never told her “that Eva” was my daughter, and she never asked the names of my kids, so I felt the  unexpected deceipt ended right then and there..

I never told my friend I knew the secret of the re-gifted blanket either so I wouldn’t embarras her, but every time I think of this story I think, again, that life is stranger than fiction! And funnier. At times, I take my chance and re-gift shamelessly!


Snobs, French Parfume and Prostitution

In my college years I was hired by various International Fairs which were hosted in Bucharest. This was an honor and it made us, those chosen by the foreigners after thorough interviews, feel special. The job came with hard work but also benefits, and at the end of one of these Fairs, my boss gave me as a thank you, a small bottle of Channel  #19. Channel  #19! Yes, I was going to smell like Channel #19, imagine that! A minute before he gave me the gift I didn’t even know what Channel was but now, that I was the owner of a bottle, I did my research.It was expensive, it smelled good, it come by numbers, why didn’t they just have one number, to not confuse buyers, I didn’t understand, but I complied. I was convinced number 19 must have been the BEST of all numbers, if  #5 were the best, he would have given me #5, but that was only the most popular.

I was using the perfume only on very special occasions and the bottle lasted me a very long time.

When I came to the last drop, I was already graduated and working for the American Embassy.

I was full of myself and my new position and of course, then more than ever I had to continue to use Channel # 19!  The problem was, there were no French perfumes on the Romanian market. The only way was to find someone who had relatives out of Romania and received packages from them. Many such lucky people were then selling the goods the relatives mailed them, to less fortunate Romanians like me. The prices were exorbitant, but as they say, if you have to ask how much, you can’t buy it.

Asking from snob to snob, now, being one of them, they shared the secret that next to a famous movie  theater, Patria, there was a very small store owned by a man who had relatives in Paris and although he said he sold cigarettes, he would get my Channel 19 if I ordered it and came recommended and of course I had money.

The store was so small, Christian and I could not both be inside at the same time. He waited outside since I was the buyer. The older, bold man, with thick glasses, looked me up and down quickly. I felt he was somehow assessing me if I even had enough money to step in his world. I told him what I wanted and he told me a price which represented my salary for two weeks. I didn’t bat an eye, because I figured by the time he ordered the perfume and it arrived, I would have time to save. I said yes, and because it seemed to me he was not taking  me seriously, I produced a freshly printed business card from the US Embassy which had on the front my name, translator,  and a phone number where he could reach me when the perfume arrived.  The card had an instantaneous effect on the old man. He looked at it and turned it around and smiled looking me in the eyes:

“Do you really work there?”

“Of course,” I said acting offended.

“Of course, of course you do, you’re young, pretty… are you married?”

I pointed to Christian who was piercing through the window, and the marchant’s smile   disappeared, however now he was treating me with respect. I liked that. He placed my card in a huge book of “requests” and told me he will call me when the perfume arrived. Okay, that was good enough. I said good-bye and left the cramped place which looked more like  storage than a store.

A few months went by, and no calls. I was doing just fine without the perfume and frankly it was so hard to save money I wasn’t looking forward  to the day he’d call that my perfume arrived.

Beside, my attention had to suddenly focus on another incident, much more serious.

One morning, I received a call from the Romanian Militia (Police) and the Major (that was a high rank) ordered me to the Police Station for an interrogation.

“An interrogation? Me? Why?”

“You are asking too many questions, comrade, I said be here at 4:00 PM, it’s an order!!”

I couldn’t sleep or eat and my friends with whom I shared, assured me that as long as I didn’t steal anything, I should be okay, unless someone “framed” me for doing something terrible, and I wouldn’t know the accusation until I go to the Militia Station.

I stepped up in a plain building, and was lead to a small plain room with no windows. There was a desk and behind the desk an officer. He pointed to the chair in front of him and I sat down. No hello, how are you, no introductions.

“How do you know Itzig Isopovici?” he asked with a stern look, clearly trying to detect not only how I knew this person but how well.

My mind scanned quickly names I might have known but Isopovici was not among them.

“I do not know any Isopovici.”

“Really, comrade, let’s not play games!”

“May be he used a different name? Do you have a picture?”

“Picture, hm… now you want a picture!”

He opened the thick file in front of him and handed me a picture.

“Oh, him! Yes him I know, he has a store next to Patria. I was looking for Channel #19 and ordered from him!”

“Your card from the US Embassy was found in his list of contacts, comrade! Do you know how serious this is? What Chanal? What 19 is this a code?”

“No,” I assured him, this was a real famous perfume, I could show him the empty bottle.

“Leave the bottle alone, all I can tell you is that you are in trouble. Isopovici was running a prostitution rink with diplomats  from various embassies and wives of Romanian security officers, whores who were selling themselves to foreigners for money!  Were you his “connection” with the American Embassy? Tell the truth we know everything!”

“No, I just wanted Channel #19! I sware I didn’t know his name I only saw him once, he didn’t even call me. I have witnesses!”

It took me hours to convince the officer I was not part of the prostitution rink and as a result, some of my friends and my husband were interrogated too.

When everything was over, I was told that I will have to be a stand by witness at Isopovic’s trial.

The room where his trial was about to begin was filled to the brim. In the front row there were about 8 to 10 young, attractive women, their hair colored in various colors, from where I stood it looked like a rainbow.

Then Mr. Isopovici stepped in the room, dressed in a zebra prisoner costume and his hand locked to the one of a young officer who was walking with him. Other officers were all around him so Isopovici who apparently was dangerous, could not escape. He must have been, but probably in ways of the mind. I just couldn’t imagine this little skinny man fighting the tall, young officer to escape. But what did I know? I was now involved in a trial for a prostitution rink and all I wanted was Channel #19.

I was not called on the stand. There were too many other real victims. He had so many shady businesses in play, I never wanted Channel #19 ever in my life! The thought of Channel #19 made me sick!

A few years later, someone gave me a bottle of Opium  perfume and I got hooked on Opium perfume. Once a snob, always a snob! I still use Opium but I don’t leave my card behind!

The Boy Who Wouldn’t Talk

Today, July 8, 2011 was a gloomy day from beginning to end. I woke up to my Bank’s alert that my balance was 0 and the nearest branch was 30 miles from where I moved.

Driving puts me in a transe similar to light hypnosis and all sort of strange old stories come to my mind which have nothing to do with my present life or anything of significance for the present or future. However, it is clear they are still buried deep into my soul and for some unknown reason demand their right to be expressed now.

Here’s Today’s Random Memory:

I was in middle school at that age when confusion is the name of the game. When I kinda like guys but I mostly hated them because they called me “Rodica Pisica” (Rodica the Cat) and insisted I had legs that looked like tooth picks (the nerve!). Our class had about forty students and it was co-ed. Because I was not sure or had enough confidence to speak with the popular guys who kept teezing me, I noticed a pale, dark-haired student in my class who spoke to no one. He was brilliant and had good grades especially on our written tests but he didn’t want to communicate to other people. He wanted to be left alone!

During recess, while all of us went outside and played he sat in his seat and stared at the walls. I guess I never had a gut feeling of appropriate and inappropriate and more and more often I stayed behind to try to get this boy out of his shell. I didn’t like him in a sexual way at all, I had no fantasies that he would kiss me or even hold hands. My purpose was purely empathetic. I could not imagine someone could be happy if they didn’t communicate with others and I was determined to change his unhappy situation. No one asked me, it was clear I annoyed him with my questions and pushing candy on him, but I just did not give up. I kept asking him about his family, if he had brothers, what was his favorite food… He never answered, and continued to stared at the wall. Only once he threw his hand towards me, made an animal noise and said:”Leave me alone! I don’t need you!.” Silence fell upon my monologue again and I had to admit this was a “case” I could not solve. I could not make him happy if he wanted to be unhappy and antisocial. And no, then I did not know the term and features of someone with an antisocial personality disorder. I just thought he was shy and that under the facade of indifference there was a treasure, a budding young man who just was waiting for someone to discover him! That person was clearly not me!

Heart broken by my defeat, I gave up. I went back to playing hide and seek, he continued to sit in the classroom, speak with no one and stare at the wall. His face was getting paler and paler his eyes popping out more and more.

Then, one day he stopped coming to school.

At first, we thought he had the flu, than someone said he moved. Soon it became the talk of the school. He disappeared! He ran away, but why, where? After a while the Police came in to interview us. Who was close to him? Everyone pointed to me. What did I know about his “Plans?” the interrogator asked. What was I talking to him about? I told the Police the truth, that my attempt to make friends was not a success and they believed me easier than I would have thought. At the end of the interrogation I dared say:

“Officer, could you tell me what happened to him? Where is he?”

The officer lifted his eyes and said. He killed his mother and buried her in the basement under some coals. Some kids were playing and found her body. He stole all his money but we found him and he is in jail awaiting trial. ”

I was motionless, thinking of the many times I wouldn’t give up asking him stupid questions and my God, he was crazy, he was a murderer, not a lonely shy soul in need of my empathy.

“Young lady, next time you want to help someone make sure who they are first. That is if you want to stay alive… you seem smart, if you know what I mean.”

Yeah, I did know what he meant, and each time life brought me face to face with similar challenges,  always remembered the boy who wouldn’t talk… and I moved on to save someone who talked, even if it was less challanging, I had some chance to better a life and not be murdered!  To this day that remains a vary attractive point and my love of life always won!

Those Things We Don’t Talk About

Reminding everyone, these are random memories with no connection to one another, the only common thread is that they all happened to me or around me.

They say when we age, and we all do in spite of Botox, we remember what happened to us thirty years ago, but not what happened yesterday. I don’t want to make the self-accusation I am getting older, however, all sort of old memories keep dancing in my mind. Oh, I still remember what happened yesterday too but it was totally insignificant.

Today’s random memory

I must have been seven because my parents allowed me to walk alone to school. My way to school was long my Romanian standards, about 20 minutes, through the center of Bucharest. I was crossing the busy Calea Victoriei on what the Romanians call “zebra” (zebra) always on green. I was walking down a steep hill and through the conglomerate of new buildings the center of which was a round-shaped building called The Palace of Congresses. Right before I was to walk in front of this “Palace,” I was to walk by  the Blocul Turn (The Tower Building) which by Romanian standards was the tallest building around but if we took it and placed it in New York City it would hae been among the shortest. About 30 stories, may be less.

This building market the half of my journey to school and I was usually stopped for a few minutes and changed my school bag from one hand to the other.

As I was in the process of my routine, I heard a loud noise and in the street, right in front of me, there fell something in the shape of a person. At first I thought she was a human size doll because there was at the very beginning no blood coming out, just cracks all over her body, as if she were made of porcelain and it cracked, and only after what seemed to be a long time, the cracks  became more and more contoured and brownish and by  the time the Ambulance arrived I could see the blood and understood it was a woman, not a doll. 

Unlike if such a tragedy would have happened in the US, no one came to ask me if I was okay, if I needed help, if I were “traumatized.”  I simply walked to school, told a few friends who weren’t that impressed and the day went on as it usually did, only with me experiencing visions of the fallen woman, dancing in my head, and those cracks getting bigger as the  day went by.

In the evening, at home, I told my mother, who just said:

“Oh, poor woman, who knows why she killed herself!”

“Killed herself?”

“Yes, it’s called suicide, but normal people don’t do it, no matter how hard it gets.”

That was the end of my introduction to the concept of suicide and knowing what I know now, I am asking what does our society consider “normal?” What is that normal?  Who defines it?

In America, I believe now every 15 or 16 minutes someone completes suicide… can we even dare speak about normal when we still know so little about the mysteries of the human brain and when so little is allocated to understanding more?

 No mind is like another, no triggers are identical and as years went by, my winding path took me again close to the mystery of suicide and the unanswered question of why?   My unanswered question is why those close to the person who died tries to make it into what it isn’t? Why do we say, “sudden,” “unexpected,” and I personally I don’t recall ever seeing in a newspaper an anouncement stating “suicide.” So, tha’t the question on my mind today …we understand so little and are determined to know even less. Does truth bite? Changes the image of perfection? Is there such a thing as perfect or is all an illusion created by human vanity?

Die or Dare

Keeping in mind that these posts are really in no particular order and are truly whatever comes to my mind and sometimes it could be something really boring or dumb or both. Last night I suddenly remembered traumas I witnessed when I was a child. Not direct traumas, like the beatings and verbal abuse of my parents, but random traumas which happened to  people I didn’t know.

It happened around the same time when I was old enough to play with the God’s cows around the hospital building where my mother worked, a Children’s Hospital at the time.

One afternoon, when she finished her shift, we were standing at the bus stop waiting  to go home. No, in Romania of those times, in the 1960’s,  few people had cars and my parents were not among the privileged party members, so we always took public transportation.

As we stood at the corner of the street chatting with a couple of other doctors, equally blessed with the benefits of public transportation, I heard a scream and the screeching of breaks. I felt wetness on my legs and arms and it was all warm and red! Red? Was someone throwing paing at us?  Was someone making a poor joke and why did they chose me? I looked around and drops of red were splashed everywhere, on the other bystanders, the pavement and before I knew it, a man carrying a little boy came towards us:

“I killed him!” The man said, and the horror  in his eyes I will always carry in my soul forever. “I just couldn’t stop fast enough, and he threw himself in front of my truck.”

The driver carryed the lifeless body into the Children’s hospital.

His friends told the Police they were playing die or dare, but they always knew  to jump in front of a truck so the driver, if he had good breaks, could stop on time…

Something went wrong, they declared, but they couldn’t think what? Would they play it again? Sure, it was dangerous, it required brains or… you died! Children, so young, so inexperienced and fearless they didn’t understand the concept of death, of never having the opportunity to smile, walk, eat and enjoy your friends. For them death was part of a game!

I must confess, I belong to the opposite category. My lesson was that from that day on I learned to look right, to look left and right again because I am not brave, my instincts to keep alive are stronger than the curiosity of finding out what happens if I dare and through myself in front of a truck!

The God’s Cows

The God’s cows are medium size bugs red with black stripes. They are not dangerous or particularly beautiful r ugly. They just are!  I never thought intensely about this very common insect in Romania, I didnt’ like or dislike them. I ignored them, until one day when my mom dragged to the Children’s Hospital where she worked and ordered me to play around the hospital, like a good girl. Around the building, there were crawling a lot of vaca Domnului bugs and fascinated I found a large jar, place leaves in it and crumbs of bread as I didnt’t know their diet, and picked about ten of them and placed them in my jar to observe their  life. They were very active and as I was wondering what was their real purpose in life, they started to lay white transparent larva on the leaves I place in my scientific jar. The old Vaca Domnului seem to be good parents. They were tending to the larvae’ needs as they grew rapidly. They, the larva, started to move around and to my horror, when the babies became alive, the parents immediately died. Their mission was done. Their purpose in life was to procreate and then die.

I shed tears as I had to take them out from the jar of life to protect the new generation from being crowded. I always wondered why? This was not parenting. Why did the God of the God’s cows allowed this unfair, premature death, May be the old generations could have told the new ones how to protect themselves better, how to evolve. It seemed everyone was happy with the system and my thoughts were out-of-place. Perhaps they were, but the theme obsessed me through my life and it made me think many times that perhaps once we birth our children we should disappear, as it seems most of our children don’t need guidance in their lives which are so different from what we knew once upon a time.

Yes, those God’s cows, if they only knew,  how they stirred deep psychological questions in my young, already confused mind.  But they didnt’ and kept on dying on me until I ran out of tears and heart-broken I released the content of the jar near a river, so they could have water. I prayed for every one of them by name and I begged them to keep the parents alive at least for a while, to lay the good foundation for the young generation of God’s cows. so that they may improve!

After all didn’t they feel a responsibility they brought lives into this world?


Random Memories

I have been posting on both the poetry blog, Skeletons from the Closet of my Heart and the entitled Dating and Laughter. While both are farely popular, blogs, I get almost no feed back which makes me believe I write either very bad or very well , or people just click and don’t read. In either case I am confused because I really didn’t intend a monologue:0

Hower, I am amazed that readers still log into Memoirs from My Two Lives and read old posts. Those post, plus additions and also visuals are in the process of being published, so I appreciate the continuous interest. However, recently other random memories keep coming to my mind in no particular order and I am considering started to continue to post them on  the memoirs blog.

If I do, and they connect to my facebook, I kindly ask those who read them to give me some divine sign by clicking like or dislike, so that I get a kind of feed back. 🙂 Please.

Good night.