Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dorothy Jean

My Aunt Dorothy was the last Kersten of her generation. My dad was the only one in his. Leaving my 3 sisters and my brother to carry on the name. My son is a Rosenblatt. My sister finally had a boy after 3 girls and so the Kersten name will carry on.

It seems like such an archaic idea to worry about. But our names are one of 3 things that we leave behind for people years into the future to know about us. Our name. When we were born. When we died.

When we walk along the names of those who walked before us, we don’t know how they liked their burgers cooked, which team they rooted for during the Super Bowl, how many friends they had on Facebook, which tax bracket they fell into, or what car they drove. We don’t know if they were kind, or stingy, or funny, or stinky. We know their name, when they were born and when they died.

Looking at etchings in stone, matching years with names and dedications to similar names and years, we can come up with a reasonable frame for a family tree. We can sense the sorrow that was felt when burying a young child, or see the heartache that took the husband 2 weeks after his wife of 50 years passed. We can see how much a sister was loved, and imagine a lot of hand holding across the plots.

What we don’t know - beyond our own imaginations - are the stories that filled the dash between the two dates. We don’t get the dirt. We don’t get the grace.

For all that stuff, I turned to my Great Aunt Dorthy.

Man, did that lady have stories. And each story had many versions, depending on her mood, the time of day, who was within earshot...Some people have a mind like a steel trap - hers could tame a grizzly bear.

There were so many nights as a young adult I would sit by her on the patio at her hotel watching the stars and listen to her telling stories of my dad when he was growing up, or of family back home. People she would talk about as if I knew them, stories I grew to believe I had lived through because I heard them so often. I’d be tired or cold and want to go inside, but she could talk for hours and I wouldn’t want to miss what she had to say, or get in trouble for interrupting.

She never forgot a thing. Well, she would forget who I was every now and then....but I’m pretty sure that was just a guilt trip for taking too long between visits. She NEVER forgot a thing. And for those of us that loved her, this proved to be a blessing and a curse.

She always remembered that Elle my oldest was due on her own birthday...but was born 6 days early. But then, she also always remembered the trip to the Janesville Mall with 3 year old Elle at Christmas....let’s just say Aunt Dorothy didn’t have a lot of patience for toddler temper tantrums.

She always remembered that Demi loved to color...and so she always remembered to hide her coloring books when we came to visit. But she always brought out the poker chips that my kids loved so much.

She could never remember my son Atticus’ name, but I’m pretty sure she just wanted me to know she thought it was weird. But watching her recall my dad as a baby as my son who he would never meet sat on her lap will always be one of my favorite moments in life.

My siblings would say she had a selective memory - and only remembered when I was good, and when they were naughty. I’d like to think she was spot on! But we had a special bond I can remember all the way back to my 3rd birthday party. We had a pony ride, I got a huge coloring book, my boyfriend Keith sharing our was also the first day I remember knowing who my Aunt Dorothy was and holding on to her neck and crying as she tried to leave. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.

I’ll never forget scraping my nose on the bottom of her pool, or playing rummy with her residents, or watching fireworks on the Fourth of July at the beach, or the Easter Egg hunts on the Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Chamber lawn, walking to get ice cream at the HoJo, her mauve and brass luxury apartment, the way she spread margarine on my toast. Watching baseball with her, or watching her feed her finches.

When she moved back up here to her little “shack by the railroad track”, I finally got to meet a different side of Dorothy. She was back with family and had even more stories to share. I finally got to meet a lot of the people I had heard about through the years. She loved her family so much.

My dad and Dorothy also shared a very special bond. She was never easy on him, and he never stopped picking on her. He would have done anything for his Aunt Dorothy. So when she went into surgery a few months after he died, I came up because he would have wanted to. I channelled my dad as I apologized to the nurses she cursed when she had to drink her barium, as I held her hand as she slept when they were done, as I lied to her over and over again and told her the nurses were coming when all she wanted to do was sit up, as I played along as she wanted to stage a coups to sneak out of the joint. They were both born on the 26th of the Month - him in March, her in August. He died on October 28th in 2010, she left us on the 27th. I imagine them causing quite a ruckus, and can’t wait to hear the stories when I join them.

I thought Aunt Dorothy would live forever. To know that she didn’t is hard, and to not have gotten to say goodbye is even harder. But my kids will always know who she was, I have stories to share about her and even people I never met that will keep her around in spirit, I have today that I am sharing with you all. She helped instill in me a charge to keep family at the forefront and to live the life we are given. Thank you for coming today to celebrate her life and for keeping her dash far from flat.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Rock

When I first realized the rock was mine, it seemed so darn big. And rough. And heavy.

But I loved it so.

Loved to climb on it and play with it and tried not to stub my toe. Sometimes I would see other people's rocks and I would think theirs was better, or maybe funkier, and sometimes even thought I'd like to trade. But I was stuck with this one.

So I learned how to dance with it. And we had some great moves.

As I got older, my rock started growing on me and I couldn't imagine a prettier thing. When it was time to share my rock with my kids, all the rough spots had worn and the soft spots that were always there became easier to find.

The day I lost my rock I knew my life would never be the same. There were days my tears had nowhere to splash, or I could really use a nice bump on the head. There were jokes with noone to laugh, and stories that were never told. Those days were hard.

One day I felt the rock in my pocket. Way down deep inside where I couldn't reach it with my hand, but where I could feel it next to my leg. From that day on, I walked with a little pep in my step, some pride in my stride. Except the frustrating days I would try so hard to find it because feeling it wasn't enough, or days when it weighed me down and I just needed to run.

I am lucky to have had my rock as long as I did. Lucky to have had it at all. Super lucky mine rocked.

I woke up this morning and pulled on my pants. There was nothing in my pocket. It reminded of that day I lost my rock, that sad day, years ago now. It's funny how the rock would have been the perfect thing to get me through a day like this. (Funny is a funny word sometimes.) Today was easier in some ways than that day, harder in others.

I got through today as I do all others. Rocking my baby to sleep, singing softly and drifting off into thought. Through the window, I noticed a star twinkle in the dark night, reminding me that rocks don't die, they simply move on.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vivian and Morty's Dinner Party

Vivian came first. Like always.

She walked through the door and chimes of recognition wafted through the room. You could smell her perfume, mingled with the finger foods and spilled wine. Her giggles carried her from one huddle to the next, bringing color to our cheeks and a certain rhythm to the night. Everyone enjoyed her so much. Her beauty made you feel beautiful, her volume made you happy to be loud, her grace made you feel like dancing.

Except for Mr. Sullivan. His usual grimace darkened when Vivian walked in. When she made his way over to him to sing hello, he took a swig of his dark beer. "Where's Morty?" he asked as his eyes darted around the room.

"Oh, he'll be here in a little bit. You know him, always working."

"Busy man," Sullivan muttered as he walked away.

Vivian glanced across the room and looked at the whole party. She was glad to see everyone enjoying themselves, took one last sip of her drink and ran to the door to greet the next guest coming in.

"Oh darling, I thought you'd never come," Vivian embraced Morty as he blew in with the cold wind.

A young man slipped through behind Morty, who released Vivian to watch the exiting lad with a smirk. "Leaving so soon?" he quipped with a glance and turned to shut the door.

 The wind helped the door slam shut, the lights flickered, the music skipped, everyone looked to the front of the room to see Morty standing there with Vivian. "Hello everyone! Time to have some fun!"

Vivian was so happy to have her love by her side. She floated on a cloud of completeness, and traveled around the room like a storm.

One group of ladies huddled closer as Vivian and Morty lumbered by. Maisie Mixon whispered loudly, "You know, I knew he was coming, but I thought we'd have a little more time." Another, more bold, guest loudly exclaimed, "Way to ruin a good party." You could hear the sniffles of a couple people's soft sobs.

It's not that people didn't like Morty. Most of them had known him for pretty much their whole lives. Some people thought he was pretty cocky, others thought he was deceptive, some flirted with him, others feared him....but they all accepted his presence. Because of Vivian. And when he was around, everything that was wonderful about her, just shone that much brighter - some believed it was in spite of Morty, others believed it was because of him.

The night continued, the joviality returned. Morty made his rounds, and Vivian made her own. As Vivian looked through a young couple's brag book of baby pictures, Morty escorted old Mrs. Hawthorne to her waiting coach. As Vivian shared stories and laughed at Sam and Taylor's anecdotes of their trip across the mountains, Morty boxed in the kitchen with Mary's husband, Tom, while Mary shouted pointers and dared Morty to take the final shot. Morty walked out of the kitchen hearing Tom's labored breath, knowing next time wouldn't be such a battle, and heard Vivian squealing at an engagement announcement. He saw Sylvia hunched over in the corner, her shoulders frowning and her eyes in her hands. He tried to sneak by, but she grabbed his hand and pulled him into the nearby closet. As he walked into the living room, the music got louder and he could see everyone circling around Vivian on the dance floor. Mr. Cotter was on the outer edge of the floor, and when Morty tapped him on the shoulder, it surprised him, but he didn't put up much of a stink. He just got his jacket and walked out, leaving Mrs. Cotter to sit alone and watch the rest of the party.

The music slowed down, a couple more people left, everyone settled into their own corners, talking about the night, wondering why their feet hurt so much, and how they got tired so quickly. Morty seemed to be everywhere, but most were relieved to see he was gathering his things and saying his goodbyes.

He found Vivian, smiling and dancing, and told her it was time to go. And like always, Vivian and Morty walked out, hand in hand.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Happy Birthday, Pops!

Papa wasn’t gone long when his birthday rolled around. He always knew how to make everyone’s day special, and his day always kinda came and went without much ado. But this year, the whole family came together and put together a great care package to send off for him to let him know they were still thinking of him, no matter how far away he was.
His little bird gave him continuity. She flew closest among the other birds that he forever changed with his training and care, and she made sure to keep his spirit among them as they transitioned to other leaders of the sky.
His monkey gave him production. She worked hard to keep up with the many tasks he always handled so well, to make sure nothing fell through the cracks that his absence would leave. She also gave him revelry, to ensure him that people would not let life bring them down.
His worm sent him a little sorrow, to let him know how sorely he was missed. She also sent news of another little creature that would join the others in the brood who would lengthen his legacy and tell his stories for generations to come.
Papa’s turtle couldn’t think of anything to send, so he recorded a song for him. Returning the gift of rhythm his father had given him long ago, a promise to keep the beat alive was the greatest Indian gift.
The little ones sent their own treasures - the beautiful fox sent some grace, the tiger sent a story, the koala bear sent a hug, and the mouse shared some cheese. They snuck in a big, scary monster, too - just in case he missed playing their favorite game.
Nanny collected all these gifts and placed them in a big box. With all these presents, all she wedged in between the tissue paper and the ribbon was a small, little promise. A promise to keep on living the life that they lived together - a life of love, a life of joy, a life of let-downs, a life of laughter - a life big enough for the both of them - a life lived so high that its worth the pain of the fall. She sent a kiss and some fallen tears, but kept what remained of her heart - he already took some of that with him when he left. She closed up the box, put it out on the stoop, and knew it would get there, even if she didn’t know how.
They sang together, like the family often did, and wished their dad, their great Popopotomous, a Happy Birthday and knew he would love all of his gifts, as they loved and cherished each one he had ever shared with them.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I wish the OP on my ticket meant Other People's

Never get a ticket in Overland Park. Really, just don't do it. Especially if you're not white. Or, if you have a job. Or, a child. But, if you really MUST get a ticket, I mean if you just can't help it, or really can't resist the challenge - I have the fool-proof way to get out of it. If you're willing to drive to the courthouse 7 times. And if you have a baby to bring with you (those things are great in an IRS audit situation, too!) And, definitely make sure that the cop that gives you a ticket is a nincompoop.

I did it a couple years ago. Got the ticket, that is. My court date wasn't until a whole 11 months later - but that's a whole other story. After 6 trips to the courthouse where I found someone to watch my baby, or scheduled it during her rare naptime - I headed to what I thought was going to be another rescheduling. But, it didn't turn out that way.

Walked in with baby around 8:30am. Sat through the first session of trials - (please, please, please remember what I say about being white when you go to court, I swear it helps!) Was first told by the prosecutor that I was an idiot for going to trial for a speeding ticket. Was then told by the judge that my baby would distract me from representing myself and getting a fair trial. I asked if I had another option, she said not really, but if it had been her child she would have found a babysitter. "Oh, like I did for the first 6 times I came up here, your honor?" is what I wanted to say, but I just noted the advice she gave me in my notebook to prepare for the appeal to this trial that I was sure I was going to lose. I sat around for another 2 hours until I was next on the docket.

I sat patiently in the defendant's table listening to the officer that pulled me over talk about his ray gun and how he calibrated it. I scribbled interestedly like it meant something to me. The prosecutor smirked at who she thought was a girl who got bad advice from the internet. Then she had the officer identify me as the person he pulled over. She asked how he identified me when he pulled me over. He said he did with my Missouri license. (Scribbled real notes now.) She asked if he was given a reason that I was speeding. He said that I told him I was rushing to get back to work. (Scribbling with fervor.) I'm not quite sure what else he was asked, but I was ready to take my first witness down.

"Hello, Officer."
"How do you remember I was going 48 miles an hour 11 months ago?"
"I have it here in my notes."
"And it says that my speed was 48 miles?"
"Do you remember how fast you told me I was going when you first pulled me over?"
"You don't remember telling me I was going 38 miles an hour? Then when I asked what the posted speed limit was, and you said 35 and I repeated that I was going 38, you replied oh, I meant you were going 43.?"
"No, I don't recall that."
"Is it possible that you said that?"
"I don't think so. But yes, it is possible."
"What would cause you to make a mistake like that?"
"It wouldn't be a mistake. I just would have misspoke."
"Well, what would make you misspeak?"
"I'm not sure. I am human, I guess."
"And in your notes, you have written that I presented my Missouri license to identify myself?"
"Yes," pretends to look at his notes, "your Missouri license."
"So, if I told you that I presented my Florida Driver's License, that would surprise you because you usually write good notes?"
"Yes, that would surprise me."
"What would make you miswrite that in your notes?"
"I'm not sure."
"And in those same notes, you wrote down that I told you I was in a hurry to get back to work?"
"So, again, you would be surprised to know that I was not working at this time, and actually told you I was on my way to the doctor's office when you pulled me over? Do you normally make this many mistakes in your notes?"
"No, not often, or ever if I remember correctly."
"So, when you captured my speed on the radar gun, does it automatically feed the information onto the ticket?"
"No. I write the speed in."
"So, could you have written it in incorrectly?"
"No, not really."
"There is no way that that could happen? No time between when you clocked the speed, and when you told me I was going 38 miles an hour, then - no, my bad - 43 miles an hour, and wrote down the wrong state drivers license and mixing up work and doctors appointment, that you could have seen the wrong speed on the gun or written a different speed on the ticket?"
"No, I just copy it from the machine."
And feeling a bit of a rush . . . I asked, "but, you ARE human, right?"
"Yes. Yes, ma'am, I am."

No further questions. The prosecution rested and I got to call my first and only witness. Myself. Well, and Demi.

I got to go on the stand and testify that I was not speeding that day, that I was not a speeder, that there were other cars on the road with me, that there was ABsolutely no way I was going 48 miles an hour in a 35 zone (grandma driver, people!). The extremely bitchy prosecutor who still thought she was dealing with an amateur (Hello - I've seen Legally Blond!) stood up to cross examine me. She smugly asked me:
"Okay, Ms. Rosenblatt, if you weren't going 48, how fast were you going?"
"It was quite some time ago, but if the speed limit was 35 miles an hour, I was going 35 miles an hour or less."
"How do you know that if it was such a long time ago?"
"Because I'm not a speeder."
"So, you're saying you've never speeded?" (Yes, she said speeded. It made me smile.)
"I'm not a speeder." (any real fan of Elle Woods would have jumped in with an objection. Answer the question, dammit.)
No further questions.
Her closing argument was snarky and smug and full of NEVER, EVER, EVER SPEEDED loveliness that I was kinda sad to have it end. And because I was nervous to stand up and give mine.

But I did. I told the judge that despite his human intention of writing the right things down that day, he made too many mistakes in this incident to make him a credible witness. And as the prosecutions sole witness, they did not satisfactorily prove their case, and so her only choice would be to find me not guilty. Then Demi - who had been silent and lovely this entire time finally spoke up with like 20 seconds of dribble. The judge laughed at Demi, scribbled behind her bench for a few seconds and said, "The prosecution has not proven its case. It's dismissed."

I didn't know where to go. I did know I couldn't look at that prosecutor. I don't like to gloat. In public. I just got my things together and walked out into the hallway. I wasn't sure if I had to sign anything or go somewhere to tape a commercial for Disney World . . . but the officer came out soon after I did.
"Do I need to sign anything?"
"Nope - you're free to go."
"Sorry." I didn't know what else to say.
"It's okay. It's all just a game."

Which kinda pissed me off, but then I realized, who gives a shit?
I won.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

He is Here

I lost my first copy of this story and had to re-write (and record it) at like 3 in the morning, so its due for some major rewrites . . . but my niece, Kayla, danced to it on Sunday for my dad's memorial - so I think it was pretty perfect. Thanks, everyone, who came out - it was a fitting service for a pretty awesome dude!

"He is Here"

When they reached the point they could no longer follow, and Papa courageously and graciously went on on his own, Nanny and the rest of the family watched him go, their tears and each other being the only things to sustain them. When they could no longer see him on the horizon, they just stood there, staring blankly, not quite sure what to do. When they looked around and saw each other, they realized how tightly they were gripping onto each other’s hands. Then they realized they didn’t know where to go. They were lost. Without papa there, they weren’t sure where the marsh was, how far their trip would be, or even if it was worth going back. They wanted to run as fast as they could to get back, where they felt warm, where they felt loved, where they felt whole. But buckets of tears are heavy, and a dark path is hard to navigate.

They wandered in the dark wood and thought they’d never find the way home. Little lights started to twinkle in the night - the little ones thought maybe they were stars coming down from the sky - but slowly the twinkle started to grow into a warm glow, and they realized that the light came from the eyes of their many forest friends. With their help, the dark path was brightened enough to know which direction to choose.

Then there were times when they just couldn’t go on, when they missed Papa so much it hurt. These days they didn’t get very far - and sometimes they’d lose their way again. But they knew that Papa wanted them to get back to the good times, back to the jokes, and the stories and the games and the songs - so they pushed on. And Nanny led them with a brave smile on her face and the little ones reminded everyone that laughter really is the best medicine.

One day, a particularly hot day, the pricks from the branches and the muddy patches in the road and the wrong turns and the crying babies just got to be too much for Nanny to bear. She sat down on a big rock, closed her eyes, and turned her face to the sky. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and her arms fell by her side while the sobs took over her body. She raised her head to the sky in exasperation and her mouth opened as she prepared to yell out, “Why?”, when she heard the leaves rustle under her feet. As her tear-soaked eyes opened, she thought she awakened from a dream . . . she knew where she was - she knew how to get home! And as if the wind was pushing them all, the whole family ran as fast as they could to follow her there.

As they turned the final corner on their long voyage home, the littlest one cried out, “Papa, Papa!” Nanny was instantly sad as she turned to tell the little mouse that papa would not be there. But as she came to the tree limb that he prepared for her those many years ago, and as she smelled him in the leaves that lined their happy little marsh, as she heard the kids’ laughter as they told stories they heard first from their dad, and looked up to the sky to see the birds flying in the formations he created, and felt the cool breeze that always brought a smile to her face. . . she realized he was there. And there he will always be.

Part 1: The Popopotomous

Part 2: Forever

Maybe one day, I'll revisit these and fix inconsistencies and work on a story book . . . my dad, the ultimate storyteller, would expect nothing less. Right now, I'll just continue to fight through all the crap that comes with losing your dad - and watching your mom hurt - and holding your kids as they cry.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Popopotomous

I wrote this story in my dad's birthday card this year.

The dedication: To my favorite story tell and the hippest Po I know . . . my dad, on his 57th birthday:

Deep in the heart of the Kruger National Park, south of the Sahara Desert in East Africa, is a large swampy area known to locals (which there aren't very many you can find, you know) as the Big Mashed Potato. Now, Africans aren't very familiar with potatoes, so having something named after one makes the place seem very exotic, and VERY expensive. So with sub-Saharan Africa and all of its poverty and nakedness, too many people and creatures think it waaaaaay out of their price range (they usually vacation at the Hairy Leaf, or the all-inclusive Ebony Tusk, the Purple Nurple even gets a good Spring Break crowd.) But anyways, The Bigh Mashed Potato just sits around being marshy and empty - just the way it ONE resident likes it.

A rather large, stocky Hippo, Popopotomous likes to sit alone at the deep end of the marsh, flicking mosquitoes off his hide and watching the jungle around him like it was a prime time television series. He got his name from the sound he makes when he walks on dry land - his knees pop, his ears pop, his teeth pop and sometimes he makes the sound of microwave popcorn as the air comes out of his tush. Popopotomous is a legend in the jungle. So few people have seen him, but he is known all over the land. He has a keen sixth sense and a loud booming voice, and he uses them both to talk to the birds flying above.

One day, while watching them fly through the sky between the clearing in the trees, he had a great idea.

"Hey birds," he boomed in a language I don't know, "why do you fly just this way and that? IT doesn't seem safe and doesn't make much sense and, truthfully, it's kinda boring to watch."

The birds just looked at each other and kept flying on . . . you see, birds flock together and don't really have a leader so they weren't really sure who would decide where to go or how they would choose what to do.

Seeing their confusion, and sensing their dilemma (remember, I told you he had a keen sixth sense), he offered his guidance.

"If I told you what to do and showed you where to go, would you do it?" They agreed unanimously (as any group without a leader would have to do) and started working together to create one of the most beautiful things you can see in the sky.

As he sat in that swampy marsh, swatting flies with his stubby tail and watching the birds fly overhead in formations he created, carving the sky like brushstrokes on a canvas and making the birds into more than they started out to be, he knew he was doing what he was meant to do.

Word spread all around the jungle and soon all birds flew together to create art in the sky. Popopotomous had job security, fulfillment of his place in life, but still felt he was missing something.

Because he was a famous flocking plotter, birds far and wide knew of him and could find his swamp if they looked hard enough. A couple flighty flamingoes would sneak over every once in a while and sure, they were fun and all (and boy, were they pretty!) but none had the Stick Around Stuff that he looked for - you know, like the cougars have.

Yeah, he sure did like the cougars . . . their fur was always taken care of, sometimes out of whack - but perfectly out of whack, nice legs and a great but . . . and there was always this ONE cougar who always "accidentally" mistook his swamp for her designated watering hole. A little, "Oops, my bad, hope I'm not disturbing you," every once in a while, made him wish it happened more often in a while.

But, she did always bring friends with here - yippy, yappy friends - and those damned giraffes she always hung out with . . . sticking their necks in everyone's business!

Eventually, he found himself primping and waiting for her more often than he was comfortable with. He would scope out shaded limbs that overlooked the water that would be the perfect spot for her to lounge on as they talked about the future and what dreams would come.

One day, she stopped by to bring him his favorite Pinwheel flowers to eat. She perched on that limb and never left. They talked and talked and talked until day turned into night and night turned into forever . . .

I signed it, Happy Birthday, Dad! I love you more and more each year - stick around as long as you can, you old coot!!!

It was the day he would have received it, his birthday, that they found the mass in his colon that turned out to be cancer. I wake up every morning and get to say "Hi, Pops," and hear, "Goodnight, baby" as I pop my head in before going to sleep. As sad as I have been the last month (it's been exactly that long since my mom called to tell me the cancer returned and they were sending him home) . . . I at least have that.

Life is so uncertain - make every word count.

Sponge Worthy

I'm taking in all the happenings in Kansas City and saving you all the trouble . . . I'll let you know whether to soak it up or squeeze it out!!