BIG WORD FOR FEELING AWFUL

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[Whatever the headline may suggest, this post is not about last Tuesday’s election.  My feelings about that are indeed awful, as if someone had suddenly and unexpectedly died, except it’s not the heartrending death of a someone but of political, ethical and perhaps even personal life as I and everyone I know has come to expect it. However, everything that can be said at this point has already been said, by other bloggers, columnists, friends.  As for the frighteningly uncertain future, we can only grit our teeth and wait for whatever comes next. So I am returning here to last May, after Bill’s death and my visit to the undertaker.]

Bill died on a Friday. On Saturday morning, of necessity, I visited the undertaker/funeral director. I then got myself home and didn’t go out until Monday.  There were comforting phone calls, which made me sad when they ended because I was alone in the house again. There was also cuddling with the cats and raw sorrow.  It felt as if a large part of me had been cut away, leaving a hollowed-out bleeding cavity. Solicitous acquaintances sent flowers.  I had no desire to eat (although I knew I should), and wished I could sleep (but couldn’t).  The refrigerator was still full of Orgain, a packaged drink somewhat like Ensure but designed by a doctor undergoing treatment for cancer and allegedly composed of more nutritious ingredients, which Bill had been able to consume even when the medication he was taking to slow the progression of his pulmonary fibrosis removed his appetite and made him nauseous.  I survived the first weekend on two or three daily vanilla Orgains.

I did go to bed early and lay there until it was light again, but if I slept (and I probably did, in fitful bits) I don’t remember it. I do remember my law-school-trained mind spinning like a kaleidoscope gone crazy, unable to focus either on my misery or what I had to do next on Bill’s behalf.  Which was to (1a) sell the red Honda he had driven; (1b) try to return to the distributor for credit his newest and virtually unused portable oxygen concentrator,  five pounds lighter than the one Medicare had provided — for which he had paid nearly $2000; (1c) close his credit card accounts; (1d) notify his insurers of his death; and (1e) verify that I would not need to probate the will, since New Jersey doesn’t require it if the decedent owned nothing solely in his own name at the time of death. There was also what had to be done, all by myself, on my own behalf. Which was to (2a) sell the condo as soon as I could, since it was both too big and too expensive for me to maintain alone much past the end of the calendar year without seriously dipping into capital; and also to (2b) find another place for the cats and me to live as soon as the condo was sold, although the money to buy this “other” place, when I found it, was solely the equity in the still unsold condo because I was pretty sure I didn’t qualify for another mortgage while I still had one. (A few weeks later, I found out I was right.  I was coldly informed by loan officers at two separate banks that I would need to show at least $10,000 in monthly income to carry the two mortgages, even for only the three months or so before the condo would presumably sell.  Hah.  That was not something I would ever have been able to do, even when I was working.)

The (1a-1e) through (2a-2b) in the prior paragraph is of course so neatly organized because I am writing this piece six months later; organization or any kind of  plan was completely beyond me that weekend.  My mind lurched from “close his credit card accounts” to “see if I can get a mortgage” to “should I take the car to Honda or try to sell it myself” to “do I know a lawyer I can consult about the will who won’t charge me” to “the condo is an unsightly mess of medical equipment and books all over the floor” to “how could he leave me to deal with all this by myself?” to “I need more Orgain from Amazon, chocolate flavor this time.”  Then one of the cats, still missing Bill, would come to the bed in the middle of the night to be scratched, petted and comforted. And I would cry, in the dark, into her fur.

Everyone who called advised doing nothing for a while until I felt stronger.  That was good advice. But the Type A person I also am thought: What do they know?  “Listen to what your body wants,” said Bill’s niece, a psychotherapist practicing in Israel.  Well, all right.  Unfortunately, by Monday — when I attempted to walk to the brick mailbox stand two driveways away from mine — I realized I could move only very slowly and was wobbling. Was my body trying to tell me something? I began to eat again, carefully, because I knew I should, and also because kind acquaintances were deluging me with offers of meals at their house, meals at restaurants, prepared meals brought in (one even vegan and surprisingly tasty) — none of which I could in good conscience refuse — and also because a survey of the refrigerator and pantry cabinet revealed so much food stored there to tempt Bill’s appetite that I would have to give it away, throw it all out or begin consuming some of it.  Sleep didn’t come as easily as the meals.  And the trips to the mailbox were becoming even more difficult. By the end of the first week, I was making them only every other day.  (Since Bill was the King of Catalogues, that meant the box was so stuffed when I did eventually open it that I hardly had the strength to pry out its contents and scraped the outsides of my fingers raw on the metal sides of the opening.)  A friend who picked me up to feed me rotisserie chicken and salad had stone slabs for steps up the grass from her driveway to the house. I had to ask her to let me clutch her arm to make it to the front door.

This was both embarrassing and worrying.  I was all alone in Princeton.  Although they were warm and supportive on the phone, one son lived in Florida and the other shuttled back and forth by train between work in D.C. and weekends with his still-young children and wife in New York.  If I became too weak to take care of myself, not to mention all the things needing to be done, then what?  By the time I stepped out the door to get the mail a week to the day after Bill had died, my heart was pounding loud and frighteningly fast, I gasped for breath as if I too had suddenly developed pulmonary fibrosis, and I was so dizzy the ground under my feet spun around. As I proceeded very slowly towards the box with legs far apart, like Charlie Chaplin, to keep some kind of shaky balance, I felt I might be on the verge of dying — not that very minute, but soon.  Although my head was still revolving like a top, I was able to grasp and hold on to one thought:  Call a doctor before it was too late.

Easier said than done.  For nine and a half years, since coming to Princeton, Bill and I had been seeing an internist highly recommended by the nurses in the major medical practice nearby as the most patient-friendly.  Dr. L. was indeed apparently much interested in each of his patients, at least for the time allotted him by the insurance companies, and even seemed to remember just about everything about you when you showed up for bi-annual checkups without first having to review your chart in your presence. But as we each grew older, and more symptoms of this and that surfaced, Bill pulled away. He was mostly seeing specialists by then, anyway.  I hung on to Dr. L. until last year, although Bill kept urging me to switch to Dr. G., another internist in the same practice whom he liked much better on the one or two occasions he had consulted him.

The cause of Bill’s disenchantment with Dr. L., and eventually mine, was that patient-friendly as he was, Dr. L. was a worrier. He was also perhaps over-impressed by our academic and professional credentials and shared all his proactive medical hypotheses with us.  If there were a symptom or a complaint, he not only knew all the conditions and diseases of which it might be a harbinger, which would need to be tested for, but would share all this (potentially scary) thinking with us.  In my seventies, I was sufficiently healthy that Dr. L.’s proclivities as one’s medical advisor didn’t really bother me. Later it did, very much. By then I had enough to worry about, without contemplating dire possibilities that might not come to pass.  But that’s another post, for another time.  Suffice it to say that last March, Bill prevailed, I switched to Dr. G., and obtained an appointment for the end of May.

Thus, in the middle of May when I suddenly needed him, Dr. G. had not yet met me. Moreover, a phone call revealed he was completely booked through the end of June, and certainly couldn’t squeeze in a new patient he didn’t yet know.  Although no one suggested it, I felt unable to return to Dr. L.  Nor would I under any circumstances take myself to the Princeton ER, given my recent experiences at that hospital.  (See “After Death, What?” TGOB, July 29, 2016.) However, Dr. G.’s appointment secretary was very kind when she learned my husband had recently died and I felt as if I were going to die too.  Her husband had died two years previously and she had felt exactly the same way.  She would try to find someone else to see me. (I did hope it wasn’t going to be Dr. L. but kept that to myself.) Good as her word, she called back an hour later with the name of Dr. S., who had recently joined the practice and therefore had an opening, five days from then (no, not sooner), at 8 a.m.

Beggars can’t be choosers.  In the meanwhile, I googled Dr. S.  His photo showed pink cheeks, a big smile on a round young face, lots of neatly combed dark hair; he looked as if he’d just emerged from college. Although he hadn’t gone to any of the medical schools known to me through fifteen years of living with Bill (a psychiatrist), young Dr. S. had practiced for a couple of years in Philadelphia, could probably determine whether I was dying or not, and could then hand me over to the appropriate specialist(s) to treat whatever was wrong with me.

Dr. S. looked exactly like his picture.  He might have been a classmate of  one of my sons when in their twenties.  Still, he was an M.D..  I explained why I was there. Husband died ten days ago. Heart fast and pounding. Unable to breathe. Legs like cooked spaghetti.  So dizzy the world was turning round and round.  No balance.  Unable to think a straight thought.  “Well, let’s see,” said young Dr. S. soothingly, reaching for his tools.  My blood pressure was normal.  My heart rate was normal.  My blood oxygenation level was 98-99 (so the breathing was normal).  “Then why am I feeling like this?” I demanded. “As if I were going to die?”  Young Dr. S. must have been a very good student in whichever medical school he had attended.  He knew exactly what ailed me.  It sounded as if it had come right out of a textbook.

“Somatization!” he declared.  

He meant it was all psychosomatic.  The pounding heart, the breathlessness, the vertigo, the loss of balance, the inability to focus.  I had never heard the noun form before, but if there’s a medical adjective, there’s usually a big and latinate related noun. “It’s just a reaction to your loss,” he said to me in a voice appropriate for addressing a small child or someone not quite with it.

And what was I supposed to do with this information? Learn to live with it? Dr. S. mentally turned pages till he reached the one that dealt with treatment for the grieving patient. He then told me I needed sleep and food. I was to get eight hours of sleep, and if I couldn’t fall asleep when I went to bed, I should get up and read till I felt sleepy, and then try again.  I was to eat whatever I wanted, even if it was french fries, without worrying about it, because I now needed the calories.  I suppressed various impulses to tell him I wasn’t stupid and instead listened impassively, not quite the good and grateful patient contemplated by the medical textbook but close enough. What was the point in pushing it with young Dr. S.?  He was doing the best he could.  He also told me to exercise. “Even if I’m moving like Charlie Chaplin, but more slowly?”  Yes, exactly.  And then I would start to feel better.  Well, perhaps that’s what the medical textbook said. “Could you also write a scrip for ten days of a mild sleeping pill?” I asked.  “To get me through till my appointment with Dr. G.”  No, young Dr. S. feared I might become addicted.  If I really couldn’t sleep after the getting up and reading for a while, I might try Benadryl, which is over-the-counter and not (he said) addictive.

While waiting in line at Rite-Aid to pay for the Benadryl, I thought about Dr. S.’s big word for feeling like death.  Somatization. I had never believed that symptoms of what were later diagnosed as real physical complaints, like chronic fatigue syndrome or Lyme Disease, were psychosomatic, even if they were first dismissed as such.  Apparently I was wrong. It seems in some instances the body does speak up to tell you what you’re really feeling.  Mine, for instance. It was saying that all of me was suffering from mortal grief, even where my heart was actually beating regularly and my lungs actually functioning normally. I had just been been in shock too great to realize it.

And that did make me begin to feel better.  Or at least less worried. The Benadryl was a bad idea; one tablet knocked me out for eleven hours and left me woozy for twenty-four.  But after that I began to fall and stay asleep without help, except from the cats.  So although I continued to weep often and spontaneously when by myself, I had become somewhat more optimistic about being able to manage living without Bill, even if unhappily,  by the time my scheduled appointment with Dr. G. rolled round.

The following week, the undertaker called me to come pick up Bill’s ashes. For the $3,000 I had paid him he probably would have kept them for a while, had I asked. But better sooner than later, and be done for good with that unctuous and falsely sympathetic man. The bag containing the plastic urn seemed surprisingly heavy when I picked it up, although Bill hadn’t been tall or big-boned.  Regretfully, I needed Mr. Unctuous to carry it to my car for me.  I hadn’t thought to bring a cane (although there were eight or nine of Bill’s, in various styles, in the house) because I wasn’t used to needing one.  But I was still afraid I might fall if I held the heavy bag while going uncertainly down the incline from the funeral home door to the curb.  However, I wasn’t dizzy anymore, and that was something.  Besides, Dr. G. had written a scrip for physical therapy to get me stronger again and I already had a first appointment scheduled.  He had also given me another prescription, for thirty days of a mild sleeping pill.  I did fill it, but by then I no longer wanted or needed sleep aids. Six months later, the thirty little pills are still in the drawer of my bedside table.

BEREAVEMENT ASSIGNMENT

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I’m not generally a group person. I have belonged to book groups over the years, where I invariably tend to talk a lot.  As a rule, however, I’m more comfortable meeting people one on one, rather than being one of many sitting around a conference table.

That said, Bill (in helpful mode to the end) noted from his hospital bed that I might find it comforting to join what he called a “grief group” after he was gone.  Dutifully, despite my lack of enthusiasm for groups, I found two, terming themselves “bereavement” groups.  The first, which cost $50 for six weekly sessions and by happenstance had only women participants, is over now and was not, for me, particularly helpful, other than being a place to go when I needed very much to get out of the house.  The second, also running for six weeks but free, has another two meetings scheduled and is more interesting, possibly because there are a couple of men in it who speak of their bereavement in somewhat different terms than the women in both groups have tended to do, but possibly also because the leader/coordinator is a much better counselor.

For this second, still ongoing, group there was an assignment this week: I was to write myself a letter from Bill in which he addresses what he valued and appreciated about me during the time he was facing his illness and death with such bravery, and then to reflect  on what difference this letter might make for me in my life currently. I was also cautioned not to stress about it or put myself under any pressure, and to remember there is no right or wrong.

Stress? Pressure? Me? This “assignment” was like waving catnip at a pussycat. Thirty minutes later I had sent it off, thinking, as I clicked “attach file,” that it might also make a pretty good sequel to the last piece I posted here several weeks ago. So for those of you who are wondering how I’m doing, here’s how I’m doing, as of now:

Bereavement-Group Assignment, July 26, 2016

I wrote many letters for Bill during the years we lived together – business letters and also letters to his grown children, the latter based on what he wanted to say to them but typed all lower case so as to look as if he were the one at the computer and not me.  The fact is Bill not only couldn’t really type, but also couldn’t write worth a damn (which he cheerfully acknowledged), and couldn’t spell very well either, although he had a huge vocabulary and was an easy and charming conversationalist.  It’s a wonder he got through medical school, and in French, too. (His medical degree was from the University of Geneva, in the days when very few Jewish boys were accepted by American medical schools.) So it seems extremely unlikely he would have written me a letter when he was dying.  If he had, it would have looked like the messages on the birthday cards, Valentine’s Day cards, Mother’s Day cards, and cards that came with flowers for no reason at all just because he felt like bringing flowers home that day: “For my beautifull wonderfull Nina. All my love, Bill.”

But he did tell me what he might have put in a last letter, had he thought to write it.  He told me on the evening of May 3, the last night before intubation and three days before he died; it was the last night he could still speak, although through the bi-pap mask.  I wrote it down as soon as I got home, so I would never forget it.  This is what he said:

            “It breaks my heart to see you so sad.”

             “You were the best thing that ever happened to me.”

              “You’re one in a million.”

               “I love you so much.”

                “You are wonderful and beautiful. You’re intelligent, and funny and sexy.”

                 “You’re so kind.”

                 “We had fifteen wonderful years together.”

                 “It’s all right to cry.”

                 “I hate to leave you. But I don’t want to live on a machine.”

                 “I know everything will be okay.  You’re strong, and you’ll be fine.”

 Does rereading this change anything about my days without Bill?  It doesn’t make them less painful. If anything, it reopens the raw wound of his having disappeared from my life.  I feel it’s better for me not to dwell on what is gone and irreplaceable, but just to go on putting one foot in front of the other and trust that, as he said, eventually “everything will be okay.” Maybe not “fine.” Certainly not “wonderful.”  But okay. After all, he was “one in a million,” too.

When I was somewhat younger, I used to think what you had to do in life was find the “right” person and become secure in your relationship together, and that would be the end of the story, that particular search story, anyway. I now feel nothing in life is secure, and that it’s all a journey each of us takes by ourself, with good times (if we’re lucky) that we don’t entirely appreciate while we’re passing through them, but also times after the good times that are not so good, because at bottom we remain profoundly alone, even where there are other (similarly lonely) people to keep us company at the movies.

 

 

WHO AM I?

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Well, you can read the “About” page for some basic data. And if you hang around this blog for a while, you’ll find out more.  But curiously, a little over a year ago, when I was filing posts on dogs I had known and the cats in my life, someone complained, politely, that dogs and cats were all very well, but what she really wanted was “to hear more about you.”  “You” meaning me.

The last time there was such a clearly expressed interest in hearing more about me was in the fall of 1997, when I had just turned sixty-six. It was on a website called “The Silver Connection” that probably doesn’t exist any more. (If it does, I don’t want to know about it.  Nothing good came of it, except a funny story. Which we may get around to sooner or later, in another post, when I run out of better material. Or not, as the case may be.)

But it did seem a waste of time and effort to reinvent the wheel on TGOB when there was already a perfectly good “more about me” out there.  After all, I was still pretty much the same, even sixteen years later –minus a couple of inches, some stamina, and a burning desire to find a new man.  So where was that copy of what I told Silver Connection?  I finally found it — in a dusty red-rope folder in the basement marked “Personals.” (Am I well-organized, or what?)

You may be wondering whether or not I was ashamed, back in 1997, to be wasting time with such online nonsense. A classy lady like me? I cannot tell a lie, I was. But it was a free trial.  Plus I was being ashamed all by myself;  there was no one to see. And although my efforts failed to unearth usable quarry — I met Bill elsewhere, about three years later — they did eventually lead to a blog post. (You see, everything comes in handy sooner or later.)

I wrote it in answer to the reader who wanted to know “more about me.”  The post ran on December 3, 2013. That’s a long time ago in the posting world, so I thought I would put it up again,  slightly edited and re-titled, for all the new blogger friends I’ve made since then. Another year and some has gone by, but nothing essential has really changed, knock wood.

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The Silver Connection began its interrogation with many probing short-answer questions to determine if I was worth marketing. I won’t bore you with all my short answers, but here’s a sampling. I’m sure you can guess what the questions were:

  • Female
  • Heterosexual
  • 5’5″
  • 135-140 lbs
  • Full head of hair
  • Big brown eyes
  • Divorced
  • Living alone
  • All grown and living on their own
  • Northeast USA
  • Economy car
  • Avid book reading
  • Classical
  • I do not drink
  • I do not smoke
  • I am rather fashionable
  • I don’t watch television
  • I am usually on time
  • Professional degree
  • Buy top of the line brand names
  • A friend put me up to this. (Here I lied.)

However, I suspect that what anyone who wants to know more about me will find more interesting are the essay questions and my answers. (There I did not lie.)

Describe what you feel is your ideal relationship? A partnership of mind, heart and body with a man who speaks my language, understands my references, shares my sense of humor, my values and my appetite for life, has considerable and broad experience of how the world works, at every level, and is interesting and fun to be with.  He will know that we both need to be private at times.  He will also be a kind and trustworthy man.  He keeps himself in good working order.  If he doesn’t exist, next best will do.

What do you find “sexy” in a mate?   See above.

Share about your main strengths and weaknesses. I’m a survivor.  I’m smart and well-educated, and that has helped.  I’m also funny.  (If you didn’t laugh, you’d have to cry, no?)  People say I have pizazz.  I say I’m my own creation, and it isn’t over.  I continue to be a work in progress. I am considered attractive.  I am also a good and loyal friend.  For life.

I love life.  I may complain loudly about it at times, but I really love it, even the hard parts.  I also love people, for the most part.  Most human beings I’ve met are remarkably strong, and resilient, and courageous when you get to know them.  I love listening to people talk about themselves.  In fact, I think people’s stories, and how they’re managing with the hand they’ve been dealt, are just about the most interesting things there are — whether in literature or in life.

Although I didn’t start out that way, over the years I’ve become quite independent — financially, professionally, intellectually and emotionally.  Younger people also think me wise about life’s difficulties, and bring me their problems, which is sweet of them, as I’m still learning.  I continue to examine my experiences for whatever they can teach me.

Despite all of the above, raising my two kids, now grown, still counts as the best thing I’ve ever done, even though we experienced adversity along the way and even though I’ve done quite a few other, somewhat “glamorous” things as well.  It continues to make me happy to think back, now and then, to how they were when they were younger, and at home with me.  I also love them a lot the way they are now.

I am kind, warm, friendly, fun to be with, honest about everything important, and also at times silly, frivolous and astonishingly youthful.  [This question certainly invites self-indulgent nattering, doesn’t it?]  My weaknesses?  Plenty.  But you’ll have to discover those for yourself!

Is there anything about you that the questionnaire didn’t cover?  (I.e., physical disabilities, illnesses, allergies, strong likes or dislikes, shoe size?) I don’t tolerate material dishonesty, gratuitous unkindness, physical abuse and/or cruelty of any kind, or people with major control issues.  But of course, I don’t know anyone like that.  And I’m sure you’re not like that either.

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And now back to the basement where you belong, Silver Connection!  There are other more interesting things to write and read about. Now that I’m eighty-three.

NINA MISHKIN, AMERICAN ARTIST

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One evening not so long ago, I was googling myself in an idle moment, having run out of other people to google and thereby having become too tired to go to bed.  The results of such a search are frequently of interest. (To me.)  Although it depends on which name I use.

My maiden name turns up a single reference to my college yearbook and pages of links to a Canadian photographer of renown who is ten years younger than me.  Among the links is her current address, which inspired me to write to her. She then telephoned me for a chat.  After glad cries of “Ninochka!” in both directions, I discovered she pronounces our formerly mutual last name differently.  (Not much you can do wrong with our still mutual given name unless you’re from the American South and rhyme it with “Dinah” — but please don’t.)  Other than nomenclature though, we didn’t have much in common.  For one thing, her middle name is Barbara, and mine isn’t. There’s more, which I won’t bother you with. Let’s just say we wished each other well and that was that.

But google “Nina Mishkin” — and oh my!  First couple of pages, nothing surprising. (To me.)  Lots of links to this blog, the practice blog (“Learning to Blog”), my legal career in Boston, my law office address in Boston (where I haven’t been for nearly eight years), an online magazine where I published a piece nearly four years ago, a letter of commendation I once wrote at the request of the British Shorthair cat breeder who now has quite a lot of our money. Even a link  to Schaer v. Brandeis University, 432 Mass. 474. (Don’t ask.)

And then I saw this!

Still Life With Bottles, by Nina Mishkin 1972.

Still Life With Bottles, 1972.

What was this thing doing in my Google listing?  That Canadian artist getting mixed up with me again?  Couldn’t be. She was never a Mishkin.

But on second thought…. It looked familiar!  It was familiar.

And so was the painting in the next listing familiar.

Artist in Her Studio, 1972.

Artist in Her Studio, 1972.

The big surprise was the Google tag on each of these paintings.  These I had never seen before.   “Still Life With Bottles” (described as “needing cleaning”)  was by  “Nina Mishkin, American Artist, Twentieth Century.”

Artist in Her Studio” (similarly “needing cleaning”) was also by “Nina Mishkin, American Artist, Twentieth Century.”

Nothing more was known about “Nina Mishkin, American Artist, Twentieth Century.”

Despite their mysterious provenance, Skinner Galleries and Auctioneers in Boston had nevertheless shown and sold both pictures in 2012.  “Still Life” went for $120 (uncleaned).  “Artist”  in her cluttered studio went through three auctions unsold; on the fourth try, Skinner unloaded it (still uncleaned) for $10.  Maybe it needed more cleaning than “Still Life.”

Didn’t know I was an “American Artist,” did you?  Neither did I! (Amazing what the development of marketing techniques over the past forty years can do.)  All I knew was that I had once been a moderately young woman who worked in advertising (this was before law school) and had time on her hands while waiting to be proposed to by her future second husband.  Churchill had just died and the bookstores were flooded with Churchilliana.  I bought and read the slimmest of his books, “Painting as a Pastime,” and wondered: “If he could do it, why can’t I?”

And so, on evenings when future second husband didn’t visit, I sat on my pull-out sofa with the acrylic paints, brushes and canvas boards that some guys in the art department had helped me buy at professional discount, gazed across the small studio apartment I inhabited after working hours, and began.  This is what I produced.  The very first thing:

Scandinavian Modern Secretary, holding everything I could stuff into it or hang from it.

Scandinavian Modern Secretary, Holding Everything I Could Stuff Into It Or Hang From It

Encouraged by kind words from the art department guys, I went on to:

Two Pair of Boots Drying Against Blue Towel on Snowy Day

Two Pairs of Boots Drying Against Blue Towel After Snowy Day

And also:

Kitchen Without Window In Studio Apartment Without Enough Closet Space

Kitchen Without Window In Studio Apartment Without Enough Closet Space

Then I ran out of subject matter in the studio apartment, and also got married (to second husband) — which kept me too busy to continue.

[Note:  The above three early works remain in my possession. They are temporarily priceless.  Any future price will be arrived at after hard negotiation.  They do not need cleaning. A lot is known about the “artist” who painted them, which she is telling you as fast as she can blog. By the way, she is now a twenty-first century “artist.”  Definitely won’t make it into the twenty-second century, though.]

Time marched on.  Soon I was no longer an advertising copywriter but the mother of a one-year-old and dying to get out of the apartment on West 86th Street on my own.  Without a stroller.  And not to the playground on Central Park West and West 85th Street, either.  Sound of hautboys.  (French 17th c. antecedents of modern oboe.)  Mrs. Glicksman, aka “the third Grandma,” enters. This blessed woman agreed to take over my maternal duties on Thursday mornings from 9 until 1 for five dollars!  (She set the price, not me. Life was cheaper then.)

The first year of Mrs. Glicksman I used to run amok in Bonwit Teller on Thursday mornings.  (Ah, Bonwit’s.  R.I.P.)  But as the birth of a second baby loomed, running amok became too expensive.  I settled instead for Beginning Oil Painting at the YHWA. This educational experience produced works in an entirely different style. Several different styles, actually.

We began entirely in black, white and two shades of grey:

Cup, Bowl, and One Other Object Which Artist Can No Longer Identify

Cup, Bowl, and One Other Object Which Artist Can No Longer Identify

I then went on to the two works which reached Skinner in 2012.  More of them later.

After that there was:

Twenty-minute Charcoal Sketch of Live Model

Twenty-minute Charcoal Sketch of Live Model

And:

Second Twenty-Minute Charcoal Sketch of Live Model

Second Twenty-Minute Charcoal Sketch of Live Model

[These two are now framed under glass, so if you look very hard you can see a reflection of me, in white terry-cloth bathrobe, capturing the backsides of the live models forever in my brand- new iPhone 5s, which I really don’t know how to use very well.

You may also wish to know there was a third “Twenty-Minute Charcoal Sketch of Live Model.” However, this model was male,  facing us, and I really botched the area between his legs.  Therefore I’m not showing it to you.  If you’re dying to see, you’ll have to come to the house.  It’s not that exciting, really — but just in case you get lost, it’s hanging on the landing between the two parts of the stairs that go from main floor to second.]

I  hurry on.  My two and a half years at the Y also produced:

Pseudo-Nineteenth-Century Maiden Lady Painting "Vase of Carnations"

Fake 19th Century Painting of “Vase With Carnations”

Stuff in the Living-Room (after Braque)

Stuff in Living Room, Attempting To Be In the Style of Braque

Nearly Dead Pot of Geraniums in House in Amagansett

Nearly Dead Pot of Geraniums in House in Amagansett

That is, you understand, not all. But I don’t want to bore you. So you don’t have to see them.  I also soon went back to work, and the painting stopped.

However, before it did, I had to use up the children’s art supplies scattered around the house.  (Neither inherited a single art gene.)

With their watercolors, I managed a fake Klee:

"Apres l'amour, tous les animaux sont tristes"

“Apres l’amour, tous les animaux sont tristes”

[It means:  “After (making) love, all animals are sad.” You notice how the colors go from bright (hot!) to very dark?  You do?  Really?  Cool!  The French is a translation from the Latin, which I couldn’t remember despite three years of Latin in high school. That’s because we studied Caesar and Cicero, not Ovid.  I might have made a painting that asked the question:  “Quo usque tandem abutere, Catalina, patientia nostra?”  (“How long then, Catalina, will you abuse our patience?”) But that wouldn’t have been a picture Skinner would want to auction off.  At least I don’t think so.  On the other hand, what do I know?]

With the last of the kiddy watercolors, I also made this:

Playground at Central Parkl West and West 85th Street, Minus Benches and Playground Equipment

Playground at Central Park West and West 85th Street, Without Benches or Playground Equipment Because They Were Too Hard to Paint

From the children’s magic markers, plastic cups and plates — came two wanna-be Frank Stellas:

Fake Frank Stellas

Wanna-be Frank Stellas

And with a Giant Pen for Tiny Tots on crappy paper, I drew the towers of a building which may have been the one in which John Lennon lived with Yoko Ono before he was shot.  Or maybe not.  His was on 72nd Street; this one may have been on 81st.  I can’t remember.  Isn’t it something how memory fails, just when it could affect the resale value of a Work of Art?  Anyway, here are the towers of the building, whichever it is, rising above the Central Park foliage:

Giant Pen-and-Ink Drawing of Central Park West Building on Yellowing Cheap Paper

Pen-and-Ink Drawing of Central Park West Building on Cheap Yellowing Paper

To wind all this up, let me assure you that the entire corpus of my art work in any medium (if you can bring yourself to call it that) — minus the two pieces which fell under the gavel in Boston  — remains safely in my home in Princeton, New Jersey.  Some of it has been relegated to the basement since the arrival of Bill in my life, but could be brought up again, if needed. 

But what of those two pieces with which I began this story? (“Still Life” and “Artist” — if you’ve forgotten.  Which is easy to do.)  How did they come to Skinner?

That I cannot tell you.  What I can tell you is that back in the days when I practiced law, I had an office to decorate and brought in some, ah, “Mishkins” from home.  Shortly after I had finished with the decorating and returned my attention to Westlaw and Lexis, a new colleague joined us and duly admired my walls.  Let us call her Sylvia.  Sylvia especially admired my “original” art.  Would I sell?

“Ah, c’mon, Sylvia.  You’re putting me on. You don’t really want any of this stuff.”

She did.  I demurred. She persisted.  She was not a successful lawyer for nothing.  I settled.  For $50 a pop.  I brought in the two least-loved pictures I had.  The blues in “Still Life With Bottles” didn’t go with anything in my apartment. I didn’t like “Artist in Her Studio” because no one who ever saw it had liked it.  How’s that for artistic conviction?

Sylvia was beside herself with joy at acquiring my rejects.  Pulled $100 from her wallet, clasped her two new “Mishkins” to her bosom, and skipped down the hall to her office, where she could be heard hammering away for the next half-hour.  When she was done, they didn’t look that bad.  I even had a moment of remorse and wanted them back.  But it was only a moment.

In 2006 I retired, left Massachusetts, and never saw Sylvia, “Still Life With Bottles,” or “Artist in Her Studio” again.  I did hear that Sylvia later changed firms.  Did she take her “Mishkins” with her, waiting to recoup until 2012?  Or did she leave them behind for another owner, who was the one to put them on the block?  I have no desire to call her up and find out.

Whoever sold those two Mishkins at Skinner made a profit of $30, but only if you aggregate the two sale prices.  Not exactly a killing.  Still, I am now officially an “American Artist.”  Google said so.  Therefore if you’re looking for a r-e-a-l-l-y long term investment and just happen to be in the Princeton area, come up and see me sometime. Maybe we can talk.

[P.S.  Don’t look for me at Skinner on Google, though.  They pulled down the listings a year after the second piece sold.  However, I do still survive at http://www.askart.com  Which proves I didn’t make the whole thing up.]

MORE ABOUT ME

Standard

About two weeks ago, when I was filing posts on dogs I had known and the cats in my life, someone complained, politely, that dogs and cats were all very well, but what she really wanted was “to hear more about you.”

“You” meaning me.

I would think anyone who’s been hanging around this blog is finding out quite a lot about me — and not just on the “About” page. However, I’m always glad to oblige when I can.

Especially since the last time there was such a clearly expressed interest in knowing more about me was in 1997, when I was sixty-six. It was on a site called “The Silver Connection,” which probably doesn’t exist any more. [If it does, I don’t want to know about it.  Nothing good came of it, except a funny story. Which we’ll get around to sooner or later, in another post.]

But it does seem a waste of time and effort to reinvent the wheel here when there’s already a perfectly good “more about me,” out there.  After all, I’m still pretty much the same, even if it’s sixteen years later –minus a couple of inches and some stamina.  So where’s that copy of what I told Silver Connection?  It must be around the house somewhere.

[While I go look, you may be wondering whether or not I was ashamed to be wasting time with such online nonsense. A classy lady like me? I cannot tell a lie, I was. But it was a free trial.  Plus I was being ashamed all by myself;  there was no one to see. And doesn’t a girl gotta do what a girl gotta do? Even an oldish “girl?”]

Aha!  I found it!  [In a dusty red-rope folder in the basement marked “Personals.”  Am I well-organized, or what?]  The Silver Connection seems to have asked many probing short-answer and essay questions to determine if I was worth marketing. I won’t bore you with all my short answers. Here’s a sampling:

  • Female
  • Heterosexual
  • 5’6″
  • 130-135 lbs
  • Full head of hair
  • Big brown eyes
  • Divorced
  • Living alone
  • All grown and living on their own
  • Northeast USA
  • Economy car
  • Avid book reading
  • Classical
  • I drink socially
  • I do not smoke
  • I am rather fashionable
  • I don’t watch television
  • I am usually on time
  • Professional degree
  • Buy top of the line brand names
  • A friend put me up to this. (Here I lied.)

However, I suspect that what the someone who wants to know more about me will find more interesting are the essay questions and my answers. (There I did not lie.)

Here goes:

Describe what you feel is your ideal relationship?

A partnership of mind, heart and body with a man who speaks my language, understands my references, shares my sense of humor, my values and my appetite for life, has considerable and broad experience of how the world works, at every level, and is interesting and fun to be with.  He will know that we both need to be private at times.  He will also be a kind and trustworthy man.  He keeps himself in good working order.  If he doesn’t exist, next best will do.

What do you find “sexy” in a mate?  

See above.

Share about your main strengths and weaknesses.

I’m a survivor.  I’m smart and well-educated, and that has helped.  I’m also funny.  (If you didn’t laugh, you’d have to cry, no?)  People say I have pizazz.  I say I’m my own creation, and it isn’t over.  I continue to be a work in progress.

I am considered attractive.  I am also a good and loyal friend.  For life.

I love life.  I may complain loudly about it at times, but I really love it, even the hard parts.  I also love people, for the most part.  Most human beings I’ve met are remarkably strong, and resilient, and courageous when you get to know them.  I love listening to people talk about themselves.  In fact, I think people’s stories, and how they’re dealing with the hand they’ve been dealt, are just about the most interesting things there are — whether in literature or in life.

Although I didn’t start out that way, over the years I’ve become quite independent — financially, professionally, intellectually and emotionally.  I’m now thought to be a success story, in a profession notably difficult for women. Younger people also think me wise about life’s difficulties, and bring me their problems, which is sweet of them, as I’m still learning.  I continue to examine my experiences for whatever they can teach me.

Despite all of the above, raising my two kids, now grown, still counts as the best thing I’ve ever done, even though we experienced adversity along the way and even though I’ve done quite a few other, somewhat “glamorous” things as well.  It continues to make me happy to think back, now and then, to how they were when they were younger, and at home with me.  I also love them a lot the way they are now.

I am kind, warm, friendly, fun to be with, honest about everything important, and also at times silly, frivolous and astonishingly youthful.  [This question certainly invites self-indulgent nattering, doesn’t it?]

My weaknesses?  Plenty.  But you’ll have to discover those for yourself!

Is there anything about you that the questionnaire didn’t cover?  (I.e., physical disabilities, illnesses, allergies, strong likes or dislikes, shoe size?)

I will not tolerate material dishonesty, gratuitous unkindness, physical abuse and/or cruelty of any kind, or people with major control issues.  But of course, I don’t know anyone like that.  And I’m sure you’re not like that either.

*******************

And that’s all you’re going to get from me on this subject.

Back to the basement where you belong, Silver Connection!  There are other more interesting things to write and read about.

Now that I’m eighty-two.