Thursday, November 26, 2020
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Philadelphia’s already starting to lock down gyms, pools, community centers, and restaurants, which means we’ll need to discover alternate ways to keep ourselves happy and healthy. We’ve had an unusually warm Autumn, which gave us extra time to take walks, dine outdoors, and have open-air socially distant functions. But the weather’s getting colder, and the heat lamps that once promised untold months of al fresco dining are being scuttled inside. Can we keep up with the fresh air and fitness routines that kept us physically and mentally healthy?
Eleanor Kazdan09.03.2020My Mother Has a Nervous BreakdownIn the 1950’s and 60’s, people used the term “nervous breakdown” when a person because irrational, unable to function, or lost touch with reality. Today, there are many other medical terms and diagnoses to describe this state of mind. In 1967, at the age of 47, my mother took a solo trip to visit her parents in Montreal. She had done this many times before. She had always had a difficult relationship with them, especially with her domineering, imperious father. As the only girl and oldest in a family of five children, she was expected to cater to her brothers and go to work at a young age to support her family while her brothers pursued their lofty careers.
When my mother returned from this trip, something seemed off. She smiled inappropriately and her eyes appeared glazed. She said strange things. Soon, my mother took to her bed and stayed there for three weeks. She called my father a “chicken” and made clucking sounds. I was 17 and sat by her bed day after day, holding her hand. My father wanted to call the doctor, but she adamantly refused. I didn’t tell anyone what was happening. It was very strange and it felt somehow shameful. After three weeks, my father finally called the family doctor. He gave her Valium. My mother got out of bed and resumed a normal life, but she never seemed quite the same. Many years later, thinking back with much more knowledge of mental illness, personally and society in general, I believe my mother had a psychotic episode and perhaps would have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She never had a full-blown episode again, but for many years, occasionally said things that seemed irrational. People didn’t really talk about those kind of things back then as much as they do now. People just didn’t know what to do. It may be a good thing that she didn’t go to the doctor, because she might have ended up being committed to a mental hospital.
Not long after the episode, my mother took up long distance running, becoming a marathoner, until the age of 80. This changed her life.
That’s my mother in her 60’s with one of her many medals for marathon running. She was unbelievable; she ran 37 marathons from the age of 50 to 80 and won many medals and trophies because first of all there weren’t many women running marathons in those days. Even now, for a woman in her 70’s, to run marathons is pretty unique.
She started running, and in fact, it was right after that so-called nervous breakdown. She started running at age 47, I think I have a memoir, and maybe I’ll read it another time about her running. She and my father both started running. It was really unheard of for adults to run, but my brothers had a track coach in high school who had the idea that adults should run, and so he encouraged the parents of his students to start running. I remember they couldn’t run at all at first. They tried to run around a quarter mile track. Our whole family started running, including me. I started running when I was 17, and I still run. I still run like a mile- it’s kind of an addiction. But in no time at all, I remember my parents coming home and saying, “We ran two miles,” and then “We ran five miles, and then “We ran ten miles.” Then they ran marathons all over the world. They were members of the Canadian Master’s Association and even got funding for running in New Zealand, Korea, Japan, you know they ran all over the world and had an interesting life. It changed my mother’s life. It made her a much happier person.
I’ve never been a long distance runner, and even my father had a lot of problems when he did long distance running and he had to give it up. But my mother seemed to be built for long distance running, she barely had any problems. I mean, with me at one point I used to run five or six miles at a time. I was always laid up with something- knees or back, so it just wasn’t my thing. But I’ve always run like short distances.
People didn’t really talk about those kind of things back then as much as they do now. People just didn’t know what to do. It may be a good thing that she didn’t go to the doctor, because she might have ended up being committed to a mental hospital. I don’t have a lot of good memories of my mother, so that’s the reality.
People used to make crude comments on the street. If you ran on the street in the late 60’s, people would like laugh and they’d make awful comments. Now, you just see people running on the street, you’d never even think of making a comment, except put a mask on.
Thursday, November 12, 2020
I only realized when Veterans Day was by the notification on my phone. Every holiday feels a little weird now, and Veterans Day feels especially somber because of the untold number of veterans who lost the battle with COVID-19; including my grandfather. I've regularly posted in honor of Veterans Day on the Best Day blog, but this year I'm interested in the families of veterans. Here's a few posts from a few older buds with relatives in the military, along with a poem from my Gigi for her veteran husband (then fiancé.)
What a difference time makes. I who was anti-war and one of the voices of protestors against the Vietnam War that started before I was in my teens. As my perception change, and realized not to blame the soldiers, I began to appreciate what they had done. Whether I was in agreement with the war or not, the men and women who served and sacrificed their lives so I could enjoy the freedom that I once took for granted.
My mother’s younger brother served in the Korean War and next to the oldest died with wounds afflicted from the World War II War. My brother did four years in the Marine Corps and we learned later that he did an extra 4 years so that my younger brother would not be drafted. I recall when the soldiers were discharged from the Vietnam War, they would arrive at midnight so they would not have to face the protestors. I’ve repented of my wrong attitude: I’ve asked my brother to forgive me for acting like a “hickey head.” When the country finally gave the men and women that fought in Vietnam War a parade, I made certain that I had that day off so I would attend. From that day to now, when I encounter men or women in the military I express appreciation for them for laying down their lives for us by thanking them and letting them know I appreciate what they have done.
A Lucky Feeling
The subject that was suggested was feeling lucky, and I had never thought about feeling lucky until I thought about maybe, I had something to be lucky about if I thought about the past. So that’s what I started doing.
I am one of seven children who was born in the segregated South. And when I say “segregated South” I mean schools, busses, but we didn’t even have busses because there were only about ten thousand people in the whole town. And my grandmother worked for a rich family (a Caucasian family of course) and she had to go to the house by the back door. And then she could go the front door, and sweep off the steps. So that was a part of being in a segregated city.
So one of the things that happened was in our family of seven the oldest person in the family was with a boy cause there was five boys and two girls, and the first four were older than I, and I was the first girl born. So my oldest brother was thrilled, cause that meant that he would no longer, when I got old enough, have to do the girl things.
So that was the part that began and ended when I got old enough, because then I took over some of the duties. And which meant doing whatever. And so my oldest brother was in the Navy, and he got there because during that time most of the black young men were sent to the Army. So my grandmother worked for this white family, so she was able to get him in the Navy, so he never had to go in the battlefield. And when he came back he said to me, and to the rest of the family, “The important thing is getting an education, and getting out of Lawrence.” So that’s what we did.
The oldest person helped the next in line and that was the way it went. And when I went off to school, with the help of my oldest brother, and another brother, the thing that happened I met my husband, which was a lucky break for me. He was generous and kind, and we had a good life. He is no longer living, but he worked for General Electric and NASA. And I worked in various places.
But to me, I don’t think of it so much as luck, but having great parents and having a goal in life gives me a lucky feeling. That’s me.
Theresa Cieri née Griffith
Take a Heart
Take a heart and fill it with love,
As true as the blue skies high above,
Make it as shining as the gold sun,
And this heart no one will shun,
The sadness or the sorrow of a pearly tear,
Will never enter this heart so fair,
The height of the sky and the depth of the sea,
Can contend with this heart, but very humbly,
Take the brightness of all the jewels in the ladn,
But still more jewels are in demand,
The beauty of the flowers on a summer day,
But even this cannot mar the way,
The biggest clouds, the stars and all,
The towering mountains and trees so tall,
The heart hold more love than this,
More than can be told in the magic of a kiss,
You ask "Can there be a love so true?"
Yes Sweetheart, the one I have for you.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri
Thursday, November 5, 2020
Last Sunday was Día de Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead Celebration. It’s a time to celebrate the lives of our deceased friends, family, and loved ones through food, offerings, and sharing their best stories so they will be remembered with joy instead of sorrow. One of the most important aspects of Día de Muertos is passing stories and traditions to younger generations, and older bud José did just that for a friend of mine.
So I bought a ticket to Lion King in New York and we stayed at the Hilton Town Square because we arrived in the afternoon, we had lunch, and the play was at night. So she really truly enjoyed the Lion King, the music, particularly the song ‘He Lives in Us.’ She was singing it over and over and over and over. She saw that song from a very spiritual point of view. And another play we enjoyed was Aida. She loved Aida. Aida was very different. We did see that here in Philadelphia. I think it was Walnut Street if I’m not mistaken. Then we saw Beauty and the Beast. She enjoyed Beauty and the Beast. We also saw concerts such as there was a lady could sing like Mahalia Jackson, and so the play, I think it was called ‘Mahalia,’ so we went to see that in person. James Cleveland was another gospel singer that she loved and I loved. We went to see that play. We also saw most of the plays in Lancaster, PA. Lancaster, PA Sight and Sound Theater, that has religious plays based on the Bible, so we enjoyed those plays too. But, next Wednesday is the anniversary, it will be six years.
One thing we did, I’m originally from West Philadelphia, and when I was a young lady, about six or eight, a little girl, we would go to a place called a Jamaica Inn in West Philadelphia. There we would have my favorite meal, which was egg foo young. While dining there, I would hear in the background Diana Ross’ music. Diana Ross for example the song ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ and that era. Diana Ross- I mean the Supremes. That was before she became Diana Ross. So, I decided, long story short, to recreate next week. I want to have egg foo young, and play Diana Ross on YouTube and then maybe play some of the music from the showtunes of Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, et cetera and Aida of course. And I thought I would remember her in a way that was uplifting and just kind of recreate some the things that we did and enjoy. And I guess that’s what I love about my mother. She was always going to, I mean she always took me to Ice Follies when Ice Follies were popular, a circus when a circus was in town. Whatever was in town, or the zoo, of course we went there a million times, but whatever was in town or a play or some cultural event, my mother would be sure to take me. And I enjoyed that part of her, and that’s the part of I want to recreate next Wednesday, God willing. That’s all.