Thursday, May 16, 2013

I Listened to a Bunch of Mothers (and some non-mothers and a cool dude) on Mothers Day

So, the second annual NYC Listen to Your Mother Show has come and gone. I would say it completely dominated my life for the past month, but that wouldn't be quite true.  It had a lot of competition from my Uncle's decline and death and Jake's IEP and Ethan's... well, you get the idea.

But it DID dominate the awesome in my life. And having something major and all-consuming to do on the first Mothers Day without my mother was, frankly, a godsend. I know I have just side-stepped the pain, that it will hit at some point, but if I can put it off just a little longer, that's fine with me right now.

(I haven't even finished my "first Mothers Day without my mother" post which is sitting half-written on my computer. Every time I go to it and see the picture of the two of us last year on Mothers Day I just get too sad, and let myself get distracted by Facebook and the Twitterverse.)

The show was... well, it's hard to find words to describe it... wonderful... glorious... moving, inspiring, side-splittingly funny, heart-rending and thought provoking, all in turn and often simultaneously.

And I can say this without seeming conceited because I was just a small cog in the great works of it all. What an awesome talented bunch of folks up there on the stage and behind the scenes. It was an overflowing vat of wonderful, all around.

My co-producer & directors - Holly Rosen Fink, Amy Wilson, and Shari Simpson - were amazing to work with. They all really carried the day when I was less than my 100% capable self, due to my mother's dying in January just as the production was ramping up.

And the cast... well, you're just going to have to watch the videos when they come out on YouTube soon.

The experience on Sunday was lovely for everyone, in the cast and audience alike. And if you weren't able to be there, I hope you can come next year. And if you're not near NYC there's probably a LTYM near you - find it!

And if you're one of my many dear friends who was producing and/or directing one of the 24 LTYMs around the country this year - yay! Can't wait to see YOUR city on video, too!

But until then... here's a taste - what I read (an edited version of this post from last year):


Tonight my son Ethan and I ran a little excursion after dinner. Just the two of us. When we walked out the door it was not quite seven o'clock. These days that means a sky full of light.

Added to the ridiculously unseasonable warmth, us stepping out on a March eve in mere t-shirts, and I was hard pressed to remember it wasn't a languorous summer evening, but yet a school night, and thus we had to execute our errand quickly and hurry home.

Besides, I had promised the upstairs neighbors with whom I had parked Ethan’s twin brother Jacob that we'd be back within the hour, and I sorely did not want to abuse my favor currency with them. Friends who are comfortable taking on Jacob are few and far between, precious as diamonds.

Jake himself was delirious to be upstairs with the neighbors and their white terrier, with whom he is nearly as obsessed as he is with our cat. Jacob calls these animals 'my best friends' which, though it breaks my heart, is true.

Ethan and I were on a mission.

We absolutely HAD to go to the bookstore tonight because he had finished the last book of a particular series in our possession the day before, and thus we were now in the dreaded state of NOTHING TO READ.

Ethan is in high, silly spirits as we walk the busy Broadway blocks to our local Barnes & Noble. He skips and darts around me walking down the street, as much crazed mosquito as boy.

"Look at all the people out in the evening!" Ethan proclaims with wonderment, and I dive again into pointless regret that we are not living anything like the life I had imagined, filled with evening family strolls and nighttime explorations of the city.

Jacob does not like to leave home all that much, and to be out with Jacob and Ethan together is most often a form of torture. I must have some wealth of resilience in my bones, some stored reserve of calm and good mothering at the ready.

There are days when I can and days when I can't and today was decidedly in the impossible column.


Mission accomplished, book in hand, Ethan and I pushed through the store's glass doors into a city become night, the sky's blue glow nearly extinguished, the streets bathed in yellow-orange incandescence.

Turning west to walk the two short blocks to Riverside and home, the brightest of stars appeared in the overhead sky.

Not stars, planets: Venus and Jupiter blazing in the deep cerulean sky that slices between the high-rises, thankfully not obliterated. These two gods are in a much celebrated love fest this month, a rare conjunction.

And yet, while they appear to be quite close, kissing distance tonight, they are in fact not truly crossing at all. It's just an artifact of our perspective, the way they look from here on our own mudball.

They are in fact deeply distant from each other, Venus, sunward, drawing us in toward the heart of our solar system, while Jupiter circles round us from the outside.

I do not like that my children are distant planets, each locked into their own distinct orbits, occasionally approaching but never truly crossing paths, both merely circling 'round me, their sun.

How I wish instead they were more like a double star system, like so many of the other twins we know: circling each other, at times closer, at times more distant but always in orbit, one about the other; connected, entwined, hurtling through space as one.

But I must, as ever, resist the siren pull of the "what ifs," of that dark matter that draws me to its crushing embrace.

I must instead stay here, in the now, in the track of my actual sons.

The one who lives on planet Autism.

And the one who does not.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Goodbye, Uncle Walter

Mom & Uncle Walter, November, 2012

In case you've been wondering where I've been lately....

The day after my mother passed in January, my Uncle Walter got diagnosed with stage four, metastatic lung cancer. He was given a three to six month prognosis.

Less than a week after that I was taking him to oncology appointments, visiting him in his Long Island home, spending time with my cousins - his daughters - as they cycled through town, coming in as often as they could.

In spite of how unfair this all was, in spite of his (growing) pain, in spite of his (very understandable) fear of death, he somehow maintained an upbeat, positive attitude throughout it all. He was magnificent, amazing.

Last Friday, he lost the fight. His daughters were with him for the last day of his life (I had sat vigil, awaiting their arrival).

His funeral was Monday. Family, neighbors, colleagues, friends all gathered. The rabbi delivered a lovely eulogy. Jess spoke for the daughters (Annette was too overcome to go join her at the podium) and said so many beautiful true things about Walter. And I spoke too.

It was a beautiful May day at the cemetery. Afterward we gathered in the backyard he so loved and ate and drank and shared fond memories of Walter. He was much beloved by all who knew him.

In the coming days I will tell more stories from these last three months, but for now I will just share the words I spoke at the funeral, here:

Walter was my uncle. My mother's "little brother" as she was so fond of calling him in recent years - and he was so UN-fond of hearing. Still, he put up with it with a grimacey smile because he loved his sister - his big sister Sylvia - so very much.

We were a close family. Growing up, "the relatives" meant Walter and his family - my Aunt Eva and cousins Jessie and Annette who were truly my best friends. Besides my parents, the Heimers - as we called them - were my very favorite people, the ones I was closest to, knew I would be intimately connected to for the rest of my life.

And we are.

I loved my Uncle Walter and am so grateful to have had the chance to spend so much time with him over the years -- and especially in this last year of his life which my Mother spent in the Nursing Home just 9/10ths of a mile from his house (yes, I clocked it on the odometer).

My mother absolutely loved Walter's frequent visits. Sometimes I would also be there during them, and the three of us would hang out together in the courtyard. Walter always turned the heads of staff and resident alike - he was such a handsome man, such a dapper dresser, in his suit and fedora -and mom was so proud to tell everyone who he was - her baby brother.

Walt visiting Mom at the nursing home

Every time I would come into my mom's room she was always showing me the flowers and chocolates he had brought her on his last visit. "My brother is so good to me" she would tell me, so grateful for his company, so much love twined between them.

And that love has roots that go all the way back. My mother often told me the story of going to see her new - baby - brother who had just been born. At that time they didn't allow children under 16 into hospitals, so my then 5 year-old mother stood outside the building, under Grandma Dunia's hospital room window - and she held Walter up for Mom to see.

Recently, at a family gathering, Jessie went to the basement for a bottle of seltzer and came up with an old journal of Walter's from 1941 when he would have been 14. (You never know what you're going to find in that basement.)

This entry from February says so much: "My older sister is a swell gal. My ideal. I wish she was born a boy then we could have some real fun."

And in spite of her being a girl, they did have fun, throughout their lives together. In jazz clubs in the 1940s, at family holidays - always together, on vacation in Maine, hanging out in the lush backyard of Walt & Eva's Port Washington house..

The other day I was rifling through my old photo box - you know why - and came up with a great shot of Walt & Eva from 1968. I showed it to my husband Danny and he commented: Eva looks great and Walter... looks like movie star! And indeed he did.


Everyone thinks my own son Ethan takes quite a bit after the Heimer clan, looks a lot like Walter. He does. I can only hope he grows up to be a warm, loving mensch like my Uncle Walter. There's a good chance of it - he already has his huge - and not always appropriate - sense of humor.


Goodbye Walter. You were loved. You will be missed. Keep my mom good company, Ok?