Category Archives: Family and Relationships

White House for Hanukkah?

The email arrived late Friday: “The President and Mrs. Obama request the pleasure of your company at a Hanukkah reception at the White House on Wednesday, December 17, 2014.”

I read it again, and again. It was exciting, but why had I received this?InviteAs It happened, I was about to fly to New York for a week and could easily take the train to Washington.

But what would I wear? The invite said, “business or holiday attire.” In Boulder, where I’ve lived the past 12 years, business attire means a clean shirt and jeans.

Peter Swift, who’s the mayor of Gold Hill, CO, stopped by that night, and I showed him the invite. It asked me to RSVP with the “date of birth, social security number, city and state of residence and country of citizenship of your guest and yourself.”

“It’s a scam,” Peter said. “If you send all that info, they’ll have your accounts cleaned out fast.”

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Iron Mind

My son, Andrew, entered the Ironman race in Boulder a few weeks ago, startling himself and me by completing it—just 20 minutes short of the cut-off time of 17 hours. At the start, he’d given himself a 50-50 chance of finishing: swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, then running a full marathon of 26.2 miles, in 90 degree heat, at altitude of 5500 feet. He’d never swum that long, biked that far, or run a marathon, let alone done all three in a row.

Finish!Halfway through the bike course, his face and body overheated, his head hurt, his energy dropped, and his stomach and digestive system stopped functioning, causing him to vomit. For the last three hours, he couldn’t keep down anything— water, nutrients, electrolytes. The doctor who saw him puking up water advised him to drop out.

Yet he kept going, from 6:50 in the morning until shortly before midnight. When he knew he was going to make it, he picked up speed and at the finish line, did a victory dance, jumping like a fiend, punching his fists and wiping tears from his eyes as the crowd chanted, “You – are – an – Ironman!”

“What kept you going?” I asked the next day. “It’s all mental,” he said. “You just keep telling yourself: You can do it. You can do it. Keep going. Don’t stop.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of the mind, neuroplasticity, and how Andrew’s triumphant mindset might be applied to other aspects of life, like healing the body. For three months now, I’ve been suffering from extreme vertigo, where I’m dizzy every minute.

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Too Much to Dream Last Night

Last night I dreamed I was with Jonathan again.*

Aggghh! Why is he appearing in my dream? I haven’t even thought of him in years. We were married in 1968 and divorced in ’73.

The dream dissolved instantly when I woke up, feeling distraught and confused, thrashing in the sheets. I tried to think, why was I so rattled?

Leibniz said that mortals can't see the full picture.

Leibniz, the 17th century philosopher, said that mortals can’t see the full picture.

Then I remembered. The dream. I couldn’t recall what Jonathan and I had been wrangling about, but I remembered that he had two briefcases with him, a fat one and a slim one. The slim one looked like the wine-colored leather attaché case he’d given me, but the initials engraved on it were: “A.D.”  Not mine or my ex husband’s.

What the…?

 

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Tiny New Light

I’m sitting on a couch in my daughter Rachel’s home in Chicago, holding my first grandchild, a boy, seven days old.  I’ve heard grandparents talk, ad nauseum, about the thrill of this relationship, but, as with having your first baby, you have no clue what it will be like until it happens.

I still don’t know the baby’s name.  Rachel and her husband, Jay, decided not to reveal it to our S smiling w Ffamily and friends until the bris—the circumcision and blessing performed eight days after his birth.  Traditionally, parents give the baby his Hebrew name during the ceremony, but Rachel and Jay wanted to do the same with his English name.  So they wrote it on his birth certificate and told no one else.

Months before, when they’d learned they were having a boy, Rachel asked me to plan the bris. I live in Colorado, so I wondered, how would I find a mohel—the man trained and certified to perform the bris—in Chicago?  Online, of course. The mohels are even rated on Yelp, and I discovered there are now female mohels, often former pediatricians, who refer to themselves as a “mohelet.”

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My Son’s Chinese Wedding

Last week I put on a traditional Chinese costume and sat beside my ex-husband in an obscure city in China, waiting for our son, Andrew, to come riding up on a horse with his bride in a sedan chair and ask us to accept her as our daughter.

Our children can take strange tacks and end up in places we never would have predicted.  A friend’s daughter grew up to be a trapeze artist in Cirque du Soleil.  “It was not a career path I ever envisioned for her,” the father said.  Another friend had a son who partied and slacked his way through school but went on to earn $30 million in the tech business.  The mother shook her head.  “I never would have predicted that.”

So it was for me.  I never imagined my son would go to China and jump headlong into the culture, start two businesses and marry a Chinese woman.  I’ve searched my memory for clues in his childhood that might have predicted this, but I’ve come up empty.  I mean, he liked Chinese food, but he also liked Japanese, Mexican and Italian. 

After earning a computer science degree at U.C. San Diego, he decided it would be useful in his career to spend a year learning Mandarin.  He picked out a language school cold on the Internet, in a city he couldn’t pronounce—Shijiazhuang—170 miles south of Beijing.  He chose it because the school offered four hours of private instruction a day, and total immersion in a city that had ten million people but only a hundred foreigners.  The natives spoke a pure Mandarin and almost no one spoke English.  It would be sink or swim, and I worried he would be lonely.

Instead, he became like a rock star in the city.  At 6’3,” he stood out and people would follow him shouting, “Hello!  Hello!”—the only English word they knew.  Businessmen wanted to befriend him and a beautiful young TV host wanted to interview him because she’d never met a foreigner.  

Fast forward eight years.  Thirteen of Andy’s family and friends have made the long trip to Shijiazhuang, and are checking out the apartment he and his bride, Yang Fei, have decorated for the wedding. 

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When Your Baby Gets Married

My daughter Rachel’s wedding was nothing like the weddings my friends and I had back in the daze. It was a four-day celebration on a farm in Kansas and other sites in Missouri, and it was the most meaningful and ecstatic ceremony I’ve witnessed. What made it powerful for everyone attending was the sense that these two young people are truly soul mates.

I’d been thrilled when they announced their engagement, but four days before the wedding, I woke up with tears running from my eyes. Rachel is 26, a certified music therapist, and her husband, Jay, 29, is an MD doing his residency in pediatrics. They share a passion for healing, for laughter, adventure and each other. Both speak Spanish and want to do service in Latin America. They balance each other in almost every way, so why was I in tears?

I cried at the hair salon, cried at the cleaners. I was a jumble of emotions: time passing, my baby grown, my own life closer to the end than the beginning, my own marriage and how it didn’t work and yet produced two beautiful beings, my son, Andrew, and Rachel. Fortunately, by the time I got on the plane for Kansas City, I was cried out, because what I experienced in the following days was as close as humans come to unmitigated joy.

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PART 6 – EROS IS KNOCKING

This is a serial about love and awakening. Previously: I get hooked for the second time on a man I call Billy the Bad. Click here to start with Part One.

We interrupt the story of Billy the Bad to ask: As we grow older, is it possible to find and keep love and sensuality in a committed relationship? Are we too set in our ways? I mean, every person I know is weird in some way. (I met a divorced doctor recently whose house is full of electric trains!) Or does our experience make us wiser and more able to compromise?

Not long ago I was asked by O, the Oprah Magazine, to write a piece about people who find deep love and lust after 40. I put out the word, and interviewed dozens who ranged from their 40s to their 90s, and who’d fallen in love with a person they consider a soul mate long after they thought that was possible.

The project gave me hope — that it’s never too late — and that it’s not just luck, there are internal changes we can make to release old patterns and create a healthy loving relationship.

One of the best examples is the actress Ellen Burstyn, whom I interviewed by phone. For 25 years, Ellen did not go out on a date.

Why not? I wondered.

“Nobody asked me,” she said.

“I find that hard to believe,” I said. “In 25 years, weren’t you attracted to a man, or pursued by one?”

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MOVING MOM

Published May 16, 2008 by Sara Davidson

“Does age bring awakening?” I ask myself as I stand in the drugstore checkout line, clutching a box of Depends. My sister, Terry, and I are about to move our 93-year-old mom out of the condo where she’s lived for decades to a home for people with memory impairment.

Mom has always been a dynamo: strong-willed, opinionated and exacting. She told us that she wanted to stay in her home until the end, and we respected that. The problem was: her home is in L.A. I live in Colorado and Terry lives in Hawaii, so we’ve had to manage her care from afar. We hired two loving women from El Salvador to stay with her, but they’d call us in alarm. “Your mother isn’t eating. She says she’s too tired to go to the park. What should we do?”

Mom falls asleep while getting her nails done.

We flew to L.A. to assess the situation, and I was shocked that mom, who’s always been tireless, was nodding out all day. While eating lunch, getting her nails done or in the middle of a conversation, she’d drop her head to her knees and go to sleep. She was becoming incontinent. When we took her out to eat and brought her home, she asked, “Whose house is this?” So… maybe she wouldn’t notice if we moved her?

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GELATO SLUTS

After a week in Dublin, the mother and child reunion tour moves to a town in Sicily, Taormina–built on a cliff above the aqua sea with a snow-capped volcano behind it. After settling into our room, Rachel says she wants to make no plans and have no agenda. There are hundreds of sites to explore in Sicily: more Greek temples than in Greece; Roman ruins; Arabian ports, and chains of volcanic islands with black sand beaches. But for the next week, we’ll see almost none of them. We give ourselves over to il bel far niente, the beautiful doing nothing. Italians have raised this to an art form, but I get nervous when Rachel suggests I take off my watch.
Taormina–one of the most exquisite towns in the world, with snow-capped volcano.

She’s been on a hurried schedule and relishes the prospect of living off the clock. We doze on “sun beds” placed on the sand, then I read and she wades. It’s May and we’re told the water’s too cold for anyone but Germans to swim. Germans and Rachel. I keep checking on her, just as I kept an eye on both my kids when they were young, calculating how long it would take me to sprint into the water and reach them if they needed help. She walks out of the water toward me, the breeze riffling her hair, and I tell her I want to freeze this moment.

“You can,” she says. “It’s called, taking a picture?”

I shake my head no. A snapshot loses its power the more you look at it. I want to freeze this state-here and now, carefree, removed from time and tethers.

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THE MOTHER AND CHILD REUNION TOUR

On May 4, I ordered a wheelchair so I could get on a plane and join my 22-year-old daughter, Rachel, in Dublin. She was in Europe studying Spanish between college and grad school, and she’d invited me to travel with her for two weeks. This was a gift, since as a teen she hadn’t liked me much and in recent years, we’d lived in different cities and hadn’t been able to spend more than a few days together. With expectant joy, I booked the flights, did research, and vowed that I wouldn’t give a fig about how much it would cost. This would be the grand, mother and child reunion tour, and then, on March 31, my leg started hurting. I developed a huge hematoma in my leg, and was hospitalized with my feet up in “radical elevation.”

I consulted-in person or by phone–seven doctors, none of whom could say what had caused the bleeding or when the leg would heal, but it wouldn’t be soon. I told each doctor that I had to get on a plane on May 4. My daughter wanted to travel with me and May 4 was the date and if I canceled, who knows when we’d both have two weeks free…“Say no more,” the fifth doctor, a surgeon, said. “I have two daughters. We’ll get you on that plane.”

It seemed reasonable: the flight was a month away, then 3 weeks, then 2, and suddenly there’s only one week left and I still can’t walk more than ten minutes. I’m frightened that the long plane flights could make my condition worse, and I warn Rachel that I can’t walk much but she says that won’t be a problem. “I’m really looking forward to seeing you!”

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