Category Archives: Family

Do You Know How To Get To The Emergency Room?

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When my nephew was 18-months old, he fell down a flight of stairs. Landing with a thwack on the hard brown tiles, he knocked himself out cold. Hearing the awful sound, my brother-in-law ran to find his youngest son, Alec, unconscious at the base of the stairs. Imagine finding your child floppy and unresponsive. Thinking fast, my brother-in-law made one quick phone call, picked up Alec’s limp body, and grabbed his car keys.

“I’m taking your brother to the hospital,” he shouted to his older son, Max. “Grandma is on the way.”

Just 4-years-old at the time, Max paused the two-person video game he had been playing with his father and hurried to the mudroom door.

“Dad?” Max furrowed his brow with concern. “Can I play your guy?”

Standing in the hallway by the garage with Alec cradled in his arms, my brother-in-law conceded: “Yes, Max. You can play my guy.”

Then my brother-in-law drove to the hospital.

A radiologist, he knew exactly where he was going.

Because he drove to the hospital every single day.

I hadn’t thought about that story in years.

Until the other day.

One of my roomies from BlissDom, Greta Funk (aka: Gfunkified), posted a photo on Instagram.

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Apparently, her little guy fell down and went boom.

We all know head wounds bleed a lot, yes?

As it turns out, Erv needed three stitches on his noggin.

And because it was their first trip to the emergency room, Greta had no idea where to go.

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That got me thinking.

If something happened around these parts, what would I do?

Rochester is a small city; you’d think I’d know how to get around after living here for over a decade. However, I haven’t had to make a trip to the you-know-where.

*knock on wood.*

When I saw Greta’s photo, I tried to picture how to get to our nearest hospital, but I couldn’t visualize the best route.

It occurred to me that it would be a good idea to find out.

After consulting Google Maps, I now know I live 8.8 miles from the nearest hospital.

But.

It will take me 18 minutes to get there if I take the Expressway.

Twenty-one minutes if I choose to take city streets.

When you’re in panic mode, that isn’t the best time to tap information into your navigational app.

If you are directionally challenged like I am, you might want to do what I did and print out a copy of the instructions and stick them in the glove compartment of your car. Or pre-program the address for your preferred hospital into your GPS or phone. Make it a favorite.

Just in case.

Fingers crossed, you’ll never need to drive anyone to the emergency room, but if you do, at least you’ll know where the heck you are heading.

Everything turned out fine with Greta’s son. His bandages were removed, and he’s down to bump and a Band-Aid.

Look at that face!

My nephew was fine, too.

No concussion. No repeat episodes. Alec is in college now.

And what of his older brother? Max is in medical school.

He still loves video games. But not more than his brother.

What kinds of mishaps have brought you to the ER? And did you know where you were going?

tweet me @rasjacobson

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The Beauty of a Grandmother

“Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” ~Franz Kafka

Grandma Muriel holds me during the winter of 1980.

Keeping warm during the winter of 1980.

My Grandma Muriel was fabulous.

She was.

Fiery, artistic and independent, my Grandma Muriel worked outside the home – an unusual arrangement for a woman during the 1950s. But she was a decorator who needed to make things beautiful. She was a crafty critter, forever knitting and beading. She transformed umbrella stands and drab pieces of office furniture into a pieces of art with gallons of Mod-Podge and photographs of daffodils and tulips.

She loved a good party, loved to be the center of attention. Being sexy was important to her. Looking good was important to her. After she lost both breasts to cancer, she spent hours primping in the mirror, making sure her clothes laid just so, that her wigs and eye-lashes curled perfectly.

She liked to be prepared for events that might happen. “You never know when there might be a party,” she’d say.

My grandma couldn’t walk into a store and simply buy one item; she bought in quantity. Part of this may have been due to the fact that she and my grandfather were in hotel and restaurant supply, so they were used to buying in bulk, but her habit extended beyond that. In her basement storehouse, hundreds of napkins were stacked alongside, plastic plates, cups and forks. The bathroom closets shelved tens of toothbrushes, tubes of toothpaste and dozens of bottles of Milk of Magnesia. Her kitchen pantry was always bursting with canned goods.

As a teenager, when I visited my grandparents during summer vacations, she took me shopping. “When you find something you love, buy one in every color,” she advised on more than one occasion.

My mother says it was difficult growing up with my grandmother. That my Grandma Muriel couldn’t get through a day without a glass of something or other. That she was depressed, narcissistic and unsympathetic.

But the grandmother I knew played games with me and helped me complete complicated crossword puzzles. The grandmother I knew indulged me, maybe even spoiled me. If my parents said, You can’t have those jeans, Grandma Muriel bought them for me.

She took me to ride horses. Leaning up against the other side of a broken-down fence, her thinning hair in skinny ponytails, she grinned wildly as I cantered and trotted and jumped.

Together, we visited flea markets. Under dark pavilions, we inspected the offerings. She taught me how to bargain, to name my price and be ready to walk away from whatever item I thought I wanted.

I stood in tall grass beside my grandmother, each of us wearing boots, quietly painting what we saw: she at a real easel, me on an oversized clipboard. Later, I squatted beside her in her magnificent garden, pinching Japanese beetles between our gloved fingers.

On days where the weather didn’t lend itself to outside endeavors, Grandma Muriel set me up with an old typewriter and told me to write. Sitting on her living room carpet, I tapped out stories. At night, she carried a smooth black bowl of fruit upstairs to my bedroom and sat on the edge of my bed. As I bit into a juicy black plum, my grandmother read the words I had written that day, and nodded her head. She told me I had promise, and I believed her.

The Grandma Muriel I knew was filled with joy, positive and affirming.

I suppose I pleased her.

Maybe by the time grandchildren arrived, she had relaxed, figured out what is important in life.

Or maybe she was self-medicating with alcohol and pills, as my mother suggests. I don’t know. It is not impossible for me to imagine my grandmother as difficult, opinionated and judgmental. I’m sure she was all that, too.

Just not with me.

My Grandma Muriel passed away in August 1982. Over thirty years later, I still think of her every day. She was the embodiment of beauty.

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This piece in running in conjunction with other writers who are commemorating August McLaughlin’s 2nd annual Beauty of a Woman (BOAW) celebration. Check out the line-up over at her place.

To My Brother On His Birthday

I remember the day you graduated from high school. Standing tall in your crimson robes and squared hat, beaming, you were a sunrise, red and yellow, filled with promise and potential. That day the skies were dark but you were radiant, beaming confident, like a small sun.

Later, I sat through other graduations. And I wondered from my place in the crowd: When did he become a man? When did he stop carrying around that old stuffed animal, when did he trade in his strawberry curls for a brush-cut, when did he get muscles, all those hard lines and edges?  

I want you to know that I remember everything about our childhood: each game we played, how you always won because I was impatient, craved action, and never developed any strategy. You giggled when I was a sore loser and tossed the game pieces into the air.

I remember your wrestling stage, the time you pushed me on my stomach, sat on my back, and pulled my legs up towards my head.

“Say mercy!” you shouted, but you let me go when you realized I really couldn’t breathe.

I remember when you saved me from the boy from around the block who came asking to play Caveman and who, without even proposing, made me his wife and dragged me half  across the lawn by my hair, kicking and screaming. You were a lion that day, protective and angry. Red-faced, you shouted, “Don’t you ever touch my sister again.  Don’t you ever touch her.”

With one swipe of your seven-year old paw, it was clear.

I was older, but you were something else.

You always were.

They just didn’t know it yet.

We share secrets, and our silences sometimes go long.

But.

I want you to know I remember you crossing the stage that day in your red robes. Facing the future fearlessly, you are there.

Contemplating a sharp September sunrise,  I am thinking of you.

Happy b’day Bro. I hope you played some tennis.

Celebrating 13

Tech’s 13th b’day cake • Yup, Kit-Kats & M&Ms & chocolate cake!

It should have been a day for parades and singing and whooping it up and flowers.

I was sure there would be balloons.

Instead there was a vacuum extractor.

It doesn’t surprise me that my son is as cautious as he is. His introduction to the world was of rough and tumble handling, of being ripped away, and I believe that it left its mark on him – though he knows none of the details.

In a hazy dream, I saw blood fill one of those pink plastic hospital basins and wondered: Whose blood could that be?

I am told that my son stopped breathing five times after he was born.

I think he innately senses that life is fragile, unpredictable and doesn’t always turn out as planned.

It was not in the birth plan for my uterus not to contract.

{Who knew I had a feisty uterus?}

It was not in the birth plan to lose so much blood. It was not in the birth plan to be rushed to away for an emergency hysterectomy.

Okay, so maybe I didn’t have a birth plan.

But I had plans.

I’d planned to go home with my newborn and revel in his newness. I’d planned to be up and around within 24 hours. I’d planned for people to marvel at us in the grocery store: “Up and around already?” they’d say.

I’d planned long, lazy, late summer walks with our fancy-schmancy new stroller. I’d planned to bring my son outside and show him the world, let him feel the August sun on his cheeks.

On my eighth day in the hospital, my OB-GYN stood beside my hospital bed.

And while a moyel read blessings and performed my son’s circumcision, my doctor sobbed.

What is it?” I asked. “You must have seen sixty-five bazillion of these.”

My doctor wiped her eyes and her mascara smeared over her nose.

I don’t know why I remember this, but I do.

“There was a point where I thought I was going to lose you both. I’m so happy you’re leaving the hospital as a family.”

And we did leave the hospital as a family.

{And we figured out how to get the $@%&! bucket in $@%&! carseat.}

And the sun went down and it came up again.

And thirteen years later, my husband and I have this fabulous son.

And I know it sounds all braggy and everything but he is incredibly smart, so we like to tease him how much smarter he might have been if he hadn’t lost all those brain cells in the NICU.

We are fortunate to be able to laugh about these things.

Because it could have ended in another, completely devastating way.

And now, as my ever-lengthening teenager heads out each morning, he still gives me a smooch — even in front of his friends.

He still thinks I’m cool.

{Sometimes.}

He still twirls my hair and tells me I’m pretty and that he’s glad I’m his mom.

{Right before he falls asleep.}

Who could ask for more?

I believe we will keep him.

Tonight he will eat something sweet.

We will push him up against the measuring door to see how much he has grown.

You know, on the outside.

People say 13 is an unlucky number.

But I feel so dang lucky.

And balloons or not, we celebrate his life every day.

Because why wouldn’t we?

What was the last thing you celebrated? Anyone else have a feisty uterus? Or a tough delivery?

My Father’s Secret

My dad, June 23, 2012

My parents took religious school education seriously. I was never allowed to miss a day for any after-school extra-curricular activities like roller skating parties, which always seemed to fall on the same afternoons as Hebrew School. My brother and I were expected to be proficient in Hebrew, and it was a given we would study extensively in preparation for our bar and bat mitzvah services.

The weekend prior to my son’s bar mitzvah, my mother-in-law pulled out some old pictures to show TechSupport. There was a sepia photograph of my father-in-law taken before his bar mitzvah over 60 years ago.

“And there’s your daddy.” My mother-in-law pointed to a photo of Hubby, who was quite the stud in his powder-blue jacket, plaid pants, and wide collar peach shirt à la1977.

That night, I called my father to see if there might be a photo of him somewhere. I’d never seen one, but my grandmother was before her time with the scrapbooking, so I wondered if maybe there was a picture buried in the basement somewhere.

“Well, you know…” my father took a deep breath. “I guess this is as good a time as any to tell you.”

I had no idea what he was going to say.

“I mean, now that you are an adult, you should probably know…”

My mind was spinning. Was he going to tell me that he wasn’t really Jewish?

My father hemmed and hawed and beat around the bush until I shouted into the receiver. “Dad, you’re killing me! Just say it!”

“I never had a bar mitzvah,” my father said quietly.

My brain couldn’t process this new information. It didn’t fit into any information it had been given before. I didn’t know any Jewish men my father’s age that had not had a bar mitzvah. Even men who have fallen out of the faith had stood on the bimah and chanted. Meanwhile, my father is a spiritual person. He follows the laws of the Torah. He is active in his synagogue. He loves Judaism. He loves Israel. He loves celebrating the Jewish holidays. He never had a bar mitzvah?

“What are you talking about?” I stood up from my chair to pace around our family room. “How is that even possible?”

“I grew up pretty poor. Back then people didn’t have parties like they do today, but there were get-togethers.” My father paused, and I imagined him flipping the corner of his crossword puzzle. “My parents and I talked it over, and we decided that I wouldn’t have one. Because, you know, we couldn’t afford a party or anything.”

“But you could have had a bar mitzvah and just not had a party, right?

“I suppose.” My father conceded. “But I didn’t want to embarrass my father.”

I asked why he had waited so long to tell me about not having a bar mitzvah.

I asked him if he had ever wished to have made his bar mitzvah.

I asked him if it was something he wanted to do now, at 74.

TechSupport overheard me giving my father the third degree, and told me to stop.

“Grampy goes to temple all the time.” Tech said. “He is a very honest, very humble and very good man. He lives his life by the Torah. I am pretty sure that G-d is good with him.”

I felt the tears catch in my eyes when my son spoke to me. He was right, and I am sure any rabbi would have offered the same words.

The Bar or Bat Mitzvah isn’t a mandatory rite of passage; by Jewish law, a boy reaches adulthood when he turns 13 and a girl at 12, no ceremony required. Some say the very lack of necessity makes the efforts even more remarkable as concrete, hard-won, and public affirmations of Jewish identity and commitment.

And yet.

My father became a bar mitzvah without pomp or circumstance. For him, becoming a bar mitzvah was a private experience, a continuation of the covenant between himself and G-d.

Who knew?

Ever been surprised by your child’s wisdom?

Tweet This Twit @rasjacobson

On Sons & Thunderstorms

When my son was still wrapped up like a burrito, every time there was a thunderstorm, I carried him outside to the worn wooden bench perched on our front stoop, and, together, we sat and listened to the boomers.

As my burrito grew, he morphed into my l’il Monkey. Whenever we heard thunder or saw that first flick of lightning, we raced to the front door. He’d mastered deadbolts by then, and he turned the knob furiously as if the ice-cream truck were sitting in our driveway. Once outside, we piled on the old bench — my son sat on my lap, holding my hand with a combination of anticipation and fear while I counted: “One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand…”

And when the world shook, we laughed, and he begged for another so we waited impatiently for the next thunder-clap to shake our world.

For years we watched the skies darken, the clouds quicken, felt the air grow heavy on our skin. We listened to water slap our sidewalk angrily, and we both came to see how it works: how storms can be furious and yet temporary. He learned that even the scariest storms pass.

I know children who are terrified of thunder and lightning – kids who put their hands over their ears and cry or hide, but my son was raised up on late May storms: flashes of light and all that racket.

Maybe it’s because we imagined G-d taking a shower.

{The way my Monkey was starting to take showers.}

Maybe it’s because we imagined G-d needed to fill up the oceans.

{The way my Monkey was starting to have responsibilities.}

Maybe it’s because he imagined G-d stomping around looking for something He had misplaced.

{The way Monkey misplaced things and got all stompy and frustrated.}

Maybe it’s because he liked talking about G-d and trying to relate to Him.

“G-d makes rain. And rain makes the world grow, Mommy!” l’il Monkey told me as he stared at the yellow lilies, thirsty for a drink.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that with each summer storm, my summer-son was getting “growed up” too.

One May, I saw my son needed a new raincoat and boots for puddle stomping.

“I don’t need a coat. Or a ‘brella.” Monkey said as a matter-of-fact.

And he ran out into the downpour.

Unprotected.

Now I’m not saying it’s smart to go outside and run around on a lawn during an electrical storm, I’m just saying that we did.

We made up goofy dances, sang ridiculous songs, and chased each other around the yard in our bare feet until we were mud-spattered and drenched.

These days my little burrito is 13 years old.

We live in a different house with a less inviting front stoop. Plus, he’s gotten all teenager-ishy so we don’t really do the thunderstorm thing anymore.

One day, when I am an old woman and I hear the distant clatter of thunder, I will remember tiny yellow rain coats and tiny yellow rain-boots. I may not remember much else, but I will remember those little moments — perhaps as one long blurry moment — when the world turned chocolate pudding and everything was positively puddle wonderful.

What do you remember about thunderstorms? What little mommy-moments do you cherish?

Unintentional Lessons in The Game of Life

Somehow, on a Sunday night not long ago, everyone in my family was playing a game together. This is remarkable for many reasons, but mostly because my husband despises all games.

(Except golf.)

It could also be that I tend to get a little competitive.

Anyway, on this particular night we were all lying on the fluffy beige rug playing The Game of Life – the Twists and Turns version.

Now, this is not the old-fashioned version with the spinner you’d flick with your finger and you’d get a car and fill that car with pink or blue people.

Nay, in this new and supposedly improved version, an electronic gadget spins for you — after you have inserted your individual credit card and pressed a button that says SPIN on it.

So we’re all looking at this thing that looks like a UFO, listening to it beep, and watching it light up.

You learn a lot about your family when you play games.

For example, my 12-year-old (Tech Support) on marriage:

“It’s good to get LOVE out-of-the-way as soon as you can. It can be a pain.”

On having children:

“You shouldn’t have kids until after you’ve LIVED a little. I’ve tried that and it always ends badly.”

On money:

“Life is expensive. You tend to lose money when you LIVE.”

My husband on finances:

“I have no money, but that’s okay because I helped someone to make his dreams come true, and I think that counts for something.”

Later, my husband got rich and greedy. Tech Support and I both heard husband say:

“I want a mansion. Gimmee the biggest, sweetest mansion.”

and

“How can I have this totally awesome house and not have an awesome car? LIFE makes no sense.”

I couldn’t believe it, but I found myself whining about education:

“This is taking forever! I need to get another degree so that I can be an Executive Chef!”

Meanwhile, that game is clearly confused. I don’t want to be an Executive Chef.

I want to hire an executive chef.

Whatever, I eventually earned my degree and got my $400,000 salary.

Oh and did I mention, I won?

Duh.

(This might explain why Hubby doesn’t like to play games with me.)

Want to read more from families who play games? Check out this post from Kasey Mathews and this one from Gigi Ross aka: Kludgy Mom.

What have you unintentionally learned about your family while playing games?

UPDATE 3/29: And speaking of games: Today Clay Morgan opens the polls in his 2nd Annual March Movie Madness (#MMM2) Contest for Best Protagonist of All-Time. Amazingly, my boy, Ferris Bueller has made it to the Final Four. If you can find it in your heart to vote to SAVE FERRIS (again), I would appreciate it. He’s up against Westley from The Princess Bride. Methinks I’m going to need a lot of help here. So after 1 pm, click on Educlaytion and SAVE FERRIS.

Tweet This Twit @rasjacobson

Grandma’s Charms

My grandma had an awesome chunky, clunky charm bracelet.

It had sixty-five bajillion charms on it, and it clanked whenever she shook her wrist.

She died in 1982, while I was at summer camp.

I don’t know to whom her charm bracelet was willed, but I never saw  — or heard — it again.

Fast forward three years. My senior year of high school, two friends of mine and I fancied ourselves jewelry makers and set up shop stringing rainbow-colored beads onto tiny black fishing lures.

Our plan?

To become famous jewelry makers.

Or maybe to earn just enough money to see the next Grateful Dead Show.

{Or maybe that was just my plan.}

Anyway, after school and on weekends, we bought miniscule black fishing lures and itsy-bitsy multi-colored seed beads and transformed these cheap components into semi-hideous totally fabulous earrings, bracelets and necklaces.

We hawked our wares during periods 5, 6 and 7 lunch and sold everything for under $5.

And then my left thumbnail split in two.

And that was it; we were out of business.

Still, it was good while it lasted.

While our little business was booming, I got to table together with two friends. And as we slumped over flat surfaces sorting beads and determining color schemes, we talked about our lives: the boys we liked, what we thought we might do after college, where we might eventually land.

Our stuff was not fancy, but people seemed to like it. And it was wonderful to see someone delight in wearing something that we had made.

Recently, I saw these really adorable bracelets.

They don’t call ’em cutey for nothin’!

I immediately liked the colorful bead combinations, especially one bracelet with a whimsical heart-drop dangle featuring two people smooching.

I like that bauble a lot.

I like to roll the round smooth beads between my fingers and see if I can guess which one is which just by the way it feels.

Even though this bracelet is nothing like the junk kind my friends and I created in high school — nor is it like the one my grandmother wore — the clinking sounds strangely familiar.

So now I jingle a bit, and — happily — it reminds me of old friends.

And of my grandmother.

Pieces of my life’s history in metal and beads.

Who could have known that this little bracelet would bring me such sweet memories?

Tell me about a favorite piece of symbolic jewelry.

tweet me @rasjacobson

I’m Sorry The US Postal System Wrecked Your Christmas

Dear L’il Niece and Nephew:

As you may or may not know, I absolutely hate to shop, but this year I went out and actually found cool stuff for both of you! L’il Niece, I got you that unicorn that you wanted and Nephew I was almost able to get that cool guy that you love from that awesome YouTube video to come to your house, but instead I ended up getting you a unicorn, too.

They were having a buy one/get one thing, and I figured if your sister was going to have one, what’s one more unicorn in the barn? I mean, they eat rainbows, right? So it’s not like they cost very much or anything. Anyway, I was really psyched about having completed my holiday shopping early because not only was I done in time which we all know is rare (like unicorns), but I also knew I was mailing everything with plenty of time for everything to get there in time for all the festivities.

That was waaay back on December 9, 2011.

And then, right before Christmas, your mom called me and told me that neither unicorn had arrived.

I had a bad feeling because I didn’t insure anything this year.

Anyway, as K$sha would say, I’m pretty sure I’m on the family $hit list.

And I just wanted you all to know that I apologize.

I have learned my lesson.

In the future, presents will be sent in November and from here on out, everything will be insured.

And don’t worry, your gifts will get way more interesting.

I’m thinking packs of pencils or bags of rocks.

Or both.

Anyway, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a great New Year.

I love you both and hope you can forgive the United States Postal Service even though they really $uck.

Because I think we all know someone who probably deserved a lump of coal is totally loving those unicorns right now.

Any post office horror stories? Misery loves company.

A Note to My Father on His 74th Birthday

Dear Dad:

It’s 12:25 am, so you are probably sitting at the kitchen table having your late-night snack.

And while could probably call, I didn’t want to wake up mom.

So I had to write you a quick note because I didn’t want you to think I forgot your birthday.

Because I didn’t.

But by the time I can talk to you tomorrow, it will be late afternoon, so I just wanted to tell you a few things.

Last week, I went out to buy you a gift.

I bought you a Syracuse University stadium blanket.

You know, the kind of thing that you can cozy up under when you watch SU sports on television.

I talked to mom and she said that you have many blankets and that it would be a waste.

So I returned it.

Because I know she is right.

You wouldn’t really want a blanket.

Then mom suggested that I buy you sweatpants.

She told me your size and a brand name and even where to go.

And I thought about it, but seriously… sweatpants?

I couldn’t do it, Dad.

We need a new picture!

You mean more to me than sweatpants.

Even if you can really use them.

Because you can buy your own sweatpants. And every time I try to buy you pants, you end up having to return them for a different color or size or style, so what’s the point?

And anyway I know that what you really want is for me to be with you on your birthday.

To cozy up with you under one of your many warm blankets, probably on the couch in the sunroom.

To sit at the kitchen table and share a tangerine and a few dozen handfuls of peanuts.

To talk about politics or do a crossword puzzle until we finish it.

Even if that means staying up way past midnight.

But I can’t be there, Dad.

I just wanted you to know that I know what you want.

You want your family.

Your children and your grand-children.

I will talk to you later, okay?

xoxo

Your only daughter

How do you show you love and appreciate someone when you can’t be near them?