Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Double Dating With My Mother

I could chalk it up to the difficulty older Jewish men have when they try to navigate technology. Or, I can just admit I'm a loser on JDate. My evidence: although I've "Favorited" 16 matches, zero have returned the compliment.

"I thought you weren't interested in meeting men." It was my deceased mother elbowing herself past Tommy into my subconscious.

Her arrival was hardly a surprise. After all, rather than my late husband being invested in finding me a date, it was more likely to be my mother, Min, a beauty who died at the age of 67.

"Mom," I said to the apparition pulling up a chair next to me, " I don't want anyone moving in, but I think I'd enjoy dinner or a play with a nice guy my age."

"Well, I can tell you what your problem is," she said, "Your profile isn't sexy enough."

"Sexy isn't me. I'm trying to be honest."

"Honest, hah!" she said. "I see you've put your age at 70. Remember I was present at your birth and you're off by 5 years."

"No one admits their real age in online dating," I said. "I recall you telling me more than once you never wanted to get old."

In my mind's eye I could see my mother hesitate before responding. She would be using her right hand to sweep her hairdo upwards and a mirror to be certain her eye shadow, mascara, and red lipstick were in place.

"Well, if I would've known what good shape a woman could be in her '70s I might have stuck around. I have to admit you've kept your weight down."

A compliment from my mother! I preened in my office chair and brushed aside childhood memories of her fixated on my chubbiness rather than my brain.

"I see two matches answered your emails," she went on. "It's a shame you had to make the first move."

Ah, here's the familiar motherly dig. "That's not a problem for me, Mom, being aggressive. That's how I landed Tommy. I asked him out for our first date."

There was silence on the other end of our celestial chat. Although she died before Tommy and I met and married, I knew Mom would have had mixed feelings about my second husband. It wasn't the fact that he wasn't Jewish, but that he wasn't rich.

"Don't blame your mother for wanting an easier life for her daughter," she said, evidently overhearing my thoughts. "But I did appreciate how much he loved you."

I didn't want to keep Tommy in this scenario, so I quickly returned to my failure on JDate. "Did you notice, Mom, that no matter their age, all of my matches wanted someone between 50 and 65? "

"So," she said, stretching out the vowel, "you couldn't have dropped 10 years?"

I sighed. "Mom, that's just not me. I've come a long way and I'm proud of the woman I've become. I'm not that desperate to make myself over for some dude."

Now, a sigh from Min. "So, try it your way. Be honest. Don't say you're passionate, fun, adventurous in the bedroom."

I laughed. "So you've been reading my competition."

"Of course, it can get boring up here. It's a change of pace to read fantasies about ideal matches. My girlfriends and I had a good laugh."

"Were you laughing when one of the guys answered my email with the news he had already fallen in love with the second woman he met on JDate?" I said.

"See, you didn't move fast enough. You have to jump in as soon as you find someone interesting."

"I don't know, Mom. Did you also read that he was now spending all of his time with his new romance?"

"So, what's the problem?"

"I gagged when I saw that. I don't want anyone spending all of his time with me; it's suffocating. Like I said, dinner out, a movie, a play, that's all I'm thinking about, not him taking over my life."

"So, have it your way," she said. "I assume, with your record of zero and sixteen you're bowing out. No more online dating?"

"Not completely," I said. "It is kind of a fun game and my ego is strong enough to take the rejections. So next month, I'm going to the other side."

"Women!" she said. "Don't tell me you're going to become a lesbian."

"No, Mom, match dot com. I'm going to check out the Gentiles. Maybe they'll be more open to an adorable grey-haired woman in her mid-seventies."

"Try sixty-five and you may have a shot," she said.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Resting Place In The Garden of Eden

“Be sure you blow out the candle before you go to bed.” It was my husband’s voice reaching out to me. This was a familiar warning, because when Tommy was alive, he repeated that order every Friday night after I lit the Shabbat candles.

“It has to stay on for 24-hours,” I said, not aloud, just in my head as I have done for many of our afterlife conversations. “It’s a memorial candle, it marks your November 2 anniversary.”

“Your people are weird,” Tommy said. “Why celebrate my death? Why not my birthday? Our marriage?”

“It’s not a celebration,” I said. “More an occasion to remember our loved ones. Did you hear me recite the memorial prayer; His resting place shall be in the Garden of Eden? I like that. It helps me cope.”

I went on, “I imagine you in my version of the Garden of Eden, playing golf with Bill and some other departed duffers. Your voice is fully repaired, so you’re teasing each other with each shot. Am I close?”

“Pretty good,” Tommy said. “Add in that we never have to reserve a tee time. We can walk on any course, any time of day or night.”

I loved that image, so I took our conversation a step further. “Can you believe, sweetheart, it’s been an entire year? Blink of an eye,” I said.

“Well, you’ve been a busy girl during that year.”

In my mind, his voice was proud not angry. I recognized that cherished tone because it was one that bound me so closely to this second mate. I could see him at the 2006 book launch for my memoir; first row, first seat, beaming at me as I stood on the stage of Women and Children First.

Tommy was my first reader for the book. I’d hand him 10 pages, which he grabbed as eagerly as if I was writing one of the Elmore Leonard or Ruth Rendell novels he loved.

“Great,” he’d say. Or sometimes, “I don’t like the chapter title,” or “I don’t understand this Yiddish word.” Those reviews were my cue to alter or translate.

“Yes, it has been quite a year,” I said, winding back to his assessment. “You supported all of my activities, right, honey?”

There was a hush from my illusive conversation partner. He’s likely reminiscing about our house, I thought, the one we lived happily in with our Golden Retriever, Buddy. The house I sold.

A few beats later, his response: “It was hard to watch you leave Dakin Street,” he said, confirming my suspicion. “But I understood you had no choice. Without me to do the maintenance stuff and without Buddy to protect you, it was too large and too risky to stay alone. Still, I felt a pang.”

I quickly changed the subject that was raw for both of us. “So, Tommy,” I said. “How are you keep tabs on me? Watching on high from a cloud?”

“I read your blogs,” he said.

I hit pause on our chat as I quickly reviewed a year’s worth of posts. Were they all favorable? Had I exposed anything he would prefer hidden? When I started the first blog, “The Rookie Caregiver,” I called him to my computer and asked if he’d like to read what I had written.

“Pull up a chair,” I said, nervous about his reaction. My husband was more private than I, even elusive about his past, so I worried how he would feel about this Internet publicity.

But he avoided a seat and instead stood behind me as I scrolled through the pages. He patted my shoulder, and raised two thumbs, his universal sign back then of “Okay by me.”

“You’re fine with all of this past year’s posts?” I said to my dearly departed. I wanted to be sure I understood him correctly. I knew there could be several filters between heaven and earth that might mess with communication.

“Sure,” he said, “I’m quite the superstar up here,”. “Everyone is jealous they’re not kept alive – well, sort of – like me.”

“Your privacy,” I said, “you don’t have a problem with me sharing our stories with the world?”

“Sweetheart, don’t get a big head. It’s your world, your friends, and your fans. You’ve never kept secrets from them.”

I was relieved to hear this, to get Tommy’s blessing. “Okay, honey,” I said. “You can rest easy. I promise to blow out the candle before I go to bed.”

“Good girl,” he said, then, “love you, Wifey.”

“Love you, too, Hubber, I said; misting at the memory of our pet names for each other.