TWO WOMEN

TWO WOMEN

Editor’s Note:  This was first published on April 18, 2017.  Sunday is Mother’s Day, and feeling a little nostalgic, I thought it appropriate to post it again.

I had a birthday last week, and it brought to mind two important women in my life.  The first was my mother.  The second was my mom.

“Huh?” you say.  “I thought you said two, women.”

I was born in a very conservative Midwest.   At that time, a stigma existed about pregnancy without the benefit of marriage.  Judgment and criticism had not evolved much beyond the puritanical beliefs noted in “The Scarlet Letter.”

My mother, Florence, was a self-reliant woman who supported two young children from a previous marriage.  There was no place to hide when she found herself pregnant.

A relative and close friend, Bonnie, approached her regarding her pregnancy.  What could she do to help?  After some conversation, Bonnie had a suggestion.  She said, “I’ve always wanted a girl, and I can’t have more children.  If you have a girl, would you consider letting us adopt her?”

I don’t know how long the two considered this proposal before they agreed.  And, that is how my “mom” came into the picture.

I was raised in a family of four — my mom, dad, and two older brothers.  I can’t believe how incredibly lucky I was.  Despite a decade and more age difference between my brothers and I, we’ve always been incredibly close.  My parents were encouraging and supportive of my efforts.  I never questioned the love that surrounded me.  From the beginning, I knew I was adopted, but never knew the circumstances.  Nor did I have a clue Aunt Flo was actually my birth mother.  She did not want me to know, and that fact remained undisclosed until her death when I was eighteen.

My mother gave me life.  My personality is a lot like hers, as is my independent nature.  In many ways I think, as strong as I am, she was so much stronger.  I’ve often wondered how difficult it would be to see your child and never be able to acknowledge the relationship.

My mom brought me into a fantastic loving family.  She was a great parent and as we grew older became my best friend.   She introduced me to the theater, opera, and writing — things I still love.  Who I am today is due primarily to her.

Many years ago two women set forth a plan for my future.  What they decided has affected every aspect of who I am.  There are no words to adequately express my love for them both.

 

My Cousin Bob

My Cousin Bob

After his parents’ divorce, my mom continued a relationship with Bob’s mother.  Bonnibel believed strongly in maintaining family connections.  I’m sure she loved her brother, Louis, but I’m also sure she had many periods when she did not particularly like him.  Louis’ behavior towards Bob and his mother was at the very least deplorable.  So, thanks Mom, for giving me the opportunity me to know Bob Child.

At the age of ten, I was unaware of our many “family secrets,” and was prone to blurt something out when I should have been quiet.  An occasion in 1953 highlights this tendency.  Bob wrote about it in his tome, “Scraps.”

“Sharon Filitti…remarked, ‘You don’t look at all like your brother.'”  That was quite a surprise to Bob, who was unaware of a brother, an adopted sibling from Louis’ second marriage.

There were two things I enjoyed growing up.  One was acting or performing, the other was writing.  As I entered the business world, while writing was not the primary focus of a job, it always became integral to what I was trying to achieve.  As a result, I’ve written advertising copy, resumes for clients, newsletters, scripts, technical material, and training manuals.

During the last decade of the 20th century,  I worked for a company based in Memphis and had to attend meetings at least once a year in Tennessee.  This presented an excellent opportunity to visit Bob and Fran.  There were a few occasions when my brother Ted would drive down from Chicago, while I’d head North from Tennessee, meeting at Cherry Street in Carbondale.  These visits were punctuated by hearty laughter and visits to wineries and various haunts that Bob and Fran enjoyed.

During this time, Bob was getting his book, “Scraps,” published — an overwhelming task at best.  How he had time, I will never know, but he discovered my interest in writing and offered assistance.  I’d found a mentor.

Seeing the flyer for his book revealed Bob’s humor.  There he was in London, with his book in hand, standing in front of Big Ben.  The words said it all, “Point Reached.  Scraps Is Published!  Big Ben Boomed.”

As much as Bob was anti-internet, I found the web a way to start writing.  In 2009, I started a blog.  The title came from my human resources days.  One of my colleagues was continually saying, “Let me share this with you.”  Sharon Share Alike was born.  It lasted only one year.  My all-consuming job interfered, and then there was another website.  Spelled somewhat differently, but getting much more traffic, was Sharon ShareAlike, a website for “a drag queen, entertainer, and emcee, and the creator of BoobsforQueens…”  Oh my God, if Bob had seen that he would have been rolling on the floor in laughter.

My copy of “Scraps,” comes with an inscription:

For Sharon,

In fond encouragement of your writing habit already underway; ignore my copyright using anything you wish, but spell my name right and send me 20% of the gross.  Bob

I’ll always spell your name right, Bob, but where do I send the 20%?

I miss Bob’s way of telling a story and recounting happenings.  He made life interesting, entertaining, and even joyful.  He recognized people’s shortcomings but didn’t dwell on them.

In remembering him, I’ll especially miss his laughter.  Someone said that laughter is the sound of angels singing.   OK, that’s a bit much.  Bob’s laugh was boisterous and loud lending itself more to the irreverent.  On the other hand, it was infectious and fun.

Miss you, dear cousin.

“After all, tomorrow is another day.”

“After all, tomorrow is another day.”

 

Who do you think of when you hear these words: feisty, determined, flirty, independent?  The first person who comes to my mind is Scarlett O’Hara.  Not only do I think of the character in “Gone With The Wind,” but I’m also reminded of my little cat, Katie Scarlett.  She arrived when some neighborhood children found Scarlett and her four siblings. She immediately claimed her dominance among the pride.  I found homes for two kittens, three remained with me – Scarlett, Melanie, and Gatsby.

Walking my sister’s dog was an adventure for Scarlett.  She ran ahead, came back and informed the dog she was far too slow, urging her to speed up the pace.  A neighbor, down the street, had a bird bath in her back yard.  Now there was a favorite place for my little girl.  She’d crouch and hide, waiting for a bird to land.  Then as it took wing, she’d leap in the air, sometimes catching her prey.  There was more than one time I was running to save the bird.  Her agility was stunning, especially for such a petite kitty.

I traveled in my last job, and my neighbor’s boys took turns petsitting for my cats.  I returned one day and realized after a few moments that someone was missing.  Where was Scarlett?  I went outside calling her name and clapping my hands.  I walked toward the birdbath house, and suddenly she appeared.  She had a lot to say.  I don’t know how long she was outside, but it was long enough for her to vent her anger.  Her meowisms could be interpreted to mean, “Where have you been?  Do you know how long I’ve been out here?  I’m hungry.  Get me some food!  After I eat, I’m going to bed — don’t disturb me.  I need my beauty sleep.”  Scarlett did not suffer in silence.

Those memories are from long ago.  My Katie is 19 years old (or 92 in human years).  Life has become more difficult.  She’s not interested in grooming herself, and her fur is somewhat matted.  Her teeth are getting lose so eating is a challenge.  My beautiful Katie Scarlett seems to be saying, “It’s time to call it a day.”

The downside for any pet owner is accepting the end and making it easier for our little friends.  As I think about Scarlett’s quote, “After all, tomorrow is another day,” I realize sadly it will be a day without my little darling.  Rest in Peace dear Scarlett.

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

TO BE OR NOT TO BE

Word came down from the Oval.  We shall no longer be PC when it comes to holiday greetings. However, when your family covers many different religions, and you send out a generic letter, it’s much easier to wish everyone a Happy Holiday.

How has your year been?  All in all, mine has been pretty good.  No cardiac events (I’m knocking on wood as I write this — the year isn’t over yet).

PAWS AND MEDITATION

The paws are getting older.  Gatsby and Scarlett are somewhere around 100 years old.  Gatsby is no longer a Black and White Tuxedo Cat.  He’s more charcoal grey and white.  Scarlett, who has been known to catch a bird in flight has become a couch potato.  Daisy is only in her 90’s — imagine being 90-something!  I’m relatively close, but can’t begin to picture myself at that age.

The remaining paws belong to Teddy and Gabrielle – the youngsters.  Incidentally, I wrote about Teddy’s resemblance to a Koala (see: A Rose by Any Other Name at SharondipitousMoments.com).  Actually, I discovered he’s at least part Maine Coon, a breed known for its VERY LARGE size.  Heaven only knows how he found his way to Florida.

I’ve been trying to practice meditation every day.  It seems that Ted found the activity particularly soothing.  As I walk through the house every day, I see him in deep meditation.

 

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’

My brother, Harlley and his wife Betsy decided to migrate to California.  Years ago, he and I moved to the Bay Area but then (nomads that we are) traveled around the country.  The two set out from sunny Florida to sunny California.  Yes, that IS redundant — why not snowy New York or Windy and Snowy Chicago, or freezing Minnesota?

They settled into beautiful Calabasas – just across the freeway from Agoura Hills, where Kerry and Todd (their kids) live.  Then November arrived on the tail of Santa Ana winds.  Kerry and Todd vacated their home going to my brother’s place.  A few hours later there was pounding on the door followed by shouts of, “Evacuate!”   As mentioned before, my brother has some nomadic tendencies — Betsy, on the other hand, does not.  I’m happy to say everyone survived — maybe a little the worse for wear.  Better yet, their houses remain standing.  I’m knocking on wood again — the rains have commenced.

WHILE BACK IN FLORIDA

The Florida Panhandle barely survived Hurricane Michael.  Miami was much luckier, no major storm here.  I did get hurricane impact windows.  Three smaller windows and my utility room door are yet to be installed.  I hated the feeling of entombment when I used my old shutters, but don’t know that I want to see trees falling and all kinds of debris flying through the air. But, au contraire, if we have another hurricane in our area, I’ll be able to see the Wicked Witch fly by on her broomstick!

First, it was “chads,” now it’s counting ballots, losing ballots, finding ballots.  I recognize there are a large number of retirees in Florida, but it isn’t us!.  It’s the people who manage elections, who can’t seem to get it right.  We finally found out who our elected officials were more than a week after voting closed.  Maybe in 2 years, we can get it right.

Hope to hear from all my friends soon.  Last year I announced, I wouldn’t be sending my holiday letter out anymore, but would post it on my website.  I received complaints.  Therefore, I am sending some letters out with information on how to subscribe to my blog. This will be the last year of a post office mailing.

Until next year, my hope is you all have a great holiday and a new year filled with good health, happiness, and joy.

  Love from,

Gatsby, Scarlett, Daisy, Teddy, Gabrielle

and, of course, Me

 

 

 

 

THE GOLDEN BOY

THE GOLDEN BOY

When he was young, he would tag after his big brother to a vacant field, where the neighborhood boys played softball. A towhead, he always seemed to end up playing outfield. Inevitably a long drive would head to the outer reaches of the park, and he would race after it. That is until he suddenly vanished.

Face it! It wasn’t the best ballpark in the world, and the “outfield” was a composite of high grass and deep holes. The last anyone would see of the young boy as he raced after the fly ball, arms outstretched, was his blond hair literally disappearing from view. It was no accident he played outfield. Yes, it was tough being the younger brother.

Years later, as Ted told this tale of his brother’s softball prowess, he bestowed upon him the moniker, “Golden Boy.” It stuck.

Good things happen to those who wait. As he was about to enter his teens, along came a younger sister and the Golden Boy began to nurture a side to his personality he had never displayed before. Now, he was the oldest and teasing his younger sister was his right of passage. While at the movies watching “The Wizard of Oz, he pestered her, pretending he was a winged monkey ready to fly her away. The theater was filled with a child’s voice yelling, “Stop it Harlley!” He enlisted a pal to pull dollars off our “money growing” elm tree. Do you have any idea how disappointing it was to find out that was not true? I’m still suffering.

Our lives were woven together loosely as many years were spent apart. During the 1950’s and early 1960’s, he was at Cornell, followed by graduate school at Purdue. I was in high school, then college and later working in downtown Chicago.

However, our lives intersected again in 1968. We both moved to California, he was up in Berkeley, and I was down in Palo Alto. While there, we visited often. Sometimes we went sailing in San Francisco Bay, on other occasions we enjoyed the pool at my apartment, and of course, there were visits to the wine country. We relished the freer culture that was northern California. Even after he moved back to Purdue, we managed to meet up for the Rose Bowl game in Pasadena.

We’ve had many adventures over the years – living both near and far apart — but we’ve always remained close. It’s been a long road from childhood to today. There have been wonderful happy times, and as life would have it, there were times of sorrow as well. Through it all, we’ve been each other’s support and may not have physically carried one another, but we did indeed lift one another emotionally.

With our long journey in mind, I’m reminded of Bob Russell’s lyrics.

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRO’

Aside

Au Revoir Clouseau

Five years ago, my neighbor came over, asking if I could help her.  She had a kitten that had literally been blown under her vehicle by a passing car.  She didn’t know what to feed him, had no litter, and no place to leave him when she went to work.  I explained I was unable to take him, and as you might guess that lasted all of about 2 minutes.  There he was — all one pound of him and that bewitching little face.

Compared to the other cats in the family he was small, but in his mind, he was also mighty.  His first toy was a turtle.  He amused himself swatting it a couple of times, then picked it up in his mouth and shook it emitting a deep growl.  He was surprised by my laughter, but the sight of him waving a toy turtle that was as big as his head while growling was hysterical.

His antics reminded me of the games played by Kato and Clouseau in the “Pink Panther,” hence his name.  In my house there were many Katos, none of whom wished to play the game.  In spite of their feelings, he would race across the room, jump on furniture, then fly through the air front paws outstretched landing on his prey.  He loved it.

The Vulture Pose

Monsieur Clouseau’s language preference was French.  He did not adhere to the Henry Higgins opinion, that “the French don’t care what you say, as long as you pronounce it correctly.”  Perhaps that is because his English pronunciation was so horrible (he literally murdered the word “room.”)

Clouseau would start his day with his sun salutation, then go up on the roof to “cat-scan” the neighborhood.  A devotee of yoga, he invented a new pose which he called the “vulture pose.”

As my boy grew in stature, he also became quite the man about town.  The stories of Clouseau are legend.  He actually enjoyed visiting the veterinary clinic when I was traveling.  Of course, he insisted on having full run of the place meowing loudly so he’d be freed from his cage. He made friends with neighborhood kitties, and when he met his girlfriend, Gabrielle, he begged his mom, “Puis-je la garder s’il vous plait maman?” (may I keep her please mama).

A few weeks ago Clouseau became ill, and we discovered he was acutely anemic.  My vet recommended that he go to an emergency veterinary hospital. Of course, Clouseau demonstrated his witchcraft at the new place.  He attempted to steal food from the dog in the next cage and demanded attention all the time.  After some treatment, it was determined he could come home, but the prognosis was devastating and by Saturday, February 10 any hope of more time was dashed.

Clouseau loved being outside, climbing on the roof, sleeping on the hood my car.  We spent his last hours in the backyard while we waited for the vet to arrive, and end his pain.  As he drifted off, I whispered in his ear, “Bonne nuit mon gentil garcon, mon petit bonhomme.  Je t’aime mon cher Clouseau.”

 

 

A Rose By Any Other Name…

A Rose By Any Other Name…

As many of my readers know, I have six kitties. Three are about 18 years old, which in human years makes them much older than I. The remaining three are under five.

I take after my dad, who loved animals. He would have had several pets if possible.  My mother, on the other hand, felt one pet in the family was more than sufficient.

The latest addition to my lair is a fellow I call Teddy.  He’s named after my eldest brother.  Ted and I have a history of dubbing our pets with familial monikers.  It started with his naming his pug dog Bonnie after our mom. Mother was annoyed.

Over the years, I’ve had dogs and cats.  Mother liked them but became critical of the number of cats living at my address.  I recall several years ago, just before a visit from mom, a new cat appeared on the scene.  I knew she would have an opinion about the newcomer.

Mom arrived, walked into the kitchen and spied the foreigner lying on the floor.  As I recall, the ensuing dialogue went something like this:

Mom: “What’s this?”

Me: “A cat.”

Mom: “You know what I mean, what’s it doing here?”

Me: “He lives here.”

Mom: (deep sigh) “Sharon, why do you have another cat?”

Me: “It isn’t something I planned.  He appeared and took up residence.  I couldn’t arbitrarily dismiss a fellow who is named after your father, and looks quite a bit like your husband.”

Mother often said I gave human qualities to pets, but naming him Fred and noticing a resemblance between the cat and Wally was genius!

At the conclusion of her visit, mom said, “You know he does look a little like Wally.  She never questioned Fred’s presence again.

While everyone referred to my brother as Ted, his birth certificate specified his given name was Raymond.  Ted would appreciate this little fellow dubbed Teddy, although I guess he could argue that I didn’t name Teddy after him!

Teddy is a big, long-haired, grey, creature.  His favorite things are eating, racing through the house with wild abandon, playing with the other kitties, trying to operate my computer, and sleeping on my bed.

The other day I said to him, “You’re just a big Teddy Bear.” That’s when I noticed his resemblance to a Koala “Bear.”

Let me show you:

 

On the left, we have a Koala Bear and on the right is my Teddy.  For all of you who like to point out differences, I grant you the Koala has a big black nose, and Teddy’s smaller nose has a white spot; Mr. Koala has round eyes, and Teddy’s are oval; the Koala has rounded ears, Teddy’s are pointed; Teddy has exceptional whiskers and, the Koala doesn’t.  But look at the massive amount of fur coming out of their ears!  They each have a white bib and both are grey!  Perhaps in a former life, Teddy was a Koala, or maybe he’s a Koala in drag!
Then there is the fact that a Koala is, in fact, not a bear but a marsupial. There was a marsupial lion that existed in Australia in the Pleistocene age. It allegedly looked like a lion, had incisors like a lion, but is not part of the cat family.

So there you have it. Teddy is named after my brother — only he isn’t.  He looks something like a Koala Bear, but he isn’t one.  Some might say Teddy looks like a marsupial lion, but they haven’t been around for thousands of years so who knows?  I’ve yet to hear him say “G’day” as he enters a room — so much for an Australian accent.

To paraphrase Mr. Shakespeare, “Teddy by any other name would be as sweet.”