Wednesday, February 17, 2016


The Hometown Rookie
I had to look up the difference between the definitions of "envy" and "jealousy" because those words were creeping into my head. I was curious to learn the specific emotion I had been feeling, when I watched a married couple -- a few years older than I -- exchange easy banter.

"Is that what you're wearing?" she had said, her voice interested, but not the least sarcastic. Her look towards her husband carried tenderness, concern, and admiration shaped during a solid marriage of nearly 60 years.

My new friends live in a condominium with a grand piano, captivating views of Grant Park, prized books and artwork, framed photographs of family vacations, and mementos of foreign travel. But none of this abundance was what I envied. They will grow old together, I thought. I had no ill will towards them, but I wanted what they had, and that is what is called "envy."

"Jealousy" on the other hand, is when you feel the threat of losing someone, a fear you might be replaced. But since I had already lost Tommy, and it was unlikely he had found another me in his afterlife, I could scratch jealousy as the sensation that had me musing about my friends' coupled life, and my single one.

In the three-and-a-half years since my second husband died, I'd occasionally wake with the notion I wanted a new man in my life. There'd be some void, some bit of the blues, and I'd focus on finding a fella as the salve.

"A companion," I would claim to friends, "not a husband. Just someone for an occasional early dinner, theatre, and perhaps travel. And spooning." I remembered how Tommy and I would fall asleep cradled together like newborn pups.

But whenever I'd toss that notion to friends my age, or to those who witnessed the years of my caregiving of Tommy, they'd return the volley with, "Men your age are not in great shape. Why would you want to take on that burden again?"

"You're right," I'd say, recognizing that my male cohorts aren't as sturdy as their female partners. So, I'd check off, "find a guy," and sign on to multiple interests that would replace that entry.

The hiatus would hold for several months until I'd get the itch again, which led to forays on online dating sites: JDate, Our Time, and Bright-eyed, confident, and optimistic, I'd create an honest profile, upload flattering photos, exchange a few witty conversations, meet a handful of men for coffee/lunch/dinner, and eventually flee to "Do not renew" on the membership page.

On the first two sites, I fudged my age by five years, and that brought interested would-be suitors, but none with the glue that survived beyond our first face-to-face audition.

With my latest, Match, the sign-in required my date of birth --1938 -- and instead of fibbing; I fessed up, which became part of my profile. The men in my selected age range: 72-82, appeared to have slurped from the fountain of youth, for their desired females landed in the 55-65 age group.

So now I've decided -- despite my love for all things techie -- to forgo online dating and stick to a less deliberate method of pairing up. For example, I met my first husband when I was in college and he was dating a friend of mine. He took a shine to me, my friend never spoke to me again, and our marriage lasted 30 years before we divorced.

I met Tommy in 1996 -- as the song goes -- on the street where we lived. Rather than an online profile, we easily matched when we learned we were both divorced; and loved dogs, TV, and nights at home. We became a couple after just one date. Before he died in 2012 at the age of 77, his thin brown hair was just starting to show strands of grey; his face just barely creased, and his arms freckled by the hours of sunlit golfing rather than age.

If he had lived, Tommy would likely complement my current landscape of lined brow, white hair, and beige dots. And, I'd like to think I'd adore all of his matching emblems. I'd be content seeing us both unvarnished, and blessed with the gift of growing old together -- even with its challenges and complications.

But since that is not to be, perhaps God will place a male in my path. I just hope She doesn't take too long. I worry Her script might have us meeting "cute," something like a collision of our metal walkers as we tap our way to an early bird dinner.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Poor Baby

One week ago today, I woke with a sore throat, stuffy nose, and aching head. Because I worried my bug could infect others, at 8:00 a.m., I dressed and slogged to a nearby walk-in clinic.

"Acute upper respiratory infection. It's caused by a virus," the doctor said as he removed stethoscopes from his ears. "Antibiotics won't kill a virus, so I won't be prescribing any. You'll be contagious for the next few days, so it's probably a good idea to stay home and rest."

While I was relieved he had diagnosed nothing more serious than an ordinary cold -- which was likely the same outcome for all of the slumped folks who were stuffing the waiting room by the time I departed at 8:30 -- my illness wasn't serious enough to warrant attention or sympathy. Poor baby, I told myself.

(For any evil eyes reading this post, and thinking I'm flaunting my good fortune, let it be known that I'm truly grateful my ailment wasn't life threatening. I am hereby performing ptu, ptu, ptu  - the simulated spitting that Jewish superstition requires.)

As I walked back to my apartment, where I live alone -- without a husband, without my daughters who live far away, without my mother who is long gone, without friends a door-knock away -- I felt my thirst for sympathy rising with each sneeze. (I know, I know, I could've called you, and you would've rushed over. But, I never want to bother.)

By the time I reached my doorway, I had worked myself into full-blown pathetic. As I unlayered my winter coat, scarf, and gloves, then switched from blue jeans and long-sleeved top to flannel pajamas, I sunk lower into woefulness.

Oh, how I longed for someone to be waiting at bedside to tuck me in, and then pull the covers up to my chin. She, or he, or they, would kiss my un-fevered forehead, ask if I wanted the light on or off, and then tiptoe out. They would close the bedroom door as silently as if an angel food cake were rising in the oven. And later, they would return with a cup of soup or hot tea. (Because I live in a studio apartment, I'm making up the "bedroom door" bit. In truth, they'd have to retire to a corner. But don't you agree it wouldn't evoke the same feeling?) 

Since I lacked the power to make any of that nostalgia-driven scenario come true, in this age of social media, I did the next best thing: I turned to Facebook. On my page, I posted this query:  "I have an upper respiratory infection; i.e. cold. Advil Cold & Sinus helped, but second dose prevented repose. Up all night. Any suggestions for relief without causing me to be wide-awake again tonight? Thanks!"

Within minutes, the remedies and sympathies came pouring in. At last count, 85 friends had paused their own browsing to offer suggestions. With each comment, I felt as cozy as if they were crowding my bedside.

I imagined them rushing to my apartment with their recommended chicken soup, whisky, zinc, Benadryl, Afrin, Umcka, scotch, humidifier, neti pot, apple cider vinegar, Sudafed, Mucinex, Nyquil, ginger tea, linden tea, and Zicam. I could even envision those who suggested acupuncture dragging along a therapist to perform the procedure. And I could practically hear the water running for the hot bath with Epsom salts another friend believed would cure my congestion.

It was then I realized I had received the poor baby I had been seeking. All of these Facebook friends -- admittedly I know only a portion by sight -- were providing my longed-for sympathy and attention. It didn't matter that the succor was virtual, that not a one of them was actually in my apartment; I still felt comforted.

And even though some of the cures were things I'd never try, I enjoyed mentally costuming each of my respondents in a wardrobe that signaled care. Perhaps a nurse's uniform, an herb gardener's green apron, a mad scientist's askew lab coat, a bartender's shirt, or simply a white jacket like the CVS pharmacist who sold me the Advil and Nyquil.

Before complying with the doctor's orders to stay home and rest, I purchased a pile of the antidotes that were on my Facebook list. And, with each spoonful of chicken soup, each thimble of whisky, each sip of ginger tea, my acute respiratory infection slowly dissolved, as if it were the powdered roots in my herbal cures.

 So, thanks to the wonders of ancient and modern medicine, virtual and real-life friends, bed rest, and unlimited television, I am just about restored to good health. Ptu, ptu, ptu.