Sunday, April 28, 2013

I'm down to my last cigarette

Today is my Nana's birthday. She would have been 98. She's been gone for over 16 years, but I still miss her. I wish I could have just one more conversation with her. I still have so many questions.

Grandparents are just always there in your life. They're the host of family dinners and the babysitter that can always be counted upon. They've always been old, fully formed. Even though we grew close, I wish I would have asked her more about her life.

I grew close to Nana after my parents moved to Pennsylvania, when I was still living in Toledo. My mom asked that I call her every day, a task I did not want to do at the time. What 22-year-old wants to be stuck calling her grandmother every single day? But it turned out to be wonderful. We got to know each other, beyond just grandmother and granddaughter, and we got to depend on each other. It must have been that year that I started calling her at midnight every New Year's Eve. I usually would wake her up, but she'd tell me how happy she was to hear from me. I knew that I'd start every year with someone who loved me.

I drove her to Philadelphia and back home a number of times. I loved those trips. I knew she needed to stop more than I would; she needed to grab a cigarette and make a rest stop. She would tell me that I didn't really need to stop for her, but I would insist that I needed to grab a Diet Coke or put gas in the car. She'd say, "well, if you have to stop..." We had an understanding.

I realize now how much she must have gone through in her life. I want to ask her about when she was young. I imagine that she was the pretty, party girl. I know she got in trouble, and then she was rescued by my grandfather. I wonder what that was like for her. I wonder what the Depression and World War II were like. I remember how sad she was when my grandfather died, and I wonder how she dealt with that, and I wonder what made her break out of that depression.

I'm not one to believe in such things, but, if I have an angel watching over me, I choose to believe that she is my angel. I'm lucky to have her.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Reaching out, shutting down

There are so many ways we can reach out to each other these days, and a lot of it is on-line. I use twitter, flickr, and facebook regularly, and I've dabbled in loads of other places: google+, pinterest, blip, instagram, and no doubt a few others I've forgotten. There's also email, phone calls, and text messages to reach out. I've also been known to write a real letter that has to be delivered to a mailbox.

I do all this to try to connect to the people in my life. Some people use facebook, others use twitter. I even know some people who prefer an actual phone call. There are so many options these days that we all get to pick our favorites. Which, at first, sounds wonderful, but there's some definite drawbacks.

One issue is a sort of snobbery about what kind of communication is the best. "You twitter? Isn't that for kids?" "I don't understand why you'd ever think sending a text is better than leaving a voicemail." "Can't you just email those pictures instead of posting them on facebook?" Personally, I try to not make judgments, although I can see differences. Twitter (at least the people I follow) seems to be more about the witty quips whereas facebook is more about actual life events. I might know a bit more about my facebook friends' kids and families, but my twitter friends actually make me laugh out loud. There are days I'd rather get a well thought-out email rather than a chatty phone call. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and I am always happy to see what my friends on flickr are posting.

But it is overwhelming. When something is new in my life, where and how do I share it? If I put it everywhere, am I boring people? But how do I know who knows what's happening in my life? In the other direction, how do I keep up with all of it? It takes me a while to catch up every morning, and there's something tiring to feeling like you have to connect so much, even though I am always glad to hear from people.

I've noticed that some friends are dropping out of certain places, and, while I hate to see them go, I understand. Maybe we all need to get a bit selfish about our communication. Maybe it might force more community if we're not all scattered to our different places. In theory, I like that idea, but I am afraid of missing certain people. I think about the people I know who have left certain places: a friend (temporarily, thank goodness) left twitter and I missed her so much. Another person I follow on twitter left flickr, which is a huge shame because his photos are amazing. I feel it when people leave, and I don't like it. I am also grateful for the people I have connected (or reconnected) with via these different outlets.

I know I need filters, but, even as I write this, it sounds snobby or dismissive. "You're not interesting enough/funny enough/whatever enough to make my cut." Which is, of course, not what I would mean at all. Maybe it comes from my own fear of not being interesting or funny. Where do you make the choice between hurting someone's feelings and giving yourself a break? I am still struggling with that. I hope to get a balance, but, for now, I am leaning towards being overwhelmed.

Monday, April 15, 2013

I get that all the time

What celebrity do you look like? Have you ever been asked this? Has anyone told you that you look "just like" someone? Sometimes it takes you by surprise, sometimes you can't see it at all.

I don't recall anyone telling me I look like anyone famous. But I do get one thing all the time: "You look just like a girl I went to high school with!" I got it when I joined state-wide bands and when I went to college. I got it once on a date, followed by "She was such a bitch!" There was no second date. I got it from someone I went to high school with, who pointed out another girl in my graduating class  he thought I looked like.

I thought it might go away as I got older, and on some level it did. It's no longer immediate. These days I get the look of puzzlement, and the question about if we'd met before. I'll joke around and say, "I'll bet I look like a girl you went to high school with," and there will be that lightbulb: "Yes! That's it!" It shocks me how often it happens. I suppose it might be why people feel comfortable stopping me in the street to ask for directions. I look just familiar enough.

I do sometimes wish I were more glamorous. I wish someone would stop for a moment and point out that I could be Jennifer Aniston's sister or that in this light, I really do look like Gwen Staphani. But I'm also glad that, in the end, I just look like me.