Reflections of Me: Sweet Sixteen, Not For Me

Sweet sixteen, how did they ever come up with that line. Me? I hid myself in my books. I felt frumpy, and ugly, whereas my Mom was beautiful and outgoing, and everyone loved her. Me, I was invisible.

By the time I was sixteen I went to work with my father every Saturday.  Cross Street Market was an enclosed place, but freezing inside. Dad woke me at five thirty a.m. and by six we were on our way to work. I wore so many layers of clothes I could hardly move. Socks, paper, shoes, boots and I still froze. I couldn’t wear gloves because Dad sold meat and that’s cold. So was the cash register.

Dad’s favorite story that he told everyone, as soon as I got to work, I grabbed money out of the register, and went to the deli for some hot coffee. I did, I needed that coffee to warm up.

It was a grind, long hours and ice cold days. That’s what I remember the most, being so cold all the time.

Every time I ran out for coffee, I’d notice the kids outside the pubs waiting for their parents. They were huddled together to keep warm, and I’m sure they were hungry. I hurt for them, and I’ve never forgotten how they looked.

We sold ox tails, and believe me, Jamie Oliver and Julia Child had nothing on me. I could cut those ox tails like an expert.

I hated working there. I knew I stunk from the long twelve to fourteen hours of work, and the cold chapping my hands until they bled. Coming home and taking off the layers of clothes and socks and newspapers was a sight to behold.

Next Reflections: The Market Burned to the Ground.

Reflections of Me: Baltimore, MD 1942

No matter how much we cried, it didn’t change anything. We still were living far away from family. My new life and my new school treated me with intolerance, indifference, and I felt more alone than ever before.

The kids at school laughed at me. I wore long cotton stockings, and they wore anklets. I couldn’t understand their accent, and they made fun of mine. The Principal of the school saw me walking down the hall one day, and under her breath, but loud enough for me to hear, she said, “New York Jew.” I’ll never forget the look of disgust on her face. My mother always told me, “Fight your own battles,” and the other thing she always said was, “Silence is golden, don’t come complaining to me.”

A few months later, I thought a miracle happened. We were sitting at the kitchen table, and my mother said, “How would you like to have a brother or sister?”

I almost fell off my chair I was so excited. I really literally fell off the chair onto the floor.

Two months later, my mother fell up the stairs on her stomach. She lost part of the afterbirth, but I had no idea what that meant. The doctor said she had to stay in bed until she gave birth. I was allowed to see her for ten minutes a day. The only person I had to talk to was the doctor who came every day, and was nice enough to ask me, “How are you today Helene? How was school?”  My father still worked nights and I was alone and invisible.

My grandmother came from New York to help after the first of the year. I got my period that January; I was eleven and a half. I thought I was dying because I bled for twenty-one days. I was prepared, I knew what to do, but after almost three weeks, alone with my thoughts, I wondered what was going to happen to me.

On February second, the man from the downstairs butcher store came upstairs and said, “I’m taking your mother and grandmother to the hospital. It’ time for the baby to come.”

Grandma left me strict and explicit instructions.

Tune in next time to find out what I had to do and what happened.

Keep love and kisses in your life.

Caregivers: Live In Their Reality

One of the most valuable pieces of information I received after my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease was: You will have to live in his reality.

Those were the truest words I heard. I still tell caregivers that same advice. I know how hard it is, and yet, it’s also simple.

I was talking to one of my caregiver friends and we talked about it, and she said, “It doesn’t always work, but it’s still good information.”

Caregivers, you are my heroes. No one else can or would do the job you do 24/7. How I admire you and your tenacity, your ability to carry on. That’s not to say you never get depressed, or feel like you are all alone, and no one understands. They don’t. It’s that simple. Unless you actually stand in someone’s shoes you don’t know how they feel, or what they are going through.

I think that’s one reason I finally decided to publish my secret journal. To show others what it feels like, the thoughts and emotions going through a new caregiver’s mind. Now, I’m so glad I did publish it.

Tomorrow I’m speaking at the Henderson Senior Center, and I’m looking forward to it. They are the greatest bunch of people, giving, caring and open. The kind of heroes no one talks about. They are always behind the lines.

After that we are meeting old friends from Howard’s hometown of Baltimore, MD for lunch, what a treat that will be. I don’t think we’ve seen them in decades. A chance encounter with their daughter who works here and we found out we knew her parents. What a small world.

As this year is coming to an end, I feel blessed in all that I have accomplished. I publsihed my book, Behind The Mask, so people could stand in the caregivers shoes and know what it feels like, and hopefully that will inspire them to go out and Adopt A Caregiver. I’ll talk more about that tomorrow night.

Give the gift that lasts forever, and costs nothing. Adopt A Caregiver, and tell them your friend Helene sent you.

Keep love and kisses in your life. Helene