Sunday, October 27, 2013

Name It

Sharing the same last name—Heiman—with my kids and husband at the time was fun. I took pride in teaching my little ones how to spell, write and pronounce their name, and I got a kick out of the excitement their grandparents showed when the kids mastered these feats.  I also appreciated that our name was a fairly obvious clue for outsiders to make the connection that we’re family, for those times our looks didn’t do the trick. 

When my kids’ dad and I divorced, I went back to my maiden name and, upon remarriage, was happy to add David’s and his kids’ last name, Minches.  These alterations to my name took some getting used to.  With Heiman, periodically I had to spell the name, as it was often confused with its homonym HYMAN.  If I detect confusion with Minches, I simply say “inches with an M in front. For the most part, it’s been a smooth ride overall.   

Every now and then, however, a situation creeps up reminding me that the primary tool for others to link my kids to me is no longer in place.

One such time occurred when I attended an Open House for my synagogue, where I had been a member for about 20 years.  Since I was on the membership committee, it was my job to reach out to potential new members.  I immediately found two fairly unfamiliar young women deep in discussion, so I waited for one to take a breath, and then I extended my hand and very proudly tried out my new name, “Hi, I’m Judy Minches.”  They seemed a bit unsure of what I said—I may have swallowed half of ‘Minches’—so I said the routine “inches with an M in front,” and all was well.   

Once we got the pleasantries out of the way, Betsy went back to telling Eleanor (names have been changed to protect the innocent) that she experimented with a new babysitter for her son and now all he wants is for the teen to hang out again.  As my kids were of babysitting age and not in need of a babysitter, I patiently waited for this topic to end but, as time went on, Betsy became so very animated about her great find that I decided to excuse myself from the conversation.  Just as I was about to walk away, I heard Eleanor ask what the babysitter’s name was and Betsy answered, “Michael Heiman.”

WHOA. Ding Ding Ding. “That’s my son!” I shouted (by the way, he’s OK with my using his name).  Betsy laughed somewhat nervously, appearing to have concluded that I was indeed one of the older crazy ladies she was warned about. They dutifully smiled and nodded but went back to talking about this kid.  MY kid.       

“Did you say Michael Heiman?” I rather loudly asked.  Betsy said, “Yes. He’s such a nice boy.”  Proudly, I said, “That nice boy is my son.”  She said “Oh, NO!  His mother is Edith Heiman” (as you probably guessed, I changed her name as well).

Betsy’s forceful retort even had me momentarily fooled.  Mike Heiman is my son, not Edith’s, right?  Of course he is, I assured myself.  Edith is Mike’s stepmom. I’m the real thing.  In an effort to correct this misconception, the crazy lady reiterated, "Edith married Mike’s dad but is not Mike’s mom.  I am!”

I realized I was transforming this Open House event from something fuzzy and warm to something downright weird for these newcomers, but honestly, I couldn’t help myself. 

After all, I wanted credit for what I’ve done right in the world.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Aging has its Perks

Last week for my first blog I wrote about a perk to aging, that of truly appreciating the special people in our lives.  Initially I wanted every blog to be a pick-me-up for folks like me who may need reminders periodically of why we should be at peace with the fact that we’re getting up in years. But then something sobering happened in this process. I couldn’t dig up any other perks!  Ask me about single life…but aging? No matter how I tried, I couldn’t dress it up.    

I’ve got good news! I discovered another perk!  Now I’m wondering if they’re going to start falling from the sky. After all, tomorrow same sex licenses will be available in the garden state!  We have a black man as president, and perhaps a female is next. 

So yesterday my 24 year-old daughter emailed me asking how I’m doing.  Usually I respond by saying, “Great, and you?”  This time, I decided what the heck—I’m actually going to tell her; after all, she is in HR—and I shared a situation at my workplace that has become quite frustrating.  It wasn’t that I expected her to say, “Gee, that stinks…I’m really looking forward to the weekend,” but her immediate understanding of the situation was spot on, giving me not only support but a very savvy HR professional’s take on the complexities of office dynamics.    

As I shared the story with my actuary husband over sushi, he shared a story of his own.  He had been working on a project which had a particular component causing him angst, and he wanted to run it by someone he could rely on to think outside the box.  So, he called his 26 year-old daughter, a true chip off the old block, actuary and all. He found her take on the matter to be just what he needed to resolve the issue.  

Parenting is filled with ups and downs, and this is by far one of the more thrilling rides on the roller coaster, when we realize just how grown up our children have become.

I'd love to hear some of your stories...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Where Do I Start?

Today is the first day of my first blog which my second husband has inspired me to name "Marriage, Divorce & Everything Inbetween.”  This is where I’m hoping we can share the myriad of thoughts that most of us in middle age - or should I say those of us who have celebrated our 29th birthday multiple times - ponder.

To start off, let me introduce myself.  I’ve been a freelance writer for The Central Record for 14 years. I’m also a patient care coordinator for a pediatric practice. There was an 11-year lapse in employment while I stayed home with three young ones whose ages span a six-year time frame.  I married for the first time at 24, divorced at 38 when my eldest was 11, and remarried nearly a decade ago, picking up two step kids in the process. I’m very sad to say that my 20 year-old stepson passed away three years ago as the result of a very aggressive cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma.

When such a tragedy occurs—as well as infinite other circumstances causing emotional, physical or financial turmoil—it wreaks havoc, inevitably changing the way we think and act.  By our 50s, if not way 
before, many of us find it very challenging to wake up with the energy and optimism that characterized our youth. Sometimes it doesn’t seem possible that I will ever be able to have fun again or a reason to laugh or that I would have anything positive to offer with my damaged psyche. One rough day blends into the next and before long it’s Wednesday—time to take out the trash, again—and color my hair, renew my medication, give my doggy his monthly flea treatment...and I find myself wondering are these robotic tasks the summation of my middle-aged existence?

So while my once-dreamy notions about the future have been replaced by over 50 years of real life experiences—some of which are barely manageable—and the reminder every time I look in the mirror that I’m not 16 but older than three times that, I was startled to find a bright spot pop into my thoughts.

It all started with a visit to my mom—by the way she is 96—and her smile when she saw me.  A few hours later my husband told me that he’s excited to leave work for our “date night” and gave me a nice big hug when he got home. The next morning I joked around with a dear co-worker, made plans to spend the day at the beach with my girlfriend, spent an hour enjoying the fresh air with my longtime walking/talking buddy, topped off the day with hot tea and conversation at a local hotspot, and each of my kids tracked me down via texting or a phone call or on Facebook…

While connecting with everyone is a job in itself, it dawned on me recently how rewarding these relationships are and how lucky I am at this stage of my life to have discovered such a fun and meaningful perk of aging.  It isn’t that I now have more friends or better friends; it’s that I am aware of my newfound appreciation for the special people in my world, who I absolutely adore.  They are my lifeline.      

And for that, I’m deeply and forever grateful.

If you can relate, please share…