Thursday, December 19, 2013

Somewhere In My Memory

Christmas time is here!  Happiness and cheer!

Sigh.  I just love Christmas.  I always have.  The decorations, the tree, the anticipation, giving gifts, getting's all just so super. 

I spent some time last night reminiscing over my favorite Christmas memories from years past.  I am so blessed to have so many. 

When I was a small child, Christmas eve was spent at my grandparents house.  My fun-loving and mischievous grandfather would dress up as Santa, complete with jingle bells and a huge sack filled with presents for me, my brother and cousins.  He would even make noises upstairs that would mimic the sound of reindeer hooves on the roof.  When I got wise to him (having noticed that Santa had the same WWII injured hand that my Pop did), my uncle took over.  When a different Santa came down the stairs that year, my mind was completely blown!  It wasn't my Pop Pop after all!  Santa was real!

On Christmas night my Dad and I would bundle up after dinner and take our annual walk.  We would critique and evaluate every decorated house we could find. And if you know NE Philly, and specifically Mayfair, this means nearly every single house. In addition, we would take note of those scary moving figures.  You know the ones.  The angels with the candles, or the Santa and Mrs. Claus.  There was one, in particular, on Sackett street that was especially macabre.  We would make up elaborate stories about how the Christmas angel would come to life and murder everyone with her plastic lighted candle.  Every year we would say the same thing.  No house was a beautiful as ours.  My mom was always the reigning queen of Christmas in our neighborhood.

While I have plenty of wonderful Christmas memories of my Dad, it was really my mom who made Christmas so much more special then I could even have dreamed.  First, every square inch of our house was decorated.  Tastefully so.  No inflatables for the Macklin's.  The big picture window was always done in snowflakes and white lights with a big Moravian star in the center.  The first year she put that star up caused quite a stir.  The following year we definitely noticed at least 5 houses in the neighborhood with the same star.  Lights, candles, poinsettias!  It was all there.  I do my windows the same way.  I even use the same kinds of candles.  I like decorating and my boys say I'm good at it.  Everything I know I learned from my mom.  

The tree.  We always had a real tree.  Usually it was a douglas fir, which is the same kind I get for my own house.  Every year, for nearly two decades, my parents and I would travel to Bucks county to the same tree farm where you could cut your own tree.  My mother, again, was in charge.  She would take strips of ribbon with her to mark potential trees.  Slowly narrowing it down to the best one.  My dad would cut it down, which was amusing because he almost never did it right.  We took it home and my mother took to the very serious task of putting the colored lights on.  Always start from the bottom and zig zag your way in and out of the tree.  That way the tree looks like it's glowing from the inside.  Only when the lights and garland were on were my father and I allowed near it.  The ornaments were my favorite.  We were one of those families that collected ornaments for every trip or event in our lives.  My dad's massive heart attack?  On there.  Our trip to Hawaii?  A santa in board shorts carrying a pineapple.  My mother even saved a teeny little snowman I made in preschool.  I had colored it completely black.  It's my favorite.  When people would come to our house my father would show them every ornament on the tree.  Teenage-me would roll my eyes, but I loved it.  Every second. 

Now, I have a family of my own.  Having a child at Christmas is where it's at.  Seriously.  It's like getting to live those wonderful childhood christmases of your own all over again.  The joy of carefully arranging the toys under the tree and the anticipation of Charlie seeing them for the first time is unlike any other kind of joy I've experienced.  And my husband?  Well I call him Mr. Christmas.  He lives for the season.  Actually starts counting down sometime in June.  I love that about him.  My little guy loves it too, it's hard not to with Nick as your father. 

I hope that you have your own special memories of Christmas.  I am joyful and thankful this year for everything and everyone in my life.  I am very very lucky.  I hope you and yours have a very merry and bright holiday!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Worst Day

On Tuesday it will be one year since my dad died.  One year since I felt his strong, old heart beat one last time through my hand on his chest.

It was Monday, September 10th 2012.  My third full day of the new school year.  As I was packing up to leave for the day, my cell phone rang.  3:12 p.m.  It was my mother and she was crying.  "It's Dad." she said  "It's bad." she said "You need to come......bleeding on the support.....hurry."

I rushed home, got Nick, got Charlie and set out for a drive from South Jersey to Scranton.  During rush hour.  Never knowing if my father was ok, if he would die before I got there, if I would arrive at the hospital and see him sitting up in bed with his ankles crossed.  Chiding my mother for dragging me up to the mountains in a panic......again.

I got to the hospital and ran to the ICU.  I arrived at the waiting room to see my mother through the narrow window.  She was sitting alone, in a chair against the wall.  Staring at the floor with her shoulders slumped.  Tears fell into her lap and stained her jeans.  Even though we wouldn't know for sure for some time, in that moment I just felt that he was gone.  I could see it in her.  Like her heart, her body knew that he was dead.  It was 7 p.m.  Big Bang Theory was playing on the waiting room TV.

Now, I'm no stranger to seeing my father in hospitals.  When I was in first grade he had a massive heart attack and a triple bypass.  Strokes, surgeries, another bypass.  It was old hat for us.  But I have never seen him with tubes down his throat.  The mechanical click of his chest rising and falling as a machine breathed for him.  I went to him and kissed his head.  I bent down to whisper in his ear, telling him "Dad, it's Kathleen.  I love you, Daddy.  If you have to go, just go.  We understand."

The doctor came in and told us what we had always, sort of, known.  He was gone.  No brain function.  Stroke?  Aneurysm?  We're still not quite sure.  We decided to donate his organs.  While we didn't know for sure if that's what he would have wanted, we thought it sounded like him.  There were a few hours waiting for those people, and even in the end, it didn't work out.  (Please get your act together, Gift of Life)  Then the tubes came out.  The doctors have to prepare the family when the actual dying process begins.  It's rather horrifying, really.  They say that the person can writhe in pain, gasp for breath, shake and shudder.  Luckily (ha!) for us, none of that happened to my darling dad.  It was peaceful.  Very much so.  My mother sat by his head, stroking his hair, which still smelled like Head and Shoulders.  She told him over and over again how much she loved him and that she thanked him for her wonderful life.  My nephew, Luc was at his head on the other side.  I sat with one of my hands in his and one hand on his chest.  This is how we sat until he died.  Sometime after that, a nurse came in and opened a window.  She told us it was to help his transition.  It was 10:42 p.m.

Here I am now.  A year later.  We're all doing ok.  My mom I am most proud of.  She's come a long way since those early days of crippling grief.  Soon, she will be moving to New Jersey to be closer to all of us.  Charlie is very excited to have his Mom-Mom close.  They are buddies.  My nephew Luc, after having spent over 10 years living with my parents, is back with his father.  They are thriving.  I cannot believe what a wonderful young man Luc is becoming.  I am proud of him.  My brother too.  And me?  Well I just keep on keeping on.

I still think about him every day.  I still cry.  I still think to call him a thousand times a day to ask him questions that only he knows the answer to.  Like  "Dad, what is that John Wayne movie you were in?"  or   "Dad, tell me about the time you and your dad stole a picnic table from Sears with the unwitting help of store security."   "Dad, tell me about the time you ran across the country while being chased by military police, just so you could be at your mother's side as she died."

And boy oh boy, do I wish he would see his grandson.  Charlie has that big ol' square head that only Macklins have.  And just like me, and my dad, he likes to relax with his bare feet up and his ankles crossed.

I've never posted it before, and few people got to hear it because I was forbidden from reading it at the service, but here's the eulogy I wrote for my father.

I saw a blue jay this morning.  I knew it was a blue jay because my dad taught me about birds.  Birds, fishing, wildlife and Nature.  He taught me About music, film, history, literature, travel, love, how to pick a good husband and how to be a parent to my son.  Most importantly though, he taught me to squeeze the most joy I could from this one life i've been given.  Many times, when people lose a loved one they often say "he or she lived a full life." without really being sure if they did.  Well, I think  we all know that in my dad's case, a "full life" is an understatement.  

He truly was the best man I have ever known.  He laughed long and loud.  He was fiercely protective of the people he loved.  And when he loved you, he loved you completely, without judgement and condition.  He was remarkable.  Always up for a party, a hug, or reminiscing over budweiser and pretzels.  In my case, he was up for driving me around to violin lessons or happily sitting through long rehearsals with nothing but a book to read.  

I could stand up here for days regaling of you of all the adventures we took, from little things like walking outside during thunderstorms to our hundreds of thrilling vacations, but I won't.  I will tell you about the bittersweet look on his face when he saw me in my wedding dress.  The look of pure unadulterated wonder and adoration when he held my newborn son.  The pride in his smile when I played the violin.  And the comfortable look of a lifetime of love when he smiled at my mom.  I see my dad so very  much in my son.  Especially in the way his eyes crinkle and sparkle when he smiles and laughs.  I am grateful for that.  I am humble and grateful to have such a perfect dad.  Our dad, your husband, your friend, cousin, brother and pop-pop.  Our lives will never ever be the same.  We are lucky to have known and loved you.  Will will carry your light with us wherever we go.  We will promise to live our lives with joy.  Just like you did.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

School Yard Bullies; All Grown Up

Boy, have I been away from this blog for quite some time.  I have mucho updating to do.  There's been some light (I lost 115 pounds!  My kid is spectacular!).  There's also been some dark (My father died suddenly!).  I will cover all those awesome and horrible things but today, I need to talk about bullies.  Like, I really really need to get this off my chest.

Bullying is a huge issue right now.  With KIDS.  I think that the world, at large, has been doing a great job about raising awareness and fighting bullying.  However, everyone seems to forget that "bullies" don't just disappear once you don that graduation cap.  They grow up to become ADULT bullies which, in my opinion, are far worse. 

They are in your social circles.  You may call them "frienemies".  What a cutsie little nickname for a person that can pretty much ruin your entire social life.

Are you a parent?  Yes?  Well, I've got news for you.  Other mommies are the nastiest of the bunch.  Instead of supporting each other and appreciating (or at least tolerating) the fact that there are a million ways to raise a child, they would just as soon stab you right in the front (no backstabbing here!  not for these cut-throat ladies!  right in the gut!).

And personal favorite......

Workplace bullies. 

The internet told me the following facts:

  • The Phenomena of “work place bullying and mobbing” is little known, which is surprising, since it affects 70% of working Americans at some time in their career.
  • According to the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute, an abusive boss is more likely to be a woman than a man. Woman to woman bullying represents 50 percent of all workplace bullying; man to woman is 30 percent, man to man 12 percent and woman to man bullying is extremely rare — only 8 percent.
  • In 2008, Dr. Judy Fisher-Blando wrote a doctoral research dissertation on Aggressive Behavior: Workplace Bullying and Its Effect on Job Satisfaction and Productivity. The scientific study determined that almost 75% of employees surveyed had been affected by workplace bullying, whether as a target or a witness. Source
  • A European study from 2009 showed that the risk for bullying increased with a woman as boss. For women the risk of getting abused increased with 100 percent with a female boss. For men the risk increased with 80 percent. The study was made by the organisation Eurofond and included 21 000 participants. Source
I didn't do any fact checking.  It's just my blog after all.  However, I'm lead to believe this is true.  I've never ever had a problem with a male boss.  (Except my boss at the Hershey Red Robin that once said my ass was too fat to be a waitress).  Female bosses, on the other hand, I've really struggled with.  I don't know what it is.  I've always had female friends.  I've had some really awesome female bosses and have worked with many women in positions of authority.  I've even held some positions of authority myself.   I just can't deal with being bullied, disrespected and basically....abused.  It's like a perfect storm of a hostile working environment. 

All that being said, if you were in this position, how would you handle an abusive boss or co-worker?  Would you handle it passively.....just take the abuse?  Would you begin to bully the bully?  Or is there another way?  Share your stories with me.