I Took My Mother to See Porn

(published in Newsday on 12/21/14)

After its release, the world was abuzz with the debauchery that was in The Wolf of Wall Street. Actors described the grueling filming of the mass sex scenes, the scanty wardrobes, and the strenuousness of it all.  But I didn’t know that when I went.

With my mother.

On Christmas Day.

First, some background.  I grew up in a house that only saw movies approved by the Diocese’s Tablet.  In the days when television censors wouldn’t let I Dream of Jeannie show her belly button, my parents went one step further and wouldn’t let us watch Batman & Robin because Catwoman’s outfit was too suggestive.  Books were banned.  My parents never uttered a curse word in my presence.  Get the (clean) picture?

So what movie do I take my mother to? The Wolf of Wall Street. On Christmas Day.

It was just Great Guy, my mother and me for Christmas, so the plan was to do a Jewish Christmas – Chinese food and a movie. Just us and hundreds and hundreds of others.  Who said we’d be alone at Christmas?

The miracle of Christmas is that we found three seats together, about five rows from the screen, for an even better high-definition view of every naked inch of every actor’s body.

Have you seen The Wolf of Wall Street? Candles in the butt. Every pose in the Kama Sutra. After the opening sex scene, Great Guy leans over to my mother and says “I just want you to know I had nothing to do with this choice of movie.”

Every week I take my mother to a movie. It is really just expensive naptime. She starts by taking out her hearing aids saying the previews are too loud.  “Is this the movie?” she asks during every advance preview. Then, as soon as the movie starts, she falls asleep. If she is roused, she says “I can’t understand this movie.” And on the way out, “That movie wasn’t good at all. I don’t know why the critics liked it.”  Maybe because they actually saw the movie.

So here I am sitting in a movie that probably would have been X-rated back in her day. Squirming in the seat next to her. Hoping for a story line beyond all the sins that money can buy.

“This is pornography.”

“Take a nap, Mom.”

More sex and drugs.

“The day of our Lord’s birth, this is what I have to watch.”

“Take a nap, Mom.”

More drugs and sex.

“Can’t we leave?”

“We can’t climb over this entire row of people now. Shhh. Just close your eyes.”

“I can’t believe this.”  She uttered so many times that I had to shush her so others could enjoy the pornography. Not that you needed to hear the dialogue anyway.

Over the years I’ve become so desensitized to sex and cursing in movies, but sitting next to my rosary-reciting mother, I felt like I had taken a five year old to see Deep Throat. If I had my wits about me, I would have taken her out of the movie and gone into another auditorium, but I just kept hoping beyond hope that the characters would get tired from all that sex, or hit menopause or something. Or that she would take a nap.

So my mother finally saw an entire movie.

She continues to sleep through every movie, every week.  And finds them all boring. I tell her, Ma, I have to be careful to find movies that don’t have sex, gore, or loud special effects.  “Let’s see the sex,” she tells me.

My mother. A late bloomer.

Shrimp Shrimp

I love shrimp. Shrimp of all sizes. Give me a bowl of big ones and I’m set for dinner. Give me a bag of itty bitty ones and I’ll be a little annoyed, but I’ll whip up a salad. Shrimp dresses up any dish imaginable. If we can put bacon on ice cream, we should have shrimp on our burgers.  I’ll bring shrimp to parties to win the favor of the host. (Who doesn’t love the person who brings shrimp to the party?)  In a restaurant, I’ll upgrade any salad, pasta dish, or sandwich with shrimp if given the opportunity.  Why they have to be so cheap with the number of shrimp in that upgrade is a whole other story.  This story is about the tails.shrimp cocktail

When I’m digging into a bowl of pasta with shrimp, why must I first hunt and peck and cut off the tails? Isn’t there someone along the assembly line between the shrimp boat and my plate whose job is to cut off the shell? Can’t we just finish this little circumcision before serving?

Take shrimp cocktails. Where does it say that all shrimp must retain one inch of tail shell for proper serving?  Where is it written that the tail must be left intact so the carnivore can consume the crustacean without use of utensils. I get it that the tail acts as defacto utensil. It is ingenious that evolution made shrimp easy for us to hold. But I want to eat that one inch of shrimp meat. And when the powers-that-be decided tails must be intact, did they envision a big beautiful display of firm, pink chilled shrimp next to an equally unappealing mound of discarded shells in crumpled up napkins. Take a poll of shrimp-eaters and ask them: would you rather have an extra bite of shrimp or a bunched up cocktail napkin with proof that you at more than your fair share of shrimp?

I want to enjoy all shrimp dishes free of the constraints of shell remnants.

If I had a restaurant I’d name it Naked Crustaceans. Or something in French, since even garbage can sounds good in French. (La boîte à ordures– see what I mean?)  I would serve all shell fish stripped down and ready for consumption. Just dig in without worry. And I’d hide extra shrimp at the bottom of the dish as an extra treat. And there would be enough shrimp on your plate and in that cocktail to make you sit back and sigh.

And don’t get me started on lobsters. If I wanted to wrestle with the big shell, I wouldn’t have put on make-up and my best silk dress just to throw on a tacky plastic bib and clean up with 2 inch squares of moist towelettes. I’d have stayed home in a t-shirt, a roll of paper towels and really gotten into it at a fraction of the price. If I have to do all the work, I want a price reduction.

I call for a new rules of dining. Give me all the fish, and plenty of it.

My Father’s Lesson

My mother calls. The doctor wants to confirm the Do Not Resuscitate order for my father; he is in his final hours. It is time to come and say goodbye. I close the office door, cry my eyes out, and then tell my colleagues that I won’t be in for a few days. In the car, the radio plays “Daddy’s Little Girl.”  It is another ten minutes before I can start the trip to the hospital.

I go to my father’s bedside. I am alone with him. He appears to be in pain, moaning and moving his arms.  I look around for a nurse or some medical person who can tell me what is going on, and to make my Dad better. I am terrified. There are so many things I want to say to him, but I can’t find my voice. I am crying so hard. I am so scared he will die in front of me. I lean down and tell him that I love him. I try to croak out “You are the best dad in the whole world.”  If he hears anything it is simply guttural sounds, matching his own.

I need to apologize to him for making him get out of my car when I was 17 years old, in the rain, a block from the service station where he was picking up his car. I was a brand new driver and it was a busy intersection and I was terrified of making left hand turns in a car that stalled in the rain. I made him get out and walk in the rain. He would never have done that to me. He didn’t refuse to get out, nor scold me, nor make me pull into the service station. He just got out, huddled into his collar and made his way on foot the final block.  I completed a series of right-hand turns that got me home that rainy afternoon, feeling guilty about what I just did to my father.  Yet, I never said anything until my final moments with him.

I am ashamed to say that I leave my father’s bedside. I can’t bear to witness his final breath. On previous hospital visits I often witnessed people sobbing uncontrollably and wondered how they could do that in public. I was now that person, so enclosed in my grief that I am unaware of the world around me. I try so hard to tell the nurse that I will be in the lobby in case anyone from my family arrives.  The sobs are breaking my ribs. My mother finds me in the lobby and I collapse in her arms. While she comforts me, I think: she is losing the love of her life, but she is worried about my grief.  I’m behaving like a child, and being a good mother, she puts all else aside to comfort me.

My sisters, mother and I spend the day gathered around my father’s bed. I have the courage to be there with my family beside me. My father comes around enough to hear our professions of love, and to tell us to go home. He passes away in the middle of the night. The dawn of February 29th. He wants us to mourn appropriately, but to go on with life. We only mark his passing every four years.

After I receive that middle-of the night call with the worst news of my life, I lay in bed staring at the popcorn ceiling, wondering how anyone ever thought that was a good idea. It is going to be a real pain to remove. I’m struck with the knowledge that these are my first moments on earth without my father. Illogically, I feel like an orphan. In their homes across the city, my sisters receive the same phone call, lost in their own thoughts. All four of us, in an unexplained choreographed response, rise from our beds and go to our kitchens to cook.

Twenty-four hours after the Do-Not-Resuscitate call, we all gather in our childhood home with our various dishes, and make our plans. We bury our father in his tuxedo. He looks very dapper and is dressed for the dancing he’ll be doing in heaven.

My mother is now on in years. I am honoring my father and my mother as I handle her declining years with dignity. When it is time for her to dance with my father, I will hold her hand and not need to apologize for anything. I will cry, for sure, but I want the final things she hears to be beautiful. Thanks to my dad, she will not be alone. My father let me work out my fears with him, whether it was making left hand turns or saying a final goodbye, so I could be strong when he wasn’t around.

Move Over!

Read the version that appeared in Long Island’s Newsday

I have time to write this since I’m behind a slow driver in the left lane. Don’t worry, I’m not texting. I’m jotting this down on the back of an old speeding ticket.

Don’t you just love that quaint expression, Sunday Driver. Out for a leisurely drive, enjoying the ride, the scenery, the company. I have nothing against Sunday drivers except on the other six days of the week they take to the road, in my lane. There’s life in the fast lane and life in the slow lane. Choose the appropriate lane.


I know when I learned to drive, the rule was: left lane for passing. Not: Left lane for sightseeing. Nor: Stay in left lane to maintain an open road in front of you. If you glance in the rear view mirror once in a while you’ll see the pileup of cars behind you. And those flashing high beams? Just a way of tapping you on the shoulder to say “excuse me, can I get by you?”


Some will say that going the speed limit in the left lane is appropriate to which I say “move over!”  There are two other lanes you can do that in.  I wonder how many car accidents are caused by slow drivers in the left lane.  Confident drivers, and yes, I’ll admit, pseudo race car drivers, suffer extreme frustration being behind a slowpoke in the left lane. Evasive maneuvers have to be tried to keep traffic moving. And did you notice that the slowpoke in the left lane often goes tandem to the car in the middle lane, or even slower!  Do we really need a pace car in the passing lane?


I conducted an experiment one evening. I wanted to see what it was like to drive below the speed limit in the right lane. Would you believe that I was passing everyone while cruising along in the right lane. I can honestly say it was relaxing in the right lane. All my slow buddies were in the left lane, waiting for me to descend upon them. Surprise! I had the right lane all to myself.


So here’s what you should do.  Think twice before you get into the left lane. Ask yourself: Am I up to the adrenaline and gas pedal rush? Do I really need to be there? If you must venture into the left lane, accelerate, pass, then MOVE OVER.  Get back into the middle lane so others can go on their merry, faster way.

Oh no! They’re moving over into the HOV lane. Warn the others!

Stepping into Middle Age

It was the socks.

I was spending the day driving around the region visiting clients, with a nice young gentleman – see there it is again.  Who speaks like that? I’ll tell you who. My mother-in-law.  When did I start talking like my mother-in-law?  When did I age out of “watch your language” and into “what a nice young man?”

Back to the socks. I was visiting my mother the night before the road trip. I forgot to pack stockings or trouser socks. (If I’m being totally truthful with you, I had actually forgotten my entire suitcase the day before and realized twenty minutes into the trip and had to turn back and go home.) I’m getting dressed and don’t have any socks. So my mother gives me a pair of beige knee-highs, and I figure, fine, I’m wearing ankle boots, no one will notice the beige socks with my black pants.

So I get into his car and glance down and see my feet.  Those socks are screaming “old lady.”  They make my ankle boots, which are comfortable (interpret: low heel) look like orthopedic shoes. I’m trying every which way to hide these socks. Oh, did I mention they are compression socks. Comfortable, let me tell you.  But they don’t scream sexy.

Those socks make me think about the whole package. What image am I projecting to the world? Sensible black shoes.  Compression socks (granted, not my normal hosiery, but the world doesn’t know that). Elastic waistband (even if I’m cheating by having it only in the back half, hidden by my jacket). Gloves and scarf because there’s a nip in the air.

Did I mention the tissues? I don’t even have a cold, but I have tissues everywhere. In my coat pocket; in the outside pocket of my many-pockets pocketbook; in a dedicated pocket inside the many-pockets pocketbook. My car has a napkin compartment. The only place I haven’t put them yet is in the cuff of my blouse. Oh please, if you see me start to slip one there, slap my hand.

Now, this nice young gentleman, who is only ten years my junior (young enough for me to have been his babysitter, but too old for me to be his mother) starts driving and we don’t have directions. Sensible, older me is a bit annoyed that young gentleman is totally reliant on portable technology to solve this problem. Problem being, I can’t find my reading glasses in my many-pockets pocketbook. So he’s counting on his hyperopia passenger to direct us, and I am totally useless. I can only look out the window and enjoy the scenery. Except when I’m telling him the exit is coming up, or to watch out for the car in front of him. (I can see in the distance.)  Maybe if he didn’t have to read his phone GPS while driving, I wouldn’t have to keep my eyes on the road. If only I could remember where I put my reading glasses.

And then, and then…I still can’t believe I did this…compression-socked Eileen actually looked for a restroom when we stopped for gas …. just in case!  I didn’t even have to use the restroom, but hey, you never know when the next one will come along.

It was a long day in the car, and we were late heading home. By 9pm, which is a sensible bedtime, I was yawning in the car. I wanted to take off my orthopedic shoes, adjust my compression socks and give my elastic waistband a real stretching. When we finally ended our day, I had to unfold myself out of the car and listen to joints crack. I couldn’t wait to get into my flannels and go to bed.

So, somewhere along the way, I’ve morphed into a sensible middle-aged woman. I now need to budget extra travel time to return home for forgotten items. I need to keep a bag of unmentionables (like compression socks and granny panties) in my suitcase so I don’t have to borrow from my hostess. My midriff has become too fond of elastic. Curses are just wrong coming from a woman who has to dye her hair every three weeks. I am forever on the hunt for stylish but comfortable shoes. And there are so many nice young gentlemen who call me Ma’am.

Oh, post-script about those reading glasses. The next morning I remembered I carry this really cool magnify glass in my many-pocketed pocketbook for times when I can’t find my reading glasses. If only I’d remembered I had them.

Survivalist Husband

Click here to see this in Long Island’s Newsday (11/17/12)

Being in a state of emergency makes me reflect on all the reasons I fell in love with my husband. Survival skills are not among them.

My husband, whom we affectionately call Great Guy, is anything but an Eagle Scout. When there are warnings for severe weather, I have the batteries, the candles, the extra cash, the important papers, the cat carrier, all ready to go.

As soon as a hurricane is bearing down, his first concern is: Do we have bagels?

As soon as the storm passes: Can we get more bagels?

He’ll brave 90-mile-an-hour winds for a toasted bagel-all-the way.

I want to Break-Glass-In-Case-Of-Emergency and have super husband jump out.  The guy who can lasso a leaning oak. Who can leap tall sheds and carry lawn furniture.  Who runs out and finds the open gas station, fills the cars and gas containers and picks me up a sweet treat while he’s out. The guy who keeps O+ blood in the fully stocked emergency cooler, just in case. I know they exist. I see their handiwork.  I want to stake out their secret society meetings and see if I can get Great Guy an apprenticeship.

This isn’t to say Great Guy doesn’t plan for emergencies. Back in 1985 after Hurricane Gloria, before we even imagined living on Long Island, Great Guy was already planning on buying a generator for our imaginary Long Island house.  And let me tell you, Great Guy knows how to do it. No extension cords for him. That would mean he’d have to move appliances. Oh no no no. We rewired.  He wanted every single appliance on this gigunda generator. Even the electrician doing the work said “Do you really think your wife will be worrying about laundry in a hurricane?”

The electrician showed me how to use the generator. I showed Great Guy how to use the generator. Great Guy made a big deal of telling everyone in the family that the instruction manual was in this corner of his desk – don’t touch it, don’t cover it, don’t move it.  The minute the lights go out, what does he say? “Where’s the generator manual? Who moved the generator manual? I told everyone not to touch the generator manual. Eileen, find the generator manual.”  Silently, without a flashlight, I walk to his desk and pick up the generator manual and hand it to him. His reply: “That’s not what I was looking for, but it’ll work.”

Now, you can’t run this annoy-your-neighbors generator without gas. He hadn’t anticipated the gas crisis. He’s a quick learner, though. When online delivery orders would take too long, he called a friend in California and had gas cans overnighted to him. I can guarantee you that after this Hurricane Sandy recovery is over, our garage will be lined with gas containers for the next state of emergency. He may not fill them up before the emergency, but then he wouldn’t be Great Guy if he did. (Unless I can get him to those super husband meetings.)

So, in our next state of emergency, I will assemble the batteries, the candles, the extra cash, the important papers, the cat carrier; fill the gas containers, an ice chest with O+ blood, and tie down the house.  When all the lights go out, I’ll find the generator manual, fire up the beast and flip the switch.  You will find Great Guy in front of the big flat-screen TV, enjoying a cold drink from the refrigerator, a toasted bagel-all-the-way, in a room the perfect seasonal temperature.

So planning and execution are two different talents. But as Great Guy says, “Hey, who got us the generator, huh?”

The Ocean Wants To Play

The ocean wants to play.

We’ve ignored each other for hours, now the ocean wants to play.
The waves are teasing me, tossing its foam at my feet.
Here I am, come play with me.
It calls loudly, gets distracted, and then comes back to me.
Come in.

It offers up some shiny shells. Want to play?
Tosses up some jellyfish.
I move my chair back.
I’m going to take your sandals. Is that your phone?

It throws wave temper tantrums.
Look at me! I’m strong. See me make a muscle.
Whee! as it chases after seagulls.
Ready or not, here I come it says to me.
It tries to distract me. Look, is that a dolphin?

Wait! Where are you going?
Please come in and play with me.


This time of year brings out the envy in me. Not for that summer body I can’t have. (That’s another story.) I look longingly at the sleek, cool lines of a convertible.

A person driving a convertible just looks sexy. Putting that roof down takes ten years and twenty pounds off them. They look smarter, richer, and confident. You just know they got perfect SAT scores.   Their hair gently waves in the open air, their skin the perfect shade of tan, with pearly whites bleached by the sun. Just look at them. Happy without a care in the world, off for a leisurely ride in a convertible.

I indulged on vacation with my daughter and rented a convertible. We were giddy with excitement, and the rental car agent was giddy with the bonus for the premium upgrade. But we didn’t care. On vacation it is all Monopoly money.

We hurried to the garage to claim our prize. Ten minutes later we were still trying to figure out how to get the top down. Let’s see…you have to unlock a bunch of levers, turn the car on, foot on the break, press this button and remove everything from the trunk. So that suitcase with everything I need for two weeks on the road doesn’t fit in the trunk if the top is down. Ok. Toss that in the back seat.  A four-seat sedan becomes a two-seater. So what! Maybe that isn’t the image the advertisers would use, but it was fine with us.

Top down, suitcase strapped in, and we hit the road. Until we go forty yards out of the garage and the bright noon sun blinds me. The rays are sneaking in around the frames of my sunglasses, a glare on my retinas. The sun is frying my minivan skin.  My freckles were looking for a place to hide. First chance I get, I have to pull over and apply sunscreen. Thankfully, my suitcase is right behind me.

Ok. Good to go. Sunscreened up, suitcase strapped back down.  Let’s hit the road.  35 – 45 – 55 – 65 miles per hour.  Hair whipped into a frenzy. If it isn’t the sun blinding me, it’s my hair stinging my face. Thankfully, teenage daughter carries scrunchies. Hair up, top down, suitcase strapped back down. We pull off the highway shoulder, having made it a mile from the airport.

We find a comfort zone. With the top down but all the windows up, our hair and clothes stay close to our bodies. This is kind of fun. We are the envy of everyone we pass, what with our knotty hair, thick sunscreen, as we scream at each other because we can’t hear a thing.

So here’s what I know about driving convertibles. In the summer, which is perfect convertible weather, it is hot as Hades in a convertible. We drove with the air conditioner cranked up as high as we could get it. And that sun? The one that normally the roof of our car blocks for us? Well, there is no escaping it in a convertible. That little visor is as useful as a shoveling with a teaspoon in a blizzard. And birds like convertibles too. I think they send out a signal “cackaw, convertible at 36 degrees.”  Mud and bird poop are why car companies first put roofs on cars. It was a good idea.

Did I mention my passenger?  I was putting my teenage daughter on display for truck drivers. She’s got the seat reclined, sunglasses on, long hair flowing, tank-top and short shorts, happily sunning while truckers swerve to get a good look. I can hear the CB’s going “Breaker 1-9. Eyeball beaver in the rockin’ chair in the sandwich lane. 10-4.”

On day two our convertible vacation, I bought a big safari hat, bigger sunglasses, stronger sunscreen and wore long sleeves just to drive the car. I now discovered that convertible drivers aren’t really smiling, but grimacing from the heat and sunburn. We got stuck in traffic and no amount of air conditioner could compensate for the lack of protective metal over our heads.

On day three, I put the top up and it stayed that way for the rest of the vacation. And the suitcase took its rightful place in the trunk.

And yet, looking at those beautiful people cruising down the road in their convertibles, knowing what I know, I still want to trade places with them. I don’t see skin cancer, or bird poop, or sweat under their arms. They look rich and sexy, smiling as they recall their perfect SAT scores.

Doting Mothers

There are women out there who are making me look bad.

Not the superwoman with the high-powered job who can accomplish everything. It is that doting mother. If memory serves me correctly I was a doting mother once. This might fall under the category of revisionist history. At least give me “sometimes attentive mother.”  I must have done something right to get them to adulthood without a single emergency room visit or grandmother intervention.

My kids would come home from play dates with these fantastic stories of mothers who doted on the kids around them. I just knew play dates were dangerous. What do you need, honey?  Can I get you a snack, sweetie? Trays of chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven, with the perfect blend of chocolate milk. Heck, I wanted to come spend the afternoon there.

If only my kids had not been allowed to visit other homes when they learned to talk. Then I wouldn’t have heard the stories of mothers who did arts & crafts and made beaded necklaces with them. Or colored fifty dozen Easter eggs. I thought they were over there to play video games.

And the food.  If you listen to my kids, you’d think the only thing I offered came from industrial size boxes from warehouse clubs. In my defense, they are very convenient and have a very long shelf life. In fact, I might still have something if you are hungry. But then I hear other mothers are offering fresh meatballs in homemade sauce, penne ala vodka with shrimp. All this without reservations and gratuity! At my house, all I can offer is a dusty apple. If you come back tomorrow, that banana should be ready.  I have plenty of vegetables that no one seems interested in. Go figure.

My kids come home with these fairy tales of moms warming up full plates of food that contain a deliciously seasoned protein, perfectly steamed vegetables that they would never eat at home, a complex carbohydrate that requires peeling, boiling, mashing, which is way too much trouble for me, finished off with a homemade dessert. The upside is that since my kids were at those houses, I didn’t need to come up with a dish of any sort. I ask: “Will you be home for dinner?” If the majority says No, I am off the hook for meal prep. I’ve even narrowed down the window of opportunity – dinner is from 5:45-6:15pm. I find being specific helps avoid confusion and disappointment or work on my part. I trace my attitude to the minute someone said “I don’t want that for dinner.”

A doting mother follows the philosophy of cook once, feed a small army twice. I’m more like, cook once and rest on that laurel for the week. And jumping up to reheat your food when you come in from a night out? Remember that microwave I got at the baby shower? I’ll show you how to use it. Can this be classified as doting? It is teaching a skill.

Doting doesn’t just take place in the kitchen. The minute kids can dress themselves, there is nothing wrong with introducing them to the hamper. When kids begin to change clothes multiple times a day, they should know how to use the controllers on the washer and dryer.  Doting mothers, rumor has it, not only pick up the clothes, but kids find them back in their rooms hung up, folded, even coordinated in their closets. Please don’t tell my children that. I can’t bear the thought of going in their rooms.

I get a kick out of mothers telling kids to “put a coat on, it’s cold outside.” Well, if my kids haven’t figured out winter coats are seasonal outfits, they need more than a doting mother. If it was cold yesterday and cold the day before, common sense, not your mother, tells you to put on a coat.

You can spot the child of a doting mother from a mile away at Halloween. When the child of a doting mother needs a costume, she presents them with something out of Warner Brothers wardrobe department.  My son wanted to be a blue power ranger and he got matching blue sweat pants and shirt with an aluminum foil lightning bolt stapled to it. (I did make sure he wore an undershirt so the staples didn’t scratch him. Is that doting? Concern for physical well-being.)

Shhh. Did you hear that? The kids are home. I’m going to pretend I’m napping.