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Check out the Facebook page for my book!

https://www.facebook.com/UnfinishedBusiness?ref=hl

And the website!

http://www.carolynridderaspenson.com

 

Thanks!

I FINALLY have a website for my book! Thanks to a wonderful friend who has a website business, I now have a website, but just not a finished book.  Well, truth be told, the STORY is finished, it just needs a final edit, a professional edit, an agent, a formatter for smash words, a book cover and a publisher, but the STORY is finished.

Please, please, PLEASE continue to read about me and what goes on in my menopausal life at

http://www.carolynridderaspenson.com

 

Thank you!

Carolyn

I have a FaceBook account (I also have one for my book, so check it out at https://www.facebook.com/UnfinishedBusiness) and through FaceBook I have been introduced to some wonderful dog and animal pages.  Through these pages I’ve learned about the Rainbow Bridge.

For those who don’t know, the Rainbow Bridge is said to be where our beloved pets go when the die.  They wait for us, at the Rainbow Bridge, and when we do finally meet them, we cross over to the other side together.

I like the Rainbow Bridge, in theory.  Then I got to thinking about it and realized what a pain in the butt it’s got to be for everyone involved.

I’ve had seven pets in my life…so far.  Eight if you count Missy, who was really my mom’s dog, but I ran a close second for favorite.  Six dogs and one cat.  Both of my dogs now are on the older side and since I’m only in my 40’s, I suspect I’ll have a few more dogs and cats before I kick the bucket.

Can you imagine the crowd I’ll have waiting for me?

And how bored they’ll probably be?

Sure, the poem says they play and run while waiting, but I know my pets, and not all of them will be interested in that.

Brutus, my very first dog, who sadly died at the young age of three, while I was in Kindergarten, (I think), was a stud.  Because my father was a man’s man, he refused to have Brutus snipped, probably partly because it wasn’t cheap, but mostly because it would be emotionally scarring to both dog and dad.

In the early 70’s, pets roamed our neighborhood freely.  Brutus never ran away, he just went on procreating excursions.  He’d be gone for a few days and then come prancing home, clearly satisfied.  Fast forward several months later and our neighbors would stop by to tell us, sometimes in less than kind words, that he was again, a daddy.  The dog was a ho. Unless fornication runs rapid at the Rainbow Bridge, he ain’t there.  No question about it.

Up next is, or was, Missy.  Missy, like I said, was really my mother’s dog.  She didn’t like men, in particular my dad, and really, didn’t like anyone who might get in the way of her relationship with my mother. Missy liked me, but I think that was only because I fed her.  I knew my place with Missy, as did the rest of the world and I’m certain she would not have the patience to sit at that bridge and wait for me since my mother is already gone.  And I’m going to guess she didn’t wait there for mom, either.  If she did, the rest of the animals would have run in fear.  She was a little toy poodle, but had the growl of a grizzly bear.

During the Missy years, I had a boyfriend whose parents made him break up with me.  I was sad.  It was high school.  There was drama.  My neighbors lab had puppies.  My dad felt bad that I was sad so I got a puppy.  Bandit was a sweet girl, but sadly, my parents divorced and I couldn’t keep her.  I felt screwed, losing the boyfriend, fearful I was losing my dad, and then losing the dog.  We gave Bandit to a neighbor and I got to spend time with her when I could.  Shortly after, we moved and I barely saw her.  Years later, I went by her house and she was outside, in the fenced in backyard.  A male friend of mine went up to the fence and she barked up a storm.  I hesitated, but walked up too and Bandit immediately stopped barking, jumped up on the fence and wagged her tail.  She remembered me. I felt elated and guilty at the same time.

They say dogs never forget their first owners.  I don’t know if Bandit had a good life, but I know it started out with a lot of love from me.  I tried to see her often after I realized she remembered me, and I hope I gave her love.  If there is a Rainbow Bridge, and Bandit had a good life, I suspect she’s waiting or has already left with the people I gave her to.  If not, then I hope she will let me love her for eternity.

Next up is Magnum.  This was my early twenties to early thirties child.  I was single and he was like a son to me.  He went where I went, slept with me, and was my best friend. He was the best judge of character I’ve ever met.  He was my protector, my buddy, my confidante. We were together for 10 years. Sadly, I had to let him go because of bone cancer and to this day, it still breaks my heart.

Magnum was devoted and loved me more than I can ever understand.  I would like to think he’s waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge, but I suspect he just goes and checks to see if I’ve arrived every so often.  First of all, my mom is there, and he loved her, so it’s quite possible he’s hanging out with her.  Then again, Missy is with her, too and she probably scares the heck out of my old German Shepherd.  And Magnum liked his freedom.  He loved walks, or drag mommy’s, and would bolt off whenever he could, until he got sick.  I’m sure this guy is out prancing around, on a crazy sniff-fest in Heaven. Imagine the centuries of smells that guy has? I can’t compete with that.  He’s so not hanging out at the bridge waiting for me.

While I had Magnum, I acquired a husband, two daughters and a cat.  I wasn’t a cat person, but quickly became one.  Callie didn’t like the girls (long story, another blog) but she loved me.  We had her for 13 years and in her last few years, while I stayed home, she became an appendage.  Unfortunately, at about 17ish, her old body had failed her, and I had to let her go.

Callie would not be at the bridge.  First of all, she was not a fan of most other animals so that would be an issue for her, and secondly, Callie didn’t wait for anyone.  I suspect she’s got a seat on God’s lap and if I happen to wander by, she may lift her head a little and acknowledge me.  Maybe.  Actually, I believe she would come with me, but would find a happy balance between God and me.

About a year or so after I acquired the husband, daughters and cat, I also adopted Gracie, one of my two current doggies.  Gracie and I didn’t bond like I wanted initially.  It had only been a year since Magnum went to walk over the bridge and go smell, and I still wasn’t able to bond with other dogs like I had with him.

Eventually Gracie and I found a place of mutual love, albeit a little distant.  She was a daddy’s girl and I was around to let her in and out. Daddy began to travel, a lot, and I started staying home more, and suddenly, Gracie and I became pals.  Pals grew into best friends with a strong emotional connection and a mutual respect for the loyalty of one another.  Gracie and I became true dog and human extensions of each other.  We still our.  Magnum was loyal and I still love that dog like no other, but Gracie and I share something special too, it’s just different.  There is enough love in our hearts for more than one pet and just because we loved one like crazy, doesn’t mean another can touch our hearts in their own special way, too.

Gracie is about 15 and for a big dog, that’s no small feat.  She’s losing her hearing and has a little bit of anxiety.  She rarely leaves my side and I feel guilty when I have to leave hers.  Gracie is also a couch potato.  It happens to Greyhounds as they age.  Gracie will, most certainly, be waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge.  It’s not that she’s more loyal than my other animals.  It’s that she’s too lazy. If the bridge is comfy, and she’s got a nice spot in the sun, she’ll hang there forever.  I imagine her being the first one I see.

Larka, our other pup right now, came to us from neighbors and really struggled to be a part of our family at first.  For a few weeks.  She was an outdoor dog and we are an indoor dog family.  She had to be forced to sleep inside.  Once she adjusted, she blossomed and now firmly believes we have furniture for her comfort.

Larka likes to wander, smelling whatever she can, and chasing whatever comes her way.  If she’s not lying down, that is.  Larka may or may not be at the bridge.  She will intend to be there, but if someone has a bone, a treat or if she sees a mouse, she’s outta there. I completely believe she will find me though, once she’s got whatever it is she’s looking for.   Plus, she loves Gracie and will want to stick by her side.  Oh, and she and Callie the cat actually got along, so she’ll hang with her, too.  So Larka may end up being in a seat next to God.  I just hope it’s got a comfy cushion.

I hope there really is a Rainbow Bridge, and I hope I will once again see the animals who became a part of my life, a part of me.  I can’t imagine a God like mine would simply allow them to die and not be in Heaven.  Animals are innately innocent.  They do what they do because of how they’re raised, or to stay alive.  They are not bad by nature and if for no other reason, this is why I believe they are in Heaven.  And I am certain I will have a farm full waiting for me when I get there.

I write the most amazing, thought provoking crap while I’m lying in bed and can’t sleep.  Do I get up and write it down so I won’t forget it? Of course not.  Instead I fool myself into thinking it will remain in my memory for the few hours of darkness and I’ll jump out of bed and write it out, word for word, once the sun comes up.  And after I’ve let the dogs out and fed them.  And straightened up the kitchen, gone to the gym, had coffee at Starbucks, worked, run errands and whatever else I do before I think, “Crap, I forgot what I wrote in my head last night, and dammit, it was good.” 

You’d think I’d remember that I don’t remember and actually write it down, but clearly that’s asking too much.  Probably it’s not nearly as fantastic as I think it is anyway.  I’m sure it’s a tired attempt at the most, but it sure seems good in the haze of sleeplessness. 

I haven’t worked much on my book lately.  The first draft is done, and I’ve got eight chapters of the final draft rewritten, but I’ve taken a well needed break.  The plan was to have it all done and ready for editing in October.  Of 2012, but that isn’t an option anymore.  Instead, my goal is to finish it by March.  Editing services are not cheap and I’ve got other expenses before I pay someone to tell me I suck at writing so March it is.  I’ve been writing for work a lot lately and it seems to stifle my muse so the break was needed. 

Even though I’m not working on Unfinished Business, I have been reading what others write, and what they think about writing, and mostly, about how they write.  I’m glad to see I’m not any different than most.  Sometimes I can write like a crazy person and it’s good and other times I can’t get a word on the screen to save my life.  Most of the time I find my best writing is while I’m driving and can’t do anything about it.  I do record some of it, but then I have to listen to it and type it and I…hate…that…  Hate it.  Who wants to retype their own dictation? It’s like listening to nails on a chalkboard for me.  I listen and think, “Who the hell is that person talking and why can’t she say something interesting?”  

I mentioned this to my husband and because he’s pretty darn wonderful, he got me that Dragon software.   It allow me to talk and record and then it magically types it out.  HOW COOL IS THAT? I’m hoping it works on my Mac.  If not, I’m going to go through a form of depression.  Planning to install it once the boy is back in school and my house is mine again. 

I’m looking forward to writing more.  I miss it, and it’s time. 

Chapter Three

 “Angela.  Angela Palanca.  Wake up, dear it’s me, your mother.”

As if I wouldn’t recognize her voice. Fighting off the chill, I pull the covers up over my shoulders and remind myself to turn the AC down before bed next time.   “Again with the Angela Frances Palanca.  It’s Panther, Ma.  Panther.  Should I spell it for you?”  I turn my head, hiding under the covers, willing this to be a dream.

“Ah Madone, child, I can spell Panther, I just don’t like it. It’s like Richter, too damned German.  Why didn’t you marry someone with a good Italian name like Angelini or Marconi?  Those I could use, you know?   Now turn over and look at me. I’m real, Angela.”  She nudges my shoulder and I open my eyes to see her crouched down and floating next to my bed.

“Told you so.” She smirks.

I sit up.  “Angela Angelini?  Really, Ma?”

Wait.  She nudged me, and I felt it.

I turn and look at Jake, who’s doing his freight train imitation again.  Clearly he didn’t hear Ma ranting about his name, either because he’s asleep or because I’ve gone insane.  My guess is I’m insane.  I get up, grab my robe, and quietly leave the room.  Gracie gets off her chair in the corner, nose up, and sniffing the air.  Her ears stand up, and she follows me out.  Unbelievable.  Gracie can smell ghosts.  I wonder if she’s smells dead people every time she sniffs the air?  Goodness, I hope not.  If that’s true, I’m sure I’ll never sleep again.

I tiptoe down to the kitchen.  I’m going to see the ghost of my mother at this hour; I’m going to need caffeine.

“Where are you going?”

I turn and give her the evil eye.  “Shh. Come.” I whisper and crook my finger for her to follow.

I turn on the coffeepot but lack the patience to wait for it to finish, so I cheat and pour myself a cup before it’s done.  Thank God for the auto stop feature.  Ma is quietly floating near the kitchen sink, and I motion for her to go down to the basement where no one can hear me.  I don’t want to wake the kids and have them think their mother is loony, not that they don’t already think that anyway.

“Look at you, pointing and motioning, telling me what to do.  I may be dead, Angela, but I’m still your mother.”

There’s something innately wrong with her last sentence, so I do what any crazy person would do; I ignore it.  “Holy mother of God, I’m going insane.  I have to be,” I say as I look at my mother floating around the basement family room.  “You nudged me Ma and I felt it.  I felt it.”

“Ah, you’re not any more crazy than you were before I died,” she quips. Then her mouth takes on the shape of a capital O shape.  “I did nudge you, didn’t I? Well whadda know; I can touch things.”  She looks at the wall, leans her shoulder into it, and disappears.

“Ma?”

She laughs her loud, that-is-really-funny laugh, but I can’t see her.

“Ma?”

“Whoops,” she says as she reappears, shuddering.  “I guess I can’t touch everything, and I gotta tell ya, that’s okay.”  She shakes and little flickers of light float from her.

It’s disturbing.  My mother sparkles.

“That whole passing through things feels creepy,” she continues.  “When that man at the funeral home walked through me, I thought I might barf.  It made me sick to my stomach.  Huh.  I wonder if I still have a stomach,” she says as she looks at her belly.

In life, my mother was a beautiful, robust woman.  She had curves that she hated, and always wanted to be thinner, smaller, and taller.  I’m not sure if I got my body image issues from her, or if that’s how all women are, but I loved her curves.  She wasn’t fat.  She embodied strength, both mentally and physically.  I admired that and yearned for it for me.  It was heartbreaking to watch cancer rob her body of its stature, in the end leaving her nothing but skin and bones.  She often joked that she’d be skinny for eternity, but I couldn’t quite see the humor in her dying.

Now, as I watch her floating next to me, I see the more voluptuous Ma, only she’s transparent.  The irony of what she looked like when she died and what I see now is not lost on me, but I’m not stupid enough to say that out loud.   It’s not just her shape that’s changed.  Her eyes have regained their bright blue hue, and her nose is no longer red from years of uncontrolled allergies.  Her lips are fuller, like the lips I remember from my childhood, not lips that have been permanently crinkled to inhale the poison of a cigarette.

“Ma, where are your dentures?”

She puts her hand to her mouth and feels around.  “Huh.  Beats the hell out of me.  Maybe ghosts don’t need dentures,” she says as she smacks her lips together, making a funny sound.

I hug myself to ward off another chill. “I still have them.  They’re in the medicine cabinet in the kitchen.”   Tears well up in my eyes and I wipe them away, not wanting to cry about something as simple as her dentures.

“Ah Madone.”  She throws her hands up in the air.  “You kept my dentures?  What, did you think you could use them some day?  Goodness, child.  You have beautiful teeth.  I always loved them.  They were like mine, so big and strong, until I was pregnant with your brother and he sucked the calcium right out of them, that is,” she touched her mouth again and sighed.

“And you wonder why I’ve never really liked him.”

Ma looks serious. “Ang, you gotta let that go and be nicer to your brothers.  Leave the past in the past because pretty soon it’ll be just you three.”

The hairs on my neck stand up.  “What are you saying, Ma?  Are you saying something’s going to happen to Dad?”

She shrugs her shoulders. “I’m not saying anything, Angela.  It’s just the way it is.  No one lives forever; so don’t waste your time on the past.  What’s done is done. You gotta move on.”

“What’s this?  You die and suddenly you’re all patient and forgiving?  That’s a crock, Ma, and you know it.  Patience was never your virtue and forgiveness wasn’t even in your vocabulary, so don’t go acting like you’ve seen the light or something and tell me how I should act now, because you know if you were still alive, you’d be singing a totally different tune.”

She looks at me and we both burst out laughing.

“So you believe me now?  You believe I’m a ghost?”

“You’re not my imagination, are you?”

“Nope.”

“But why are you here?  It can’t be this unfinished business.  That doesn’t make sense.  Didn’t you see the light?  You’re supposed to go to the light, Ma.  I mean, there is a light, right?”

My mother throws her arms up in the air, and floats around the room.  “All my life I told you if I could, I’d come back, and you always said, good Ma, come back.  But when I do, you tell me I should have gone to the light.  For the love of God, Angela, make up your mind.”

She’s right.  I did always say that, I just didn’t know it would actually happen.

“Geez, Ma,” I say, throwing my hands up in the air, too.   “Cut me some slack here, will you?  I don’t know what to think.  It’s not like I’ve been seeing ghosts my whole life.  This is new to me, and honestly, you’re freaking me out a little.  I can see through you, and you’ve got these little sparkly things flying off of you.  That’s messed up, Ma.  It’s messed up.”

She frowns, and mumbles something I don’t understand.

“What?”

“I freak you out, do I?  You want I should disappear and not come back? I can do that, Angela.  Say the word and I’m gone.  Poof.  Out of your life and back into the light forever.”

I rub my temples, feeling a headache starting.  “No, Ma.  That’s not what I’m saying.  I’m just saying you need to give me a little leeway here, so I can wrap my head around this, is all.  You think you can you do that for me, Ma?”

She looks at the ground.  “You should clean this carpet.”

“Ma.”

“Oh, fine.  Fine.”

“Thank you.  So about the light; there is a light, right?”

“Yes, Ang, there is a light, and I’ll go back to it.  I just got some stuff to do down here first.”

I don’t know how this afterlife stuff is supposed to work, but I thought that once a person dies and goes to the light, they’re supposed to stay there, not go back and forth.  Maybe Ma didn’t actually see the light, and she’s afraid to tell me.  Maybe she needs me to help her find it.

I’m no ghost whisperer, but I give it my best shot.   I lean forward, putting on my most sincere face.  “Do you see the light?  Go to the light, Ma.  Your family is there, waiting for you.”

“Ah, Madone, knock it off, will you?  I’ll go back when I’m darned good and ready.  Your grandmother, she knows I’m busy taking care of things down here.  She was just dead once too, ya know.”

“You saw Grandma?”

“Of course I saw Grandma.  What do you think happens when you go to the light?  Didn’t you ever listen to that psychic on TV?  The one from that show, what was his name again?”  She pauses, then flicks her hand in the air.  “Pfft.  I can’t remember.  But yes, I saw your grandmother, and your grandfather, and your auntie Rita, too, but I told them I’d be back.  I said to them, I said, I’ve got affare non terminato down there, and here I am.”

“John Edward, Ma.”  I tell her.  “John Edward is the psychic with the TV show.   And what do you mean you’ve got affare non terminato, unfinished business?  We took care of everything before you…you know.”

“I died Angela.  Before I died.  You can say it, you know.  It’s not like it’s gonna change.  I’m deader than a doornail, already a pile of gravel in a fancy little bottle, so you might as well get used to it.”

Get used to it?  It’s been a little over a day.

“What unfinished business, Ma?  Maybe I can help you with it, so you can, you know, get back to the light?”

“Stuff.  I’ve got stuff to do, and…and it’s not your business anyway, so don’t you worry.”  She turns away and looks at the wall. “You really need to paint down here; a nice light grey would be pretty.”

I fall back onto the couch and cover my head with a throw pillow.  Flip me over and put a bun on me because I’m done.  I’m seeing the ghost of my mother and she’s telling me to redecorate.

I’m not the go-crazy-decorating-like-a-mad-woman-and-buying-ridiculous-amounts-of-gifts holiday woman.  I never have been.  I enjoy a good holiday, but I’ve just never been over the top about them.  For me, the holidays aren’t about that.  They’re about family. 

My childhood holidays centered around family.  My mom’s family, mostly.  My father didn’t have much of a family and the few relatives he did have celebrated with their own, so we always spent the holidays with my mother’s big Italian family.  I was fine with that.  I really didn’t know anything different and don’t think I would have picked anything different if I could. 

My aunts and uncles were a boisterous bunch.  Holidays were always loud, filled with laughter, food and arguing.  Arguing about anything and everything, but mostly the Cubs vs the Sox.  That’s what Italians do.  They argue for sport and about sport, too. (They argue about everything actually!)  My father hated it. He didn’t hate being there, he hated the noise.  I never understood it growing up, but having three wonderful, yet loud kids and an amazing and loud husband, I get it now.  The noise makes me tired. 

Dad would always retreat for a nap at my grandparents or my uncles, or wherever the holiday was being held. Sometimes I’d sneak up there with him.  I never napped, I just liked being near him. I remember watching him sleep.  It was then I’d get to see his face unhidden by his coke bottle sized glasses.  He was a handsome man, and I thought he walked on water. 

My mother would be wherever the action was.  She was right splat in the middle of everything.  Cooking with her sister, her brother in-law and, God willing she’d let her, her mother.  I personally stayed out of the kitchen when my grandmother was cooking.  She had a way of giving the evil eye to anyone in her way, and I’d be damned if I was going to catch that.  If you’re Italian, you have to know the evil eye is real and it’s a scary thing.  I firmly believe in this old Italian wive’s tale!

Grandma wasn’t a mean woman.  She just knew what she needed to do and made sure no one, even God himself, got in her way.  Every so often she would meander out of the kitchen and warn us kids not to go in her china cabinet because there was candy in there and she didn’t want us to spoil our appetites.  We all got the hint, and I filled up on those white mints you can get in some restaurants every single time. They were my favorite. 

The mints never stopped me from having too much pasta and too many meatballs and as much Pepsi as I could handle.  Food coma be damned, I would fill up and moan in sheer delight just like the rest of them.  It was pure heaven.  

After dinner, everyone crowded around a big table, or a bunch of big tables at my Uncle Norm and Aunt Eleanor’s house, and we all hung out and exchanged stories, theories and arguments. I’d sit and listen, soaking in the atmosphere, listening to the typical Italian Chicago speak full of ‘youse guys’ and Italian words I never quite understood.  I am quite sure they were swear words. Quite sure. 

Eventually the kids would bore of the talk and wander off into other areas.  My aunt and uncle had this monstrous house with what felt like hundreds of rooms.  I’d sneak into their living room and tap on the piano, lacking any ability or talent whatsoever, but thinking I was the bomb.  Then I’d wander up into my cousins rooms and play with their Barbies.  They had the most amazing Barbie collection. Not just the Barbies and the clothes, but an incredible assortment of things unimaginable.  Silverware, purses, shoes, things I so desperately wanted for my Barbies but could never convince my parents to buy.  Silverware.  Who knew they made silverware for Barbies? I often wonder what happened to all of that stuff. It’s probably worth a bundle now. 

That’s the interesting thing about Christmas.  For me, when I look back, I remember one gift.  I remember a pale pink tutu I got when I was in kindergarten.  I was six.  After that, I cannot tell you one single present I got for Christmas.  Not one.  I can though, and will in future posts, tell you some pretty funny stories about my family, like when my dad shot Santa.  But as for the gifts, outside of the tutu, I’ve got nothing stored in my brain. 

For me, it was never about the gifts.  It was about the people.  My family.  It was about spending time with a big group of loud, often obnoxious Italians and their families.  It was about time with them, honoring traditions, sticking to my grandparents plastic cover on the couch, and eating funky shaped cookies with jellies in the middle.  It was about love and connecting and sharing and eating and laughing and taking naps.  And just being together.  

Now I have only one aunt left, and I’m grateful she’s still with us.  All of my mothers brothers and her sister have passed, and it’s been years since they’ve all gone.  We haven’t had a big family get together in over 15 years.  The house my aunt and uncle shared belongs to someone else.  My grandparents are gone, the memories of time with them stored safely in my heart.  

Cousins are spread out all over the country and we rarely talk or see each other.  The traditions we shared, that I’ve held so close to my heart, have gone with the family members who’ve passed.  We never found a way to continue them and it makes me sad.  I’m sure my aunts and uncles and my grandparents would be sad too. 

My children only got to meet my Aunt Eleanor, and only a few times.  I would have loved for my kids to meet my other aunts and uncles, and my grandparents.  They would have so enjoyed the loudness and the food and the cookies and the hidden candy.  They would have laughed at the Chicago and Italian accents, the cheek pinching and the swearing.  And I would have been proud to show my kids how I became the person I am today because so much of those people, that history, and those special holidays made me who I am.  And I am continually grateful to them for shaping me into a brassy, loud-mouthed Italian woman.  

If Santa were to ask me what I wanted for Christmas, I’d ask for one more holiday at my Uncle Norm and Aunt Eleanor’s house, and one more nap with my dad.