Thursday, April 27, 2006
Wrong Side Of Thirty
& going nowhere fast
I often wonder why I want my miserable days to last
Weigh me down now as does self attained obesity
The cards have been stacked against me by fate and fork
Still I crawl & struggle & somehow survive
To be eaten away by the cancer called
Absence of family
Dirth of friends I never let inside
If I opened the door would they enter?
My mind is a dangerous place
That I live in alone
Battling evil thoughts
That try to push me over the edge
& descend further into madness
as my body rots
On the wrong side of Thirty
Closer to One Hundred
Though I prefer the suffering to a quick end.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Upon kissing you again late last night
I noticed something I didn’t notice
or didn’t want to notice before
I am not quite sure when it began
But the lips that my lips brushed against/
pressed against/hungered for
were not the ones of the one I’ve kissed before
Those, while not all too unpleasant, are different, strange, foreign.
I looked into your eyes—
for what I cant be sure
probably for recognition
some glimmer of the woman …
The woman I knew.
The one I love
or at leased used to love
or think I love or that I thought had loved me
but all I saw was a stranger
someone that I didn’t know
when did it all change/rearrange
when did we become estranged/deranged
feelings abound & our love is silent
It has died w/o a sound & I mourn its passing
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
SANDRA RAMOS CASTAGNA
September 10, 1941 – February 17, 2001
A brief memoriam
ByDouglas Vance Castagna
Gina Gershon took the stage in her tight, body hugging dress and her lips tantalized the microphone with the opening lines to “Life Is A Cabaret.” I was sitting in the renovated Studio 54, with a few of my friends watching Cabaret. We had really good seats and the show was fantastic. During intermission, I tried to call my mother, who had gone into the hospital a few weeks earlier. There was no answer, so I figured she was either in the bathroom or getting some kind of test done. I decided to focus my attention on Gina, and her lips, and her body. She is an incredibly sexy and she was doing a surprisingly good job as Sally Bowles.
When the show was over I had gone outside first, to make a phone call. Today was the day that I would skip seeing my mother. As we always arranged in the past, there would be a prearranged day that I would take off from seeing her. This was the day, I had arranged an outing for my group to go see a play. The only musical choice that everyone agreed to was Cabaret. I was always a fan of the show and the music, and Gina Gershon, so it was an obvious choice. After the show we were going to go eat dinner and talk about the show. As the phone in my mother’s room kept ringing and ringing my phone beeped signifying I had voicemail.
There were two messages. One was from my mother’s doctor. He said to call him as soon as possible. I was immediately worried. And then I listened to the other message. From the nurses station, and the message was to call back ASAP. I did. As always, whenever my mother went in since the major time back in 86, I had made sure I had all of her doctors and the number for the nurse’s station. I called back. They told me that she had arrested, and they revived her, but her condition was critical and highly unstable. They wanted to know what her wishes were should it happen again. She had not signed a DNR order here, but did have a living will on record that short of having to be put on life support, she wanted every life sustaining effort available to her. I told them to keep her alive.
My friends came out as I was hailing a cab. I told them what had happened and that had to get to the hospital fast. They offered to drive, but I needed to be alone, though it would probably have been better if I let one of them who had driven, take me. As I sat in the back of the cab thought to myself that I was glad I hadn’t taken my car into the city. Though parking usually almost impossible, I prefer driving. This time something told me not to, and I didn’t. If I had to drive back to Brooklyn after hearing that bad news I may have driven recklessly.
In the cab I spoke to the doctor. He had told me that they did a slight procedure that morning. I had spoken to her at around nine in the morning and she said that she was still experiencing very bad gas pains, but other than that she was all right. Somehow, they convinced her to do a small procedure. It appeared she had a slight perforation in her colon, and that was causing the painful gas. Once it was stitched she would be fine, or so they told her, or so they thought.
The doctor told me that the surgery was successful, but shortly after she went into cardiac arrest. Her heart gave out, and they were able to revive her twice. He recommended that I get there as soon as I could. I knew that meant that they had expected her to die. Back in 1987 when she was released after almost a year in the hospital, that she was only expected to live out the year at most. With Dr. Schneider’s almost parent like concern, and my mother’s stubbornness and will power, she outlived their grim prediction by over thirteen years.
Over the past few years her health had been rapidly declining once again. When we moved out of Boro Park in 1994, it was subtle at first. Her breathing started getting worse, and her diabetes had returned, though she was not yet on insulin. Around 1999, everything started to go again, almost at once, including being hospitalized again for going into respiratory arrest. I blame part of her deteriorating health on the fact that we no longer had Dr. Schneider. In the late 90’s, before her rapid atrophying health, he was killed in a car accident. His wife, took over for a while, but no longer wanted to accept patients like her, because she wasn’t paid enough through Medicaid. So my mother had to hunt for a doctor to accept her. I am sure all of this added stress contributed to her ill health.
When I got to the hospital I had to give my name, and the guard looked at a paper, and said the doctor called down and I was to wait until they called for me. I thought that was odd, but I didn’t know what else to do, so I sat down. Another guard came out. He was fat, bald and very familiar.
“Excuse me, is your name Pete?”
He looked at me through the piggish slits of his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, who wants to know?”
“You used to work at FDR High School right?”
“Yeah I retired. I do this now. You teach there or sumtin?”
“I went there. Graduated in 88.”
He belched, and I knew now that it was him. He always used to fart or belch and if anyone was around he would say things like “yeah! That was a good one!”
“Long time ago.”
The other guard picked up his things. “Nite Pete.”
“Yeah yeah, just hope I can get some sleep here tonight.”
The other guard walked past me. As I watched him go out the automatic doors, I heard the phone ring. Pete slammed a beefy hand down and grabbed the receiver.
He looked over at me, “you Castagna?”
I stood up. “Yeah.”
“They said go upstairs.” He slammed down the phone and opened up a newspaper. I waked toward the elevators. My heart was slamming in my chest. I knew my mother was dead. I felt it in my bones, and just knew something was wrong. I had the feeling in the back of the cab on the way over but it passed. Now I felt it again. When I got upstairs the nurse in charge stopped me from going into my mother’s room.
“Are you Douglas?”
“Today your mother suffered a myocardium infarction. We were able to revive her, but she arrested again.”
“And, what happened?”
“As you know Dr. Kumar performed a small procedure—“
“To stitch up the perforation in her colon, I know.”
“That procedure was successful, but—“
“I know what happened after the surgery, what is her condition now. That’s all I want to know.”
“Your mother suffered a second infarction from which she couldn’t e revived. I’m sorry.”
For a few seconds, I stood there, unable to speak. Unable to move.
The nurse put her hand on my shoulder, “do you want to see her?”
Why, I wanted to say. She’s dead. Nothing to see here, move on, keep it moving. But I couldn’t move. “Sure,” I said. “Give me a minute.”
I slowly made it into the room; she was lying on a bed, all of the machines, stood dormant, their arms dangling uselessly at their sides. My mother lie on the bed, motionless, her arm and head exposed, the rest of her body covered by a sheet, and a thermal looking blanket of some kind. I edged closer. Her eyes were open, staring lifelessly at the ceiling of her room, the ceiling staring back, as blankly as she, mocking her. Her mouth was opened as if she were gasping for air, and as I stood there staring at her I felt as though I had failed her. I had let her die alone.
While we can never be there 100 percent of the time, we always tend to blame ourselves for something that happens while we are not there. She had been in the hospital this time for two weeks. As usual, took a day off from seeing her, as I did this time. However what seems to have made it worse today was that I was at a Broadway show, actually enjoying myself while she was fighting for her life, and lost, without me there by her side. I may never come to terms with that, but rationally I know that it was an impossibility to think that I could have been there every waking moment. Life happens when you least expect it; even death.
I saw actors close the eyes of the dead many times on TV and in movies but I didn’t know what to do here. I put my hand on her shoulder and kissed her forehead goodbye, and pulled the sheet over her head.
When I got home, I threw her bag of belongings on the carpet in the living room and proceeded to make calls. I had gone into her bedroom, and rifled through her drawer to look for some numbers including Sonny’s. Sonny was a friend who was known in the old neighborhood, and he would be able to either front me the money for the funeral or at least get them to allow me to pay on time. I found his number and called him and he told me he would take care of it. I should call him back tomorrow and he’d have a place for me to go. Then I called some of her friends, including Karen.
It was really hard to talk to anyone, my throat grew tight, and it felt after a short while that I couldn’t breath, but I continued to make the calls. No one could believe she was dead. She survived that long hospital stay, she survived cancer, she outlived every diagnosis they gave her, and she died relatively quickly, though, in reality she was dying for sometime. After I made the calls and called my friends, I sat there, on her bed, and took everything in. I was alone now. There was no family at all. Just me, alone in an empty apartment. This also meant that I would have to handle everything because there was no one else. There was no one to lean on, no one to do what needed to be done. I had to do it all.
The next morning I called Sonny, he said to go to Brizzi and Sons. My friends were already going to come over to help me around the house, clean up, and cook, or whatever else I needed. Maurice was shredding old bills, Cherise was cleaning up, and Janet was cooking vodka and penne sauce. Patricia came with me to the funeral home to make arrangements.
I had gone to the Funeral Home earlier, but the woman I had spoken to hadn’t shown up. I was pissed off, but there was nothing I could do, so I went back home to meet my friends. When they got there Patricia and I drove back to the Funeral Home.
When we got there the place was opened. We took a seat in the front office and we spoke about what I wanted, what my mother would have wanted and what was or was not affordable. Sonny told the director that I was good for whatever the price was, and I had gotten about 20 percent off of what it would have cost. My mother had an insurance policy but it was only good for one thousand dollars, with the discount my mothers, came to near four thousand. Since my mother was Jewish I did feel we needed a Rabbi to come and speak at her ceremony. Donna Brizzi arranged that as well.
She was the last Brizzi, and had taken over the business that had been in the neighborhood for many generations. She was loud and very uncouth the day I came in to see her. She had on sweats, and her hair was unkempt and she was overweight. This fact was only brought to my attention when I noticed a picture of her on the desk. In it she looked hot, she was attractive, think and well dressed. She made a comment when she saw Patricia and I looking at the picture.
“Oh that was like fifty pounds ago, I put on some weight after I got married, and more after I got pregnant, hey you know what they say, I got the man, so I don’t have to watch my can.” She laughed at her wit. Patricia thought she looked familiar and spoke to her about it, and as it turns out, they both went to the same High School in Staten Island, and we in the same graduating class.
I told her I wanted a rabbi to speak at the wake and she got right on the phone, and for some strange reason, she spoke as though she were Jewish.
“Hey, Mordechi, I got something for you.”
She proceeded to give the unseen Mordechi the details and soon hung up and informed me why I had to embalm, and why I needed a casket as opposed to a pine box. They all seemed logical and even if her end goal was to get me to spend more money, I really didn’t have a choice in the matter. They had already sent someone to pick up the body. The body. I guess that was all that she was now. A lifeless body.
I went with her suggestions, even to have some makeup done though it would have been closed casket. I didn’t really know for sure what my mother wanted, though I assume she wanted to be buried as close to the Jewish faith as I possibly could. I thought about cremation, and how it was against the tenants of Judaism, but she had her own mother cremated, so I thought that would be all right. I did order some flowers, though there are not supposed to be any, and I had to have a casket because she would not fit into the largest plain pine box. Add to that the fact that he had to be preserved because the earliest day I could get for her viewing was Tuesday. She passed on Saturday during the early evening hours, and would have to sit around 72 hours. I really didn’t know what else to do, and since my mother was far from a traditionalist, I figured she wouldn’t mind the few infractions.
When we got back to the apartment the food was ready and it was good. We ate and talked and some things were said about my mother, and how she was, and how she will be missed. After we ate we watched a lousy movie, Coyote Ugly, which I put into turn around on Ebay the next morning and made my money back.
It was odd having them there in my apartment. The chair that stood between the couch and window, that my mother usually occupied was now empty, and there were no sounds of her laugher, or abrasive comments. They were there to help me forget the loss, or forget the pain, for a short while at least, but their presence, while it was wanted, and needed, only made things worse when they left.
They couldn’t make it to the funeral, they all had plans for travel, except Patrica, who came to pick me up. I dressed in my suit, that my mother had bought me only the year before, as though she were planning for something like this to happen. We drove, there, in relative silence and I went in to see my mother one last time before they closed the casket.
They had done her up nicely, and she looked as she did in life, there even seemed to be some of the color she had lost in her face, and she had on one of her favorite housedresses, that I picked out, a sapphire Star of David, I had gotten for her years ago. I said goodbye, and they closed the casket, and rearranged the floral spray on top of the casket. I placed a picture of her on the side of the flowers and got ready for people to arrive.
I met the rabbi before the service. He was a skinny, disheveled and young looking man. He urged me to become more religious. I told him I didn’t feel ready to make decisions like that. He ripped my undershirt for me and we went back inside where he delivered an excellent service. He sounded as though he knew her well, though he had never even met her. After he spoke the floor was opened for some people to say a few words, when that was done, I got up to read something that my mother liked and believed in. I read Robert Fulgham’s “All I Really Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.”
It went over well. I said my goodbyes to the people who had come, some left and some stayed a while longer. When it was over, I spoke to the person in the front room and left. Maurice and Janet didn’t come because they had travel plans for that Monday. It was President’s week and we were all off from work for the entire week. I joked that even in death my mother stuck it to me, because I wouldn’t get any days off for her passing. She died on the Saturday before the long holiday week. By the time the holiday was over she would have been dead 9 days. Though none of this went through my mind at the time, I thought about this afterwards, when I was alone.
After the wake, only Patricia, Leona, and Landivar remained. We all went to go get something to eat, and we had a big meal, and talked about work, and everything else other than the reason we were all together. They paid for my food, and for something for me to take home because I was now by myself, and I guess I was so wrought with grief I wouldn’t be able to fend for myself. I didn’t wear my animosity on my sleeve though, they were being nice and thoughtful and I thanked them, and when I was dropped off at my house, I waved goodbye to them, as I stood on the top stair of my “stoop” and realized that this was it, I was now totally alone.
I lived on my own for over a year, and it was actually good. I didn’t have to be there for someone, or to do something for someone. Everything I had to do now was for me, and me alone. And it was around this time, that I had decided to date again. I wasn’t looking for anything serious, though I was opened to the idea if an opportunity came along. It was around that time, a year after my mothers passing, a year and three months that I met the woman who would be my wife.
Now usually you ask a person their birthday in some of the first few conversations, with us we didn’t ask until she was spending the weekend with me. When I asked her what her birthday was she wondered why I was silent for a moment. Her birthday is on February 17th. The day my mother died. Now I know it’s a coincidence but it still is a little eerie, mainly because she is a hard woman to know, much like my mother. When me and my friends speak about it, they say that was my mother’s way of keeping me in line from the grave and also letting me know I am not going to ever get away with anything.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
To Shave or Not To Shave
No sorry nothing perverted here, I was just wondering if I should shave my goatee. I grew it about ten years ago, so many people that know me, including my wife only know me with the goatee. I wonder if it would be too much a shock to the system to go baby bottom on them, and the only one who will probably read this is Maurice, because like me he seems to have too much time on his hands. :oP
I grew my facial hair ten years ago for two reasons. The first reason was that when I would date, I looked too young. I was mid twenties and looked about twenty with my big round baby face. I never had grown a moustache, let alone a beard and didn’t even consider it until one holiday break I decided I was too lazy to shave and let my whole face grow like the wolf man, and when I had to comb my face; decided maybe I should shave and I did. I shaved around my chin and nose and crafted a goatee.
Some who knew me say it looks better than baby bottom C, but I was wondering since now I look older than my mid-thirties should I shave it all off and start again?
I am open to suggestion.
Monday, April 17, 2006
13 On A Match
I do miss those smaller, more intimate gatherings, though since I moved away, I do not get to see the whole crew, and would not be able too save for these gatherings. While fun was had by all, and the bill was not as expensive as some, there has got to be a better way to do these things, soon we will have to rent a room, or hall to accommodate everyone. Hey, my birthday isn’t for a few months how about you all work on that. Dancing girls wouldn’t hurt either.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Whatever happened to Infinie Fortune?
My girlfriend was a petite young black female, and when we went to his line his eyes lit when he saw her and tried to rap to her, and then saw me. He greeted me by calling me chestnuts and asked if Anna was my wifey.
After that night he wanted updates about me and wifey, I guess he wanted dibs if we broke up, I don’t know. Now I am no longer with said wifey and no longer in that same school. The store is now a Best Buy and over ten years have passed. I haven’t thought about him before, but I wonder, whatever happened to Infinie Fortune?