Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Word for Today


I missed my train by just a few seconds today.

I had come out of the gym and I was extremely tired. All I could think about was getting home and relaxing.

I heard the train from upstairs and I was praying it was heading in the opposite direction.

Then I saw people climbing up the subway steps at Ninth Street on my side of the tracks. I heard the "ding-dong" warning bell signaling that the train doors were about to close.

And I got downstairs just as my train--I call it "my" even though I missed it--pulled out of the station and left me behind.

This is torture for a hyperactive New Yorker like myself.

Subway service is so terribly slow on the weekends that missing the R train on a Sunday afternoon is tantamount to entering the Witness Protection Program. No one's going to hear from you for a while.

And what made it worse was the fact that I had just missed the damn bus up on Fifth Avenue.

I usually take the bus back from the gym so I can spend time outside. It's slower than the train, but it's nice to get away from the tunnels every so often. Today, however, was not my lucky transit day.

Now you do have those days when the transportation gods smile down upon you so that you connect with every train or bus or combination of the two.

But naturally I didn't look at both sides of the situation. Instead, I groused and griped as I sat down on the wooden bench.

A fat-faced woman waddled up the platform attempting to sing along with her headphones and, being in such a crabby mood, I found myself hoping some small bit of concrete would dislodge from the ceiling and hit her on the head.

Nothing serious, mind you; just a good enough whack to remind her that there are other people in this world, some of whom actually may not care for her singing.

I know, shame on me.

It turned out that this lady was having a bad day, too, at least from what I could pick up from her conversation she was having on the pay phone halfway up the platform.

"I got off the fucking train, yo," she said to someone who was apparently hard of hearing. "I'm pretty pissed off. If I known I was on the right train, I wouldn't have gotten off."

Even I had to sympathize with her. Missing the train is one thing, but getting off at the wrong station truly sucks. You keep replaying those few seconds when you stepped through the doors and ask yourself, why, why?

I sat there trying to read the Times Book Review while the N, D, and R to Manhattan roared in or through the station. That noise can really emphasize the feeling that you're going nowhere.

Finally, the Bay Ridge bound local arrived. I got up and happened to look to my right, where a young mother was holding her little girl and snapping a picture with cell phone camera.

It was a very lovely scene, even in a subway station, and it did a lot to cheer me up. It also reminded me that today is Mother's Day.

Oh, yeah. This day used to have so much meaning for me, but now that my mother's been gone for nearly six years now, I feel like an atheist on Christmas.

Wish You Were Here

All the newspaper ads and TV commercials don't apply to me anymore.

The day sparks all this commerce--flowers, cards, candy, and every item is described by the words "makes a great Mother's Day gift"--tires, jackhammers, or jet engine parts, whatever it is, your mom will love it. Now swipe your credit card in the little slot.

I got an email the other day slugged "Last minute flowers for Mom," but the only flowers we'll get for my mother is the ones for her grave.

My sister went to the cemetery today and I kind of wish I had gone with her. I still think its an empty ritual and I often become more depressed when I go out there. To be brutally honest, I didn't feel like going out there today.

The cemetery is a very popular location on Mother's Day. The cars crawl through the place and there are so many people placing flowers on graves. It reminds you that you're in a constantly growing group.

It's odd: I miss my mother more and more and memories of her can still bring my to tears, but I'm not feeling this way today. Maybe I've built up a resistance to the whole notion of Mother's Day.

I was thinking about how we'd visit my mother in the hospital when things got really bad. Her lungs were failing to a point where the nurses had to use this suction machine to clear her lungs out.

It was a painful, ugly procedure, but it was critical to my mother's health. I used to leave the room while the nurse did the suction, but towards the end, I would stay and hold my mother's hand while she winced and squeezed my fingers.

It was awful, but I finally realized that it was much worse for my mother than it was for me.

When I hear people talking about their parents make them so angry, I want to tell them to stop and think. Some day your parents will be gone and it will be too late for "I'm sorry," or "I didn't mean it," or any of that other crap.

This morning I called the mothers in my life--my aunt and two sisters-in-law. But I fell down on the greeting card front. I'm usually pretty good with this, but this year I've got nothing but excuses.

Maybe I shouldn't ignore Mother's Day. Instead of pretending it doesn't exist, maybe I should wish all the best to all the mothers in the world.

We do something at my Sunday boxing class that the instructor calls the word of the day.

After working our tails off, the teacher calls us all into the middle of the room, we all raise our fists into the air, and shout some positive word, like "dedication," or "confidence."

It's kind of corny, I suppose, but it's a sincere attempt to keep the positive energy going as we leave the gym. And since I was an English major, I like to feed my ego by coming up with the word as often as possible.

But I was stuck today. I couldn't come up with a decent word.

"What's today word?" the teacher asked.

"Mom," one of my classmates said.

I flinched for a second, but I looked around and realized that I was one of the oldest people in the class, maybe even the oldest. I'm sure most of the people around me still had their mothers with them.

So on the count of three, we all shouted "Mom!" at the top of our lungs.

I have to say it felt pretty good.

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