• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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The Room Was Humming Harder

 I was all set to get back on the horse this morning, but I find myself doing laundry, grappling with IRS bill from 2008, writing checks, examining pinky toe, considering something violent. My head feels like an overripe melon. I’ve spilled my decaf twice in the same place. Even the dog doesn’t want to play with me. My jaw is a vice. Stepping on the scale would be suicidal. Does it matter that I did three deals this week. That the hopes and dreams of three writers have been wound like a fat gold watch swinging through the night skies. Why did I wear those shoes? Why did I cut my own hair? How can I sit by the side of the road and wait for an email that never comes? Can I find the thread, does it already exist like a silver hair, or  glistening spittle? Where was I when my father died? Did he hear me sing Winchester Cathedral? My baby left town.

61 Responses

  1. I’m as useless as a sock without a mate when my husband goes away, too.

    • I was in Philadelphia, sitting on the floor of my husband’s room in the ashram, figuring out what kind of car to buy, when my mother called me with the news of my father’s death. He died on a street, of a heart attack, on his daily walk to buy some cigarettes and a lottery ticket at the Circle K. My mother and sister were not home when the sheriff came to notify her. My mother was at that moment appearing before a judge to be sentenced on a shoplifting charge, for stealing a lipstick she could have bought thousands of times over with money she had lying around the house. She’d been palming stuff for over sixty years with never an arrest, but the one time she gets busted and has to go to court, my father took the opportunity to make his getaway, once and for all.

      • Fuckin’ nice. That’s Twain, that;s the good stuff. I feel so much better tonight having read that. God-bless your dad, yo!

      • I might have meant your mom, I don’t really know anymore: Which is better? The cause or the effect or all the great people and stories in between? Who knows, and who cares, just keep it coming.

      • i so hope I’ll see you in print someday.

  2. You are very Faulkner today, very The Sound and the Fury. I like it.

  3. If you are sitting on the side of the road, waiting for a positive email response for a query you sent out, then I know why you are there. I am sitting on the curb next to you, with all of these other people.

  4. Oh-bo-de-o-do. Glistening spittle. And just why did you cut your own hair? Have you done this before? Do you like the way it looks?

  5. Yesterday afternoon I had my allotted 90 minute baby-free time away from my 3-month old. I didn’t spend it doing anything glamorous, just things I used to do to kill time before she arrived. Picked up a dvd (Tamara Drewe) then some groceries.

    Walked slowly back up the hill, ahead of time – that always seems to happen. And as I did I passed a girl, late twenties, heading out, made up, into the chill evening. And knew that I was once that girl too, and understood something about myself.

    And weirdly at that moment, I understood something about what makes you a great writer Betsy. Maybe it’s always been obvious, but we love you because you understand yourself, and then you find a way of telling that in a way that is true. Which helps us understand ourselves a little better, like all great writers do.

    So thanks.

    • “Good writers are pleasing, very good writers make you feel and think, great writers make you change.” — Jonathan Safran Foer

  6. I had a migraine aura this morning — no pain, just the aura — and wondered, as i usually do, if my vision would ever clear, or if I’d be squinting at the world through dancing silver sparkles for the rest of my life, unable to focus on a screen or blank page.

    The thought was oddly peaceful . . . but ibuprofen, caffeine, and a short doze in a dark room eventually did the trick.

  7. Ugh. Overripe melon. Doesn’t sound fun.

  8. i’m in.

    i don’t know where i was when my father died, but i remember when i found out.

    i was just shy of four-years old and asleep with my mom in the middle bedroom at her mother’s house. the phone rang and mom answered it and started crying. I don’t remember any other details. I don’t know what she said to me or what happened the next day.

    years later i would have a dream that i was in that same bedroom. it was one of the three in my grandmothers house down the same hallway; it was the middle bedroom. i was awake and scared for my life because there was a psycho-killer of morgan-freeman-movie standards outside whispering to me that he was going to get one of my two younger sisters (from a different dad). they were each in separate bedrooms at opposite ends of the hall. this rapist-murderer kept whispering through the window, “…which ever one you try to save, i’m getting the other.”

    Psycho Killer, Qu’est-ce que c’est

    • Woman-in-jeopardy meets Sophie’s Choice. End of act I, as a teenager, the protagonist chooses sister A over sister B, and sister A hates her for it, spends years punishing her. End of act II, the psycho returns and makes her choose between herself and sister A. I bet you could sell that. Sounds like a combination of Jodi Picoult and that new thriller about the abducted woman who is raped every day for a year. Cheery stuff.

      • working titles:
        kiss your sister goodbye
        sister act two (no wait, that one’s taken)
        my sister’s keeper (shit, can’t use that one either)
        insensitive sisters
        the blood that runs between us
        my mother’s daughters (in this one, the psycho-killer turns out to be the mom. the producers of the Scream franchise will buy it and i’ll give you 10%. deal?)

    • Halls of the Unhallowed
      Harrowed Hall

  9. I was remembering my father today, too. I remembered him by checking his wife’s Facebook page to see what he looks like this year. He still has the beard. It’s whiter. I’ve only seen him twice in 46 years, but he pretty much looks like what I want him to look like. This year he’s built a new white porch on their red-brick house. They have a porch swing on the far left; front door on the right. His lawn looks square and green and tidy. A teal and white statue of the Virgin Mary next to the sidewalk. A bird bath with no water. Thanks, Carol, for the pictures.

    • You don’t need anyone in your life with a square green tidy lawn. Let me know when the kids and I should pick you up. We’ll be the ones with a basketful of overripe dandelions. You’ll know my kids by their puckered lips as they anxiously wait for the go ahead.

  10. Should this post & the resultant comments make it to KC, I’m envisioning the creative department of of a certain greetings card company taking to the window ledges! I’m glad I wasn’t the only one ruminating on a ‘holiday’ that taunts anyone with the scars of surviving less-than-ideal parenting. (Note, that I get to carry the extra guilt of having an ex-spouse who hasn’t spoken to his son in over a year.)

    Perhaps it’s just the 100 degree-plus heat index cooking down my thoughts to an emotional reduction, perhaps it’s the approach of the summer solstice. Whatever the cause, I’m hoping for a pleasant change. soon.

  11. i was sleeping when my father died. telephone call at 6 a.m. a rush to the uni to cancel an exam; a mosquito-buzz airplane ride over the rockies. a drive and then, my mother, blank-faced like a totem, waiting, whispering a secret into my ear.

  12. Betsy,

    I hear you and I feel you. That’s about all I can say. I’m glad I get to read you as well.

  13. The only one of those questions I can answer is hell yes, those deals matter. You probably knew that but just in case.

    Sorry you’re having a rough time.

  14. My sweet father is alive. But I did get a call three weeks ago that he’d had a heart attack. Thankfully, thankfully, it wasn’t his time to go, yet.

  15. We call my father Lurch. But not to his face.

    My baby rarely leaves. It’s always me doing the airport shuffle. A week from tonight, I’ll be in NY for the RWA conference: An entire week of turning my introverted reclusive self into a grinning, head-bobbing wannabe extrovert. Oye.

  16. I’m getting tired of repeating myself. You are sitting on the side of the golden road handing out snacks because you think your first book is a failure, when in fact, it is your golden ticket, the gate has been opened for you. Apparently, you don’t see it yet. I forgive you. I know you’re almost famous and all that gooey-goop, having, of course, had a conversation with all the famous writers you have looked in the eye, but all in all those folks don’t mean a damn thing to Betsy Lerner, the author. And you know it. I’m going back to my truly ingenious plot and roll my fingers for the next Lerner book, when I’m bored. If you become one of those people on the freeway exits I’ll be sure to do you the favor and lose control of my cheap-ass ill maintained car. Love Ya!

  17. I feel like a cake of shite too today. Ah the thread the glistening thread!

  18. Are we talking kids here or partners? If it’s the former, my heart goes out to you but realize she’ll always be your baby, no matter the distance. If it’s the latter, stretch those arms wide and enjoy the extra room in the bed.

  19. I’m sorry, folks. I have totally fucked up. That’s what I get for going to school. Betsy Lerner sells fame. Betsy Lerner is a parasite. I hope Patti Smith stabs her in the heart with a pitch fork. And then, Patsy Smith turns that pitch fork on herself. What a fucking joke. The whole Lot of them. God-damnit! I hate myself for being nice. These poor women with their poor sob stories sound like a bunch of criminals trying to get off. Did I argue back about emotional pornography? Fuck this place. I’m outta here. None of you are writers, you just want to connect with someone who will talk with you about the latest soap-opera, which apparently these days they are calling books. No need to reply to this, you dirty minded money grubbing worms, because I will only tell you to go fuck yourself and I will mean it whole heartedly, which is something I doubt you would be willing to attempt. Good-bye Betsy. Your sob-story is boring me to tears. You phony old bitch. Fuck you.

    • I don’t know about your baby, Betsy, but I know someone who I wish would leave town.

    • For crying out Jeff get back on your meds. Or was that ‘bad jeff’ who came forward after ‘insecure jeff’ vacated? Do you even know there’s more than one of you in there?

    • I’m guessing the school you reference was not charm school.

    • You are wasting your energy here, Jeffy. Please take all the time you spend being hateful here and channel it into your Great Masterpiece. Really. Go ahead. I insist.

    • Dude, I’m always up for a dare. I tried, but my lack of a penis hindered the effort. And honestly? Even if I did have a penis AND a vagina, I’m not very bendy. But I did want you to know I was willing to try.

    • Oh Jeff, will you please just go away? I said it nicely. No swear words, just a polite request on behalf of many of this blog’s readers.

    • Jeff, you don’t have to hate yourself for being nice. I don’t believe that has happened yet. But you could always get a little down on yourself for being lost and clueless, if you think that might help.

  20. All the dead fathers are on a Greek Island, thinking of us!
    Betsy, dear, it is summer.

  21. CD/DVD called Playing For Change, either the first one from a couple of years ago or the 2nd that recently came out. Street musicians (and some famous ones) playing familiar songs (Bob Marley, Rolling Stones, John Lennon…) with a passion and clarity that will set your soul on fire. Proceeds go towards building art & music schools in impoverished countries.

  22. I was at my father’s bedside when I found out that people don’t die with their eyes closed, looking peaceful like in movies. They die in sweat-soaked beds, staring at the ceiling with frantic, hollow eyes and their mouths frozen open like they’re still gasping for their last breath.

  23. Congratulations on the deals! Give yourself a day off.

  24. When my father died I was between vehicles and had to take a car service from Hoboken NJ to Easton Pennsylvania. It cost $125, which was about all I had in the bank, and though I offered to write the driver a post-dated check for the tip, he told me to forget about it. I still can’t believe I didn’t send him one care of the car company, but I was self-centered in those days and kind of an asshole. He let me smoke in the back seat all the way, too. I have very few regrets in life but most of them are centered around my dad.

  25. My father is quite alive, and, at age 73, starting a new career. But the father of my two oldest kids is dead, and every Father’s Day I see them struggle with complex blended family conundrums: Should they acknowledge the man I was married to when they were kids (a Peter Pan type stoner I divorced several years ago); or should they send a text to my current husband, as his kids do to me on Mother’s Day (even though they were all college-aged when we married)?

    Mostly, they get the hell out of town. Like now, they’re both in Vegas of all places. My son is eating his weight in crab at some Bellagio buffet, and my daughter is learning how to play Pai Gow. Given that their biological dad (who died at 25) was quite the gambler, this is probably the best way to spend the day.

    • So, okay, I’m counting you’re on husband number three at least? What the hey, their conundrum would appear understandable. And earned, but not by them, but banked by you. Frankly, if I were to have travelled their family circle, I’d get the heck out of dodge too.

      • Would their conundrum appear understandable? I always wonder how people know this stuff unless their dead-center in it.

        Speaking as a Wife #4 who has gladly and often times difficultly raised the children of Wife #2 (with her thanks, by the way) and the only person who would speak to Wife #3 when she was hospitalized as suicidal (even her own mother had washed her hands of her), I say there’s pretty much no fucking way we understand “their conundrum” unless we’re on the inside of what’s always a giant mess. A mess that outsiders tend to get their jollies poking fun.

      • Of course I mean “they’re” dead center…. but the sentiment remains the same.

      • Sign your name.

      • I am on husband number three. I’ve been single, married, widowed and divorced. I think that covers all of the IRS boxes, but certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. Perhaps you, Anonymous, can infer the whole story from the metrics? Ah, to be able to draw conclusions so quickly and easily. Must make life so much easier.

      • It can only be hoped that wife #5 will be as generous.

      • She only needs to be more generous than ‘anonymous’ so it won’t take much.

      • Teri: Apparently you are clueless in Gaza. However, you are a good writer.

  26. My father bolted when I was nine and never showed his face again. But I was the lucky one. When I married, my husband’s father was a dear who never bothered with the -in-law part of our relationship. He stepped in (and up) to be the dad I hadn’t had. I heard my daughter describe her grandfather once as “delicious.” He was, one in a million. He’s the one I miss on Father’s Day.

  27. Transendental is the word. I don’t believe in all this stuff about grief because I think we grieve forever, but that goes for love too, fortunately for all us.

    M.F. K. Fisher
    ‘91 letter to Lawrence Clark Powell
    pg. 497
    A Life In Letters

  28. and transposed….above quote should end, “fortunately for us all.”

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