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  • Joe

Hi all! Hope you are all doing well. Or as well as we can be doing in 2020.


I'd love to share a little venture into fiction writing. A very short piece that was dancing around in my head and I'd love your feedback on what you think about it. It's called Therapy and maybe it spurs some thoughts in you. Thanks.


Therapy


"Good to see you, Betsy. How are things?"


"They're ok."


Tuesday at three o’clock was the usual time for Betsy's appointment. Sometimes she needed to switch but, for the most part, her husband Frank would work late on Tuesdays, so she still had time to get dinner prepared. Tonight, she was making fried chicken cutlets and corn. That would be pretty easy. She hoped Frank would like it.


The office was small. A basic beige color on the walls but limited natural light. There were times when it felt a bit claustrophobic, but she was over that now. She took her seat, ready for this week's session. 


"Just ok? What's going on?"


"I don't know, I still feel like I'm missing something. Things used to be so good."


"With Frank? Or with yourself?"


She always had a way of asking the right question.


"I don't know. Both I guess." Betsy looked down as she felt the first tear start to form. She spoke towards her lap and focused on the small coffee stain on her sweatpants. "God, I hope she didn't see that," she thought to herself.


"Well, let's talk about you first." Doctor Karlan awoke Betsy from her coffee-stained focus.

Betsy met Doctor Elizabeth Karlan a couple of years ago when she found out Frank was having an affair. That was an awful time. She thought about leaving him, but he convinced her that it didn't mean anything, so she stayed. At fifty-five, where would she have gone anyway?


"Have you looked at getting back to work like you said last time?" Doctor Karlan asked but already knew the answer.


"No."


"And why not?"


"I started to but, come on Elizabeth, I'm almost sixty."


"You're still young."


"No, I'm not. You're young! I'm not! What the hell am I going to do at my age? Drive a school bus?"


"You can do anything."


"No, I can't." She grabbed a couple of tissues that were always readily available.


"When I was younger," Betsy continued, "I never felt like this. If something wasn't going well at work, I fixed it. When the kids needed help, I took care of it. I was thin. I was hot. I could've cheated on Frank so many times. I could've done anything I wanted to. Sometimes I feel like I was so stupid."


"Stupid for not cheating on Frank?" Elizabeth interrupted the rant. 


Betsy should have known better. "No. I guess I was stupid for not appreciating what I had and letting it all go."


"But you realize you didn't have to let anything go. You can still work. Your kids still need you. And I know Frank made a mistake, but you have to realize that was his shortcoming and not yours. You did the right thing and you have your honor. You are the strong one."


"Thank you."


Betsy got up and walked over to the small window. "Do you mind if I open this up?"


"Not at all."


It was a beautiful spring day and the perfect placement of the sun at this time of year warmed her face. There was a slight breeze and she could hear a couple of robins were chirping loudly. She wondered if they were building a nest in the tree nearby. It felt good and she almost forgot she was on the clock.


"What would you do if you were me?" she asked as she turned and faced Elizabeth again. "I mean, just pretend you are me. You know me well enough by now. You know where I was. You know where I am. What would you do?" She sat down in front of her therapist.


“That’s hard to say.”


“Come on Elizabeth.  I’ve been meeting with you for years.  I tell you what I’m doing.  I tell you my problems.  And you listen.  And you give me some things to think about.  But you never tell me what you would do.  I really want to know.”


Elizabeth stared back at her client.  She knew what she would do if she was her.  But she wasn’t sure how to say it.  And she wasn’t sure if her client was ready to hear it.

Betsy’s eyes squinted ever so slightly.  She was ready.


“Ok.  If I was you, I would pick my ass up and stop asking for answers.  Stop complaining about where your life is.  Stop demeaning yourself.  Jesus Christ, Betsy.  You always tell me how hot you were and now you walk in here with a big coffee stain on your baggy sweatpants.”


She saw it.  Betsy didn’t think it was that big of a stain.  She opened her mouth to respond but quickly closed it back up.  She sensed Elizabeth wasn’t finished.


“I’m not finished.”  Betsy’s muscles tightened.


“You’re only fifty-eight years old.  You have so much more life to live.  You can have a whole other career.  You can have a whole other life.  You say you always knew what to do.  You always took care of things.  You can still do that.  For some reason, now you want to be taken care of.”


“Why shouldn’t I want someone to take care of me?”


“Like the way Frank takes care of you?”  She always had a way of saying the right thing.


“Betsy, you’re not going to like this.  But you know what you need to do.  You gotta leave that asshole.”   Betsy couldn’t believe what she was hearing.


“I can’t leave Frank.”


“Why not?  Betsy, you’re miserable.  This downward spiral began when he cheated on you.  And you didn’t even kick him out for a night.  And things went right back like nothing ever happened.  But something did happen.  And you are the only one suffering.  He’s kept his career while you quit yours so you can wait on him hand and foot. As if you, being a strong, successful woman, were the reason he had an affair.  Look, you even schedule our sessions on days when he works late so you have time to make sure there is a nice little dinner waiting for him.  What the fuck happened to you, Betsy?”


Betsy was sobbing uncontrollably.  But it felt good.  Like the tears streaming down her face were washing away years of pain and self-loathing only to be replaced with the confidence and self-worth that she once had.  Finally.


Her thoughts jumped back to her childhood.  Of the times sitting with her mother.  Hearing stories of the hardships that her grandparents overcame.  Dreaming of being the first girl in the family to graduate college.   Grasping the diploma as she graduated medical school.  Embracing her father, staring into his eyes, and hearing the only words she ever wanted to hear from her daddy……. “I’m proud of you Elizabeth.”


Betsy looked back up.  Elizabeth was looking right back at her. 


“Thanks, Elizabeth.  I needed that.” She tossed the damp tissue towards the trash can.  She chuckled as it bounced off the rim and landed on the white tile floor next to the toilet.  She was also a damn good basketball player back in the day.  Maybe she’ll play one on one with her grandkids someday?


She got up, picked up the tissue, and dropped it in the trash can.   As she closed the master bathroom window, she took note that the robins were still chirping.  She decided to go look for the nest.  Chicken cutlets would have to wait.


Before she flicked off the light, she gave one last look in the mirror, and genuinely smiled for the first time in years.


“You’re good Elizabeth!”

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I know, I know. It’s been a while since we took a break together. Nothing was resonating with me. Or maybe I was too tied up trying to perfect my Largemouth Bass fishing skills. No excuses. But it is good to be back.

I guess it took the end of summer to bring about something pretty impactful to get my fingers pounding away on my Mac. Or should I say the passing of a pretty (or should I say very) impactful woman?

Whether you agreed or not with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, you have to say she is leaving quite a legacy on our country. She championed equal rights and her voice demanded respect and attention, leading to many improvements for our country and its people.

But something else about the Notorious RBG is capturing my attention. Her incredibly close friendship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

How could this be? Conservatives and Liberals hate each other (or at least that is what we are led to believe lately). But the lessons learned by studying the relationship between Ginsburg and Scalia is something that I think we should all spend a little more time on.

They took opposing sides on most legal arguments, challenging each other to improve their positions as a result of their fierce criticisms. And I believe they both realized that. They were making each other better. Through vigorous debate. Whether they won or lost, they got better. Thanks to each other. Their disagreements were fierce but always professional.

But it was their work. They had a job to do and they both did it extremely well. Always with respect and admiration. So much so that they would also often tease each other about their working relationship. Ginsburg once said that while she disagreed with a Scalia thesis, she remarked that "he said it in an absolutely captivating way."

"What's not to like?" Scalia said of Ginsburg at a joint appearance. "Except for her views on the law." Or, “We agree on a whole lot of stuff, Ruth is really bad only on the knee-jerk stuff.” Sounds like good-natured ribbing that the best of friends and colleagues do. If you watch the videos of these interviews, you feel the love between two of the most important legal minds in our land.

Giving a memorable eulogy at Justice Scalia’s funeral, Justice Ginsburg said of her friend. “Once asked how we could be friends, given our disagreement on lots of things, Justice Scalia answered: I attack ideas. I don't attack people.”  Another lesson for us all.

But then there was the other stuff. They were both more than Supreme Court Justices, they were both human beings. And like all of us, they both liked many of the same things? They bonded over their love for good wine and meals with friends, travel, and stories about their grandchildren but their love for opera took their bond to other levels. So much so that an opera Scalia/Ginsburg was written just for them….about them.

Ginsburg highlighted the opera in the statement she released to honor Scalia after his passing: “Toward the end of the opera Scalia/Ginsburg, tenor Scalia and soprano Ginsburg sing a duet: "We are different, we are one," different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve. From our years together at the D.C. Circuit, we were best buddies. We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation.”

Yes, I think we could all benefit by studying Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia a little more. Two Supreme Court Justices on opposite sides never wavering from what they believed in, but who also respected each other, their country, and its people they were serving. Fiercest of adversaries and best of friends.

I like to believe Justice Scalia welcomed Justice Ginsburg last week with a good bottle of wine and tickets to a heavenly opera.

And in case you are all wondering about the title of this, well most of you know by now that music influences me greatly and marks many important points in my life. You may also know that if you shuffle to the right, to the right, to the right, to the right and then to the left, to the left, to the left, to the left, you wind up doing a very fun dance. A dance that you may have actually done at a wedding or other function.

It’s called the Cupid Shuffle.

Hmmmm……Cupid.

  • Joe

Time Machine - Something capable of transporting a person backward or forward in time.

About halfway to Lewes Beach, Delaware, a song jolts me out of my highway trance and transports me Adelphi University. The corner dorm room, room 250, in Earle Hall. Distant Early Warning by Rush. A song that used to be played once per week but has for some time now been buried under lawn care, and diapers, and spreadsheets. There’s a twenty-year-old lanky junior in that dorm room methodically putting on his uniform. It’s my turn to pitch that day and so this song, as it has since senior year of high school, must accompany the routine. The song has absolutely zero baseball meaning but pitchers are notoriously superstitious. It had played a significant role in winning a key High School playoff game and therefore would, from that day on, be counted on to improve the odds throughout college. The vision comes to me as vividly as if I am actually there. And along with the vision, I can almost feel that familiar sense of excitement and nervousness that was also part of the routine.

Since there was an inadequate breakfast before leaving for the two-hour drive, a slight detour to McDonald’s would be in order. Two of my boys were with me for the weekend. They were patient but undoubtedly hungry. Three large fries would tide all of us over for a while. One is placed in the cup holder next to me, one is handed to Michael who was in the passenger seat, and one passed into the back, where John was reaching out with a smile. It wasn’t always that way. I’m transported to the backyard of my long since departed New Jersey home. Standing in front of a little boy, strapped in a backyard swing, and using McDonald’s fries to coax a word, any word, that damn elusive first word which is a herculean achievement for those with autism. It was anything but a smile then. Anger, despair, frustration, screams, and tears. And then……it happened. The words! Those elusive first words! It is as vivid as if it just happened. As is the relief, joy, hope, smiles, and tears.

The beach was hot, and the tide was coming in. Michael and John, not ones to sit still for very long, decided to explore and see what they could find. I fell into another trance as my playlist blared from my phone which was expertly placed in the front pocket of the cooler. Their return, after I don’t really know how long, gave me the second trance-ending jolt of the day. Pockets full of pebbles, shells, and other pocket-sized things one would find on the beach, were dropped on the towel next to me. As I stare at the small pile of souvenirs, I am suddenly transported to the dining table in my apartment. Sitting with John as he carefully, and proudly creates another work of art to be displayed prominently in the place of his choosing. I can see vividly the sense of satisfaction he will have as he completes his masterpiece and places it by the TV next to the other trinkets I have accumulated over the years. I am quite confident that will be exactly the place where it will go.

We are surrounded by time machines. They are out there. Everywhere. Waiting for us to find them, to notice them, as we make our way through the day. Taking us on journeys backward and forward in time. Reliving past experiences, good and bad as well as preparing us for future experiences, good and bad. But not only do we find them, we also create them. And, sometimes, we give them to others.

About halfway home from Lewes Beach, Delaware a snore from the passenger seat jolts me out of my highway trance and transports me to a room, in a house, that I don’t recognize. There are two middle-aged men there. One is reading something on his phone and the other has decided to inspect a small vase that is sitting next to the TV. It is filled with pebbles, shells, and other pocket-sized things.


“Hey, John. Remember the day we went with Dad to the beach and you made him bring home all those rocks?”