Thursday, April 26, 2012

Giving a Gander

The Park School of Baltimore

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
– Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

He starts his day like any other. Getting up, a bit a grooming then off to work.  But this is no ordinary worker. He is a goose on the pond of my daughter's school.

He is not exactly Father Goose; he has to be male since I see no unfertilized eggs lying around. Not exactly Father Gander either;  I see no Snow-Canadian goose hybrids.

But if you  give him a gander from time to time, you will see that he is a snow goose and he cannot fly.

 No one knows what happened to him but his disability doesn’t impede his stamina nor his “joie de vivre.”  His goose isn't cooked.  He has taken up residence at the school and he has many jobs. Just don’t let him into the front door.  House training is not among his better skills.

He is a surrogate parent to the many migratory Canadian geese  and mallards that mate and make that pond their nursery.  He readily joins in watching the young and guards against any predatory fox or raccoon that may enter the area. As of today, there are six goslings already this year. Gender doesn't seem to matter in regards to his parenting skills. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.  In seasons when there are no young, he happily joins any migratory group, grazing, honking and swimming merrily in the small pond.  We have even seen him cross two streets to get to another pond to meet up with more migratory friends.

When the children are out enjoying a well deserved recess or perhaps canoeing on the pond as an after school activity, he is their unpaid chaperone. He is the alarm if anyone falls into the water.  Don’t cross him!  His very loud honking echoes around that pond and surrounding courtyard louder than a Concorde.

He is a symbol of the power of sociability, determination and generally making the best of the situation.  He has made lemonade of his lemons. What a wonderful lesson.

Maybe someday you will fly again. Hope springs eternal.  In the meantime, I will gladly save some stale bread for you.

You are an inspiration. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Sense of Adventure

"The test of an adventure is that when you're in the middle of it, you say to yourself, 'Oh, now I've got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home.' And the sign that something's wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure."                      -Thorton Wilder                                                                             

I am on an adventure.

By the time anyone reads this I will be well on my way somewhere on Interstate 95.  It’s a road I could probably drive in my sleep.  Undoubtedly, over the past few months, I think I have. It’s bad when you know the rest stops in New Jersey by their famous names and the particular features that mark them from the “rest”.  I know the one that has feral cats, the one that has an abundance of women’s bathrooms (important when you urgently need to “rest” and a tour bus  just docked) and the one that has free cups for free water.

But rest stops aside, I am on an adventure.

Through genealogical work,  my sister and I found that my great grandmother did not come to the United States alone.  Various genealogical search websites matched her name and her parents' names with a sister who came from the same small County Monaghan town. Both immigrated in 1890 from Ireland to New York City and lived within blocks of one another in the Bronx. 

Maybe they were on an adventure too.

Several weeks ago I was contacted out of the blue by the sister's grandson. He invited me to attend a wedding celebration this weekend in New York.  I have never met this distant cousin.  I know of his relationship through many letters, pictures and pedigree charts that we have exchanged through email in the past year. He and his wife will be driving to New York too.

Maybe they both need an adventure.

True to my more pragmatic self, I will combine the trip with some practical matters that I have to attend to in the New York,/New Jersey area. I have to justify the nearly $125 of gas I will be burning. Wallpaper needs to be taken down, meetings with a drywall contractors have been set up, and an elderly Aunt needs to be checked on.  But I could have done those things any weekend.

This weekend I am on an adventure.

I have no idea what to expect in New York.  My mother’s family was quite distant and no one alive today has ever met this side of the family despite living so closely to them in some Bronx tenement.  Who knows what stories transpired that led to the estrangement.  It’s hard to keep track of who talked to whom so long ago.

But who cares? I am on an adventure.

My bags are packed. Gas tank full. Kids' schedules taken care of.  Cupboards well stocked. Animals well cared for.  IPhone charged. EZ Pass affixed to the windshield. Coffee in one cup holder and water in another.

It beats sitting quietly at home on any given Sunday.

And I am not anticipating such an awful mess….

But who knows?

 I am on an adventure.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Death, Taxes and Christ has risen...again

"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."
                  -Benjamin Franklin

The recent history of one and the urgent future of another can certainly pack a wallop. Progressive blows.  Sorry Dorothy Parker, neither are “mental stimulants in rhyme” despite the title of your poetry book.  No one dies in the United States without a pile of paper work and being an executrix/executor is neither a privilege nor fun.

I am trying to file my deceased Dad’s 2011 taxes.

In the volumes of paperwork that I have gone through, enough to fill a Toyota Sienna Minivan, I made sure I was not throwing out anything important. I combed through stacks of sales receipts, brochures, house plans for a house that was built by a relative in 1931, my grandfather’s 1927 driver’s license, deeds to houses sold in 1949, 1968-2009 tax returns, and court filed name changes (there seems to be many of those in my family). I carefully shredded  anything that an identity thief might want to impersonate an 84 year old short Polish man who yelled “Jesus Christ!” at everything.  I abstained on the many items of true sentimentality.  

My oversight:  The folder clearly marked 2010 taxes, that I wanted to use as a guide, contained nothing but blank forms.

Thanks Dad. I am now saying my own “Jesus Christ!” 

Clearly "Jesus Christ!" has risen again this past Easter.

I guess I haven’t cleared Kubler-Ross’ "anger” part of grieving.  But I am not angry you are gone Dad. I am angry that you became in your last years such a horrible organizer, a procrastinator and a general pack-rat.

I should know. I unfortunately follow in your footsteps. Now if we can only find those three linked traits on some chromosomal loci. I hope for my childrens’ sake, it’s not autosomal dominant.

My father was not a man of great wealth.  His taxes should be straightforward with his modest income of his last years. But the IRS doesn’t like to hear of those stories.  I know that already by speaking with Agent # 109876 with one hand on the phone and the other plucking a violin.  And the forms!

So I thought to myself, I, the doctrix:  What have I learned from this? 

I can pass on the following lesson:  

 How to Avoid Being Named Executor/Executrix of an Estate:

·      Live a great distance from anyone who might name you in a will.  The  farther the better. Think Alaska is too far? Go to Siberia. Go native in Fuji.  California seems to work for some.

·      Don’t show up at funerals. Hey, they are dead, who’s to know? Except, of course, cousins that don't like you anyway. It will just reinforce their beliefs.  Hey, let them be an executor/executrix.
·      Avoid family celebrations like the plague. Let Christmas, New Year’s, Mother’s, Father’s Day etc. pass you by. Don’t call, text, Skype, email or buy cards.  The convenient “I forgot” excuse usually works but a better one is “I can’t afford a calendar since the IRS put a lien on my car, house and even the dog."
·      Act totally fiscally irresponsible.  See that Porsche in the window?  Think you’ll look good in it? Buy it. The relatives won’t trust you will a dime afterward. May I suggest matching $600 Manolo Blahniks too?

·      Get drunk and curse them out at holiday celebrations. This may back-fire.  Just a word of caution since many relatives might also curse and get drunk at celebrations endearing you to them as “my kind of people.”

·      Do not go into a health care field or legal field.  If you have to pick a major in college, pick linguistics.  Always bore the relatives with details of Pre-Nubian tribe dialects of the 1700’s. The relatives didn’t trust your judgement then and certainly won’t now.

·      Don’t marry someone in the legal or medical field. Good advice overall, trust me.

·      For us ladies, change your last name.  A good move to cover your tracks from estate lawyers and that certain person in high school who invited you to a prom two days before the event. But there’s always Intellius, Zabasearch, etc.  Damn Internet.

·      Have a gazillion children who can’t identify grandma,  grandpa or crazy Uncle Harry (especially in a line-up). 

·      Visit their houses with flatulent and incontinent pets. They’ll never want you to visit, let alone talk to you again. I recommend Labrador puppies, black ones especially, with chewing issues.

·      Be cagey about your address and phone number.  Maybe they won’t name you if they can’t find you.When asked about your many household moves, just mention “the special prosecutor suggested it.”  

·      Don’t friend them on Facebook.  If you have already made that mistake defriend them immediately citing some new Facebook rule regarding the Timeline and relatives. No one really reads the Facebook fine print or keeps up with Facebook's daily "Big Brother" updates. 

·      For several years in a row, bellyache that you have been audited by the IRS, again …..and again.  You can’t be fiscally responsible even if the IRS thinks you can’t even add.

·      Be a horrible student.  Show your parents/relatives that if you can’t hack third grade math how are you going to figure out taxes or probate court.

·      Agree with your parents/relatives that a particular sibling or cousin is a “genius. ‘ This takes years of planning but it would be worth it in the end. Mention that they went to MIT and you a lowly inner-city university that sounded like a state school. Talk about that particular sibling and his or her accomplishments like they are gods.  Photoshop baby pictures of that person reading Beowulf at  age three, doing calculus at four and winning a Pulitzer at age six.  Always bring it up in conversation regardless of topic.

Of course, none of this worked for me……Now how do I file an extension?