Happy Birthday Mom!



Today is my mother’s 81st birthday. Wow!

My Mom’s incredible— she’s completely healthy, until recently walked a mile a day on the treadmill, and traveled the world by herself. She takes no drugs—nada. She’s petite and in fantastic shape with the exception of one worn knee. She’s more than active—my mother’s hyperactive, and it hurts like dickens for her to simply walk anymore. So, tomorrow, my mom goes in for knee replacement surgery. Mom’s never had surgery, and she’s petrified.

Therefore, today is all about distraction. I took the day off. We’re having mani/pedis  first. Then we’re doing the face and massage stuff. Next is a champagne lunch (all approved by the surgeon), and then tonight her grandsons come over for a surf and turf dinner.

After dinner, we’re watching old James Bond movies until we’re literally falling asleep on ourselves. ‘Course I’m nervous too. I lost my dad 24 years ago and I definitely want my mom around for a long as she’s happy to be alive.

If all goes well, we’re going to go to Iceland together next year. Another mother-daughter trip reminiscent of our first in 2008, which was a 28-day road trip through Monaco, France, Spain, and London. Making memories to treasure.

Happy Birthday Mom!




Happy Birthday Dad!

mourning symbolIt’s amazing how grief works. I’m horribly absentminded and more often than not can’t remember my train of thought. But, every year as my father’s birthday and the date of his death approaches, I always know where I left of grieving last year. It’s taken a long time, over twenty years, for the happy memories and the pain of his loss became equal. I miss him every single day. And I wish he were constantly.

It’s amazing how grief works. I’m horribly absentminded and more often than not can’t remember my train of thought. But, every year as my father’s birthday and the date of his death approaches, I always know where I left of grieving last year. It’s taken a long time, over twenty years, for the happy memories and the pain of his loss became equal. I miss him every single day. And I wish he were constantly.

Today, I give Funeral Blues written by Wystan Hugh Auden. Loss has never been more poignantly captured.

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Happy Birthday Dad—love you always!mourning symbol

Happy Birthday Mom!


Mom in Monaco

Today is my mother’s eightieth birthday. What’s more amazing than the sheer number of years she’s lived are the drastic events my mom’s lived through—World War II for instance. When she speaks of the black bread and food rationing during those years, I am astounded.

My mother’s an incredible woman. She was born of Portuguese parents in Georgetown, Guyana and grew up in that city. She knew tragedy early in life. At the age of nine, her two eldest brothers drowned on the same day. Her parents were poor immigrants and struggled to keep her in school, yet she graduated high school. She met my father at the tender age of eighteen, and they were married less than a year later.

That doesn’t sound significant, but my mother married a mixed-race man in 1955 (against her parent’s wishes). In those days, the population of the Caribbean, Guyana included, was strictly segregated—albeit voluntarily.

She went on to give birth to one girl (me) and three sons. Today she is chairwoman of a Caribbean conglomerate, and, at the age of eighty, still goes to work each and every single day. She has eight grandchildren (who she totally dotes on), three nieces, and one nephew.

When my father died 23 years ago, my mom was the glue that held the family together. In the Caribbean, it was unheard of for a ‘woman’ to take the reins of a large company, and many expected that the business my parents founded would fall into bankruptcy. No way. My mother refused to let that happen. She’s stubborn like bull and told the bankers holding our loans to go where the sun don’t shine.

You may have gathered that I’m proud of her. You bet.

Mom and I didn’t have much of a relationship until after my dad died (I was daddy’s little girl—totally). But, then my mother and I did a twenty-eight day road trip through Monaco, France, and Spain, and we bonded. I love you mom and wish you many, many more birthdays.

All my love always,


Happy Birthday Dad!

Joanne at 6February and April are bitter-sweet months for me.

Today, February 11, would have been my father’s eighty-third birthday. He died suddenly after his sixty-second birthday in 1993. Even today, twenty-one years later, on February 11, the loss feels as acute as when the doctor led us into the room to say our goodbyes.

My father died on April 4th,  and one of the reasons April’s so difficult is because my young’un and I celebrate our birthdays in April, too.

This year I decided, for every day in February through April, I’m going to write down a favorite father-daughter memory, smile, and share them. Don’t worry this will be the only one I’ll share publicly.

On my fifth birthday, we were still living in Guyana—we immigrated to Trinidad the following year—my parents threw this huge party for me. In the West Indies, both kids and parents attend a child’s birthday party, and there are a whole host of birthday traditions to observe, including one of ‘sticking the cake.’

My grandma and my mom made me the most beautiful doll birthday cake—that’s it in the picture. I was so in love with that cake.

This is how the whole event unfolded:

My dad and I greet the invited parents and their child/children at the front gate.

I thank everyone for coming, accept my gift, and I take the kid/kids  and run to the table and arrange the present with all the other gaily decorated gifts. Then the child/children goes to play with all the other kids.

This goes on for a good twenty minutes. My dad takes a nature break and I’m left alone at the gate. A new boy who goes to the same Montessori I attend arrives. His parents are foreigners and new to the country.

They drop off their son who—isn’t carrying a present!!!

Horror of horrors.

“Hi,” Peter says.

I fold my arms and snap, “Where’s my present?”

Peter looks bewildered.

“You can’t come to my party. Go home,” I declare.

Peter starts to cry right as my dad returns and realizes what’s happening. Immediately, he whisks me to his study, and we have a father-daughter talk.

“You hurt Peter’s feelings and you were rude. I’m so disappointed in you, daughter. I thought I had raised you better than this. I want you to think of a way to make it up to Peter.”

It’s traditional at all birthday parties (not just kids’) in the Caribbean to ‘stick the cake.’ Sticking the cake is a ritual similar to that of cutting the first slice out of a wedding cake. The male cuts the cake, and the female gives him the first bite, and he feeds her cake. For a birthday sticking, the birthday-ee chooses his partner, usually someone he or she loves.

I asked Peter to stick the cake with me. Peter was so nervous he slipped, and fell face-first into my beautiful cake. I didn’t cry once and even managed to reassure Peter that he’d done no harm. We served smushed cake.

After the party, my dad told me he was proud of me, not only for choosing Peter, but for not shedding a tear.

My father was everything to me, and I was the apple of his eye. That was the first time he’d ever not been proud of me. To this day, I love giving gifts, especially when you find that perfect present, but I am sorely uncomfortable receiving them.

Happy Birthday Dad. Hope you’re still proud of me.



Birthday Thanks!

My sincere thanks to everyone for their good wishes yesterday on my birthday. It turned out to be a wonderful day. First there were the birthday flowers:

041314 FLOWERS 1   041314 FLOWERS 2

After a leisurely cup of coffee, the dh and I took Ricky (the best present ever!) for a walk.

041314 SAWGRASS6

Then my girlfriend, Tamarind, and her husband treated the two of us and my two sons (the wayward one’s in California) to brunch at Oceans 2000. Yummy stone crabs, oysters, and a whole bunch of other seafood plus champers. Even though it was rainy and grim (which made it the perfect temperature here in South Florida) the misted ocean, and the rolling waves made for an incredible setting. How can anyone go wrong with a combination of a perfect view, friends and family, and fabulous food?

Here’s a pick of the antique cake dish Tamarind gave me (I collect, according to the dh, ‘useless pink glass’):

Cake with Ricky card


And I can’t possibly mention or post a pic of the dh’s gifts…*wicked grin*.
Sigh, the only downside was that birthday number edging closer to the ‘big one.’
Have a magnificent Monday!