A Duffle Bag of Journals

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve got a giant duffle bag full of journals I’ve been keeping since childhood. I’ve resisted the temptation to review these old journals for years, because reliving the past can be emotionally traumatic. Writing about my thoughts and experiences has always been a therapeutic way for me to cope with whatever crap life flings my way, especially when I address the crap with a sense of humor.

I believe most human beings are gifted with a selective memory, which allows us to block the bad stuff and remember the good. We either block the bad memories, or we find something humorous about them, and go on from there. Revisiting my journals means reliving all the good, selected memories, and unfortunately all the bad. But, I figure there’s a reason why little Betty Anne Von Achen from Blue Point started writing in her books all those years ago. Little Betty Anne Von Achen apparently had a message for grown up Liz Von Achen, and grown up Liz Von Achen is a fool and a coward if she doesn’t go back in time, and read what Betty Anne had to say.

A couple of months ago, my dear Uncle Ed and I attended the wake of one of his longtime friends. It got me thinking about the frailty of life. How at anytime, it could be the end of our time, here on earth. After the wake, my uncle and I had a morbid but somewhat cathartic talk about our wishes, should either of us meet our demise before the other. Uncle Ed’s biggest wish is to be buried in the plot next to Aunt Peg at the Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island. Uncle Ed’s an easy-going guy, who doesn’t care whether or not he’s embalmed for a showing at a wake, or comes to the cemetery in a cremated urn of ashes. He just wants whatever remains he has to be buried beside the love of his life.

My final requests were a bit more complicated. Of course!

“I don’t want to be embalmed, or have a showing.” I said. “I mean, most of my family and friends are in Florida, and I don’t think too many people would come to Westchester to view my wax-museum-like body in a coffin… I want to be cremated, and I want my ashes spread in two, no make that three places. I want some of my ashes spread in the Great South Bay of Long Island, which is where I spent the first 20 years of my life. I want more of my ashes scattered off the east coast of Florida, which is where I spent the next 20+ years of my life. Then, I want my remaining ashes to be taken to Paris by someone who loves me, and placed wherever they want. I’ve always dreamed of going to Paris, and if I can’t get there while alive, I’d like to at least get there when I’m dead.”

Uncle Ed politely listened to my rant, then he smiled and said,
“Liz, you’re not gonna die anytime soon, and we will go to Paris together, someday…”

“I hope so,” I said. “But this leaves me with my most important final wish. Uncle Ed, if I should pass away before you, will you make sure that my duffle bag full of journals gets sent to either my brothers Bob or Chris, or my sister Karen?”

“Of course, I would!” Uncle Ed responded. “But, what about Terry?” he asked.

“Terry has enough shit on her plate to handle. The last thing she needs is to be burdened with my journals!! Besides, I figure Bob is the most educated member of my family, and Chris and Karen are the most creative.”

“OK…” said Uncle Ed.

I realize now that it is totally unfair for me to place the burden of my journals upon anyone else! I’m still alive, and it’s time for ME to be responsible.

My sister Karen got on my ass when I visited Florida for vacation, three weeks ago. She said, “You need to take accountability for your life!”

She was right.

So, this is why I’m writing … I’m delving deeply into the past, referencing my journals, and what I’m writing will not be published – for free, on this blog.

My Mom phoned me this morning, and asked “Honey, are you okay?”

My response was, “Yes, Mom. I’m okay. I’ve just been delving into the past, and writing a lot … My working theme is ‘My Extraordinary Life As An Ordinary Loser.’”

“Oh, honey!” she said, “You’re not a loser, and I hate to think of you thinking of yourself that way.”

“Mom, I know I’m not a loser. I’m a writer. But, let’s face it; nobody wants to read stories I write about how wonderful I am. Self-deprecating humor is what I do! It’s what I do best!”

“I know, honey…” said my Mom.

“Starting with the time I swallowed that quarter that Nana gave me, which landed me in the emergency room… with a quarter lodged halfway in my esophagus. What the heck was I thinking? Oh, this shiny quarter looks a lot like a foiled-wrapped chocolate, so I’ll just eat it…” I said.

My Mom laughed, and said; “You know, swallowing that quarter was actually a brilliant move on your part, because after that, Nana had no choice but to give all you guys a dollar bill whenever she visited.”

Yes! There it was! Proof-positive that there was and always will be – some method to my madness!

Stay tuned…

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