Monday, August 08, 2011

Unfinished Projects

Joan Crawford

Today folks I am unashamedly stealing an idea for my blog posting from my friend and fellow blogger Dr. Spo.  He writes of unfinished projects.  Ah ha, this hits home with me.  I have so many unfinished projects.  Let me list a few:

  • Updating my family tree on (for which I pay $300 a year subscription)
  • Updating my cemetery dates and photos on my Find a Grave account (free)
  • Finish unpacking boxes from our move to Delaware in 2006 (approximately 25 boxes I haven't even opened yet - obviously I don't need that "stuff" but I can't throw anything away)
  • Finish scanning all my old photos into my computer
  • Organize my photos in iPhoto (eliminate duplicates, etc.)
  • Sell my old jeans and other "goodies" on eBay including my stamp and autograph collection (yes, I have Betty White's autograph dated 1955!)
  • Organize my recipes and write that recipe book
  • Write my autobiography
  • Convert all my 33 LP's and cassette tape recordings to CD's
  • Clean out all my old books that I will never read again and give them to the thrift store
  • Throw out all my old pens that don't write anymore (I have been unable to throw them out)
  • Clean out all my old computer paraphernalia (yes, I still have 3 1/2 inch diskettes)
  • Do a thorough review of all my clothing and anything I haven't worn in five years goes to the thrift store
  • Throw out all canned and boxed food and spices past their expiration date
  • Get a cat
  • Get a dog (Pomeranian)
Now that is just a PARTIAL list.  I'm getting a headache just thinking about all the things I SHOULD do but keep putting off.  

Here are some things I have done that I feel good about:
  • I've made a new will which is up to date
  • I've made a new power of attorney which is up to date
  • I've made a new living will which is up to date
  • I made a list of all my accounts and where everything is stored
  • I keep a daily journal
  • I keep a daily (mostly) blog
  • All my bills are paid - I owe NOTHING to anyone - NOTHING!
  • My mortgage is paid
  • I have everything material I need in life.  I want for nothing.  Maybe a few more gay friends would be nice but I'm coming around to the realization that isn't going to happen.  I think it's me.  
  • My teeth are up to date
  • My eye examinations are up to date (pick up the new glasses tomorrow in Dover)
  • My colonoscopy is up to date (no polyps this time)
  • My dermatology check ups are up to date (three items removed off of face last visit - still paying the price for all those "lying in the sun sessions on the beach" in my Foolish Youth
  • My computer is completely backup up three ways including offsite
That's just a partial list of things I HAVE completed. 

 Now, here's the deal.  Life is complicated.  We have a limited amount of time to do things.  We make priorities.  We will never get everything done that we want to get done.  Because we can't get everything done, we can't drive ourselves crazy because they don't get done.  

Alice and me at one of our many lunches when we worked together 

Twenty years ago a very good friend of mine, who was a perfectionist like me, became overwhelmed with not "getting everything done."  She had her home and a shore home to take care of.  Two adopted children (from Korea), a girl ten years old and a boy eight years old.  She and her husband were taking care of his parents.  Her mother had just died.  Plus, she was going through her change in life (she was 49 as was I).  

Alice and her adopted daughter Allison at my desk - yes, that is a baby sitting in my chair

Her name was Alice.  We were best friends.  I had met her when I first began work at Girard bank in 1965.  She was the boss's secretary who picked me up from Personnel and delivered me to my new career as a trust remittance clerk in the trust department of the bank.  We immediately formed a bond that lasted for the next twenty-six years.  If I wasn't gay, we would have married.  That's how close we were.  

Then came the day I retrieved a message on my telephone answering machine.  It was from her husband who left a message that Alice had killed herself.  I thought surely he was joking.  I was also good friends with him and I knew him to be a joker.  So I decided to go along with the joke and went to the funeral home where he said her service would be.  

It was a hot August day much like today.  Bill dropped me off in front of the funeral home in Roxborough, Philadelphia.  I walked in and saw her two children, dressed for church and looking dazed. I looked to my right and saw her husband in the receiving line, shaking hands with those who were attending Alice's funeral.  I got in line.  When it was my turn to shake his hand, we both took one look at each other and lost it.  Jeurgen (his name) went one way and I went another way.  I couldn't stand up.  This was real.

Later, when we composed ourselves  I asked Jeurgen what happened.  He told me that Alice had went into her daughter's bedroom and put a gun in her mouth and blew her brains out.  I just couldn't believe this.  Alice was such a gentle, loving person.  This violent act was not like Alice at all.  Alice was also a devout Roman Catholic, a fact which I often teased her about (I would tell her "You don't like like a Catholic" to which she would reply "How is a Catholic supposed to look Ron!")  

Jeurgen told me he figured that Alice had become overwhelmed with all the things she had to do and couldn't get done and became very depressed.  He thinks the thing that took her over the top was that all the windows in their house in Roxborough had to be washed.  That fact and that she had recently lost her mother.  Life was just too much for her.  She couldn't get everything done so she opted out.  

Ever since that date, when I realized how my good friend and soul mate Alice "solved" her "problem", I don't let the little things bother me.  If something doesn't get done, then it doesn't get done.  I enjoy (or try to) each minute of life that I have on this earth.  I try to make others happy too, which I'm not always successful at because some other people have their own agendas which isn't in my best interest.  

So my goal is to make each day count and don't worry about what isn't getting done.  It will all sort itself out anyway once I'm gone.

A note about the photo of Joan Crawford at the top of this blog.  I am now now reading a biography of her by Donald Spoto (who is the same age as I am thus his reference points are familiar to mine as an early movie goer influenced by movies and movie stars) called "Possessed."  Joan, contrary to the cartoon image of her perpetuated by her adopted daughter's book "Mommie Dearest", was a hard working, beautiful and talented woman who also had issues with perfection. She came from nothing (as I have) and, through hard work and perseverance achieved great fame and fortune.  Yet she was still tormented by striving for ever more perfection that she couldn't achieve once she aged and lost her beauty and good movie roles.  

I read these biographies of movie stars (my last two Ava Gardner and Bette Davis) not only to find who was sleeping with who (which I am interested and is fun to know) but how these women handle their "success."  All are tormented and die unhappy.  My goal is not to let that happen to me.  I appreciate and value every little thing.  I try not to let the pressures, vagaries, cruelties and unfairness of life throw me off the tracks like my dear friend Alice.  Granted, it is a constant struggle but then I think that is what life is all about, how we handle that struggle.

There, I've had my say for the day.  Long winded as my friend Lar would say but there it is.  I offer and make no apologies for being me and saying what I think.  


Mark said...

Ron, thanks to your advice, I no longer apologize for my long winded posts. Athough I want to!
I used to be a perfectionist but after the kids started arriving and my time no longer belonged to me, I gave up. Yes, I will go home tonight and my house will be a mess with Fred and the kids being home all day. I'll just grab a glass of wine and try to "chill". I hope that Alice's children are well after her act. I don't think I could do that to my kids. m.

Anonymous said...

Even thou it has been 20 years you still have her in your soul which brings to mind the quote ..... Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never ever the same.

nitewrit said...


I don't mind long posts at all. I have always felt things write themselves to their proper length. Besides I am the long-winded one. Odd, too, for all my life I was taciturn, reticent to speak until spoken to and then generally a man of few words. I certainly wouldn't speak to a stranger. Now I seem to have become somewhat verbose in my dotage I'll even trike up conversations with any mere passerby on the woodland trails. So write on, Ron, write on.


Will J said...


You will not die as a tormented and unhappy actress.

Will J

anne marie in philly said...

OMG...such a sad post. sorry to hear about your friend alice; hopefully she is at peace with herself.

having survived cancer 22 years ago now, I find a have a different outlook on life. I don't let anyone push me around. if something gets done, ok; if not, ok too. we are here temporarily, and who the hell knows what happens after that.

do you know what happened to alice's husband and daughters?

Chasing 10 said...

So sorry for you loss; what a beautiful friendship you two had. It's such a sad and frightening thing that happened, simply because we could all fall into that trap so easily. Makes me wish I had known her, too. ;)

Ron said...

Thank you Larry. I do love to ramble on.

Amanda said...

OMG! I gasped when you wrote that Alice committed suicide. She was overwhelmed. How sad that between keeping her house spotless and having a life, she chose death.

Ron said...

At one time in my life I came near to doing the same act as Alice. I was so depressed and hurting. I just wanted it to end. I saw now way out except to go to sleep forever. But when I got into my car in the closed garage and turned the motor on I thought "I can't do this to my Mother." I just could not ruin her life. This was before Alice had taken her own life. When I saw all the pain she caused by taking her own life (which is an extremely selfish act), I was so glad I didn't take that route.
Don't worry about your house being perfectly clean or what people think of you. You know what is important in your life and that is your children and Fred. You're on the right track Mark. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Suicide may stop your pain but it causes so much more pain to others that it just isn't worth it.

Ron said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. You are so right, Alice left a permanent footprint in my life. There have been many times since she committed suicide that I have felt like I was in a corner and saw no way out. Then I thought of what she did and the terrible consequences her selfish act caused and I got a new perspective on my problem which wasn't so much of a problem after all. Alice may have taken her life but she has saved mine...several times.

Ron said...


In my dotage I'm finding that I'm not all that much concerned with whether I'm being long winded or not. I just "let it flow" and the consequences be damned. At this time of my life I'm less concerned with approval and more concerned with telling it like it is.

Ron said...

Hey Will, I love you! No, I "will not die as a tormented and unhappy actress." I think Joan's problem was that she was such a perfectionist and because she had difficulty reaching her unrealistic standard of perfection. I am also a perfectionist but I realized a while back that I'll never achieve perfection and because I won't I'm not going to let it drive me crazy.

Ron said...

Anne Marie,
Surviving a life threatening illness will certainly give one a new perspective and appreciation of life. Just yesterday I visited my other friend Anne Marie's website that contained her obituary. She didn't survive breast cancer and died last January. I worked with Anne Marie for many years at the bank. Her last e-mail to me informed me that her doctor told her she had terminal cancer and she was "overwhelmed." I felt so sorry for her. I never heard from her again even though I sent her numerous e-mails. I'll send you a link to her obituary. I don't want to post a blog about it because I've been posting too many negative blogs lately.

Ron said...

Life in the Queue,

"Falling in that trap" is so easy. Several times since Alice died I felt myself "falling into that trap" then I thought of how she got out of it and I knew that wasn't the way for me because of all the pain it caused her survivors plus her problem was only temporary.
Yes, you would have liked Alice. Everyone liked Alice. I know it's a cliche to say that about someone who passed on but in Alice's case it was absolutely true. I knew of no one who didn't like Alice.

Ron said...


Yes, it was a shock to all of us the "reason" she took her own life. Her husband thinks the recent death of her mother plus Alice going through menopause had a lot to do with her decision. What I can't understand is why she chose such a violent way to end her life. That was't like Alice at all.

Mark said...

I wonder if it was really suicide afterall?

Ron said...


I don't know Mark. She called me the day before and left a message to call her back. I never did. I've always felt guilty about not returning her call because maybe I could of prevented it. She often called me to commiserate with me when she had problems. We were like brother and sister.

Ur-spo said...

speaking of unfinished projects.. .I am now catching up on my blog reading.
Thank you for the compliment/tribute.

Ron said...

Dr. Spo,

Don't count on "catching up" when you're retired. It won't happen. You just have more projects. A wise word of advice from one who knows.