Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sunday Stealing

First Job: Babysitting. I loved it. The kids went to bed pretty early and then I got paid to eat potato chips, drink Pepsi and watch TV.

First Real Job: Administrative assistant -- OK, back in those days it was called "secretary" -- at Sears Corporate HQ in the building that was once known as Sears Tower.

First Volunteer Job: Scrubbing litter boxes, clipping claws and cleaning away ear mites in the cat adoption room at Chicago's Anti-Cruelty Society.

First Car: A 1971 Impala. It was live driving a big green, rusty boat.

First Record: "I've Got Rings on My Fingers and Bells on My Toes." A woman sang it, but I don't recall her name. I couldn't read the label, as I was still in pre-school. My Grandpa gave me the record and I still remember all the lyrics.

First Sport Played: Tag in the backyard

First Concert: Bobby Sherman. Don't judge me! I was in 7th grade and "Julie, Do Ya Love Me" is a classic of the bubblegum genre (she said, super defensively).

First Country Visited: We went to Canada the summer I was 9

First Kiss: David, the boy next door. (OK, three doors down. Details! Details!)

First Speech: Not memorable. Sorry.

First Girlfriend/Boyfriend: See First Kiss.

First Encounter with a Famous Person: I ran into Black Hawk great Stan Mikita while we each shopping in the same department store. He was shorter than I expected and smelled of cigarettes, which disappointed me. But he was very gracious and let me tail after him as he bought dollhouse furniture for his little girl.

First Brush With Death: In 2008. I almost got creamed by a cab. I think about it every time I pass the spot where it nearly happened.

First House/Flat Owned: Owned? I have a mortgage I'm making dents in each month, but I can't honestly say I own this place.

First Film Seen at a Cinema: Mary Poppins

First Media Appearance (Radio, Newspaper, TV): In third grade I won an essay contest about what made my teacher the best in town. I won $50 and got my little paragraph reprinted in the local paper.

First Hospital Stay:In 1994 I had uterine fibroids removed. Want to hear more about it? I didn't think so.

First Book You Remember Reading: Abraham Lincoln by Ingri & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire. It's a  children's book with really gorgeous illustrations. My parents bought it for me as a souvenir after we visited the Lincoln sites in Springfield that summer between Kindergarten and first grade. I flipped through it over and over and over again during the long car ride home. It's still in print and, if you have a young child in your life, I highly recommend it.

First Pet: Tommy. He was a truly terrific cat.

First Election You Voted In: 1976 I got to vote for both President and Illinois governor. I truly don't recall if I voted for James R. Thompson, who became our Governor, but I'm going to give him a shout out as he's one of the few governors of my lifetime who didn't/hasn't done jail time. Props to you, Big Jim!

Not the best choice for me today

I am in the grips of Oscar fever again, as I am every year during awards season. So when I saw Amour was playing at my local theater, I couldn't wait to get over there and buy my ticket. As an Oscar aficionado, I'm aware that Emmanuelle Riva, at age 85, is the oldest actress to be nominated in the lead category. She also seems to be the only one who has a chance to upset Jennifer Lawrence tomorrow night. So I was stoked.

I'd heard the film was a love story about two long-marrieds reaching the end of their lives. That's true, as far as it goes. What I was unaware of was what an unsparing portrait of old age and illness it paints. After Anne, the character played by Riva, suffers a stroke, she is on a swift and brutal decline toward death. She loses first the use of her right side, then control of her bladder. The meds she must take to combat the pain leaves her speaking gibberish. She is frightened and angry. Her loving husband is forlorn and exhausted.

It reminded me too much of watching my 77-year-old mother fight for her life last September. Like Anne in the movie, my mother ultimately lost her battle. And it was one very brutal battle indeed.

So while there is much to this movie to recommend it, I'm sorry I let my Oscar mania overrule my sense. This is not the movie I should have seen while battling the blues. There's a Die Hard movie playing on another screen in the very same theater. Why didn't I opt for Bruce Willis in a torn t-shirt? That's always guaranteed to raise my spirits.