Did anyone else feel like January took forever? Everyone I talk to says the same thing — “January was the longest month of my life!” At the end of the marathon of January is the reward of February — a big birthday month in my family. So, thank goodness it’s February because this second month of the year brings me joy from the past and present. Here are the “February Four:”
SADIE — FEBRUARY 2nd
She answers to many names — Sadie, Sadie Lou-lou, Sadie Sprinkles, or just Boo-boo — and she brings so much unconditional love to the not only me, but the entire Geller family. She was born in Mississippi on February 2nd, 2014 and made her way to Midcoast Humane in Brunswick, Maine where we found each other.
I always heard people talk about the joy that a pet can bring to your life but I never believed it until I met Sadie. The first six months of our time together were fairly mellow — training, setting a schedule, and playdates with the campus pups. I just wanted her to feel settled and loved. But the settled part changed when I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2015.
Sadie and I spent lots of time going back and forth to my folks’ house, with many extended stays lasting months at a time. For the majority of the time, we shared a full-size bed on a pull-out couch. She slept on the left; I slept on the right. She was by my side as I recovered from surgeries and treatments, and she was always there at the front door to greet me whenever I returned from the hospital.
Not only does Sadie have my heart, but she has managed to capture the love of all the Gellers. When I was growing up, my mother always told me, “You will never bring a dog into my home.” Now it sometimes feels like she loves Sadie more than me! The same is true for my father who I still believe is mourning the death of his beloved Chubby, his childhood dog. Sadie and I recently FaceTimed my father while he had a brief hospital stay so that she could give him some virtual comfort.
Sadie is my constant, loyal companion, and I can’t imagine my life without her. Happy Birthday, Sadie!
NANA DORA — FEBRUARY 4th
Nana Dora Geller taught me what it means to have grit and grace. If I have the timing right, this photo was probably taken after a Passover seder when I was around eight or nine years old. I was happy to be with her and celebrating an important family tradition.
I remember taking a taxi cab from Nana’s home to the Chestnut Hill Mall, having lunch at Filene’s, and shopping for Hello Kitty tchotchkes. I remember feeling that despite being the youngest of her eight grandchildren, I was still the center of her universe. (I am sure we all were, but she had a way of making me feel like I was the only one.) I remember baking apple pies and lemon meringue pies and rugelach in her kitchen — my passion for baking came from her. She is the reason I prefer the doughy inside of the bagels as opposed to the outer crust.
But, mostly, I remember her strength. She, too, was dealt the card of cancer late in her life. I have vivid memories of being with her at radiation treatments and watching her grow weak. I remember frequent hospital visits, keeping her company as she made sure we all felt comfortable no matter how she was feeling. And, I remember the last time I saw her when I was 11 years old in her nursing home bed wanting to go “home;” she passed away merely days later.
Born Dorathy Goodman at the turn of the 20th century, she helped raise her siblings in the old mill town of Lowell, Massachusetts. At the age of 19, she married my grandfather, Louis Geller, and raised three children. She inspired me with her ability to rebound from the challenges she faced in her life and the way she loved her family. At my lowest of lows, I call upon the strength she handed down to me. She gave me the gifts of grit and grace. Happy 122nd Birthday, Nana Dora!
UNCLE AL — FEBRUARY 17th
Uncle Al Geller, eldest son of Nana Dora, taught me many things, but the most important one was the art of the argument. Many Geller family celebrations included the two of us yelling at each other back and forth across the table about some issue or another that both of us felt passionately about. It was a “tradition” that began when I was a child and continued until he passed away in 2003. Usually, we were on the same team, but he would play the devil’s advocate, challenging me to craft a persuasive argument to change his mind (believe me, it’s very difficult to change a Geller’s mind). Sometimes it worked, but most of the time I stomped away from the table pouting. Uncle Al was one of the people who inspired me to go to law school — he wasn’t a lawyer, but he could fight like one. Uncle Al passed away just days before I graduated from law school.
When I was in the 8th grade, I wrote a biography of Albert Geller. He told me about heading to Bates College in the early 1940s when most people didn’t go that far from home. He described taking the train to the University of Chicago where he sought a master’s in biology, potentially to head to medical school. And although he did not become a doctor, he made sure people were taken care of. Happy 97th Birthday, Uncle Al!
ME — FEBRUARY 19th
This is me at age five with the Ryan boys on my first day of kindergarten. At the moment this picture was taken, I knew exactly who I was — I was self-confident and joyful and excited for the future. This is who I strive to be and who I celebrate on February 19th.