Shirley Apisdorf - Through Love-Colored Glasses

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Shirley Apisdorf - Through Love-Colored Glasses

  1. 1. Shirley Apisdorf Through Love-Colored Glasses Lauren Lanphear May 23, 2010 “So, What’s doin?” “So, tell me what’s happenin?” “What can I say?” I am grateful and honored to be given the opportunity to share with you this morning some thoughts and reflections about Shirley Apisdorf. In addition to my individual perspective, I will attempt to convey the thoughts and feelings of a uniquely blessed group of friends: Along with me and my wife, Susan, the group includes Bill & Connie Stone, Richard Rood, and Scott Rose. We were all teenagers when we first had occasion to meet Shirley and Al Apisdorf – some 37 or so years ago. Now, all members of the half-century club, each and every one of us can attest to the impact on our lives of our relationship with Shirley Apisdorf. Initially, it was the four of us guys, Bill, Richard, Scott, and me, who first met Shirley and Al Apisdorf sometime in the spring or summer of 1973, as a consequence of being friends with their son, Jeff . We all shared a connection in one fashion or another with the Brush High School basketball program. Bill, Richard, and I, were finishing our junior year at high school, Jeff his sophomore year, and Scott was still a 9th grader at Greenview Jr High. Not long afterwards, the gender barrier was broken and Bill’s cousin, Susan Stone and our friend, Connie Ambrose met the Apisdorf’s, too. 1
  2. 2. We each have vivid memories of the first time we walked into the Apisdorf’s house on Linnel Rd in South Euclid. Who could forget their TV. Big Screen before there was such as thing as Big Screen. That TV seemed enormous. And, of course, none of us will ever forget the first time we met Shirley. Shirley and those big dark glasses of hers! Jeff was kind of enough to give me Shirley’s most recent pair, the pair she was wearing the very last time I visited with her, in her room at Hillcrest Hospital. How appropriate – rose- colored frames! No one else I have ever known has even come close to wearing glasses as uniquely spectacular as those worn by Shirley. I swear Shirley must have had her frames custom made just for her. Her flamboyant, over-sized frames together with the dark tinted lenses were just the crowning touch. Together with her stylish, well-coiffed hair, bright lipstick, and long, slender cigarette, Shirley exuded glamour unlike anyone we had ever met. To us as teenage boys, she was a movie-star. Shirley was the most glamorous woman I’ve ever known. I swear, as the years went by, Shirley’s eyeglasses became more and more distinctive – the frames got larger and ever showier, the lenses larger, thicker, and darker. The glasses got bigger, Shirley got smaller. You would walk into a room and just look for the enormous and stunning glasses, behind which you knew you’d find Shirley. I became ever more intrigued by what Shirley actually could see through those glasses. Years of eye problems and eye surgeries. Impenetrably dark lenses. One certainly could never tell upon whom or what Shirley’s eyes were focused. And, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what or how Shirley could see through those lenses. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to have a pair of her glasses – to get a peek at the world through Shirley’s eyes. There was a certain mystique to her glasses and I wanted to learn their secret. And, what I quickly discovered should come as no surprise. Especially with the color of these frames, it would be easy to say Shirley saw the world through rose-colored glasses. But I’ve discovered the magic of her glasses was far more powerful than that. For, I understand now that 2
  3. 3. Shirley saw the world through Love-Colored glasses. Love-Colored Glasses. What Shirley saw was all filtered with love. And, in like fashion, through her magical, mystical glasses, Shirley radiated beams of love and wisdom. One stepped into the Apisdorf’s house on Linnel and you immediately felt the love. Richard Rood shares, “This was a home where I genuinely always felt welcome, largely because of Shirley's kind heart and naturally warm and inviting nature. And, always, Shirley was a model of poise, kindness, and encouragement.” And, Bill Stone says, “She was always, always so welcoming to us - I don't ever remember going over to Ap's and not feeling welcome - didn't matter what time it was - always so nice, warm and gracious - definitely like no relationship I had with any other friend's parents. The vibes were always good, and man that felt so good.” Sometimes she did this almost by accident. Richard Rood had tagged his younger brother, John, with the not-so-complimentary nickname, Lardo. As you can imagine, John was not too fond of the nickname. And, of course, Bill, Scott, and I joined right in with Richard in calling John, “Lardo”. So, then John comes with us for what was his first visit to the Apisdorf house. As we entered the side door, one of us said something about having brought “Lardo” over to meet them and from the back room came Shirley’s voice asking, “Who is this Laredo?” Laredo. That had a nice ring to it. Immediately we were humming the theme song to Bonanza and proclaiming John Rood’s new name as “Laredo.” John remains forever grateful for Shirley’s intervention. Shirley always managed to see the best in you, particularly when you might not be seeing it yourself. “You look great!” “You look beautiful.” “You’ve lost weight.” (Sometimes I wished Al had a pair of Shirley’s glasses!). And, then for Susan and me, it also became, “That daughter of yours, Clare – she’s gorgeous!” “Your son, Will – he’s so handsome.” It was just impossible to have an interaction with Shirley and not feel better afterwards than you did before. Or, as Connie Stone says, “In Shirley’s presence, I always felt that I was someone special, because SHE was so special and she loved ME.” And, as Scott Rose says, “When I think of Shirley I always smile and remember 'the gift' she had for making others feel loved and part of her family, for Shirley it was as natural as breathing.” 3
  4. 4. It was also immediately apparent that through her love-colored glasses, Shirley saw so much love for her husband, Al and her son, Jeff. “I loved the way that Al and Shirley interacted with each other.” recalls Bill Stone. “It was so obvious that they loved each other, enjoyed each other's company, and had fun together. A great example for all of us. They were such great parents - was so obvious that they loved Jeff and that he was so special to them.” We were young and impressionable. Shirley made life-changing impressions on each of us. Scott Rose describes, “Every visit to the Apisdorf household taught me how to be a better person - what could be better than that? I've never met a more compassionate wife, mother and friend. I strive to become a better husband, sibling and friend based on the loving examples Shirley taught me.” One of many cool features of the Apisdorf home was the sound system set-up. Jeff had a stereo up in his bedroom from which he could play music through speakers down on the first floor of the house. We could share in Jeff’s love of Sha, Na, Na. We were enormously entertained by Al’s renditions of Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown and Tie A Yellow Ribbon. And, the oooing and aaahhing sounds that would come forth from Shirley whenever “The Voice,” Frank Sinatra would croon over the sound system. And, I take full credit for all the Rhythm & Blues that was heard in that household. Scott Rose tells this story: “My first memory of Shirley was an evening someone, probably Lauren, put Barry White on the Apisdorf stereo - Shirley was into it! How cool to see Jeff's Mom into ‘The Maestro.’ Al came in from the kitchen, sat down next to Shirley, and she tapped in tune to the beat on Al's leg. The love Shirley and Al shared; how good it made you feel to be around (and always want to be a part of).” Shirley could say so much in so few words. Her love of and pride in her son, Jeff, his wife, Cheryl, and her two beloved grandchildren, Joe and Beth, was expressed frequently and often with the words, “That Jeff – What Can I Say?” “That Cheryl – What Can I Say?” “That Joe – What Can I Say?” “That Beth – What Can I Say?” She really didn’t have to say a whole lot 4
  5. 5. more. You knew how much, she deeply loved her son, Jeff and his family. And you knew the enormous pride she felt in Jeff, and Cheryl, and Joe, and Beth. “What Can I Say?” Her love for them spoke volumes. In Al’s case, it was more often just, “Oh, Al.” He could be entertaining us with one of his many, many life stories, and at some point, usually following one of his frequent embellishments, there would come the words from Shirley, “Oh, Al.” Or, it would come to the point where Al could work “sex” into the discussion and there Shirley would be again, “Oh, Al.” Shirley was also a tremendous source of wisdom. That was another part of the magic and mystique of Shirley’s love-colored glasses. She was able to see right through all the extraneous layers and get right to the heart of the matter. And, true to her nature, Shirley didn’t waste words when it came to advice and counsel – it came short and sweet. Of course, Shirley’s wisdom started with her willingness to listen. For many years, this took place at the kitchen table in the house on Linnel. And, then in more recent years, it was around the kitchen table at Jeff and Cheryl’s house on holidays and other special occasions. When others my age all went off to college, I took “a year off,” staying at home while I worked for my dad and try to figure out where life would take me next. On more than one occasion, I stopped in at the Apisdorf’s in the middle of the day. Jeff was still in high school. Al was out selling drapes. I would have Shirley all to myself for some kitchen table wisdom. One particular time, a few years later during my college years, I was sitting there at the kitchen table with Shirley, sharing my heartbreak from a broken relationship. As only Shirley could, she had just two words for me, the title of one of Frank Sinatra’s most well-known songs, “That’s Life.” “That’s Life.” Sounds a bit terse and cold perhaps. But without sharing any other of the lyrics, only the words, “That’s Life,” I knew Shirley was telling me, “Each time you find yourself, flat on your face, Just pick yourself up and get back in the race.” Frank needed a whole song to get his message across. Shirley needed only two words, “That’s Life.” 5
  6. 6. For Bill Stone, “She was a woman of few words (a great listener), but the words she said were always the right words. Coming into the kitchen, I'd stop at the kitchen table and start visiting with Shirley and she'd say ‘So what's doing Bill?’ I'd cover some ground pretty quickly, and she'd repeat ‘Bill, so what's doing?’ like, ‘come on you can do better than that - I really want to hear what's going on with you and your life!’ In those early years, (well before I married Connie) Shirley was always asking ‘So Bill, how's Connie doing?’ Somehow she seemed to know that Connie was the girl for me even though I couldn't see past my nose. When I hooked up with Connie, remembering those words helped make me calm down enough to keep going in the relationship instead of running away.” When the kitchen table moved to Jeff & Cheryl’s house, it became a special place for my wife, Susan and Bill’s wife, Connie. It became a place for heart-to-heart, woman-to-woman, girl talk. Connie recalls that “She always wanted to know what was going on in my life. I remember many kitchen or dining room talks at Jeff & Cheryl’s when Shirley and I spoke woman to woman, in a way that I couldn’t with my mom. Shirley imparted her pearls of wisdom about life, marriage, family and all the things that counted most. She seemed so quietly sure of herself and knowing what was best. She always said things in an accepting and supportive way, not like she was instructing me.” Susan found in Shirley a woman, a wife, a mother, a grandmother who had experienced all the stages of life that she went through and would go through. Marriage. Children. Children’s Marriages. She had seen it all. Yes, Susan’s mother offered advice. Our pastor’s wife could offer advice. But as Susan states, “Shirley's was the most insightful & helpful.” I think just the fact Susan saw Shirley had figured out how to handle Al gave her hope she might survive me. And again, Shirley’s words of advice for Susan were succinct: “Trust the ones you love.” “Love and you’ll get love in return.” “Don’t judge and you won’t be judged.” “Give things time.” And, Susan says, “be accepting, kind, and loving.” Susan note, “Shirley was a perfect example of all of these things - she didn't really say this- I got this just from her example” So much wisdom came forth from that little woman. You know, I’m pretty sure that days when Shirley was home alone, Yoda stopped by to sit at her kitchen table and get some advice. 6
  7. 7. Yes, Shirley Apisdorf saw her world through love-colored glasses. And she radiated love and wisdom out from those love-colored glasses to all who were blessed to know her. In Greta, she saw not only a sister, but her best and life-long friend. Her BFF (Best Friend Forever). “That Greta – What Can I Say?” Almost 70 years ago her gaze caught the apple of her eye, Al, and she mesmerized him with her gaze of love. A love we saw between them up until Shirley’s last breath, as Al lovingly cared for Shirley through her difficult struggles these last years, months, and days. “That Al – What Can I Say?” She saw love in her devoted son, Jeff. “That Jeff – What Can I Say?” She advised Jeff to “just bring home a nice, Jewish girl” and she saw him hit that one out of the park. She saw great love in Cheryl. “That Cheryl – What Can I Say?” And, oh, how much love she saw in Joseph and Beth. “That, Joe. That, Beth. What can I say?” Shirley saw love in me and shared her love with me. She saw love in my wife, Susan and our two children, Will & Clare. She saw love in Bill Stone and his wife, Connie. She saw love in Richard Rood and Scott Rose and their wives. Shirley saw us all through her love-colored glasses. Richard Rood believes, “If Shirley had played basketball she surely would have been the captain of our team.” But, she was more than a great friend to us. She was also very much an additional mother. As Bill Stone so fondly recalls, “When Mom died, I thought at least I still have Shirley here.” And, as Scott Rose remembers her, “Shirley, you've always been the coolest Mom to us all.” I am a better person because of Shirley and her love and her wisdom. Each one of us - Susan, Bill, Connie, Richard, Scott, and I - is a better person because our lives were touched and influenced by Shirley Apisdorf. That Shirley – What can I say? God bless the soul of Shirley Apisdorf and may God comfort her family in this time loss. 7
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