Tag Archives: too late

In Memoriam: Stories My Mother Told Me

“One lives in the hope of becoming a memory.”
― Antonio Porchia

The photo above is one of my Mother that I love at least in part because of the story she told me about it. She was 8 or 9 years old and her mother had her wearing “sausage” curls, meaning her hair must have been very long but it was curled into long “tube” like curls. I have seen pictures of her hair like that but I couldn’t find now any in the photos I have. Anyway, her mother sent her alone to the hairdresser to then go on alone to the photographer on her bike (??!!!). She told me that she hated those long curls and she told the hairdresser when she got there that her mother wanted her hair to be cut short. Then she went on to the photographer with her new hairdo. I love that mischievous look on her face. Apparently, my grandmother was not pleased and there was some heavy punishment for her fun but that picture tells a great story.

My mother went to college to be a pharmacist in the big city and went back home after only one semester. She got a “D” in a class, I think it was Chemistry but she told me that she was mostly lonely and used her grades as an excuse. I have an absolute picture in my mind of her telling me this story – me standing in the doorway to her room and her sitting on her bed with her head hanging down. She did finish a degree later when we were still small. I remember the summer we had an au pair – even though we didn’t call her that at the time – while my mother finished her degree and became a teacher.

I don’t think she ever told me how she met my Dad. He was four years older so it probably wasn’t at school. She did tell me about the night they got engaged. They were going to the winter dance and went out to dinner together first where he popped the question and then went back to tell her parents who were going to be chaperones at the dance. Her parents pitched a fit. My grandmother went upstairs to her room. Her parents ended up not going to the dance. My father was apparently not at the social level her parents thought she should marry into. That never changed. A month after my Dad died – my parents had been married for something like 33 years, my mother’s mother told her daughter that “now she can marry someone of her own social standing”. Funny enough, my grandmother always insisted that my Dad had liked her. He was a quiet man. He didn’t talk much but I don’t believe her ever really liked her.

This picture I found really hits me. My Mother is the dark-haired “girl” with the white headband. She looks so young, so pretty. Who was she? What were her dreams? My impression of her is wrapped up in our fights and my prejudices about how she “was”. Probably none of it is true. I will always remember the smell of cookies baking. The trouble she went to make currant jelly that none of us could stand to eat. The efforts she made to cook nice meals (never much of a success in my opinion but what do I know). The image of her stitching in a corner of the sofa watching TV with one leg tucked up under and her whisky-voice laugh. She died six years ago and sometimes it feels like yesterday. I miss you Mom.

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My mother and I backstage at Carnegie Hall,

On the Tightrope

But she wasn’t around, and that’s the thing when your parents die, you feel like instead of going in to every fight with backup, you are going into every fight alone.
―Mitch Albom, For One More Day

On June 5, 2016, it will have been five years since my mother died. Somehow I feel like I never really grew up until she was gone. I feel now like I am walking a highwire without the net that I had always sensed beneath me, always took for granted without really noticing it was there. My father died when I was in my twenties and that was hard enough but my mother was there. Always. We fought, we bitched and sometimes I felt like she was the biggest pain – but she was always there.

I have to admit, I didn’t appreciate all she did for me when she was alive. I was too wrapped up in my own drama and my own story about what she “didn’t do” or “hadn’t done”. Now that she is gone, I think of so many things and I realize every day what my responsibility was in our relationship. I would so like to apologize for what I did, what I said, to tell her I am sorry I was such an ingrate, so unfeeling sometimes to the point where she said once that she was afraid of me. But I have only realized those things now because that net is gone and that feeling of vertigo is what makes me look in the first place.

My neighbor above me where I teach has a little boy, just under two years old. My neighbor is beautiful, intelligent and strong willed. She is over 30 and a therapist. She has always seemed to me to have everything going for her.-But I watch her struggle every day not to give in to her feelings of frustration, confusion and anger when her son doesn’t want to do what she would like him to do. He is a little ray of sunshine most of the time but she told me that last week he threw himself down in the middle of street screaming and beating his hands on the pavement. She wasn’t even sure why he did it. She had a look on her face I will never forget.

And I think of my mother, beautiful, intelligent and strong-willed and the mother of three children before she was 25 in an era where women were supposed to function regardless of what they were going through or how overwhelmed they felt. When I was five, my mother pushed my father to support her to finish her degree so that she could teach school. It was unusual at the time and I really see myself in that bull-headedness. I know that she “felt” better after she started teaching, more herself, more in control. And the money she made was used for us. It helped pay for all of our schooling and got everyone of us out of a financial disaster or two. Funny enough, I never saw that as an expression of her love. Not until she was gone. I never understood what money might mean to a depression baby, who had lived on the road during World War II because her father was a colonel in the army and they moved a lot. Now I know and it is too late to tell her.

I think of her every day. I miss her every day. For some things, there a no second chances. Take every chance you get to say I love you. Don’t wait.

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The last rose in my garden

The Last Rose of Summer

A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world. – Leo Buscaglia

Recently I attended my 40th High School class reunion – yes, it amazed me, too. 40 years. Where does the time… well, you know. I had actually never attended a reunion before. I was in town for my 20th, I think I had even signed up but I chickened out while I was ironing my outfit. Somehow it felt like I couldn’t compete with the success I imagined everyone else already had achieved. I wasn’t in a relationship. I was struggling to get work as a singer but was actually making my money working as a secretary. Somehow the pressure felt to great and I didn’t go. Spent the evening with my mother watching TV. She wasn’t unhappy.

Now, 20 years later, all of that success stuff didn’t seem so important anymore. I just wanted to see some people, to reconnect. A Facebook page for the graduating class made me feel more connected to everyone there than I have felt in years and as my pragmatic brother said, “If you want to see any of these people alive, you better come now.” That was part of it. Mortality is making itself known. The list of people I have had to say goodbye to – or even couldn’t say goodbye to – is getting longer. So I signed up and I went.

I was nervous, probably just as nervous as 20 years ago but I am older and wiser now and I still showed up. It was great to see people, some of whom I haven’t seen in those 40 years. There were even teachers there who were teaching when we were in school. It was great to see them again, too. I spent a lot of time with one of my best friends from high school who I haven’t seen for 30 years. Somehow it was like we had only separated a couple of months ago.

But the most fun was the presentation with photos that some of my classmates spent time to put together, bringing up memories of times gone by, buildings that no longer stand, people who are no longer here. It made a sense of community, a sense of belonging to us all, I believe. Something we share, something that those before us and behind us didn’t experience in the exact same way as we did. Maybe because we were all about the same age with similar dreams and ideas about how the world was going to be. That was an exciting time to be young. The violence of the late 60s was over, the feeling of freedom and power of the 70s was in full swing. A different world and even if we didn’t all know each other back then, we all were there, together and we remember.

It was a special moment. Glad I was there to share it with you all.

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The View as I fall.

Letting Go

Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.
―Ann Landers

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend about letting go. Letting go of the ego feeling that makes you want things to be a certain way and if they are not that way, being upset about it. We talked about taking things as they come, working with what is there, not letting it mean so much.

I have come to a point in my life when that is exactly what I need to comprehend – how to let go. There are so many dreams and hopes that are clearly not going to happen. Even I – who is a firm believer in second or third or even fourth chances – sees that in some areas of my life all those chances have been used up.

It is a funny feeling. I still can’t quite grasp it. I am at a fundamental shift in my life and you know what? I don’t like it. Not one bit. The issue is, that won’t change anything. How it is, is how it is and I am going to have to live with that but I am not dealing with it very well.

I need to “recreate” my life and my goals. It occurs to me that I have never lived without a “goal”. I was either waiting to get older, or waiting to get a singing job, or waiting to get the next singing job, or waiting to get or have or do whatever. In a way they were all goals. Now I feel like the rug has been pulled out from under me and I feel like I am falling into the abyss (ever the over dramatic!).

The plan is to meditate on it. Deepok Chopra says to meditate on “Who am I? What do I want for my life?” so I thought I would give it a try. Can’t hurt. It can only get better than this.

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