This essay was begun more than a year-and-a-half ago. As one can see by my sporadic posts, I’m not much on writing. I believe in making my thoughts known only when and if they may be of value. Talking, or writing as in this case, just to be heard is not my style. There are enough words out there, both positive and hurtful, that I don’t feel the need to continually contribute. A social media post this morning moved me to finish this essay.
In February, 2010, with the culmination of a four-and-a-half year client-relationship, the lack of sun, graying snow on the ground, professional uncertainty and a downward economy, I felt a tremendous sense of loss. The remaining months of 2010 and these nine months of 2011 have been additionally stressful, riddled with illnesses and more loss. All this negativity makes one think.
On a late winter’s day, early in 2010, I spent both morning and afternoon attending two separate memorial services. Certainly these events contributed to my state of mind. While cathartic to the speaker, eulogies evoke emotions in the listener. Sometimes they are unrelated to the specific decedent, but to one’s own life, relationships and losses.
Eulogies provide a look into history. Cousin Jay witnessed Kristallnacht as a child in Berlin. His family fled, their worldly possessions converted to diamonds and centered in his mother’s knitting yarn. A close friend traveled to Washington, DC, and witnessed Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech with her now-deceased mother; what a fabulous baker and chef her mother was. The now-late sister of yet another friend was an avid baseball fan. To the end, she followed opening games wherever she was able to travel to. A now-late neighbor made monumental strides in pediatric AIDS research. Totally unrelated, these shared memories, evoked thoughts of my family.
My mother would have been 95 years of age on her birth-date this year. On his my father would have been 103 years. These are the ages more and more people are living to, yet some of question the value of a life of that length. Both Mom and Dad would have been thrilled to see their grandchildren mature to adulthood and achieve goals unimagined when they were of comparable ages. Eleven and thirteen years after their respective deaths I still think to share milestones with them. It is my way of never forgetting. I am saddened when recalling their telephone number is no longer in service.
My parents never spoke of their respective journeys as young children coming to America. What I do know about their travels I have gleaned from family trees, naturalization papers and ship manifests documented on Ellis Island. On a few occasions, I had the privileged of drinking tea with my grandmother and hearing a story or two. In all, my parents’ respective lives were independently tumultuous, spanning two continents, and two world wars interspersed by the Great Depression.
World War II made Mom, as so many women of her generation, a woman ahead of her time. She was always a working woman, first to help support her family, later as a wife and mother in a two-income family. I was a latchkey kid long before the term was coined. With only a high school education, Mom was accomplished in her career. In another time and with advanced education, who knows what she would have become.
As did many women of her generation, Mom loved soap operas. She purchased a 5-inch black and white television, which she kept at work. It enabled her to watch “her program” during her lunch break. After retirement, she enjoyed watching QVC until early-morning hours, purchasing (and having me return) some of the most eclectic merchandise. Mom would have loved the Internet, HD-TV, DVR’s, Hulu, and smart phones.
With regards to Dad, war stories and foul language were never spoken in the presence of women. It was not until a middle-school assignment brought Dad together with our daughter, did we learn stories of his escapades and travel to Northern Africa, Sicily and Italy in the early 1940’s. It was with pride that I learned that Dad drove for the Allied conferences in North Africa and Tunisia. More of interest was Dad’s opinion of high-ranking officials in the Armed Forces.
Dad thought of cell-phones as personal walkie-talkies, not unlike the two-way radios used in the Army. He was amazed to learn early cell-phones were reminiscent in size of today’s carry-on luggage, and how compact they had become. Dad laughed like a child when I drove through an EZ-Pass Toll lane, invented long after he stopped driving. He would repeat stories of giving me pennies as a child to pay a toll and seeing if he could beat the counter out of the tollbooth.
On a social media post this morning I read: TOD 1:00 am. That is one three-letter acronym I recognize instantly. Today’s post was by a friend, with reference to her mother. Enrolled in a hospice program just a month ago, my friend could not believe the end came as quickly as it did. My friend later commented, “It was a beautiful tribute to an exceptional woman. Peacefully surrounded by her children and grandchildren until the very end. How amazing to see the family come together out of pure and simple love! She was proud of us, forgetting our petty issues with one another and being reminded that individually we are weak, but as a group we are strong and we are a family.” I wish my friend and her family peace.
I am completing this essay today as a memorial to those we have each lost. Seasons bring back memories; hope is a way of looking forward. It is my hope that the coming season brings more good: health to those in need of healing, a recovered economy, the end to political bickering and international tyranny, jobs for those in need, advancement for the under-employed, respect for knowledge but, most important, inner peace for all.