Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Zena Mnemonic


Yesterday, coming across the word Mnemonic in the book I'm reading, I looked up the meaning. "A device such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations that assists in remembering something." 

I'm not good remembering at death dates (John Lennon died sometime in December) - birthdates I'm better at (he was born October 9th) - but a dear friend, who wrote to tell me she was lighting a candle in my mother's memory, reminded me that on this date in 2007 my mother had left the planet. My mom, Zena, was born on 28 April 1924.


The first thing that came to mind was the piece I wrote some time after her death.
The rest flooded in as I burned the midnight oil.

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just a few thoughts. . . and some images from a very full life.
as well as links to a song and a poem, below.

a life filled with much pain throughout - and for that I hold her in respect.
but also much great yet simple joy -
and it is that - as reflected in a smile on her face, that i will forever cherish in my heart.

the modern cliche is - i am not religious, i am spiritual.
my adjusted formula has been: i am not spiritual, i am chemical.

this was one of two amazing humans whose chemicals joined to mix up this unit i have come to identify as my self.
(yes, i know . . . my first teenage love told me i was "too existential")
to me this perspective doesn't play things down, it raises them... to physical reality, where touch lives!
my father passed away when i was 15... a hug from him now would beat any heaven or god.

there was much love between my mom and i.
and in the last few weeks, her health failing, we spoke often...
honestly, respectfully, by telephone - over the 1000 miles of geography that separated us us.

"give hugs to the kids and a kiss goodnight to you, like i did when you were small... goodnight."
- the last clear words i remember her saying to me less than a week before she was gone.
gentle and kind, from someone who was not sentimental, but rather known for her tough edges.

the list of differences and distances was long...
to be expected . . . she was a first generation ukrainian/polish immigrant to this country,
while i came of age in new york city in the revolutionary 1960s.

so many stories, so many memories come flooding to the surface.
always so many things left unsaid, possibilities not taken advantage of,
and thoughts in the future that will not be able to be shared.

i just keep walking
onward
through the overwhelm of loss that keeps accumulating,
looking at ways to not go too gently towards that good night,
somewhere on the horizon.


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The song link I had attached to my written piece was The Smiths: "Asleep"  which reflected,  truthfully, painfully, how i thought she felt at the end.  [Regrets I've had a few, and one is forever wondering how I somehow could have done more.]

Sing me to sleep / Sing me to sleep
Im tired and I / I want to go to bed
Sing me to sleep / Sing me to sleep
And then leave me alone / Don't try to wake me in the morning / cause I will be gone
Don't feel bad for me / I want you to know
Deep in the cell of my heart / 
I will feel so glad to go
Sing me to sleep / Sing me to sleep
I don't want to wake up / On my own anymore
Dont feel bad for me / I want you to know
Deep in the cell of my heart / I really want to go
There is another world / There is a better world
Well, there must be / Well, there must be / Well, there must be
Well, there must be / Well ...
Bye bye / Bye bye / Bye ...

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The poem I mentioned and had linked to the piece was a response of sorts; Dylan Thomas's Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (read by Anthony Hopkins) 

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With me, three of her grandchildren, and my sister Christa.



Where her ashes nourish the wildlife, off Route 17, in Bristol, Vermont.

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In December of 1973, a couple weeks before my 22nd birthday I wrote a poem for my mom, thanking her for the gift of life. During her last year of life she sent me all kinds of correspondence I had sent her, 

Below, the letter, and a photo-montage I made in 2016 from two photos that serendipitously crossed my desk. The DNA connection. 

And below that - what I suspect my mother's reaction would have been to that image. :-)



















click on photos to enlarge

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Thank you Judy for reminding me of the date, and mentioning encountering my mother's handwork around your home.  I went and snapped a photo of one piece I experience every day, a needlepoint (rare, black and white only) that graces a table.

Oh yeah, and a passport photo.



She arrived in New York City harbor in 1949, along with my sister, on the USAT General R. M. Blatchford.  Almost two years to the day I entered the planet at Bellevue Hospital.



1 comment:

Laurie Farrington said...

Alexander. This is sweet. I love the thoughts and reminders of your mom. I too have a needlepoint that I encounter every day that she made. It is good to remember and honor the chemicles from which we come. love to you. ~Laurie