Category Archives: Memoir

Hope

Sky Over Jones Beach

Sky Over Jones Beach

Hope is a useful attitude. For me, the idea that something may be obtainable has carried me through some tough times.  When my sister was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, hope induced me to research treatments and pharmaceutical trials. After all, she was young and she possessed the strength to pursue harsh medical protocols. Of course, the less obtainable something becomes, the less hope we feel. Once it became apparent that the treatments didn’t work and that there wasn’t that much out there to do anything but prolong her life a month or two more, it was time to reassess the situation. Hope was no longer a motivation. The main concern became alleviating her pain.

Just this year, I realized that decades ago I gave up hope of ever being loved again. Yes, all these years I have been in a relationship. We have worked together, raised children together, traveled together and prepared for old age together. Yet, the love aspect of the relationship withered a while ago leaving us in a business partner/ friend position. That’s fine.  Many, many couples experience this role progression and make it work. We are too.

Still, I think of resurrecting that hope–of somehow, in some way  feeling in love with someone again.

Reminiscence

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Where  does the time between memories go? Is it compressed and re-compressed to a quark sized particle in the brain? Is that why I have vivid memories of two mornings in a cold, mid-January over 16 years ago more clearly than any morning last week.

I was getting ready to go to a Memorial Service for a man who had been my husband’s co-worker. Late and rushing to get breakfast for Catherine, my 8 year-old daughter, I was in the kitchen when the phone rang. Of course, the phone would ring now! I swallowed my exasperation. But, it was my sister’s voice I heard and it sounded weak and raspy.  She had been fighting a winter cold and the first round of antibiotics didn’t help. I was worried about her.

“Mare, Dr. Chen called. He wants me to go for a chest x-ray tomorrow” I heard fear in her voice.

“Tee, He’s covering all bases. Catherine has had two rounds of antibiotics a few times to get rid of sinus infections.  Don’t worry too much.” I wanted to add “yet”. My sister was a heavy smoker.

“I’ll come with you.” I said. I could hear the relief in her voice as we made arrangements.

The next morning I picked her up and we drove silently to the hospital’s x-ray facility.  She was called right away. I watched her walk slowly until the door shut behind her.

I couldn’t read the newspaper I brought or any of the magazine’s in the waiting room.  I just stared out the window. About a half hour later and much to my surprise, Dr. Chen came into the waiting room and headed straight toward me.

“I am so sorry to tell you this. Your sister has a tumor in her lung very close to her heart. I don’t think it’s operable but I advise you to go to a Thoracic Surgeon, a good one and as soon as possible.. It is going to be a very difficult time” he said.

I could hardly process his words. I was holding out hope, praying. I searched his face but I didn’t see a any hope in his eyes.

“Okay, thank you for your advice.” I said as he turned and walked away.

He left me to tell my sister.

Call It Courage

imageDecember Sunrise.

When I was nineteen, I had a boyfriend my mother disliked.  We fought constantly about him.  She made it clear that he was not welcome in our home after he took issue with her about something and, honestly, I can’t remember what it was–something inconsequential. I was embarassed and chose to blame her for rude behavior forgetting that he was just as rude if not more so. No matter how I tried to convince her to accept him, she just would not.  I decided I could no longer live in the atmosphere my mother created. She was smothering me.

So without much money and only a suitcase of clothes, I left home.  I went to the only place I knew of–a hotel near the Staten Island Ferry.  It was a horrible place that usually charged by the hour and the man at the reception desk told me I didn’t belong there.  But, I didn’t know where else to go. The next day I found a house with a room for rent.  I took it.  I found a job and eventually got my own apartment.

That first step out on my own was so difficult and I missed my family terribly.  I know now that I left for the wrong reason and without either the mental or monetary preparation that would have made my first move toward independence a much more positive experience.

Yes, it took courage to leave home and a good deal of stubborness. And, after a while, I realized that my “boyfriend” never provided any emotional support during those first very tough months. I wanted to see him as accepting and supportive but he was extremely judgemental and rigid.  In the end, I was able to repair my relationship with my mother. It was my “boyfriend” who I no longer wanted to be part of my life.

I Remember

Winter in Upstate New York.

Winter in Upstate New York.

At least I think I remember what it was like to be love for the first time. I’m not sure what my mind has done to the actual, the factual, if that exists. Have I embellished some things? Did I bury others? Do I chose to remember the romantic and forget the angst? How susceptible is my memory to my current state of mind?

I’m fairly certan that these questions arise because there is a substantial distance in time and experience from the event I’m trying to remember. It’s like trying to make out what exactly lies on the point of the horizon where land meets sky.  The more you focus on it, the fuzzier it gets.

Unlike some people, I usually don’t have memory problems.  Sometimes, I think I remember too much and it might be good to try and forget things that lead to negative feelings.  Forgetting past ills can be cathartic.  Forgetting can also be a convenient way to change history, to reinvent yourself. Do I recall a past that confirms, even flatters who I imagine myself to be today?

Well, all that aside, here is what I remember.

I remember the excitement of meeting someone new. The world morphed into a magical place from the lonely, empty space I knew. I remember a smile taking over my face seemingly of its accord and my heart racing when I saw  him. I remember feeling light as air and I thought surely I was capable of the most amazing things.

I don’t remember how we parted.  I cannot remember if we even acknowledged that our love was over.  We just took off in different directions. I willed myself not to think of the past, to concentrate on the future.

Everyday Things

Thor after his morning walk.

Thor after his morning walk.

There is nothing like the early morning.  That first cup of coffee enjoyed in a quiet house tastes the best. It is then that I sit down to write–a habit that brings me great joy.  For me, this is the time when ideas are waiting to be written down.

Then there is the rest of the day.  I take Thor for his morning walk. Together we watch the seasons change, daylight that comes and goes, the terrain changing with spring growth that withers and dies in autumn. We observe the yearly cycle and try to understand how we fit in.

Thor is tired when we return and he curls up and naps. But, it is time for me to unroll a mat and do yoga.  Just recently, I discovered gi gong–such a beautiful fitness practice. I do a short gi gong routine to round out this part of my day.

Of course, there are chores to do.. They are many and they take up blocks of time. It is the end of the day that brings them to a close and that is when reading time begins. Now it is time to travel the world, to solve mysteries, to learn about the universe and to enter the lives of characters I would never meet.

Dear Dad

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Dear Dad,

I think of you often.  Just this month, I received a letter from your brother Aksel’s granddaughter in Norway.  It came via a circuitous route. Actually, it’s amazing that it reached me.  It was mailed to our old home where you and Mom brought us up and it was addresses to Gjertine, my dear sister who is gone now too. The letter languished in the Post Office’s saved mail while the current owners of our house were off on vacation.  When they returned and received the letter, rather than returning it to sender, they contacted a woman in the neighborhood who has my address and phone number.  She sent the letter to me.

When I opened it, I found that Heidi and her family had visited New York in October and were hoping to get together with us. I am so sorry I missed them and I’m going to write and tell them so. In the envelope was a picture that Aunt Henrietta had displayed on her bureau.  It was of you, Uncle Aksel, Gjertine and me on Uncle Aksel’s fishing boat.  Although I was only 8 years old then, I remember Mom snapping the picture.

I am hoping that someday I will return to Norway and visit with our family again. I am well as is everyone else. Still, after all these years, I miss you. I wish we could get together and drink coffee and discuss books and politics again.  It’s November and soon the holidays will be here and I will miss you and Mom and Gjertine even more.

I always think of you with love.

Your daughter,
Mary Catherine

Building A Persona

Flower in full bloom.

Flower in full bloom.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
George Bernard Shaw

I had a fierce desire to be independent when I was young.  Making it on my own was critical. I wouldn’t settle for anything less.  Yet, I had hardly prepared for independence. Majoring in English Literature in college didn’t quite put me on a fast track career path.  I found myself panic stricken as the end of my senior year approached.

I expressed my fear to a group of people at a party and the serious nature of my comment brought the conversation to a halt. But, I could see concern in the face of a woman sitting across from me. Maryann was a few years older than I and she’d been in the workforce for a couple of years.  In the silence that followed my remark, she suggested I apply to New York University where she worked and where they were currently hiring. Maryann’s pretty face and caring eyes reached across the room and I felt a shot of confidence.  A few weeks later, I found myself meeting with an Employment Counselor at NYU who referred me to the Financial Aid Office for an entry level position. They offered me the job and I was on my way!

Soon I had an apartment, a bank account and a credit card. With each acquisition, my confidence grew.  I felt the courage to dream of the future and the conviction to become exactly who I wanted to become.