meirwen_1988: (Thoughtful)
If you go back and check in history, February through May is traditionally a pretty grim time. Oh, yeah, we've got the whole "burgeoning life" thing going on, with lambs and kids and calves being born, cats running around pregnant (lots of kitties are birthed in April), etc. But that truth is balanced by a pretty high body count.

By February, the food is running really thin (it is not an accident that Lenten fasting neatly corresponds with low food reserves), cold and the ravages of winter have taken their toll on the very young and the very old, and being cooped up inside means that if one person gets sick, everyone probably does. In days before "modern medicine," that sometimes meant a simple cold could kill you.

You would think that with all the modern amenities (fresh fruit and vegetables in abundant supply in February), OTC and prescription medicines, central heating, etc., that things would change.

Not so much.

Not even touching on the appalling catalog of deaths in my own family and those dear to me who died in the Februarys of the past, in this February ALREADY my cousin has died, my friend Bobbie died, Phil's mom died, and Kat died (as well as friends and relatives of friends who aren't personally known to me).

Of them all, Bobbie's has hit me hardest, which is silly, because she was elderly, had a great day Saturday, started to feel "off" on Sunday, was taken to the hospital and died that night. Happy and reasonably active and healthy to nearly the end. But Bobbie and I shared something. I remember at one meeting of Chapter I was talking about my childhood and mentioned that my dad worked at GE. Her little head popped up (Bobbie was 4'10"--everything about her was little except her brain and her heart), and said, "Was your father Little Tommy Mink?" Okay, no one but my father's aunts had ever called him "Tommy" in my hearing, but..."Yes, my dad's name was Tom." For years my father gave one of his co-workers a ride to work since his path from our house out in the boondocks took him through the village of Clinton. A couple of times when he was taking the family to Utica (for doctor's appointments, so we would ride in with dad at 5 in the morning and get dropped off at my grandmother's) I even got to meet her. But I was still surprised when Bobbie said, "He drove my mom to work! Did he ever mention Margie Dawes?" And so we talked about our parents.

Bobbie, at least by reputation, knew my father. The number of people still in my life who can say that are vanishingly small. And Wednesday I said goodbye to one of those people. A lovely little kindergarten teacher, who knew my daddy.

T.S. Eliot was wrong. April is not the cruelest month.
meirwen_1988: (Thoughtful)
My mother's cousin Lynda is just about centered in age between my mom and me. When Momma was young, before she was out of high school, used to babysit for Lynda, nursed her through meningitis...they were very close. Lynda was always slightly glamorous to me. When I was young she worked at the Bank of Utica, which made her very sophisticated in my eyes. She was always lovely, and funny, and kind. And she was Aunt Ann and Uncle Pete's daughter, which made her magical, not to mention she was my godfather's little sister.

When I was in high school she got engaged to a Vietnam vet, Dennis Padula. Dennis reminded me a little of my Uncle Pete (both short, Italian Uticans with a stocky build), but I never knew him well. I remember their wedding in St. Anne's in North Utica like it was yesterday. Afterwards my dad had to drive me back to Morrisville for the 9th grade fashion show and Spring concert, then he turned right back around to drive back to Utica for the lovely, elegant, evening wedding reception. I was bitter about missing it, but, well, the show had to go on. (Missed my Senior Dinner Dance for similar reasons, but I digress).

Lynda and Dennis had three children--Dennis, Peter, and Renata. Dennis is gay, and a singer with his own band in NYC. Peter got married and became a father in the last year, and Renata's been married and has, I think, two children. Maybe more. I'm bad about family. Never got the knack, nor the taste for it. There was always too much underlying hostility. The only relatives we ever visited where it felt safe was Uncle Pete and Aunt Ann's (not my grandmother's, not my aunt's, only there), and once they were gone, it all fell away. Lynda would like us to be closer, but it just never seems to happen. My fault, not hers.

From things on my cousin Dennis's Facebook page, I think Dennis senior died today. He's been fighting lung cancer. He's another victim of our friend Mr. Orange's appearance during his time in Southeast Asia.

So there are calling hours in my future. And a funeral. Lynda is going to be a wreck, and strong, and all the things in between. I would hate this to be the thing that finally makes us close. But it may. Or things may just go on as they have. But I will go, and there will be family.

It's complicated, but as Gibbs would say, "It's family. Always is."
meirwen_1988: (Roses)
IMG_0147

Tonight as I was walking from my room to go downstairs I caught the sight of the moon in the huge triple window high on the wall in Morguhn's bedroom.

In other days, we would lay in bed, sometimes nestled together, or holding hands, talking, or drifting off to sleep bathed in moonlight as Diana rose and traveled across the window, her view dappled by leaves in three seasons, or, as tonight, broken by the dark shadows of the bare maple limbs, like a steel point engraving, or a German Expressionist landscape. Beautiful, and stark, and leaving us full of wonder. It seemed impossible to quarrel, or even be cross on those nights. In the face of so much beauty all we could do was be grateful for each other, for love, for beauty.

So, to try to preserve...I don't know...the memory of those wonderful times, I carried a stool into his room, and stood on it with my iPhone, and tried to capture the window. But the moon was too bright, the contrast too deep, for even the remarkable camera in the phone to capture. Instead it is blurred where the moon was a perfect white sphere, clean-edged and brilliant. The limbs that were drawn with the pen's precision have the soft edges of the painter's brush, or the blended lines of the batik artist.

It is a beautiful photo. I can look at it and be glad I took it, and treasure it. But it is not the image I was trying to capture, no more than the view was a view we shared. It is like, but not the thing itself. It is itself. A thing of beauty, as were the others, but not what I reached for, which like the moon, remains eternally beyond my grasp.
meirwen_1988: (Thoughtful)


Last week I had a guest from Pennsylvania here. Actually, the guest isn't "from" Pennsylvania. She's living there. She's from England--at least that's where she spent most of her formative and young adult years. Where she'll return when retirement age arrives.

She's led quite an interesting life, including spending some time in a commune in the mountains of Wales. We talked about it a bit, and it turns out that the day she left the commune it was because she had just "had it" with the men sitting around and "finding themselves" and expecting the women to do all the work. That afternoon she blew up at the man in the commune she considered the worst offender.

That man's mother died today. Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky. The woman Sinatra famously complained he couldn't get into bed because she required marriage, or the promise of marriage. The woman with three Oscars, two for acting. The woman with the diamonds. The woman who filled the tabloids in ways that not even Britney Spears or Paris Hilton or Charlie Sheen can equal--though they do try. Not because of scandals (so long as you skip over that awkward Eddie Fisher-Debbie Reynolds-Richard Burton period). But because she was beautiful, and talented, and public, and fragile physically--though not, apparently, spiritually.

She was a tigress. She loved and lived fully, completely, committedly. And she was loyal. And when a friend died of a disease shunned and denied, she took her fame, and her voice, and her heart and decided that she wouldn't stand by and write checks, but would put her reputation, and character, in service to the cause of saving lives.

I recently read a book that was less than kind to her. I guess that beautiful mouth was capable of incredible vulgarity. And her capacity for alcohol was...legendary. Long after Burton was drunk reports are that Elizabeth was still coherent, on her feet, and had been well ahead of him all night. And she paid for it, ultimately, with weight, and addiction, and her already fragile physique probably didn't benefit from pouring so much poison in.

Everyone, I think, has a moment in their lives when they are wholly themselves, and the famous often find that self captured on film. But the beautiful British girl who grew up in America had so many selves, I don't know which image that is. I've seen photos of her fat. Slovenly. And recently a heartbreaking photo from the last few months. Is it that girl with her arms around a collie's neck? Is it Michael Wilding's beautiful bride? Or Mike Todd's heartbroken widow? The AIDS activist with the stark white temple wings, or the post-cancer Taylor with the white spiked crew-cut? The woman standing beside a dangerously ill Rock Hudson, or the one defending Roddy McDowell when he was facing federal charges, or the woman mourning the man she divorced twice. I don't know which is the "self" she would say was her. Or perhaps it is all of them.

But for me, she is that beautiful woman with porcelain skin white as snow, lips red as a rose, and hair of blackest ebony.

Fare thee well, Miss Taylor. Your being here made the world a more beautiful, and a better, place. No one could ask for a better epitaph.

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February 2015

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