She says goodbye to the seniors, which is difficult for her each year.
Since my mother died in February 2011, with me by her side in a Charlotte, NC hospital, there are periods that are harder than others throughout the year. November, her birth month, and February can sometimes be rough.
Mother’s Day is a mixed bag, emotionally. After all, I can celebrate my wife as the mother of our daughter, and my mother-in-law as the mother of my wife, and all those women, living and dead, who have been like a mother to me over the year.
This May, I attended a production of The Music Man at a high school about an hour south of Albany. My wife’s niece, and therefore my niece, was in the production, as she has for the previous five years, going back to 6th grade. It was quite good.
If you go on Sunday matinee, after the performance, the director thanks various folks individually. Then she says goodbye to the seniors, which is difficult for her each year, as they literally leave their shoes on stage.
One of the seniors, the one who played the mayor’s wife, really bonded with the director. Each of them had lost their mothers, I don’t know when, but recently enough that the sentiment felt really raw.
And damned if seeing them mourning their mothers on stage kicked up similar feelings for me.
So this Mother’s Day is a tad more melancholy for me, for these reasons, or maybe something else, or for no discernable cause at all. Of course, I know that even if your mom’s alive, one can dread the commemoration.
Are there any events in your life that you feel make good parables that you want to share one day with your daughter?
I was 51 when she was born, so there is a lot of my life to draw from. Huge parts of it she doesn’t know, significant events, and I’m not sure exactly when/if to tell her. Maybe if she asks. She DOES know about JEOPARDY!
I remember looking at photos of my mother with some guy she went out with before she dated my father, and initially, it was kind of weird, but hey, that was rather natural. When she would talk about it- I was at least in my 20s by then – and say, “Oh, I could have married” so-and-so, it was rather disconcerting. I mean, I wouldn’t have been me!
My daughter is ALWAYS asking me to tell her stories, and I always struggle to tell her some. I know I’ve not wanted to poison her with some of the racism that I’ve experienced, yet at the same, try to subtly let her know – and some of it she’s figured out on her own – that it’s not all in the past.
I suppose I could tell her about being a conscious objector during the Vietnam war or going to various demonstrations for peace and justice. Not sure I want to tell her how I quit a job without having one to go to, more than once.
Really struggling with this one.
If you could go back in time and talk to yourself at 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50, what would you say?
At 10, I was feeling pretty good about things. Got 100 in the spelling final. I started becoming real friends with the girls in my class. Maybe I’d say that I needed to develop more male friends, because, even to this day, I have a dearth of them. I’ve usually preferred the company of women, and not just in romantic settings. I have some great male friends, but they are in the clear minority.
At 20, I was married to the Okie. I’d tell myself to press her about what was going on with her that would lead to her leaving the next year. Maybe I would have gone to the Philadelphia folk festival (which we couldn’t afford) if it was THAT important to her. (Ah, something the Daughter does not know about yet.)
At 30, I had a good friend die and got my heart broken in a fairly short period of time. I’d tell myself to avoid a certain emotional entanglement the following year, though it felt so good at the moment.
At 40, I had just started my current job the year before. I would have suggested taking a temporary position when it became available because the whole path of my employment could have changed.
At 50, Carol was pregnant with Lydia. Actually, there’s very little I would have said at that point because it’s impossible to understand parenthood without experiencing it.
What do you think you didn’t study enough in high school and college?
In high school, it was French, though I DID put in the effort, I just didn’t GET it, past the first year or so. Wish I had had the chance to have taken it earlier. In college, I’m surprised, in retrospect, that I took exactly one course in music, which I aced, and didn’t participate at all in a choral group, at college, or a church or something.
Did you have to write a thesis for your graduate program?
It was not a thesis as such, but it was a long paper, close to 50 pages. I couldn’t tell you what it was about if you paid me. It was torture when I wrote it.
What’s your favorite subject to study in-depth? What is your least favorite subject?
I don’t like studying anything in-depth; I get bored. I like to know a little about a lot of things. Recently, I HAVE become more expert in START-UP NY (an attempt at an economic stimulus in the state) and NYS sales tax law than anyone ought to be, and still, I have to look up. I suppose I’ve picked up some knowledge of The Beatles and other musical entities of the 1960s and 1970s.
My eyes glaze over when listening to talk about cars; I couldn’t tell you a type of Chevy that doesn’t start with C (Corvette, Corvair).
If you could give one piece of advice to a college student today, what would it be?
Resist learning about job skills that you can go into today; the field could be gone tomorrow. DO learn about all sorts of stuff, and know-how to think, not just regurgitate back the facts. In other words, in spite of the great affection for STEM education in the country these days, and I’m not against it, I still believe in the value of a liberal arts education. Do you read the funnies? What’s your favorite internet comic?
I seldom read the comics on the Internet, more as a matter of time. I’ve seen stuff I like online, such as XKCD, but it’s not part of the routine. (Here is a special version of the strip.) I read Pearls Before Swine, Luann, Zits, Doonesbury (when there’s new daily stuff) and Blondie, because it has evolved somewhat. Having said this, I did support the Kickstarter for the movie STRIPPED, about the history of the genre, so I am interested in the topic.
What types of jokes or humor make you laugh the hardest?
It’s language: clever puns, things that evolve from double meanings of words. Can’t give you an example, because, as I have often said, I can’t REMEMBER a joke I’ve heard since the age of about 12, even with fiscal incentive. But the visuals on the page, while not the best examples (but they are the last two on my Facebook feed) at least suggest the genre of humor.
I HATE, BTW, America’s Funniest Home Videos; the bits usually involve physical pain and embarrassment. I was at an urgent care place with Lydia a couple of years ago, and it was on the TV; my loathing was confirmed.
Music: The Barber Adagio I have almost a dozen versions of. Lenten music in general. But a great final movement of a classical piece will do it too, especially with organ power chord endings. I’ve mentioned some sad songs, associated with romance, in the past. Music evokes some very specific memories. Sometimes, songs, songs I associate with my former church in Albany make me very sad. Know what song used to make me weepy? Captain Jack by Billy Joel. Movies: the first one was West Side Story when Maria yells “Don’t you touch him!” over the dead Tony, but there have been several since. An occasional television show will do this as well, but it’s been a while, mostly because I’m not watching much TV. Other people being sad: I remember when Bobby Kennedy died and people were all sad. I wasn’t, but their tears became mine because THEY were hurting. That Kickstarter/Veronica Mars thing that you experienced made me sad for you, almost to tears, and surprisingly angry. My melancholia: More now than in quite a while. Sometimes, even in the midst of a crowd, I can feel quite alone. And I cry and/or I get angry. My daughter in pain, my wife in pain: the worst pain I ever saw my wife endure was after some surgery involving her jaw. MUCH worse than childbirth.
All you people who complain about all those sappy, romantic songs, these are for you
On Valentine’s Day, people are always playing these lovey-dovey songs. It being roughly six months from that holiday, I thought I would link to some of those songs I used to play when I broke up with someone. Haven’t done that in well over a decade, fortunately, yet the songs themselves still make me melancholy. It’s strange how music still holds its sway.
The Supremes – Remove This Doubt. You may know this from the Elvis Costello cover, but the original is from one of my favorite Motown albums of the 1960s, The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland. Funny thing that most of the time in their hit period, they WERE singing H-D-H.
Around 1987-1989, I was living in this nifty apartment in the West Hill section of Albany. I loved this building.
I’m listening to the Kinks recently, not surprising since Ray Davies’ birthday was June 23. The song Come Dancing came on, and, oddly, I got all melancholy.
The lyrics begin: They put a parking lot on a piece of land
Where the supermarket used to stand.
Before that they put up a bowling alley
On the site that used to be the local Palais.
It reminded me of things as they once were, which are not anymore. My elementary/junior high school, where I spent ten years of my life, was torn down years ago to build some housing that just didn’t mesh with the character of the neighborhood. My grandmother’s house, a few blocks away, where I came home for lunch every day for a decade, is also long gone. My high school merged with the other public high school; I get these nostalgia solicitations to remind me that I went to Binghamton High School. Except that I didn’t; until 1982, it was Binghamton CENTRAL, the Bulldogs, not the Patriots. There are actually a LOT of those places that used to be in my hometown, replaced by highways, or nothing at all.
But what triggered this nostalgic wave occurred considerably later, around 1987-1989, when I was living in this nifty two-family apartment in the West Hill section of Albany. I loved this building. It had two apartments, and when I walked down the hall and inside, I was in the kitchen! The bedroom was next to it. The living room, and the spare room, where I kept my comic books at the time, were in the front of the building. The best thing, though, is when I moved in, I could put all my books and records on the enclosed back porch, taking my time to unpack them without having to trip over them. The landlord, Steve, was pretty OK, too, now that I remember. It was my favorite place living by myself for a lot of reasons.
I’ve been riding my bicycle partway home, and I always ride down North Lake Avenue, but I decided to veer off to pass by the old homestead. It was all boarded up, with the grass around it all overgrown. My heart sank a bit. I know the neighborhood had deteriorated since I was there; still, this made me more than a bit sad. I suppose I could buy it for $31,300, but I fear what renovation would be required.
And that Kinks song, imperfect match though it was, ran through my head. Though I was in my thirties by then, it was as though “Part of my childhood died.” It was, if not my best self, a period when I was quite contented.
I still remember Christmas Eve in 1990. I was at a choir party when we heard that our tenor section leader, Sandy Cohen, had had a heart attack.
There seems to be this myth – and most every thinking person knows it is – that the holidays are wonderful, joy-filled days for nearly everyone. Au contraire: they can be quite tough for some people. As About.com put it, “It’s okay, however, to admit that [family] get-togethers aren’t always a fancy-free walk down Candy Cane Lane.” Even those who generally love the season can feel worn down by too much shopping/cooking/traveling to do.
A few years ago, my church had a service about a week before Christmas for those struggling with the holidays. It wasn’t greatly attended; a LOT of that was the weather. But I also wonder if one did want to self-identify as one of THOSE people who find the time frame to be a bit of a drag.
I still remember Christmas Eve in 1990. I was at a choir party when we heard that our tenor section leader, Sandy Cohen, had had a heart attack. Soon thereafter, we got word that he had died. And THEN we had to go sing at the 10:30 p.m. service; talk about tough.
So does Advent/Christmas bring you down a little, and if so, how do you combat it? For me, it’s eggnog and amaretto. *** To Xmas and beyond
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