Saturday, December 7, 2019

A PRIVATE REMEMBRANCE

I live near my cousin Nancy here in Tennessee. My mother Marie and Nancy's mother Ann were sisters. They were both born and raised in New Jersey. After they grew up and married, Ann and her husband stayed in Jersey. My parents moved to California.

Even though they lived on two different coasts, separated by three thousand miles, Marie and Ann remained extremely close until the end of their lives. They shared many uncanny similarities and tastes, almost as if they were twins (my Mom was nearly three years older than Ann).

I am haunted by the extraordinary fact that, being so close in life, they also share the same date of death: December 7th. 

I'm certain this is more than coincidence.

 One of my favorite photos -
Ann is on the left. My Mom is holding Figaro, the family cat.

No date on this photo, my guess is around 1947.
Marie (left) and Ann

Nearly fifty years later -
the last photo ever taken of Mom (left) and Aunt Ann together. I took this in 1995.

It's now been a decade since my mother died. December 7, 2009. It seems like a thousand years have passed, and the memories are merely the dusted shadow of a dream.

After my father died in 2005, I stayed with my Mom (in Texas) for the last four years of her life. I don't regret a moment. It was a peaceful, reflective time. The only true peace either of us ever had.

When I look at the old photos of my Mom, it tears my heart to shreds - knowing how much physical and mental abuse she endured from my violent father. Things so unspeakably horrifying that I could never force myself to write about them. Nobody knows but me.

Our mutual fight for survival drew us together and neutralized the ongoing (endless) nightmare. 
I admittedly wasn't always the best of sons. In my wild, destructive, frighteningly reckless youth I caused her more than enough anguish.

But she listened, understood, forgave, offered advice, very often rescued the ravaged shreds of my existence from the brink of oblivion. She was my anchor in a sea of chaos.

It's no exaggeration to say that my mother was brilliant and beautiful. She was an extraordinary pianist and my first music teacher. She was a voracious reader, had an insatiable quest for learning, and loved the arts as much as myself.

I've said enough; perhaps too much. I'll only add that I miss her.


with her hair dyed dark brown


This was my Mom's favorite photo of herself, taken when she was about 40. She's wearing a dress that was especially designed for the Miss Universe Pageant.
One of my cousins (a former Miss Arizona) was in the Pageant (I forget what year). Afterwards, she gave some of her Miss Universe wardrobe to my mother because they wore the same size.

29 comments:

  1. Jon, what a beautiful remembrance/tribute to your mother. She was such a gorgeous lady! I love the first photograph of she and Ann wearing the chenille robes. What a fabulous picture. They actually LOOK like twins! And I can see where your love of cats came from---Figaro. Love that name! And also your love of music and writing.

    Sounds like you and your Mom had such a special bond. It was the same for me and my Mom. And although she was my stepmother, we had a bond as if we were blood-relatives because we were so much a like.

    I am so happy to hear that you were able to spend those four years with your Mom because I'm sure it was a great comfort to her. And to you as well.

    Those final four pictures are just flawless! How stylish and chic she was. That final photo of her wearing the Miss Universe Pageant dress is fabulous! She looks like a supermodel.

    Thanks so much for sharing your memories, my friend. Beautiful!

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    1. Ron, I was in the middle of writing a reply to your comment when I accidentally deleted it! Anyway, I appreciate your kind thoughts and apt observations.
      I like the name Figaro, too (they also had a cat named Felix). There were numerous cat lovers on my mom's side of the family.

      My mom and I shared very many interests and talents. She loved music, writing, art, history, theater, etc. I inherited my mom's good traits and my father's bad ones. But thank Gawd I was never violent.
      It's amazing and fortunate that you and your stepmother had such a close bond.

      My mother and I shared one trait that was detrimental - we both had low self-esteem. You'd never know by looking at my mom that she was very self-conscious. She was naturally gorgeous and elegant without hardly trying.

      That photo of the Miss Universe dress was always her favorite. I don't know whatever happened to that dress, but I still have a pair of her Miss Universe shoes.
      I'm glad you enjoyed this - I was initially hesitant to post it for fear of seeming too sentimental.

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  2. a beautiful woman. a lovely tribute. through you she lives on. it is so very hard to lose the ones we love. time sometimes eases the pain and sometimes it doesn't. but the memories sustain us day after day. cherish them. you're in my thoughts today Jon. Take care. my heart aches for you.

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    1. We both share painful memories. I know how difficult it must be for you since the loss of your father. It is said that time heals all wounds - but in fact the pain never really goes away.
      I truly appreciate your kind and caring thoughts. I,too, am thinking of you. Please take care.

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  3. My husband has the same sort of childhood memories as you: his dad was an alcoholic who became abusive when he was drunk. Cliff sometime got mad at his mom because if he started to beat her, she would say, "Hit me again, you S.O.B." He says if she would have shut up, her beatings wouldn't have been as intense. But she was a fighter.

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    1. Spousal abuse is much more common than most people think - and long ago it was a subject that was never mentioned. Abused women suffered silently.
      My father could drink copious amounts of beer, but he wasn't an alcoholic.
      The frightening thing is that some of his most violent outbursts happened when he was sober.

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  4. I remember most of these images of your stunning mother. That's darn interesting about the patriotic dress … she looks like a movie star. (I was going to write, fashion model, but they're not allowed to have curves, are they?)

    I know how you feel on these, silent anniversaries of our hearts. My dad passed suddenly on December 6, 1981 … oh, I know ALL about heartache and regrets.

    PS - That's so odd about Marie and Ann both passing on the same calendar date. My mom and her sis-in-law/best friend also died within 24 hours of each other back in 2004. Coincidences? I don't think so.

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    1. On numerous occasions my mom was mistaken for being a movie star. You're right - all the models looked like Twiggy. My mother had a figure.

      I didn't know your dad passed away on December 6. This is obviously a painful time of year for both of us. When my mom died I was entirely alone in a tiny Texas town with no friends or family. I had to endure the agony by myself and it was difficult to keep my sanity. Also it was the worst TX winter I can remember - with blizzards and ice storms.

      It's very strange when people close in life die on the same date, or within hours of each other. No, it's not coincidence.

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  5. Your mom was beautiful and elegant. She looks like a movie star! It sounds like you were close and have loving (but also painful) memories of her.

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    1. My mom really was elegant, and it came naturally and seemingly effortlessly. I was an only child - caught in the middle of the chaos between my parents. This drew me close to my mother. I always felt a need to protect her.

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  6. So many memories. I'm so glad you two had those four years together with peace and happiness. Priceless!! :)

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    1. I'm really thankful that we had those four peaceful years - it was a suitable resolution after a life of stress and anguish. I suppose it's not always good to dwell on memories, but often they help sustain us.

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    2. Dwell on the good ones!! ;)

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  7. Your mother was a very pretty woman. While my mother is still with us in body, we began to lose her in 2005 when diagnosed with Alzheimers. I am sure that if she was wearing the same dress at 40 as women half her age who were in the Miss Universe pageant, she not only turned heads but also upset other women battling gravity. It was nice that you had that time with her at the end of her life.

    www.thepulpitandthepen.com

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    1. I know several people with family members who are stricken with Alzheimers. It is such a tragic and extremely difficult situation for everyone involved. It takes a lot of patience and love.
      I appreciate your kind comment!

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  8. I enjoyed learning about your mother and seeing the glamorous photos of her. I'd be proud of a photo in a Miss Universe dress, too! And how wonderful that you shared so many of the same interests, especially piano. I've been tearing up all week, missing my dad. He passed in October of last year and I think the upcoming holidays are making me sentimental.

    I'm glad you wrote this post and you've given me courage to write my own. I'm just not up to it yet.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your father. When a parent passes away, a part of us goes with them. Unfortunately time doesn't really heal the wounds, but at least we can derive comfort from the memories - and also knowing that our parents will always live within us.

      I hope you'll eventually find the courage to unleash your feelings through writing. It can be a beneficial catharsis. Take care.

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  9. Beautiful tribute, and photographs. Marie and Ann do look like twins, and so glamorous. I am sorry that you and your mother endured so much violence, and happy that you had those last peaceful years together.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. Looking at the photos of my mom, it's difficult to believe that she endured so much violence and physical abuse. Her outward appearance never betrayed the inner emotional turmoil.

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  10. Your mother was an attractive lady. I wonder if your father was jealous of her?
    I wish I'd had a mother like yours. Mine tended towards being cruel, but thankfully my father was my saviour.

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    1. Cruel parents can deeply affect our lives. I'm glad that at least you had your father to depend on.

      You're right on target, Valerie - - I have no doubt that my father was jealous of my mom. He liked the fact that she looked glamorous, but deep inside he resented it.

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  11. Thank you, Jon, for introducing me to your mother although I am sure this was a bittersweet tribute to post. She was certainly a beautiful, stylish, and creative woman. How sad that both she and her sister passed away on the same date, also the anniversary of another sad day in history. My own mother also died in Dec, 5 years ago, a few days before Christmas. I have many regrets about not spending more time with her, as we were living in different states. You and your mother must have treasured the time you spent together.

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    1. Thanks, Dorothy. I was initially hesitant to post this. I didn't want to seem too sentimental (which I am) or seem like I was bragging.
      Despite having a lifetime filled with unhappiness, I'm glad my mom's final years were peaceful.

      I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your mother - and having it happen during the holidays is even more difficult. Living in different states does make it hard to maintain a close connection with relatives. My mother regretted being so far away from all her relatives in New Jersey.

      Take care and thanks for stopping by.

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  12. Your mother and her sister are so beautiful. How sad it was that your mother had such difficult times. It is hard but good to remember and honour her memory.

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    1. Jenny, I'm always hesitant to write very personal posts like this, but - as you said - I think my mom's memory is worthy of a tribute. Thanks.

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  13. Jon, your mother is so striking! Beautiful inside and out. I'm glad you had such a strong and wonderful mother.

    My mom suffered from SEVERE mental health issues. That's why all the kids had to stay with one relative or another until she'd come back to her senses.

    A most beautiful tribute to your mom! I'm glad you had each other to support each other during the times your father was doing his best to make your lives a living hell. Nobody deserves that.

    P.S. My crazy dad was never around and did not pay a single cent of child support after my mother wisely divorced him. She just wanted to be rid of him forever. That was payment enough. :-)

    *Hugs*

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    1. Dylan, it amazes me that you turned out so extraordinary after having had such a tragic and horrendous childhood. At least I had my mother. You had neither parent to count on.

      My father was a good provider and could function "normally" when he wanted to - - but he had severe emotional problems and his violent rages were absolutely beyond belief. No one in my entire life ever terrified me more than my father. My mom attempted to leave him numerous times, but he'd "apologize" and she'd return.
      In those days abused women had no resources at all. No one ever spoke about the subject publicly. My Mom said she stayed with him merely to have a roof over her head.

      Relatives said my dad went nuts during the war, but that wasn't true. From all I've heard he had extreme emotional problems long before that.

      I'm writing this quickly and hope it makes some sense. I suppose we should be thankful that we survived all the chaos, Dylan. I think the intense suffering made us more sensitive and creative.
      Big Hugs.

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  14. Dear Jon, I'm in awe of the loveliness of your mom, the strange and conflicted character of your dad producing you --a friendly and compassionate spirit. There were no big warnings in my parents' deaths. Dad dropped dead in November, 1960. He was kind to me, but ruined by war. In 2001, late October, I dropped by Mom's place on my way home from work. Newspaper was still in the driveway and no porch lights were on. So it goes. Next morning, before dawn, I was at work. I told my supervisor what had happened and that I would prepare the athletic field for that evening's football game but couldn't further rely on my composure. She embraced me and excused me with a chaste kiss. When bad things happen, I tend to grab normality with both hands and began bereavement leave 3 hours later. I guess there's a part of us, no matter what our ages, that feels orphaned when that happens.

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    1. Your comment touched me immensely, Geo - thank you for sharing this with me. Suddenly becoming an orphan is profoundly traumatic at any stage in our lives. A large part of our selves is rudely ripped from us. Yet, the spirit of our parents remain with us forever.
      It's very unfortunate that you lost your father at such an early age - but your mother did an extraordinary job of raising and nourishing you.

      I don't always have a way with words. I hope this has some meaning.
      By the way - Happy Birthday!! I don't know the date of your birth, but I do know it's December.
      Mine, this year, is on Friday the 13th. Seemingly appropriate....

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