I haven’t been writing much lately. I’ve had some big changes in my life, including a move, and the death of my mother, who I was very close to. I’ve been in a real funk and have had trouble finding the motivation to do much of anything.
My mom had an interesting life. Since she was young, she was involved in the performing arts. She sang opera on the radio when she was a teen. The station advertised her as a ‘German Diva’, in spite of the fact that she had no German heritage. She taught ballroom dancing at Arthur Murray‘s dance studio. After she married my dad, she performed at night clubs, and was very active in community theater, usually playing the female lead in such plays as “Brigadoon”, and “Milk and Honey” (the only two I, as a young kid, have memories of viewing her in). In a chorus, she once performed at Carnegie Hall. She gave guitar and voice lessons, both privately and at after school and summer programs.
I remember her being the music director at a YMHA camp that I attended. It was embarrassing at times because my fellow campers would talk about her without knowing that I was her son (because I didn’t want that to become public knowledge). Because she was a tough, strong woman, sometimes not everything that I heard would be flattering, so one day I just had to say it, “You know, that’s my mom.”One thing I learned is that you should NEVER have your mom as a teacher (she was harder on me than on anyone else, of course). That’s when I
One thing I learned is that you should NEVER have your mom as a teacher (she was harder on me than on anyone else, of course). That’s when I decided that maybe the guitar and I were not a good match. She tried teaching ballroom dancing to me and my friends before my Bar Mitzvah, and that also was equally trying. Don’t get me wrong — I always had a close relationship with my mother. But that doesn’t mean that she never drove me nuts. Hey, she was my mom — and that’s part of the job description.
My grandfather had taught me how to read before I was in grade school, and I would devour books on a daily basis. I was an incredibly voracious reader. Anyway, I was done with children’s books. My grandfather was giving me boxes and boxes of assorted books that he had found abandoned while working in the NYC Subway system (he was a carpenter and helped build and maintain the subway system). My fondest memory of my mother was when she brought me to the library — I don’t know how old I was — maybe 9 or 10. I was a very precocious child. While I was looking for my next book to read in the adult section, a librarian yelled at me and told me I had to go to the children’s section, which was downstairs. I was done with all of those thin, shallow books that other kids my age were reading. I wanted to read Asimov’s Foundation, and Clarke’s Childhood’s End, and Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar. Anyway, my mom overheard the librarian chastising me, and yelled at him. “How dare you tell my child what he can and can’t read”. My mom was never much of an intellectual, and maybe she didn’t always understand me. But I knew she was always there to stand up for me and to set an example that I should stand up for myself.
In her later years, she worked in nursing homes, always entertaining the residents and leading art and music classes. Even after her voice went (which happens with age), she loved music — even though our taste in music didn’t always overlap, it was something we had in common. I might not like opera, and show tunes were not my normal fare. But we both enjoyed Paul McCartney and the Beatles, and Paul Simon, and Joni Mitchell. I even introduced her to Bruce Springsteen, and The Who, and The Rolling Stones, all of whom she enjoyed… on occasion (even if they weren’t her favorites).
I moved from Ohio to take care of her when my dad died. The last couple of years, she was bedridden in a nursing home, after a fall cracked her spine. I would see her almost every week, to bring her eggrolls or whatever food it was she wanted, tell her about a movie I had just seen, or we’d discuss a TV show we both liked (we both loved “Game of Thrones”, for example), and I’d eat lunch with her and tell her the highlights of my week (I tried not to burden her with the lowlights). And then she got Pneumonia, and eventually died in her sleep.
Anyway, I’m going to try to start writing again. I feel like I shut down a bit in the past couple of weeks. The reality of her death didn’t actually hit me full on at first. It was only after missing a couple of weekly visits that it all really hit me. She wasn’t perfect, and she’d be the first to admit that. But she was strong, and still sending me requests for chinese food up until the end. I just wanted to share that.