Wednesday, November 12, 2014

In Memoriam: Some Images And Memories Of My Mother's Influence On My Life

The scope,  breadth and influence of one life on another's is often difficult to assess but preserved imagery helps, as when I took out a set of dozens of photos, triggering memories of my mother. Her death has elicited the need for some kind of closure, and since I was denied the chance to mourn her properly (see Monday's post) , the next best thing is to erect this small virtual memorial. This features a number of images from the past each of which gestates a memory of its own. A few photos are not of my mom per se but rather reflect her secondary influence. An indirect "proxy" reminder, if you will, of a choice made (or not made) because of her- or things accomplished (e.g. winning my high school's science fair)
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    The earliest walking photos reminded me of the time she spent with me not only in mastering the physical aspect of walking but also instilling curiosity. This she did by reading to me, everything she could muster,  Soon after she led me to The Book of Knowledge.

    Therein I devoured as many astronomy articles as I could - by age 7. Whenever I encountered a difficult word, mom would define it for me,  but after a time she gave me my own dictionary to find it myself.  It was an inestimable contribution to my future education and set me on the course to independent learning.
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      An early culmination of her efforts resulted in me winning the top Science Fair prize at Pace High: left my physics teacher Mr. Webb and me, and right, my project visible in this piece done in The Miami Herald.
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        Two months later it was time for the Senior Prom, and mom was not enthused by my initial choice (left) of Eileen for Prom date. (I'd already taken her to a number of Pace High dances as well as to Venetian Pool.) Mom wanted me to take Barbara,  the daughter of a friend of hers instead. Not wishing to let her down I agreed. We all had a terrific time, Barb and myself dancing cheek to cheek until 4 a.m. before leaving for the breakfast .

        Meanwhile,  mom and dad served as chaperones (with other Pace parents) at Miami's Everglades Hotel, until they left at midnight,  unable to keep eyes open
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    Years later, I recalled from this photo above- taken in July, 1967-   - how mom arrived at my apartment on Canal St. in New Orleans (with the whole clan in tow) after I'd left Loyola to work for a couple years to save money. At the time she worried my food choices weren't the type needed for health so re-stocked my fridge with her own purchases. The whole family remained in N.O. for 10 days and at the end, she reminded me that while working for an oil company might seem terrific for now - it was not the end- and I had to go back to finish my degree.
I then became determined to do just that and with the push of a friend (who attended University of South Florida and worked at the same oil co.) I applied to enter as an astronomy major - affiliated with a department that had become one of the best in the nation, thanks to the Chairman: Prof. Heinrich Eichhorn, leading figure in the specialized field of astrometry.
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Flush with enough cash, I left the oil co. in 1969 and completed my degree in astronomy with a minor in mathematics. The photo shows my proud mom with me outside the Beta dorm at the Univ. of South Florida.    Then four years serving in Peace Corps followed by my wedding to Janice, and the image below shows the two of us standing with mom and dad near the main table at the reception

The talk of everyone at the wedding reception was how mom - unable to control the mother in her- patted my hair (she sat in the church row behind us) to help eliminate some wild strands.
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After the wedding we got to show her and dad some of the island, And she posed with the newlyweds in the photo below - before we went on our honeymoon:
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They  then got to see much more of Barbados when they returned in 1988 - even going to Harrisons Cave, and Mom learning to surf while we stayed at a Bathsheba beach house..
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    My last in person contact with mom was in July,2009 at the time of my dad's death and funeral. Two days after the funeral, I visited her in her Port Charlotte retirement home apt. and we poured through old family photo albums. The occasion was almost magical in the sense that her memory was vivid and she was lucid enough for us to have an extended conversation. Within two more years, this ability was lost as she grew more afflicted by the Alzheimer's that ultimately would claim her life.
Granted that none of us can really bring back the past , but let us agree that certain photos can trigger significant and not so significant events which thereby better help us to remember a loved one, especially a parent. 

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