I have not written much about my mother and after writing a significant post about my father I feel guilty. I can’t really write about a boy and his mom; we didn’t have a memorable relationship until her later years. This was unfortunate because I came to know that mom was a very intelligent and strong person who most likely had a lot to share.
Mom lived on West 83rd Street from the early ‘40s until illness forced her into a nursing home over 45 years later. She was ill with tuberculosis in 1950 forcing isolation from her newborn son. When I discovered this isolation in my own therapy, the result was a focus of the effect that such a separation had on me. Many, many years later I began to see the effects it had on her relationship with me.
Because of the lung damage mom always had an air conditioner in the bedroom to facilitate sleep. She slept closer to the windows.
Ten years after the TB there came cancer. She toughed it out through a radical mastectomy and radiation. This was before reconstructive surgery made the scene so mom had a falsie inserted in her bra from 1960 until her death in 1993. It was neither the cancer nor the TB that led to her passing. It was the accident in the nursing home after suffering numerous strokes that resulted in her death.
Throughout my childhood my mother worked for a children’s dentist, running his office. She translated an article of his into french, a language she shared with my sister. I happily remember going to the dentist, my mom was in charge. And I remember the chalk teeth and the real instruments that I was given. I think they hoped I would become a dentist. Sorry, mom.
Dr. A. died eight months after my father, leaving mom with the need for a new position to support me and her until I finished college (although I did have part time jobs along the way.)
First, she took on the position of executive secretary to the CEO of a not-for-profit and then moved with him when the agency was swallowed up by a huge insurance company and he became a vice president.
Before Dad died in 1970 she entertained in our apartment. I recall that her parties were well attended and memorable. They did not include neighbors but did include professional friends of both my parents. That meant, writers, dentists, actors and others.
There was also the famous thumb incident. Both my parents traveled around Manhattan exclusively by taxi. It was late in the afternoon when mom slammed a cab door shut on her thumb. It was brutal and it was purple. Her recovery was complete. She was a fighter.
I remember well that my mother was called upon, frequently, by my sister’s friends for personal and confidential advice. She was well loved.
Mom had friends in the neighborhood and on the East Side. She traveled and managed quite well for many years.
My mother was generous with me as an adult, too, providing some much needed cash to produce Volunteer Firefighter, my children’s book.
Mom stayed in apartment 9E until the last possible moment, having fought me about leaving until the inevitable move occurred.
Before she was finally confined almost exclusively to bed, the three kids, Jean and I visited and one time we took Mom outside in a wheelchair and provided much desired Chinese food. The choking incident and the displaced false teeth were scary and a bit funny to all of us; the youngest believed that eating Chinese food caused your teeth to fall out.
Mom’s passing was not gentle and the years before it were not pleasant for her. She, my sister and I grew closer in the last year but it was uncomfortable for Mom and hard on my sister and my wife and children.
The last Marion moving out of 222 West 83rd Street was Mom. Emptying the apartment where I had lived for more than twenty-five years and she had lived for over forty-five was a sad task. Some furniture made it our home on Long Island, the all important “secretary” moved to my sister’s in Washington. Jewelry was divided up and my family’s life in 9E was brought to a close.
Comments are always welcome here or at Ken@leavingwest83rdstreet.com