that went far better than I hoped.
The celebration of Uncle Tom's life was Friday evening at the yacht club, an institution of spit and polish, varnish and excessive drinking since 1871. A solid percentage of the men had had pink pants that were later explained to be Nantucket Red which is a yachting color, and there was a Great Deal of soutache braid in elaborate patterns on all the men (no women, they were relegated to social secretaries) who were currently or had ever been Commodore (that would be president, for us landlubbers). We were late because my brother and family got caught in Maine traffic, and Anne was getting tightly wound and exasperated by the time we arrived. Many people said wonderful things about Uncle Tom, organized and hustled along by my cousin, his son Nat. As cousin Abby pointed out, she knew less than half the people there from her childhood, because her parents, particularly her father, had gone on doing other things; adopting new hobbies, new causes and new friends as he went along.
My kids were grand, my husband kind and presentable, everyone stayed as long as they could before they melted. Al and the girls headed home, I went back to Anne's house and hung out with cousins and my brother for a while and then to my mother's and slept.
This morning we were sternly told to be present at the yacht club well in advance of the 11 o'clock departure of the boat. We presented ourselves, as required, and waited.... to discover that our boat was on the wrong side of the railroad bridge, which would't go up, and the boat couldn't go under until the tide went down a little. So we waited. It was a nice place to wait. It was a dock. There were pretty boats in the harbor. The sun was shining. The wind was blowing. Eventually the boat showed up, and we all chose a flower or two and went aboard. We powered out to Newcomb Ledge, and said some kind things and scattered Tom's mortal remains over the side along with the flowers. The giant pink and white peonies floated and looked lovely on the sea.
I think everyone relaxed some after that and talked a little more freely as we headed back. When we landed we all went back to Anne's again, and had more food, and then started saying goodbye to everyone, over and over and over, walking around and around and promising to meet up again. We probably won't, but it might be worth saying we might.
Warren Zevon never looked hard enough at his mother to write my song,
he stuck with Excitable Boy,
he who commited murder and was horrific,
and completely missed
the one where the old witch woman sits in the back yard
cackling over a fire pit of bones and sticks
roasting marshmallows and pretending they are birds
toasting bread, letting butter melt down her elbows
greasy and mad
rolling her eyes
shaved her head
watching the young roll by
a witch by definition is still
an old woman
a hut with chicken legs is starting to look pretty good
a couple of cats
a nice dog
plenty of room to make stuff and a little alimony or allowance
after feeding everyone
all the time
Although maybe I only want no schedule
or my own schedule
or no other bodies to think of or herd about or manage somehow
there is a certain freedom to getting the younger child to eighteen
the temporary majority in which they can vote and marry
but not drink or smoke
which has to chap someone
but made sense at the time
I've been off balance, teetering on the brink of distressed and weepy for no good reason. If I think about it, I know I would feel better if I could make it to the gym, accomplish some exercise, stick my nose in a horse, ride my bike, but the threshold for doing any of those things seems unsupportably HIGH and I am unable to clear it without stubbing my toes.
I also know that making stuff generally makes me happier, and I have been working on that. But the whole studio scene has been feeling oddly pointless if I can't find an outlet for it - gallery girl wants landscapes, but what it pulling on me is these larger more abstract sinuous river works, and she hasn't got the space for them or the people who want them. Shich means finding an audience for them, or figuring out how to craft them for her audience, or something, and thinking about it is just making me tired.
Aerin is home from college, she's slept most of a week. She said today at supper that she thinks she might have mostly caught up because the book she was reading suddenly got stupid. And she was half-way through book two. Of a trilogy. So that made us both laugh.
I had the distraction of my dad today, so I took him over the to the Amherst College Natural History Museum (the museum formerly known as the Pratt) and he was gobsmacked. It was charming and delightful. Out of a smallish museum of three levels, we saw half of the middle level and roughly half of the top level, and then we had to go fortify ourselves with lunch and settle our whirling brains. We will probably do that agin a couple of times, since there are still things to explore. He had a nice time opening all the drawers that visitors are allowed to open, and admiring the fossils within. It is a super little museum, and a family favorite. Next time we'll take some subset of the girls as well. Today was much easier mentally than two weeks ago. We were in the present, and talking about geology, and current things, and he was pretty solid. I think it is trying to remember things, particularly people, where he gets lost, and then goes in circles.
Al and I are negotiating how to get Aerin wheels so she can transport herself to and from job interviews, actual work, and her young man near Boston. My mother has very kindly offered half, but Al has some issues around giving her a thing she can't maintain, and is quibbling over exact phrasing of ownership, which is tense.
I think it is weird that the mental image I have of Uncle tom is from black and white photos taken before I was born; of him with Sally and Tim in various stages of childhood, in various collections of family, and one vivid image of him at the helm of Reva, sailing out of Manchester probably, because I think he did that forever, and the whisp of my mother's back nearby. They were so tight, they worked so well together, they were so important to each other. I don't know how to think about that.
My brother and I don't have that kind of working, easily affectionate relationship. I want to know what he is thinking and doing, he wants to be sure we're ok, and beyond that we don't really spend enough time visitng, and talking, to understand the other very well. I could change that. I could call more often, talk more, reach out more, just say hi more.
I brought Aerin home from college yesterday... all the way across the river from Amherst to here, all ~8 miles of it, but she's been living in a dorm and had stuff to get out and get home. We talked while she got the last of her stuff into containers and into the car, and talked going home. Al pointed out this morning he had been working on wrapping his head around the idea of having no girls home and right now there are two girls home and he is confused.
Aerin and Alice started talking as soon as Al and I went to bed. I could hear them, laughing, in the living room. It was lovely. I asked Alice why she and Aerin got along so much better than other sibs I saw, and her answer completely floored me. she said she'd watched Al with his sister Nancy, and me with Mat, and decided she and Aerin would need to get along well when they wer bigger so they should probably start sooner rather than later. I asked how old she was when she made this observation, she said maybe 6 or 7, because she'd thought it, and then pinched Aerin. Because one's inner 40 year old can only speak to the current occupant of your brain for so long. I'm not sure Aerin has an inner 40 year old, but she has other motivators so it does not actually matter.
So yeah. Aerin finished college, graduated, went through a bunch of different ceremonies and is now officially done. She was ringed with a golden collar for completing work within the Commonwealth Honors College, and Jared insists her name had all kinds of stuff after it in the general graduation program which none of us retained one of because it was bucketing rain and cold and the seats in the stands of the football stadium were soggy so we all sat on the programs. Not one remains. We are taking his word for it, until we can locate some corroborating details. We think she graduated Cum Laude, which is excellent and praiseworthy. It occurred to me that we never doubted she would finish - she is a good student and scholar, comfortable in school, good at organizing her life around academics. I am much more dubious about how she is going do to out of school, and how she intends to deal with the process of getting a job... So we have been low key to the point of catatonia, which is pretty much out M.O. for stuff like this. A big dinner, a lot of chocolate, a fair amount of "job well done sweetie" and then sleep for a week.
I dunno why I have things to say today
I've always felt a certain affection for Lydia Pinkham
- she ran an emporium composed almost entirely of alcohol and possibly cocaine and morphine dissolved in vegetable extract, she labelled it with her face, which was critiqued endlessly in ways women today find very familiar, and she left behind an extraordinary building in Lynn that used to be cheap industrail space and seems to have transitioned to cheap artist space.
My spare father designed his own boat, and built it in the Pinkam building over the course of seven years. We called the building the Pinkorium, and the boat Heitmann's Folly until the glorious day he launched it, at which point I took seven rolls of film worth of photos (back when film was a thing). Sundowner was launched from the boatyard we lived next to for several years in Marblehead. Instead of a marine railway, they had a crane that was originally steam-powered like Mary-Ann the steam shovel (four corners, straight and square) and had been retro-fitted with a diesel engine when it was bolted to the ground so that heavier boats could be lifted into and out of the harbor.
We moved into the house when my brother was 3, and within a month he could make all the noises of all the power tools he could hear in the boatyard. We'd go down into the back yard (everything was built into a hill, and no two adjacant square yards were level) and hang on the fence and watch people working on their boats and talk to anyone who would talk back. In that back yard we also had a jungle-gym, a set of towing bits from a dying tug boat, and a sand box.
drove to see Sally yesterday
...nearly light hearted. It was unexpected. I think for her dread and suffering are worse than death, and having something be over is a relief. It was clear to her that her brother Tom was physically miserable, even though his mind was there, he was in enormous pain as parts of his body stopped working. I had thought we would go see Aunt Ann, but we just hung out at her house and talked about sailing and boats and animals we'd had, and our shared past and her past with Uncle Tom. I brought some pictures down from her bureau - she sent me up to look at a photo of Aerin, Al and me from Aerin's first year, Aerin cheerful and drooly, two teeth and a grin, but we have that photo on the fridge and I was more taken with others. I brought down the one of my grandmother, mother and me, lined up like peas in a pod, and a bunch of my mother with her brothers at various ages, started at age one looking dubious, and working her way up to older age. There is a big chunk missing in the middle, from when we were kids and she was in her 30s and 40s. I'd like to find those, somewhere, and the ones of Sally and Tom sailing Reeva with all those friends from forever ago.
Sally, Tom is the middle child, Tim the oldest. i think there is four years between Sally and Tom - there was another daughter in between but she died of ...diptheria? as an infant. Tim is oldest by 2 years.
I think of Tim as case hardened. He decided he was unable to please anyone so he might as well please himself, and he went off and studied engineering and took a break and went through the army and came back and worked for AT&T forever, starting as a lineman climbing telephone poles and fixing wires aloft. He's still alive, divorced from the (slightly crazy) mother of his four children and remarried to a woman I like a lot, with a New Yawk accent that can cut steel.
Tom, in contrast, was painfully polite and worked hard to please everyone. His moments of rebellion were small but successful. He scrounged vacation time and organized his family and sailed across the Atlantic and down the coast of Ireland, England and Europe, into and around the Mediterranean, back across the Atlantic on the trade winds and home along the east coast. It took over a year, and he made it all go, and brought everyone home, and sent them all back to school again. This is such a stark contrast to the five month flail our family did attempting to run a charter boat that was totally not as advertised in the Caribbean - that is a different story.
My mother tried briefly to do as was expected and just decided not to. She is also a story for another time.
Uncle Tom left some notes for his family, to help organize the celebration of his life. He included handy lists of friends and what parts of life they hailed from, and a list of all the boats he'd owned, and the length. That was pretty much peak Uncle Tom, right there. His memory will be a blessing.
I got stuck yesterday writing about the frustration and circularity of talking with Jt my dad about my Sally - looking at her FB page and every time he sees Sally Thomson he says "oh that must be my sister" and I say "that's my mother, Boston Sally" and he says "oh. you know, I don't think I remember what she looks like" and I say "she looks like me - she's gorgeous" and he says something nice about how I am beautiful, with beautiful children, and three minutes later we do it again. It is easier to distract him and go off on tangents about strandbeests and boats and my kids and Brownell and Monhegan and all the other things I do have photos of. Because he'll see pictures of Sally and say yikes - she's scary! and I want to hit him. She's 82. He's 91, and no particular prize himself, what does he think happens to people when they age? How is my mother's aging face different from his lovely sister's aging face? Can I shout at him, even if it won't make any difference? I was so pleased to have an answer when he asked me what my mother looked like: she looks like me, she's gorgeous. That felt like a triumph against so many different narratives, both within my family and in his head and in the universe at large and in defense of my mother against my father's retro-aggravation. But this revision hurts, and repeating at three minute intervals is killing me. I can not do it; I can figure out how to not do it by curating the photos I show him better, but that was instructive.
I hate everything
My uncle died Friday night
I should have gone to see him last month
or last week
I should have visited my mother yesterday
Lucia my step-mother almost convinced me to take my dad to see my mother today, to pay his respects, except my mother waved us off which was a good thing.
My dad's memory is going, is gone, is strangely holey... he says he can't remember what my mother looks like, so I tell him she looks like me, she was gorgeous. He remembers he liked my Uncle Tom, that they talked boats and were friends over engineering and sailing and living in New England with Boston girls. We were looking for photos of anyone on my computer, after talking to my mom, and yeah it doesn't help that his sister and his ex-wife my mother are both Sally Thomson and I was Cynthia when he knew me best, and Sally's daughter is Sarah... sorry. It was a long several hours.
I am driving east to see my mother tomorrow. Well probably lunch, and have to visit Aunt Ann, and then I'll come back or have to spend the night depending on how tenuous she is.
I have new thread
I cannot find small (3/8" // 1 cm) copper washers anywhere. When I look online, three of the top five sites were made to order with minimums in the thousands. I only need hundreds. Anybody have a couple hundred smallish copper washers? it would improve my life dramatically.
Two days into my first ever experience with Topamax I seem to be sleeping strangely but my head doesn't hurt, so WIN? mostly win.
I have now interviewed seven different people at that many different high schools about how they accomplish musical theater in their schools. I have liked them all. Which is encouraging.
If you read Jennifer Crusie and not her blog, she is posting the beginnings of works in progress at the rate of one a week or so, and they are amazing. check it out: Argh, ink
I have a new set of rivers in my head waiting to be made, but one requires copper washers which are apparently harder to come by than I expected. Which is making me grumpy. I have little stainless steel ones that are the right size, I think, so I shall suffer with those and accomplish the other one later if it is still haunting me.
I am having post-deadline ennui, having concluded a simply smashing series of pieces in record time because they were jostling eachother to get out, and I finished the entry form this morning and emailed a giant packet of info in .docx dormat and 16 fucking giant and idiosyncratically formatted as per requirements images to somplace near Toronto and I am hoping for good things.
Having concluded that, I got my teeth cleaned and lunch with an intense poet friend and did not one single thing for th erest of the day.
Alice is back from her Rome to Athens sightseeing whirlwind. She kept us up to date with near daily, hilarious trip reports. She was traveling with a good friend with similar interests, intellect and level of snark, so they got default room-mated and paired up on pretty much everything. Since Miriam refused to write anything, I forwarded Alice's reports to her (Miriam's) parents, who in return forwarded to me some of Miriam's 900 photos (yikes! Alice says there are a lot of a jellyfish, and a couple vidoes of nothing but the wine dark sea rolling in and out).
There are the last three pieces I finished: