Eleanor and Patricia

Posted: October 18, 2013 in Art, journal, Women
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

We suffer primarily not from our vices or our weaknesses, but from our illusions. We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in their place.

Daniel J. Boorstin —

Kachina Dream,2013, oil on canvas, 35x50 cm (14x20)

Kachina Dream,2013, oil on canvas, 35×50 cm (14×20) —

 

An aside to the story……

Capitán’s eldest sister and the first-born, was named Eleanor after her mother.  She went by the nickname Noni but behind her back was called “the war department”, for her iron fisted, unrelenting rule over not only her parents but also all her siblings.  A milky skinned redhead, her thinking was completely linear, a progressional,  pre-determined path to personal and societal success, there were no deviations, and no obstacles she could not overcome to achieve her goals. She was beautiful, graceful, intelligent, cruel, selfish, and very determined.

Patricia Roberta was Capitán’s youngest sister, and although he was the last of his siblings, Patty was the last girl, only 11 months his senior. A green-eyed brunette she stood in the shadow of her successful elder sister and watched with admiration and jealously.  Unlike Noni, Patty’s thinking was complete circular and it revolved around herself.  Spoiled and petulant she obtained whatever she wanted by whatever means necessary.  She considered herself to be quite special, and in many ways she was, but her values were shallow, based on what she thought society required of her, her personal needs superficial and her innate view on life was that it owed her more than she got.

Noni was very good at setting and achieving goals; Patty was very good at making other people tend her needs and make her happy. Noni allowed Patty to hang at the edges of her success and Patty never forgave her for the cruelty.

Noni choose carefully and married into an established local Irish dynasty. She gave birth to 4 children. Patty married the man she fell in love with, contracted a debilitating internal virus at a young age and was left barren.  Her greatest desire to be a mother would go unfulfilled and her sister would remind her of this failing for the rest of their days.

While Noni never had a kind word for anyone, Patty had a heart that was too big compensating for the great emotional need for a child; and it was that emotional need that softened her edges giving her an almost irresistible sheen, allowing her to move with ease at the mid to upper levels of New Orleans society.

When I was born Patty bonded with me like no other, and I must have reciprocated, because from that day forth, unbeknownst to me, she became my surrogate mother.  When my own mother had the 4th of her 6 children, Patty asked if she could adopt me, as my mother was capable of having many more children.  My mother was horrified at that thought and never forgave Patty.  Denied the one thing she wanted more than anything, Patty’s love for me grew exponentially over the years. Something I would not discover until much later in life.

Noni had a wealthy, powerful life, a full life, a rewarding life, and while her 3 sons succeeded in law, government and the arts, she would abuse and bully her only daughter into obedient submission, leaving her to grow into a fragile, bitter, narrow-minded, clueless, uneducated woman. My first cousin and one who would become the underlying sponge that soaked up the lies, the half-truths and innuendos, created by Capitán, spreading them as gospel.

I was in New Orleans when Noni was released from the hospital after a major heart attack at age 82.  None of her children, grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren had time to collect her from the hospital and bring her home.  Patty and I did. Physically weak, breathing shallowly, her fragile body seemed to disappear within her big four-poster antique canopy bed.  As I sat in a chair next to her listening to her breath, I could hear Patty down the hall on the phone making more arrangement with the maid, with a nurse and others when Noni reached for my hand and pulled me over.  “How could I have never known you were so kind?” she asked, “I am so very sorry.”   “Its OK, Noni, rest now.” I answered.  She died quietly 3 weeks later in that same bed.

With Noni’s death, Patty stepped with ease into the societal vacancy gaining the respect and admiration she craved.  In exchange for all she did for me over the years, I would help her go even further, by becoming her ghostwriter. She achieved great acclaim and fame if you will, for her talks, her committee installations, her prayers in multiple women’s groups and organizations throughout the city.  This would open the door to other latten talents and others would come to compose the tunes she heard in her head that would later be recorded by the Boston Pops.  Her world would grow, bloom, flower; her ego was now off the charts but her personality became child-like, loveable, generous, kind and those qualities made the superficial side of her seem insignificant.

A lovely side effect for me in this relationship was that Patty rarely bought anything off the rack.  All her clothes were classic in style, color and hand-made by her personal seamstress.  Worn only one season, she would give them away to charity each year making sure the charity knew exactly from whom the clothes came from; I received my yearly donation as well, and for about 25 years except for jeans and flannel shirts I never had to buy another stitch.

There is no lesson to this tale, no moral, no insight, just an observation, just a story to set things in perspective.  A family not unlike others who held grudges all their lives, who made people pay dearly for real or imagined offenses.   A family who lived and died by the drama they created, thereby giving their lives a reason for existence, meaning and purpose.  They lived two lives, their private ones which were “nobody business” and the public ones where “saving face” was paramount.  They were all unforgiving until the end, on their deathbeds, asking for forgiveness for a lifetime of cruelty.

I was not like them, never wanted to be like them, never truly understood them or their reasoning, never admired them, but I did find them amusing and I always loved them all in spite of their multiple failings.  All I ever asked of them was to be accepted and of course never was, except by Patty.

 

 

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