Posts Tagged ‘life’

Sleepwalking

Posted: January 19, 2015 in journal, Women, Writing
Tags: , , , ,
Beach Chair, oil on canvas, 77x102 cm (30x40)

Beach Chair, oil on canvas, 77×102 cm (30×40)

Its true, I feel like have been sleepwalking…..painting, thinking, working, sleeping, trying to breathe.  And so I sit and wait.

A new birthday approaches and the 30 days prior have been adventurous to say the least, ripples in the force, a glitch in the matrix, passing shadows… patiently I move slowly, because it is best to let these things pass in order to have a clean page, a sharp pencil to begin writing.

Words cloud my mind, the fog of too many years and too many rivers rushes over me as I think of a way to put it all into perspective.

And so I wait.

It will come when its ready.

“As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.” ― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

Yellow Feather (2001), oil on canvas, 77x102 cm (30x40)

Yellow Feather (2001), oil on canvas, 77×102 cm (30×40) —

An aside to the story…….

On September 30, 2013,  a moment expanded. I was rushed to the emergency room, ashen colored, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing with pain in my lower lungs.  They thought it was a heart attack. They ran every test. They sent me home saying nothing was wrong probably just stress.

Four days later I was back in the emergency room, the pain increasing, the breathing more difficult.  They ran even more test.  They concluded I must have had a Copd flare, even though I did not have Copd.  They gave me a steroid inhaler and sent me home.

That was on a Monday, I went back to work and by Friday I could barely walk 10 feet without gasping for breath, by Sunday the pain was intense, I was panting continuously with every movement. The morning of Monday, October 9th I knew something was very, very, wrong and went back to the emergency room.

As they checked me in, my blood pressure dropped dramatically and my lungs started to collapse.  For the first time in my life I was frightened. Frightened because I did not know what was happening, only that people were swarming all over me, working to keep me alive.

Ten hours later, now stabilized, I was admitted to the acute care wing of the hospital.  There I stayed for the next 8 days.  It took another 6 weeks to recover.  I had pneumonia coupled with acute pleurisy. The pain in my lungs was caused by the air sacs collapsing; I was having trouble breathing because my lungs were filled with fluid.

The fact that I almost died gave me pause and I noticeably changed.

All of us are in a constant state of change. Every word, every action, every incident we experience changes us in some form or another.  We are not the person we were yesterday nor are we the person we will be tomorrow.  Seldom are we aware of what is transpiring so caught up we are in our own lives.

What triggered my change and my awareness was not so much that I almost died but because in the all time I was gone from work, off line, incommunicado, no one called or wrote or e-mailed to see if I was OK or ask: where are you?  Of all the people I know, of all those I communicate generally by e-mail or online daily, no one in that week, or the next, questioned my silence.

When I did go online to Facebook, before I updated my status, I saw there was one message waiting for me from a friend I had never met in France, asking how are you, where are you? I stood corrected, there was one person who cared. It made me smile. It also made me aware how very insignificant my life had become to others. How very shallow all our lives had become.

So I laughed, and I laughed, I shook my head, and said to the universe: thank you for that extended moment in time, thank you for the awareness, now lets get to work on what is really important.

Not sure what that is but I know the others out there are no longer very important to me, what I do from this point forward is focused on what is good for me and improving my quality of life so that when the important stuff does come sometime before I die, I will be ready.

You may think that is selfish. Perhaps it is, perhaps for the very first time in my life I care more about me than other people.  Unheard of for an Aquarian! Perhaps it will only last for a short while, perhaps forever but my light is shinning so very bright right now it’s almost blinding.

Whatever I am moving towards I travel slowly, steadily, quietly with a smile caught in a new extended moment of time filled with joy.

That is not too shabby.

 

“But it’s no use now, to pretend to be two people! Why, there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person!”― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Other Moon, 2013, oil on canvas, 61x76cm (24x30)

Other Moon, 2013, oil on canvas, 61×76 cm (24×30)

“It’s just a jump to the left, and then a step to the right, with your hand on your hips, you bring your knees in tight………,” one moment,  time warp to the present if you please……..

I remember the sound of the incoming evening tide as it swished across the low rocks and shifted the basaltic pebbles in the sand, rattling them around the mangrove roots.  How rich the air was with the smell of salt and fresh bread calling you to make the hike down the sandy path to the bakery and obtain a loaf before they were all gone.  Then stopping for a chat at the bar/gathering place to catch up on the news of the day.

There were no interrogations, no condemnations, no judgements; there was just the doing, the anticipation of the next day, the challenges ahead. We were all in the same boat, so to speak, the same island. The world was different then.

I go back to my island days in my mind and listen to the incoming tide whenever I am feeling trapped.

Not meaning to whine and trying to maintain some integrity as an artist and being a cashier are diametrically opposed forces that are pulling me apart.  Two customers in the past 4 months have reported me to management for being “rude”.  The first was dismissed for what it was, the customer having a bad day, the second, well the second is why I am writing this.

There was a truly crazy customer whom I felt was trying to scam me, and after listening to her rant for nearly 10 minutes about what she wanted, how she wanted it, what she wanted to pay and what she was going to do to me if I did not give her way……well, for some ungodly reason I simply said “no”.  She stormed off saying she would report me.  I called my manager and advised her what had just happened, she told me not to worry. The other customers in line just shook their heads.  But upper management considered it a fatal error and I had unwittingly violated a prime directive…”no customer shall be told no.” Paraphrased, of course.

I was called into the small office with 2 managers present and read the riot act.  I was called in again 2 days later and read the riot act again but this time there were 3 managers present, a bit crowed and slightly intimidating.   They were they said, filing a formal written complaint on my behavior. This was my final notice (I asked where was the first notice), because now I had formed a pattern of bad behavior, and should one more customer report me  I would be fired.  Later that afternoon I went back to ask politely why I was called in twice on the same incident and was once again lectured on how bad a person I was, told they had to run a formal investigation on the incident.  I called HR Corporate Counseling in Atlanta the next day.

My record they said is squeaky clean, no reports, no violations, no nothing, but they would investigate the situation and let me know.  I do not expect any results, but it made me feel better.  My days of employment are numbered, at the whim of the next angry customer.

This incident has changed me a bit, I have now learned how not to do the right thing.  So if someone complains about the price, I just take 10 -50 even 70% off and smile. If someone starts yelling, I call a manager, if someone is trying to steal, I turn a blind eye, if someone is using someone else’s credit card I look the other way, if someone is returning obviously stolen items billed on another persons credit card I smile and refund them the money.  If drug users return items without a receipt, I smile and give them cash…not my problem right?   This is the new retail philosophy in the great US of A, employees are highly replaceable, and at my age, have even less value.

After reality set in, I was saddened when I was told by one of the head Cashiers, to “…..just close your eyes, do your job, and pray for forgiveness every night.  It’s not your store, it’s not your money.”

What is even sadder is she is absolutely right.

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Marie Curie —

Receiving Information ©2003- graphite on paper, 25x30 cm (10x12)

Receiving Information ©2003- graphite on paper, 25×30 cm (10×12)

 

The Story Continues……

Been giving a lot of thought to time and memories, how the memories we do hold, can be distorted by time. Sight, sound smell all come together to form the perceived image of what transpired, our eyes seeing illusions of what we want to believe is true.   I just may have too much time on my hands right now not painting and when I have too much time, I think……dangerous, because then I ask questions!

What I know now, I did not know then and when I look back I wonder how is it possible not to have been aware, not to have known, not to have remembered.  The answer is quite simple: it was safer to forget.  My Pollyanna attitude and can do spirit found itself when I left for Europe and buried the reality of my childhood.  This allowed me to frequently return to Ecuador, hating Capitán, but not truly understanding why; so somewhere in me for the next 20 years, I searched for redemption.  If that makes any sense at all!

Truth is always hard to believe, it never paints a pretty picture. My personal painting formed the image of what others saw:  the bravado, the fearlessness, the voice saying I could do anything, I was something, I was somebody.  Beneath the thin veneer, I was part of nothing, belonging to nothing, being nothing.  I had no real self-esteem, I saw my self as ugly and not having much value, conditioning that had constantly been driven into my being with the words of my family. Two different people, the child and the adult, fragile and strong, day and night.  Like waves it flooded me, lifting me up, dragging me down, only to lift me up again.

Coming to New Orleans to live with my aunt was a revelation, a freedom, a blessing, a gift.  They gave me the space to find myself, or at least search for something I could hold onto outside of myself.  They provided the foundation, the base, the balance, from which I could come and go, do or not do, be or not be, as long as I was there, with them, part of them, as long as they could touch me, talk to me, hold me, love me.  I reciprocated with equal intensity.

Via summer school I finished my missing classes with honors and got that American degree to add to the others. But at the time, my need for education had evaporated.  I spent my afternoons with my aunt at luncheons and teas, roaming the dense and dangerous vegetation of New Orleans high society.  At night I found a waitress job at a little joint in the French Quarter called the Kings Room.  Managed by a wonderful, older Italian man named Stanley who instantly adopted me, letting it be known that I was under his wings.  I was now “street people” of the Quarter, and could go anywhere in the city safely without fear.  The Kings Room was just one of Carlos Marcelo’s Mafioso enterprises and Stanley was one of his Capos. The bartender was a handsome tall Irish lad nicknamed Dino. I fell in love for the first time.

My relationship with Dino was passionate, strong and lasted for nearly 2 years. What I did not know was that he was an enforcer for the mob, he was an alcoholic, and when he was drunk he talked.  I was living upstairs in the small apartment on Philip Street, but my nights were spent at his place in the Quarter.

Of course my aunt and uncle were not pleased about this situation, but understood, they had met him, he attended family affairs, he was charming, gracious and ultimately was acceptable.  I was happy. Then a series of events came to pass, fate manipulating my life again.

It was in December, a typical cold, wet day, the dampness eating down to your bones. Stanley was not in the bar that night, I was informed he had a sudden heart attack and died, the funeral would be the next day.  The sense of loss was great, but more so was the knowledge that I was now on my own without protection.  After the funeral, on Dino’s advice, I quit the Kings Room and went to work at the Hotel Monteleon rooftop bar.  Dino went to work at an upscale restaurant down Bourbon Street. Christmas passed quietly and the New Year was looking bright, then shadows began to emerge.

Dino’s alcoholism became worse, something had triggered even heavier drinking, and from his babbling I knew his enforcer responsibilities had taken him a step deeper into the mob and there were  “disappearances”.  I was giving serious thought to perhaps it was time to leave him and this situation when my aunt informed me Capitán was in town.  I stayed away from Philip Street trying to avoid his presence.

The next night after work Dino informed me that Capitán had made an appearance in the restaurant bar and with gun in hand created a scene, threatening him, and advising  him to leave me alone least he be eliminated.  Dino of course laughed at that situation, but at the same time that confrontation was unacceptable to other powers that be and people began to notice and to question.  I no longer felt safe on the street.

What followed was inevitable, a confrontation with Capitán.  I took it upon myself to defend not only myself, but also my aunt and uncle against his attacks and accusations.  A horrid scene evolved, leaving my aunt in tears and my uncle telling him he was no longer welcomed in their house.

Two nights later, right before my 21st birthday, the new manager of the Kings Room came to the Monteleon and pulled me aside. He advised me what I already suspected, that it was no longer safe for me, that Dino had become a liability, that I knew too much. In memory of Stanley he was providing me passage to California with an associate, there would be a job waiting for me, in addition, he promised Dino would follow in a couple of weeks.

I felt I had no choice, I had to trust the gods that be.  I packed a small bag, told my aunt and uncle that I had to leave for a while and would be back when things quieted down. Would write them when I was settled.

The mills of the gods do grind exceedingly fine with actions and consequences coming together, forming a brew that is not always savory. To make a confusing story short, a week later I was abandoned in New York, on the street with $50.00 in my pocket, my passport and more than a little concerned as to what I was going to do next.

 

 

 

I got treated very badly in Texas. They don’t treat beatniks too good in Texas. Port Arthur people thought I was a beatnik, though they’d never seen one and neither had I.      Janis Joplin

At Days End- ©2003- graphite on paper, 25x30 cm (10x12)

At Days End ©2003- graphite on paper, 25×30 cm (10×12)

-I remember sitting on a veranda overlooking the city of Zagreb, the beautiful clear blue sky, the mosaic tile flooring, the Marine Guard who had driven me from Belgrade sitting across from me talking away; the plane was delayed a couple of hours and we were having that marvelously sweet, strong Turkish coffee.

The next thing I remember is that I am in Houston, I am in a Catholic High School, I am in a kind of hell.

It is quite apparent that the trip back to the US was traumatic, the arrival was traumatic, the situation was traumatic. It is apparent I erase things easily. Later I eventually gleaned what happened.

Upon my arrival my mother had arranged for me to take the SAT’s at the University of Houston so I could continue my schooling, Capitán was to forward all my transcripts.  It never occurred to anyone that I had not spoken or studied English since I was 9 (well I did speak English to my parents), that I took everything “literary” not understanding the subtleties of the language, that I could read quite well but I had immense difficulty understanding test questions.  In South America and Europe most of my test were oral, very little was a written exam, and then only in essay form.  In America the questions tested your cleverness, not knowledge and I could not decipher the innuendo, still can’t to this day! No one even realized that even though I could write, I could not spell!!!!

I managed to make only decent scores except in English, which I succeeded in failing royally. I could not be accepted as a foreign student because I was an American and no exceptions would be made, thank you very much.  To add to my mother’s dilemma, Capitán never sent the transcripts, said they were lost in the mail, would get copies, never did. My mothers solution was to put me back in High School so I could graduate from an American school, be able to learn English and hence get into an American college.

I was 19 at the time, going on 30.

My memories of that High School as you might expect, are quite fractured. I spoke with a British accent, which my Texan schoolmates thought to be pretentious and snotty, so I was bullied and mocked on a daily basis. I learned to keep my mouth shut and tried to get rid of the accent. I use to practice talking when I alone at my mother’s apartment. To make matter worse, I was clueless to the culture of American “teenagerdom”.  Not harboring any concept of what America was  except what I saw in a movie or two I was lost, and there certainly were no bobby socks here! I did not even know what a football game was, much less a Bar-B-Que.

Severe cultural shock took hold, I was frightened, friendless and having an extremely difficult time learning anything in school to which my teachers attributed to my metal defects as outlined in letters Capitán had written. I asked too many questions and was moved to the back of the class where I could be ignored.  I even had trouble using my empathic skills because I found everything to be not what I wanted! “Dealing” with it all alone was becoming a burden.

To my rescue came an angel named Dee, two years younger, a classmate, fearless and brave to a point, she befriended me outside of school (unfortunately she could not be friends with me in school, social stigma because I was such an alien…..and all that stuff I never understood).  However, she quietly defended me when others put me down, she helped me with my English classes and taught me how to speak Texan.  But the best thing she did was introduced me to Garry her sometimes boyfriend, a junior at the University of Houston, with whom I formed a karmic bond. He became my brother, my counselor, my teacher, and my life long friend.

I rarely saw my mother in those days, she put in long hours working as an executive secretary, we talked even less, although I do remember bits of joy and laughter, so we must have gotten along well. One day when I came home from school Capitán was in the apartment, I think he had come to try to get her back, but I never knew the real reason. What I do know is there was one of those terrible yelling fests and I left, spending the night in the hallway of an adjacent building. When I returned in the morning, he was leaving but not before I received a tirade of what a whore I was (his favorite word to describe all women) accusing me of earing a living on the street. I remember silently standing there thinking how some things, some tones, some words never change and how very much I hated him.

One month after this incident and only 6 months after I had arrived, my mother’s boss was transferred to New York and asked her to come with him to continue her job as his assistant. It was only 1 month before graduation when she dropped me off at the train station, putting a ticket in my hand and telling me my aunt would meet me at the station in New Orleans and I could finish school there. I do not think she kissed me goodbye.  She had done what she could and it was time for her to move on.  I did not see or hear from her again for nearly 10 years.

I had come to the conclusion that life really was a magic act, just smoke and mirrors: now you see it, now you don’t, very little was real.  Of course I blocked out the memory of the train ride to New Orleans. The only thing I do know is that my arrival was welcomed with open arms.  My Aunt and Uncle became a solid lifeline, became the parents I always wished I had, loved me beyond what was humanly possible and gave me something sacred: they believed in me.

They also made me keeper of the family stories, passing on the good tales and of skeletons in the closet that created the family history. It was from that day forward I never forgot anything again.

 

 

You’ll walk a path of misty truths, Moving you where they will to, The road where you’ll likely be, Living out this Mystery. Michael Brown  —

Philip St

Philip St. circa 1920 —

An Aside to the Story……….

The original structure was headquarters for the Confederate Army during the Civil War. When the war was over, it sat empty and abandoned for many years.  The advent of the reconstruction era allowed renovation to begin, porches were added, palms planted, the property was sold.

My paternal grandmother fell in love with the house while she was still a girl, making a mental promise that when she married that house would be hers.  The house itself developed a long history of being a property of contention, haunted by confederate ghosts, and other entities, bringing anger and mistrust to those who dwelt within its walls. My grandmother could not care less what was said, the ghosts were welcomed guests, she only knew that the on day she married fortune smiled and that house went up for sale.

Unfortunately, there were other forces at work. Her parents did not approve of two things: her marriage to the Scott/Irishman she fell in love with and knowing her desires to have that particular house.  The stout German family did everything in their power to prevent the marriage, but the couple secretly left town one day and eloped, eliminating that problem.  They also did everything in their power to prevent her from buying that particular house. Their reasons remain unknown to this day.

Strong headed and determined my grandmother was not one to be denied her wishes, so she contacted her husband’s cousin in Mississippi, marking arrangements with him to quietly buy the house.  Once the paperwork was settled she could then purchase the property without her family’s knowledge.  The family of course, found out the day she moved in; she would never be forgiven.  “This house”, they would say, was not meant for you.”  A family phrase I would later hear more often that I would wish.

By the time Capitán’s youngest sister married all the older siblings had already married and left home so she and her husband moved upstairs in the big house creating an apartment, which they rented from my grandparents.

My grandmother died only 3 years after my grandfather and in settling the estate, my aunt and uncle wanted to purchase the house from their siblings.  Capitán headed the campaign against this, wanting the property sold and the profits divided.  Following in the steps of her mother, my aunt secretly gained the confidence of her brother-in-law who at the time was a powerful judge.  He arranged for the house to be sold on the open market, reducing the price for a quick sale, and to be purchased by a trusted associate. This pleased all the siblings who received their share of the estate per the Napoleonic Laws of Louisiana.  A month later, the property was quietly sold to my aunt and uncle.  To say this caused a furor among the siblings would be an understatement, their anger about this affair would last an entire lifetime.  That house was not meant for you…they said and the bone of contention was picked clean once again.

My aunt and uncle would live happily in this house for the next 40 years or so with another sister who never married living upstairs.  They would renovate it, keep it perfect, live a life beyond their means and almost lose it to 11 years of unpaid federal taxes.

No one knew about this last item except me and the other aunt who lived upstairs.  My aunt never shared the information with anyone else.  Arrangements had been made with the IRS to ignore the lien and allow my aunt and uncle, because of their age at the time, to remain in the house for the rest of their natural lives on the condition the house never be sold, and if it was, the IRS would then seize all profits.

One sister came to live out the last of her days in the house, as did another brother. Then the aunt that lived upstairs died and the upstairs was divided into two apartments and when my aunt was in her late 70’s my dear uncle died.

Over the years I had formed a deep and abiding relationship with this aunt and uncle. I became closer to my aunt who took on the role of a pseudo mother. This was completely unacceptable to Capitán and other New Orleans family members including my siblings and my mother, and for unknown reasons they all worked consistently and diligently to turn my aunt against me. It would take them a lifetime and Alzheimer’s to succeed.

The death of my uncle left my aunt very alone inspire of numerous family members ready to move her into smaller dwellings and take over the house.  The family began chewing harder at the edges of her sorrow wanting to take control. Adding to the pressure, my uncle’s sister’s boyfriend of 25 years died leaving her with vast amounts of money and property.  My uncle’s sister’s will left everything to my Aunt and my Aunt’s will left everything to her remaining brother: Capitán. Not wanting to wait until the death of the two women, Capitán decided it should all be his now.  My aunt not knowing how to protect herself and her sister-in-law called me, as the only one she could trust, to come and help.  Having made a promise to my uncle many years before that I would always be there in time of need, I had no choice but to go.

My arrival in New Orleans would start a bonfire that would turn into an inferno that would lead to an epiphany that would change my life…….all because of this wonderful old house on Philip Street and those who lived in it.

“It’s when we’re given choice that we sit with the gods and design ourselves.”- Dorothy Gilman —

Observation 3- ©2003- graphite on paper, 25x30 cm (10x12)

Observation 3- ©2003- graphite on paper, 25×30 cm (10×12)

The story continues……..

In spite of what many would have us believe, truth, I have come to realize, is quite singular.  My truth, your truth, it is all true. We hold our memories and beliefs tightly to our breast believing that they fortify us within our self-created history.  The illusion of our created lives is like a crystalline cocoon within which we wrap ourselves, reflecting that singularity. Unknowingly we assume we are safe, but reality comes along every once in a white with a little silver hammer.  Tap, tap, tap…it goes, and cracks begin to form.

When I speak of being socially ignorant, it is the truth.  I have memories of making friends in school but never being allowed to see them after school.  There was little free time in school to chat with the exception of the bus ride to and from school, and my classmates were never on my bus. Unfortunately, I had already become a quite child and listened more than talked. I remember being allowed to go to parties, but only to enter the room, say hello and leave, for Capitán was waiting for me in the car.

I had the freedom of a bicycle, but that was eventually taken away when I never would come home in time, riding until it was dark, not wanting to come home.

I did have one special friend and it took my family a long time to find out. She was a year older than me, German/Ecuadorian, and lived on my bike route. We met by accident one day and found ourselves to be kindred spirits.  On my first visit to her house I immediately fell in love with her family, they were intellectual, musical, loving, kind.  I never told my family about them for fear they would stop me from visiting. It was a secret I was able to maintain for several months. They had a beach house and would go there often on the weekends, one day during vacations; I just went with them, lying about having permission.  It took my family 4 days to find me and of course that was the end of that friendship.

Sometime during the flight from South America to New York to Zürich and then a train journey to Fribourg, Switzerland I became a fearless Pollyanna – ready to conquer anything that came my way. Very few people spoke English or Spanish when I arrived at school. Since classes were taught in French, I learned the language quite quickly; then Italian and German within the year.  Two years at a prep school, because I was so young, and then to the University. I remember very little about school itself, one of my many memory “holes”.  Capitán had already written letters documenting my “mental disorders” manifested by cheating, lying and my overall delinquent nature, so teachers accepted me with trepidation.

I would learn much later about the letters Capitán would write to family members, my employers, my friends for the next 10 years saying the same thing and worse, laying the groundwork for the epiphany to come. But I get ahead of myself.

At the time, I processed it all just like anything else that was distasteful, uncomfortable, or hurtful: I ignored it, shoved it into a file drawer, made it disappear in my memory and moved on with life.  I was experiencing the illusion of joyous freedom and in spite of letters written or hard teachers who reminded me what a failure I was, I made good grades, earned a degree and made friends.

Not just one friend but three! Classmates with whom I would spend breaks and holidays, from skiing in Gstaad, Mont Blanc or Zermatt, to city hoping in southern Italy, to museums in Spain, a weekend in Paris, Easter in Athens or a summer in Germany.  I saved all the meager funds Capitán sent combined with money I earned helping other students with math or chores enabling me to travel and explore.

Everywhere I went I felt I had been there before. I knew the streets, I never got lost, everything was familiar, everywhere felt like I had come home.

In 1967 change arrived in the disguise of a letter I received from old friends of my mother who were currently stationed at the American Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. They extended an invitation to come and spend a long weekend. Eagerly I took the train from Fribourg to Belgrade looking forward to a new adventure.  Two days after I arrived they sat me down and handed me a plane ticket to Texas.  Telling me my mother had lost custody of my siblings but had managed to gain custody of me (I was still underage) but there were conditions. They explained I had a choice. I could return to school and continue with my studies or I could leave tomorrow, return to the US and live with my mother.  If I chose the first, Capitán would pay for the schooling but regain custody.

I think it was late September when a Marine Guard from the Embassy drove me in his green MGB to Zagreb where without a second thought I boarded a plane to the US and the unknown.

Tap, tap, tap…and the first crack appeared.

 

 

“We live on because we can love, and we love because we can forgive.”― Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram

 

..to sleep, perchance to dream...- ©2003- graphite on paper, 25x30 cm (10x12)

..to sleep, perchance to dream…- ©2003- graphite on paper, 25×30 cm (10×12)

The story continues……

As I said before, she was loved by everyone and to a lesser degree by my sisters who only saw her though the eyes of Capitán.  She was mostly unaware of our existence except when we would come to her with a problem and her response was always “deal with it”.  It was her way of saying “I have so much more to deal with you must learn to deal with it as well”.  She also carried similes in her pocket, tossing them over her shoulder as she left the room. Her way of ending a conversation before it could begin. Therefore I am not sure she ever really noticed the fact that every house we lived in Capitán always removed the bedroom doors to the children’s rooms and his room was always under lock and key. Not that she ever had any power to correct anything.

When I was small I can vividly remember my favorite places to play: the attic, the basement, or a shed in back. It was there I would pretend to live, safe behind a door I could close.  She must have known what was going on especially with me, for even as I grew older she kept me arms length, there were very few kind words and little if no information shared.  Because I felt I was her protector I always forgave her.  It would not be until much later that I would understand why, and when the opportunity finally came to explain to her what I knew, to find some forgiveness or understanding, she would not listen nor accept.

She finally left Capitán a year after I left for school. Managed to obtain the assistance of the US consulate and take my siblings with her back to the US and get a divorce. Her family condemned her for leaving her husband and refused to help, Capitán’s family under his orders, ignored her. Being out of the country he could refuse alimony without consequences.  So, she pulled up her socks, held down two jobs, went to night school twice a week to improve her secretarial skills and did her best with the children.  Gradually the strain of being alone along with everything else, proved too much.  Three years later Capitán regained custody of everyone except me, taking my siblings back to South America.  She once told me she would not let him have me back because I hated him so much. But I think it was her way of trying to redeem herself for many years of not being able to do anything.

Returning to the US from Europe I lived with her for less than a year.  She boarded a plane for New York one day and a better job after dropping me off at the train station so I could go live with an aunt in New Orleans. I did not see or hear from her or even know where she was, until 5 or 6 years later years later when she sent a note via my aunt, saying her mother died and she was returning to Texas. Four years later I received a wedding invitation; she married the man she had met in New York. A retired Navy Commander who worshiped the ground she walked on. They rented her mother’s house and moved to Japan where he was working on a project. I received occasional letters telling me how very happy she was. They eventually returned to the US, lived in Texas for a while, then Louisiana, and finally settled in Arkansas.

I always loved her deeply, so happy that she was happy with this man who tolerated her every fault, every mood, her drinking, her tears, her inconsolable pain. He gave her everything she wanted or needed and more. I had hopped she would find peace, and in a small way she did; but her life with Capitán had permanently damaged her and recovery was not possible.

I would see her many times over the next 20 years and I thought we had finally established a fragile relationship. Unfortunately, there was always an underlying current, as she did not approve of my career, she did not approve of my husband, she did not approve of the houses I lived in, my pets, my life. She did however, form close attachments to my sisters who all had children, only natural I was told. The day my stepfather died, I feared for my mother’s future.

This is when the final card of the epiphany deck fell on the table. She had asked me to come and help settle his estate because he had made me his executor, “against her wishes”, she said.  So I went to Arkansas for a week and put everything in order.   The day before I was supposed to leave she asked me come with her to her lawyers so she could adjust her will.  It was there in front of her attorney that she finally eased her conscience and disowned me, writing me out of her will and her life. “I no longer have any man telling me what to do!” she said. “ I can do what I want.”

“Are you sure you want to do this Mary?” her attorney asked. “Yes,” she answered, and in turning to me said: “Del always thought you were the best of the lot, but I know different, you always were a cheat and a liar, besides you have no knowledge of the value of anything. After all who would have taught you?”

I think I faded out for the next half hour, “dealing with it”, as she insisted I remain and listen to her specifications.  I remember thinking “only Capitán could have done a better job of public humiliation”, and at the same time suddenly understanding why animals chewed off their paws when caught in a trap. Looking down at my big feet I knew I did not have that option. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, 50 miles from the landing field; there would be no transportation until morning.

As I headed out the door the next day, the hired car waiting in the cool air of dawn, she came up to me and said, “ You do not need to contact me again. If I need your help someone will call you and tell you what to do.”  I remember just looking at her with terrible sadness, told her goodbye, and left her to the comfort of my sisters who moved in like proverbial vultures.

I never saw or heard from her again. I knew she had been ill for many years with liver, heart trouble, and emphysema that would keep her confined to the house; so I was not surprised when 6 years later I was informed of her death long after the actual event. There was no funeral, no burial, nothing to mark her passing. She had donated her disease-ridden body to science.  A niece I had not spoken to in over 20 years had called to inform me of the passing and that at my mother’s deathbed she asked that the message “I’m sorry.” be passed on to me.

I remember laughing sarcastically at the irony of it all, I could not cry. I felt no sadness, only a bit of anger at the waste; and then, that too passed.

Dealing with it, as I had and would continue to do with everything in my life, I once again silently forgave her, hoping this time she had at last found peace.

 

 

 

“ Life is like photography, you develop from the negatives.” Anonymous

Water Song (2008),acrylic on paper, 46x53 cm (18x21

Water Song (2008),acrylic on paper, 46×53 cm (18×21

 

I will be closing down Rincón Studios. Although I will leave the sign on the fence for prosperity as I continue on with life and my job at Home Depot. I will still paint (hard to stop an addition), perhaps exhibit occasionally and even teach a bit; but that part of my life is passing.  As I made that decision, I realized that perhaps my long journal of that adventure was complete and I should just shut down this site.  But thoughts began to flood my brain, I began writing in my sleep, while I was driving, any time there was a quiet moment; and I realized that there was a bit more to tell. The tale was not complete; that it was past time to tell the real story no one ever wanted to hear.

Once I was keeper of the family stories, tales of great deeds, funny stuff, closets full of skeletons and the ongoing adventure.  Stories were given to me by members of my family to hold and pass down. But that was before the epiphany, before I became a voluntary orphan, before the legend of the fall. Before my awareness of who and what I was and am.  That was when I still believed I was like everyone else and an actual member of my family.

Hard to remember anyone ever actually asking me “Who are you? Where did you come from? What did you do with your life? – and really want an answer.   The questions were always polite and rhetorical.  After a while it became unimportant because if I told the real truth of who I was, what I did and why, people would turn away, uncomfortable with my response, not believing it could be real. No one, they said, could have had such a life.   So I painted a practical and believable picture, superficial at best, a past people could relate to and for a long time I came to accept it as truth.

Now as I approach my so-called “golden years” there are no children, no close friends, no family to give the story depth and definition, to give it eternity.  Not that I am planning to die anytime soon, or am looking for sympathy, understanding, retribution or anything else; but knowing that it would die with me seems a bit wasteful. It is what it is. So l cast it into the ethereal world of time and space.

My personal side of the story melds into the rest and comes in small bits and pieces reconstructed from fractured memories.  The majority of my childhood is a blank page, erased and forgotten, but there are enough scattered memories to enable a tale.  I will recount it as I remember it, as others remembered it, molded into what it was, not necessarily in any chronological order.  However, I will do my best to keep to facts without much embellishment.

It will take  a bit of time and I offer it in short segments staring with the next blog.

At the end of the novel “Islands in the Stream”, Hemmingway’s main character lies dying in a row-boat; as the boat drifts he has a water dream, an awareness, and says:  ‘ “There is no one truth, it is all true.” ‘

Not unlike a water dream, this is my truth and it is all true.

 

MASKS

Posted: February 25, 2013 in Art, journal, painting adventures, Women
Tags: , , , , ,

“A mask can hide you from others, but not from yourself.” Marty Rubin

..not just another pretty face,  ink on paper,  45x35 cm(18x14) work done but never shown

“..not just another pretty face”-2005, ink on paper, 45×35 cm(18×14) work done but never shown

One would think at my age the Pollyanna in me would have long ago been cured of delusions and illusions. I know the world is not a pretty place, but in spite of my new self-awareness, I seem to have developed several shades of rose-colored glasses –after all most people do deserve the benefit of a doubt, no? Or better said:  an opportunity to hang themselves.

I use to be very good at recognizing those I should steer away from, those that mean me harm.  Then there are those that “ain’t got no sign” as a quaint song from the 60’s intoned.  The ones that stir the spidy-sense but give no clues, no hint. They make you shiver and you tend to tread cautiously. These slithering types have always shied away from my bright light preferring the dark cool shadows.  I always was protected by the barrier of my own vibration; but one fooled me, put on sheep’s clothing, crossed the barrier and offered friendship with a cold hand.

We all wear masks of one kind or another.  Hiding our real selves, trying not to let everyone know how insane we  really are, hanging on by our fingernails and praying for a few miracles all the while wearing a brave smile, our shoulders thrown back our heads held high, moving forward with life. Caught up in our own circles of interaction, action and inaction, seeking our individual dreams, we tend to forget there are those out there who are living dark shadowy lives.

Dual existences. Pretending to be one kind of person, secretly being another.

I have met a myriad of people in my years, from all walks of life, all faiths, all cultures, all segments of our society rich or poor, gay or straight, deviant in their preferences, fearful of inclusion, or delightful extroverts.  Those living the high-life, others down on their luck or caught somewhere in-between reality and illusion. They were good people, but some were very bad, even evil, some were truly sick and others just pure con artists.  But one thing was the same for them all: each in their own way, were true to themselves.  Something’s they did not broadcast, but did not hide .

I would not dare make an assumption as to what is right or wrong for another, I only know that I had an experience, which left me empty, betrayed, feeling like I should take a few baths to remove a clinging bit of slime. Another new lesson learned.

More barriers than personal ones have tumbled down in this brave new world.  There has been a loss of ethics, a loss of respect, a loss of the sacred, and a loss of personal integrity.  Then again, perhaps those things were lost when we left Eden and are meant to be re-learned if we are to survive.

Even with rose-colored glasses, I never did like snakes, never will.

The journey continues…. so tread safely out there my friends……they do walk among us unseen.