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saying goodbye
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lorin
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 9:56 pm    Post subject: saying goodbye Reply with quote

My mother was never an easy person to live with. An amazingly gifted artist whose art became everything she loathed and everything she loved in life. An only child, raised in an Irish Catholic family filled with secrets and Catholic guilt. At the age of 19 she sought rescue with my father, the youngest of 13 in a blended Jewish family. So began my mother’s life, an expression of opposites. A quiet, introverted woman who preferred a book or a sketch pad to interaction with others, married a man who dreaded silence, a man whose role as the youngest of 13 taught him early in life that you had to be loud, louder than everyone else in order to be heard. My mother was a person the always listened and never spoke, my father is a person that always spoke and never listened. Some might think these roles struck a balance, but they never did. Eventually my mother lost her voice, digging more and more into herself, lost in the constant din that spewed from my father. She never argued at all his ‘facts’, never selected her own menu at the restaurant, never voiced any opinion about where we would move that year. She quietly accepted her role as sounding board for this man, this all encompassing personality.

During the years of my childhood, among the constant moves, and constant turmoil, my mother continued to do her artwork. She did a bust of Kennedy that became so well known that the Kennedy museum made an offer to purchase it for permanent display. On the day of that offer my mother gathered the bust and all other work she had completed and locked it in the attic of our home. We never saw that work again. But she continued to produce beautiful pieces, all locked away upon completion. Slowly, over the years she lost herself, delving more and more into things she hoped would calm her heart. She changed religions, from Catholic, to Jewish, to Buddhist to extensional channeling. And she changed with fervor, or even ferocity. She began journaling, hundreds of secretive volumes, that to this day my father refuses to read or allow us to read.

When I was 12, we moved again to another home. I returned from school one day to find my 1 year old brother alone in the home, with a 104 fever. My mother had left, just left. We did not see her again for more than a month. And when she returned, there was no mention of her absence. One day she was just back at the dinner table. And this time she was back leaden with drink. And so it continued, living a tenuous life, worried for my mother, worried for my brothers, yet always amazed at her brilliance and sight. As a teen my tolerance for her moods grew shorter and shorter. We were never allowed to celebrate her birthday, or holidays. Mothers Day was laughed at in our family. Hallmark crap, she would say. Yet sometimes her words come back to me. Things that angered me so in the past, I find myself repeating to others now. “Happiness is a choice” and “what you put out to the universe is what you get back”. When I think back to my teen years her pain seems so much clearer now. My mother would cut herself, she could never remember, or would never talk about her past. Her drinking, her searching, her moods. And she so so hated her father. What were the stories she never told us? I will never know.

When I was 17 life changed again. I was sitting at the top of the stairs and had made a derogatory comment about my father. I don’t remember what I said. My mother was very drunk, climbed the stairs and began beating me on the head with a broom handle. I could have moved, I could have run, but I didn’t. I let her hit me on the head three or four times and then I just shifted my weight….just a little…. and my mother went down the stairs and broke her leg. I left that day and never returned to the home. It was a turning point for us both. We did not speak for a year. I graduated high school living in a rooming house and my mother got sober.

I would like to say that everything was better but it was not. I think with sobriety came a reality of her life that made her feel unredeemable. She never drank again. She returned to her art, a darker art, a sadder art. At my age of thirty five my mother began to lose her memory. Senility, dementia took over her life as it had her mother before her. My father controlled every aspect of her day and she never spoke up, she just got quieter and quieter. In her last years my mother and I reached an accord. I found some peace with her that had never existed before. But as I had always done, I mistook her silence for peace I so desperately wanted with my mother. She was never able to cope with the loss of her memory, the deterioration of her intellect. Four years ago, at 72, my mother committed suicide. Alone in her room, without a sound or complaint, she ended her life.

I never gave my mother a Mother’s Day card.


My mother, Arlene





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Last edited by lorin on Sun May 08, 2011 11:23 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 11:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Incredible artist! My mom died 4 years ago, as well...felt the same way about Mother's Day...but I'm really missing her.
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 11:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Group Hug

Thank you for sharing your mother with us, Lorin. May you have the peace she wanted.
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PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2011 2:25 pm    Post subject: Re: saying goodbye Reply with quote

lorin wrote:
I never gave my mother a Mother’s Day card.

You did too. Just now. Cool

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PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2011 9:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

lorin, you made me cry. You've shared some pieces that you can see so clearly now of a story you know some of... and what's more, it's a true story.

I think I learned some things about the human soul that even Donaldson and others never quite showed me before.

Quote:
What were the stories she never told us? I will never know.


Bless you for the costs you've borne and the challenges you've stood up before and faced. So sorry that so much understanding you gained came so late.

But may it not be TOO late - May there be redemption of more than seems possible at this moment, because her important work went towards works of art who still live and breathe. (though perhaps she could not see it at the time)
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PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2011 1:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for sharing Lorin. A very moving story.
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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 2:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you all. It was a difficult mothers day.

I was going over some of her artwork and was struck by the change in her work in her last years. Now I see so clearly how the dementia was reflected in her work at the end. In her last year she began doing collages. strange stuff using torn scraps of newspapers and magazines. The symbolism is staggering. Below are the last two things she did.



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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 2:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow. Those are something else. I really like the second one.
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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 3:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

aliantha wrote:
Wow. Those are something else. I really like the second one.


really? Interesting, I don't like those last two. They feel 'off' to me.
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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 3:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, you remember what she was once capable of. I like the imagery in the second one -- especially the teddy bear hugging the woman at the top of the picture.

On a mostly unrelated note, there's a place in Baltimore called the American Visionary Art Museum that features shows by artists who seem, uh, kinda crazy. There's folk art by unsung artists, but also some really odd pieces. Here's their website: http://www.avam.org/ (Believe me, lorin, after seeing this place, your mom's later works look *quite* mainstream. Wink )
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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 12:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, powerful stuff.
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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

High Lord Tolkien wrote:
Wow, powerful stuff.

I presume you mean lorin's mother's pieces, and not the stuff at the American Craptastic Art Museum. Laughing
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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 2:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

aliantha wrote:
High Lord Tolkien wrote:
Wow, powerful stuff.

I presume you mean lorin's mother's pieces, and not the stuff at the American Craptastic Art Museum. Laughing


No, I wasn't referring to the art at all but rather Lorin's text. Razz
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PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2011 3:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

lorin wrote:
aliantha wrote:
Wow. Those are something else. I really like the second one.


really? Interesting, I don't like those last two. They feel 'off' to me.


I don't know if I know much of anything about interpreting symbolism, but some of the thoughts that I guess (given the context) are in the last one make me sad...

High Lord Tolkien wrote:
No, I wasn't referring to the art at all but rather Lorin's text. Razz


Thumbs Up Clarification is good... Smile
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PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2011 10:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Linna Heartlistener wrote:

I don't know if I know much of anything about interpreting symbolism, but some of the thoughts that I guess (given the context) are in the last one make me sad...



I think what bothers me about the last two is the complete lack of continuity of the pictures. To me it reflects her scattered thoughts, the randomness of everything. The subject of her collages were all over the place which to me reflects her struggle with the dementia.

It is interesting that you should say the last one is sad. I agree. It is childlike, just as she had become.

Many people that see the collages like them so maybe my reaction to them is tainted by what I knew was happening to her.
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PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 2:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lorin, thank you so very much for sharing your story and your Mom's images.


A Therapist once told me, "Telling the Tale, lessens the load."

And, like the Giants, I believe there is Joy in the Hearing....

Blessed Be
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PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 5:20 pm    Post subject: Re: saying goodbye Reply with quote

That's an extraordinary post, lorin! Thanks for sharing. I had a step-father I could tell a few stories about, but nothing like what you lived with. Even worse, since she was your mother. Others here can relate to a much greater degree. It quite literally boggles my mind that some children have to live with what they live.

My only specific comment is about this:
lorin wrote:
She began journaling, hundreds of secretive volumes, that to this day my father refuses to read or allow us to read.

It seems to me that, if you haven't found a way to read these journals, it's because you don't want to. I don't imagine your father could physically stop you from taking them. I don't imagine you couldn't find a way to get them without him knowing. You surely have a right to them. You have the right to learn all you can about why you were raised in the atmosphere that you were. Like Tom Hanks said to Jackie Gleason in Nothing in Common. There is no moral ground your father can stand on to deny you.

And it seems significant to me that your father did not throw them away. Why hang on to them if he doesn't want them read? And if he's read them, it's even worse to deny them to you.

And, in her clearest, calmest moments, might your mother have wanted to be understood? Would she have wanted you to read them? Was it her way of saying things to you that she couldn't express in any other way?

Go get the journals.


As for your mother's art, it's fantastic!

Oh. BTW, this:

is Magneto - Master of Magnetism; long time foe of the X-Men; founder of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
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PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ummm... -I- could imagine it being - not impossible - but incredibly difficult at present; I think that if lorin tried what you suggest, it may result in consequences quite beyond what you are imagining, Fist.

Quite possibly not your fault for not realizing how big of issues her still-living parent just may have, Fist...
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PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I had thought along those lines. But I'm thinking of it this way... If she tries, and makes her father very angry, what's he gonna do? Deny her something very important to her that she has every right to?
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PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 10:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hmmm...

All I can say is "While it is never a good idea to cross Jewish Mama, it is also true that it is usual better not to cross Jewish Papa than to do so."

If you are really that curious and can get a peek at them in secret, by all means do so, but do not risk open defiance...and be prepared to find that Papa had your best interests at heart. Who knows what your mother may have written in her darkest periods?

Maybe it is discretion is the better part and they should be left alone? There is no way to be sure. Once they are read, they cannot be unread.
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