Keep Breathing

Erica K

Erica K
Location
New Jersey, USA
Birthday
September 26
Bio
Grew up in Jackson Heights, New York, but now live in Jersey. Married and the proud owner (servant?) of 4 cats, including a little blind guy named Quincy. Jobs have included: English teacher in U.S. and abroad, cabaret performer and member of a NYC sketch comedy troupe; now a legal secretary and freelance writer. Other jobs: canvasser for NYPIRG/cannery worker in Naknek, Alaska (a fisherman told me it was "the ugliest part of Alaska")/dog kennel cleaner/member of the swine and poultry crew on a California farm. "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." Samuel Beckett Currently performing my solo show, "Alzheimer's Blues," at Stage Left Studio in NYC. http://stageleftstudio.net/ www.ericaherd.com

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MAY 13, 2011 7:07PM

The Jewelry Box

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This morning my husband Lorin and I went to mom’s apartment to retrieve clothes, her clock radio and other personal items to bring to Park Gardens Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.  She was transported there yesterday from Jacobi Hospital.  Medicaid finally came through for us.  Lorin thought it best to bring her valuables as well, since she won’t be returning to the apartment.  She had $125 in cash, part of it stashed in a folder in her clothes closet and the rest in a petty cash envelope I set aside for her former aide to buy her things, as needed.   

Among her few valuables was a painted metal box, her jewelry box, containing a crimson velvet bow, a silver hair pin speckled with marcasites, a pair of garnet earrings from B. Harris and Sons, a ticket stub dated December 19, 1969 (her 12th wedding anniversary) from the Palace Theatre (cost of ticket, $4.75, no name of show on it), a stub from Carousel dated August 24, 1994 (I took mom for her 65th birthday), and a stub from Death of a Salesman dated September 9, 1999 (mom, Aunt Rony and I went).  There was a card that said “Catherine” on top and below, “Greek origin, meaning ‘pure and esteemed one.’ ” Underneath that:  “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.”  Psalm 119:15

There was a watch and various pieces of costume jewelry, mostly large rings, that mom used while playing the lead in Maxwell Anderson’s Elizabeth the Queen.  That was in 1975, the first and last play I saw her in.

photo

Photo of mom as Elizabeth the Queen, 1975

There was a gold rose pin and a pendant of a partridge that I remember her wearing over a purple turtleneck sweater during Christmas.

The only thing that made me cry, though, was the mini memo book, a travel log of her trip to Europe with my dad in August 1970.  I thought at first that I shouldn’t share this, that it was too personal, but it contained no intimate details or damning criticisms of anyone or her already failing marriage.  It was simply, as stated on the inside cover, a travel log.  This was the only time mom travelled overseas.  What follows are entries in her own words, except for anything in brackets or italics.

First entry

Ireland,
Wednesday August 12,
Arrival – Shannon Airport 9:35 a.m. 
madhouse! 
Roll your own luggage. 
Little boy with big hat collected Volkswagon
Nuns, priests, redheads
couldn’t start . . .
then right handed driving to left of road!
off to Dun Laog Haire (Dun Leary deary!)

Sunday

. . . off at 8:05 to Leeds.
Arrived Leeds 9:20
Raining, cloudy
Took car to Keighley
general direction of Haworth (“a bit bleak up there”)
First sight of
heather (Brow Moor)
picked some in
rain

Into Haworth at last
First sight the “Black Bull”
then . . . the Church and cemetery . . . lovely
(services going on)
went to Tea Shop
Had scones and coffee . . . delicious
went into Haworth Church of St. Michael and Angels (all)
Burial site of Brontës.
their registrar picture—well preserved.

Sun now peeking thru

brilliantly at times,

lucky us . . . took pictures.

Walk on moors in almost blinding rain at times,
but we made it to the “Brontë Waterfall” and well worth it . . .

Monday [8 days later]

Arrived Paris airport 8:30 . . .
Took first walk (happily – located) to Seine and Arch of Triumph to
Champs Elysee . . . smashing!
Most beautiful city of all? . . . I’m thinking, quite probably.

Wednesday

11:30 a.m. walked to Louvre
overwhelming . . . too much all at once.
Roman statuary:  Venus de Milo, Winged Victory.

[that evening]

Dined at the Ritz . . .
Table next to ours – Rose Kennedy and friend!
Le chat wonders in and out to dismay of headwaiter.

Another last walk to Champs Elysee and the Seine.

Thursday

Up at 7:30 . . . Airport 9 a.m.
Paris, Europe Fine!

Mom’s favorite part of the trip was Haworth, Brontë Country; she was as mad about Wuthering Heights as I was about Jane Eyre.  The last time we spoke of travelling was last Christmas.  She said she’d like to go to Sweden, Norway and Switzerland.  My friend Kathleen bought her travel books of Sweden and Norway, and I show her the photos and read her short passages from time to time. 

When I saw her today she was so unhappy I didn’t feel like reading passages from any of her books or even her favorite poem.  I was overcome with grief watching her in that wheelchair, doing her best to maneuver it on her own, wanting so badly to walk again, wishing I could take her to the moors again.

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Memories and history, it's who we are. Endearing post. R
I hope when you see her again, you can read part of her journal. I think she will enjoy that.
Thank you, Thoth, as always, for your kindness.

Andrea, I will do that when I see her today.
Hugs, Eica
The woman that she was really starts to come alive again with this one.
“I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.” Who knows what 'ways' still inform your mother's efforts, her sadnesses and her joys. Although she is bound to her chair that spirit is still traveling in her time, and you are with her, witnessing, recording parts of the experience here and honoring you both by doing so.