A more beautiful place

This holiday season, as they call it, I am thinking  and feeling about my family. For some reason knowing you’re likely in the home-stretch of things allows you a sharper awareness of the immense love you feel for family members, most all gone from life. I’m grateful for my instincts because I don’t mind being present in the experience.

Family life ended for me in December, 1969,  two months after my 16th birthday; an essay for another time.

Of course there are tears, at times, and, of course, there are momentary flashes of fury. Fury at the loss, at how long its been, fists clenched, and, literally, nothing and no one deserving of a blow exists on this planet. The stone cold fact is, nothing and no one deserving of that blow has ever existed on this planet.

So I allow the feeling of fury until it passes. It always does.

These days I’m thinking of my mother and father, ,Grandma and Grandpa, Mommom and Poppop (my mother’s parents), Uncle Harry, Aunt Dorothy, Uncle Peter, Marjorie, my sister, Rebecca, my childhood friends, a number gone now. My brother, Bobby. I think of my other mother, Leona, my birth-mother — a better human being has never walked the earth. We were  reunited on January 8, 1987. We were emotional and spiritual twins. She was an angel. I bet she still is!

Now, if there is something after this life, it damn well better include more time with these beautiful human beings  or else I’m not interested. When I walk through the beautiful museum hallways in my mind, all the above are there, masterpieces all.

There’s never been a more beautiful place than family.

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Shedding the excess

Getting older finds me methodically reviewing my involvements in life. I’m identifying situations, endeavors, and people I’ve mistakenly allowed to drain me of time and energy.  Getting older puts the unavoidable fact that none of us lives forever in sharp relief. So, I’ve said to me recently on more than one occasion,  why not shed everything and everyone I identify as being an unhealthy drain of time and energy.  Accurately identifying who and what falls into this category is is not always easy and not always painless.

The plus side to the shedding-the-excess endeavor is more time and energy becomes available. For example, I’d like to visit a friend of mine named Dave Hausman. Dave  owns Big Dave’s Bagels in North Conway, New Hampshire. I’ve known him for years and its been too damned long since I’ve seen him. I’ve never known anyone with more integrity, and, the man is brilliant-smart and deeply compassionate.  I miss him and his remarkable wife, Susan, who matches him on the integrity, smarts, and compassion fronts. There are other people and places that fall into the Dave category. My nephew, Joseph Kahrmann, his wife, Tara, and their children for instance. I respect no one anymore than I respect my nephew.

I’d like to go back to the places of my childhood and walk around my old neighborhoods. The hamlets, towns and villages. The streets of New York City, the place I was born, and where so much that makes me who I am today happened. Of course I will continue to write and read and advocate for those being oppressed.

I think the shedding-the-excess endeavor aligns me more with what Henry David Thoreau meant when he said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” Earlier this afternoon I was reading a long piece of writing my birth-mother Leona wrote to me right after we reunited on January 8, 1987. We were separated on October 9, 1953;  I was seven days old. Her emotionally courageous and loving and heartfelt missive ended with the words, “My son, my son, I’ve always loved you.”  And she did, always.

Not long before she died of liver cancer on December 19, 2001 I asked her if she had any advise for me in life. “Yes, Peter; be good to yourself.”

I know that freeing myself from all that makes living the life I’ve imagined more difficult is exactly what she’d want me to do.

I love my mother, born Leona Patricia Clark, my whole wide world.  I love my life my whole wide world too,  all the more because she gave it to me.

My Mother Dancing

When someone I love dies the years seem to pick up speed. They fly by. My mother Leona was 68 when she died nine years ago yesterday. It doesn’t feel that long ago. She was and always will be one of the greatest discoveries in life for me. She had to give me up for adoption when I was a baby. We had my first seven days together and that was it. She was only 20 when she handed her son over and returned home utterly destroyed. This is not the missive to explain all this, or how I know all this other than to say we left nothing about the subject and circumstances of my adoption untouched by conversation.

We were reunited on January 8, 1987, a moment in both our lives so filled with emotion for the both of us I’m surprised we didn’t burst. But then again, we were cut from the same cloth. To be more precise, I am cut from hers. She had the ability to not only allow moments of enormous amounts of emotion, she welcomed them.

She also loved to dance, and dancing contains worlds of emotion. She may have suspected that, like her, I found it and still find it impossible to remain physically still when music is on. To this day I find myself utterly baffled by people who can sit still while music with, say, Latin rhythm is on. I always want to tap them on the shoulder and ask, Don’t you feel that? However, she certainly had no idea I’d danced professionally and when I was a little boy my family would play music just so I could keep dancing, I couldn’t get enough.

The evening my mother and I reunited and found each others arms again we went to her home, after first going out for coffee. There my “new” sister, Sunday, said, “If you’re in this family you better love to dance.” My friend Dane was with me. Dane looked at me and said, “You want me to tell them.” And so he told them about my days dancing with the Joffrey Ballet and dancing pretty much every time I ran into music.

On October 2, 1987, the first birthday we had together since the day I was born, my mother and I went out to dinner, and then we went to a club and danced all night. She was a great dancer, the greatest dance partner I’ve ever had.

I love you, Mom, miss you terribly, and I’m still dancing.

I Miss Her Always Now

Two days after she died I received a package from her in the mail.  In it was a St. Christopher’s Medal. Inscribed on the back were the words:

Peter

I will always be in your heart

Love

Mom

Her name was Leona Patricia Clark and she gave birth to me on October 2, 1953 in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. She was a single 20-year-old Catholic girl from Bridgeport, Connecticut. She had not been dealt an easy hand in life. Her mother died when she was three and a few weeks later, her father, an alcoholic, left the house early one morning and never returned, leaving my mother and her 12-year-old brother Frank on their own. Summoning up strength-of-spirit from God knows where, Frank put my mother on the back of his bicycle and peddled some 20 miles or so to an aunt and uncle’s house. There they were raised.

Seven days after I was born and against all her sweet heart wanted, my mother surrendered me for adoption.

We would not see each other again for nearly 34 years years. Not until I found her and we were reunited  on January 8, 1987 in Stamford Connecticut. Over the years I would learn what I’d always known to be true; my mother was my emotional and spiritual familiar. She was my beginning, my heart and soul, the light that got me through my days of homelessness, the deep heart spiritual soil from which I was formed.  There was, we both knew before and after we were reunited, a connection  so deep and powerful between us it was a universe unto itself, untouchable and unfathomable by any but the two of us.

Now, when life strikes hard as it did today when the home we’d thought was ours fell from our grasp, I think of my mother and the tears flow and she is with me still and I miss her always now.

Me & Mom 10-2-2000 a