CII. All the Forgotten Faces

February 20, 2013 — I see that Nora Ephron’s play, Lucky Guy, is in production on Broadway, at the Broadhurst Theater. Her friend Tom Hanks will play Mike McAlary, the New York muckraking columnist who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for his columns about New York police officers’ brutalization of Abner Louima. McAlary died later that year of colon cancer. He was 41. Nora Ephron died in June 2012. She was 71, my age.

I don’t remember Mike McAlary, but I do remember Nora Ephron. She was one of my favorite writers, and she wrote one of my favorite movies, “Sleepless in Seattle.” I’m so glad it had a happy ending, an affair to remember. I think I will remember Nora Ephron a long time. She seemed to have always a smile on her face. I think we could have been friends. Hanks and Ephron were good friends. He said he liked to hang with her, one of the reasons he is doing the play. He said about missing her, “It’s terrible, horrible.” So now he will have to hang with her in second place, “hanging with the essence of Nora as opposed to Nora herself.” (I read this today and watched the video interview in a New York Times story written by Patrick Healy: http://theater.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/theater/tom-hanks-in-lucky-guy-his-broadway-debut.html?hp.)

When my grandmother was in her sixties, I remember her sitting in a chair in the living room and saying wistfully, “All my friends are dead.” I’ve never forgotten that. It is one of the reasons I value my friendships so closely. I haven’t forgotten my grandmother; I haven’t forgotten either of them, nor any of my family members that have gone on ahead of me.

They gave me such a secure childhood and I miss that security. Moreover, they were fun. We laughed a lot. They were storytellers, and their stories were funny. I seemed always to have a smile on my face when we visited. I looked forward to every visit. I miss the humor and the laughter.

Last evening, I had just put a chicken potpie in the oven. The warmth from the oven fended off the darkness outside and the cold wind blowing right through the clapboard walls of this Victorian house. So I felt all warm and secure. The doorbell rang. I thought it was some stranger blown up onto my porch, like the neighborhood trash in the corner of my flowerbed, circulating pamphlets to hand out. To my delight, standing there was my mother’s superb and caring healthcare aide of three years. She had just finished her workday caring for a dementia patient who had reached forward, gotten her in a tight grip and ripped the buttons off the front of her coat. We shared stories and warmed up over a glass of wine. (We each had our own glass, mind you.)

I am so very glad she keeps in touch, a sincere, caring friend, because some of my friends have died, too. I miss them very much. I wish I could pick up the phone or turn to them and say something. When I think of them, is that like posting a thought on the wall of the universe, and somewhere they’ll pick it up? I miss many friends whom I presume are still living. The winds of change over the years drove us apart. I have forgotten none of them. Some I connect with on Facebook after years gusting by like lifetimes. It’s like, “So, hey, how’re ya doing in this lifetime?” It’s very cool.

At times I walk into Emma’s bedroom, look at her king-size bed with its white comforter and white eyelet-ruffled pillowcases, and I sense them there, Emma and her little dog, Jetta. I miss them. Recently I was very sad about the loss of a friend. I sat down to relax and suddenly I cried. Then I felt a comforting presence. It was unmistakably Emma. I dried my tears. I felt better. I feel the presence of various people from time to time; often at that moment they’ll call. This was the feeling of Emma. Sometimes when I was very sad about something, she would comfort me sympathetically. There’s nothing like a mother’s comfort. I thought Emma had moved on, true to her character; but I guess she saw my need and stopped back for a moment. Of course, I will never forget her beautiful face, nor Jetta’s sweet little face, nor that of her apricot toy poodle, BeeGee, whose untimely death at age four preceded Jetta’s arrival.

Of course, some faces we encounter in life we’re glad to have forgotten. Others, not so.

Losing a friend who is living is not only terrible, horrible, it is also tragic, you know, like Romeo and Juliet, but the characters are still living. I have lost a couple of friends during the past year in this manner, over what I perceive as a horribly perverted rearrangement of words. It is despairing to hang with someone over the years watching them slowly die; it is traumatic to lose one over insensitivity and misunderstanding. It’s as if the relationship leapt from the platform in front of an oncoming train. In either case, that loss leaves me feeling bereft.

My writer friend Susan Scott (author of the book “In Praise of Lilith, Eve & the Serpent in the Garden of Eden”) forwarded my blog link to a woman friend whose mother has a form of dementia. This friend read my blog and, in turn, forwarded the link to a male friend named John. He picked up on a phrase in Thomas Wolfe’s poem, in the left sidebar of my blog, prefacing his novel, “Look Homeward, Angel” – the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth, likening it to the mental prison of Alzheimer’s/dementia.

John read my blog and emailed his adult children. His parents, too, suffer from some form of dementia.

Just here as I write this, I smell something nutmeggy; then, a hand on my shoulder. It is Moriarty, the Phantom of My Blog. I turn and look up at him. “You’d remember this face anywhere, right?’ he says.

“Oh, how could I forget,” I reply. He is leaning in close, reading my computer screen.

“Tell them the man said this,” says Moriarty, pointing to a line: “‘The woman writes exceedingly well.’” (Thank you, John. May you always travel in the light.) I will be working at my writing into this evening, so Moriarty goes off to make dinner – a piquant Chinese affair, he labels it.

This father in poetic email ruminates to his children, “Will I eventually recede from life worth living in similar fashion as the writer describes?” By then, “it won’t be a simple manner of prior choices in life and their later consequences, nor of having asked politely ‘Please, Sir, may I be allowed not to walk into that dark recess?’ The journal speaks to unease, a recognition this could afflict us … Her account of her mother’s cognitive decline resembles” what John’s friend’s mother and his parents are going through, though each in different ways. Indeed, the unique experiences of dementia sufferers differ within the commonalities of the condition according to their life experiences and genetic makeup.

The sufferers become forgotten faces, in a way. They don’t know where they are, wonder how they got there, plead to get out, they forget how to do things, they may forget the identity of your face.

This kind man emails a thank you to Susan, “My four siblings and I, all of us over 50, will be the better for reading her thoughts, insights, and the cogent advice one can draw from such compelling writing.”

And then this father in his email to his children goes on to touch upon my Russian soul, the face of which is an up-close mystical remembrance of a 19th-century past life:

He says, “Her insights are well worth the time to puzzle through the curious matryoshka-like construction of her journal of dementia and caregiving for ‘Emma’.”

He asks, “Will the two of you be confronted with me having become the likes of your Grandfather, or [his friend’s mother] in my own Anna Karenina way?”

—Samantha Mozart

12 Responses to CII. All the Forgotten Faces

  1. Oh, Sam. You get it right every time! I’m so glad that your mom’s caregiver keeps in touch. She’s one person who knows exactly what you’ve been through.
    Bless you girl!

    Val

    • Thank you, Val. She is a very caring person. Was always wonderful and patient with Mother, and I could rely on her to always be here no matter what.

      And she is moving to Florida soon, so I will have someone to visit there, should I decide to travel there, despite my lack of appreciation for tree frogs on my toothbrush, snakes slithering among the potatoes on the farm market shelf, lizard fights — they fight and hiss at each other like cats –, palmetto bugs too large to wash down the drain and mosquitos the size of stealth bombers.

  2. Hello my dear friend,

    You touched upon life experiences that all of us feel and have problems dealing with, the forgotten faces. Like you, it is much harder for me to deal with faces where we have parted out of a false arrangement of words as you so nicely put it. Words that were said without thinking and they cause rifts that change things forever.

    I too loved Sleepless in Seattle. It is one of my favorite movies because it is a true love story with a happy ending. I did not know the woman who wrote it died at 71. In fact, I have learned something new because I did not know Nora Ephron had written it.

    Time passes quickly. Living in Germany, I have lost contact with all of my school friends. Somehow we all went separate ways and I notice that time not only passes but it changes things.

    I have one or two friends who I met years ago when I first came to Germany. We grew close and we are still friends even tough the three women I refer too have been back in the States for years. But I have also met other people who I have never seen like you, Gwynn, Linda, Susan, Dianne, Vye, Val and Catharine and all of you have become just as close.

    What I am trying to say in all of this is that I believe life goes through stages. Everything must change and we have to let things go. It is difficult, and I have a hard times dealing with letting go, but we have to face these changes and let go.

    My mother visited me in Germany two times while she was living. She loved to go to a store called Fegro because it reminded her of a Walmart in the U.S. and we went there often when she was here. The first couple of years after she died, when I would go to Fegro, I could feel my mother’s presence beside me and I received a melancholy type of feeling. It was only as I began to let her go, that her presence left me.

    No, I will never forget her, but by letting go, I found myself moving forward to fulfill my own purpose in life and as I read what you have shared, I see you doing the same thing.

    So thank you for all the help that you are giving so many people through your writing of your experiences and how you dealt with a very difficult time in your life.

    Love you, Lady,

    Ciao,
    Pat

    • Pat, thank you for your beautiful, as always, comments. Yes, I try to let go, but it is difficult. As T.J. puts it, just when you think you’ve let go, it comes up behind you and mugs you when you least expect it.

      I do hope I help people by writing about my experiences. That is my mission.

      Love you, too, Pat. Thank you for your kind thoughts. I am so honored to have you as a friend. I hope someday soon we will meet.

      Samantha

  3. Altogether extraordinary Samantha …
    John (in the US) is the friend of Lisa; Lisa forwarded your blog after reading it, to John. It is John who wrote to me or copied me on writing to Lisa – I forget – and quoted the ‘.. the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth’ and went on to say all those lovely things about your writing and about forwarding it on to his two adult children. So it is thanks to John really for this, this spurring you on to write this beautiful blog. His use of the word matyroshka must have pierced your Russian soul. His whole email letter was a work of poetry … to urge you to acknowledge it for the work of art that his letter is, and for you to respond in kind … and to acknowledge the synchronicity of this particular thread.
    How fortunate we are to have had people in our lives whose memories we cherish. Memories will never die … and come to us at unexpected moments and give us comfort when we feel sad. They step aside for a moment and let us know they are here. How lovely to feel your Mum and her faithful dog.
    It is so necessary to speak about that which gives us unease. You do this with grace about the grave, humour in among the hell, kindness with kin, patience with the appalling ..
    I will check out the Nora Ehpron link, thank you for sending it.
    Good on Moriarty for ensuring you read and heard John’s words: ‘The woman writes exceedingly well’. (please pass on greets from me to him).
    May the sufferers never be forgotten …
    Thank you for this post Samantha …

    • Thank you, Susan, for your kind and thoughtful comments. I was unclear on how Lisa’s and John’s emails got forwarded, so I shall correct this in my post.

      When I write my journal here, I try to find some humor in a situation that is not at all funny to make my readers smile, at least a little.

      Taking care of my mother, I learned to have patience with the appalling — not something I thought I chose, but I must have needed to learn it. Speaking of what gives me unease gets it out, a catharsis, and hopefully lets others know they are not alone. Repressing feelings is not good, as you so aptly point out in your “Lilith …” book. It’s like squeezing a balloon — the air pops out someplace else.

      I like what you said about memories never dying and stepping aside for a moment to let us know they are here. That is comforting.

      Moriarty does serve many purposes well. He read your comments over my shoulder and he says hello. 🙂

      Yes, may the sufferers never be forgotten. Your words and John’s are poignant. Thank you for letting Lisa know, and indirectly, John, about my blog.

      Indeed, John’s email was a work of poetry and I would love to be able to publish it whole here. It is a message to everyone, I think, not only to his children. How intriguing that he saw my blog journaling as curious matryoshka-like construction. He’s right. I hadn’t seen it as such.

      Samantha

  4. Pensive and well conveyed; beyond the fold of perverted rearrangements of words, illusory thoughts and and erroneous deeds of those we seek not to control.

    Honest and poignant; soulfully expressing human experience; communicable.

    Poetic and joyous in a celebration of those that have invested to venture beyond the fold.

    Timeless.

    Ever,

    R.

    • And for all, R, for all. I have all in my heart.

      Thank you once again for reading my words, reflecting on them, and commenting.

      Ever, Samantha

  5. Tomorrow, dear Carol. For tonight, just know your words stir me, as deeply as your soulful writing. The timing is perfect.

    With love and great respect,
    Dianne

    • Yes, Dianne. My deepest sympathies. I know Bobby will always be in your heart and the hearts of his family.

      Love, Samantha

  6. Boy, Samantha this speaks to me on many levels… having lost family through death and dementia…my aunt doesn’t know who I am. Then having lost friends over time or misplaced words, and even death. However, no matter how the loss is derived these people are still part of my heart. Your story speaks volumes about the importance of remembrance through stories and what resides in our heart. Thank you.

    • Yes, Gwynn, so many people tell me this, and since they are my feelings, too, I thought it time to address the subject. It seems we all share these experiences. We are not alone in this.

      Thank you.

      Samantha