A House is Not a Home - First & Last
Sunday, April 18, 2021
If there are obsessions that haunt me there are two that
will not go away.
One of them is about moments in one’s past that somehow, few
of us (me, specially), never think about how they will affect us or remember in
the future. Those past moments are called memories. There seems to be no
word for its opposite (to look forward) beyond “prediction”.
Another obsession is that about first times and last times.
This particular one is in my mind all the time. I squeeze the last bit of
toothpaste (I did this this morning) and I immediately think, “This will be the
last tube of toothpaste that my Rosemary will have bought.” I will have to buy
one on my own (I did).
Often in these blog pages I have mentioned that what makes
us supremely human is our ability to connect disparate stuff through association
– thus toothpaste/Rosemary.
As I wrote here April 18 is my real (legal) but fake
birthday. Tomorrow, April 19 is Rosemary’s real birthday. So I immediately think
and have been thinking all day, “This will be the first birthday of hers that I
will not share with her.”
There are enough Facebook postings “My grandmother would
have been 125 today,” that make me gag. I don’t understand these in the least.
But privately and personally I am awfully melancholic on the eve of Rosemary's birthday.
One way for me to celebrate this is to again use that SX-70
Polaroid snap that I took of her in our empty Burnaby home in 1975. It is
now safely framed so that it will not get lost.
My mother used to say that a house was not a home until you
put a picture on a wall. My Kits home is full of pictures and photographs
everywhere. The guest bathroom has lots of them. When I enter it the first
photographs I see are the famous Polaroid and a 1966 graduation-from-Queens
portrait of Rosemary.
But in that first-and-last vain I contemplate sadly that
tomorrow Rosemary will not be around and the constant association of stuff that
reminds me of her; memories that remind me of her; staring at Niño and Niña and
thinking that they are a direct connection with Rosemary (is it how they stare
at me?) will make this April 19 one that I will experience for the first time.
How many years will pass before it will be my last?
And, yes, the house in Burnaby in the 1975 Polaroid (no pictures on the walls) was Rosemary's first and mine in Canada. My present home in Kitsilano was her last.
A Linear Existence Not
Thursday, April 15, 2021
|Rosemary, Hotel El Balam, Mérida, 7 March 2018|
I was born in Buenos Aires in 1942 and my life until 1954
involved my mother, father, grandmother, the family on my mother’s side and
that on my father’s.
All that changed when my mother, my grandmother and I moved
to Mexico City.
From that date I lived in Mexico City, Nueva Rosita,
Coahuila and went to school at a Catholic boarding school in Austin. From there
I was for a while with my mother in Veracruz. In 1964 I left for to Buenos
Aires for my obligatory military service in the Argentine Navy.
That 1964 Buenos Aires was a tad different from the one I
had left in 1954. I was able to locate my father so that was comforting. In
1967 I returned to Veracruz and that year I met Rosemary Healey and married
It is at that point that my life stopped being linear and
predictable. Mexico for me now was not only my mother and my grandmother but
also a Mexico with the presence of Rosemary. We visited my mother in Veracruz.
Veracruz now had to include my Rosemary. I had gone to Guanajuato in 1962 on a
Mexico City College tour. Now Guanajuato had to include Rosemary. Many years
later the hotel in Guanajuato, the Castillo de Santa Cecilia, that my mother
had told me about in 1953 when she made an exploratory trip to Mexico from
Buenos Aires, became a different reality. Rosemary, our granddaughter Rebecca and I
stayed at that hotel. We mingled with the ghost of my mother.
Until I took Rosemary to Argentina and Buenos Aires in 2004
my Buenos Aires, its music and memories (and lots of nostalgia) of a couple of
ex-girlfriends excluded Rosemary. Then we returned a few times more. Once in
Buenos Aires with Rosemary the ghosts of my past mingled with new and very
We made trips to Mérida and Michoacán in Mexico and traveled
to New York City for a visit to the Met’s Michelangelo show. In 2019 we finally went to a place that I had
never gone before on my own. We went to Venice and Florence.
I am so glad we did that traveling together before Rosemary died on December 9.
Still important in my memory is that my Texas-in-Austin-life of the late 50s directly connected with Rosemary when with our two granddaughters we traveled in our Malibu to Texas in 2011. It was then that Rosemary met my mentor Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C.
|Taos, New Mexico 2011 and our Malibu|
Now in the solitude of living with two cats in my Kits home
I think of stuff like this one of linearity.
It keeps my mind occupied and that may be a good thing.
Friday, April 09, 2021
Today is April the 9th. My Rosemary died on December 9. Time has not helped me heal in any way.
In our last trip to Buenos Aires in September 2019 on the
Sunday market at Plaza Dorrego in the
old barrio of San Telmo I told Rosemary, “I can hear Ástor Piazzolla’s Oblivion
being played." We walked a few yards and found a harmonica player and a guitarist
playing the haunting tune.
Piazzolla named his composition Oblivion (in English)
because he knew there was no equivalent in Spanish. Olvido translates as not
remembering. Oblivion implies no feeling, thought or memory. To me
oblivion is what one faces upon death. There is nothing on that other side.
I now have come to realize, that my only escape from my
present melancholy is not going to be the passing of time. Only oblivion will
bring relief (even if that relief is not noticed, felt or realized).
Meanwhile as I turn off the light at night and I look at the
window side of my bed ( formerly occupied by Rosemary) I know that the
view at one time would have been different as her live (or live and asleep)
presence would have wonderfully blocked that view. That presence is now a
vacancy and that vacancy is as present as if she were there.
Last night I woke up to my Rosemary’s voice, She said either
“Papi” (what our daughters call me) or she said “Casi" who was her dear departed
male cat. It was obviously a dream but her voice was loud and with good diction
but that my waking up prevented me from identifying correctly.
During the day I have the distraction of the menial tasks of
vacuuming, taking out the garbage, emptying the kitty litter box, washing the
clothes and brushing my teeth. But it is impossible not to note her missing
The worst is the garden. As I prepare the garden for an
opening (perhaps because of the cold weather now) in early June to the
Vancouver Rose Society, I keepf finding hidden plants on the ground or in
little pots hidden by big pots. Rosemary bought plants behind my back. She
would never tell me about them until they became a beautiful reality.
Working in this garden, more evident now that it is Rosemary’s,
is like rifling through what’s left of her underwear drawer. It brings instant
tears. My only relief comes with the realization that I have to make this
garden as lovely as she would make it.
And there is the relief of my cats Niño and Niña. They cling to
me and this adds to my listlessness. I want to do nothing. I have been avoiding
to be where I am right now, writing this. I am no writer but it seems like I am
suffering from a terrible writer’s block.
I can smile when I look at this photograph illustrating this bitácora (in Spanish a ship’s log which
I prefer to the Anglo blog). But it also leaves me with an empty and sad
feeling. I wish my own oblivion.
But I may add that when I do turn off the lights in the
bedroom and the two cats get on top of me, I know that I am not completely
alone. This is comforting.
Can oblivion wait?
Hope & Glory - Easter 2021
Sunday, April 04, 2021
|John Boorman & Sarah Miles - 1987|
Lacrimosa dies illa
Seven last words
It seems that for Easter it is de rigueur to watch either The Ten Commandments or Ben Hur. This Easter weekend, my first alone since 1967 (when I met and then married my Rosemary), I have chosen
to watch nothing.
For me Lent and Easter is all about my youth. On Thursdays in Buenos Aires my mother and grandmother would visit 7 churches on Holy Thursday. On
Good Friday I was not allowed to turn on the radio. If I was playing outside on
the street with my friends, I would be called in at 3 when my grandmother would
read us the Stations of the Cross and Christ’s Last Seven Words.
Because I was around 8 this whole experience was one of
ritual. Rito, in Spanish is closer to the idea of a religious ritual and not
only to something done for tradition.
I believe that my religious beliefs are something personal
and I will not reveal what they might be here.
Good Friday for me is sombre and melancholic as I remember
my mother and grandmother. It is about growing up and finding it difficult to
understand religious concepts. These became clear to me at the Roman Catholic
boarding school in Austin, Texas that I attended in the late 50s. And now, at
78, I find it interesting to investigate (fine essay on the subject in the NY
Times) why it was that if Jesus was resurrected in perfection on Easter, he
still had the wounds that ultimately interested the doubting St. Thomas.
One does not need to be extremely religious or to believe
everything to find that subject of Jesus’s wounds as fascinating.
Easter is for me a moment for reflection and thinking
about being re-born. Because my Rosemary died last December 9, my idea of being
reborn is more about a preparation to die and to make life for my two daughters
and two granddaughters an easy one to deal with. It would seem that for me to
be reborn now is to shed possessions.
Anybody who has gotten this far might wonder why it is that
I have photographs of film director John Boorman and actress (I am
old-fashioned) Sarah Miles. The reason
is that I photographed them in 1987 when they were in town to promote the film Hope and Glory. It is an
autobiographical film about Boorman’s childhood in war-time London. This fine
film, without chariots or with the sound
of Heston’s booming voice, replicates my idea that Easter
is about growing up and discovering one’s reason in life and for living it.
For me in this beautiful 2021 sunny Easter Sunday, I hope that
I will make do without the presence of my Rosemary and somehow live life in
a way that she would approve.
Menialities & Makeup
Thursday, April 01, 2021
These difficult days for me in April where I cannot stop
thinking how I miss the presence of my Rosemary I do menial stuff to keep me
busy. I have even gone to the extreme of finding the existence of a word that
is defined as being rare in use. This is menialities.
When I would vacuum our room my Rosemary would ask me to not
forget doing it also in our guest room as our eldest daughter might have been
coming soon to visit us from Lillooet.
I never leave dishes from my solo meal from one day to the
next. I leave my kitchen neat for the next day.
I do a lot of looking at my bedroom ceiling with the two
cats on my lap. I blame them for preventing me from dealing with more of those
menialities. But the real problem is that Rosemary’s passing has thrown a
wrench on my daily blog writing. I avoid doing it during the day and soon in the evening I tell myself that the next day might be a better day. It never is.
Currently there is a French expression in my thoughts. This
is raison d'être. I am re-reading for
the first time since1962 the writings of that pre-Socratic Epicurus. His views
on death that we fear pain and that since once dead there is no pain and thus
we should not fear it does nothing to make me feel better or understand why it
might not be all that important to find meaning in my daily menialities.
Today I photographed on my monitor the lovely (and
intelligent) Emily. I took some shots while we were chatting. They shall appear
in a forthcoming blog. More on her here. I was telling her as I snapped that
for years I had photographed women draped and not so and my Rosemary would say
nothing. I believe she trusted me. Until a year ago I was obsessed with the
idea of displaying on a photograph my concept of what is erotic. Suddenly with
her gone my interest in the erotic is gone with my diminishing taste for food.
It is almost as if I am approaching Epicurus’s non feeling.
Next week Emily will get a new phone clamp (an affix it to a
tripod) and position it behind her as she faces her bathroom mirror. We will
have a session that will begin with her in her nightie and with no makeup. She
will then shower and appear at the mirror with wet hair. She will let me go for
the hour that it takes her to dry her hair. She will then pose again while
applying her makeup. We will finish with her looking her best with her face all
Why am I suggesting this? In September 1996 I photographed a
photographer friend Patrice Bilawka. She had told me and a friend that she was
about to leave Vancouver. I pointed out to my friend, Ian McGuffie, that only now
that Patrice was leaving that I no longer saw her a one of the boys with whom
we took pictures and that she was really also a lovely woman. I asked and she
posed. Some of those pictures can be seen here and here.
In my memory I falsely recollect being by my camera in a
room separate to the one where she was being made up by Jessica Venturi. Then I
saw The Shot and quickly put the longer 250mm lens on my Mamiya and snapped the
That was not the case as the proof are the three contact
sheets here that I took 21 photographs before I snapped on the iconic number
To me this photograph is one of the most sensual (better
than that word erotic in this case) I have ever taken. Can I do something similar
of Emily with my post-Rosemary existence?