|Rosemary in Seattle's Space Needle
Because I was born in 1942 and my mother died in 1972 that means that she was in my life for 30 years.
My Rosemary and I watched and heard her inhale on the bed in Arboledas, Estado de México. She did not exhale. Rosemary has been in my life 53 years.
Thinking back I realize that my mother’s death, as terrible as any mother’s death can be, was somehow ameliorated by the shared experience and the presence of Rosemary since then. That shared death was something more that made our marriage bond that much stronger. My mother and Rosemary got along famously and it was my mother who urged me to marry Rosemary.
Now thinking back at 1972 I can say that I can handle my mother’s death and that time does heal. People invariably tell us that we live with our memories.
I beg to differ here. Consider the term “living memory”. It is mostly defined as remembering the past by people who are alive in the present. I would like to re-define the term by beginning with the mattress in which my mother died.
In 1975 when Rosemary advised me that we were going to move to Vancouver she further informed me that we were going to send all our possessions including the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper via a moving van. My mother’s mattress was included. We were poor and I know for a fact that Rosemary and I might have slept on that mattress in Burnaby. I have no memory when the mattress and we parted ways.
That mattress and my mother’s death is a living memory. But.
I am currently sleeping on the very bed and mattress where Rosemary died on December 9 in the arms of our daughters Alexandra and Hilary. I sleep on that mattress every day. There may be a picture of my mother here and there but none of the visible possessions of our Kitsilano home have any direct connection with her. But.
Everything in this house, including the garden, some of the food still in the fridge, Niño and Niña (our cats), the neighbourhood, the Chevrolet Cruze and everything else that I can see and smell is the presence of Rosemary. Can this be a living memory or something more?
When my two cats, Niño and Niña, stare at me and stick to me like chicle they are a living presence of two creatures that were petted, hugged and baby-talked by Rosemary. While the cats cannot be equated to the presence of Rosemary on my mother's death, they are a constant and living presence of an absence that is there and almost palpable.
|December 9 2020
Consider that if you are looking at an object and someone takes it away you might stare at the empty spot and feel and discern a presence - a presence that is there by its absence.
This is why my living memory of Rosemary is more than just that. My Mexican poet friend friend Homero Aridjis nailed it in my favourite poem of his. Below you will find it in Spanish and translated into English by George McWhirter.
Carta de México
Por estas callejuelas
caminan con nosotros
ruidos de coches
miradas de niños
y cuerpos de muchachas
Impalpables y vagos
frente a puertas que ya no son
y puentes que son vaciós
mientras con el sol en la cara
nosotros vamos también
hacia la transparencia
Letter From Mexico
walk with us
through these back streets
the stares of children
young girls’ bodies
cross through them
we travel through them
at doorways that no longer are
on bridges that are empty
while with the sun on our faces
move toward transparency
Eyes to See Otherwise - Ojos de otro mirar
Edited by Betty Farber and George McWhirter