Saturday, January 29, 2022
|Rosemary & Lauren - Christmas 2007|
Ese vacío en mi alma
January 28 2022
At around 7:30 I give Niño and Niña their treats and I
settle on the bed. Should I make myself a mug of tea? Should I have a slice of
cheese or toast with apricot jam? These are the important decisions that I must
make at my age of 79. Tomorrow Saturday I have nothing planned. I do not have
to see anybody and as far as I know my phone will not ring.
|Niña & Niño January 28 2022|
I am beginning to wonder if writing a blog is enough to keep
me going. In that last century women had to marry and mostly stay home. They
could only be fulfilled (so they said) if they were married and had children.
Nothing was said about the man’s life being fulfilled. He just had to be a successful engineer or doctor and bring home the bacon. About all that was said
(mostly in jest), when a man would talk about his wife, “She is my better half.”
It has struck me tonight that at the very least that above
statement acknowledges that the completion of an entity, a marriage, involves
two halves. Two halves make one.
|Niña & Cortázar|
It is for this reason, that while my daughters say I must
keep busy and find distractions, that by the end of each day, I know I cannot be
fulfilled (keep that chin up) anymore because I am missing that half (and I need not add, better
half as I know that).
Writing this blog and dealing with the menialities of the day
with no financial worries, thanks to Rosemary, is simply not enough for me.
|Niño January 28 2022|
Is there any reason why I would set an alarm for 7 or 8
tomorrow? For what purpose would I get up?
My two cats stare at me and snuggle up to me. I know that if
I do not wake up tomorrow (should I die in my sleep) neither of my daughters
would be able to take care of them.
Is it enough to know one has to stay alive so as to comfort
and take care of a pair of cats?
There may be another reason. Because I am a photographer
my house has portraits on all the walls and most of them are of the family. I stare
at them. While rummaging through some files I found an inkjet print. I had made
a small version of it to frame for my granddaughter Lauren. The one that I almost scanned
now is a copy that was not as good as the one Lauren received. I went in look
for the original. I suspected it was a Polaroid. It was. It was filed under
family photographs 2007. I have scanned it. Because I took the Polaroid with
Christmas lighting it is virtually impossible to colour correct to any
accuracy. That is not important.
There is something of their expressions. I took these
Polaroids of everybody who was at our family Christmas dinner. But this one “sings”.
I must stay alive so I can keep taking these portraits even
if the occasion to do them is not a frequent one. And I must stay alive to take care of Niño and Niña.
It hits me every time I look at my portraits. They were
alive. I cannot forget facing Liv Ullmann who told me, “Please don’t ask me
Alexandra & Hilary -1979 - I have to smile
Friday, January 28, 2022
|Hilary Anne & Alexandra Elizabeth - Royal Hudson - 1979|
Even if I begin my day facing a sunny one, by the time in
late afternoon it seems like it is the late afternoon of the day before. At
around 7:30 I loudly say “treats” and Niño and Niña perk up their ears and run
upstairs. On the bed on their little blue blanket that Rosemary did what I do
now, I give their dental treats which they love.
|Queen Elizabeth Park|
Then it is time to perhaps make a mug of tea and take a
bath. I get into bed and in these last evenings I have been enjoying Jorge Luís
Borges’s Prólogos con un prólogo de prólogos.
A few years ago Hilary knowing that I take tub baths and,
like Jorge Luís Borges, I read in them, gave me a special tray that I can use to read
books or the newspaper while having toast and tea (or soup). The tray collapsed a few
days ago when I moved suddenly and Borges took a bath. But I can still read it!
Today I decided not to become my usual morose human, comforted
by two cats, but to somehow do something that might cheer me up. These
photographs, of our two daughters taken before 1980, when we lived in Burnaby on
Springer Ave make me smile. Those were the days when I would go to a U-Frame it
Store on Kingsway and I came up with the idea of using mats that mirrored the
colours in the photographs. These framed photographs look pretty good if you
consider that I printed them 42 years ago in my Burnaby darkroom.
|Queen Elizabeth Park|
I will put up this blog and hope that tonight when I get
into bed I just might be in a more optimistic mood and look forward to what
tomorrow will bring.
Ese vacío en mi alma
Thursday, January 27, 2022
en ese vacío vertiginoso las metáforas saltaban hacia el como arañas” Julio
My youngest daughter Hilary Stewart paid me a visit today
Wednesday. We had a long mid-afternoon lunch and then I took her to her Burnaby
Driving back in the nighttime fog I felt a grief that I
finally defined in my Spanish as “un vacío”. Because Spanish as a romance
language is linked far more to Latin than English, I know that vacīvus is empty in Latin. For me,
then, these words have more of an emotional impact. Vacío, vaciar (to
empty), hits me in the jugular.
It was in 1958 when our religion instructor at St. Edward’s
High School, Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. one day came into our class and
performed a little experiment that I never forgot. He brought with him two
glasses, one small one, and one bigger. He also had a pitcher of water. He
filled both to the brim and asked us, “Which is fuller?”
In the back row, the smartest guy in class, Howard
Houston immediately answered correctly, “They are both just as full but the
bigger glass has more water.”
The lesson we were then told to digest is that the two
glasses represented our human capacity for happiness. Some of us have an easy
time at it while others have a tough go.
It was 10 years ago that my granddaughter Rebecca (she
was 14) and I were having coffee at a Starbucks on Oak Street. I have no idea
why it was that I told her that we could chose in life to be either happy or to
be content. It was far easier to be content and those of us who wanted to be
happy might never achieve it. I then asked her, “Which of those do you want for
yourself?” She answered, “I want to be happy.”
In that car tonight it hit me. Brother Edwin
was back in our class giving us an eloquent variant of the full glass of happiness.
My Rosemary and I shared a 52 year marriage together.
Sometimes water was spilled and sometimes the glasses (hers or mine) were not
quite full. But we had the power to be happy and we were. We lived
with the potential of the big pitcher and we had the patience.
People tell me that I have all these memories of having
lived with Rosemary in Mexico and here in Vancouver; that we have two well-adjusted
daughters and two splendid granddaughters. Would that make us be that Brother Edwin
glass with a greater capacity for happiness?
What struck me tonight is that the emptiness I experienced
while driving home, is best said in Spanish “ese vacío en mi alma”. It is an
emptiness in my soul, a vacant presence that will be with me for as long as I
am able to think.
Of Malecones & Costaneras & un dólar blue
Wednesday, January 26, 2022
|Malecón - Cozumel|
On the last days of December 2021 my nephew Georgito O’Reilly
took me to the Costanera in Buenos Aires. Argentines like to be different from
other Spanish speaking countries so they use or invent new words. Consider that
the very legal black market US Dollar is called El dollar blue.
|La Costanera - Dec 2021|
In Caribbean and Mexican Spanish there is a lovely word
malecón which is about a boulevard that follows a coastline (usually the sea or
ocean) where people can go for pleasant walks. I did so in the Veracruz Malecón
the first few months of my marriage to Rosemary. But we also had a nice walk with our two daughters in the Mexican island
of Cozumel which was the first landfall by a Spaniared, Juan de Grijalva in
1518. A year later Hernán Cortes landed there to start his conquest of Mexico.
|Malecón - Veracruz 1968|
Tossing and turning - Veracruz 1968
Veracruz & Captain Robert E. Lee
Argentines call the most famous of their malecones La
Costanera. When I was in the Argentine Navy in 1965, the US Navy personnel I
worked with in the US Naval Advisory Group, liked to go there on weekends and
warm evenings. On that Costanera there were little establishments, some on
wheels, that served delicious asados and the now famous choripán which is an
Argentine chorizo inside a French loaf.
|La Costanera - Río de la Plata|
When Georgito told me we were going to La Costanera I did
not expect to see most of little eating places gone and replace by many very
good restaurnants. And La Costanera has been beautifully redone and in one end
they have moved the statue of Christopher Columbus that had been taken down
close to the Secretaría de Guerra on Paséo Colón in downtown Buenos Aires. I
mentioned to Georgito that when Rosemary and I had passed by the Secretaría de
Guerra (of war) in 2019, the name had been changed to Palacio de la Paz (of
At a very good restaurant Georgito and I dined very well and
consumed a whole bottle of white Torrontés wine. I was left with the ganas (the
desire) to have enjoyed a lowly choripán.
|Georgito O'Reilly Dec 2021|
I could not tell Georgito how walking on La Costanera
brought me memories of walking hand in hand with my Rosemary before she got pregnant,
and after, in1968 in Veracruz warm evenings on that Jarocho (another lovely word
Blood Oranges & tiny, slim, dainty, graceful and feminine.
Tuesday, January 25, 2022
|Senecio cineraria & Citrus x sinensis 'Blood Orange' - 25 January 2022|
moment (besides the constant presence of my cats Niño and Niña) in my otherwise bleak week, is a visit by my youngest daughter Hilary
Stewart. I try to give her a complete meal and I wash the dishes after. She
makes sure (she is the Wellness Manager, no assistants, of the Burquitlam
Safeway) I have all my supplements and vitamins. She checks my mail and advises
me which bills I must pay immediately. After dinner we watch the news or any
video I recently brought from Buenos Aires. Then I drive her home while listening to CBC Ideas.
my age she is the one who is careful about not giving me Covid. She wears a
double mask and we dine at opposite ends of Rosemary’s Victorian crank table.
It is most
pleasant to talk to a human being in person and better still that I am related
before (today Tuesday January 25, 2022) I plan my menu and cook part of it.
for tomorrow is my French onion soup (I now use caramelized onions), a salad,
and to drink blood orange juice. Our dessert will be Shirriff Mousse with fresh
had a predilection (a word I use more in Spanish – predilecto) for Manila
mangoes, blood oranges and gray plants.
I would say,
and I can get away with it in this century, that my Rosemary was tiny, slim, dainty, graceful
In the last
century she and I went to lots of dance performances. I came up with the idea that
most people thought female dancers were swans. I decided to modify that
conflict and I had a good subject in Lauri Stallings. I photographed her as the
woman that she was.
Rosemary gone in a century where the qualities she had are now seen as not
important, I miss that feminine touch in my home every day.
When I was
squeezing those blood oranges I was overcome by my memory on how Rosemary had a
special salad where she used them. Crossing the deck to my oficina, so I could
scan one blood orange half, I noticed that one of the nicest plants, completely
untouched or unfazed by the recent snow, was Senecio cineraria. I looked for
Rosemary’s snow drops but they have not opened yet. Scanning them will happen
when they do.
will make sure our late lunch will be ready tomorrow and when Hilary and I
drink our blood orange we will remember St. Luke who wrote that Christ when he
was parting the bread He said, “Do this in Remembrance of me.”
not have to follow any religion or believe in anything to understand the beauty
of that sentence, which to me is the most beautiful in any language.