Up at Tilden Park in perhaps late fall, 1950, that's me deciding which creature I would ride on the carousel. And of course that is my mother Hypatia. She was a beautiful young woman in those days, and a highly competent one. She was an instructor in Speech and Drama at Cal Berkeley, and had graduated Phi Beta Kappa, cum Laude, and was the valedictorian speaker of her graduating class. No one else had ever done that to that time in Speech and Drama. She shared the podium with Harry Truman who was POTUS at the time.
The youngest of her mother's first three children, she was named Hypatia by her Dutch immigrant father. He named the older two, the first, Philippus (Philip - a patronym of the family, either Hartog Philippus or Philippus Hartog) and Penelope. Penelope's namesake was of course the wife of Oddyseus. Hypatia's namesake was a famed mathematician and librarian, a philosopher at the fabled Library of Alexandria in Egypt. In the poem, "your sister's daughter" refers to Penelope and her daughter Toni-Jo.
Tilden Regional Park is described like this: "One of the District's three oldest parks, Tilden has been called the jewel of the system, and its recreational activities have become a happy tradition for generations of East Bay youngsters. From a carousel ride and a picnic to a swim at Lake Anza and a stroll through the Botanic Garden, Tilden has variety to delight everyone."
Hypatia Has Left The Building
I looked past my book,
raised up my glasses and heard
you gasp and rattle,
fuss though you had gone
flying while lying so still.
I called for a nurse
and we gave you some
morphine then to ease your wait.
She came past sunset,
your sister's daughter
whom we took in to protect
all those years ago.
I sat on one side
and she sat on the other.
I held your left hand
She spoke, told stories,
told you how much she loved you.
Then you breathed your last.
Your son, your daughter
by your side - others were there.
we saw you gently
May 19, 2014 9:28 PM
2001 was one of those years for me. My mother died in January. My lover of two years left me in February. I moved to my mother's house and sold my house of thirty years in April. My father died in June. My wife of twenty years died in October.
You would think at thirty years in a place I would own it. There were severe money troubles a couple times and the refinances of the house put ownership in the coffin but covered the debt. My financials are still in good standing, have always been in good standing. However, I have never had much money even though I have had, I suppose, enough. I at least have never been driven to stretch, to somehow find ways to find more than was coming more or less naturally. I am grateful for that. Pretty good for an old ex-dope dealer who at least was never caught.
At the end of January of 2001, my mother had gone in for hip replacement surgery so that at 79 she would not become bed ridden by deteriorating hips. They did the one with the most damage first and the other was to follow. Hip replacement is a big surgery although not necessarily a hugely dangerous one. She was in a recovery center because hip replacement creates a bed ridden recovery for the first weeks and mom lived alone. I visited every evening.
On this one evening, she was looking okay and we were talking quietly. I was speaking and she interrupted by raising her right hand, index finger pointed, then she took that hand to her right ear and caressed her earlobe. She was unconscious right then. We got an ambulance and took her to hospital. She woke up in the ambulance on the way, I guess because when I saw her next she was awake. I guess she napped some of the time and in two days she lapsed into coma. In another day she died. She had had a massive stroke and died of brain depression from the swelling in it.
My sister had to arrive from the Kansas City area, a small town to the south of the city on the Missouri side. It took her awhile. On Mom's last afternoon on the planet, she started to fail. I was there and I alerted the staff that she was obviously uncomfortable even though in coma, and they gave her morphine to quiet her. In fact she pitched quite a fit for someone unable to move. She was not ready to go because we had not all gathered. It was that evening that my sister did arrive, and others were there too. I sat on her left side while my sister sat on the right, with others close by, a small gathering of friends and family.
After perhaps half an hour with all of us gathered there, Mom no longer could breathe and we held her and spoke to her as we watched her depart for other places. If you feel like you want to learn more about all this, here is another post with this history written back in May of 2009. There are actually several posts that include aspects of this history but I will not go further here.
Some years ago my poetry took on a mythic flavor and I became a character in my own poems, a mage, "the man of the Northern Wall". This apellation is not completely fictional. My middle name is Noordwal, a Dutch term for north wall, though in current Dutch it mainly means north bank as in riverbank. I was told that an ancestor, a Portugese Jew escaping the Inquisition, settled in a small Dutch town and took this name from where he settled, near the north wall of the town. I have thought for a long time that -wal meant wall, think my mother told me that. A linguist might say that my usage is no longer common, is an older usage, but then the Inquisition happened in Portugal a few centuries ago, right around the time the Moors lost control of the Iberian Peninsula and the Jews lost the modest protection given them by Islam. Now I write as this mage, my poetry persona.