MY MOTHER IRENE KETOVER 7/23/31-11/9/19 (eulogy 11/14/19)
My mother was a realist undoubtedly a force of nature – the perfect
counterbalance to the dreaminess of my father – between them they balanced my world. My mother was the center of any gathering and frankly it seems ridiculous surreal downright silly that she is not here nodding her head as I speak. – Then again who amongst us knows for sure. She was certainly the loudest, clearest voice against any injustice personal, political or even in the case of her pond - duck related .. Others have paid fitting tribute to her sass her strength her joy - her fierce loyalty to family, to the values which she felt in her unshakable moral core was the right thing - All such tributes are absolutely true .. I stand by them as well .. and yet as children from time immemorial we all see different aspects of our parents. I wrote something for my mother’s 85th birthday, a sense of my mother who always had me feeling protective of this woman most viewed correctly as a warrior. I know she wouldn’t mind my sharing this personal take on my teenage mom, as I always thought of her, since she surprised me by reading it at her 85th party – and so with her tacit approval and just a few edits here goes…
WITH A SMILE … My teenage warrior mom
I watched as you proudly stood my stiff starched dresses to stand like soldiers in the kitchen -
and you smiled
I felt your long fingers fumble through my hair twisting white clean strips of rags into wet curls as I stood watching out the window and you smiled
You smiled on your hands and knees scrubbing a floor, tush waggling long toes bare behind you, singing Que Sera Sera
You smiled patting endless perfect balls of chopped meat into magic fricasse
On Friday nights, dishtowel on your head, you struck a match with a shaky finger and lit candles, I watched your arms circling the flame three times, covering hands over your eyes, whispering something I knew had something to do with all of us, and then flung the towel onto the counter, called out Gut Shabbas, with what else – a smile.
You smiled wiping out kumitz - cleaning heavy cut crystal dishes –until they shone with rainbow prisms, cooking, setting table with good silver, serving, clearing, washing, drying – still you smiled
You smiled singing Frank, and Nat, with my father, sang in your uniquely uniform continuously consistently off key fashion,
you smiled as we rode off to where I do not recall - standing with me wind whipping your hair in the front car of a swaying wicker-seated-porcelain-railed train - the chain in front of us swinging against the blackness of the rushing tunnels
You smiled bathing that new beloved-by-you baby brother splashing in a white vinyl bathinette as I stood and watched your face flush with a new softness
You smiled swinging hands on the way to the park as we pushed that huge carriage - cold steel under my outstretched clinging hand walking in dappled sunlight singing A Tisket a Tasket,
You smiled at walks end as we slid onto high stools to eat whipped potatoes, a stick pretzel, a chocolate malted –
the baby asleep outside in his carriage- perfect
Even if one that time, just that one time, we did forget the baby,
All the way home after running back and retrieving him you panting out of breath and deliriously relieved, smiled –
You smiled, needles flashing and clicking knitting long into the night
and early at morning breakfast – your hair delightfully mussed, cigarette dangling from your lip you smiled.
Oh yes, you smiled, that mega watted klieg lit smile
at your parents and inlaws and friends and passerbys and later you smiled at customers and employees that became so much more to you -
One and all individually and collectively they loved that signature smile
Of course you smiled at my father in a way that set a template that made every Russian romance novel, every love poem, every lusted look and giggled pushaway known and familiar to me when I later met them –
You smiled as I watched, lucky spectator with the best seat in the house – in the center of the love story that rose to the moon and stars and beyond
I inhaled the love and lust and passionate possibility of you - the dances you danced together, the secret looks, the arms around each other close, the whirl and whisper, the giggle and sighs - the very magic of this love of you -
I too enjoyed all those smiles
But there was more, seen in stolen moments when a slipped glimpse caught the shimmer of your bright tears
those times in the quiet of a still afternoon
those times in the dark of night when on bare feet I was drawn to the golden light of you sitting there in a cool room as you let your knitting drop into your lap and just for a moment let silent tears fall onto a doll’s dress or a sweater for the baby, – as I watched quietly and tiptoed back to bed-
those times of quiet hidden tears, that I came to know –
the shimmering beauty of your courage – confronting and besting that Fellow, Death that, silent, shunned, and hidden boarder who lived with us.
I remember and acknowledge and celebrate along with all the dazzle of your dancing smile-
I came to know early on, consecrated in one precious singular sacred moment so very long ago when I approached you, and reached out and dared to touch a single tear easing its way toward your mouth –
the nature of my teenage mommy -
the true majestic nature of those smiles
that manifesting mystic magic, born and borne as a shining talisman protecting us all.
So long ago, in that cool darkened living room, the click of knitting needles, quieted , stroking the soft wool in your lap, the wetness of that brave secreted tear on my finger, you, my teen warrior woman, the powerful mother I adored, was revealed in all your vulnerable shuttered glory.
Then, now and forever as years float, tumble tossed through life and death – I feel that smile, that chosen strength scored, seared, branded in my soul, side by side with my protectiveness of that secret girl under the smile, my love sealed forever and a day, for the who you were and the majesty of the who you chose to be, then, now and forever ...
And now the ride you both spoke about on the merry-go-round has stilled – the calliope quieted and yet I still feel the whirl, the wonder, the whisper and wallop of the girl who for a few short days lay with me alone in a quiet hospital room in a foreign state and chose to hold me close before going out to face the world with a smile
The mold is now broken –
The lessons remain –
The meaning of the song and the flash of your actual Smile
Smile - Nat King Cole (High quality) - YouTube
Smile - Nat King Cole (High quality) - YouTube