Boys of summer

Indeed. That’s me, at right, with my cousins Craig (left) and Gary. I think we were probably high-school seniors or freshmen in college. It was taken on a lake in upstate New York – we were out on the water with our Uncle Elwood on his small cabin cruiser.

Uncle Elwood was the older brother of my mother and her older sister Charlotte. Aunt Charlotte, who I adored, lived on a farm in upstate New York’s Mohawk River Valley region, where I spent many wonderful days all through my childhood and adolescence; it was my own personal “Fresh Air Fund” escape from Yonkers, plus it was home to Aunt Charlotte’s two boys, Gary and Craig, who were exactly my age…(and many a tale of adventure do the three of us tell, and at least some of the tales are true!)

Unfortunately, geography makes our visits infrequent. Gary’s been in Arizona for years, and Craig’s in Texas. But there’s still that deep family bond of blood and memories. Both cousins have recently showered me with messages of encouragement and love as I’ve dealt with my recent health crisis. Craig sent me this photo this morning.

So, thanks, Craig. And a tip of the hat to Uncle Elwood on this Memorial Day – a truly colorful character, “Unk” was a World War II veteran and a Purple Heart recipient, having lost a leg after being wounded by shrapnel during combat in Europe.

Here’s an appropriate song: Don Henley’s “The End of the Innocence,” performed by Bruce Hornsby, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Shawn Colvin, et al. It’s certainly a song about bygone days. And it’s a song about America, very appropriate in this dark age of hatred and bigotry and violence on this Memorial Day.



Chemical reactions

As i sit here connected to two intravenous lines, I’m drinking mediocre coffee, looking around and listening to a group of strangers — some way too talkative, some snoozing, some clearly as preoccupied as I am, some looking quite robust, some looking like ( as we used to say in Yonkers) crap warmed over — who are receiving treatments like me, and then a friend’s message arrives: ‘Wishing you good thoughts on your first day of chemo. It won’t be as bad as you anticipate.’

So far, she’s right. After two hours I feel a little sleepy, although that may be just because I didn’t sleep much last night.

The main thing is that I would prefer some privacy and some quiet and my daughter’s company, but the six or seven others in this room — patients and a few talkative visitors — are yakking and socializing like they’re at one of the koffee klatch gatherings that I’ve heard my Grandma Nash used to have in the 1940s.

I’m reminded of the title of one of Raymond Carver’s collections of short stories: Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?

Grandma Nash died in 1945 of stomach cancer. My mother was 11 when her mother died; so I, born 10 years later when my Mom was 21, never met my maternal grandmother… but I think about her a lot.

Anna Crooks Nash was, by all accounts, a lively and likeable woman who liked to keep up with the latest fashions and cultural passions (like the mah jongg craze that swept America back then) but was also a loving mother whose death 71 years ago left her daughter, alive and healthy at 83, still remembering her mother with great tenderness and sadness even after all these years.

Last night I spoke on the phone with my mother and gave her an update, telling her about the chemo therapy I would begin today.

As we got off the phone, my mother blurted out ‘I love you!’

My family, at least in my experience, has never been an ”I love you!’ kind of family; I’ve always felt like we all know we feel it but don’t feel like we need to say it.

But that unanticipated ‘I love you!’ was good to hear last night. Clearly a lot of Grandma Nash lives on in my mother, who is her mother’s daughter.