Saturday, October 19, 2013

Open the Window

Kate lost her mom yesterday morning after a years-long battle with severe illness including emphysema and COPD, among other serious complications. Kate's been caretaking her mother for close to 3 years in Massachusetts. How she's done it, I'm not sure, but geez, if we were talking about the Guy family being full of tough broads, Kate and her mom were spitfires of epic proportions.

Being EXTREMELY Irish, Kate told me of a profound yet beautiful custom in which the true Irish participate when a loved one dies. They open a window. Why? To let the soul free to go to God. I thought that was pretty amazing, and she did it.

Kate's been great this week helping me reel in my emotions regarding the loss of Guy's mother and having to go to that wake tomorrow (too much Irish Catholic death this week), reassuring me of my belonging at the wake (and Meg is indeed going with me) and helping me figure out Catholic wake protocol and easing my impetus not to scratch out the eyes of Lady GuyGuy (or vice versa). Everybody--me, BMF and, uh, WC, got the mass card things straightened out as to what the heck they are and what to do with them.

Thelma Carroll was a force to be reckoned with. I never met her, as I never met Madame Guy, but I talked to her on the phone in MA several times, and you'd have to scream into the phone "IS KATHLEEN THERE?" or I'd try and chit-chat with Thelma when I could before she got too sick. She had a fierce temper, as I understand it, but tried not to take it out on Kate. Other douchebag relatives were fair game, but that's a whole other Newcomb Place book to write.

Kate is the youngest of 3 children, far younger than her brother and sister, and also far more fragile and chronically ill, yet is the smartest and the strongest of the bunch of them.

She admires my strength, but a lot of it, I garner from her and her own fortitude. I have been friends with Kate since we met in the Knox laundry room in 1992, me shooting her a deadly glance should she mess with my hanging-to-dry Eric Clapton t-shirt. She was my dorm supervisor, along with her husband, my Russian professor. I knew she was a painter. No, like a REAL PAINTER. We formed an instant connection which has stood the test of time for almost 22 years based on mutual respect, a dedication to intellectualism and to one another's souls. Plus, we both love Yoko Ono.

What's so rare about Kate, and she honed this trait from her father, which I'm sure made her mother ask for her specifically to take care of her her, is her empathy. Buddhist philosopher and monk Thich Nhat Hanh calls it "noumenon," or "neumona," an object(s) that can be intuited only by direct knowledge (intuition) and not perceived of the senses, or an object independent of intellectual intuition of it or of sensuous perception of it. Also called thing-in-itself. Conversely, in the spirit of Kant, "an object, such as the soul, that cannot be known, through perception, although its existence can be demonstrated." (Living Buddha, Living Christ, 214). Kate and I may not have been in one another physical presence for over 20 years, but she feels things in and about me and I about her that are naturally mystical. Had it not been for her, I'd have given up on Guy, or shunned BMF years ago, but she was right about them. She's always right about them.

When Kate moved back from her home on Long Island (where her Harvard-trained husband teaches at SUNY Stonybrook) to take care of her mother in Massachusetts, I had trepidation. She was so frail and weak herself, with so many chronic, serious conditions. But put to task, for someone you love, someone who's asking for your presence, she soldiered on and did a wonderful job. Yes, there were many, many rough patches and challenges, but Kate forged what she was meant to do, and observed the peace of her mother's passing.

Kate has said she's felt a strong connection to Guy this whole week, and I can sense why. Guy was gallant, sympathetic and kind in conveying to me yesterday the fact that he'd keep Kate and her mom in his prayers. (I've been trying to give him space this week, which is hard, but we all have to make sacrifices.)

Kate has a unique gift of relieving suffering. That's another reason why I believe she was destined to care for her mother towards the end of Thelma's life. Shifting back to Thich Nhat Hanh's "Living Buddha, Living Christ (20)," he says, " When your beloved is suffering, you need to recognize her suffering, anxiety, and worries, and just by doing that, you already offer some relief. Mindfulness relieves suffering because it is filled with understanding and compassion." Those times when Kate was separated from her mother were torturous for Thelma. She needed Kate. I thank God that they were united at the end. Yes, I know, Kate's too pretty to describe.

Damnit that I have midterms and school and a kid about to be confirmed and all these local commitments, because I'd be on a plane to Boston right now if I could be. Still, as was discussed in some previous recent blogs, Kate knows my soul is attune to hers, and our families.  Sometimes,though, you just want to give your buddy a hug. I hope Kate knows how (though either Luke or I would break her fragile bones) much we'd hug her and hold her hand and reassure her that peace and joy outweigh grief and sorrow.

Blessings and congratulations to Thelma M. Carroll for the joy of eternal rest and peace with our Lord Jesus Christ.

This was one of Mrs. Carroll's favorite songs, so I'm posting it here.How progressive of her!!!!:


Kate said...

Thank you Andrea. You are too kind. My father was the main influence in my life. He studied Pre-Med on a football scholarship
in the 1930's. He was taught by Jesuit priest who have to study for twelve years instead of four. They are hard core intellectuals. My father knew Greek and Latin and read the Bible in the original Greek. He believed in "suffering by proxy". When my mother was ill , he said he could feel her pain. In the Catholic Church people who can do that are considered Empaths.
Another aspect of Guy's life that you need to keep in mind is that in the 1930's it was still difficult for a Roman Catholic to get into Medical School. After Holy Cross ,my Dad applied to several medical schools and in the middle of one interviews ,where the man was asking him all the pro-forma questions but had to step out for a second , my Dad peeked at clip board and the man had written , in big letters ,
HOLY CROSS . My Dad left. And this was on the east coast. Guy father might never have told him about the discrimination. My father said people would routinely say ,"oh, you're a fish eater!". Referring to the fact that Catholics didn't eat meat on Fridays . It is not like that anymore and it is hard to imagine , but they was a lot of bigotry.
One last thing my dear twin separated at birth . I became obsessed with Yoko when I was twenty. I kept dreaming she was my mother. I met you when you were twenty. You loved the Beatles and knew all about them. I mentioned Yoko and you grimaced I forced you to listen to every word Peter Martin ever wrote about her and the break up of the Beatles. Also I practically recited the entire Playboy interview with John and Yoko. You poor girl. Good thing you have an open mind. Do you remember what you did next? You announced on your radio show that I was Kyoko , Yoko's lost daughter! I loved you for doing that. Remember when I would be painting , you would knock on the door and ask if you could lay on the floor? I'd paint and you wouldn't talk but you were forced to listen to "Romeo Void" and the "B-52's".
Thank goodness for "Cloud Nine" and "Kate Bush".
There is no one like you Andrea. No One

Andrea Miklasz said...

I wasn't aware of the discrimination of getting into medical school in the 30's. That's fascinating and so unnecessary, don't you think? I will have to ask Guy some time if his father went to the same Catholic med school in Chicago (Loyola) where Guy went.

Yes, you met me when I was 20 and you were....uh, 22. (Right? ;) I loved Yoko too, don't forget, and I hope I didn't annoy you lying on the studio floor. That was my breathing room. It was sanctuary to be with you. We didn't *need* to talk. Our presence together was enough.

You are definitely an empath. I don't know--you sprained your knee and over the last month or so, I've been awoken out of a dead sleep with severe pain in my knee to the point where I almost can't walk. That kind of freaks me out, because there's nothing wrong with me knee or my joints. I wonder if you're feeling the pain at the same time.

Thank you for all your help this week. I know you've had enough on your plate but you always make time for me, and for that, I'm grateful. I will convey your condolences to Guy tomorrow as well as I'm sure he will towards you and your family. He said we'd pray for "all the moms."

BMF said...


First off, I just want to say how sorry I am for your loss. I have to admit I'm a little envious of all the time both you and Guy had with your moms throughout your lives. You were truly blessed.

I know there are things about Annie, things about me, things about Guy that you know that we don't even know. I agree with what Annie just said about her having knee pains if you sprained your knee. She was complaining about this weird pain for the last several weeks. IT'S CERTAINLY NOT FROM THE YOGA SHE IS SUPPOSED TO BE DOING AT MY COMMAND, ANDREA CAROLINE!

Secondly, Kate, I hope, knowing second-hand all the trouble surrounding The Newcomb Place Saga that things are handled fairly and that you are given that which you are deserving and entitled. Actually, fuck that. You should get what means the most to you, the rest of them be damned.

I can totally see Annie just lying on your studio floor in a trance while you painted. I imagine she'd do the same with me while I was making my own art. Indeed, Annie, we can say so much to one another without saying a word.

Peace,comfort and grace to you, Kate. I feel like I know you so well, yet we've never met. Sometimes you know me better than I know myself and I appreciate your wisdom.

Your mom was lucky to have you taking care of her for so long.

Namaste! Hugs and a smooch,

Kate said...

Thank you BMF . When I was born my mother cried when she found out I was a girl. She told me that story hundreds of times. When she did , I'd go put a ribbon in my hair. She handed me to my father and said ," I raised those two , you raise this one!".
And he did! We raised hell together. When I was six ,he let me paint eyelashes on the rooster weathervane. My brother went crazy but my father would not let anyone change our transvestite rooster. My parents sold antiques.When I was about ten, he hatched a scheme. There is that famous stamp of the upside down airplane . My dad and I cut up so many airplane stamps until we glued one together that looked like the upside down airplane stamp until you looked at it with a magnifying glass. There was a box full of stamps on cardboard , covered by plastic , and they cost 25 cents. At Antique shows, my dad and I would watch the stamp collectors go through the box , find the doctored stamp and watch them go absolutely out of their minds. Until they looked at it under glass. My dad and I sat there stone-faced and they would put the stamp back and stomp off in a huff. We would laugh so hard our ribs hurt! About the fifth time it happened , my mother would say," Why are all these stamp people getting so angry? What did you two do?". You can imagine the rest. We watched Monty Python together all the time. He loved "Spot The Loony".
My mother didn't want to die in a nursing home or hospital. So for two years I kept her in her own home . The first year I did it alone , The second year there were three shifts of girls , personal care attendants ,24/7.
They were more of a nuisance than any help. She died with me holding her hand , peacefully ,
just the two of us. I did it because my father would have expected me to do it. My brother , who is 17 years older and my sister ,who is 16 years older than me, never came over ,never helped even though they are both retired . They have to live with that.
Now it is back to New York . Are you going to be there anytime soon? Tim and I would love to see you. Thanks again for you
kind words.

BMF said...

We'll be in Icatha NY on Nov 10.....don't know how long a drive that would be for you and your husband.