Remembering Bronislawa

My mother’s name was really Bronislawa, which doesn’t have an English equivalent. So they called her Blanche.

Her dementia took over all of our lives for the past decade. Now that she is gone, my mind has cleared enough to remember her as she was before.

She was born in America but spent 8 years in Poland with her mother and siblings between the World Wars, when she was a pre-teen. Her father stayed behind to keep earning money, and the rest of the family went to live on the family farm in Poland. She was bi-lingual. She was the oldest of three sisters. She never graduated from high school. She had two brothers. None of her siblings is alive.

This is her and her mother and sisters when they returned from Poland to live in Yonkers.

At the age of 16, she went to work in the Alexander Smith and Sons carpet factory. Her family struggled financially, so they all had jobs. She often recalled that her father had to wrap her arms with ace-type bandages because they would be so sore after a day of work. Until the day she died, she had an indentation in her right forefinger, which she said was caused by the thread she had to wind around her finger day after day.

She was always slim and petite. And pretty. Not beautiful or striking. Pretty. He was handsome. “All the girls were after him,” she often said, “but he picked me.”

This is her and my dad when they got engaged.

She also was a great social dancer and, of course, loved to polka. For many years she danced in a local Polish dance troupe. That’s her, on the left, and one of her best friends, who is still alive and who attended her funeral.

Even toward the end of her life, when she pretty much stopped speaking and walking, my mom would follow my lead in the fox trot and waltz if I held her close to me. She loved music. Loved to dance.

She also liked to sew. When I was a child, before every Christmas, all of my dolls would disappear for a day or two and then show up on Christmas Day all decked out in new dresses that my mother made for them. She liked her clothes to fit well, and she was always sewing them in, letting them out, hemming and correcting. I have that same tendency. She taught me to knit, crochet, and embroider, although she never really spent much time doing those things. Mostly, she was the full-time wife and mother and much-loved member of a group of Polish/American women who played Canasta once a week and socialized, family-style, other times.

I lost count of the visitors at her wake who said to me “She was a real lady.” Proper behavior and stylish clothes were important, and she bought the most fashionable shoes, which for many years had very pointy toes. She liked pumps and bought them narrow so that they would stay on her feet. Her toes suffered for that vanity, and when she got older, it was hard to find shoes that were comfortable.

She chose the suit and blouse that she wanted to be buried in more than a decade before the event — and with pearls around her neck and in her ears, she looked like a VIP, which, to many, she was.

Her portrait, for which she posed to have painted in the 1950s at my father’s request, still hangs in my brother’s house.

Delayed Gratification

We were supposed to leave for Maine today, but my grandson had a stomach bug and fever yesterday. He seems fine today, but we gave him another day home just to make sure.

It’s been a while since any of us have been able to go away for a whole week, and we are all looking forward to the ocean and the nature preserves and the deck on our cottage that looks out over an estuary. My grandson and his dad will fish, and my daughter and I will just veg out.

Time is passing too quickly for my liking and taking with it too much of the physical capacities I’ve always taken for granted. Degenerative disc disease is not uncommon for people my age, but mine is worse than normal. There’s not much I can do at this point — eat healthy, stretch….

I remember that my mother had a chinning bar attached near the top of an open doorway, and she would hang from it by her hands several times a day. I think it helped a lot with her spinal problems, and now I have one here. When I hang from it, I often can hear the pops of my spine decompressing.

I spent a little time online last night searching for ways to decompress the spine. Hanging by your hands from a bar is one of them — one of the least expensive and easy to use.

I am lazy and things I wanted and/or wanted to do always came easy to me. Notice I said “things I wanted.” Maybe I didn’t want the things I didn’t want because they didn’t come easy to me.

I was never one to delay gratification — whether it was eating chocolate or buying a new pair of jeans. This is something I am learning to tolerate now in my elder years.

I think of my dementia-plagued mom, who seems to be able to be gratified by so little — a globular gourmet lollipop that she can suck on for hours, a simple song that I make up as I go along.

Tomorrow, Maine, and some gratification for me. In another few weeks, I make the journey to try to give my mother some little gratification. (I wish I could take another vacation after that!)

Meanwhile, I am continuing to see a chiropractor for thoracic spine therapy, since the muscles are still pretty sore and in spasm from my fall off the bed at my mother’s a little over a month ago.

I will probably never delight in Salsa dancing again. And that’s too bad, because I always found the movements and the music very gratifying.

missing my past

I google their names, the people I knew in my past — poets, painters, psychologists who kept my psyche stirred, my shadows swirling through radiant darkness; dancers who swept me across ballrooms and turned my nights starry, my limbs light and fair. Do they ever google me and remember?

The Sensuous Male

He’s on my mind today both because last night was Salsa dancing at Club Matrixx and because there are some current posts on Blog Sisters complaining about having to deal with men ogling them and making ridiculous noises and gestures.

I think that many men are confused about the differences between sexist and sexy. In my opinion, many men don’t have clue about “sensuality,” especially their own. In my opinion, the guys who stand around and ogle women are completely out of touch with their own sensuality.

Contrast that with the guys out dancing Salsa last night. I don’t know any of their names yet; I’ve only been there several times so far, and I go there to dance, not talk. And I do dance — and the Salsa is a sensuous dance.

One short, paunchy, thinly gray-haired guy, always dressed, in a suit is the best dancer there. He feels the music; every move reflects the intention of every beat. He leads gently but assuredly, holds me firmly, close but not suffacatingly so; he watches and makes sure we keep in touch. He is short, paunchy, thinly gray-haired and marvelously sensual. He loves to dance. He likes women. He doesn’t ogle. He’s having too much fun. He stops me on my way out to say goodnight. I ask him to save me a few dances next week. You bet, he says.

Another, a young guy, glasses, nice looking, serious, shy, dressed down. His movements are smaller scaled but just as sensual. When we get into a groove, the patterns flowing as though we had choreographed them, his face breaks into a wide smile. His eyes twinkle. We are one with the music and the sensuality of the dance. He is in the moment. He doesn’t ogle. He’s having too much fun.

I’m 62 years old and past the age at which I get ogled by guys out of touch with their own sensuality. Boy, do those guys need to learn to Salsa.