In memoriam

In Memoriam: Bob Kenas

Sunday, April 24th, 2022

December 1942-March 2022

Dear Bob

Deborah phoned me with word of your death a couple of weeks ago.  Since then, you’ve been more present to me than even during the intense emails we’ve exchanged since the reunion I attended at your home in 1996. I regretfully declined to join any more of them because of the difficulty I’ve always experienced relating to individuals within the framework of the group. With no one was that contradiction between social and individual relationships more pronounced than with you.

Back in Netherland Park your role as the classic alpha male made you seem larger than life and me to almost disappear as the tiny omega called “mousie.” And when the girl I’d been in love with since fourth grade started going with you the annihilation felt complete.

By the time we reconnected in 1996, I’d been able to build a sense of self that didn’t depend on size, looks and prowess in sports, and you expressed an interest in me I found intensely flattering. But after the first hour or so of that event, I remember the old pattern of male bonding with talk about sports, and I receded to conversations with the women about family and books. Nevertheless, largely at your initiative we started writing to one another, and you encouraged me to voice long suppressed painful memories which you responded to with understanding and compassion.

The gap of time between our new connection and our childhood acquaintance created a perspective from which to view the shape of our lives, particularly in light of what it meant to grow old and face the end.

In 2019 we traded thoughts about efforts to deal with that by creating legacies  of scanned and cataloged photographs. Your words captured my own sense of both the importance and the futility of the attempt:

I think you and I share the same views on all of what you’re focused on!

I’ve digitized enormous number of slides and prints… the kids growing up, their hs and college sports, travel pics from all over Europe and the Middle East, etc.

Digitized super 8 movie film to DVDs and made copies for the three kids. I’ve done what can be done. The originals remain fairly neatly boxed… patiently awaiting our demise and eventual pitching. I just can’t.

Also boxed for each of the kids piles of their own prints that weren’t digitized.  Here they sit.

When I go down to my basement and look around some of the old stuff sitting there that I feel ‘connected’ to, I struggle with why I just can’t seem to let go and pitch it… framed pics, yearbooks,  bday cards, drawings from …. etc.

Maybe one snowy day this winter….

The most sustained of our conversations came two years ago in response to the death of LCB, another girl from Riverdale Park we had both been involved with—I as her early adolescent suitor, you as her longtime admirer and friend.

Earlier,  you had tried to lure me to the 2006 event with the promise that she would be there, part of your endeavor to maintain connections among all the members of the old group. Though that didn’t work out, it led Leslie and me into an exchange of reflections about our pasts informed by her rediscovery of a stash of letters I’d written to her 40 years earlier.

Upon your sending word of her passing, I came across media accounts of scandal attached to her illustrious career and wrote to you to commiserate, but also, in true teenage fashion, to gossip. Next morning, as I opened my computer to write a guilty retraction, I saw your reply sent at 2:00 AM the night before, detailing the starts and stops of your lifelong friendship and explaining how both the press and many of her distinguished colleagues had maligned her for understandable but largely unwarranted reasons.

That exchange was followed by a long phone conversation—I still recall during it walking up and down the hill in my back yard.

And then just a year ago, our last communication, in response to another person reaching the end of the road, in which you observed:

Lots of deaths piling up… covid- related in some cases  to be sure… but my feeling is that a lot of folks in our ‘age group’ may be dying sooner than they would be if not for the collateral emotional damage and outlook that we’ve been faced with.   Maybe I’m way off base!?!?

What got you wasn’t covid or its collateral damage, though it was another cruel disease. But “dying sooner” at 80, I need to believe, doesn’t require an explanation or a cause. It’s living longer that’s out of the ordinary—both a blessing and a burden.

Our connection, Bob, has been a gift for me, providing a unique chance to contemplate the whole of our lives, beginning to end.  Thanks.

Nancy Lucas 1942-2021

Sunday, March 27th, 2022

On Sunday attended a memorial service at the Sangha for Nancy Lucas, my age. Retired before me, about 2006.  Lost contact as part of my withdrawal from English department but heard that seven years ago she was moved by her two sons out of SLO to an Alzheimer facility where the older one lives in Healdsburg.  They organized the memorial at White Heron Sangha in Avila because she was an early member who left before I first got there.  The event was announced through the Sangha email list, but not, it seems, through the English Department. I had the impression a number of those folks, who were closer to her than I, had been personally invited, but many others were absent.

This is the third memorial for Sangha members I’ve been to: Barbara Scott, Melody Demerit, the two others.  Women I had special connections with—Barbara my therapist in 1992 and Melody my copy editor in 1998 and 2005.  Those connections were mixed with admiration: Barbara for bravery in dealing with the unimaginable pain of her rheumatoid arthritis, Melody for her steadfastness in serving on the Morro Bay City Council. And affection: Barbara for her ebullience, Melody for her bluff irreverence.

With Nancy it was different.  The most prominent thing about her was a spectacular beauty and grace.  Her head, with its great green eyes and bright red hair, seemed to float with a buoyancy that suspended the rest of her tall body. Her voice, with its slight hint of Texas drawl, seemed to sing recitative rather than talk.  And as so many of the speakers remarked, she fully shared that celebrity presence with everyone who basked in it.  An illustration in that place of a Buddhist aspiration to be fully there for other people.

And a poignant irony that someone so present lived out her life growing steadily more absent. So absent that the two adored and adoring sons who took her in care remembered, in lengthy detail, her rare moments of partially being there in laughter and song.

A picture of her at our house October 1991 during an English Faculty play reading of Sheridan’s The School for Scandal together with Mike Wenzl (1939-2017)

 

Lionel Webb (1947-2020)

Monday, September 21st, 2020

Lionel, I think of you

as an old grizzly bear
all burly and tough
but also a teddy bear
full of cuddly stuff

or as my grandfather,
all seasoned and wise
but also my grandson
full of awe and surprise

 

I’ll Remember April

Friday, October 21st, 2016

(April Wells 1943-2016)

I loved you for your name–
the bloom of youth, the standing daffodil.

I loved you for your voice, in full Canadian lilt
Its high and low note chord.

I loved you for your strength,
To clear the brush and split the wood,
and raise those kids alone
in the dark house across the road.

I loved you for the gifts you brought”grace and song and dance

kenneth to left, april wells, debbie keane, steven marx, backrow joann sorenson, jan christie

And for the gifts you gave–confidence and joy

I loved you for your laugh.

1982aprilwells