“All I Have Are Memories…”

I remember the last time I spoke with Aunt Analee.  My Uncle Buddy had an advanced form of Alzheimer’s.  She told me that it was hard to see him as he was;  unable to express himself, unable to read, displaying a vacant stare.  She said that Uncle Buddy was a constant source of fun;  that he was playful, enthusiastic, worldly in business, but with a child’s innocence at heart.  “All I have are memories…”

I remember my Aunt Analee’s words as I look at my own mother, Twyla Weiss.  It is hard to believe that this thin, feeble woman, with a shrunken face, for whom every thought is a struggle, who can no longer cook, and has a confused sense of time, was once quite the opposite.  Like her Mom, Grandma Lena, she was used to giving orders, had a genius for organizing, and shared her talents with countless other women, who relied on her without questioning whatever suggestions she might make.  She was a girl scout leader, PTA President, gourmet cook, and supportive and loving companion to my father, Murray Weiss.  It must be hard for him at 91 to see how helpless Mom has become, while he still exercises and takes care of finances.  He, too, must have many wonderful memories from a 67 year marriage.

Mom is now 89 and is feeling the brunt of age.  Her world is becoming smaller and smaller.  The things she can do are dwindling.  But my mind takes me back to Mom’s many friendships, and her ability to put people at their ease.  She helped my Dad become more social, since he came from an extremely insular family.  She helped me to confront difficult circumstances, serving as a guide in troubled times.  When I was stressed, he used to tell me:  “Let your arms hang loose like a rag doll, and smile.”  Her vitality and spunk were always an inspiration.  Alas, all I have are memories…

Some Family History And A Little Wisdom.

I have a family tradition that each year I go through our scrapbooks to renew memories and make sure pictures haven’t fallen out.  I love to look at the photos, because they take me to places that were special.  I enjoy seeing photos of the Rogue River as it changed over the years and study faces that no longer exist.  Such an experience makes me aware of the transience and unfathomable mystery of life.  Playing in the snow in the Angeles Crest, following the stories of record readers, remembering when a simple table could provide hours of entertainment, trying to create a miniature golf course by digging up the lawn in our backyard, Grandpa David pulling out yet another Hershey bar from his “secret” closet,  all these memories flow into an ever changing and ever beckoning past….

Murray Weiss:  Around 1940, we purchased a 12 acre ranch above San Fernando.  It came with two horses that I used to ride.  There were also groves of lemon and orange trees, and a barn for the horses.  The water came down from a spring in pipes.  I would drive up there at least two or three times a week and give the horses bales of hay and feed them.  But, after awhile, the horses figured out how to get out of the gate and would wander around San Fernando.  I would often get a call from the Dog Pound in the middle of my medical practice:  “We have one of your horses.  Please come and pick it up.”   And, it was really kind of a mess.  I would attach the horse to the back of my car, and drive slowly up the streets and put it back.( In 1966 the ranch burned to the ground in the Pacoima Canyon Fire.)

Geraldine(Jerry) Hilton:  My mother(Grandma Lena) dominated.  Any time we asked Dad if we could go some place, he would say no.  My mother would say: “Let the kinder go.”  When it came to gifts, my mother was very generous.  She’d say:  “Give it to them.”  My mother loved to buy stuff wholesale and she would always have a stock of silver-plated platters and trays in case she needed to give a gift for somebody.  She had a whole warehouse in the closet.  As long as it was wholesale, she would buy it.

Twyla Weiss:  When the earthquake of the early 30s happened, I was playing hide and seek, and I was “it”, and I had my face against a house that completely collapsed.  I became absolutely panic-stricken, and I would not go back into our brick apartment house.  I stayed in our big seven-passenger Buick all night long, and I remember my sister, Cecile, stayed with me.

My mother was a warm person, but had a volatile temper.  She would slap you, get angry, and the next minute not remember it at all.  My mother was not a homemaker, even though she loved to cook and bake, but was a very bright, astute woman, who had little formal education.  She was always trying to learn to drive a car and get a license.  She often smashed the car, and one of our admonitions was:  “Oh, be careful!  Watch out at the corner!  Mom may be coming down the street!

Boris(Buddy) Yorkshire:  Grandpa Yorkshire did the driving in the house.  He had a glass eye in one eye and was almost blind with a cataract in the other.  How he drove, I don’t really know, but he did.  The day he had his cataract removed, he said up till then he never realized what things look like.  He really wasn’t even sure what his children looked like!

I can’t understand why we fight wars.  I haven’t quite figured that out, except that there are good salesmen there at the top that want to own a little bit more of the world.  I think being tolerant is probably the most important thing you can be.  Be tolerant of the other guy, and try to understand his feeling, too.

Grandma Lillian as a teenager.

Grandma Lillian as a teenager.

Grandma Lena and Grandpa David.

Grandma Lena and Grandpa David.

Grandpa Johnny and I at my Bar Mitzvah.

Grandpa Johnny and I at my Bar Mitzvah.

My Dad enjoying himself at Casey's Auto Camp in the 1930s.

My Dad enjoying himself at Casey’s Auto Camp in the 1930s.

My Dad today at 90, engrossed in American History.

My Dad today at 90, engrossed in American History.

Mom at 88, reading a biography of Elsa Maxwell.

Mom at 88, reading a biography of Elsa Maxwell.