PEACE IN PITTSBURGH

by Kate on December 21, 2009

nina

I don’t know the number of my mother’s corner room in the Beechwood Wing of her nursing home. Her room has lots of windows and looks out over the Monongahela River when the trees are bare. The trees aren’t bare today. They’re coated with snow and even though my mom has her glasses on, she says she can’t see them. She’s in a cantaloupe-colored top that I bought for her at Target and her hair is brushed but slightly greasy and she’s wearing her trademark black glasses. She looks like this hip, old NY designer to me, whose name I’ve forgotten. Her glasses are a replica of the original pair, which broke when she fell here one day. For a while she wore them with one lens out and the middle held together with tape. When I saw her in the damaged pair I immediately thought of former L.A. Laker, Kurt Rambis, whose trademark was his black Clark Kent glasses held together with tape. I don’t live here in Pittsburgh so when I came for a visit and saw the new “look,” I immediately ordered a new pair. “We can’t have you looking like Kurt Rambis,” I told her with a loving laugh. The original version of my mother would have gotten the reference and laughed with me.

My mom was the smartest woman I knew and an Olympian talker. She rarely speaks a full sentence now, though occasionally one will emerge. Usually, it’s “Hi Kate, “ or “Isn’t’ that wonderful,” or “I love you, too.” I have been lucky enough to have my mom for 49 years now and though I deeply miss our real conversations, I don’t spend much time thinking about them. I call her almost daily and hold up a one-sided conversation. I tell her I love her and she tells me she loves me, too. Thankfully, that phrase hasn’t disappeared and when she says it to me, I feel like she does take in the one thing I am desperately trying to convey across the distance. I feel my mom so much inside of me that most of the time, I know what she’d be thinking or saying. The only part of my life where I’d truly like her advice and where I don’t know the answer has to do with my relationships with men. I am divorced. My mom married my dad. Louis “Doc” Meyers at 21 (she knew he was the one when she met him at his going-way to the navy party thrown by my grandmother. She went home that night and announced,” I just met the man I’m going to marry.”)

The summer after she graduated from the University of Wisconsin (she was the first in her family to attend college) they wed in my grandparent’s living room. My Uncle Sam had to come home from summer camp to play the first two bars of “Here Comes the Bride” on the piano and he was pissed. I have a picture from that day on a wall in my living room. To me, my parents look like these gorgeous 1940s movie stars, preserved forever in black and white. Anyway, they loved each other and laughed together until my dad died from bladder cancer at 71, thirteen years ago. When he knew that there was no more fighting the cancer he told my mother “we’ve had a good run,” which was classic Doc Meyers understatement. But she understood his language and took in all the love behind it and they had their own private cry. So it’s hard for her to understand me. I didn’t marry until I was almost 33, divorced ten years later, had my heart ripped to shreds once post divorce by a completely inappropriate guy and now I’m in a five-year relationship with a man who has never lived less than a two-hour plane ride away, and who I keep hoping will move to be with me, but it hasn’t happened. Those kinds of situations weren’t in her realm of thinking. Still, I’d desperately love to hear what her younger, precise mind would have to offer.

This afternoon I brought her a grilled Rachel sandwich for lunch. It’s corned beef, melted Swiss, coleslaw and Russian dressing. It’s one of her favorites and my brothers and I are always trying to bring her dishes she likes because she hates the nursing home food and she’s getting very frail. And also, because my mother took great joy in food. We sit and share our sandwich on the little table that rolls and slides over her wheelchair. It takes me three minutes to eat my half. It takes her thirty, but I know she’s enjoying it. After the meal I talk a bit and smile and give her play-by-play of what my daughters and I have done since we’ve been in Pittsburgh. My sister-in-law Ann and Emmy and I took a long walk in the snow and then she treated the girls to pedicures. Annie my oldest, will go to the late afternoon Steelers-Packers game with my brother Muzz. My mom listens and smiles but doesn’t say anything. I ask her if she’d like to listen to some music, she nods her head. I put on Diana Krall Live in Paris and we hold hands and listen. Sometimes we close our eyes and sometimes we look at each other and smile, sharing an appreciation of these jazzy tunes. Occasionally, I’ll sing a line. I know a lot of old lyrics because my mother was a jazz connoisseur since she was 15 and played so much of it in the house when my brothers and I were growing up. We stay like that, holding hands and listening closing our eyes and listening and opening them occasionally to smile at each other for an hour and a half. It is a beautiful, heavenly way to be. There is a peace that comes from it—deep and powerful and accepting. And in my heart, I hope that whenever my mother is ready, she can float away on a bright cloud of music.

Footnote: The evening after I posted this blog, my mom, Natalie Roth Meyers, passed away. She was surrounded by love.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Lara Mc December 21, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Hi Kate,

I love your blog. Your mom sounds charming, and looks adorable. Were you perhaps thinking of the designer Iris Apfel? Don’t ask me what dark recesses of my memory that came from. I cannot even remember my license plate #…. :-)

My best to the girls.

Lara

Joe Miele December 21, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Kate, that was one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever read.

Erika December 22, 2009 at 10:41 am

You seem to truly enjoy every second with your mom! She sounds like an inspiration. Enjoy your time in Pgh. The Rachel? Sounds like a sandwich from the Pittsburgh Deli Co. :)
-Erika

Susan December 22, 2009 at 5:31 pm

The writing in this piece is nothing short of awesome. You can feel every single beautiful word. I simply love it. You just keep getting better my friend. xxoop’roy

Annie December 23, 2009 at 10:14 am

Oddly enough when you said Doc said to Grandma we’ve had a good run, i was thinking “tough run kid”….
this was a great thing about my grandparents momaa
i love this blog
i love you
and i will always love her

Terri December 23, 2009 at 11:07 am

You and your mom have a very special bond. I love how you could be in each others company, holding hands, listening to music, not having to say a thing.
Just sharing a moment in time that will stay with you forever.
A mother’s love is instinctual, unconditional and forever.
Sorry for your loss

George December 24, 2009 at 1:13 am

Kate,

Cannot imagine my life without Natalie Meyers. I know she did not create me, but she certainly shaped me. Even last weekend as two men were turning carpets over and over and over for us to examine, we landed on one that I immediately told Stephie your mother would approve of. Jackson looked up from playing on my iphone and said, “Natalie would approve.” That was that.

Natalie’s approval of almost everything I have done in this life was always essential. Whether I actually got to ask her in person, or like any child growing up, imagine what she would say. Your mother’s approval has been a constant in my life – everyday behind the camera – both in the pictures I take and the ones I avoid. She set the bar so high it has taken all these years to figure out what she was talking about in my youth. I am still working towards figuring that out.

Your mother so immediately took Stephie in – and I was so happy sharing the gift that is Stephie with her. Your mother announced Jackson’s conception to our Pittsburgh family and that was such a big deal for us.

Natalie Meyers was probably the smartest person we ever knew – AND the smartest! She understood jazz and poetry and van der Rohe and Eames. She understood black and white, the left from the right, and a big thick pretzel from a little stick. She hung modern art, knew family pictures were more than snapshots, and framed drawings with crayons. Natalie insisted that we were all smarter than we acted.

I didn’t even know what the word “aesthetic” meant until I knew your mother – and she taught me by example. Art was important. Music was a lifeline. It was important to see the world as a place of invention and wonder – and peace was a goal worth dreaming.

Her sense of family almost scared me. My mother grew up with your mother. My greatest friend growing up – and to this day is your brother, Muzz. We were a part of your family – yet – it was only when I got my own family – recently – that I knew the power of family she and your father created with a big long dining table, a beach house, a basketball hoop, and a bunch of rules for what gets flushed down the toilet.

Natalie Meyers is alive in all of us. So today as we think of her and miss her and cry at our loss – we know she planted seeds in us that will weather many more seasons, fight many more good fights, and not let mediocrity enter any part of our lives.

When I heard the news yesterday I called Neek and told him Natalie was still going to kick his ass, that he should not think a thing like her passing meant he was off the hook.

Natalie Meyers is still going to be kicking my ass – all the way from here to my last breath. She is woven into the fabric that is us.

I love you. I love your mother. I love that we get to be a part of her legacy.

George

andrew lange December 25, 2009 at 3:41 pm

i’ll just add that natalie was the coolest person in the neighborhood, hands down and i think we all benefited from her.

big love,

andrew

Michelle Conover December 28, 2009 at 11:09 am

Kate, My deepest sympathy for the loss of Natale. She will always be our neighbor at the shore.
Michelle

rosemarie January 2, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Dear Kate and all of our Meyers friends:
I was so saddened to hear of Natalie’s death. I am at a loss for words because she was the kind of person I thought would always be hers even though she was not at the beach the last few years. To me she was a tough, gentle woman. I feel lucky to have known her and feel blessed the Lord allow her to touch my life in so many ways. From the very beginning, when we moved into our wreck of a beach house through all of the renovations, I would look forward to our first days of summer down there and anxiously awaited the arrival of ‘Doc and Natalie”. I would watch for the car on the day I knew they would be arriving and then just wait a little until they at least got into the house before barging in with my welcome. After Bob and Doc died, I would talk with her occasionally about our husbands, our children, our grandchildren, decorating. the paintings were were hanging in your beach house, the photographs on the family wall, and much more. I remember her telling me regarding decorating that “Less is more.” and have tried to remember that. I loved her tie-dyed beach dresses. They were her trade mark. I also love the picture you have her in her DIana Vreeland glasses. Natalie will never be forgotten, and although she may not be at the beach physically, she and Doc are always there in spirit living through your whole family. We love you all and our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Love, Rosemarie
.

Kate January 11, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Kate, What a loss! And what a gift of a mom! Not only does she (in her glasses) look like Diana Vreeland, she seems to have all the class, style, smarts and fearlessness that Ms. Vreeland had. Now I see where you get your eye for beauty and sense of style. Much Love, Ana

Lee Pollock January 13, 2010 at 5:54 pm

Katie,
It has been too long since I have seen the one beautiful girl among the 8 Meyers and Pollock kids (now adults). How could you not have been a tomboy? I truly long for those days in the 60’s growing up back-to-back with all of you. It was Natalie that gave me the wonderful Bar Mitzvah gift that changed our lives.

For my Bar Mitzvah, Natalie had Doc knock down the fence that seperated our backyards, creating free flowing access between the Pollocks and Meyers. That brought on the all-night basketball games (complete with Paul Lieber jumping up and grabbing the rim thereby killing our night of b-ball because he actually came down with the rim in his hand), the wiffle ball games with Harv drawing blood after sliding into home on the concrete and those daily trivia contests which were beyond humbling for me. There was also the summer when Muzzy and I had the paper route. What a partner! Because it was so difficult for me to wake up at 6:00 in the morning, I would tie a rope around my ankle and throw it out the window. Muzzy would come over and literally pull me out of bed every morning. It worked great until the rope got stuck in a tree one night and Muzzy got so pissed at me because he had to do the entire route himself.

But the best Meyers’ memories were the summers at Beach Haven. Between the morning rituals of watching and then acting out all of the Three Stooges routines (nyit, nyit nyit, walk this way…), the August pre-season Steelers games, the lazy days on the beach with Muzzy jugggling, tennis with David at the local courts and those morning wake ups with Natalie yelling “whose sandy shoes are these at the bottom of the stairs”? I remember praying that they weren’t mine!

What a charmed youth we had and Natalie was certainly the center of that life. So direct, insightful, provactive and brilliant with such a distinct laugh. We were all so very fortunate to have grown up at that time with Natalie and Doc and Stu, David Muzzy and Kate as an exstension of our family. What wonderful memories and such a healthy start on this journey. Natalie and Doc lived a great life and left quite a legacy. Kate, thank you for bringing me back there for a few minutes.

Do you ever get back to Hartford?

Miss you,
Lee

priscilla s lacy January 22, 2010 at 3:35 pm

oh my gosh. I’m crying. I feel like i shouldn’t be respnding here with sympathy for you and your family but i am -hope its ok.
How AMAZING that you were with her so beautifully like that before she passed away. I have now heard 3 stories of loved ones going like that when we feel their time is here to go. My last grandparent died last month and it was the same for my mother. *he loved jazz music too and recently its my new favorite.
Kate – you have been a wonderful daughter I hope you know that.
Sincerely–priscillla

priscilla s lacy January 22, 2010 at 3:35 pm

oh my gosh. I’m crying. I feel like i shouldn’t be respnding here with sympathy for you and your family but i am -hope its ok.
How AMAZING that you were with her so beautifully like that before she passed away. I have now heard 3 stories of loved ones going like that when we feel their time is here to go. My last grandparent died last month and it was the same for my mother. *he loved jazz music too and recently its my new favorite.
Kate – you have been a wonderful daughter I hope you know that.
Sincerely–priscillla

Jenny The Traveler Burton January 31, 2010 at 1:30 am

Loved hearing your voice twice today and now am spending quiet moments re-reading this tribute to your remarkable mother. I will forever associate the sight of watching geese fly overhead with your mother’s journey. And “Kiss me Kate” is just precious. She also had a really “good run” and lives in you now Kate every day in every way.

With love, Jenny

Jenny The Traveler Burton January 31, 2010 at 1:30 am

Loved hearing your voice twice today and now am spending quiet moments re-reading this tribute to your remarkable mother. I will forever associate the sight of watching geese fly overhead with your mother’s journey. And “Kiss me Kate” is just precious. She also had a really “good run” and lives in you now Kate every day in every way.

With love, Jenny

Debi March 26, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Kate, This was so beautfiully written. It brought tears to me eyes, memories to my heart and reminded me so of my Mom and my grandmother, Eleanor. You are turly talented and I hope to read more of your pieces

with love
and hugs

Kelli April 16, 2010 at 11:43 am

I have always loved the force that flowed through you into the world…and here it is in words: A mother’s love is a profound force. You are one of the gifts she gave to the world, Kate. Keep speaking; she is still giving that gift.

Josie Patterson June 15, 2010 at 10:46 pm

Kate,
Thank you for this loving portrait of your mother. Reading it, and your friends’ remembrances of course leads me to my own rich memories of all your parents and your brothers. What we give our families now, comes from what our parents gave us – as your mother showed – less is more; play music always; go to the beach, smile for your children. I am so sorry your mother was ill, but I am glad that you had time with her that was special right until she died. With love, Josie

Michelle Richmond April 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Kate–This is such a beautiful and moving post about your mother. I came across your blog quite by accident while searching for a still from “Broadcast News.” I began wandering among your posts and became completely absorbed.

Pepper February 15, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Bawling oxo

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