It seems that a few days ago when Rosemary called Hilary as to when we were going to get Rebecca and Lauren, Rosemary heard Rebecca say, "I don't want to go. I want to stay here so I can play with my friends." It was inevitable that after having Rebecca with us every weekend for 10 years this had to happen. It just didn't seem that it would have happened so soon.
My grandmother catered to my tastes in sweets because she liked sweets. She and I both seemed to have a similar taste in films: war pictures, westerns and films with dashing swordsmen. If she didn't she never told me. Going out for an afternoon (and sometimes late evenings) with Abue was always a pleasant adventure. We would go in to see a movie and as soon as it was finished we would walk down Lavalle (in the 50s this Buenos Aires street was a Broadway of movie houses) and slip into another one.
Perhaps Abue only had to compete with my toy soldier collection. There was no TV. There were no computer games. I don't recall one moment when she was ever angry at me. She always singled me out as being artistic because I had inherited the talent from her. I felt special. I loved her. Until she died in the early 70s I had a lively grandson/grandmother relationship. But then she was the only grandparent I ever had.
But with Rebecca (on the other side of the equation as I am the grandparent) I cannot fathom what she might be thinking. She also has all her grandparents nearby in Vancouver.
On Saturday I took her to the garden and lay 8 paper napkins in a row. There was wind so I had to put a pebble on each. I explained to Rebecca that each napkin represented a decade. I showed her where she was and where Rosemary was. I showed her the 32 years that represented the years that Rosemary worked for Mariposa before she (and most of the others ) was summarily let go without compensation as Mariposa cited bankruptcy. I told Rebecca that perhaps the most important meaning in her Aby's (as she calls Rosemary) life was her relationship with her grandchildren and especially her. I asked her if it was too much to sacrifice, pointing out the long row of white napkins in front of her, to spend one day of the week with Rosemary. She didn't reply and I have no idea what she thought of my explanation. I could not tell her that I too, felt like Rosemary and my life would have very little meaning without her.
Today Rosemary, Abraham Rogatnick and I went to a salon at the home of Colin (head of the Canadian Music Centre in Vancouver) and Winnie Miles to a preview concert by the Erato Ensemble. Just at about the end, tenor William George sang Ariel Ramirez's Alfonsina y El Mar. This Argentine zamba (similar in some ways to the Brazilian variety but slower, sadder and written with a z) broke my heart with nostalgia. The composer wrote it for the Argentine folk singer Mercedes Sosa. The Alfonsina of the song was an Argentine poet of note, Alfonsina Storni, 1892-1938) who striken with breast cancer, sent her last poem Voy a dormir ("I'm going to sleep") to the Buenos Aires daily La Nación . The following day she committed suicide, by walking into the sea at the La Perla beach in Mar del Plata, Argentina
When we got home I searched for the Mercedes Sosa version on the net and cried. It got worse when I listened to Sosa's take on Chilean Violeta Parra's Gracias a la Vida , Thanks to life. This was the very title I used for a sequence of photographs of Rebecca with her first ballet teacher, Andrea Hodge in 2004.
Alfonsina y el Mar
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