Guest column – The fog of life, 10 years later
The coast of Maine is famous for its fog that rolls over the ocean like an overland cloud, grey, misty and cool. The San Francisco Bay Area is also known for its fog, especially when it wraps the Golden Gate Bridge in its ghostly embrace. But I read recently that our Californian cousin’s ocean fog – a vital part of its climate and culture – faces an uncertain future due to climate change.
This shocking news made me think of something happier: my mother, Kay (Lewis) Weidenfeld. Mom was born and raised in San Francisco, and the morning fog was a regular part of her daily life. She died of respiratory complications 10 years ago. It is easy for me to remember his date of death: March 6, 2012 or 06/03/12.
I wrote something about her years ago that I’d like to share in somewhat revised form, marking the 10th anniversary of what I consider to be her untimely death. She died at age 77, for many full lives; but if it weren’t for four decades of smoking unfiltered Pall Malls – the internal fog that destroyed her lungs – she probably would have lived longer. Here are a few words from the heart to mark his memory, and to remember his deep connection with Maine.
Now it’s my memory that’s fuzzy, but I clearly remember my mother loved Maine. Although her trips to the Pine Tree State were rare, they were always meaningful to her: a family wedding to attend, a rare chance to see her estranged eldest son.
A small portion of my mother’s ashes now reside, oddly enough, in an 8-ounce jar of Dijon Gray Poupon mustard that sits on my bedroom dresser. The jar is right next to a small rock I picked up when we spread my father’s ashes on the ground at one of his favorite deer hunting spots. My parents divorced when I was 7 years old.
Most of my mother’s ashes, at her request, were thrown into the cold ocean waters that make up San Francisco Bay. For her, it was a kind of homecoming, a closing of the circle of her life. This event brought together a tight group of family and friends, gathered on a sailboat floating under a steel bridge.
My wife and I, on a long trip down the California coast, took some of her ashes and placed them under a tree on the campus of Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo, where she was born. , and off the wharf in Santa Barbara, her favorite place on earth. I hadn’t planned on keeping any, but I did, perhaps not wanting to part with her completely. Seeing his ashes in a jar every day made me think about what exactly I should do with them.
Even though Maine wasn’t the last resting place she requested, I figured that since it was a pretty special place for her, she’d like to be part of the scene. She loved the Maine woods, especially in the fall, and she loved the Japanese gardens behind our house. I could logically have placed his remaining ashes in either of these places. But the more I thought about her and what she did when she visited us in Maine, the more I realized she might already belong.
Mom was a homebody by nature and the most self-sufficient person I have ever known. You never had to entertain my mother, she just took care of herself, always happy with her own company. So, as odd as it was to have her last remains in a jar of mustard on my dresser, maybe this was the right place for her – near me, my wife, and the old Maine house that she loved. Today, his ashes are still there, next to my father’s rock, close as they have never been in life.
The poet Carl Sandburg wrote a short poem about the fog: “The fog comes / on little cat’s feet. / He sits watching / above the harbor and the city / on silent cat haunches / then enters.
The poem is intensely visual, yet mysterious and metaphorical, seemingly about change. Everything changes. Accept it. It is the fog of life, which arrives, which unfolds.
Steven Price is a resident of Kennebunkport. He can be reached at [email protected]
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