25/03/2015 § 1 Comment
As soon as you found out Beverly was gone, I know the first thing many in this room thought: I didn’t see her enough. Or maybe, I didn’t talk to her enough. Didn’t stop by for a chat. I should have taken the time…should have this, should have that.
Bev was always full of should haves, and near the end, it consumed her. She left these notes on scraps of paper on her table:
“Police Dept – old pills – bring to lobby.”
“National Army Museum, Fort Belvoir, VA” Okay…
“Copy from book. 15 pics – 1 set for me, 1 ditto ditto Phil. 1 ditto ditto David.”
“Call kitchen. No decaf tea, just plain, hot water, for lunch.”
There are probably a hundred more of these scraps back in her room at the Inn, waiting for her to come back and become the next things to be done before the other things to be done.
This focus on organizing definitely kept Mom keen and smart and cognizant, but at her last lunch (and it was her last lunch, ever) Mom kept focusing on what she needed to do, down to making sure the tea was decaf, hot, and which of the three cups were coolest to drink. Of course, my brother Phil suggested he dip his finger in to help out, and she did laugh, and give him her “Oh Syd” look that she had perfected over her long life with the yin to her yang, the George to her Gracie, the Desi to her Lucy, the Ignatz to her, well, you get the picture, Sydney.
What was missing from her, the essential piece of her missing, I only sussed it out while trying to craft this eulogy, was her sense of the impossible being possible. That anything was possible. And that by sheer will, or conniving, or just doing it would open new doors to the next possibilities.
Like, “what if we move to New Canaan?”
I always thought it was a shrewd move on their part to pick this town, this self-proclaimed “next station to heaven”: the good schools, safe neighborhoods, ease of commute, perhaps a little nerve on their part and, let’s see if we can mess up that “Gentleman’s Agreement” be the first of a few good Jewish families moving in…
No, it was not some lofty reason, it was just that there was a good house for a reasonable mortgage and it was about halfway between Syd’s family and job in New York and New Haven, where Bev’s Parents were.
And yet, that “what if” was perfect.
A small town where they needed a Police, Fire, Ambulance, News Photographer and a woman who would go on to become a Jewish mom to a generation of Center School kids, and volunteer for just about anything anyone wanted done, at any time. And, surely, she thought, a town so Christian that it had a Triangle of Century Old Churches, known as God’s Acre, a spot where they sang old-timey Christmas Carols by the townful around a ginormous Pine Tree decked out in a stupendous display of Christmas, not Holiday, lights; surely a spot like that needed an over-sized Menorah every Chanukah! And so it came to be.
And the neighborhood around Parade Hill, where they bought their house was perfect for them as well. A working-family nabe, of policemen, a state trooper, garbage man, a few teachers, an a car salesman. She knew all the kids and they knew her, and if they were over the house, they wouldn’t leave hungry. Or without advice.
Or from outside the family…the “what if we call this guy Syd Greenberg,” as so many had done, and they come over for photography advice, or a camera to start taking pictures, or maybe Syd shot them at some function and he had extra prints, then Bev forges a relationship.
Which is why we have so many Aunt’s & Uncles and cousins and other members of the extended family.
Like our dear Uncle Tony Andronaco. Like that Papson/Stavrolakes clan. Like the other Greenberg son, Scott, and his wife, Patti, Benjamin.
As I was speaking to our cousin Susan about Bev passing, she said our folks were indeed both special, and that Bev always treated her like their daughter. Susan is our biological cousin by the way, in case you were trying to keep score, which, if you are, don’t even try.
Mom made friends feel like family, because she felt they were family, and so, they became family.
Of course, that didn’t stop her from meddling, like a good Jewish mother. In the ‘70s they met a Reverend from St Marks, who just happened to be single… Bev got that twinkle in her eye and thought, what if their friend Melissa and Reverend Cox come over for some dinner. Yes…happily married, three kids. And Melissa posted this under Phil’s picture announcing Mom’s passing on Facebook: “What a great couple. My Jewish parents. Sending you hugs.”
And Cam Hutchins, a friend of Phil’s since grade schools, under the same pic, said: “A great mom, thank you for sharing her with New Canaan.”
Which is so true, she wasn’t just our Mom, she WAS New Canaan’s Mom. She was our friends-from-college’s Mom. She was even mom to those “youngsters” in their 80s and 90s at the New Canaan Inn where she moved after selling the house. And I am sure she’s trying to do even more where she is now, even though it’s supposed to be perfect…Mom.
There are so many superlatives that are apt for Bev, and some many ways to memorialize her, but she wouldn’t want that. She hated that word—memorial—which is why we had to have a CELEBRATION of Syd’s life.
Instead of thinking about what we should have done for her, what she left behind, even though her life was overflowing, and she left behind a lot of love; think about how she changed everyone of us here. How she pushed us, how she inspired us, how she loved us, and since she was a mom, how she possibly, just possibly, rubbed us the wrong way.
But, each one of us will have our own “what if’s” that would not have been possible without Bev in our life. Bev will be in our future, because she was there for us when she was alive.
One last quote that I found to be perfect. This one from another of our New Canaan friends, Barbara Guerrero Marchant, the daughter of the famed photographer, Pedro Guerrero: “Oh dear, another sweet mother gone. She was a pip!…I am very happy for Syd though.”
She was a pip. Such a pip.
Of course, knowing Dad, I can hear him asking: “What took you so long?”
The above is a slightly edited version of the Eulogy that I gave at my Mother’s funeral service on March 10th, 2015.
Check out Terry Dinan’s great remembrance of his “Aunt Bev” on NewCannanite.com