Posts Tagged ‘family

28
Jan
09

Watching Over Me



Watching Over Me, originally uploaded by neocles.

A portrait of my father taken when he was a young man, probably about 1918 or so. Here it is up in my mom’s apartment in Albany CA. 2009.

It hung on the wall in the living room, in the corner, next to the door, over the couch, when we lived at 1210 Griffith Way. When I was really little, up until at least seven or eight years old or so, I was scared to be alone in the room with it at night–i felt like the eyes followed me. I surely loved my father, and i was not scared during the day, but somehow, at night everything changes.

I can’t quite bring myself to put it up in my mom’s room at the rest home. I’ll have to scan it and print a copy for her to have there.

i was holding it in my hand today, and really looking closely at it, noticing the various imperfections, damaged corners and so on. I also really noticed what a fine looking young man my father was. He was 63 when I was born, so my concept of him is, of course, of an older man. I wondered too, about his motivation for having such a portrait made of himself, at 18 or 20 years old, fresh off the boat in New York and not speaking much English at the time. Was it a simply convention to do so? Was it vanity? Was it for family?

I’ll never know.

28
Jan
09

The Last Supper with More Than a Grain of Salt 2

This print of the last supper had always hung near the breakfast table in my parents’ home. It was no different here at my mother’s last apartment, although it had fallen off the wall and sat around for a few months. I set it back here the other day, and it seemed a fine place for photo. A detail shot would reveal drops of this and that, and a spattering of tomato sauce.

It is a bit of an odd assortment off things on the cupboard, most sitting for weeks without notice from mom. Tomato sauce, orzo, salt, vanilla flavoring, the Greek coffee pot (the briki), and assorted trivets. A couple times in recent months my mom had cooked food with some odd flavorings, like baked chicken with a heavy dose of cinnamon or ground cloves. Eventually she gave up on seasonings and then finally on cooking much of anything besides boiled eggs, green beans, or broccoli.

Today, we went to Kaiser for an eye check-up and to start the process of getting a new pair of glasses. She had misplaced her only pair. It turns out that her right eye needs just about the strongest lens available. The doctor could not determine a prescription for the left eye at all because she is nearly blind from a cataract. So, we’ll be going back for cataract removal, and then eventually for a prescription for the left eye. Shit, no wonder the apartment was a mess. And no wonder the chicken was seasoned with salt and clove instead of salt and pepper.

26
Jan
09

Suitcase 4

Suitcase 4, originally uploaded by neocles.

I’m slowly making my way through photographing the items in my mother’s apartment. I only vaguely remember the suitcase. It was not used very often. In fact, the only time I remember it being used was when my mom visited Greece once. When we moved my mother up here we just packed it full of curtains she had made for her house. She would not let me throw them away.

The chair and end table are part of a set purchased when we moved into a new house my dad had built on Griffith Way in Fresno, back in 1967. There are two chairs and couch which, unfortunately, were reupholstered around 1980. The sofa was cobalt blue and I’ll never forget that thing. But I can’t quite picture the original color of the chairs.

The furniture all has to be gotten rid of soon. I was all ready for that. But now I feel more sad about seeing it all go. I had a fantasy while I was going through stuff the other day that I could move my mom back into her house in Fresno and find a wonderful, reliable, relatively inexpensive 24/7 live-in caretaker for her. Then all the power objects could stay together for another couple years. But these childish dreams must be left behind…

05
Jan
09

Leaving Home For Good – Family Snapshot

The Grocery Cart #2

The Grocery Cart #2, originally uploaded by neocles.

My mother, Efrosini Serafimidis, will be 90 years old this month. For the last five years she has been living down the street from us in a little one bedroom apartment. We moved her up here to Albany from Fresno and the home in which she had lived for over 30 years. I was resistant to moving her at the time, but my cousins insisted it was necessary. It is not easy for a person in their 80’s to switch gears like that. She still complains bitterly everyday about this place, and I think she still is a little resentful towards me on that count. But she did okay for two or three years.

The last couple years have been increasingly challenging. She has had a hip replacement and big surgery on a broken elbow. Also, she has been pretty lonely during the days when we are at work, and the lack of interaction and stimulation has taken a toll on her.

The next move is now necessary. This month, Effie will be going to a board and care facility somewhere nearby. It is going to be hard to do, and the transition is going to be a struggle, I’m sure. But her hips are not holding her up very well, and she is suffering from some dementia. She has wandered off a couple times, but her incredible luck with coming across non-Greek-speaking people who are charmed by her old-country, head-scarved, four-foot-ten-inch figure has held up. Each time we got her back none the worse for the wear.

Of course, Sarah and I both work full time, and have a five-year-old to attend to. And living in the Bay Area has its own challenges. So, I would not say I have been an overly conscientious caregiver, but nonetheless, I see her and give her her meds almost every day, try to keep her reasonably safe and fed, bring her back and forth to my home, clean her apartment, pay her bills, take care of her legal and financial matters, manage the renting of the family home in Fresno, and so on.

Chief among the challenges of moving her to a care facility is going to be the dissolving of her apartment home and figuring out what to do with all the things in it. We got rid of a lot of stuff when we moved her to Albany. But a lot of stuff is still packed away in her apartment. I am very nostalgic about these things and have a tough time just trashing them even though they are otherwise pretty worthless.

In response to all this I am planning a photo series. Right now the idea is simple snapshot-like photos of, basically, every object in her apartment. Where possible, descriptions will accompany the photos. Eventually, the series will include photos of each and every object I still have from my parents. I may be an old man myself by the time I finish.

07
Dec
08

Russian Christmas Dinner

Russian Christmas Dinner
at Chez Serafimidis
Rocky Hill, Executive Chef 

Our fun, Russian-themed menu for Christmas dinner this year.

First Courses
Chicken Pate,  Neo
Dolmas,  Neo
Smoked Salmon,  Neo and Rocky
Pickled Herring,  Rocky
Black Bread, Rocky

Soup Course
Christmas Borscht, recipe ideas, 1, 2, 3, 4, Ray and Marge

Main Course
Mushroom Pie, recipe ideaRay and Marge
Red Beans with Herb Dressing, recipe idea, Carrie
Egg Noodle and Cottage Cheese Casserole, recipe idea, Kate
Goose stuffed with Apples, recipe ideas, 1, 2, Neo

Desserts
Apple Charlotte, Rocky
Sour Cream Cake, Rocky

26
Jul
08

Efrosini Holding Neocles

Efrosini Holding Neocles, originally uploaded by neocles.

My earliest memories go back to the house my parents lived in when I was born, at 818 “S” St. in Fresno CA. We were Greeks on the edge of Armenian Town. I don’t quite remember living there, since we moved when I was about two years old. But I almost do. I remember being at the house, although I think it was when my parents were going back and fixing it up to sell when I was about three and half years old.

I remember the look of the old wooden house, the wood floors, the old door knobs, the pulley clothes line that stretched from a window to the far reaches of the back yard. I remember the feel of the hot, powdery dirt in the Fresno summer, and the way it smelled when the water from the bib fell onto it, making dusty explosions that turned to mud. I vividly recall, even now, the smell of the cellar we retreated to for lunch once the sun was high and hot. We sat at a card table and ate in near darkness, the only light streaming in from the cellar door at the top of the stairs. There was a certain musty smell of damp concrete that I encounter every few years, and when I do I am transported back to that cellar more fully than any sci-fi invention could ever achieve.

I toddled around the front yard and wandered into the yard next door. There I encountered the old Armenian woman who lived there. She was very old and bent over, wrinkled and gray. In my memory, she was wandering around her garden tending to her plantings, she wore nothing above the waist and her breasts hung low and flat. She spoke to me in Armenian and I understood nothing of what she said to me. I stood and stared up at her, a little afraid, but not too much, perplexed by the sound of this language. She smiled as she spoke and chuckled around the edges. My mother called and I turned to go, running through the powdery dirt that burned my feet. The smell of Sycamores wafted by as I scrambled up the front steps.

14
Jul
08

My Brother-Cousin

Father and Daughter

Tommy asked for forgiveness. Tommy Panos and I were first cousins; our mothers were sisters. Our families lived in the same city, Fresno, then on the same block, then right next door with a pass-through in the fence. Our families were close, and I am an only child, and so I always looked up to Tommy as my big brother. He was five years older than me.

I remember when I was about four years old, Tommy’s family would come visit ours on West Cornell Ave., and Tommy would push me around the block on my tricycle — me on the seat and Tommy standing on the step behind me, steering and pushing with the other leg as on a scooter. Typically, the ride started out fun, and then got exciting, then got thrilling, then got terrifying as Tommy jumped off and I frantically tried to steer until my trike slowed to a manageable speed. Then I was ready for another lap.

A few years later we both lived on Griffith Way. I would beg to hang around with him. Tommy would offer to hike me on his bike to go to the 7-11 to get candy or a slurpee. I would get on the handlebars of his Schwinn Varsity 10-speed. Tommy would take off and by half way down the block we would be moving pretty fast. That’s when he’d simply jump off the bike and see how far it would stay up with me on the handlebars before it went crashing over. He’d laugh hysterically, but then come and get me up and hug me, and then buy me some candy.

I would beg, beg, beg for him to take me on his paper route (Fresno Bee) with him. This meant he would hike me on the back of the heavy-duty Schwinn with the paper bags. I don’t know how he survived hiking me along with all those newspapers. Getting to go along meant helping too, and that was fine with me. He would ask for papers and I would pull them out and hand them to him as needed. We would always stop at the 7-11 and get black pepper beef jerky, some candy or a coke.

There was only one catch: Rover. The huge carmel-brown dog at the corner of Swift and College or so. I can’t remember if it was a hound or what. I just remember that Tom would miss that porch and I would be sent to go get the paper and put it on the porch. That meant facing Rover. That deep bark blew my hair back and set me to tears. Usually Rover was lying around right in front of the porch and I would start to inch my way toward the ivy to hunt for the paper, the dog bellowing at me the entire time. Tommy would laugh and laugh. Then, he’d buy me all kinds of treats at the 7-11. We’d sit around and he’d counsel me on bikes and cars and making paper airplanes, anything else that his quick mind conjured. Somehow, I never got bitten. I also never quit looking up to him, appreciating his spirit, sense of fun, and sheer coolness. But I never got over my fear of dogs. It was nice of Tommy to try to break me free of it. Sort of.

We told all these stories before, when Tommy was my best man. We laughed and laughed, and ate and drank, and laughed some more. By then, he had gone off to San Francisco and success selling bond investments. He still had his sense of fun and his need to share everything he found and everything he enjoyed with those around him.

Once when I was about 17, i went to the Bay Area for a concert, and, of course, my friend and I stayed with Tommy. When my friend left the next day, Tommy had insisted I stay the weekend to hang out with him and said he’d get me home. Sunday afternoon came and no arrangements had been made. Tommy called an agent and arranged to fly me back to Fresno. The next flight out of Oakland was in about an hour. We took off from his house in Orinda, drove insanely fast to the airport, and ran to the counter. He slapped the ticket in my hand, and gave me a push. I ran through the terminal and got to the plane with the hostess impatiently holding the door open for me, the last person to get on, for my very first plane flight ever.

There were many other firsts for me and Sarah with Tommy. And Tommy always insisted on paying for everything. Our first time dining at Fourth Street Bar and Grill in Berkeley, back before anything else was there at all; our first time at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, and at the famous Stars, and innumerable other restaurants, bars and theaters. My first, and only, show at ACT to see Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. And to the Bammies, and concerts, and to nightclubs here and gone. He took me on my first hike up to Cataract Falls on Mt Tam, and after the hike, straight to Frogs Spa for a soak and a massage. He loved food, and loved to cook, and the list of foods and dishes he introduced me to is endless.

Tommy had keen senses and became a connoisseur of everything in which he took an interest, from primitive art to jazz music. But more than that, he could not really enjoy anything unless he was sharing it with those whom he loved. One of the things he loved to share was people. He introduced so many people to each other, and gathered so many smart, interesting, and wonderful people around him, he was the hub of an incredible 360 degrees without separation. He was the most generous person I have ever known or ever will know. He wanted to do everything for everybody. He wanted to at least do something for each person he ever bumped into.

Somehow, in a way we will never understand, this desire consumed him. His most selfish act was to take himself away from this world and all those who love him so much, in order to escape the feeling that he had to be there for everyone.

Tommy. Honey. Brother. I love you. I miss you. I forgive you. I hope your wondrous spirit will continue to teach me and guide me.

Obit in sfgate.

Guestbook.




NeoFlickr

More Photos

Twitter