My Mom's best friend Elaine said that they would jump into Sue's silver Porsche two seat convertible at the beginning of a long weekend with the motto "Destination Unknown" and just drive. Leaving Vancouver, Canada they might end up in Baja California or take a left somewhere along the line and do a little gambling in Reno. She was doing this well into her seventies and eighties., sometimes going on camping trips by herself. Last year, at 83, she drove 1400 km from Vancouver to Nevada City, California to help celebrate my 60th birthday.
It appears she had a similar sense of daring adventure about leaving her body, going on one final, from the earthly perspective, Destination Unknown journey only this time she won't return.
Sue was born in Cleveland, Ohio to Charles and Germaine Kendel. She was their only child. Her maternal grandfather made a lot of money at something. I was told it came from inventing the first smoke detector, but I can't find anything on the internet to support that assertion. Her grandparents split up in the middle of the Great Depression with a million dollar settlement awarded to the wife. My mother said she grew up in a socially privileged mileau attending Hathaweay Brown all-girls private school in Shaker Heights and later, Vassar liberal arts college in upstate New York. She told the story that her mother, Gerry and Gerry's brother Ralph anticipated receiving a large inheritance when their father died, but he tricked them by leaving his fortune to charity. Sue said she never saw that money so she never missed it.
Sue met her future husband, George Fritz at a physics class they both enrolled in at Case Western Reserve University. George's working class family and background met with strong disapproval from her socially sensitive, domineering mother who did all she could to break up their union. That conflict resulted in Sue not inviting her mother to their wedding held on January 31, 1959. Gerry showed up anyway quite inebriated on booze and pills and made a big scene. The following week, with Sue and George honeymooning in Quebec City, Canada, Gerry called up her friend, the Archbishop of Cleveland and attempted to get him to annul her daughter's marriage. That went nowhere after either the Archbishop or someone from his office contacted my parents (I was already in her womb at that point having been conceived in late November, 1958) and learned that my grandmother was out of her effin' mind with the whole annulment thing. Upon discovering my parents planned to name me after my father, he was OGF Jr., I would be the IIIrd, Jerry announced her refusal to call me by any variation of that name. My parents compromised by giving me the nickname Mickey, a name I used until High School. Sue's father, Charles, had the demeanor of a Taoist monk, his low-key demeanor keeping him above the fray. I don't know what resolved things, but Gerry came to accept Sue's married life. Her parents even helped out Sue and George by purchasing a modest home for them while my dad pursued his doctorate. Sue put her own education on hold for about six years, resuming it in 1967 following the birth of her youngest child Peter in June of 1966. She graduated with Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology in November, 1967.
In the early '60s, Sue had the good fortune to work in the office of famed pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock author of Baby and Child Care, one of the best-selling books in history. Spock was working at Case Western Reserve University at the time. My mother said that he would often tell her what I was going to do next as a growing toddler and he was always right.
Both my mother and father loved the outdoors and getting out of the big city. They camped across the United States on their way to California in the summer of 1967 then again the following summer in 1968 this time taking their kids and as much of their belongings that they could stuff into the family Dodge relocating our home to Palo Alto for a year where George did post-graduate research at Stanford. We moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada in the summer of 1969. Except for a couple years living back in Cleveland in the mid 70's, Sue never resided outside of Canada again, eventually becoming a citizen.
Sue split from my dad and left the family in late 1970 or early '71 largely over a dispute over her wishes for a career in social work. George retained custody of the children, but Sue visited them frequently and took them on outings. From my perspective, she changed overnight into a much more liberal parent. It seems in retrospect that moving from out of my father's shadow allowed her to express and be herself more fully. Social workers had very bohemian attitudes that influenced Sue. Through her, I was exposed to the artistic, creative side of hippie culture at the ripe old age of 12. She would let me listen to her albums - Goats Head Soup by The Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen and Hot Buttered Soul by Isaac Hayes are ones I remember. She took us to see the film Easy Rider, that stellar soundtrack was one of the three eight-track tapes on endless loop for long car rides. She once told me about going to and enjoying an Alice Cooper concert.
In the mid to late '70's she relocated to Vernon, B.C. in the Okanagan Valley, an extremely beautiful and fertile part of the world. My brother Mark went to live with her there. She continued her education along with her social work. Sometime in the mid-seventies, she took a Neurolinguistic Programming seminar with Richard Bandler for a few weeks that made a strong impression. She showed me how she used techniques learned there with her clients and how it made a big difference in nonverbally and quickly gaining their trust. I believe she got a Masters degree in Psychology somewhere along the way, her Facebook page says she went to UBC. Maybe I'll learn more about her life when they let me into Canada to retrieve her personal effects.
Sue was delighted when some of the boys in the band I did sound for, Sargent, and I stayed at her house high in the hills just outside Vernon when gigging there in the early '80s. We'd stay there for a week at a time on a couple of different occasions; she often brought up that time and asked about the band members later in life.
That's the first instance of her supporting my audio engineering career. In 1984 I sold all my gear and moved to New York to attend the Institute of Audio Research and get a degree in Recording Arts. I ran out of money about halfway through and began supporting myself with a job as a foot messenger when not in class. Mom came through big time covering my living expenses for the remaining 4 or 5 months allowing for a more relaxed school term. She always came out when I was working in her area, for instance driving down to Seattle to hear Meridiem (Percy Howard, Bill Laswell, Fred Frith, Charles Hayward) perform and meet them backstage. In the fall of 2017 and 2018 she came out to the Vancouver shows when I toured with Simrit. She loved the music and let everyone know with articulate, detailed comments to them personally after the 2017 concert. In 2018, she volunteered to make the pre-show food run proving most helpful as we scrambled to work with some borrowed equipment following a break-in and theft the previous night.
During the early 90's she began running a government funded center for mentally handicapped adults. As the Chief Administrator, she got that running smoothly giving her time to invest in and operate a coffee shop in a Vernon mall. Her friend Elaine said that she gave a lot of dubiously employable young kids a chance to work there, some she would have to fire, but that didn't stop Sue from giving others a chance, a throwback to her beginning social work days. Her first job, in the early '70's, was at a place called Hull Home in Calgary, a residence for emotionally disturbed adolescents.
I believe her center got defunded at some point in the 90's leading to a decision to retire to Vancouver, Richmond to be precise. The coffee shop went out of business when Starbucks became all the rage. She continued to stay active and socially involved, volunteering for political campaigns she supported as well as for the Operation Rednose program the government ran every New Year's Eve where people too drunk to drive could call and get a free ride from a volunteer like Sue. She had an exercise regimen of swimming every day which terminated with the covid lockdown. I suspect that played a major contribution to her body breaking down.
The circumstances around her death seem quite revealing, I learned much by the elegant way she wrapped up her life and journeyed into the unknown. The wrap-up began when she called in June to let me know that she'd been treated for blood clots in her arms and legs. To my knowledge, this was the first medical issue she had to deal with in something like 15 - 20 years. She stressed to me the minor importance of this condition, not to worry, she just wanted to let me know. I accepted her report at face value and didn't worry. I had been concerned about her after the first 4 to 6 weeks in lockdown after she mentioned being generally bored. I've noticed from past experience that some elderly people who feel bored most of the time tend to enter the beginning of the end of their current human incarnation. A natural inclination to move on to something else, why stick around if bored all the time stuck inside a declining body. I asked if I should send her books to read and suggested watching films but she said she was all right feeling bored.
In July she called with a diagnosis of cancer, but they didn't know what kind, possibly breast cancer. From that point until about a week before she passed, the full extent of her medical condition remained largely unknown because not until then did I get a briefing from the last ICU doctor treating her. Her regular doctor seemed to be on vacation for much of July and August which brought stress to her as she didn't like the substitute doctor. About a week later she sent an email with the single sentence: "I have stage four long cancer" (sic). I googled "stage 4 lung cancer" to see exactly what that meant and found out that this type of cancer rarely, if ever, gets diagnosed before reaching stage 4. Also, that patients can live up to 5 years with successful treatment. Then I called and asked how she felt about that. I expected an emotional reaction of some sort, but she went into an accelerated spiel of all the preparations she had started making for her demise - her and a kind neighbor, Linda, wise in the ways of service, had begun packing up all her belongings, and rented a storage place to put everything. I was supposed to drive up within 3 months and get it all, her bank account would be signed over to me at some point etc. etc., all these plans. I interrupted her at some point rather alarmed that she had jumped from receiving a fatal, at some point, diagnosis to complete endgame and said, no that's not what I'm asking, how do you feel about the situation, how do you feel about death? The question seemed to calm her down and she answered dispassionately, "I'm curious about it, why, are you going to convert me to something?" It seemed quite remarkable to me that she expressed not the slightest trace of fear. She told me that she was 84 years old, had done and seen a lot, was sick of seeing Trump on tv, there's rioting in the streets, she saw no reason to stick around. That message stayed consistent, she repeated it again from her hospital bed and when my sister's sister Kirsty, a practicing MD in Vancouver visited Sue and had a heart to heart conversation with her about medical options, she indicated that she didn't want aggressive treatments like chemotherapy to prolong her life, she only wanted the remaining time she had left to be made as comfortable as possible. Her last words to me were "I love you, I gotta go."
I've wondered how she was able to handle death so well, she wasn't religious and didn't have any meditation practices I knew about. It was just the opposite for my father who appeared terrified the day before his final surgery, though he was much younger, 58. Her psychological background and social work with adults and adolescents needing help probably gave her great training in dealing with high stress situations; how to stay calm when everything breaks down.
She told Linda that she wouldn't be alive past August, but she didn't communicate anything like that to me or my brothers always staying upbeat, she delayed communicating her condition to them until I insisted. She seemed concerned that her death not be an inconvenience to anyone, that consideration always makes me sad when I think about it.
Around August 9th I had the urge to hear a song called Sunday Morning originally performed by Nico and the Velvet Underground. I knew it well, from the inside out having mixed a cover of it by HuDost about six years ago. I listened to their version then got the V.U. version and had both versions on regular rotation; no idea why, at the time, that song came up. Sue permanently left her body on a Sunday morning. I felt ripped wide open but kept it together to get into my floatation tank to send her prayers and love. At times I went into moments of intense weeping and grief before remembering that I was there to help her with the transition and that sadness didn't help at all. I did feel moments of contact, at one point I thought I received a communication from her that she was doing all right. Clearly, that could have been imaginary wishful thinking though it does seems consistent with how she approached death and other subsequent indications. I've been doing the practice of attempting contact and reading every night from the American Book of the Dead which maps out the 49 Chamber bardo voyage. I suspect the readings help me more than they do her, it feels good to do that for her, the least I could do for the blessed one who brought me into the world.
remarkable woman and beautiful tribute. thanks OzReplyDelete
A terrific tribute to your mother.ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing her story. So sorry for your loss, my friend.ReplyDelete
She was a remarkable woman. Thank you for sharing her story.ReplyDelete
I'm sorry for your loss.
I'm sorry for your loss, Oz. Your mother sounds like a remarkable woman, and I love the way she used to hit the road to enjoy life. And your comments about feeling bored are very wise, I plan to try to always avoid being bored.ReplyDelete
I usually say there are no words but I think you've found them. This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing, Oz. Lots of love to you and your family.ReplyDelete
Thank-you all for the kind words.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Oz. It’s so interesting to hear about your mom‘s life. It sounds like she was a really neat woman who led an adventurous, eventful life. Also, we saw Simrit in Encinitas one of those years... wonder if you were here.ReplyDelete
Thanks for reading and commenting Leila. Yes, I mixed Simrit's Encinitas shows both years, too bad I didn't know you were there, would have loved to say hello. The show there in 2017 was on the same night as the Las Vegas shooting spree, also the same night Tom Petty died. There was an unusual coincidence with something in the Simrit show and the shooting which I wrote about in a blog. I can find it and send it to you if you were there that night and want to read it.ReplyDelete