A Boulder On My Heart

“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.” –Tolstoy

For the last few weeks, I had been very depressed because my favorite and beloved uncle was dying.  He was only 84 and I say “only” since he had so much more to give. My uncle was an historian and researcher and wrote scholarly texts on the Hapsburg Monarch. He was also a very loving and compassionate humane individual who marched during The Civil Rights Movement and spoke out on many injustices. He was a good example of a fully lived life and he was a role model all of my life. He was one of mom’s younger brothers and she is grieving.  I spoke with my aunt today and I think speaking with her and also viewing the extraordinary obituary lifted the weight of the boulder from my heart.

In August, I hope to travel with my daughter and attend a celebration of his life while mom stays home with my husband in attendance for her. 

In a letter passed out to the faculty of the college where my uncle taught and changed the History Dept. forever, a former colleague and friend saw him at a Convocation years ago…  “he was already seated in the front row as I passed, and I looked at his face.  It expressed who he was–a teacher and a scholar. I still see that face today.  For him, this was a calling, and he lived it broadly, both in the academy and out.”  The letter goes onto say, that my uncle’s, “… active commitment to civil rights and social justice was evident to everyone who knew him.”

solomon wank

 

All Around Me

My brother was born today in 1948, he would’ve been 65 years old! 65 years old! He was 4 and a half years older than me. He died in 1993 at age 45 after battling AIDS that progressed rapidly for the last 2 years of his life. I miss him, but he’s all around me. He’s in the music I write about and listen to; He’s in the news tidbits I read about musicians and concerts; He’s in my son’s demeanor, gait and face; He’s in my heart and memory. My mom, my hero, took care of him, physically, mentally, emotionally; she was amazing during that time. “In the English language there are orphans and widows, but there is no word for the parents who lose a child.”JodiPicoult, My Sister’s Keeper. The 60s, an era that I love, also wrought havoc on families through drug usage and that’s how my brother probably contracted HIV. I remember being angry with him when he was last in the hospital and telling him I was angry and he could’ve had a good life; I don’t think he heard me or understood me; He had a form of dementia and was blind and looked 80 years old when he succumbed quietly. So sad. My eyes are tearing right now remembering this. I know my husband, son and daughter remember my brother and loved him very much. At his funeral, my husband referred to him as “an innocent,” my 8-years old son got up to speak (a complete surprise) and said how much he loved his uncle. My brother was the funniest person, a brilliant comedian, truly! He took me to see my first Richie Havens concert on 2nd Ave. in NYC at the former Anderson Yiddish Theater; my first Peter, Paul & Mary Concert at Carnegie Hall; my first Bruce Springsteen concert at the former Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center where the row he was sitting in with friends collapsed and sank!!!!!   Surely a night to remember!   So, this morning as I write this, my brother is all around me; in fact, has never left me and never will. RIP Bro’

We Remember Them…

 In the rising of the sun and in its going down,

We remember them;

 In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,

We remember them;

 In the opening of buds and in the warmth of summer,

We remember them;

 In the rustling of leaves and the beauty of autumn,

We remember them;

In the beginning of the year and when it ends,

We remember them;

When we are weary and in need of strength,

We remember them;

 When we are lost and sick at heart,

We remember them;

 When we have joys we yearn to share,

We remember them;

 So long as we live, they too shall live

For they are now a part of us as

We remember them.

 from Gates of Prayer,

Judaism Prayerbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never The Woman Behind the Man…R.I.P. Toshi Seeger

“Without my grandmother, there would be no Pete Seeger the way people understand it,” Tao Rodriguez-Seeger (Pete and Toshi’s Grandson) told the Associated Press

Toshi may not have liked a spotlight on her, but without her, Pete would readily admit, life as he knew it, would’ve been a lot different. Pete called Toshi, “…the brains of the family.”-Martin Douglas, NY Times Toshi Seeger played an integral role in the career of her activist/folksinging troubadour husband, Pete Seeger, whom I’ve admired since my mom bought me his first album for children when I was around 4 years old, that’s 56 years ago, folks. I would sometimes see Toshi at the South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan, right after Pete bought the Clearwater Sloop, many years before the seaport was renovated. That was a time…saw a very young Don McLean tell us that he was going to sing a song that wasn’t finished yet…”American Pie.”

 Toshi created the annual Clearwater Festival that is still going strong, just one of her many accomplishments and there are many.                             

If you haven’t seen the PBS documentary: Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, please do so. Toshi was the Executive Producer and it is great. You really get an inside look at their life together.

Though Toshi was left home a lot while Pete was on the road, she was always active and, like Pete, was a true activist who worked hard for Civic and Equal Rights. Toshi had a very interesting upbringing which was the foundation for her social awareness and consciousness. She attended “progressive” schools such as The Little Red Schoolhouse in Greenwich Village and The High School for Music and Art, my husband’s beloved alum as well as that of Janis Ian and many other very talented people!

“Toshi Seeger, wife of folk music legend Pete Seeger and by his own account his most cherished and valuable muse, died Tuesday at their long-time home in Beacon. She was 91. She was also a filmmaker, lifelong activist and music manager. The couple married on July 18, 1943, just before he shipped overseas in the Army. When he launched his long, eventful and sometimes stormy music career after the war, she was by his side, often literally. Toshi Seeger did his bookings, produced his concerts and executive-produced the 2007 PBS documentary “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song,” which won an Emmy.

She also directed his 1965-66 TV series “Rainbow Quest,” which had limited distribution through outlets like channels 47 and 13, but has since been recognized as an invaluable archive of folk music. Her official credit on that low-budget show was ‘Chief Cook and Bottle Washer.’ She brought their three children to the congressional hearings where Seeger refused to testify about his political beliefs. He was sentenced to a year in jail for contempt, though he never served any time.”David Hinckley, NY Daily News,7-12-13

Without a doubt, I am 100% sure that Toshi must’ve been so proud when she saw her grandson, Tao, perform with his grandfather. When you would see both Pete and Tao together, you could see the mutual love and respect emanating!

Here they are with Guy Davis singing Guantanamera:

I cannot imagine the grief bestowed on Pete, his family and close friends. I do know what it is like to lose a dad and a brother, there is no closure, there is always grief and there is always that wanting to share with them what is going on in one’s life. My condolences go out to the family for the passing of Toshi Seeger.