Saturday, June 6, 2009

One eulogy for Adelaide

Thanks to all our friends and family we gave Adelaide a great send off... and, we rang Adelaide out in style ( Thanks to Debbie M and Woody! ) a most amazing and joyous experience to ring out bells from the steeple, send music across the city of Boston The official bell ringer, Woody, a friend of Debbie's, rang a bell for each year of ADD's life plus 6 tolls to indicate she was a woman and then taught us how to ring Amazing Grace and other songs. Thank you to all at Arlington Street Church as well - Reverend Kim, Jeff Bouchard and all.

Dunno when Cathy will get to writing hers - it was great! You had to hear it! Robert's and Ann Kennedy's are two others I wish we had. Wish we had recorded them somehow. *sigh* But here is mine...

Eulogy - for my mother, Adelaide

First let me say thank you all – for being with us today and always. We came to your city as strangers, not knowing a soul. We Dooley/DiBrizzis had no family in Boston and we still have no extended family here. And you took us all in. You became our family of friends. It is a pleasure to know you all – like the song says “ Seasons are fickle, and fate isn't known as kind, But friendship is a diamond, and trouble is a diamond mine.”

Some, who have met our mother in her later years may be surprised to see Adelaide’s memorial in a Unitarian church. But we knew her longest know that this is a place where her spirit and intellect would be able to dwell and worship in comfortable communion with each other. She used to say, when we were teens and our father ( who art in heaven) our father was at sea – not metaphorically but literally - Well …. I mean to say he was at sea and far from home working as a ships navigator and sometimes Captain. And while we were teens he was at sea – hard to say who was more “at sea” when he was gone – him or Adelaide ? She really let it all hang out and she would say in response to questions about her the lapsed Catholicism and her membership in the First Church Unitarian… “ If all the Catholic churches burned down at once…it would make a lovely glow.” Her own father was a Free Mason and a radical anti-cleric. He lived with us when he was very old. Adelaide liked to tell how one time a serious a medical situation arose and she called a priest and an ambulance out to the house. Her father, my priest baiting Noono, was given Extreme Unction - (the anointing of the dying promised to send recipients straight to heaven, Do Not Pass Go – out of Jail Free etc. ) “ How do feel, now Mr. DiBrizzi? “ asked the earnest parish priest to which A. Anthony DiBrizzi replied, “ Now, I gott-ah my ticket stamp-ed-ah. Va bene.”

This is not to say Adelaide was a false catholic or a hypocrite – she had her beliefs and her own version of catholic practice that was a rich mix of superstition, fear and a deep mystical spiritualism that was closely aligned with the Francisicans and other kick butt practitioners of the main rule of Christ like Love and forgiveness This is what Adelaide valued and tried to practice. She was always a practicing Catholic in this sense and her practice was her very own. When I was young I thought Jesus Christ had a middle name. If you ever drove with Adelaide you would know the guy I mean. She prayed unconventionally but fervently and it went something like this… “Oh Jesus! Oh jesus ! O je –…Get their license – take it down !!!Oh Jesus f’n Christ, here comes another one…” It wasn’t Jesus H. Christ she prayed to but his brother, Jesus F.

Adelaide had many sides and reflecting on 50 years of life together my heart is so full of memories (and not very clearly detailed remembrances either so we may hear some rebuttals and addenda from Cathy.!) I lived with and near Adelaide for 50 sentient years of my life –for you younger folk let me say, knowing someone half a century feels just as freakin’ long as it sounds – it is a l-o-n-g time. So many memories and stories flooded my mind last night that I simply had to go to sleep without being able to write more than a few words. I woke up trying to essentialize --trying to find the essence of her story and I came up with 3 words that helped me organize my memories of my mother, Adelaide’s life…love, fear and connection. And then another expression, with more words came to me “ Life don’t clickety-clack down a straight line track, it come together and it fall apart.” – ferron

Adelaide loved people and it is a joy to see all of you here. But Adelaide also operated a little like the old Communist party – we did not know she had so many friends! We all were like separate cells, not to know of each other for fear of - what ? That we would collapse into ourselves and be weakened? Or more likely, that she would lose her place? This was not a totally paranoid thought – she did not have a secure place in her large family and reaction to this trauma shadowed her and limited her personal interactions all her life. My sister and I are the more the merrier types but family was more than crowd enough for Adelaide. Other than family gatherings , she liked to be with people one on one. She was a great listener and she was a thoughtful and often direct in sharing her insights. She called ‘em like she saw them too, which sealed as many friendships as it rendered. But because she was open and listened she met all sorts of people – we live in Brookline today because she met the Superintendent of the Brookline Public Schools on the Staten Island Ferry in 1966 – in her gift for connection and conversation she used the 20 minute ride to exchange life stories and she figured how and where to live in Boston. Because she talked to people, she was friends with Anwar Sadat’s daughter when she lived down the street. No one introduced them, they met on the sidewalk and started a friendship right there, in conversation. My mother listened and reflected and connected. She had a genius for it.

I forgot to mention adventure in her 3 essential words. Adelaide had a sense of adventure – if I understood all the things she told me correctly, she eloped with our sea captain father out of a thirst for adventure. She loved him – yes, as opposites attract but their expectations were one of those tragically funny miscommunications of chick lit romance:
She: “Ulysses, baby, when do we set sail?’
He: Penolope, honey! I am home.”

Timing was not her strong suit. She thought she was going on a life long cruise as the wife of a captain. While our father I believe, thought he was coming home at last - Home to a mother, a stay – at – home- wife, kids - in short, all the trappings of family that he had not had since being orphaned at age 12. Lets just say that working out this train wreck of expectation with reality was not pretty or easy on anyone and move on….

But Adelaide’s sense of adventure brought us to Boston and that adventure brought us so many gifts that I still wonder at all we gained by that one move…. Adelaide also took us to camp, so all three of us could afford to go she was camp nurse. She hated the countryside, she hated camps (She loved to say – especially to her fellow staff members, “Camp is a four letter word” ) she hated it all -- but she loved us. So she worked while we spent summers in the country, playing, swimming, boating by lakes – for us it was idyllic. For Adelaide it was one of i sacrifici My mother did not do things by half either – She, who hated machines of any kind, cars and any fast movements - rented a motor boat for one week after camp and she took us skiing. Imagine Adelaide who was afraid of escalators for Chrissakes , but because we had become waterskiing enthusiasts at camp - imagine Adelaide standing in a motor boat waiting for the “Hit it! “ order and flying from idle to 40 mph as we practiced flying dockstarts…

Adelaide suffered from mental illness and I am proud to acknowledge her struggles and her eventual triumph. It was hard, very, very hard on all of us – but it was hardest on our mother. She did not remember all the awful things she said and did when she went from creative to… delightfully energetic to… manically busy to…. frantically occupied with things real and imagined to…. out of control! Off the planet! Flying without an airplane. And then the inevitable crash. We can only imagine the pain on the inside of that flight. In the end, Adelaide struggled with mental illness and won. It was a hard won victory – in part she overcame her illness because she outlived her disease but mostly I think she was over-medicated and not by accident.
• Because she loved us
• Because she feared the crashes and damage they caused
• Because she yearned for connection
She stayed medicated to the point where she lost her capacity for joy and fun. In truth she traded all the pleasures of happiness willingly to stay in good relation with all of us.

So many years…so many things to remember – and to be thankful for… I remember :

How, although she really had wanted me to be a doctor - - she always supported me – who I was – not who she wanted me to be— she helped me out of BU where I was a Philosophy Major and let me live at home and put together a portfolio and get into art school And she was my biggest fan.

How she could turn a phrase ( when I made up one too many excuses she once said – “Some people live in BC and others live in AD but you- you live in EC – the era of the Extenuating Circumstance! – now do the damn dishes!” )

How we would stay up late and talk and walk and talk and walk around Brookline and then eat Italian soul food of Spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and cheese.

How she always had friends of every religion, sexual orientation and race and they were always welcome in our home – sometimes for dinner – sometimes to live. She was generous, and open minded long before this was cool or done –

How she lead the way in social activism and only tried to curb me for my safety -

How she invited the United Farm Workers to our house and as the Vietnam war dragged on, even helped organize with me and some very radical friends a Brookline Citizens For A General Strike Against the War -

How she came to my side whenever I needed her and had the sense to ask her. How she took care of all our three girls while I studied for my Masters degree…

How she told me the truth when she thought I needed to hear it – even if it was risky to our relationship

And mostly, how she loved and cared for us all.

Oh sure ---there are many other stories to tell about how her fear would morph into anger and meanness and in her pain and sadness she would lash out but ….for today and truly – because it is in balance… and it is true -- I am thankful.

And I wish I could say that I said it – or maybe, that I said it enough ? while she was alive but….
Thanks Mom – when you were good – you were very, very good, and I loved you. We loved you. And we will miss you.

June 4th 2009

Adelaide DiBrizzi Dooley -
Memorial Service June 4th 2009
Arlington Street Church, Boston MA
This is a picture of George, the other bell ringer...

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