Elegy for Irene Klein

A beer and a cig, why not?

That’s my mom. I hardly knew her.

I left home at age 17 to go to college. She died when I was 24.

How can you know your parent when you’re just a kid and a teenager, so wrapped up in your own life, so lacking any perspective? I could see my mom as only my mom and hardly as an individual with a life of her own. By the time I was mature enough to go there, she was gone.

But this photo serves her well. She was quick to smile. She’d have a beer (or gin). There was the ubiquitous cigarette we constantly nagged on her to give up. She was an Italian woman from Niagara Falls who birthed 5 children in 6.5 years (Catholic), and along with my father managed to raise not one deviant or murderer among us.

My mom with her brood, from left: Nancy, Keyna, Peter, Susan, and the handsome yours truly.

She hated being short and wanted to be reincarnated as a redwood tree. When I lived in California, I often visited the redwood groves. She was an incredible cook and I was her biggest fan at the table: I loved everything we had for dinner.

Rock-a-bye birthday baby

She had this ritual that on our birthdays she would have a sit on her lap so she could rock us in her rocking chair. I must have been in college when this photo was taken. I think I remember her groaning when I sat. In the background is a white bottle of Keri lotion, which was everywhere in our house because my father worked for the company that made it, Westwood Pharmaceuticals.

My mom was 58 when she died. Incredibly, foolishly, ignorantly, at the time I thought that was old, that she might have already lived a full life. But she missed out on so much. She saw none of her kids get married, she met none of her grandchildren.

It’s been so many years now, but I always remember the day she died. I went through some old photos this morning. I got a little teary thinking of her. I’m glad I did.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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