Friday, February 03, 2006
In Celebration of Your Life: km Grossman
Today, I sit at my computer, in my home and do the work of the living. It is one of the first days in over 2 months where I have time to myself and space to myself—a lovely occurrence. But the work of the living today is gently interrupted by a loved one passed away. Five years ago today, my mother, a vibrant, amazing and dynamic woman, died. And I would like to take a moment and recognize the amazing being that she was. k. Margaret Grossman, the small “k” was her preference and stands for Kathleen, was born in California on September 19, 1947. As a child she was moved to Alaska, Mexico, Arizona and back to Alaska as her mother went through husbands like people go through a bag of chips. She had a hard childhood. This last statement is, actually, an understatement. My mother had the type of childhood where most of us, you and I dear reader, might not have survived. As today I wish to offer a testament to her magnificent live, I will not go into details; however, it is important to know the odds that she was up against from the moment she took in her first breath to the time she left home at the age of 13 or 14, hitchhiking down the Alaskan highway in search of freedom and a true home of her own. She never graduated high school, although she tried on several occasions to get her diploma through a mail ordered course offered by Alaska for those who did not live in populated areas. The attempt was finally abandoned when the lodge she lived and worked in burned to the ground along with her final assignments. But k.m. Grossman was bright, indeed, brighter then most, and burned with a passion to have and become her own self. At 16 she was married and quickly pregnant with yours truly. Two yeas later my beautiful sister, Deborah, entered the world. During and before the two births, she marched on Washington, slept in Allen Ginsburg’s apartment in San Francisco, sang in a rock band, fought for equal rights and attended Woodstock. But most of her time was spend with her two children who, she was determined, would have a better start at life than she did. I remember small things, really, when I reflect on my first few years. Around five, I remember my mom coming up with fantastic games for us to play. Several times, as it was one of my favorite games, she would get a roll of yarn and make a maze for me to follow throughout our house: the string wound around tables and chairs, through the kitchen and the living room, into bedrooms and halls. At the end of the string, if I followed the path correctly, there was a prize waiting for me. When my sister was old enough to play as well, mom would make two paths with two different prizes and my sister and I would, later on, make a competition out of who could find the prize first. It was a lovely game. There were also crafts, making cities out of books and tents out of bedding. She made sure our minds, as well as our bodies, were occupied and full with wonders, learning and joy. At night, after putting us to bed, she went to work to get her GED. This time she would succeed and also find herself walking into a university to get a college education. As I said before, she was one smart cookie. She tried medicine, law, and a few other disciplines until she ended up in the creative writing department at the University of Arizona. Getting straight A’s and loved by her professors, especially those in the Law department, she could have become a doctor or a lawyer easily—but her passion, since childhood, was writing and she committed herself to this craft until her dying day. My mom continued on and eventually earned her Master's in Creative Writing just as I was graduating High school. She was the first in her family to go to college but encouraged both Deborah and I to find our own paths in life. When my sister and I were about 7 and 9 years old, my mom remarried to a wonderful man, my dad, and our family, although often in struggles, flourished—I am blessed to have two fathers, a wonderful sister and mother. As I grew up, I remember my mom taking in kids who were left to the streets. Friends and acquaintance from school or someone she happened to know or meet—a roof over their heads and food in their mouths were offered freely by her and our family until they could get on their own two feet. She worked to help people her entire life and often reminded us that families did not necessarily grow up under the same roof, but were created and recreated over and over again. Love and compassion was the key. Up till the day she died, she worked with young people to get their GED’s, so that they too could have opportunities in life. But as I said before, her life, especially in childhood, was hard. Physical and mental abuse took its toll and there are some scares that even the most loving of daughters, husbands and friends can never erase. The physical and mental abuse gave her a lifetime of physical and emotional pain and, towards the end of her short life, took its toll. I am happy to say, however, while living and being with her husband, my dad, the last few months were ones of inner peace if not devoid of physical pain. She died at 54, February 3rd, 2001 in New York City—her ashes were sent to the ocean, that she loved so, by her close family and friends. She leaves behind a legacy not only of children and friends and loved ones, but a legacy of work, writing, that lives on. I only regret to say that her novel “Judas Child” has not been published. This is a great piece of work and I hope someday that I will be able to get it published for her. Literal Latté offers the k. Margaret Grossman Fiction Award in her honor and her work can still be read on the internet. I am posting the links for those of you who might wish to be moved by the crafting of words and images. Startling Transitions R: an absent memoir - after reading this, you will know why I sign my name only with an "R." Mom, my love, may your soul fly free and your being fill each and every one of us.