Eight Years Without Her

Let me tell you about Helen. Although she had only one book published (Picture of Guilt), she had written four others: Cecille, Prelude to Love, Twice a Fool, and the Wild Game Supper. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I must take you back in time.

Nobody could make her do anything she really didn’t want to do. NOBODY!!. I started teaching her how to drive in Brooklyn, before we were married. Four years later, after failing the drivers test four times, she decided she didn’t want to push the stroller with the 3 kids one mile round-trip to the market, she decided to get licensed. It was not because I’d tried to cajole or embarrass her into it, but because she wanted it. Two weeks later, she was licensed.

At 45, she was working as a Library Aide in La Mirada when she decided to return to college to get her BA so she could be promoted to Full Librarian. She was aware that she would be 50 to achieve that goal as a part time student but she applied at Fullerton Jr College.

The school insisted she take a special update class for folks who’d been out of school for over 20 years but she refused, stating she was as prepared as any of our six kids who had graduated high school. They made an exception, and she was in.

As a freshman, she raised her hand so often, that, when she stopped, the teacher asked why she had stopped, to which she replied she was embarrassed to be the only one who apparently knew the answers.

On literature subjects and authors she particularly enjoyed, she read all the books on those subjects and authors rather than the ones required by the teachers. I saw all those books scattered around the house. She knew more about Kafka than her professor.

By the time she was a senior at CSUF, she would have been a straight ‘A’ student if it wasn’t for a ‘B+’ in Statistics and an ‘F’ in Music (which she loved) but had been mistakenly recorded as having many absences. She didn’t protest; grades were not high on her priority list. Learning was! With only 6 credits needed for her BA, she left school at the urging of two English teachers who asked her why such a good writer was still in school when she should be writing full time.

Despite all the above, Helen’s TOP priorities were not to be measured by Academia. That was all dwarfed by her love of God, family, friends, life and learning. Mimi had written, after Helen died, “I think I was trying to unravel the mystery of what unique combination of genetics and environment came together to create this remarkably strong and loving personality? I’m coming up with a big bang theory that only happens once every 20 billion years.”

It had to be more than luck that we met at a St Francis dance, miles from both our homes, on June 24,1953, one day after her 21st birthday. It was destiny.

Fifty years later, on her 74th birthday, I wrote to her:
“The sun is shining but it would make no difference if it were cloudy. If I am with you, it is always bright, even if we are inside with the lights on or off. I need only to
think your name to smile. Touching you face, your arm, your anything make me feel good. You make every day beautiful because you are beautiful. But on your birthday I sense it more, and it makes your birthday MY BEAUTIFUL DAY.

Helen loved everybody and everybody loved Helen, especially her #1 fan.

6 thoughts on “Eight Years Without Her

  1. Can I be her #2 fan? I am sure there are hundreds of people who have tried to claim that spot. Thank you for sharing Pop Pop, I miss her too and wish I could see her smile. Thankfully I will see it again when we meet again in Heaven.~Katherine

  2. Well done Dad. I miss her very much. I know I will see her again soon….in a blink of an eye. Until then it is good to have such great memories of mom. Thank you for sharing some of them.

  3. Henry, each time I read or listen to your memories of Helen I am reminded of what a privilege it was to have know her. Eight years has passed so swiftly and yet I can still remember her face, laugh, smile and the way she cared about life and all of those who shared it with her. I can only pray that you continue with your autobiography so all your memories of not only your life but also of Helen’s will be forever available for now and generations to come. God Bless You! Love, Jan Marie

  4. Thank you for these stories. I hadn’t heard most of them before.

    I remember when I was working in the office for you, you’d gone out for something and saw Nana unexpectedly (she was leaving a store near where you were). You said it made your heart skip a beat anytime you saw her unexpectedly like that. What a beautiful love…though, what else can you expect when two amazing people find each other? Love and sparks!

  5. Helen was, and is, my soul sister. The first time I saw Helen was on Easter Day at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. She had this wonderful, radient

  6. Just re-read this entry today after clicking over from the link on your blog. It is a beautiful reminder of Mom. I wish we had begged her to write her autobiography too. So many details I wish I had asked about her family history and her early memories. I’m so glad you are putting yours on paper for us.

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