Top left: Alice Van Leuvan [Hekster]; bottom center: Carolyn Pearson [Nelson].
The year 2012 ended badly for everyone – I don’t need to mention all the storms and shootings, of adults and children, everywhere in our nation, from coast to coast – but for my wife Jean and me and our high school crowd, of whom I have written in my book Fantaseers: A Book of Memories, and elsewhere, last year ended particularly badly.
On Christmas Eve Carolyn Pearson Nelson died out on Cape Cod after a long illness. When we were fellow members of the Meriden, Connecticut, High School Class of 1952, I used to phone Carolyn almost every evening to chat with her instead of doing my homework. Carolyn was a lovely person and a dear friend for life. Like my wife Jean she had been a member of the distaff wing of the male high school science-fiction reading club we called “The Fantaseers.” When they got together, the females of our crowd decided to call themselves “The Reesatnafs,” Fantaseers spelled backwards, and when we all gathered we were thus “The Fantatnafs.”
Last summer the Dutch composer Walter Hekster and his wife Alice van Leuvan Hekster, who like Carolyn had also been a member of the Reesatnafs, came to visit us in Dresden Mills, Maine, from their summer home in Higganum, Connecticut. The four of us had a fine time, but Walter began to feel under the weather. After their visit we were all supposed to attend our M.H.S. 60th class reunion, but when Jean and I arrived we discovered that Walter had returned to The Netherlands to see his doctors because he felt so ill.
On Friday, January 4th, 2013, another of the Fantatnafs, Georgia Bradley Gast (who had been instrumental in organizing the Reunion) phoned from Plymouth, Massachusetts, to tell us that Walter had died in Holland. I had been in touch with Alice all fall, keeping tabs on Walter for whom I had on several occasions been librettist, so we had been expecting this sorry news. When I sent our condolences to Alice she replied, “Oh Lew Thanks. You know how sick Walt was, and it just got worse. I was with him and his Light just went out on New Years Eve.”
When she called Georgia had astonished me by mentioning that the day before, Thursday, the third, she had had her gall bladder removed. When I told her that, Alice said, “I didn't know about Georgia; only Carolyn. What a sad time.”
I have spent the weekend considering what I ought to write to commemorate these events, but I have decided that I’ve already written enough poems to cover this universal situation, especially in my recent book of poetry The Gathering of the Elders and Other Poems (by my formalist verse alter ego “Wesli Court”), and most especially in the poem titled “Year by Year”:
Listen to Lewis Turco read his poem "YEAR BY YEAR."
When we are born we have no clue
Why we are here, what we should do,
Therefore we flail about and yell
Till we are changed or held and fed,
And then at last, when all is well,
We take the world into our head,
Into our hands, until our fear
Begins to wane and disappear.
We enter school and learn to read
And how to cope with every need
That rises out of books and play.
We learn to cope with those around us
With whom we interact each day,
With all the people who surround us.
As we grow older year by year
Our playmates start to disappear.
Then we enter adolescence
To discover that the essence
Of existence seems hormonal:
We must learn to deal with excess
Of enticements pheremonal,
With the battle of the sexes.
As we grow older year by year
Our girl and boy friends disappear.
When finally we come of age
We take our place upon the stage
Of life and do what adults do:
Choose a career and graduate,
Settle on a friend or two,
Begin to think about a mate.
So we mature a bit each year,
And see our lovers disappear.
We settle down and get a house
Or an apartment with a spouse
Or live-in. Then the kids arrive
To take our energy and time —
No matter what, they seem to thrive.
We do as well, we’re in our prime
Until there comes that primal year
When all our children disappear.
The two of us are left alone
And then, perhaps, there’s only one
Because what else is there to do
Except look back and try to find
The future that we barely knew
Before it started to unwind
And we grew older, year by year,
Watching our elders disappear?
Now here we are. The moon turns blue
No longer and the days are few
When we have anything of note
To celebrate or fill our minds.
We have no projects to promote
Or interests of different kinds,
For we’ve grown older year by year
And seen our lifetime disappear.
COPYRIGHT © Lewis Turco, 2010, 2013; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
May not be reproduced anywhere for any reason without written permission of the copyright holder.