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Ahdel, my Mother -- Ahdel's Page
8-13-11 - Happy 97th birthday Ahdel Chadwick, Mother - still driving, going to meetings, Honorary Life Member of the Fort Worth Opera Board, taking care of her 80 year old live-in boyfriend who's not doing so well, doing laundry, putting out the trash, flew to Costa Rica last year with her older sister Brunie, going to Akron for a wedding celebration later this month with family of younger sister Eleanor. She's popular with neighbors who admire and keep an eye on her, associates, and my sister's and my friends and always was for her unopinionated open mind, tolerance, understanding, and good nature. Friends would talk to her about their problems, confide in her. She always puts others first and is generous. I've been talking with her when an old car drove up and she went out to give a check to some worthy hard-up person. I remember one of the groups she sent contributions to was the Southern Poverty Law Center.
She was trusting, not overly protective, and let me run around outside from a very early age. I got to explore the woods and river near our house - and back yards and neighbors' homes - and go play with friends without all the adult supervision kids have today. In high school, she let me and my friends cuss and get crazy all we wanted as long as there was no destruction of property or unkind words about others, especially gays or minorities. Our home was the scene of a continuous salon where we could talk about anything, drink, and smoke and sing all night long. When I go home now we still have an interesting mix of people over, but generally at about four in the afternoon and no one stays very late any more. No one smokes anymore either, at least inside, but there are non and alcoholic drinks - like her one whiskey sour. She introduces me to new people still - and I to her. We have lively phone conversations in which I probably lecture her too much.
Ahdel studied music at Vassar with Quincy Porter, under whom she composed a string quartet (won the Vassar Music Cup in composition) that was performed ten years ago or twenty or something in Texas. She introduced me to a wide variety of good music - classical and the popular music of her time - the standards still like Cole Porter and Gershwin, even some experimental music. We went to a lot of operas, symphonies, and some ballets. She took my sister and me to New York to see musicals and plays. She played the piano and wrote songs, some of which she sang as she made breakfast, the meal she was famous for among my friends. I'm trying to get her to help me archive her music now, not an easy task. One of my favorite memories is waking up to a trio, quartet, or quintet playing soothing classical music in the living room.
My father, Kelly, and mother had a solid, loving marriage. Both had good character and shared a spiritual path in what I've seen loosely defined as New Thought Christianity tracing some origins to Emerson and Thoreau, what I call mind only, non theistic, cosmic, non-dogmatic religion I consider myself most fortunate to have been raised in and around. Mother's parents were very good German American people who provided a loving, solid, secure, comfortable home for her and her sisters where there were also lots of interesting guests and friends. They were pragmatists who thought this life was all there is and taught her nothing helpful of sex or the depths of life and death which put some big holes in her life. (She discovered how babies were born reading in the Vassar library.) Meeting my father changed all that. He saw body and mind, matter and spirit, as one, and death as a transition. He died when I was eleven and that was hard on mother for some years. She wasn't completely perfect of course, but she has always been aware of her problems and shortcomings and consciously worked on them and the results of her introspection have led her to evolve in a most positive way, to be more clear and balanced and content as the years go by.
Mother is always busy. A few years ago she broke a hip. I picked her up at the hospital and when she got home she went straight to her desk and worked for five hours, a bit too much. My cousin Phil, her loving fan and a retired orthopedist, flew out to see her then and went with us to see her orthopedist who said her bones were like those of a seventy year old. Other than that, she's never had any major health problem. I remember some headaches when she was younger. She attributes her good health somewhat to the fact that she's done a few yoga influenced exercises every day since I don't know how long, since I was a kid. There are surely others reasons like genes and her affirmative outlook. A sharp mind as well. She gets the word jumbles almost as fast as it takes me to read the clues. She does frequent crossword puzzles. I remember she and John Farley spending hours and hours on the NY Times double acrostic. I still call her for spelling, word meaning and origin - and to fool her with a disguised voice.
Good humor. She'd get zany which was fun. I remember finding her every now and then making faces at herself in the mirror. And on Halloween her extensive decorating would always include a bloody hand sticking out from under the entryway bureau for wide-eyed little trick-or-treaters as she greeted them. And the treasure hunts on Valentines, the fantastic trees at Xmas, and her well-attended New Year's Eve parties which my sister Susan and niece Camille have flown out to help with in recent years. Susan tends to visit mother several times a year for a few days each and I try to get there once a year for longer. Sons Kelly and Clay called her today to send their love and birthday greetings. She said there were a number of flower deliveries. Susan sent a cake, her husband Don another exquisite painted card and poem, me a doodled card.
Mother has always been supportive and optimistic of my unusual life choices. When I graduated from high school, something called me, I knew I wanted to hit the road and not go to college. She asked me to please try just one semester so I did - one and a half. When I dropped out and wrote her I was hitching to the East Coast, destination unknown, she responded (at some point when she could) thanks for trying and destiny is with you (not in those words). She was also nervously supportive when I went to Mississippi in the spring of '64 to do civil rights work and then to be with the lefty SDS, then off to New Orleans, and Mexico. My father would never have put up with the changes I went through, the teenage wildness, the radical politics, hippy madness and all, but she was unfazed, always sensing a bigger story was taking place. She's also been accepting of and has stayed in touch with my mates. Katrinka is wearing a bracelet I brought back from a recent trip home and mother has been wearing a coral necklace Katrinka sent with me in June.
Mother has had three mates in her life: my father whom she met at the upscale Fort Worth Club on New Year's Eve in the late thirties and the only one she married, John Farley, eight years her junior, whom she also met on New Years eve at the same place when he was the pianist at the Fort Worth Club at the beginning of the seventies, and Dick Whinery, a lawyer who was Farley's brother-in-law and whom mother got to know when they shared executorship of Farley's meager estate after he died in 1988.
Ahdel is admired by all. Her family loves and cherishes her for who she is, for her great spirit. She is indeed an inspiring mother. Happy birthday Mother!
Mother and I usually get into disagreements about facts and figures and interpretation of history. I imagine she'll see this and make some corrections at some point. - dc
Poem DC wrote for Ahdel's 95th birthday
When I recited that to Mother on the phone today (8-23-11) she corrected me (as did Katrinka from the other room), saying the final L in that French word was silent. I, who prefer to have a computer online for many conversations, responded by playing the dictionary.com audio pronunciation of this word as an English word in which the L is not silent and rhymes with Ahdel. But for this occasion I'll rewrite the poem as such:
Dictionary.com - Origin:
1400–50; late Middle English nonparaille < Middle French nonpareil, equivalent to non- non- + pareil equal < Vulgar Latin *pariculum ( Latin pari- (stem of pa-r ) equal + -culum -cule1 )
Got into this because I'd just called Ahdel and after we talked for a moment assumed young Davis Laker next door hadn't printed this birthday tribute up and given it to her because I hadn't heard from her but she said oh yes she'd seen it and it was very nice, thanks a lot though she felt I tended to exaggerate. She had a few corrections, one being I misspelled her big sister's name. It now has an e at the end - Brunie. There were a few others like that. Then she inquired about me saying I remember her giving money to people and I said I'd seen her do it but I took out "more than once." Then we talked about her parents not telling her anything about sex and death that was helpful - she wondered about the sex part - and I reminded her that she'd told me she'd learned about sex reading in the Vassar library and had gotten quite angry at her parents for not telling her. She said that yes that's how she learned where babies come from. So I added that detail. Wow.
I also reminded her of the song for her 90th birthday called Ahdel. which is #1082 on the list of all DC songs. You can listen to a recording of it linked from there. Oh here - just found the words to Ahdel from an earlier cuke entry and I'll link to the audio of the song from there.
I should add that Mother is an excellent copyeditor. I still send her stuff I write to go over, including my books - because she has such an eye for detail. Sometimes it can get a bit irritating if I'm eager to hear what she has to say on the content and she starts off by commenting on a semi-colon (which I tend not to use). I remember a few years ago my niece Camille gave Mother and my sister Susan a paper she'd written for school to look at and both of them started off their response by mentioning a grammatical error. Camille said she'd never show either of them anything she wrote ever again, an exaggeration I'm sure, for dramatic emphasis. Anyway, I'm used to it now, and know to wait for Mother's more sentimental thoughts after the details are out of the way.
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