My Mother : Paola Volkova – Unpublished Mother Loss Memoir
15 March 2014
Dearest Mom, today is the first anniversary of your death. In the Orthodox religion this date has something to do with the soul finally reaching its final destination. A pivotal moment for your future. Family and friends get together to mark this moment together with the deceased. They will meet in Moscow. I decided that I would not attend. I would stay at home in Paris. I woke up early this morning to spend the whole day with you. From my window I saw the first rays of the rising sun over Sacré Coeur basilica. How to explain my decision not to come? I used the pretext of having too much work to do. The family has probably found my excuse disrespectful. But I could not face going there, to smile and talk. I could not even look at your pictures.
Most of all I miss that tenderly-sarcastic look in your blue eyes. It is far away. Somewhere in the skies. Sociable as you were, by now you must have met most of your friends – the poet and screenwriter Tonino Guerra, film directors Andrey Tarkovski and Theodore Angelopoulos, and those you would have liked to have met while you were here – painters Giotto di Bondone, Sandro Botticelli and Kasimir Malevich – to discuss with them the indefinable mystery of great works of art.
Your death was unexpected. You were 82. I thought you were eternal. I never imagined that one day you would not be here. And for that matter, you easily looked 20 years younger, with tight, slightly tanned skin, blue eyes, manicured hands and haircuts that you changed every week. You were going to live for at least another 10 years, like grandma and great-grandma. Or even longer – with all of those modern medical devices which promise us longer life, and even the prospect of living forever.
On Monday evening of March 10, you felt a sudden difficulty breathing. You had just come back from Rome. 72 hours of La Dolce Vita and champagne with your colleagues from Kultura, a Russian TV channel, where you presented your nation-wide famous program about the masterpieces of Fine Arts, broadcast every Thursday at 10 PM. Once back in Moscow you were supposed to start working on a new series of programs. Instead you had an ambulance that took you to the Izmailovo hospital. You had been having the problems with bronchitis for so long that I’ve stopped paying attention. The doctor said that this time it was different. He had to insert a breathing tube into your mouth. Because one cannot stay awake with the tube for more than 24 hours, he put you into an artificial sleep. The most communicative person I’ve ever known, you could no longer stay in touch with the world. Four days after being admitted to the hospital, you were gone.
The day after you eclipsed into eternity I saw your brother, my uncle Pavel. We met for lunch to talk over the preparation of your funeral. It was in the middle of Maslennitza, the pancake week. All restaurants were serving pancakes. Pavel ordered the most expensive pancakes on the menu, topped with red caviar. They looked delicious – thin, oily and folded into quarters. But I could not think about food. Instead I asked for a glass of water. You will never guess the first thing Pavel told me about you. He said that you had been a bad pupil at school. A huge family secret kept from me all my life. He just could not wait to tell me about it-with a sly smile on his sad face stricken with grief.
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