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Out of the Balkans

Part 2: Jason's Journey, Recollections and Celebrations

Chapter 1, continued:

As much of a disciplinarian as Mom was when I was a child, she let go of me when I reached twelve and began my journey to manhood under the guidance of my father, godfather and Uncle Louie. The transition was almost magical: one day I was a child, the next a young man.

Lily was a leader. At Carelas' farm she served the role of nurse, counselor, party organizer, trip director, and child psychologist. Women came to her with their problems and she felt perfectly at ease cornering their husbands to give them forceful advice about being better spouses. When my cousin Diamond Papadiskos' wife, Clara, suffered terrible injuries in an automobile accident Lily watched over her during her recovery. Diamond took Mom's direction about everything.

The day that my cousin Helen Psaltis arrived in the United States with her two young children, Aliki and Deno, Mom went into action. One look at the children, who had suffered great hardships in Greece, and she had them in the car and on the way to Dr. De Tata, who prescribed vitamins and food.

Our home was full of male cousins on holidays: Nick and Thanasi Mavrovitis, Gus Mavrovitis, Tom Papanas, Elias Dimitriades, and on. At first they did not know quite what to make of this outgoing, commanding and unfettered woman. She was unlike anyone they had known among the women in their Greek experience. But once past the initial shock of her extrovert personality they quickly took to her and loved her. She became their second mother.

Between 1945 and 1950, my mother suffered three heart attacks. She had regular, frightening episodes of angina pectoralis(1) that mimicked the onset of an attack. To relieve these she took countless tablets of nitroglycerin, a therapeutic that improved oxygen supply to her coronary artery and relieved the pain. And she came to rely on Teacher's Scotch Whiskey as her emotional crutch. Nitroglycerin tablets and drinks of Scotch became co-therapeutics.

Her heart condition was the result of years of extremely high blood pressure, often 240/140. Somehow her body overcame the initial onslaught of heart attacks. From the early 1950's through the early 1960's her health seemed improved.

She never gave in to her illness and continued to live actively doing virtually everything she had ever done. My fear of inducing a heart attack by causing her emotional or physical stress was constant and influenced how I conducted myself and led my life.

I remember that often when I looked at Mom I saw sad eyes, eyes that had a longing in them. Perhaps I saw something that was not there. I do not think so. I wish I knew, and if she did have this sadness, I wish she had shared it with me.(photo)

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