The decline of my mother, now 90 on 14 May, has been a slow, long descent since I was a teen. In my youngest youth, she was beautiful and loving. But as I turned 13 or so, her inability to navigate her way through reality became more evident. Things, jokes, music began to bug her. Her loving was replaced by a kind of obsession with the formalities of mothering, the rituals, the cleaning, the forbidding – the mechanics. This has increased over time and even while me and my brother were growing up, neighborhood kids would mock and tease my mom and call her Crazy Tina.
I never tried to analyze it until about 10 years ago, when I realized that her life had probably been more adversely affected by World War II than we thought. She was a teen in Amsterdam and had her best years confiscated by circumstance and any hopes she had for using her artistic inclination toward something satisfying in life somehow became secondary to survival and recovery.