Is Corn Brain Food?

Is Corn Brain Food?
Is Coney Island corn-on-the-cob brain food? Dunno, but I DO know that all original content herein is copyrighted by Vincent Collazo. Namaste.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Eulogy for Heather--Brooklyn Memorial

Thanks to all of you for coming tonight. Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX) is an appropriate setting for this memorial for Heather. Just down the hall she took swing dance lessons; downstairs she took a self-defense class with Brooklyn Women’s Martial Arts; we attended a number of theatrical performances here and Heather co-directed me in my one-person show, “Queerer Than Thou,” which was performed right in the space we’re sitting in now. She also led two workshops at BAX for her unnamed work that she received from her mentor, Eliane Siqueira, which I describe as energy and chakra movement and development. And this past February, just one month before she went into the hospital, she volunteered to participate in a benefit for Brooklyn Arts Exchange by giving a full day of Jin Shin Jyutsu & Trager Approach energy & bodywork.

Heather was a researcher who was nationally recognized for her work with Early Head Start at the University of Pittsburgh. Heather was a researcher not only by vocation, but also by nature. And the subject of her longest, most massive and detailed research project was...little old me. This investigation started shortly after we met when she proofed me for my age, requiring me to show her my driver’s license. But it didn’t end there. Heather was thorough, and as a way of getting to know me she listened to all my CD’s (over a hundred at the time) by taking them from the CD tower and playing a couple every day. Some of them were gifts I hadn’t listened to yet, and I felt I might be judged by music I hadn’t even heard. One day I was working at the Park Slope Food Coop and an office worker doing her shift with me mentioned that a woman with long hair had stopped her in the stairway and asked, “Do you know Vinny who’s a coordinator here?” Heather proceeded to ask her all kinds of questions about me. How long had she known me? Was I a good guy? What was I like to work with? Etc. That was one I knew about—who knows how many other people she randomly stopped and brain-picked. And Heather would ask me questions, often the same questions, sometimes days, months or years apart. I thought at first she repeated her inquiries because she had poor memory—it took me a while to realize that she was cross-referencing my current answers against my prior responses. Heather came by this mistrust legitimately—having just escaped from a 15-year relationship that was abusive on every level.

I’m pretty allergic to cats, so when Heather & I decided to move in together she offered to find her 9-year-old cat José a new home. “You can’t do that!” I said, “José’s your cat—you love each other too much.” I thought this was a marvelous gesture on her part, a testament of her love for me. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that her offer was not a testament but a test—if I’d have agreed to her giving up José, she probably would have broken up with me. (Whew!)
Earlier this year, after Heather had been in the hospital about four months, we were sitting quietly and out of nowhere she began to sing to me. It was a song she was spontaneously composing as she sang, and I was so stunned I couldn’t really focus enough to remember much of it. But it was tremendously sweet and it went something like this:
Please don’t—leave me, 
’Cause I really want you to be here, 
Please do—stay with me, 
’Cause I love the way that you’re lovin’ me...

... And as she sang I realized, and Heather later confirmed, that in that moment she’d chosen to end her research project on me. She’d concluded that, you know, I was okay. Actually, it was in that moment that she really and truly got me, and without any doubts or shadows from her past fully understood how much I loved her. And I was so grateful that we had that.

Despite the doubts Heather had, which did not haunt her continuously, we really did have a magical life together. And I’ve been wondering lately if it’s true that magical love doesn’t last. Or maybe if love does last, it ceases to be magical. But I don’t think that’s true—Heather and I were deep in our romance after 13 years, there’s really no reason for me to think that if she’d lived we wouldn’t have gone on with our heads in the clouds for another 20, 30 or 50 years. There’s a scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” when George Bailey comes back to town after having seen what life would have been without him, and he finally sees his wife Mary. George holds her and says, “Are you real, Mary?” Every now and then, I’d look over at Heather, just sitting there eating or reading and I’d come up to her and say, “Are you real, Heather? Are you real?” My daily life with her was that magical.

We didn’t have our first argument until we’d been together for more than a year—partly this was because we got along so well, but part of it was because we were both being extremely gentle with each other, having both so recently come from difficult relationships. I don’t want to over-idealize our relationship—like everyone else, we had our problems. We had rifts so great that they threatened to break us up. But always, throughout the worst times, we had a deep passion for each other, and that, along with some hard work, always got us through. 

As a birthday present my cousin Tennille gave me an astrological page that described many of my qualities, I thought fairly accurately. At the bottom of the page were two birth dates that would be ideally compatible with me. One of them was July 10th—Heather’s birthday. I took great comfort in this. It’s nice when a pseudo-science can back up what you already believe. For Heather’s birthday Tennille gave her a similar astrological page, which again accurately described Heather’s qualities. But at the bottom of the page my birth date did not appear as one of her ideal compatibles. So Heather was ideal for me, but I wasn’t for her.

This rang true in one important way. Heather, as you have seen in the video presentation, loved to dance, and while I can flail away with the best of them in a club, I don’t really like partnered dancing, which was what Heather was interested in. I tried. I took some salsa lessons, and then some Argentine tango lessons. Tango was Heather’s favorite and the one dance I liked—I even took a private tango lesson, but I’d forget everything I learned within a couple of weeks. It just wasn’t for me. Maybe I should have tried harder to please her.

In the last two months in the hospital, Heather lost a great deal of muscle tone. Her legs were atrophied from disuse due to pain. So in order to get out of bed to sit in a chair or use the commode, I had to support her by holding her elbows and in lifting, pivoting and moving with her as she turned and shuffled to her destination, we were at long last dancing together. And that’s what we called this synchronous movement which we had to do many times a day and night—our dance.

I want to share with you one more talent that Heather had—and it’s one that you don’t put into a proper obituary: Heather could find four-leaf clovers. And I’m going to share with you the secret to finding four-leaf clovers, though it can’t truly be transmitted by words. The secret is to not only believe there are four-leaf clovers to be found, but to know that they are there. And the only sure way to know it is to experience it. Before I met her, Heather met a guy who said he would find a four-leaf clover, walked into a field of clovers and within a couple of minutes found one. After seeing this Heather was able to consistently find four-leaf clovers—the last four-leaf clover Heather found she gave to our friends Martín and Gabriela as a gift to their newborn daughter Abril. It’s framed and is on display in their apartment. Of course Heather’s ability to find four-leaf clovers was assisted by her super-sharp vision. About a year and a half ago, when she was having some trouble with her eyes, her vision was measured at 20/15. But even I, with my 20/200 vision, after seeing Heather find four-leaf clovers, I too finally found one. And then I did her two better—in that same field I found a six-leaf clover.

We were going to see some friends that night and I wanted to share with them my extraordinary find, so I plucked it, put it in a Tupperware container and stored it in the fridge. Heather said I should put some water in the container but I, knowing better, said it would be just fine. Of course, hours later when I went to retrieve the six-leaf clover it was completely shriveled into an unrecognizable green clump. Heather didn’t say “I told you so” but when I asked she explained why it hadn’t been preserved.

Now Heather is gone and there are no witnesses to my having found a six-leaf clover, so you can choose either to believe me or attribute it to Vinny myth-making. It doesn’t matter what you believe, because I did even better than that: those of you who knew her know that in Heather I found an eight-leaf clover. And having seen that with your eyes, I wish to enjoin you all, if you haven’t already, to find your own eight-leaf clover. And also, to strive to become, ourselves, eight-leaf clovers, so that there will always be some out there to find.

I closed the funeral service in New Jersey by singing the last song I wrote for Heather, and tonight I’d like to close by singing you the first song I wrote for her. When Heather was home for hospice care I sang this song to her and she had her eyes closed, I thought she was asleep but figured I should keep on singing. About halfway through I got caught up in the emotion of the song, and in remembering all the hope and joy we had that first year together I broke down and began to cry. Still with eyes closed Heather said, “Hang in there, Vinny.” And so I sucked it up and finished the song, because she wanted to hear it. So if I get caught up tonight when I sing this, please feel free to say aloud, “Hang in there, Vinny.” I hope I don’t, because I really want you to hear it the way Heather did when I first sang it to her twelve years ago. 

The song is called, “Heather’s Celtic Waltz,” but it’s not really a waltz, because what do I know from waltzes? And it’s not really Celtic, ’cause I’m kinda Puerto Rican, but it is about Heather. That it is.

Heather’s Celtic Waltz
(c) Copyright 1998 by Vincent Collazo, all rights reserved.

Once upon a time my love
I dreamt of you without knowing how
the stars reconfigurate, transform a seed
for witches and warlocks and lovers in need

When mortal spirits recognize
a sister once lost, a brother tossed off
the Universe lets loose and sighs
and with that breath, we live aloft

Here and now, or there and then
the magic we cook feeds our destiny
faeries and angels and shamans descend
join voices to souls and with me they sing

Heather’s moved in with me
I can’t begin to be
Happier than I already am
And if you want me to
I will sing unto you
every night ’til you understand

And once a dream comes true
in waking hours we face a test
how to keep it renewed
or follow the vision wherever we’re led

Joy, hope, intensity
In my daily life with you
I have propensity
Towards ecstasy, rapture and playing the fool

Witches and warlocks and lovers in need
can stew in a cauldron of love ’til they bleed
the world is aghast, when two are so blessed
the fruition of paradise can’t be assessed

Heather’s in love with me   
could you but only see
half of what is driving me glad
you’d make an encampment
of mirth and enchantment
love is the only gift you’ll always have

Heather’s moved in with me
I can’t begin to be
Happier than I already am
And if you want me to
I will sing unto you
every night ’til you understand

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