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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Generous Spirit

Today we moved my mom to her own apartment. She’s been living with me, off and on, for the past 15 years, moving with me from Oklahoma City to New Jersey to upstate New York to Seattle.

If it hadn’t been for her help in the years when we had four small kids and a teenager in the house … well, at the very least the piles of laundry would have reached the ceiling instead of always being caught up; the dishes would have stacked up waiting for someone to find time to wash them; the playroom floor would have been a minefield of toddler detritus.

When I was hospitalized for six weeks of my last pregnancy, my mom was the glue that helped my then-husband hold household things and children together. I wouldn’t have been able to work in this field, or travel to cover the film fests I’ve covered (because news flash, this business, while interesting enough to work in, doesn’t pay as well as my previous employment in the tech field), or really, maintained my sanity, without my mom’s help. When people ask me how I was able to balance work with raising four young children, a big part of the answer was always: Because of my mom.

Here and there over the years, she’s moved out into her own place for a while, and then something would happen and she’d be there, always ready to help again however she could. The first time my marriage to my kids’ dad crumbled, it crumbled hard. My mom was staying temporarily in Oklahoma to spend time with her brother and sister when it happened, and when I called her and told her I needed to move with my kids back there for a while to regroup, she called my dad, and both of them were there for me.

They found me a new van to replace the one that had just died. My dad flew me out to Oklahoma to pick it up. My mom found a house for me in Oklahoma City, very near my dad and my uncle, and harangued the poor owner until she had it secured. She drove with me back to Seattle, helped me pack up my house, dried my tears when I needed to cry. She drove with me and four kids back to Oklahoma City, always staying cheerful and positive, making a tough time easier on the four little people whose lives had been completely disrupted by the implosion of their parents’ marriage.

When my ex and I got back together to give it another go, she was angry, but resigned herself to hoping for the best. Two years later, back in Seattle, my marriage fell apart for good, right as I got sick and was facing major surgery. Once again, without hesitation, my mom was there for me. She slept in the hospital after my surgery, just in case the nurses weren’t quick enough in responding if I needed anything. She brought in Christmas lights to decorate my hospital room and make it homier. She talked when I needed to hear a voice, and just sat there quietly watchful when I needed to sleep.

I was still very sick when I came home from the hospital, and my mom moved in to take care of the kids and the house while I recovered on a hospital bed in the living room, went back in the hospital for a blood infection, came home to recover some more. Through all that, my mom’s constant presence and hard work gave my kids some much needed continuity and reassurance during a time when they were scared because they’d never seen their mother sick like this. For months when I couldn’t eat, my mom had a hard time eating anything herself; it made her feel guilty to eat when I couldn’t.

But now I’m healthy again, and remarried, and life has settled down; our house is busy and loud with the pitter patter of six children and two dogs. The kids, for the most part, are old enough now to be fairly self-sufficient, and to do their share of chores to keep the household running. My mom needs a little quiet, and a lot of rest, and so she’s found a nice little apartment in a senior complex not too far from here. Close enough to see her grandkids as much as she wants, but far enough to have a little space.

Cooperation, family, pulling together to get through hard times, are part and parcel of the way my mom was raised. When others say to her that she’s sacrificed her own life for her grandkids, she just smiles at them as if she knows some great life secret they’re missing out on. My mom’s always said her soul feels most filled when she’s surrounded by and helping those she loves. It’s how she was raised, how she’s wired.

She grew up post-WW2 in a household that included her divorced mother (left by my grandfather to raise a toddler son and newborn twin girls), her grandmother and grandfather, and her great-grandmother. It was a matriarchal sort of upbringing, my great-grandfather fulfilling his role as household provider by working at the post office and otherwise staying safely out of the way on the porch with a bottle of homemade beer, while three generations of women ruled the roost under one rooftop. She learned first-hand that by pulling together, her family was able to survive tight financial times while building close ties through shared work and fellowship. She’s a great storyteller, and I’ve heard the tales of her childhood so often, it almost feels as if I lived it, too.

If you asked her, my mom would probably tell you that she’s enjoyed life more being around her grandchildren since she retired than she did the decades of work for the state that earned her a monthly retirement check. She was never interested in what other people think of as “retirement.” She’s never cared to watch soaps all day, or go to casinos, or join book clubs, or go to wine tastings, or learn to climb mountains or kayak or skydive. She’d rather be around other people than have a lot of time alone; she’s never been one to need a great deal of personal space — perhaps a remnant from a childhood in which someone was always around. She’ll venture out to go hear my brother’s band play, if someone goes with her, and to cruise around to her consignment shops and such. Beyond that, she’d really rather be home than anywhere else.

But she was there to watch her grandkids take their first steps and lisp their first words, to apply kisses and bandages and old-fashioned advice and discipline in equal amounts, together with a hefty dose of love. She was always there to share with them a story about her childhood, or to discover a hidden alley that led to a tucked-away cottage surrounded by colorful birdhouses, or to cuddle a cranky toddler to sleep, or to teach little ones the mysteries of blowing dandelion wishes on the breeze.

My mom’s taught me never to leave the house without saying “good-bye” and “I love you.” She’s never gone to bed, excepting those few times when she’s been too sick to do so, without kissing everyone good-night. She’s taught me most of what I know about being a good mom, and while I know we’ll see her plenty still, her constant, gentle presence here will be much missed.

I love you, mom. Thanks for being you.

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One Response to “Generous Spirit”

  1. Beth says:

    Wonderful post, Kim .

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon