A photograph of a photograph. This is my father, Malcolm Kenyon Ottaway, sailing Sun Tui, our 1960s boat. A 23 foot sloop built in Hong Kong by American Marine. The tiller is a dragon with the world in it’s mouth and inside there is a carving of Kwan Yin.
My father died in 2013. I still have the boat. Needs some work, but hoping I can sail again soon.
I can’t credit the original photographer because I don’t know who it is. It might have been me.
Juneteenth and Father’s Day, I am celebrating and thinking of both, and missing my father and my grandfathers. Yesterday was a delayed memorial for my ex mother-in-law. I loved her and we stayed in touch and I continued to visit her and also loved her second husband. He was another grandfather to my children. We had six grandparents, with my ex’s parents divorcing a year after he and I married. Now we have one living. My paternal aunts and uncle have stepped in as the parents and grandparents that are missing for me and my children.
The pressman is my paternal grandfather Kenyon Charles Ottaway. Or Charles Kenyon? Now I need to ask my Aunts. I do not know what year that was taken. He was head pressman in Knoxville Tennessee in the early 1960s. He went by Ken. My Aunt Pat adds that he was nicknamed “Inky” and that the above photograph was taken in Bridgeport, CT. On the back it says ’45, so our guess is 1945.
The second photograph is my father, Malcolm Kenyon Ottaway, and me and my sister. My father went by Mac.
Jubilee for freedom and for both father’s day and Juneteenth. I miss my parents and my grandparents, love to all of them. Hooray for Sweet Honey in the Rock, too.
Last day of April A to Z, blogging about Women Artists and particularly Helen Burling Ottaway, my mother. Can you name five women artists now?
This etching is from 1975. I was fourteen years old. I remember my parents discussing titles of etchings. My father, Malcolm Kenyon Ottaway, would often help title them. This etching is titled “Thus spoke Zarasthustra”. I wish that my parents were alive so that I could ask about this etching. Why Friedrich Nietzsche? When I am fourteen, my father receives his MA in mathematics and leaves SUNY Binghampton for a job at General Electric in Alexandria, Virginia. We move from New York State to Virginia and I start high school that year. I think that Alexandria was a much better place for my mother, all the art and artists, than for my father.
I hope that you have had a wonderful month in April: and I hold those in my heart in the war zones or who are lost and suffering.
My father would pretend to speak French, but he spoke terrible French. Right after high school my mother went to Europe with her parents. They traveled and she stayed in Paris, doing art. Her French was much better than his.
Helen Burling Ottaway was influenced particularly by Japanese art and the empty space on the page. We have an ancestor named Morris Temple. I have a photograph of him in his Civil War uniform and of his wife. He was the owner of Temple Pumps. However, the family story is that he was more interested in Japanese art then pumps and proceeded to “run the company in to the ground”. I do not actually know if this is true. My maternal grandfather’s mother was Tessie Temple, and Morris Temple was her father. My middle name is Temple and my cousin is Fred Temple Burling II but goes by Temple, as my maternal grandfather did. He was F. Temple Burling I.
My mother started a series of paintings of Mount Rainier after she moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1996. I think that she planned to do fifty views or one hundred. She did not get to finish the series but I do have some of them. La Vague and the views of Rainier are tributes to other artists that she loved.
This is an etching where more than one color is applied to the plate. This is a proof, so she is still messing around trying to decide what she wants as final colors for the edition.
I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.
My family was not Normal. No, no, not normal. I don’t think anyone is normal, really. In clinic one year I think, wow, all of my people are SO interesting. Why am I so lucky to have all of these wonderful people? And then I think: OH. Everyone is interesting. No one is “normal”. They may try really hard to pass for normal. I certainly had MY work cut out. And why is that, you say. I am so glad you asked that question!
My parents were both obsessed. My mother was obsessed with art. With music, a secondary joy. My father was all about music. Mathematics and language was his secondary joy. By age nine I discover poetry and that is it for me. That is the be all end all. I am so obsessed that I am amazed at age 40 when I make a discovery: poetry is not it for everyone.
I am fired by the hospital for fighting a clinic quota of patients. I might have kept the job if I had shut my mouth and been diplomatic, but I was not diplomatic. I write a protest song and sing it at the open mike and sing it into the CFO’s voicemail. I think I could be the poster girl for the opposite of diplomatic, right?I thought about quitting and then thought, no, I stay and fight this for my patients. I am fired the next day.
A group of people try to intervene and get me rehired. At some point I suggest sending one of my poems to the hospital commissioners. Six people email: NO!
I am confused: What do you mean, no? Why not?
YOU DO NOT COMMUNICATE WITH HOSPITAL COMMISSIONERS VIA POETRY.
I am still confused: I communicate by poetry. Poetry is the highest form of communication.
HOSPITAL COMMISSIONS DO NOT LIKE OR UNDERSTAND POETRY.
Ok, THAT is mind blowing for me. I call my father. What is this about?
My father says People are afraid of poetry.
I say You are kidding me.
My father says Poetry is magic. People are afraid of magic.
I say I’m not afraid of poetry.
That is because you are a poet, says my father.
And I really look at my thoughts on writing and poetry. I realize that writing and poetry are SO IMPORTANT to me that I assume that EVERYONE WANTS TO WRITE AND BE A POET. I ask my group of people trying to get me reinstated. None of them want to be poets. I ask my father. He does not want to be a poet. I am completely floored. I realize that I thought my mother loves art but wants to be a poet. My father loves music but wants to be a poet. Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
It must have been rather weird for my sister Chris, three years younger. She has three people who are all obsessed with their form of art. My sister Chris was a brilliant writer, an excellent musician and an artist. But I don’t think she was obsessed with any of them the way the rest of the family was. That must have been a little lonely.
The photograph is me and my sister in 1965. I am four and she is one year.
I say to a counselor once that in spite of alcohol problems in the family, the music was amazing and my sister and I learned it. The counselor replies, “Children connect with adults where they can.” I think OH. That is amazing. My sister and I see my father praise my mother for knowing all the words to the songs. She is always be the last one singing because she knows verse 8, 9 and 10. My sister and I assume that this is a woman’s job: memorize the words. We did. We photocopy the back of Beatles albums and on long car trips we memorize ALL THE WORDS. I think I can still sing Yellow Submarine start to finish.
I start school. I know there will be singing. No one knows my songs. The songs they know are the songs to television shows and we do not have one. I quickly go silent. I play flute and I sing all the songs in my head when I am bored, but I do not sing out loud. And I choose medicine because I want to understand people, for the writing. I still think people are very very weird. But I have written the whole time, every single day. And that is how my mother did art and how my father did music. Every single day.
I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.
This is a multigenerational post. I am Katy, Katherine after my maternal grandmother. The drawing is of that grandmother, done by my mother H. Ottaway in 1978. My mother mailed me the sketch diary for Christmas. My grandmother was Katy B, for Katherine Burling, and I was Katy O, for Katherine Ottaway. I have inherited a spoon that has Gertrude, Margaret and Kathryn engraved on the bowl. A different spelling, so I don’t know which Kathryn that was.
So K is for Katy. My father used to sing K-k-k-Katy to me when I was very little. It is from 1917!
I have been traveling recently and have seen some amazing art! I wish my mother were still alive and I could travel with her and with my sister! I think this mermaid family is just a delight and I really like it.
This is a tintype. “Tintype photography was invented in France in the 1850s by a man named Adolphe-Alexandre Martin. Tintypes saw the rise and fall of the American Civil War, and have persisted through the 20th century and into modern times.” — from here.
I do not know who this young man is, nor the year. I asked my maternal uncle before he died and he denied any knowledge of the person. He was the family historian and archivisit.
However, I have four tintypes in the box of china doll furniture clothes and accessories. My sister and I received a box of jewelry and the tintypes from my Great Aunt Esther Parr. She was my maternal grandmother’s sister and married Russel Parr. Her maiden name was White, a daughter of George White, the Congregationalist Minister who ran Anatolia College in Turkey and then moved to Greece. My sister and I divided the box of jewelry and the tintypes. There were eight so we took turns picking. We used them for dollhouse portraits, not realizing that they were real photographs. I wonder if the tintypes are from the Parr side of the family.
Last month I was missing my father on February 12. I was a month off. His birthday was today, Malcolm Kenyon Ottaway, born in 1938. I miss him now, too.
I will label more photographs, since I appear to have inherited the maternal family paper archive. There are people that I don’t know, though, and my parents are gone. My mother’s siblings have died as well. I am so glad I still have my father’s sisters.
Ask your parents about the pictures and the objects they keep, before they are gone and you lose the story. Time marches on.
After all, the sperm have no mitochondria. Only the egg has mitochondria, so the mitochondria are matrilineal, from the mother only. And it is from mother to daughter to daughter that they are handed down.
I have a photograph of my mother’s mother’s mother. Mary Robbins White. She is looking straight at the camera, no smile, serious. Her thoughts are contained, her eyes give nothing away. I have photographs of my mother’s mother, my mother, me and my daughter, all with the same expression. On guard.
The mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cells as well. They may have been a separate cell that moved in and made a deal with a larger cell: you take care of me and I will power you. An exchange. A bargain. A treaty. Sounds like a sensible female move to me.
My son has my mitochondria. His children, if he has them, will have his wife’s mitochondria. I think he has chosen well. I like her very much. I hope to see grandchildren.
Perhaps mitochondria are the magic that early hominoids worship when they make the earth figurine, the stone figure with generous breasts and belly and hips. The nurturer, the fecund mother, the destroying hungry mother who swallows her children and will not let them go.
I am reading Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By, 1972. I wonder what he would say about the matrilineal mitochondria, the second set of genetic material in each cell, the part that comes from the mother only. I think he would be fascinated and he would be writing another book.
As a child in an alcoholic/addict household where you can not trust adults, who do you trust?
You either trust yourself or you buy in the alcohol story.
If you buy in, you have a high probability of either becoming an addict or marrying one, depending if you prefer the enabler or the enablee role.
If you trust yourself, you develop certain senses. You pay attention to people’s emotions. You pay attention to what people FEEL, what people DO and not what people SAY. You do not care what they say: what matters is what they do. My sister said she used to walk my parent’s house during high school and try to feel the mood. Did she need to hide?
The enabler role is trying to control the other person. There are amazing variations on this. I cared for a person whose sister would not take care of herself. Every time the sister is hospitalized, the person goes and cleans tons of garbage and rotted food from the apartment.
“Stop doing that,” I say, “You are enabling her. Call Adult Protective Services to go look at it instead.”
It can be very difficult to stop and can take years. People can change.
I have noticed that the enabler role is lethal. The enablers seem to die before the enablee. Certainly in my immediate family and with many patients too.
Enablee is the person controlled. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, anger, emotions. It is very very interesting to watch. I have read parts of my mother’s diaries. She was the enabler, with my father as the enablee. However, the diaries document them fighting in the middle of the night when he is drunk. And I remember high school, putting the pillow over my ears, because they were screaming at each other.
But wait. Why would she argue with her drunk husband? Why would anyone argue with a drunk person? You have to wait until they are sober.
And slowly I realize that my mother too was an alcoholic. I remember her drinking. Best cover for an alcoholic is a worse alcoholic, right? It’s fairly horrid. But it explains some stories and my food insecurity. They would not get up in the morning to feed me. My mother told stories of me trying to feed myself: cheerios and laundry soap. If my father was hung over, ok, but, why wouldn’t my mother get up? I think they were both hung over. That or else she really did not want a child. Especially a nine month old with opinions while she was trying to get over tuberculosis. She never got to hold me after birth until 9 months. And then I did not want her. I wanted her mother.
Trusting yourself, life can be a bit complicated. You sense the emotions others are hiding. Being a physician allows me to ask about the hidden things, very gently. Sometimes they come out right away. Sometimes it takes months. Sometimes years and sometimes never. My sister and I discussed going to parties and thinking, oh, that person is the child of an addict/alcoholic. This person is in pain. This person is quite happy but hiding stuff.
I told a counselor I do not know how to turn it off. She replies, “Why do you think I am a counselor?”
I don’t see auras. I feel things: like a cloud. Like a tiger, like a bear, like a whale, singing.
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