I went to the Spiderman movie yesterday whose title provides the title for today’s post. But this is not a movie review… other than to say that it is, in my opinion, the best Spiderman movie ever made. It is the best Spiderman movie because is brings together so many story threads from so many other movies that, like the previous Marvel movie Endgame, it creates an ultimate completeness that satisfies the needs of someone like me who needs stories about life that have a beginning, middle, and end. That’s what this story is about.
This little girl in this old picture is my distant cousin Patty Berilla. She was older than me by about three years. She was the first non-sister girl I ever saw naked. I was five, and I was talking to her, and I followed her into the bathroom. She had to pee and had no younger brothers and mostly older sisters. So, she was not shy, and kept right on talking to me. Until one of her older sisters got mad and pulled me out of there and made Patty close the door. I remember being good friends with her during that week’s vacation at the Opal and Louis Berilla home in Cleveland, Ohio. We saw seals and polar bears and a baby giraffe at the Cleveland zoo. And when we went to the Museum of Science and Technology, there were two statues on either side of the main door, a man and a woman, both of them nude. Patty thought that was very wrong to be naked in public. She was even more shocked at the invisible woman medical presentation inside. The nude woman was made of glass. And they lit up the parts inside with colored lights, showing first the muscles under the skin. Then the organs, respiratory system, nervous system, and finally the skeleton. Patty told me that that awful woman got naked down to the bones. For some reason the adults laughed at that more than Patty and I did.
She became a nurse. My mother was also a Registered Nurse. There are a number of nurses in our family. I never saw Patty more than twice in the intervening years of our lives. But in 2020 she caught Covid 19 while working in the ER. She died on a ventilator in that same ER. I actually cried when my mother told me about this last summer. It surprised my family. I was crying for someone I was distantly related to that I probably wouldn’t have recognized if I saw her again as an adult. All I really knew about her life was what she looked like naked when she was seven-and-a-half years old. But I loved her not just for who she was and what she taught me about life when I was little, but for what she sacrificed and how she died.
I lost both of my parents in the Covid pandemic. Neither of them died of the pandemic virus. Dad was lost to late-stage Parkinson’s disease. Mom died of complications with both her heart and her kidneys. Covid interfered with both of their hospice stays, but they never got the viral infection.
When the pandemic began, I anticipated that I would catch it and die. When my number two son came down with it that first summer, before the vaccine, I figured my last week of life had come. But when the quarantine was over and I got tested, the test was negative. But I began to see then that it would be impossible to ever really go home again. It was not just a matter of travel restrictions and quarantines. The home I knew was no longer really there. It’s like John Steinbeck said, “You can’t go home again
because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory.”
The Spiderman movie, No Way Home, is about Spiderman’s identity as Peter Parker and everybody who knows his secret identity as a superhero. Peter Parker does not get the chance to go home again even more severely than my own sad case.
So, what I have to do is salvage my own secret identity. I am a story-teller and a cartoonist. But very few people know that. Mine is an identity easily erased by my looming demise.
There is no longer a hope of going home again. It’s the mothballs of memory situation. Now, the thing that remains to be done is to finish weaving together the threads of the story of my life and times, and make of it a masterpiece of a tapestry… so that it can go into the mothballs with flair.
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