Remembering Agnes Bryen Meyerson

Tuesday, January 15, 2013
My mom, Agnes Bryen Meyerson, died on this date in 1970, at the age of 49, of breast cancer — a disease our family didn’t discuss until after her death.

Breast cancer, as with many other forms of cancer, was a secret for a lot of families back then.

She left behind a husband, Miles Meyerson; three young kids; and a handful of writings that convey a love of words inherited by a generation of grandchildren she never knew. Here’s one, published in the Chicago Daily News Oct. 31, 1969, just weeks before her death.

Immortality rests in her mind’s eye

Today's News Lady bond winner is Agnes Meyerson of Orland Park.

By Agnes Meyerson

I don’t have a hobby.

I have no talent, no appetite for any serious accomplishments.

I can contribute nothing when seated with a group of women who are discussing difficult aspects of their bulky knits. Their recipes for beef ragout, of their latest antique find.

I DO PRACTICE people collecting. Interesting pastime. One stares into space and concentrates on reflective thinking. …

Hans, the nearsighted German refugee who uprooted his widowed mother from their home and delivered her to Denver so that he could ski all year. His nearsightedness served him poorly: he wrapped himself around a pine tree his first day out on the slopes and broke his hip. Today he serves hot toddies to the skiers at a fashionable ski lodge in Sun Valley.

Pat, possessor of a classic mind, who worked in a bookshop. Each day she reported to work, she rearranged certain books as she dusted the shelves. Methodically, she removed Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World from the fiction shelf and put it in the religious section, in place of the Holy Bible, which she placed under the fiction heading.

THERE’S JANE, the “classy one” who had everything: beauty, wealth and a devoted husband. She drove her car with two passengers—her mother and 10-year-old daughter—down a quiet lakefront residential street and delivered them into the murky, swiftly flowing Trenton River.

I have stored a memory of Haigh, who worked for years with talented young singers in a Midwestern town, whipping them into shape to produce Menotti operas long before that composer had made a dent in the musical world. Haigh suffered a heart attack on the podium the evening he was to make his debut with a first-rate Eastern symphonic orchestra.

Zelda, the daughter of a German countess, who married the scion of a wealthy Grosse Pointe family, but wore her Germanic look so proudly that the offspring of the in-laws always accused their uncle of sleeping with the German maid. Zelda’s raw-boned body was not honed for silken dresses or even belted cashmere boy-coats. She wore Army surplus shoes and her husband’s diamond-designed socks, wrote children’s stories and laughed at her rich in-laws.

There are others who have lived and died or still live. I give them immortality. They will never yellow from old age, never become seared or unraveled and never be consumed. They are stored forever, snugly in the inner recesses of my mind, while others carry their treasures in their knitting cases or their index file boxes.

TWO MOTHERS consume my thoughts often. They have lost their subteen-aged, leukemia-ridden daughters and now walk the Earth restless, anxiously waiting to meet their loved ones in some nebulous geographical area before too much time has elapsed.