Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Belated birthday wishes for Jeanne Carnini

Jeanne (right) and family
Last week, in the heady days of electoral excitement and the euphoric, triumphant aftermath, I overlooked a very important date: November 7th. That day was Jeanne Carnini's birthday.

Jeanne was my father's second wife and is the mother of my sister, Mia, and brother, Calee, as well as the grandmother of my new nephew Gino. She has played a huge role in my life, and in the lives of all of my father's children. She has alternately been our counselor, friend, teacher, advocate, and defender at various points in our lives.

Jeanne was born in Klamath Falls, Oregon, the daughter of one of that city's Italian-American entrepreneurial founders, my nephew's namesake, Gino Carnini, and of his wife Barbara. Jeanne was and is a compassionate soul, always concerned with the lot of the downtrodden, the less fortunate, society's forgotten. Like most Catholics I know, her relationship with the church has been tormented and rocky, but continues to endure, much like the church itself.

Jeanne's passion in life, apart from her kids, is dance. For many years, she owned and operated the premier dance studio in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Her school is still listed in the Klamath Arts Council archives. Every year, for many years, her Christmas season dance recitals were a highlight of our family's holiday season. These recitals were the vehicles through which I grew to love the music of Tchaikovsky and to appreciate the performing arts to the degree that I do.

Of course, being a socially-conscious, left-leaning activist in Klamath Falls can sometimes seem rather hopeless. But Jeanne's idealism never abandoned her. She has worked for years in social services aimed at assisting abused women, first in Klamath Falls, and now in Eugene.

Jeanne and my father were married for 10 years. That relationship was passionate in every sense of the word. When things were good for them, they were blissful. When things were bad, they were nightmarish. Everyone involved in that agonizing union came away from it shaken and awestruck. It took a lot out of all of us. I ascribe it to the roiling emotions of hot-blooded people for whom the driving force in life was passion.

But now, Jeanne seems sanguine and relatively content. She has her kids and her grandson and a good life in a peaceful part of the world. She's surrounded by family and friends, and remains involved in her community.

Happy Birthday, Jeanne. Thanks for everything.

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