Music, dance and poetry have helped Mary Lipton, 88, deal with the numerous tragedies she has faced. And the arts have helped her appreciate the beautiful things she has seen.
Lipton recently published a book of poems titled Behind the Spanish Wall. The 46 poems explore the happiness of being a mother, grandmother, dedicated volunteer and creative artist, as well as her suffering from health ailments, family conflict and losing her beloved husband to Alzheimer’s.
“I began writing poetry because I had to get my distress out. And I became fascinated with flowers and nature and wanted to express my joy,” Lipton says.
Born in Lodz, Poland, her mother and father, Aaron and Helen Hoffman, moved to Tel Aviv before coming to Canada when she was six years old.
In her poem The Abduction, Lipton describes her mother’s frantic search for her when she was kidnapped at the age of three. A woman saw the abductor with a little girl and knew that the abductor did not have any children.
Lipton describes her mother’s successful pursuit of the woman, writing, “The mother and child would have known loss and despair, if not for the woman who had led the mother there.”
She met her husband, Victor Lipton, when she was 14 years old. He left for war at 15. He returned home in 1946 and they were married in 1947.
In an interview with The CJN, she says her husband suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder ((PTSD) from his war experiences that led to outbursts in their home.
In the poem The Soldier’s Wife (PTSD), she reflects on the tragedy of war.
If Love Alone Could Bring You Back is her insightful and stirring attempt to cope with her husband’s memory loss. This poem was published by the Alzheimer’s Society.
At a Holocaust memorial ceremony at Earle Bales Park, her poem Never Again was read. She has been asked by the Reena Foundation and other charitable organizations to write about their agencies’ work with the handicapped and disabled.
Lipton has loved music since childhood. She and her husband frequently vacationed in Spain, where she became fascinated by flamenco music.
After unsuccessful muscle surgery to one of her calves in 1958, she began a strenuous exercise regime that included heel and toe exercise on a wooden board.
“The exercise reminded me of Spanish dancing,” she says, “so I decided to learn flamenco dance.”
Wearing a long dress that covered her disfigured leg, Lipton, wielding her castanets, began to hold musical sessions at home and to dance at a number of fundraising events.
She performed when the late businessman, philanthropist and theatrical impresario Ed Mirvish held a fundraising event on Markham Street in Toronto for cancer research.
Lipton has volunteered for the Elizabeth Fry Society, Circle of Care, the Bernard Betel Centre for Creative Living and other organizations.
It is her creativity that has kept her spirits high, and although she now copes with aches and pains, she still responds with movements of her feet and hands to music.
She says she is proud of her three children and seven grandchildren. Her sons are Garry and Bob Lipton, and her daughter, Susan Kadis, served as Liberal member of Parliament for Thornhill.
In her poem Flamenco Passion, Lipton expresses her zest for life. “Walking or standing is such a chore/ isn’t that what feet are for?”
She continues, “Looking back, I have no regrets. I loved the dance with the castanets.”
Behind the Spanish Wall was published by the Ontario Poetry Society. For more information, call 905-889-7563.