I know that I’ve mentioned on the Super-blog, my readers, how much I appreciate the arts as well as the local libraries and librarians in general and those who are regular readers know why I expound on why I support them so much.
Well, for a Spectrumite like myself, permit me to set the scene, one that’s very familiar I feel to most Spectrumites in my shoes, so to speak. I was fresh out of high school, coming from structure to chaos, socially speaking. I was always sitting by myself in the large cafeteria and I was struggling with the social climate that college can bring, so many social cues; social events missed out on, so many friendships not maintained due to a difference I had.
I felt so alone, so unworthy, so out of place in this vast community, it was a depressing time, to tell the truth. Sure, the teachers knew me and my challenges, accommodating for me especially on exams and all that and I knew people that were there, but for all that, I never really found a family.
That all changed when Larry came along.
He made it a point to make sure that I was welcome, moreso when you consider that he has two sons on the Spectrum like me, it was like I had found an oasis, a family at SUNY Ulster. My friendship with him, his friends and his family was exactly what I needed to grow, not only as a person, but also as an artist as well. I met so many artists like Mikhail Horowitz, Carol Zaloom, Yusef Komunyakka, Da Chen, Billy Collins all thanks to his efforts to bring so many other artists to the Hudson Valley area.
He did it because he felt like community colleges were just as good, if not better than Ivy League schools. He believed in that idea so much that he brought other ideas into the mix, like Information Literacy (the link is posted here: https://www.sunyulster.edu/library/information_literacy.php) as well as other artistic programs into SUNY Ulster.
I like to think (although maybe I’m wrong) that he believed in my efforts as well, due to our obvious connections with poetry and autism. I heard one time a story that he ran back to his house to tell his wonderful wife about me, I can only imagine the hope that brought to them.
I only hope that I’ve lived up to their expectations, since at times I’m not too sure, myself. I guess that’s why his passing hit me so hard, since he meant so much to me.
It was a consolation that his Library family was mourning along with me. After Larry’s passing, his Library family adopted me into their family, so much so that they wrote supportive messages to me when I graduated SUNY Ulster. I felt like Worf from Star Trek, finally being accepted into the House of Martok on Deep Space Nine, it was that kind of feeling for me.
It’s the reason I volunteer in a Literacy Program inside the ARC Mid Hudson as an autistic person to show hope and teach literacy to people that I consider my friends. I hear people call me an inspiration so I feel compelled to volunteer in that capacity.
But I digress..
I wrote this poem in the person of my late mentor’s character named Charley, who was an ex-pat in his adopted country of France, specifically the city of Paris and I feel like this poem shows that Larry’s light is something that his friends and his family share to those whose lives they touch. Without further ado, I present this poem:
-in memory of the late Larry Berk, near the 9th Anniversary of his passing-
what we do
If you wish to hear more of the Charley Poems my late mentor made, his wonderful son, Jonah did a project last year, recording Charley Poems from the book he made. I’ve copied the link if you’re so inclined to listen (and it’s worth a listen, believe me!!)
May his light shine to help us on our way so that we can help our world be better and, as always….