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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Birthday, Mom*

I would like to do something a little different today. It is my Mother's birthday, or it would be if she were still alive. I am not really sure how old she would have been, or exactly how many years ago she passed away. It seems like a hundred years ago, and it seems like yesterday. Memories and regrets don't understand the passage of time.

She was a remarkable woman in many ways. having a robust sense of humor and an almost infinite capacity for forgiveness. Both of which her only son tested often, and severely. I thank the heavens almost everyday that my sons are better children than I was. And even more often wish I had been better.

Every year vacation would be spent visiting "the Grandmas," my mom, my aunt (who was really like Mom 2), and my wife's mom. Now they are all gone and memories, a few pictures and some stories are all that remain. Unfortunately for anybody who has made it this far you are about to read a few.

She was born and raised in hard times, and in many ways never really managed to escape. But, she never used that as an excuse to stop trying, or complain about her fate. She worked until she couldn't. And it never bothered her.

We would take my Mom to visit people. It was only a couple of hours, and she enjoyed the trip, or at least pretended to. And I know she loved to see the people. These were her past, her family, and her connection to her long departed husband. Whose passing weighed on her almost daily.

Looking back, it is certain she had fun, and everybody enjoyed seeing her, too. It was a joy watching my family having such a good time. My Uncle Kenny (married to my dads sister) always teased her about being younger than she was, and he was, by a whole day. His birthday is tomorrow.

She was proud, and wanted to pay her way. One time she wanted to pay for breakfast, and headed
toward the register, my cousin Rick took chase. A waitress, almost a perfect fit for a small cafe in a small town in the west, said, "he's going to catch you." She picked up the pace and managed to pay.

We would see her brothers Joe and Matt (the twins) on the way through. It was just for a cup of coffee, maybe a light lunch, but the connection was immediate, and wonderful. Life's simple pleasures can be the best. Why does that always take so long to learn?

She suffered through a degenerative eye disease, and her doctor told her she should quit smoking. She did, though she complained bitterly I think she was always proud of the feat, a woman in her eighties, who had smoked for 60 years and she quit. Of course, she had enough fight in her that she made my little sister promise to tell everybody that quitting smoking is what killed her. She never lost her sense of humor, or irony.

A double mastectomy, also in her eighties, hardly slowed her down. She spent the night, and the next at the hospital, but on the second day, she got up, made her bed, and called my sister to come get her, because I was too slow. "People were looking at me." Yes, mom, you had your time in the sun, after major surgery, now stop eating all their broth, clean up your mess, and get out.

When we went to check on her after she went home she was having difficulty with some of the post operation hygiene, and it was more than I could handle, I rushed to the car, got my wife, and sent her in to take care of things, she really is a good wife (I have tested that also). For years afterward I would remind her how I was there when she needed me. My wife and my mom had a good laugh about that.

So happy birthday, Mom, thanks for everything. In the words of James Joyce "Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghole of a world a Mother's love is not." I always knew she loved me, deserved, or not.

*Sorry this went on so long. She deserved better and I guess this is my way of apologizing.