Tuesday, June 16, 2009

For the One Who is Strong and Wise & Knows No Fear

It was but two short weeks ago, which have actually felt like two exceptionally long weeks, that Suzy B. - Margaret's mom - died. In the fortnight that has passed since that exquisitely painful morning, my little wife has been wrapped in a cloak of sadness.

And yet, she remains her mother's daughter. That is why beginning tonight she shall be where she has been annually at this time every year that I have known her, which is manning the 50/50 table at the Festa of St. Ann's Church in Raritan Boro (home of WW II hero and Medal of Honor recipient John Basilone). She shall be there tonight, and every night this week, not because she really wants to be there but because had the fates not conspired against her and taken her mother from her - from all of us - it is where the two of them would have been together. And Margaret shall be there tonight and every night this week until the Festa concludes on Saturday night, which I guess means that I am off of the hook for our anniversary this Friday night. Who knew that the 16th anniversary was the sausage & peppers/zeppole jubilee?

Margaret shall be where she shall be tonight and each of the next five nights thereafter because duty runs deep in her veins. Candidly, I am of the opinion that she has no obligation to be there but on this issue my opinion carries no weight whatsoever. Thus, it is an opinion I express to her not at all. I recognize in my wife the need to fill the void left by her Mom's death, which is enormous, both in her daily life and in the lives of others. And this week, in a way that will be significantly more painful than I think my bride has allowed herself to even imagine, she will be filling that void. And in doing so, she shall pay tribute to not only her Mom but to her other two special angels who have died since last year's edition of this parish's annual racketeering activity. At this time last year, Nanny was still alive. So was Margaret's Aunt Meni.

In fact, at this time last year, because Margaret's 94 year old grandmother insisted on going every night to work at the 50/50 table - alongside her daughter and granddaughter - Margaret loaded Nanny's wheelchair into the trunk of her car every night. Off she went into the evening, chaperoning her Golden Girls. This June, there are no wheelchairs to load into the trunk and there are no special pillows to pack, extra water bottles to chill or snacks to bring along, all of which had been part of Margaret's ritual each of the past several Junes to make sure that her Mom had everything she needed while they were manning their post. My little bride may feel that she is the Last of the Mohicans.

A few years ago, my wife opened my ears to the music of Martina McBride. Ms. McBride is a country artist and on two or three occasions in the past two or three years, Margaret and I have seen her perform live. Upon first seeing her in person, I realized that it was not just her voice that drew Margaret to her - it is the whole package. Martina, like Margaret, is a little tiny woman whose abilities and gifts far outstrip the small body in which they are contained. She sings in a style akin to the manner in which my wife lives her life: full out and replete with emotion and heart. She sings a song that makes me think of Suzy B. and Nanny; Margaret and Suzy B.; and Suzanne and Margaret each and every time I hear it.

And at some point this week, Suzanne will undoubtedly join Margaret at the 50/50 table, drawn to it like a moth to the flame by an unspoken, innate sense that it is where she should be and where she wants to be. And there my two girls will sit, side by side, enduring the well-intentioned but pain-provoking good wishes of all who pass by. All those who say what they mean and mean what they say about Suzy B and about Nanny but will say it without stopping to think just how much it hurts each and every time a Band-Aid gets ripped anew off a still open wound. Neither Margaret nor Suzanne will say anything but "thank you" to those who come by to pay their respects and to offer their sympathies - regardless of how much their hearts ache. For each is her mother's daughter.

And the world will forever be able to see each one's mother by looking in her daughter's eyes.

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