Saturday, June 13, 2009

Peppers and Eggs

Today is Mom's birthday. She is eighty-two years young. I worry still - much as I did when she announced more than a dozen years ago that she was packing up and moving to Florida - about her living hundreds of miles away from her adult children (and in some cases - adult grandchildren as well) and all by herself. Yet even I must admit that her ability to take care of herself and to handle all that gets thrown out her is still as present as it ever was.

All the good stuff that is somehow churned up inside of me is a gift from my mother. Conversely, no blame of any of the misery I have ever inflicted, whether intentionally or through sheer neglect or indifference, rests with her. She worked hard to provide me with an opportunity to make something of myself. It was not her job to give me a guarantee that I would. That responsibility has rested with me - as it rests with all of us.

She is a woman of incredible strength and compassion. One night earlier this week, as she begins her Summer in Jersey, she came for a visit. She really did not come to see me. Rather, the principal reason for her visit was to check in on - and gauge the emotional temperature of - my bride Margaret and my father-in-law Joe. Mom has been friends with Joe/Sue since the first time all three of them met one another, which was almost two decades ago. Mom and Sue became soul sisters - bound together by their unfortunate experience battling a common foe - from the moment that Sue was diagnosed with breast cancer approximately four and one half years ago. Throughout the past four and one half years, they have exchanged countless phone calls and cards as Mom did what she could do to be there for her friend, to answer questions for her about what was to come - the good, the bad and the painful -and to listen to Sue when she voiced fears and concerns that only one who had walked the path each of them walked battling this disease could fully comprehend.

Mom, all eighty-two years of her, sat in Joe's kitchen for several hours one night earlier this week just swapping stories with an old friend and, in the subtle, quiet "Mom" way in which she does things, reassuring Joe and Margaret that while they cannot imagine presently a moment in time when the hole that has been punched in each of their hearts will begin to heal, indeed such a moment shall arrive. And she shared with Joe some of the things she went through, felt and experienced twenty-eight years ago when my father - and her husband of more than thirty years - died and left her with half of her six children to finish educating and raising on her own. There were times when neither spoke and there were times when both laughed in response to something that one or the other had said. And when Mom left Joe's home that evening - for just a little while anyway he felt a bit better about the road ahead of him.

Today is Mom's birthday. Happy Birthday to you, Mom. It has been my great good fortune to have been afforded the privilege of having been raised by you and having learned a lot of what I know of the world from you. I love you.


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