She would have been 100-years old yesterday, if she had lived that long.
Out of a busy schedule, digging for information, watching Torrey Pines and the PGA Tour, looking for storylines to write about, it dawned on me, in the strangest place.
The first round of the Farmers Insurance Open was delayed yesterday morning at Torrey Pines by fog, lots of it, damp-cold-breezy fog. The kind I used to encounter growing up on Eastern Long Island. Fog that rolls in so thick, you think you can cut it open with a pair of scissors. Fog so wet, it just drips. Fog so chilly you get cold despite a couple of layers of clothing. Fog that makes you think of old time London, England movies.
And it reminded me of home, and then it reminded me of my mother, who would have been 100-yesterday morning. It brought to mind a message I always pass on to friends.
I lost my dad at a young of age to cancer, died a week after he retired, never knowing he was sick. Cancer, the cruel form of death.
My mom died at 94, having living a full life. Alzheimer’s and Dementia took her, took her quickly from us. Dementia, the saddest form of death.
But in the mist and the chill and the solitude that was Torrey Pines, I remembered growing up with her. Family of seven kids, devout Italian Catholics, with rules and regulations that never seemed to end. Strong discipline, stronger values. Education and religion a part of everyday life like eating, sleeping and playing.
You remember incidents, getting hit with a hairbrush for pulling your sister’s hair. Getting sent to the bedroom for hours for being mischievous. Getting your mouth washed out with soap for saying a ‘no-no’. Being made to sit at the dining room table and doing that homework, till it was done, and double-checked.
You think back to to reality things in life. Wondering how a family that big could subsist without much income, and yet send all the kids to Catholic school, and all four to college.
Flashbacks of family pictures, holidays, what few vacations we took. Remembering a mother who seemed forever awaiting the arrival of the next baby. Thinking back to her raising a family almost single handedly while her husband travelled with a job.
In the waning days of her life, when I took ‘care control’ of her, instead of sadness, we played to the memory of the life lived. She didn’t always remember my name, confused me with a brother, said I was her husband, even asked me who was sitting at the end of the couch-my wife of 35-years.
Though there was not much current currency in her memory bank, there was history. One night, sitting watching an NHL hockey game, she told me “I was there”. Where I said? “There-at Madison Square Garden”. When-with who. “With that man. He took me and we had a great time on my first date.” She was referencing a different era. It was 1936 and my dad had taken her to see the Montreal Canadiens-vs-New York Rangers at the Garden. Strange the way the ancient memory kicked in. A treasured moment.
We all grow from our life’s experiences, good and bad. We all remember happy times and sad. Some families were great, some were broken; some had wealth, others had poverty; some had love while others had alcohol. We are a product of where we came from for sure.
But on this day, I thought of where she came from, a huge family, working in the mills, where Italian was the tongue, not English, and how she became the first to go to college. How she lived a life of values and love. How she steeled herself against the adversity of what happened to her brothers in World War II. How she lived a life of strength after her husband passed. And how her life spanned from Ellis Island, thru the Depression, the war, suburbia, and kids and grand-kids.
Of all the things you learn, the most valuable thing is to understand your heritage, your family, it’s history. For when they, the parents are gone, a true piece of your life goes with it.
100-years, I relish what I know about her and her life, that impacted our life. A mother may be gone, but surely never-ever forgotten. You should try and grasp that too with your family. Torrey Pines and banks of fog made me remember.