by Morgan Freeberg | May 9, 2010 9:58 am
So my brother has put up a photo in memory of our mother in the Hello-Kitty-of-Bloggin’. I suppose I should recognize this as a worthy example; now that I think on it, it isn’t right to let Mother’s Day go, year after year, just because I’m the only one in the household who doesn’t have one. It’s not just a day to engage in wild commercialism over teddy bears in mugs, cards, portraits and breakfasts.
Mom was called away from us seventeen years ago. A year and a half before that, she worked her way through all sorts of prescribed remedies for cancerous brain tumors, rapidly arriving at the oldest one medicine has for anything: Take her home and make sure she’s comfortable. She outlived the diagnosis a whole bunch of times, and then fell into a deep coma. As the pieces of what made her what she was, passed on into history stage by stage, her body gave up on trying to sustain what was left. This was sometime between 6 and 7 o’clock in the evening on Saturday, February 27, 1993.
The other end of her lifespan I’ll leave to my late Uncle Wally:
Danny, who was now driving the old Stevens and displaying an active interest in girls, needed a regular income to sustain his racy life style. I had achieved varsity status on the Prospect High basketball team and was looking for new and larger worlds to conquer. Bobby, two years my junior, had not yet exhibited the same restlessness, but soon his strong commercial inclinations would involve him in the general revolt. For the moment, however, our fathers’ firm opposition thwarted all of these noble aspirations.
Then one day Mom stunned us with an altogether unexpected announcement. As we finished our supper and prepared to troop upstairs she informed us, a trifle awkwardly, that there would soon be another place at the table.
“Who’s coming” Bobby asked. “Relatives?”
Mom and Dad exchanged a conspiratorial smile. For a change, Dad’s mood seemed less somber than it had been of late.
“Well, yes,” said mom; “but not the kind you are thinking about.”
Our mouths fell open and for once we were at a loss for words. Danny was approaching sixteen, I was fourteen, and Bobby was twelve.
“You mean a baby?” Danny finally blurted out.
“That’s right,” Mom said, obviously pleased with herself at taking us so completely by surprise. Mom was then forty-two and, by our unenlightened reckoning, light-years beyond the proper – or biologically possible – age for childbearing. Up to that moment the possibility of any further increase in our family had no more entered our minds than had the prospect of entertaining a visitor from outer space.
From that moment this great coming event dominated our every waking thought and overshadowed all other considerations. The spare room was cleared and converted into a nursery. Dad set to work making a crib. We boys were at pains, for once, to spare our mother any undue effort.
For the time being the dolor of the Depression was relieved at our house by the prevailing mood of expectancy. Not a little of the excitement hinged on the question of the newcomer’s sex. Another boy? Our parents looked at each other and paled. Surely, not another boy!
Ten days into the new year of 1934 a healthy, squalling baby girl arrived and settled all the speculation. She was christened Mary Ann and immediately became the center of all our attention.
Perhaps someday, someone will rise to the task of capturing in the written word what took place in the 59 years between these two moments. Some buried treasure lies undisturbed because it isn’t thought to be worth the trouble; other rewards sit there neglected because the effort is too daunting. This would fall under the latter of those. You knew Mary Ann Freeberg, or else you didn’t, and if you didn’t then the English language provides a poor arsenal of tools for describing her to you. I’ll only say her memorial service was filled to capacity for a number of reasons that can be explained only through the heart, the soul, and the human spirit.
Perhaps with thoughts and words too. But you’re a better writer than I am if you can figure out how.
Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.
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