July 27, 1945 was the magical day that our mom, Linda, came into this world. She grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts with her sister, Diane, and her mom and Dad. My mom was very close to her dad and to her uncle Lee and her grandmother, Mémère. They were her biggest supporters while she was growing up.
My mom did many things, from binding books, to nursing, to studying to be a teacher. Then she met John and the world changed again. Mom and Dad married on September 9, 1967 — that’s 50 years ago — and they moved to Brooklyn, where, a year later, my brother John jr. was born. The family continued to expand and when Lisa was on the way, they found a quaint little house in Levittown, and there they set the roots that would grow to this day.
Our lives were fraught with ups and downs, but my mom did everything she could to persevere. I don’t want to focus on the hard times but there are a few key moments that explain the heart of who my mom truly was.
I remember, in third grade, I was doing well in school. So well, that the material was too easy for me. Mom worked with the school and was able to get me split into some fourth grade classes ahead of my time. I was enrolled in the Enrichment Program, where I did special projects. In 4th grade, I was very sick and had to have my tonsils removed. Later that year, I broke my arm and in the X-rays, they discovered I had a tumor growing. I needed surgery to have it removed. I’ll never forget the report card that said I had missed 72 and 3/2 Days. Through it all, Mom made sure I had ice cream – even though vanilla tasted like wood – and had tutors coming to the house to make sure I didn’t miss my education. When I went to fifth grade, I still went to my Enrichment classes. I had no idea they had kicked me out because of all my absences in 4th grade. Mom went and fought for me and got me reinstated into the program.
In seventh grade, we were all part of the science fair. I had worked with my granddad to create a robot moth, thanks to a remote control car of Kim’s we demolished for parts. Mom and Dad came to see me in action. What I didn’t know at the time was that Mom had had massive periodontal surgery that morning, where they had removed half her teeth. She was in complete and total agony. But she was still there by my side.
We all have our faults. We’ve all made mistakes. But through thick and thin, the family and friends who matter to us, stick with us through it all. Mom was there for me in my darkest times, when I felt I had no purpose. And even though we watched her in her darkest hours, she fought for us, always. She put our needs ahead of her own, time and time again.
Last May, Kevin proposed to me and this past April we had our wedding. Mom had been through several foot surgeries, a literally broken back, and necrotic hip that needed to be replaced. Yet she was determined to be at our wedding, to walk the aisle with me, and to have our mother-son dance together. As we drew closer to the day, we weren’t sure what she would be able to do. But… She came to our wedding. She walked down the aisle with me and my dad. And she danced with me.
Mom and Dad just had their 50th wedding anniversary. I can’t imagine what my dad must be feeling. But I know Mom would want to make sure he eats, and for him to find happiness in the days ahead.
Mom loved people and the critters in her life. She would feed the birds, tuppence a bag, and the birds all knew when it was feeding day. The cardinals would shine their red feathers and flutter through the yard. We had dogs, rabbits, teddy bear hamsters and gerbils, turtles, fishes, an accidental ferret, and – of course – the cats. There was Tammy, who had her kittens in the fireplace, and Rocky and Pogo and Shadow.
We all relied on Mom in our times of need. We sought her counsel on everything, from the big decisions to the small. I will miss the silly times we laughed about the word ‘water’ and her saying ‘ferblunjit’.
She would pray to Saint Anthony if she lost anything and to Saint Francis, keeper of animals. I will miss how she always talked to Mémère who used to call me Senator, and to granddad who would always find her a parking spot. Like them watching over her, I know she will always watch over us. She will always be in our hearts, forever and always.
Today is a difficult day, but the date is special. It’s a friend’s birthday but also, it’s 11/7/17 — all ones and sevens. Kim was born 11/17/77 all one’s and sevens. Rearrange the digits of today’s date and you get Lisa’s birthday, also all one’s and sevens. And if you add up the ones and sevens in today’s date, you get 17, a one and seven. Clearly, there’s a deep connection. And if we take that sum of 17 and combine those, we get 8 which is the same shape as infinity. Forever will Mom be with us.
Her favorite story of all time was Yentl. It is about a Jewish girl who wanted to know about the world around her, not just her one piece of sky, but women were meant to be housewives and deliver children. They weren’t allowed to be educated, or taught to read. But Yentl had a dream and her Papa believed in her and he taught her anyway. And when he died, Yentl pursued her dream, dressed as a man to blend in, and she prayed to her Papa daily. Mom so loved the essence of this story that it was on repeat in her car and has been for ages.
This lives in me as it does all of us. Mom always believed in us despite the odds the world set against us. From this moment on, I will ask: Mama, can you hear me?
And so, I leave you with this…
Piece of Sky (Yentl)
Tell me where
Where is it written
What is it I was meant to be?
That I can’t dare
It all began the day I found
That from my window I could only see
A piece of sky
I stepped outside and looked around
I never dreamed it was so wide
Or even half as high
The time had come
(Papa, can you hear me?)
To try my wings
(Papa, are you near me?)
And even though it seemed at any moment I could fall
I felt the most
(Papa, can you see me?)
(Can you understand me?)
The things you can’t imagine
If you’ve never flown at all
Though it’s safer to stay on the ground
Sometimes where danger lies
There the sweetest of pleasures are found
No matter where I go
There’ll be memories that tug at my sleeve
But there will also be
More to question, yet more to believe
Oh tell me where?
Where is the someone who will turn to look at me?
And want to share
My every sweet-imagined possibility?
The more I live, the more I learn
The more I learn, the more I realize
The less I know
Each step I take
(Papa, I’ve a voice now!)
Each page I turn
(Papa, I’ve a choice now!)
Each mile I travel only means
The more I have to go
What’s wrong with wanting more?
If you can fly, then soar!
With all there is, why settle for
Just a piece of sky?
Papa, I can hear you
Papa, I can see you
Papa, I can feel you
Papa, watch me fly!