Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Happy Birthday to Mom

Wednesday, August 22 would have been Mom's 68th birthday. I can't let the day pass without many private thoughts and at least a public mention.

When I was being interviewed by the Rockwell Museum guys last week, the conversation turned to what Mom's Cancer means to me now that some time has passed since the events I wrote about. That's a hard question to answer. One surprising thing I realized is that my understanding of Mom's ordeal still changes and grows. For example, it was many months later, long after the book was published, that I looked back with astonishment at just how unbelievably brave Mom was. I wrote in Mom's Cancer that "it's amazing what you can get used to," and until everything was long over I didn't quite understand what a miserable situation she'd gotten used to--we'd all gotten used to--one sad and disspiriting setback after another, Mom trying to maintain hope for herself but mostly for her children. It was an amazingly graceful exhibition of love.
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Here's to Mom, still teaching me stuff.

In the TB sanatorium as a child

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School portrait

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Dressed for prom

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A brief turn as a model, around age 19. What a babe.

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A young mother and ... er, ahem, well ... Me.

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The day she married my (step)Dad

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Her 64th birthday, when she received her pup, Hero.

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7 comments:

Sherwood Harrington said...

A beautiful tribute, Brian, and thanks for the photos' trip through time for those of us who didn't know her through the journey.

My Dad has a would-have-been 92nd birthday coming up shortly; I'll see if I can do the same for him.

And I can't let this pass:

"[I]t's amazing what you can get used to," and until everything was long over I didn't quite understand what a miserable situation she'd gotten used to--we'd all gotten used to--one sad and dispiriting setback after another, Mom trying to maintain hope for herself but mostly for her children. It was an amazingly graceful exhibition of love.

Before he got sick, there is probably no one in the world I would have thought that description might apply to less than my son, Doug. I was very, very wrong.

Bless you, Brian, for putting so much of your personal world out here and making us all the richer for it, as we recognize one connection after another. Sometimes the best possible support is simply the realization that others have been there before.

Like I'm telling you anything new.

Mike said...

As you look back on the book and ponder the insights you've gained since then, I hope you realize that the book was about what your family went through at the time -- it was an act of journalism, not a work of history. Much of its impact is in that immediacy, and its value is very much based on the fact that you got it all down before time and reflection could change those impressions. You will, no doubt, look on it as a document of where you were at in that moment. Like that photo spread of your mother at various moments of her life, Mom's Cancer is a snapshot to be pondered and protected and shared. (And it's instructive to see, in the shot of her towards the end of her life, the twinkle of that irrepressible babe we saw in the earlier photos. That's the part the disease never got to, and that's a large part of what you were able to document. I don't think the book would have worked otherwise.)

Judd said...

Brian:

A very touching tribute to your Mom. So often now your Mom is thought of as just as a character in your graphic novel. However, as you and I know she truly was a character here in life! Your words and thoughts today would have brought a big smile to her face! She did "get used to a lot" as it came at her and I think we are all a little bit better for having made the tough journey with her in person and though your book. I look back on that time as happy, sad and very special. Many a weekend I would stop by and visit her in the hospital to bring her a people magazine, a candy bar and chat. She would always be more concerned with what was going on with my life then what she was going through. Even though I am a sane, rational person, in the end ,as most, I was taken by surprise. She had me convinced, as she believed, that each health issue was just another small bump in the road and that she would conquer it. I think she did. She had a huge laugh (not unlike your sisters) and a remakable talent for putting people at ease even with just a simple chat. However, she could also "call me on the carpet" for a pinch of a sake cup that I would take after dinner from a random sushi resturaunt! I miss our chats and my friend. Happy B-day Babs

patricia said...

Wonderful photos, Brian, and a lovely tribute. I especially like the one of your mom celebrating her wedding. She really did have an amazing smile.

And I gotta say this...man, you were one heck of a chubby little bubby. So cute!

Namowal said...

Thanks to your blog and graphic novel your mom is still teaching other people stuff too. I hope I can be as tough if I'm diagnosed with a serious illness.
Also, in my opinion, the last few lines in her afterward is great advice in any context. Something like "...watch a lot of comedies, keep your hands and mind busy, relax and breath for as long as you can, knowing others are holding you up."

ronnie said...

There's nothing I could possibly add to what's been said.

So, just thank you, for the pictures. I, too, love the wedding photo, which I'd never seen before. Her happiness just shines.

ronnie

Brian Fies said...

So many friends in one set of comments! Thanks, everyone, I appreciate it.