Dear Mom –
I hope this finds you well.
This morning a lady cardinal came to rest on one of the chairs on the back deck; I just had to take a picture. As with any cardinal sighting, on any given day, I think of you and I smile. It’s also The Masters weekend; knowing how much you enjoyed watching the stunning colors of Augusta and the building drama as the leaders pass through Amen Corner , heading down the final stretch for the coveted green jacket, I smile again.
I can’t believe it’s been ten years since you died. Sometimes it feels like it was only last month when the six of us, you, Dad and us four kids, were holding hands in a circle. Dad led us in prayer; first the Lord’s Prayer, then a Hail Mary. Your last breath left during the final line of the second prayer, “Now and at the hour of our death.” It was as tragically poetic a moment I’ve ever known. The heart-wrenching conflict of wanting your pain to end and praying for your death still haunts me.
I treasure our last conversation. Climbing into bed with you, holding hands. I can hear your voice whispering words of how proud you are of me and how good a father I had been. Hearing those words have served to encourage me, pulling me from the depths of depression more often than I care to admit. I also remember asking you to put a good word in to the Big Guy about my golf game; I really wanted to finally break 80! You giggled, squeezed my hand and as you closed your eyes for the last time for me to see, you said, “I will”.
I don’t know how the whole Heaven thing really works, and maybe you already know all this, but here’s a quick update on the past decade. (So sorry if you already know all this).
Leigh and I are coming up on our 36-year wedding anniversary (I know, the Angels are shocked and shaking their heads, aren’t they?) We celebrated last year’s anniversary with a spring trip to Paris. Aside from the beauty and charm of the City, I had constant reminders of our family traveling through Europe in the red VW van in the late 1960’s. So sweet the sound of foreign tongues, going about their day.
We’re still in the same house in Mechanicsburg. Shortly after you died the neighbors pitched in and bought a Bittersweet Magnolia tree that I planted in the back yard. Its short annual bloom always occurs around this special time of year.
The purple ribbon on the branch was used to tie balloons together at a memorial service for Addison, our 8-year old neighbor, and former student of Leigh’s. She passed away in 2013. I knew you wouldn’t mind sharing your tree with Addison’s ribbon; her favorite color was purple.
Chris graduated from Pitt shortly after you died. After a couple years of working in York he moved to Ft Lauderdale and met a girl, Lindsey, who is from York. Lindsey is bright, energetic and a terrific mother. I know you would love her as we do. They have since moved back to York with your two great-grandsons, Levi and Nash. Leigh gets to babysit two days a week. It is no small joy to have them so close.
Pete, the surfer boy Caity met in Australia, is still around. Truthfully, he is every dad’s dream of what he’d want his daughter to be attracted to. He and Caity married in 2012 and live in Stonington, CT with your great granddaughter Grace. You always said you’d wish that I’d get my “comeuppance” with my children. That, fortunately for me, didn’t happen. But it appears the “wish” may have skipped a generation as Gracie is giving Pete and Caity a run for their money. Gracie is expecting a little brother in 8 weeks. We’re all very excited for his arrival.
There has been no greater joy for me than watching Chris and Caity become parents. They are loving, attentive, and committed to “being present“ for their kids. I know you would be so proud of them. Our grandchildren are my Heaven on earth.
As for me, I’m still sober, still in real estate, and still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve found a surprising love of “acting” as I’m now in my third year with a theatre that focuses on long-form improvisational comedy. Could you ever imagine I’d be attracted to the art form of making stuff up in front of an audience? (Angels laughing yet?)
As for golf, I finally broke 80 for the first time 4 months after you put the good word in. I keep the balls, with score and dates, on my office shelf.
Mom, there’s been no morning-after mourning your death. I miss you. Your lessons and the love you shared are a constant and flowing presence in my life. I feel it, and I see it in your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I don’t know what your wi-fi situation is in Heaven, but you should check out my blog some time (www.tongonpig.com). There are some stories you might enjoy (unless of course, you already know everything that is happening!)
Pat, (your favorite child)
P.S. Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia are leading at 6-under after the third round. I know if you have the opportunity you’ll be sitting on a sofa somewhere watching the drama on the back nine unfold tomorrow afternoon.