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Saturday, November 28, 2009

One Year

It has been one year since my mom passed away. I did not believe that time would pass without her on earth, but here we are, and it looks like it has. Somehow, the world has kept spinning, the sun comes up and goes down every day, I wake up and I go to sleep every day. I don't know how the earth and I and my dad and Tony and all her other family and friends do it, but we do, and time has passed.

I want to write some things about my mom, to help us all remember her a little better. I have no plan for this, I am just going to keep writing until I can't write any more for now, or until, heaven forbid, I run out of memories. Read it if you want, this is as much for me as for anyone else. I apologize if it is hard to follow.

My mom loved sports. She loved games of any kind, as we all know, but maybe some people don't know what a sports fanatic she was. Watching a sporting event with her was just that--an event, whether it was college football on TV or the US Open in person. My mom and I went to the US (Tennis) Open together in 2005. We had always loved tennis before that trip, but during that trip, I think we both really fell in LOVE with watching it. We had tickets to 5 sessions over three days, and we did not take a break. We sat out in the blistering sun for 7 hours straight and then 5 more hours at night because we didn't want to miss anything. Even when we did not know the players (that could never happen now--we eventually knew all the pros' names at least) we would find a reason to sit through a match--it was a five setter, the guy next to us was into it, the crowd was into it, the players were cute, we had ice cream or wine to finish...whatever. This trip took place during the height of Roger Federer's dominance. We were both huge fans and were enthralled by his talent. One night all the rich court-side ticket holders left early and we were half-asleep in the third tier, where you can hardly see the ball, and we were given special tickets to go courtside. We vaguely knew the players, but one was American, so the new court-side crowd got into it. The match went the distance, with the American (Robby Ginepri for those tennis fans out there) winning in five sets. We were thrilled. We rode the train back to our hotel after 1 AM and took the above picture in the free hats they gave out at the stadium with our "golden ticket". I was a little scared of walking around New York after midnight but mom wasn't. She had an unending faith in humanity and refused to believe that another person might want to harm her. Her faith made me feel a little safer. During that trip to New York, we also saw the musical "Wicked" (more on musicals later), and visted Coney Island, where we rode a roller coaster, saw street performers, and got my picture with Spongebob. This trip happened on a whim--I remember saying to my mom in the summer that we should go to the US Open together that year, and she said "okay" and she made it happen. It's one of those things that most people, including myself, might put off for some time in the future, but if we had, it may have never happened. I am so glad we did go, it is one of my favorite trips with my mom.

As I mentioned, this trip sparked a LOVE for watching tennis that among everyone I know, only my mom shared with me. The following summer, while we watched Federer inexplicably lose to Rafael Nadal for a second time at the French Open, we simultaneously switched loyalties and became die-hard Rafa fans. My mom even flew me up to Cincinnati that summer so we could both see him play in Cincinnati. We spent a few more afternoons baking in the hot sun, but the definite highlight was seeing Rafa up close and personal on the small court 3 playing doubles. We were both in heaven.

We used to fill out brackets for the tennis majors like most people do for March Madness. She made me a Rafa collage as my prize for beating her in the bracket challenge for two years. We would call each other after every big Rafa match. But we had to be careful because we didn't know if the other had finished watching a recorded match yet, and we couldn't give away the ending.

I would love to go to the US Open again someday. In fact, I would love to see all four of the majors someday. I just don't know who I could go with who would sit with me in the hot sun for hours upon hours and just talk and watch. I miss calling her after matches. I still love tennis, but I don't think I LOVE it anymore. It just isn't the same.

Enough about tennis, more about sports in general: She always loved to have a reason to pull for a player or team. She would pull for Ohio State because Don and Ben loved them. She'd pull for UC because of David and Stacey. She'd even pull for Wisconsin just because Tony and Beth lived there; they weren't even fans. She'd pull for Carolina for Chris and Detroit for Beth. I think she mostly pulled for the Reds for Mike and Sue Burns. And of course she loved the Bengals. Especially after she got sick and couldn't do as much, she would get so excited when any one of the above teams was playing, and she'd make an event out of watching it. I'd even watch them when I was in Wilmington, just so I could talk to her on the phone about it the next day. After she passed, I felt piercingly how empty it was now to watch sports without her to share them with.

I also don't know anyone else who shares my love for musicals like my mom did. Among our favorites are Jesus Christ Superstar (which she took me and Susan and Erica to see in Columbus), Les Miserables (which we saw together on our first trip to NY), Tommy (we saw in Cincinnati), and Wicked (NY). She also loved Phantom of the Opera and Fiddler on the Roof, which I saw with her for the first time a few months before she died. Oh yeah, and the Sound of Music. During the spring of my Junior year in high school, my mom drove me to the two colleges I applied for, OU and UNC Wilmington. I remember the 12 hour drive down to NC, we just sang and sang to musical after musical in the car together. When we got to Wilmington, we drove right by the college and straight to the beach. As we looked out on the ocean filled with pelicans and surfers, we knew this college had to be better than OU. That was another thing my mom loved--the beach.

We were supposed to make that trip over spring break, but we got a lot of snow that week and we used that as an excuse to stay inside and play SET. Really, I think we could have made it to OU, but we didn't want to. I even postpone my interview to get into the Honors College at OU. We sure did play a lot of SET that week.

You all know how much my mom loved to travel. I spent a semester in College studying in Luxembourg, and my mom came out to visit for the first week of spring break. The two of us started out with a visit to Switzerland. We had breakfast on the top of a mountain, as her tour book recommended, and couldn't see a thing through the thick clouds up there. We picked up some bon bons before heading down on a train to Italy. On the train we met a very nice Tibetan monk who gave us both little Buddhas. We met up with Susan and Erica in a small coastal Italian town, Montossoro? The owner of the hotel where we stayed was a friendly man named Andrea who gives all his customers a bottle of his home-made wine before leaving. We happened to leave on Easter, and we enjoyed our wine and our Swiss bon-bons on the beach before leaving town. I remember my mom saying "it doesn't get any better than this". She was also so good at living in the moment and recognizing the good times. Anyway, we headed to the train station, boarded the train to Florence, broke out the Bailey's, and started wondering aloud if mom could somehow get a cheaper ticket. (The wine and Bailey's were doing their jobs by now). My mom decided to get off the train and see. As soon as she stepped off, the doors closed behind her and we were off. Erica said, "we lost your mom in Italy!" We didn't know what to do, so we got off at the next stop. My mom ended up catching the next train, beating us to Florence, and making friends with our new hotel owners. Big surprise.

When I turned 8 years old, I had a big slumber party. That was what we did for our birthdays back then--no renting out a place and spending loads of money--just slumber parties. The party started out great, and then for some reason, there was a rift. Half the girls would not speak to the other half. The rift carried on to the next morning and it almost ended that way, but at breakfast my mom had us all play a silly game of "what are you going to take on a picnic" and all was immediately forgiven. She didn't remember doing that, but she saved my party.

My mom was a great gift giver. She always knew the perfect gift for someone. And she would spend way more on a gift for someone else than she would spend on herself. It was just more worth it to her. I remember the first year we moved onto Trestle Drive, I was nine, and I wanted both a premie Cabbage Patch Kid and a giant version of my favorite stuffed animal, Randolph. My mom told me I could only have one, and that I had to pick which one I wanted. I spent the entire December trying to decide which one I wanted. I forget which one I chose--by the time I finally told her she had forgotten the whole thing. I got them both.

One night when I was quite young--five, maybe, I must have really been acting up, because my mom said, "You are such a pill!" It struck me because I didn't really know what that meant, but I knew it sounded bad. What strikes me about it now is that it's the only time that I can remember my mom saying anything slightly negative about me to me during my entire childhood. That is amazing. How she was able to keep her cool--she is my mom-model.

Well, I haven't run out of memories, but my hand is cramping, so I guess I'll have to wrap up. I wanted this post to be more than about my memories, though. My mom is a role model to me in so many ways. She was so "giving of herself". I will never know how she found the time to do all she did. She had such a full life--a job, a family, literally hundreds of friends, helping people in need, playing tennis, cleaning the house and putting food on the table--I can barely manage to do two of those things! But I think one of the best things about my mom is that she would never speak badly about another person, and she didn't want others to either. She always found the good in people. I think it's one of the ways she brought such positive energy to herself and those around her and was able to achieve so much. It's something we can all strive for.

I will save more memories for some other time. I would love to hear some of yours. Take as much room as you like. It feels good to share.

The year is over, but I miss her more each day.


Erica Kennedy said...

OH MY GOSH I FORGOT ABOUT LEAVING YOUR MOM IN ITALY!!! I just laughed so hard that I was crying. I remember the hotel we stayed in too. I specifically remember Linda and me marveling at how we were sleeping under the angels at the hotel. Because above us were frescoed paintings of angels, herald trumpets and flowers. I have never been in a nicer hotel since. It was such a treat to have her come and spend time with us. We had just spent the last three months living out of bags, sleeping on cots in youth hostels that cost 5.00 a night. THEN your mom flies in for a week and treats us BIG TIME!!! WINE, FOOD, ACTUAL BEDS! What an amazing week. Andreas was too funny too. Sorry Jim but he was hitting on Linda BIG TIME. I experienced the best pesto and wine I have ever had in Monterosso with Andreas and his big bottles of wine. I remember how funny we thought it was that Andreas was just giving us big bottles of wine and we all went immediately to the beach and celebrated with chocolates. TOO FUNNY.

I remember the winter of SETS too. Linda was so sweet because she kept making us cookies, pizza bagels and food to keep us entertained. Now that I am a high school teacher I can honestly say I would have kicked us teens out of the house and said, GO HANG OUT SOMEWHERE ELSE! I NEED ALONE TIME! But she never minded us being there. That was so sweet.

I can't believe the world has kept moving and going without Linda. I think of her often and wish she were here with us. What a great woman, mom and friend.

Love, Erica

Kelly Mathias said...

God Bless You, Andrea! Thanks for sharing the beautiful and amazing memories of your Mother. It's lovely to get to know more and more about her wonderful journey through you, Tony, and your Father.

Love, Kelly Mathias

Anonymous said...

What a story ! It is such a good description of your mom's personality. I do miss her a lot also. I think she's in heaven for sure. A beutiful minded person like her has to be. You and your dad have captured exactly images of Linda who I had been fortunate enough to know; a great person who never talked badly about other people, but always lent an ear for troubled people and tried to turn things into positive ways; a great teacher for not only her students, but for all of us to love living and to appreciate our time on Earth; a great friend to all; a great mom to you and Tony and all her in-laws; just a GREAT HUMAN BEING to sum it up in my term.

I'm so fortunate to have known her and you all, it helps keep me grounded and realize that to live a full life doesn't mean how the successful outcome is, but how we manage it without loosing sight of being a NICE person during those processes.

I even thought to myself this morning that if and when time comes for me, how short or how long of the line people would wait to say their last goodbye to me. I think that's how we all should measure success in life ! Don't you think !

I always have your mom, Linda, in my mind because you're right! SHE is part of us. Thank you for sharing her with me.

With love,


Susan said...

Loved reading about these memories ... some of which I was lucky enough to be a part of! Damn, we sure had some great times. Linda was the only "mom of a friend" who was also such a good friend to me in her own right. That is something special. I always think of her as someone I'd like to be more like.

Mary Claire said...

Oh, my God. I couldn't finish it in one reading because I started crying. Your mom sounds like she was a lot of fun and a great friend to have. It must have been great having a mom to watch sports with. I'll finish it when I can pull myself together again.

tasia said...

what a beautiful story and a relationship to be envious of....i consider myself close to my mom, but this has inspired me to want to do more with her...to see the world with her....thank you.

Kathy Boutiere said...

I only met your mom once in my life, but she left a lasting impression on me. She was my son's teacher at Badin, and when we spoke with her at parent-teacher conferences, she said such wonderful things about him that only a person with great empathy and intuition would have picked up on. What a sweet lady...I will never forget her. You were truly blessed to have her as a mom.