Today my mother would have been 83 years old. I still miss her and regret the shared opportunities I was too selfish to embrace.
This past month has been a roller coaster of familial information related to my mother’s family history…
My mother’s maiden name was Hooker. Giddily joking that “our mother was a hooker,” I loved the reaction elicited from strangers, yet on a serious note my mother painfully held so many hidden secrets never discussed or known…until now.
This past month my two remaining sisters and I discovered that our mother was born “out of wedlock” two months prior to her parents’ marriage. That was the beginning of an anguished life of alcoholism, divorce, abandonment, remarriage, blended families and outliving two children. In the end, my mother was rewarded with my wonderful father and a life of privilege she never knew as a child.
During the last weeks of my mother’s life, she told me how much she missed her father and wished to see him again. My mother had vague memories of her father, who she believed had died at the age of 52 after gorging himself on alcohol and cigarettes. However, she had no idea where he ended up in life or where he was buried.
On the 81st anniversary of her birth, Kathy, her husband and I spent Shabbat night celebrating the life of our mother. Being the birthday theme celebratory person that I am, we went with Frozen thanks to the suggestion of a colleague.
Two months later, the day before my 50th birthday, my mother took her last breath.
Last Sunday I drove with the hubby to the New Camden Cemetery in Camden, New Jersey after my sister Regina’s discovery that my mother’s father was buried there. Six miles from my home and less than a mile from my Cooper River bike route, the hubby and I scrutinized the surroundings, desperately attempting to locate my grandfather’s plot. Phoning my Irish twin and asking for direction, she told me to look for a big tree and there it was…a faded metal sign signifying the section where our grandfather was laid to rest at the age of 54 from heart failure, as was my mother.
Saddened by the thought that her father had been only a bike ride away, I pitied my poor mother for not having the opportunity to visit her father’s grave. And then it dawned on me – who put the jack-o-lantern there and who has been visiting the grave of my grandfather?!
“Hey Charlie I’m pregnant and living on 9th Street
Right above a dirty bookstore off Euclid Avenue
And I stopped takin dope and I quit drinkin whiskey
And my old man plays the trombone and works out at the track”
Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis – Tom Waits
“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump