Source: POSTSCRIPT TO LOVE STORY ACT 2
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I CALLED HER TERRY, EVERYONE CALLED HER TERRY
SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL
SHE WAS SWEET, KIND, AND UNDERSTANDING
SHE WAS EVERYTHING A WIFE AND MOTHER COULD BE
SHE WAS THE NURSE AND TEACHER FOR OUR THREE DAUGHTERS
SHE GAVE THEM DIRECTION, PROTECTION AND UNDYING LOVE.
WE HAD 65 YEARS OF GOOD AND BAD, BUT ALWAYS WITH LOVE FOR EACH OTHER.
WHEN THINGS GOT TUFF I CALLED HER TESS.
WHEN I WAS DRIVING SHE CALLED ME , WHO KNOWS WHAT?
BUT NEXT DAY TERRY WAS OK.
I HAVE A LIFETIME OF MEMORIES TO LIVE ON FROM NOW ON.
MAY GOD WATCH OVER HER AND GIVE ME DIRECTION TO LIVE BY.
GOOD BYE MY TERRY
— DAVID BRITT
Since sharing my parents’ story of their determination to live independently in their own home, I now want to share this eulogy which was given by my father at my mother’s funeral last week. They had three wonderful months together, back in their own home, before a stroke took my mother way too soon. They should have had more. They deserved more. But we will always be grateful for those last 3 months of laughter and love. Miss you Mom
They met not long after the war ended, in a time of boundless optimism and hope. They married soon after, promising for better or worse, richer or poorer, until death would they part. While the riches never came, they were never poor, and always grateful for what they had. Some times were better, some worse, but they honored their vows and lived far more years together as man and wife than they had ever lived alone. They were a handsome couple. When he would take her in his arms, and they would glide across the dance floor, there was no more graceful couple in the room.
The next war separated them briefly but then they were back together, each doing their part to raise their growing family. Money was tight but they enjoyed their simple pleasures. Sharing a pizza at midnight, after his evening shift with the local police department. Beach parties with fellow cops and their families, singing songs in the glow of a bonfire. And, whenever work schedules would allow, Sunday afternoons at local parks and playgrounds with their young daughters.
The years were kind to them, and when they had the chance to retire to a warmer climate, they grabbed it. Still young, in their 50’s, they finally had the time to enjoy some of the things denied them as they raised their family – travel and golf and socializing with new friends. They seized their 60’s. Health issues began to slow them down in their 70’s but still they lived and laughed and enjoyed their time with family and friends. And then their 80’s began to wear them down.
Friends not much older than themselves began to fall ill. Some passed away. Others moved away to be closer to their kids. Their world began to shrink to a never ending series of doctors’ appointments, Thursday outings to the senior center and twenty four hour news channels. She fretted about his declining health. He chafed at her concern/nagging. Grocery shopping and housework became more of a challenge. The future looked less and less appealing.
Well intentioned advice triggered a move to assisted living. Neither had ever expected to make that sort of a move. No one ever really wants to lose their independence and they were no exception. But it was supposed to make their lives easier. Spare them the effort of cooking and cleaning and taking care of each other. At first, she tried to make the best of it. But the move did not live up to their expectations. She moved in first and he was to follow once he sold their home and most of their possessions. But then she fell, badly injuring herself, and everything changed.
The days and nights dragged on endlessly as she sat, depressed and in pain, and slowly deteriorated. His heart broke to see her suffering. He visited her daily, trying to help as best he could. She felt helpless. A burden. He reassured and encouraged and, at the end of the day, alone in their house, he often cried. And he began to formulate a plan to get her back home, with him, where she belonged.
For two and a half months, he did all that he could to prove to her, and to others, that he was still up to the task of living independently. He was determined to do as much as he could, for as long as he could. She worried that he was much too tired. He pushed himself to do more. He cooked and cleaned, shopped and managed his own health issues. And he waited to share his plan with her.
Through days and weeks of physical therapy and occupational therapy, he waited. He put his trust in the team of medical professionals to work their magic. To see the two of them as more than merely the sum total of their advanced age and complex medical issues. To see the potential that still existed in each of them. And, slowly, the magic happened.
Buoyed by the encouragement of the therapists, she worked hard, pushing herself to walk a bit further. To eat a few more bites. To regain more and more of the independence lost since her fall. She amazed the rehab staff, and, in turn, came to believe in herself once again.
Finally, their efforts paid off. On the very day of their 65th wedding anniversary, he took his bride home. He was so excited and, if his heart and back would have allowed, he likely would have carried her over the threshold. Flowers were waiting to welcome her. This man, who had barely tolerated shopping in the past, had redecorated their bedroom with new curtains and bedspreads. He prepared a special welcome home dinner and had searched everywhere to find the baby peas and onions that she had always liked. He was so proud of his efforts and she was flattered to realize how much she still meant to him after so many years of marriage. The romance may have waned over the years, but it was heartwarming to see the love that had endured.
It’s as if they have been given a second chance to pledge their lives to each other – for better or worse, for richer or poorer. Their future is unknown, just as it is for each of us. But they are facing it together. On their own terms. Determined to do as much as they can for as long as they can. And I couldn’t be more proud of them. Happy 65th wedding anniversary Mom and Dad. You’re an inspiration to us all.
Who do you most admire? My answer to that question used to be a fairly predictable list of assorted literary and historical figures, with a liberal bent towards those who made the world better for their fellow man. Lately, however, I’ve been re-thinking my choices and Susanna Fontanarossa has soared to the top of my list.
Who is this Susanna you may ask? I’m not surprised you’ve never heard of her. Up until today, I hadn’t either. Susanna, the person I most admire, was the mother of Christopher Columbus. She may seem like an odd choice, compared to, say, Martin Luther King Jr. or Susan B Anthony. But, as the mother of two adventurers who are making their own way in this world, far from home and far from my embrace, I have come to realize the sacrifices made by generations of mothers before me.
I knew even before my children were born that they would not be mine for the keeping. Like many liberated young women in the 70’s, I had read The Prophet and embraced its sage warning to parents that your children are not really yours to keep.
“They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
I seized upon that wisdom as permission to leave my parents and seek adventures far from home. I loved my parents. I often missed my parents. But I never felt the need to live in the same town, or even the same state, as my parents. I followed my heart to Australia and back again, but never quite all the way back to them. They headed south. I headed west. And never did I wonder, or worry, how that separation felt for them. Well, it turns out that what goes around comes around.
I have raised two beautiful, clever girls to find their passion. Follow their hearts. I taught them that the world was theirs for the taking. I spent over twenty years trying to show them as much of that glorious world as possible. What was I thinking? Instead of filling their heads with tales of adventure, I should have been warning them that danger lurks in the unknown and that they are safest in our own little corner of the world.
Instead, one followed her passion for the ocean, became a marine biologist, and lives in California, within sight and smell of the ocean. The other left our home near the mountains of Colorado for a new home near the beaches of Sydney, Australia, where she has landed her dream job in marketing.
Yeah, yeah, I know that I am supposed to be happy that they are happy. I know that their independence is a credit to me, and my husband, for a job well done. I know that I’m supposed to be the bow from which my children are shot forth into the world. Just as my parents, and in-laws, released my husband and I to the far winds, so I must delight in the release of my own precious off-spring to follow their dreams. What crap! That’s fine when you’re the kid but it’s a whole new ballgame when you’re the parent.
Lately I’ve been wondering what Christopher’s mother might have been thinking when he hit the road and unfurled the sails. Did Lewis and Clark’s mothers celebrate their sons’ explorations or wish that they had never learned to row a canoe? Did Amelia’s mother gaze lovingly into the sky, encouraging her daughter to soar with the eagles? Or is reality more along the lines of:
“Dr. Livingston, I presume? Your mother called and it’s time to come home for dinner.”
I know that the world would be such a different place without the brave men and women who stretched their boundaries. But let’s not forget the mothers who loved them enough to selflessly cheer them on.
One small step for man.
One giant leap for mankind.
While one mother sits, back home on earth, silently cursing the day she ever bought that blasted toy rocket for her son.
My daughter, Cassie, turns 30 today. As much as that is certainly a milestone worthy of celebrating, I will also be celebrating my own milestone today. March 1, 1985 was the day that I first stepped onto the never-ending, always-spinning carousel of Motherhood. Thirty years! And what a long, strange trip it’s been.
Nothing can really prepare you for the ride. At times it slows down, like on those interminably long, rainy days when your kids need to be outside because there is only so much finger painting, coloring, dress-up and story time that you can pack into a gloomy, rain-soaked afternoon. Other times, it speeds up into warp speed, like on those family vacations when everyone is happy at the same time and each sunset brings you one day closer to the end of the best week at the beach you could have ever hoped for. Occasionally, it stands still and you can feel your heart pounding in your chest as you wait for your teenager to return home, long past curfew, and you try to tell yourself that she couldn’t possibly end up like those girls whose bodies were found in that field just last week. But, most of the time, it keeps spinning at such a steady pace that you don’t even notice the movement, until Pomp and Circumstance strikes up and your graduate enters, happy to be moving on from pre-school/kindergarten/high school/college and you are left wondering how it all happened without you feeling the shift in time and space.
At first, the permanence of Motherhood can be daunting. You’ve always known that you could quit your job, change you hair color, even leave your husband. Not so with Motherhood. You may check-out, but you can never leave. As time goes on, you embrace the permanence. It gives you the time you need to learn the job. On-the-job training is terrifying at first but as you settle into the role, you realize that even if you make a mistake, and you will, you will still be a mother. You can’t be fired and you’ll never be outsourced. It gives you hope during those turbulent teen years when your child may not like you, but, hopefully, still loves you. Everyone tells you that the good times will come again. And they do.
And if you are really lucky, one day she will join you on the carousel, gently bumping you from the painted ponies to the grand carriages where the grandmothers sit, content to watch their families grow but always ready to bolt into action if needed. Because you’re never too old to need to be needed.
So as my daughter celebrates her birthday today, I’ll raise a glass to both of us. And once again ponder that age old question…. if I did all the work, why is she getting all the presents?