Happy New Year!!!
Wish I could begin 2023 with my usual attempt at a humorous and diverting post, but afraid I have sad news to share. My Mum – companion and inspiration for so many of the exploits covered here in posts past – has passed away…
Recent, raw days have been spent clearing out her home. But in the waning hours of what will not go down as a cherished year, I did want to pause and log some celebratory-type thoughts about dear Mummy – and about how particularly in these last years, I’ve had the privilege of observing and encouraging the lifelong joy this woman took in meeting new people, learning new things and embarking on grand new adventures.
Mum came into the world on a wintry Thanksgiving night in the town of Ashtabula, Ohio, where –
Okay, no. Not going to attempt a full biography here – maybe just a teeny, tiny fact or two before moving along – no need to buckle up.
I do figure those joys I mentioned took root in Mum’s early days though. Her childhood was spent moving from town to town to wherever Grandpa K could find construction work – and if school wasn’t in session (in way more innocent days), an undaunted little Mum would canvas the newest neighborhood with a Monopoly board under her arm, knocking on doors and looking for new friends to play with.
A keen intellect led her to travel to Grinnell College in Iowa at the tender age of 16 to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, and then to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she got a Masters Degree – and my dad!
Especially in their retirement years, the folks traveled the world together – sometimes with me along! Quite the adventuresome pair, as you can (sorta) see:
The Monopoly board wasn’t needed when Mum came to live in my home town of Burbank a bit more than six years ago. She just dove right into the new neighborhood drill, joining me for outings and events with my good friends, including precious monthly visits with transplanted Bay Area buddies, and holiday celebrations where Mum and her stories was so kindly embraced:
Being a vivacious lady can have its perks! It’s not everyone who grows up attending Chicago Blackhawk hockey games and then goes on to hold the Stanley Cup during an Allstar Weekend (courtesy of dear friend, Dee)! Seriously – not everyone does! On this occasion, we first posed beside the Cup as protocol demanded – but then the generous (and charmed, I expect) Cup Keeper decided to bestow it upon Mum for an even more special photo op! From that day on, Mum referred to it as her Cup – which she graciously allowed teams to borrow from season to season.
I swear – Mum could even make lemonade out of getting a root canal! In the dental office after having that procedure, Mum couldn’t help chatting up a fellow patient who turned out to be the principal bass player for the LA Philharmonic, and who wound up telling us that one of our favorite composer/conductors was going to be in town. If Mum had resisted that lifelong urge to lob a “hello” to someone we were just squeezing past in a hallway – after she just had a root canal – we never would have known to get tickets for a fantastic night of music!
As with us all, Mum did have her share of trials and tragedies. Over a bit more than the last decade, she had to endure the loss of Dad and of both my big brothers. Through her senior years alone, she had a knee and both hips replaced; she broke a leg; and she fractured her spine in a fall. But ever eager to connect, Mum would still summon a smile for those she’d meet, offer an ice-breaking observation and maybe pepper a conversation with the infectious laugh she possessed. I mean, I happened to capture this one occasion – but it was the same happy reception many a waiter would get on arriving at our restaurant table:
That was taken at a hotel restaurant during a getaway we took to Palm Springs a few years back. As I described here before – and what stands out to me now from that trip – is our discussion about checking out nearby Joshua Tree National Park. I’d never been there, and about all I knew was that there were precious few amenities inside the park – just amazing, amazing views. So I told Mum I wasn’t quite sure what we’d be getting ourselves into, but wondered whether she’d be up for a little adventure.
“Always,” the 86-year-old replied.
Of course, Mum’s losses were my losses too – and now another sparkling family light has gone out in the world. It’s been a comfort though to have support from my brother’s kids, and from so many sweet friends and neighbors from all aspects and eras of my life, who’ve been here for me without hesitation or condition. I’m most grateful.
To wrap things up, I’ll first borrow from the great English architect, Christopher Wren, and say that if you seek Mum’s monument, look around the pages of this blog where as time goes by I hope her light will continue to cast an entertaining glow. It helps me a little right now to feel I’ll still be able to find her here.
And finally, I’ll steal the toast Higgins gives in the holiday episode of the wonderful series, Ted Lasso – because I feel so blessed on both of its counts.
Tink, tink, tink! On this eve of a New Year, please raise a glass if you will:
”To the family we’re born with – and to the family we make along the way.”
Cheers to all for a brilliant and memorable 2023!
And cheers to you, my Mummy, with lots and lots of love!