I wrote this on September 20, 2016 on my mom’s birthday while I was in Ireland celebrating what would’ve been her 60th birthday. It was the first time back “home” in 12 years, and flood of emotions came over me that just spilled out onto Facebook of all places.
During this quarantine I’ve had a lot of time to reflect, assess, and just sit with my thoughts for the first time in a long, long time. I think this is the most honest I’ve ever been, and I want to get back to that. So, by sharing this story, I hope I can live up to the expectations I put on myself as a writer, man, husband, and human.
Olivia’s middle name is Denise—my mom’s name—but I struggle even saying it out loud, it’s time that starts to change. Losing a parent is quite possibly the most difficult thing a person can experience besides losing a child. It continues to affect me almost five years later.
Please indulge me here.
You were there.
You were there to take care of me when I was sick. Even when I was faking it because I didn’t want to go to school and you knew I was, you’d take care of me.
Every day when I got off the bus from Lake Magdalene you were at the house waiting for me. To ask me how my day was, make me a sandwich and force me to do homework. If Jason, Karina or I ever started acting up in public, you’d be there to tell us if we didn’t stop we’d be taken in to the bathroom for the “hiding of your life.” That got us to shut up every time.
When it was bedtime, you had the greatest saying of all time. “Goodnight. God Bless. Sweet Dreams. Love you. See you in the morning.” No matter how many times Jason, Pat, Phil and I would make fun of you for it, you always said it. We’d even jump in at the end and in unison sing, “See you in the moooorninggg.” My kids will know that saying.
When I wanted to play soccer, you were there for me, supporting me every practice. Then watching a bunch of nine-year-olds kick a ball around in the hot sun, which you hated, every Saturday morning.
When I wanted to play baseball, which was completely foreign to you, you were there. I remember you sitting in the stands at Forrest Hills cheering me on during my tryout. You had no idea what was going on or if I was doing well but you were there.
When I couldn’t hit the ball at all, not even a foul tip, you were there in the backyard throwing me pitches with a wiffle ball until I finally hit one. You were so happy for me, like I had just hit a walk-off home run in game seven of the World Series when in reality I hit maybe five feet.
But I hit it.
When I put my hand through Pat’s garage window, you were there…after telling me to shut up because you were on the phone ordering Indian food. When you saw how bad it was you calmly told them you’d have to call them back. Which you did, and got your Curry and Rice for dinner that night. I still think you should’ve “CALL AN AMBULANCE, CALL AN AMBULANCE.” But, I suppose a mother know best.
When I was accepted into USF—my dream school since I was 10—you were over the moon. Sometimes it was difficult to distinguish who was more excited, you or me. You wrote “N. to USF” on my first day classes. I was 20. The picture at the top of this story is the last one we ever took. Me graduating from USF.
When I started working, you’d make me a lunch every single night. I was spoiled with you. You always had dinner made for us. You forgot one time to make me dinner because you thought I had the previous nights dinner still in the fridge and you felt so bad about it, you were on verge of tears (nothing new).
After every work shift, I’d come in and plop down on the couch next to you and just talk about my day. I wish I could do that just one more time. I rarely go into that room now.
After all the times you were there for me, I wasn’t there for you at the end.
Every time I’d come see you in the hospital, I’d just count down how long I’d have to stay before it would be ok to leave. I hated seeing you in that bed. I hated being there and not being able to do anything for you. I think you sensed that too because you’d say, “You don’t have to stay for this long.” When in reality, it had been maybe twenty minutes.
The week before our world crashed to the ground, I came to see you. You, dad and I sat in your hospital bed talking about M*A*S*H and Alan Alda of all people. You and dad testing each others knowledge on the show and other shows I’ve never heard of. I sat back and watched you two spout off names that I would have to look up and see which one of you was right. It was great to see you laugh and joke around.
On the Thursday, I came to see you for what turned out to be the last time. We talked about how annoying your roommate was talking so loud on her cellphone with no care that you were in there. You seemed tired so I let you sleep. I would’ve talked more if I had known. I don’t think anyone knew. Maybe you did. The only solace I have is that the last thing I ever said to you was, I love you. You were the best mother a son could ask for
On the Friday, I could’ve gone to see you, but I didn’t. I said I’ll just go see her tomorrow before work. Tomorrow never came. And I wasn’t there.
I’m glad you got to meet my future wife. She is going to be a great mother. I don’t know what I would’ve done without her in the aftermath of everything. She has been there night and day for me. You’d be proud of her.
It pains me that you won’t be there for my wedding day [Ed. note: Was brutal not having her there.] and I wont get to have a dance with you. And you won’t be there when I have children but, I will make sure they know who you are and everything you taught me will be passed along to them.
You made me a better person. I love you, mom.
You will always be there.