7 Years

Listen to the song as you read the post…

Today marks the 7 year anniversary of my mother’s passing. If I don’t acknowledge this, I’ll get nothing done. I know that now. I’ve actually known it for years…

Anyway. My mother would have become a huge Decemberists Fan. How do I know this? By the time I moved out, after she had recovered from my dad’s passing and her own relapse, she wanted a copy of everything I had, “except for the Led Zepplin you listened to in High School.”

I left her with all the music I had, except the Zepplin.

Seven years later, I still do not know how to put everything I feel into words.  I can cry about it.  I can laugh at the stories she tried to tell (she wasn’t the story teller, my dad was).  I can think of how she would react to the life that I have made with Shannon (she’d be thrilled) and with how to make the world a better place (she’d be busier than ever).  Hell, I could even tell you what she’d be doing (taking the train to visit Tony and I for the Supper Club/Graduation Party we are throwing for my brother).  But ask me to describe how I feel, and the best I can do is blubber.

I don’t know if I’ll get around to doing another Judy post, but I can promise you, dear reader, that I’ll be thinking about her all day.  And if you ever knew her, I bet you’d think of her too.

If there is a heaven, this is what it looks like:

I like to think my dad is just off-screen, making irish coffee and mocking dead republicans.




Lost and Rediscovered Treasures


My father passed away before he could share some of our family’s most prized treasures. Two of these treasures are frequently mentioned and missed recipes. The first is his famous Caesar’s Salad. I don’t know what he did differently with his salad–more anchovy paste? More Egg? Did he let the dressing stew longer?–but I have not had a caesar salad that could hold a candle to his. For a few years after his passing I would try a number of salads just to see if it could compare. I eventually decided to save my money and swear of Caesar’s salad. Why bother trying to copy what has never been copied?

The other lost recipe was more of my mother’s work than his. My parents combined their culinary powers to produce one of the most delicious barbecue sauces known to humanity. My mother would make the sauce to my dad’s specifications. I know they used Open Pit as a base instead of ketchup, but it was a day long affair of sautéing, stewing and grilling. Both of my parents promised to teach me the secret of the Award Winning Sauce (16th out of 600+ at the Mike Royko Ribfest) but they never got around to teaching us.

Both are gone forever. There is no way to recreate the Casear’s Salad Dressing. There is chance at rebuilding my mom’s BBQ sauce… But then I would be stuck recreating their legacy instead of working on my own. My parents did not want me to dwell on what was. They wanted my brother and I to excel beyond their wildest dreams. We can’t do that if we are stuck trying to recreate the lost sauce.

If either Tony or I stuck to the past, neither of us would have learned to grill. Our father promised to fill us in on his secrets, but we had to relearn them. And we did. That’s why this Sunday, Tony and I will be trying a new sauce. We will also tap in to our recently discovered Grilling Skills and slow cook our the ribs we intend to serve as we celebrate my parents. Our new sauce may not be as awesome as what we lost, but given time, we will learn.

What I believe

Today I’m taking a break from economics, politics, social science, sexually aggressive children and Liberal Anger to think about the past four years. Stay with me, as I’m going to ramble. I’ll try and proof this at some point, but I don’t promise a damn thing.

Four years ago, I raced down the Eisenhower Expressway to get to Loyola so I could say goodbye to my mom. Actually, that’s not true. I did 120+ down the Ike to tell my mom not to go. I missed her by five minutes. The day before, her oncologist reminded her that, “there may come a point where the fight’s over.” The point where the radiation, chemo and cancer treatments would not even maintain her quality of life. My mom told everyone as best she could how much she loved us, then she passed away. Knowing her like I did–a story in and of itself–I know she passed away without much fan faire because she did not want to be a burden on her kids. I also think she wanted a few moments alone to make peace with herself and God. It was her one selfish act, and she had earned it.

When I asked a few weeks ago, “What do you believe?” I was going through the early process of missing my parents. I want to believe that there is a heaven, a communion of saints, a benevolent, omnipotent and omniscient God. I so I want to believe in the idea that when I die, I would get to live on in some form with my parents. I want that comfort.

Yet, I do not need that comfort to continue living. It would make life easier, hence the “want”, however I refuse to believe in something just to make my life easier. That is a form of moral and intellectual dishonesty that my parents would be appalled at.

Like Seth and Torteya, I fear oblivion–and not just for myself. When I think of the atheist’s idea of the end, I want to scream for my parents. It is unfair, unjust and just plain wrong to snuff out who they were. Of course, I am thinking of myself in this regard: I miss their guidance, my dad’s wit and wisdom, my mom’s amazing ability to make peace (or surprise me with a well placed F-bomb); yet I also think of my friends and family who have been touched by them in some way. How many problems could have been dealt with with one single phone call from my dad (I know one recent reader knows exactly what I am talking about) or how just talking to my mom would make an unbearable weak turn into an opportunity.

My mom brightened up the cancer ward at Loyola. The nurses loved her. She would help the other patients with small acts of kindness–helping to pass out cookies, telling them which part of the ward had the better snacks, listening to them talk about their own treatments–even when she just wanted to worry about her family. Not herself, but the burden she felt she caused her family. This is not a woman who should be confined to oblivion.

I do take comfort in the fact that she knew that her friends and family relished the idea of being able to help her in her time of need. Her church friends loved sharing their cooking with her. Old friends from her teaching days loved to talk politics and keep her company. The year I moved back home to take care of her will be one of the highlights of my life.

Before my parents died, I was a casual Catholic. After my dad died, I still believed. Hell, I was determined, on some level, to maintain my Catholic identity in the face of its co-optation by the Right. I still believed shortly after my mom died. Now, four years later, I struggle with the idea God. Like YvaDiva i am repulsed by the idea that my parents were “duped” into belief. I am scared and angry that they may be gone forever. Without my parents guidance, my faith is far smaller than a mustard seed.

Losing my parents harmed my faith. I don’t find the platitude, “the Lord works in mysterious ways” to have any modicum of comfort. It is a cop-out of the highest fucking order; however, in all fairness, I find solace in Woody Gutherie’s words.

I know I am still angry about my parent’s illness and death. Hell, I’m mad that my faith in God was harmed by my church community. My family was betrayed by a priest and my parish turned on the best pastor we ever had. I have seen my faith turn it’s back on its mission of social justice and turn into a monster of a monolith. I know my mom would be disappointed in this; however, she wasn’t so close-minded to believe that one must be a believer to be a good person.

The more I think about it, the more I believe in what my mom believed in. I believe that people are inherently good. I believe that people can change. I believe that hard work should be enough to guarantee one success in life, but that it doesn’t always work out that way. I believe that being kindness is the way to solve most of one’s ills–but that does not mean one has to cave, be weak or give up.

Like her, I believe that you don’t stop fighting until you’ve done everything you can do. And even then, you go out with grace.

I don’t have my mother’s faith, and I know that makes me a weaker person than she was. At the same time, I know she wouldn’t want me to believe in her ideals just because they were hers. I also know that she wouldn’t want me to miss her as much as I do, I know she would be touched at how I try to live like she did.

I miss you mom. More than I can really ever say.