Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Goodbye O-Five, Goodbye Mom

2005 has been an above average year in more than the usual ways. At least for me. For starters I turned 50, which you can read all about in the story archive out front on the home page. Besides the usual observations included there of feeling old, sore, and stupid -- I've also noticed a tremendous compression of time setting in. When I was 10, a year was an epoch. Now it is a short series of events between Christmas card obligations.

I don't know what explains that better than the simple math of proportions: When you are 10 a year is 10% of your life. A corresponding chunk of your life at age 50 takes 5 years. And it just gets worse. Also, you can only see forward for as far as you can see back. When you are 20, for example, you can only remember back 16 or 17 years and it is very difficult to imagine yourself any older than 40. When you are 50 you can see back 45 years. This means you can see forward all the way to the end of the game. For the first time in your life you can see the size of it. And guess what? -- It ain't all that big.

This came home to me in another way this past year. My mother died on July 23rd after a long struggle with emphysema. She was only 74 years old, but 50-some years of pack-a-day cigarettes took care of her old age. Both of her parents lived to be 90, and they were pretty healthy right until the end. So I figure Mom traded at least 15 years of her life for cigarettes. Kents, no less. She knew it and she didn't blame anybody but herself. But she certainly regretted it.

She loved our little Ben, who is only 2, and the 10th of her grandchildren. She had pictures of him everywhere and "Ben" sent her an email almost everyday of his life. I'm glad she was around to know him a little, but he will not remember her. I have one picture of them together. He is a smiling, chubby one-year-old on the lap of a gray-complected old lady with an oxygen hose in her nose. Not the kind of thing we'll want to frame for the hallway I suspect.

The single most indelible memory I have of 2005 is of holding one of my mother's hands while my sister held the other and we watched her take her last breath. One minute she was in the room with us and the next minute she was gone.

That's life. Like a story. Like a road. Like a year -- it ends. My intention for 2006 is to live life like I know it ends. I waste too much time. I don't show the people I love that I love them often enough. I keep thinking there will be a better time to do the things I've always wanted to do than right now. There won't be.

The last thing Mom asked me to do was to turn on the baseball game. It was her White Sox playing my Red Sox in an otherwise unimportant mid-season match-up. She squeezed my hand when Crede dropped a routine pop foul. I started to say something snide about Chicago but stopped when I saw her eyes were closed. She never woke up again and never saw her guys lose that game, but by the next day she was in a position to help them go all the way. The World Champion Chicago White Sox. That's the best part of 2005. That's my mom.


Blogger Dean said...

I know what you mean. 2005 was the year I lost the last of grandparents, and while that's not the same as saying good-bye to a parent, and though I'm not yet 50, I've been having something like the same feeling.

Thanks for the beautiful post.

8:48 PM  
Blogger wildwoodfarms said...

Tom, not sure if you look back and read posts to your older blogs, but hope you do.
We all waste too much time, and like you I feel the same emotions. I am a year younger than you, and have lived a varied and wonderful life. When I die, everyone will say how I did so much in life....and yet to me, I am never doing enough, and telling others I love them is probably at the top of the list. Helping others is a passion, and yet never seem to do that enough either. So, if we all keep reminding each other, kind of like cheerleaders, to grab on and hold tight, to launch into and through life with excitement, then we will all have a chance to feel fulfilled in the end! Keep at it old friend!

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, I am saddened to learn of the passing of your dear mother. She was a wonderful mentor & friend who I have thought of often in the past 25 years. I knew her in the 1980's when I worked for the same company, at a branch office. There were times, while trying to learn my job, that I was ready to give up. But she kept me going with much encouragement & kindness. My mother passed away in 2005 also...4 days after my 50th birthday.

10:28 PM  

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