On July 25th at 8:45 my Mom, Ellen Mazzotta, died. At that moment I was on a Delta jet en route to Florida in response to an emergency call I received earlier that afternoon. So the last couple of weeks have been a bit too busy for me keep up on my usual wry observations that you read here.
I once wrote a brief few paragraphs of appreciative autobiography of my Mother for a "writers and their mothers" gimmick book my dirtbag then-publisher was shamelessly trying to hawk as a Mother's Day event many years ago. I spent some time searching for the a copy of the text to republish here -- copyright issues be damned -- but it is long gone from any hard drive and the book itself isn't even available used on Amazon.
It did what I needed it to, though. I gave me a chance to express my gratitude to my Mom, and perhaps redeem myself for years of slights of the sort children thoughtlessly inflict on their parents. One thing that gives me comfort is that my Mom lived long enough for me to come to appreciate her and for me to express that. Our last words over the phone were "I love you" but she already knew that to be true.
My Mom's narrative, whether in an out-of-print book or inside my head, is one of endurance. She endured a childhood of deprivation during the Great Depression. She endured the rumbling fear and casualty lists of World War II. She endured the tyrannies of my father and what might be called a disappointing family life (although she would never describe it so). Never once did my mother ever allude to sadness, depression, or the unfairness of life. She never allowed herself to lose faith and always believed tomorrow would be better.
So she endured, and she overcame. One of the most telling moments of my mother’s life was when the kids got a little older and she began to feel the need for some independence from my father. She didn't complain about her lack of skills or how the world was oppressing her. She didn't go out in search of pie-in-the-sky self-fulfillment. She went up the street to McDonald's and got a job. And when she needed more than that, she went up the street in the other direction and became a bank teller.
And sure enough, though it took many years, tomorrow was better. After I had left for college, she packed up my younger brother along with anything else she could carry in a 1978 Ford Pinto and made a daring journey from a low-end Detroit suburb to Florida without a final destination in mind. Then, driving down US-41 a revelation came in shape of Sarasota Bay. It was love at first sight. She never saw any place so beautiful. She settled there and managed to gain degree of separation from half a century of negative influences. And Sarasota would be where she spent the rest of her life. It wasn't a straight line, to be sure, there were still struggles, but at that point her life-trend was set for the better and was never to be reversed.
Her career progressed and she became branch manager of a bank on Longboat Key, a very wealthy Gulf island, where she was responsible for approving massive loans and managing both the staff and the spoiled rich customers. After many years of that, she retired from the bank, but for her, retirement meant getting a part time job working at the Sarasota County tax office -- where she was, of course, indispensable -- and sitting on her condo board, where she helped guide her neighbors through the worst of the great recession of the early 2000s. Through all this time she built friendships and admirers, had an active social life, and continued to appreciate the happiness she had found in the second half of her life.
For me, this was a great blessing as it gave me the time to not only truly appreciate how much she had done for me in my life, but also how much strength I drew from her example. Even better, it gave me time to make sure she knew it. I only hope it meant as much to her to know it as it meant to me to tell her.
They say that, short of immortality, the best you can do is live long and die quickly. She lived for ninety years and her end came swiftly and without pain. For a woman who never lost hope and always focused on the positive, it was the ultimate justice and the ultimate validation of her generous soul. Rest in peace, Mom, and rest in satisfaction that you lived a beautiful and worthy life.
Next month, back to the usual trivialities.