Friday, October 26, 2007

Every time I try to get back to blogging I either get interrupted with two weeks' worth of woeful TV work or a frenzy of friends and family or milling through Mom's miscellaneous materials or just overwhelmingly unorganized and emotional. So I'm gonna dispense with my usual super-well-structured and overly-alliteratively editeded essays and just bang out sumthin here.

At the funeral, I talked about how I had stood up there for my father’s funeral 5 and half yrs ago. I had decided a good way to sum up his life was to talk about fun moments from his last day, which I was lucky enough to spend with him. The ol' man was his normal self, showing his humor, hobbies, intelligence, and friendliness. My father was the same great guy, a real character, right up to the end.

Unfortunately, with my mom, it’s not the same situation. Since she had the stroke in April 2001, she’s been a different person than the one I’ve known my whole life. The last six years have been really difficult -- on everyone who’s cared about her -- and most of all, her.

In these past few years, I tried to remember how extraordinary she was during that previous lifetime, and now that she’s gone, it was even more important. Her accomplishments are impressive, and I've got a few visual aids to illustrate 'em when I can upload 'em... but there was also what she meant to me as a mom. She didn't just help me get by in life, she wanted me to enjoy it to the fullest, even if it meant making a little extra effort to do so.

The stories I told were about how she always wanted me to strive for more. How if I got an A minus, she'd rib me that I could've gotten an A if I had worked -- really worked -- to my fullest potential. It seemed like pressure, but she was right. The voice in my head that reminds me that saying "ahh, good enough" is never good enough.

I got tongue-tied talking about Mom, babbling about how she named me Michael David so the door to my office would read "M.D., M.D.", and later, I agreed that the first person I'd thank in my Screenplay Academy Award speech would be my mother for understanding when I wanted to go to film school instead of medical school.

But another anecdote that later came to mind is when friends and I decided to go out for the football team. My junior high was 7th through 9th, so when I was a high school freshman, I was actually a jr. high senior, top of our school. A recent growth spurt made me slightly big for my age -- later all the other kids would catch up in size and completely surpass me -- but at the time, I had the crazy notion that I was big enough to make a contribution to the team, if not be Mean Mike Green.

Then I found out that to joining the squad required some application from one person, a permission form from another, tracking down some athletic faculty member to get his signature and deliver it to -- oh, the hell with it. I didn't really wanna play football anyway.

That's when my mom told me to go out for the team. I tried to make excuses -- it would cut into my studies, and shouldn't I get home early enough to take our dog Max for a walk? Did she want a mediocre wide receiver or housebroken Golden Retriever?But Mom insisted. I had to go out for the team. Had to.

Why? She didn't care about sports. Especially football. And there were plenty of other extracurricular activities to put on my school transcript, right? But she wouldn't buy it.

So I played football. Completely sucked. Two games into the season, got crunched by some kid with a pituitary problem and painful plastic shoulder pads, and broke my finger. I took typing lessons that year with a splint on it. To this day, I cringe in pain at any words with the letters W, S and X. "Waxes" -- that one hurts.

Boo friggin' hoo. Me no Dan Marino. But I never forgot how my mom wouldn't let me get away with not doing something simply out of laziness.

Which is one of the millions of reasons why we tried to help my mom with all her problems. If the tables were turned, Mom would've done this for us, for anyone in my family, only work ten times harder.

Later, as we were sitting shiva, my sister and I told our family about the rehab hospital and medical providers, all the crap we were dealing with, detailing the things I mentioned on this blog, which continued right up 'til the day Mom died. I was trying not to make the same mistakes I had several years ago, when we tried to get the insurance company to pay for my mother's new wheelchair, got nothing but aggravation and wound up giving up and just throwing money at the situation -- I'm sure that's Blue Cross's strategy. As frustrating as it was, describing it all made us all crack up. All you could do is laugh at this bullshit. One of my resolutions for 2007 was to stay on top of stuff for my mom. I knew I couldn't affect her health or her attitude or revolutionize health care, but I thought I could at least keep working at the situation to get results. Honestly, I'm beginning to think an easier New Year's goal would have been to be starting QB for the Green Bay Packers.

But it was my mom who had it the worst. As I mentioned, I prefer to remember her as the brilliant intellectual always trying to help educate those around her, especially me. After she had the stroke, she felt so bad to be in need. Mom once complained that she see much reason to keep going, that unlike before, she couldn't do anything for me. I told her she had already done plenty, and she still did. Just knowing my mother was around gave me reassurance. In my darkest days, I found it reassuring that there was someone in this world who truly cared. Now I see that that's the hardest part about losing her.

Mom was the one who got me into the blues, and as B.B. King once sang:

Nobody loves me but my mother
And she could be jivin' too...


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