Saturday Single No. 27

Originally posted August 25, 2007

One more indication of the passage of time: I used to see my friends at weddings, and then at baptisms. And now, we meet at funerals.

I talked Tuesday to both Rick and Rob, my childhood friends. Their mother, 91, was not doing well. After a few days in the hospital, she’d been moved to a hospice, and it was just a matter of time, Rob told me. But she was alert and comfortable, he said.

The inevitable call came the next morning. And so did the memories.

In every neighborhood full of children, there is, I imagine, one home where the kids congregate. In our neighborhood, it was Rick and Rob’s house. They and their three sisters filled the house with friends, and their mom welcomed all of us with a smile and a great tolerance for juvenile noise and mischief. From the time I was three until my last visit about a month ago, that smile was constant every time I walked through the door.

I’m sure there were times when we tried her patience, those of us who were her children’s friends and found her home a good place to gather. I recall times when there had to be at least twelve or more visiting kids in the house, as friends of all five of her children gathered on a rainy day or perhaps in the cold of winter. It could get noisy, whether that noise was the pounding of footsteps up and down the stairs, the sounds of a cap gun battle in the wilds of the basement, the beat of pop and rock music coming from a portable record player or two, or the raucous din of eight teens of various ages playing the card game Pit at the kitchen table.

The Soviet Union used to award a medal called the Hero Mother Award or something like that. Rick and Rob’s mom deserved whatever equivalent we could come up with. Not just for welcoming all those friends for all those years, although a smile in the face of twenty or more years of rambunctious children and teens is heroic enough. There were other, more serious challenges she faced through the years.

She was widowed thirty-five years ago, with three of her children yet to graduate from high school. In the past twenty or so years, she faced challenge after challenge to her health: a heart attack, open-heart surgery, breast cancer and lung cancer. And every time, she dealt with it, got back up and went on, living her life in her long-time home – which she shared with one of her daughters – and sitting late into the night in her favorite chair by the window, reading book after book.

At the same time, her home remained a haven, a safe and kind place to visit for the four who had moved away, for their spouses, and for her eleven grandchildren. Just as it was a haven for at least one of those kids who grew up in the neighborhood, one who now wishes he’d visited a lot more often than he did.

Her family and friends said goodbye to her today, laying her to rest next to the husband she lost so long ago. There were – as there should be at all such occasions – tears and laughter both. As we waited to go into the church, I had a chance to ask Rob if he knew what some of his mom’s favorite popular music was. He called over his youngest sister, who lived with their mom. She said their mom liked Frank Sinatra. So for Rick and Rob, and for their three sisters, and most of all, for their mom, here is Frank Sinatra backed by the Tommy Dorsey Band in 1940 performing “I’ll Be Seeing You,” today’s Saturday Single.

Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Band –
“I’ll Be Seeing You” [Victor 26539, 1940]

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