Today is my mother’s birthday.
I don’t quite know what to do with myself. My younger sister is visiting a Massachusetts spiritualist church. In her final years Mom shed the heavy weight of the Catholicism and began to practice her own form of a religion that blended the teachings of Buddha with the spiritualist movement. My older sister is meditating in her home in Virginia. Mom would so appreciate their good works.
Myself, I guess I will attend the High Holy Church Of Tom Brady. The New England Patriots play the Denver Broncos this afternoon. The winner heads to the Super Bowl. Mom would appreciate that as well. Because sports is also a religion, a talisman and in some cases, the Magic 8 Ball of my youth. Just shake it up and hope for the best.
Back In Mid-October 2013.
“There’s an eighty per cent chance that Mother has stomach cancer,” my ninety year old Dad announces over his cell phone. These conversations are usually loud and punctuated with the sound-words people make when they cannot hear. “Haaaah?” seems to be the most popular in my family. I believe it is more of a habit than an actual impairment.
Usually “Haaaah?” is deployed in the middle of the speaker’s sentence. For instance, if I say, “So last Sunday I was watching the Pat’s game,” you would interrupt by barking out “Haaaah?” now instead of just informing me at the beginning of my sentence that you could not hear me.
“There’s an eighty per cent chance that Mother has stomach cancer.”
“I SAID,” my father says louder.
“I gotcha,” I reply. It is just force of habit.
I’m not sure about this diagnosis. Mom had been suffering from stomach pain and other symptoms she would not want me to innumerate here. The doctors had spied a small mass that we knew had to come out but we were initially told that it was benign. Now, suddenly, it’s a new ball game.
October 31st 2013
I am on the phone with my Mom. Her surgery is tomorrow. The World Series Game 6 is tonight. Our beloved Red Sox are still breathing.
“Mom, I’ve been thinking about your surgery and the World Series.”
We of New England practice a specialized form of medicine. It does not have a name, but if it did it would be called “Sports-A-Stision.” It is founded in the deep belief that all the mysteries of the world can be understood through the culture of professional sports. One just must be able to read the signs and understand when a loss might actually be a win. This may come from the fact that the Boston Red Sox did not win a World Series for eighty-six years thus birthing the sentiment of “Ya, who cares? We didn’t want it anyway!” It is also the way we justify things.
We also celebrate the big wins in the same offhand way. “Ya? So? Now I can die happy,” delivered with a shrug was a popular theme when the Sox broke the Curse Of The Bambino in 2004.
Yet my family does set limits. A few anyway. Mom and I once discussed an elderly Boston guy who drunkenly proclaimed at a 4th of July party, “When I go, cremate me and spread my ashes in Fenway Pahhk!”
“Not me,” Mom grinned. “Do NOT take me out to the ball game!”
Back to our phone call. “Mom, I’ve been thinking about your surgery and the…”
“…World Series.” I just keep on talking. “It seems to me that if the Sox take the Series in Game 6, you couldn’t possibly have cancer. It will be benign and you’ll be home by Thanksgiving. Don’t you think?”
“Hmmm.” Mom is silent for a beat. “Could be, could be. But let me ask you a question. Who’s pitching tonight?”
The next day Mom awoke after her surgery to the news she did not have cancer. I call her.
“So, no cancer. How about that?”
“Haaah?” she says with a laugh. And then, “Ya, how about that? Those Boston Red Sox! I’ll be home by Thanksgiving.”
But she wasn’t.
January 19th, 2014
Tom Brady does his best but the Pats will not go to the Super Bowl this year. I am surprised I am not more upset. Who cares? I didn’t want it anyway.
I guess because I know in my heart that the Sox won it all just for Mom. Sometimes that has to be enough. Because sometimes that is all there is.