I was reminded the other day of a scene from the movie Field of Dreams, when the main character, Ray, looks over to home plate at his dad who was in the prime of his youth. Ray says to his wife, Annie, “I only saw him years later when he was worn down by life. Look at him. He’s got his whole life in front of him, and I’m not even a glint in his eye. What do I say to him?”
One of my brothers recently shared some old photos that were taken before I was born, and one included my parents. My dad looked just as I remembered him. He always wore his hair in a crew cut and he wore glasses. Other than that, his face never changed. Unless he smiled. What a fantastic smile he had.
But the photo of my mother didn’t look anything at all like I remember her. She was thirty-two years old when I was born, the last of her eight children. In the photo she is young, not quite thirty, with no lines in the corners of her eyes. She has on a necklace and lipstick. And a Mona Lisa smile. She died at the age of 46, on October 29, 1975.
So young when she died, and yet, I only knew her when she was worn down by life. I was only twelve when she became sick and at that age I was just beginning to comprehend that there was a world outside of my own being. I’ll admit I was a sheltered, spoiled brat. I took my mother for granted, but what twelve-year-old doesn’t? Had I known then what I know now…
It’s been thirty-nine years since she died. My memories have faded quite a bit but when I gather an image in my mind of my mom, she is middle-aged. She has salt and pepper hair and a “belly”. She has crow’s feet at her eyes. And she is distracted, not by her eight children but by all of the flower gardens in the back yard. She loved her flowers! And if I ever wanted to find her, that’s where she would be.
Tonight, on the eve of the anniversary of her death, looking at that photo, I can’t help but wonder, if I had a chance to talk with her, what would I say to her? We’d need a lifetime to get caught up.