Monday, January 31, 2011

She died thirteen years ago today.

She looks a little tired, doesn't she? She was about thirty years old in this picture, taken sometime during 1964.

My mom, Peggy Haywood, passed away thirteen years ago today. That's me she's holding.

She always told me that the baby in Irish families is treated just a bit differently, and I suppose that's true, since my brother is a convicted arsonist, my sister recently served time for grifting senior citizens out of social security checks and I have done absolutely nothing illegalish.

Oh, you know I'm kidding, Tom and Ann. By the way, Ann, Colonel Sanders called and he wants his tie back. And Tom, I always wondered who Pee Wee Herman patterned his character after. You may be entitled to compensation.

Please indulge me, while I tell you a little about my mom. Last year, I described the day she died. Since her death does not define her life, I'll expound about the woman she was.

She was born Margaret Loraine Conway in Medora, North Dakota on April 21, 1934. Her Irish immigrant father, Patrick Conway and mother, Marie, were fifty and forty years old, respectively at her birth, which were considerably advanced ages, especially during The Great Depression. Marie was the only member of her family to receive a college education, since she was born without fingers on one hand, and thus, such a heinous birth defect, in her parents' eyes, eliminated her from the "desirable wife" pool.

Nonetheless, Marie and Patrick produced a brood of seven children, two of whom died during childhood. Peggy, which is the Irish nickname for Margaret, was the youngest, the "baby."

My mom didn't know her dad very well. Patrick died when she was eight years old, leaving my grandma with three young daughters at home and two sons fighting the Axis abroad. I can't imagine what a hardship this was, but I think this era may have planted the seeds for the humor which exists in the family to this day.

The family moved to eastern Washington after the war, and my mom came of age during the 1950s, wearing poodle skirts and saddles, idolizing Montgomery Clift and chasing her dream of being a teacher. She loved basketball, at a time when girls' hoops involved less sweating than playing chess.

She met my dad at a teachers' college, Central Washington College of Education, where they fell in love, were married and raised a family in the midst of Cold War America. Mom took a break from teaching elementary school to stay home with the kids, and I think that's the period of my life that shaped me into the person I've become.

She possessed the perfect recipe for learning, playing, communicating and, more importantly, an overwhelming compassion.

From that point, I'd like to say that the rest is history.

But here's the thing—I don't want just history. I want her here...right now.

Every time my teenager steps onto the court for an opening tip-off, I yearn for my mom to be with us in those uncomfortable bleachers. I can see her sitting there, calm and collected, yet beaming at the sight of her granddaughter, playing a game which she herself played sixty years ago, albeit in a skirt.

When I say to my ten-year-old, "You really shouldn't wear your hair back like that, because I can see the face lift scars behind your ears," and she responds, "Dad, it's totally worth it to look five," who do you think comes to mind?


I miss her so much. When she died, I was thirty-five and she was sixty-three, which really pisses me off. Sometimes, one of my kids looks at me in a certain way, and I reflexively think, "Hi, Mom." I wasn't cheated out of knowing her, but my kids were, and it makes me angry and sad and grief stricken, even now.

Even thirteen years later.

Mom, there's a lot going on right now, and I hope you're watching, because these kids have you to thank for how truly sensational they are.

I wish you were here.

1 comment :

  1. Tim (whom I've never met but feel like I know through Ann's fine stories),
    I miss my Nana the way you miss your mom. Thanks for putting those feelings into coherent words.
    Your mom was an awesome woman and still lives through you and your family.
    Take care,