Tuesday, May 5, 2009

88: Piano Keys and Mummy

Left: In her last independent home with an arrangement from cousin Carolyn
Middle: Lucy Bruce and Mom at our reunion.
Right: Pat and Mom at Jesse's wedding.

A while back I wrote a tribute about my dad, Morgan. With Mothers' Day just around the corner, it is clearly time to shine the light on my mother, Mary Louise. Two weekends ago I went to Pittsburgh for a visit with her. Each time I make that trek, there is an unexpected side bar marking the time spent with her.

We'll go where ever she might like. Usually she is happy going just about anywhere. We've toured various art collections at the Carnegie Museum. A few times, we've gone on drives through the city and local countryside spying on places of familial note. When we can, we visit or have lunch with a friend of hers, even though those numbers are dwindling. We always have a coffee or two at Panera's so she can view computer photos and videos of my daughter, Jesse, her husband, Corey, and their adorable, smart, creative, intelligent, and beautiful daughter, Zelda. Overall, we make a day of it.

Her selection for this particular Saturday was to go to the salon. Calling Phillip Pelusi's salon, I requested someone with a gentle touch and patience as they would be dealing with Mom's notoriously tender scalp. She has always been sensitive to it since she had a fractured skull when she was much younger. The patience part comes in handy since she has mostly one gear and it is a slow one. It comes with the territory of being nearly 88. However, even in her downshifted life, she was intent upon having her hair "brightened" from a dull shade, quoting her, to one more flattering. Mary Lou has an eye for style. She did look better and, during it and following, she felt better.

Looking in the mirror once her stylist, Kali, was finished Mom beamed and said she looked 10 years younger. I guess that thrill never leaves any of us. Please believe me, she had that place hopping too. Coffee, Mary Lou? Let me walk you to the restroom, Mary Lou. Would you care for a magazine, Mary Lou? Oh, you don't care for that one, please let me go to the store and buy you the one you like, Mary Lou. The Nature Channel should have filmed how rapidly she spun her her web.
In general, the years have been good to Mom. She is spunky and still has her signature way of dressing in a color-coordinated, fully accessorized ensemble with perfect jewelry accents. Her purse, shoes and belt always match. Fashion is a slave to her.

Mom is an incredible lady. She's been through much in her lifetime. As a 10 month old, she was adopted by the couple we unquestionably considered our grandparents, Walter and Marie Gordon. Their baby had died a year or so earlier at the same age, so I imagine it was a perfect match for them all. They lived in a wonderfully cavernous home: 366 Winebiddle Street. She would sigh and invariably say when she'd mention the address: "Twenty-five rooms and five baths. A lot of rooms to clean."

Mom, being ever resplendent, at Jesse's baby shower.

She suffered a severe hearing loss following a bout with Scarlet Fever when she was around 7 years old. Still, she didn't let that define or limit her. Mom negotiated human systems and social structures with grace and aplomb.

When our grade school's convent was struck by the Hong Kong flu epidemic in the early 1960s, she was an emergency substitute teacher. She loved it and decided to start college. It made her so proud being a teacher.

Mom raised tens of thousands of dollars for the original Oakland Catholic High School building fund. One way she did it was to set up a table by the Civic Arena every Saturday and Sunday night very politely scalp hockey and concert tickets. Sunday mornings you could find her with fresh doughnuts from Rosenbloom's Bakery in Squirrel Hill on the steps of St. Paul Cathedral. Whatever it took, she would find the way to get it handled. So it was then as it remains today.

Mom with Corey at his wedding.

When they were 50 years old, my parents started a new life in Virginia. Neither one had spent much time out of the Steel City, but they made a leap of faith for a new adventure. During that time there were many high points for her. One accomplishment was working for the CIA. You might be familiar with Astronaut Barbie, but how about Undercover Mary Lou?

Mom, you are a wonder. Now, when we visit, I am thrilled that the majority of your limited memories are happy ones. It is wonderful knowing you love living where you do because this is the first time I can recall that you haven't wanted to move. You are beautiful and your heart is full and loving. I marvel at the things you've taught everyone who has been able to be chilly in your shadow.


1 comment:

  1. Absolutely beautiful.....your mother and your tribute!
    Just love the fact that she is such a fashionista!!!