When my mom died last December my brother and I both spoke at the funeral. I had often thought about what I would say that day and long ago I decided that the speech would begin, "my mom was a blonde from the day she was born to the day she died". Now certainly there was some vanity attached to that standing Friday afternoon beauty parlor appointment, but for me that blondness was more a symbol of my mother's incredible resilience and her determination to continue caring about the things she thought were important.
She was a Big Band, Frank Sinatra loving 50's girl and in the vernacular of her time I think they would've said "she was a real class act". She was smart, she was funny and she looked like Grace Kelly and had the poise to match. She met my dad at a resort where he was playing and before you knew it they were raising three kids in a nice old house on Chicago's south side. Then in 1962 a drunk driver struck my parent's car and my mom was left crippled for the rest of her life.
For weeks she was in a coma, then there was a year spent in one rehabilitation hospital after another, but eventually she came home and was again just our mom. We got grounded, we got help with our homework, we got our allowance if we mowed the grass and we again had someone to watch old movies with. "Frankly Scarlet, I don't give a damn". The one thing we didn't get was someone who was constantly asking "why me? Why did this happen to me?"
With the three of us kids she was always interested in what interested us. She may not have thought much of my choice to leave college and go work on a pig farm in Denmark, but years after my return home she would ask "Gary, do you still stay in touch with the people on the farm"? "Oh that's so nice". When I moved to Wicker Park whenever she would see an article about the neighborhood she made sure I knew about it. When I left for Cuba in 98' all things Cuban now became part of her world. And of course there was always the ongoing interest in the friends I kept. "And how's Ralph doing, is his business doing well"?
I always liked my mom, but I think it was only in the later years that I realized how truly incredible that positive, upbeat attitude of hers was. She could of long ago given up on her life and on the lives of those around her, but she never did. She remained blond and interested until the very end. "Gary, is there something I can do to help"? "No mom, but thanks". So, I'm going to miss you Rosalie Marks this Mother's Day, but I'm glad I got to be your son.
-By Gary Marks
The above post appeared in yesterday's Pipeline e-newsletter. To minimize scroll fatigue I am going to start posting longer articles here. If the pipeline web site ever becomes functional, I'll post longer articles there instead of here.