By Calvin Zito, @HPStorageGuy
Earlier this year I wrote a blog that had nothing to do with storage - I wrote about my Dad and his experience of being a POW in WWII Germany. I'd like to write another personal tribute blog, this time about my Mom.
My birth Mom died from a ruptured brain aneurysm when I was 8 months old. She was only 32 years old and left my Dad a widower with six kids. I don't exactly know why but my Dad's brothers and sisters convinced him that the best thing to do was to split all of us kids up with different family members. So my Dad dealt with the pain of losing his wife and tried to figure out how he would handle six kids ranging from less than one year old to almost ten years old.
My Dad worked two different jobs - he had a part-time night job at Batavia Downs, a local horse racing track in my home town of Batavia, NY, where he worked with Marian. Marian had raised three of her own kids who were grown and on their own. As my Dad later told the story, here's what happened:
"Many times I brought the children with me (to Batavia Downs) and that is how Marian met them. Marian and I went out picnicking and a romance developed. We had discussed marriage and I left it up to her: if she wanted to get married she just had to tell me. We attended a school party for one of the boys in 1966 and after the party Marian told me we were going to visit her brother and she said, 'and by the way, we are going to get married.' We went to a Justice of the Peace and on December 20, 1966 we were married."
I was four and half years old when they got married. Years later, I remember hearing that Mom told my Dad that his kids needed a family, needed to be together and that was a big reason behind her telling him they were getting married. I didn't really appreciate this until I was older, had left Batavia to go to college, and begin working at HP. My Mom had already raised her kids and married my Dad because she knew that our best chance was to be a family again. This type of sacrifice was so typical of her. I have told her many times how much I appreciated what she did for us.
My Mom took on a night job at our local community college, Genesee Community College, working from 6 PM to 2:30 AM. She did this for several years and later retired from GCC. She'd get home from work and pack our lunches for school the next day, often not going to bed until the wee small hours of the morning.
My parents helped shape who I am - teaching me the values like the importance of hard work, determination, reliability, self-discipline, integrity, importance of family, and much more. They didn't have much but they made sure we had what we needed. I like to tell people that my high school graduation gift from them was a one way ticket to Phoenix to attend college. But after my first semester, I needed surgery for a sports related injury and they brought me back to Batavia to recover even though I know that was a stretch for them.
My Mom spent the last several years of her life selflessly serving my Dad. My Dad's health was declining and he had a hard time sleeping. I remember on one trip to visit them with my wife, we were going to sleep and suddenly my Dad started banging on the floor with his foot and loudly calling out "Marian". I jumped up thinking something was wrong and ran into my Dad's bedroom. I asked him if he was ok and he told me he was hungry and was calling my Mom to bring him a sandwich, which she happily did.
She's an avid Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres fan. My Dad didn't care much for sports and could never understand why she enjoyed football and hockey so much. A few years ago, she was hanging a Bills flag at the beginning of football season and fell from the ladder she was on breaking her leg. She needed surgery to repair the damage and it seemed to be the event that began the onset of dementia.
It was hard to watch her lose more and more of her memory. After my Dad died, she would tell me that he was out and didn't know when he was coming home. I would tell her that Dad had died and she'd say she was waiting for the other Frank (my Dad's name) to come home. Over the last year, it got much worse. At the beginning of the year, she knew who I was when I called her but our telephone calls were always very short and she'd say the same thing every time - "I miss you honey; I wish you didn't live so far away; Nice talking to you." Looking back, I regret not calling her more often to hear her say those three simple sentences.
In mid-December, I was visiting my Mom near Batavia - where she lives with family that cares for her. On the first day I arrived, she didn't know who I was. I told her several times that I was her son and told her my name. After repeating that to her many times, she knew I was her son but didn't remember my name. I shared pictures of my wife and kids from a recent vacation we took and she really enjoyed that.
On the next day, she had a massive stroke. She hasn't spoken since and has a confused look most of the time. The doctors are telling us that there is no hope for her - she can't swallow, has limited movement, and because of the pre-existing dementia has almost no brain function.
I'm writing this really for me - it's theraputic. She won't be able to read this and probably won't understand it when I read it to her (I'm planning on to be with her while she's in hospice care). She knew how special I think she is and I told her many times how much I appreciated everything she did for us. She knows that I love her and I know that she loves me. She was a selfless giver unlike anyone I've met.
As we begin a New Year, make the most of every moment you have with your loved ones.
Happy New Year.