From whence I came

From whence I came

I miss my childhood, or at least parts of my childhood. Some parts of it I can still do without. I never cared much for getting grounded, which happened on occasion. I don’t miss being too young to do some things, like riding roller coasters or purchasing alcohol for a minor. Although I really wish I hadn’t so actively wished to be 21, because maybe it all would have gone a lot slower if I had enjoyed it more.

As I’ve gotten older this train ride called life really seems to be picking up speed. When I was a child, time seemed to have a way of standing still. Summer vacation was only 3 months long yet it seemed to last forever. I miss that. I miss the feeling of the last day of school, when you had what seemed like the rest of your life to do nothing but do nothing.  I miss slow summer days, and long summer nights. I miss catching fireflies in old mason jars in the woods behind the house with my uncle. I miss tree forts, although I never actually felt safe in them. I was always waiting to hear the sound of boards snapping and plummeting to a horrible and untimely death six to eight feet below. But I think I could handle it like a big boy if I could do it over again. I miss ding-dong ditching, and flashlight tag, and Truth or Dare, and summer camp, and listening to Red Sox games on the radio with my father while he drank Schlitz beer and mowed the lawn. I miss kid stuff.

My childhood was pretty good, until I was 11. That’s when my mother died from cancer. She had suffered with it for about a year. That’s a rough estimate. I was 11 and didn’t have a great sense of time as I stated earlier. From what I remember she had gone into the hospital for gallbladder surgery and when they opened her up they found a large tumor. By the time she passed away it had gotten into her bone marrow. I’m sure there are technical medical terms for this, but once again I was 11, and I was no Doogie Howser, MD. I just knew mom was sick. My father sat us (me, my brother and my sister) down one day and told us that mom had a tumor. I didn’t really know what that was but I knew it was bad. I didn’t associate it with cancer though.

Then one Sunday after mass we were in the school basement where they sold coffee and donuts. The adults would sit around and have coffee and conversation while the kids would run around the place all wired on sugar and salvation. My brother was talking to some kid and he said that our mother had cancer. I told him to take it back. I think it might have gotten physical, as it usually did betwixt us back then. I ran to my father and told him that he was telling lies about mom. That was when my father explained that mom did have cancer and that was what the tumor was. I asked him why he didn’t just say she has cancer. He had no answer, but I think he just couldn’t say it. I think saying it out loud made it real.

She spent the next year or so going between our house and the hospital. She would be home for a few weeks and then she would get bad again and she would be back in Boston for a while. I remember a few times walking home from the bus stop after school and cresting the hill that led to the house and seeing the ambulance pull away. She would talk to us on the phone when she was able to, and Dad would bring us in to see her on the weekends. One time I brought in this ventriloquist dummy I had. Yeah, I was that kid. I figured I would put on a show for her and cheer her up, make her forget about being sick. Instead I walked into the room, looked at her and started bawling. She looked horrible. Her skin was yellow from jaundice and she was extremely thin. I don’t think I even showed her the dummy. It was really bad. That was the last time I saw her. After that my father wouldn’t take us there. I don’t blame him. It was for the best.

The last time I spoke with her was a Friday. She was coming home on Monday and was very excited about it. We talked for a few minutes and I remember her singing to me. I don’t remember what she was singing, just that she sounded happy, which made me happy. She said that she loved me and would see me in a couple of days. I gave the phone back to my father and went back to watching Bosom Buddies or Mork & Mindy or something. Sunday night she slipped into a coma. On Wednesday she passed away. It was January 27th, 1982. She was 44 years old. I am now 2 years younger than she was then. A lifetime has passed in the 31 years that she has been gone. Or almost three lifetimes for little eleven year old Billy. But sometimes it seems like just yesterday. Sometimes I can still hear her voice on the phone.

So I don’t miss that part of childhood.  But I would love to be able chase after an ice cream truck again.

Without looking like a fucking weirdo.

35 responses »

  1. sweetmo says:

    This was beautiful, my friend. Heart wrenching and beautiful. Xo, sm

  2. rossmurray1 says:

    That’s a gut-wrencher, Bill. Thanks for this.

  3. free penny press says:

    One of life’s cruelest fates is for a child to lose their parent..and vice versa..
    thank you for sharing these wonderful and personal memories..now go chase down that ice cream truck

  4. mairedubhtx says:

    How heart-breaking, to lose your mother at such a young age. I was touched by your story. Thank you. But then you still have good memories of childhood. How resilient. You are allowed to run after the ice-cream truck again, I think.

  5. This is really beautiful Bill. I lost my mother to cancer when I was 16. I remember my mom being thin and yellow. I can’t imagine having to deal with it at a younger age. It must have been brutal. I’m so sorry for you loss. I’m going to have a good healthy cry now.

    • I am sorry for your loss. No matter the age, cancer fucking sucks. Hopefully someday we will talk about cancer like we talk about polio. In an historical context.Thank you for reading it.

  6. The Cutter says:

    This must have been tough to write. I feel for you. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with chasing the ice cream truck as an adult.

  7. My kids are 8, 10, and 12. I’m almost 43. I can’t imagine dying at 44 and leaving them to figure out the why’s and how’s of life without me, including the questions they’d ask about me and why I had to go.

    I have a long list of favorite posts by you. This might be my favorite fav.

    xoxo

    P.S. This dude in high school had a crush on my friend, Michelle when we were juniors. We were all partying at someone’s house on a Saturday afternoon, and he got so drunk that he chased her car down the gravel driveway as we sped away to go buy some parachute pants. As he was running after her car he slipped and fell, face-first. Even if you chased an ice cream truck as an adult you wouldn’t look as fucking weird as he did. And bloody. Just sayin.

    • Stacie,
      You know you are one of my favorites in the blogging world. I think back and can’t imagine being my father. All of a sudden left to raise three kids by himself. No wonder he turned to booze to help him get by. Looking back it’s sad, but when it was happening it was awful. Sometimes Iwonder what life would have been like had it not happened. I wish she could have met my wife. They could have drank highballs together. They would have got along splendidly. Thanks for the kind words my friend.

      PS- Michelle was always too good for old bloody face. We all knew it.

  8. twindaddy says:

    I’m never good at saying things in responses to posts like this. Well written and emotionally powerful. Other than that, I’m at a loss.

  9. Bill, I remember your mom so well and can’t believe it has been that long! What a sweet lady she was. I know both of my parents loved her. This was so beautifully written.

  10. tracy fulks says:

    Wow.
    OK, so I gather we are the same age, and both growing up on the East coast, your summertime memories could have just as well been my own. I felt like I was right there, I could see your dad with the Schlitz and smell the fresh cut grass. That amazing light that only exists for about 10 minutes before darkness, barefoot, wildly chasing fireflies.
    You wrote the shit out of this.
    And then my heart cracked. 11 years old. Cancer. Mom. 3 words that should never be used in a fucking sentence together.
    I was 30 when I lost my mom to cancer, she had just turned 56 2 days before she died. My oldest son is 7, and as I creep up on those numbers, and look at the cigarette clamped between my fingers, I realize that I should punch myself in the neck.
    Thank you for that beautiful, and sad, and lovely piece of writing.
    Tracy

    • Tracy,
      Your Beef Stroganoff post had a lot to do with me writing this. It has been on my mind for days. My mother used to make Galumpkis. They were stuffed cabbage rolls that everyone used to rave about when she would whip them up for whatever special occasion was happening. I never tried them because I was a stupid kid and they seemed gross to me. I wish I could try them now. Seriously, congrats again on the Fresh Pressing on that post. It was very cathartic to me.
      Bill

  11. tracy fulks says:

    I just replied with a comment that was as long as some of my posts. If wordpress swallowed it up I’m going to punch them in the faces, with my mind.

  12. Carrie Rubin says:

    Oh, this broke my heart. How painful for you to go through this, and as a mother myself, how painful it must have been for her to see you have to witness her illness. When you mentioned the ventriloquist dummy, I imagined my own 12-year-old son bounding into my hospital room to show me his latest magic trick. I think I’ll hug him extra tonight. Thanks for reminding us what’s really important in our crazy, hectic days.

    • Thanks for reading it Carrie. I actually hadn’t thought of that day with the dummy for a very long time until I was writing this. I remember going in with it, and I think my father might have told me not to bring it. But I wanted so badly to make her laugh. It didn’t happen. That was a rough day.

  13. Oh my – I’m so sorry. What a heart wrenching experience. And one that scares me beyond anything. I cannot imagine what it is like to lose a parent – especially so young. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.

  14. It seems like it, right. I have been thinking of Tracy’s Beef Stroganoff post for a few days and it got me thinking of my mother. I’m glad you enjoyed it my friend.

    PS- “Inheriting Nostalgia” should get you Freshly Pressed again. Seriously. It’s that good.

  15. whiteladyinthehood says:

    Hi Bill. (a sweet little clown kinda steered me to your blog)…and I am really glad he did! I read Tracy’s Beef Stroganoff post – it really almost brought me to tears it was so well written…and Le Clown’s post about his dad was remarkably good. Then I click here and think – Wow! This was so personal to be the first thing I read that you write, but it definitely falls into the awesome category,too. Of course, I’m terribly sorry about your mom…but it was a wonderful story.

    • Thank you kindly. I usually try to go for the funny, but Tracy’s post got me thinking more serious for a bit. Any friend of Le Clown is welcomed here. Thanks for reading it.

  16. Anonymous says:

    So sorry you had to deal with that at such a young boy. For a parent trying to decide wether or not to bring a child to see a parent while so sick is such a hard choice to make. My heart cries for any child to go thru that, so sorry you were one of them.

  17. mrs. R says:

    Good luck to you and your family

  18. brainsnorts says:

    What you went through was similar to what my youngest brother was also forced to experience. when it happened to my mother, i was 22 and getting ready to move into my first apartment with my future ex-wife. i always feared that my family felt i was running away from it and letting the rest of them deal with our mother’s death. she died in mid-May, and I moved out in june i think. maybe july, so i wasn’t around for most of the aftermath. i had two younger brothers, and i still feel that i failed to be the older brother they were supposed to count on when things got tough. but there’s also a sister older than me, and she was tough enough for everyone to count on.

    thanks for sharing

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