Its said that the apple doesnt fall far from the tree; well, I certainly hope thats true, for the base upon which the pillar of my strength comes from is quite the rock.
It began humbly enough in the quiet fields of Tuscany outside Florence, Italy, in a time of peace following World War I. Or, as they called it back then: The Great War. It wasnt long before troubles started; first the Great Depression, and then war again. There were many hardships along the way, and that saying: That which does not kill us makes us stronger was oh so appropriate.
Of course, this was all long before I appeared on the scene. By that time, the rock of our family had weathered a great many storms, trials, and tribulations. There had been four boys before me four all boys! Any mother knows that one is a handful, but four?
There were all the usual absurdities of youth: getting locked in the bathroom and needing the fire department to get them out, cub scouts and boy scouts, a family dog, paper routes, and girlfriends.
And yes, me, the fifth son born very late very much after the others. My father, in later years in one of his many drunken stupors would jeer at me that I was an accident, an unwanted accident! Every word from his mouth was a dagger to my heart, my soul; I had to learn to tune him out when he got like that, but it wasnt easy. Then, of all things, an episode of Roseanne showed me the truth; I wasnt an accident, merely a surprise. An accident is something you dont want; a surprise is something you didnt know you wanted, until it arrived.
But, in the Before Time, the happy days of my early childhood, life was bliss. This was the late 60s in Massachusetts; so things were fairly orderly and consistent. I went to preschool, I went home to my family and friends, and summers were spent on Marthas Vineyard. When youre four in that era words like Viet Nam, womens rights, LSD, and so on, have no meaning to you. Life is your family; pain is a skinned knee, the future is next month, and candy is better than money. Your parents are the world; they know everything, theyre perfect, and theyre always there for you.
Yet, there was a sign of things to come. One day, I heard my parents fighting something Id never even known could happen. I have no idea what it was about, but my mother ran crying to their bedroom. I was shocked, my mother crying? That didnt happen, that wasnt suppose to happen they were both perfect! I was confused; had something gone wrong had I done something wrong?
So, I did what any four-year-old boy would do upon hearing his mother in tears I sat outside her door, and wept. I whispered out of fear of being discovered that I was sorry. I didnt know what was wrong, but I was sorry for it, and I would do anything in the world to make it better, if she would just forgive me, and not be sad any more.
It took a while, but she finally came out, found me there, and together we comforted each other.
It was a number of years later, but finally came the end to their marriage; my mother could no longer stand dads many indiscretions. I had to wonder, how would she deal with life on her own? She who had been a housewife all of her life, and had no real skills; would she be okay? It took time, and a lot of work, but she overcame all the troubles of life to slowly build a new life of her own.
With the passing of the years, I began to see her change. The lines appeared on her face, the hair thinned and grayed, and she started to slow down. She had her share of health problems too cancer and various surgeries yet, she bounced back from all of them; stronger and more vivacious than before. It wasnt long before we jokingly called her the Energizer Bunny!
And now, in the twilight of her life, I see her slowing a bit more. The memory slipping, the hearing dimming, and that long-life battery of hers losing just a bit of its strength. Looking back over the course of her life, I see so many adversities overcome, so many challenges taken head on and beaten and again I go back to that saying about the apple.
Id like to think that I didnt fall far from her; I should like to possess the merest fraction of her strength, drive, and determination. Id like to be able to pass on all that she has given me to my child, that she might know what sort of stock she comes from. The soft gentleness of my mothers touch and smile belies the steel-like strength that lies beneath her warm exterior. The foundation of her pillar is granite, forged in the fires of her youth. While I know that her strength can not last forever, it gladdens my heart to see that she is able to remain an active senior for as long as possible.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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