Three days short of a week ago my mom went to the hospital via ambulance from her house in Redding California. It was in the middle of the night when my dad thought the weakness in her body and the blood in her cough was enough to warrant an emergency medical exam. She seems okay now. I’ll tell you that right up front.
My dad had left a voice message on my phone (my ringer is always off) and by the time I heard his voice tell me that mom was in the hospital I immediately called my brother in Houston because, like father, like son, I knew my dad wouldn’t even have his cell phone on at the hospital. My brother Jess filled me in on the details: mom, who has a rare autoimmune disease, was bleeding from her esophagus or her lungs. This sounds alarming to most people but part of the disease (KREST) is that tiny little blot-dot clots burst, both in the body and on the surface, but they can heal pretty quickly too. When I heard that she was intubated I worried but it was my brother who decided to fly out to California and hang out with dad for a week. If things got worse, we’d deal. If things got better then all my brother lost was time at work and gained some time with dad which, I’m sure, he appreciates.
So mom seems to be on the mend and one of the first concerns that she had, when they stopped sedating her and pulled the tube out of her gullet, was that she didn’t want me to write about her. This concern was relayed to me by my brother and when we both laughed at how funny it was that this was one of her first thoughts off a respirator, in my mind, I thought, “How am I going to get around this?” It’s not that I’m some hot shot reporter and this was a scoop, it’s just that this daily blog has been what it’s been but, if anything, it’s been real and in real-time. How was I going to not write about what I was feeling?
So, I decided to do what I always do and just start writing and see what happens.
My mom as a young girl was the middle child of fourteen children, twelve of which survived. Her young life began in Colorado but by the time she was a teen ager my grandparents and aunts and uncles moved to a small town called Antioch, California. It was there that my mom tried to get her siblings to stop speaking Spanish because they were starting a new life and new schools and she wanted herself and her Mexican-American family to fit it.
I love that little story because, even in retrospect, I think she and my aunts and uncles get a kick out of it. The times were different in the 50s but my family was pretty cool so they fit in just fine. But my mom was and still is very unique in the sense that she had a big picture in her mind of how things should be and she went for it. I think I get a lot of my boldness from her.
Cut to: my young dad working in Turkey for one of his uncles building condos. My parents were in their early twenties and dad calls my mother up and asks her to marry him. They had been dating from high school on. She said yes. Marie Lopez flew from Antioch to Istanbul, Turkey, and was married by a justice of the peace in a simple white wedding dress in a simple ceremony. What an adventure!
Unfortunately, 9 months later, they both flew back to the United States to birth me. May 28th, 1962. The adventure was over. The work began… And I’m sure I was a piece of work, but my mom was one those super-moms. The house where I grew up was the one where everyone wanted to come over and play because she always had crafts of fun project for me and my brother and our friends to do. She always had food. Good stuff too. Like a real home-made cake or Snickers bars. Even when dad was a scout leader, for both me and my brother’s troops or Indian Guides, mom always kept the house kid-ready and she fed us all and cleaned up afterwards.
Both my mom and dad taught me how to use my hands and make thing with tools. They were both arty in their own way which was an added gift they passed on to both me and my brother. But mom was exceptional with color and she was quite the artist. I have the very first charcoal drawing she did hanging in my living room. It don’t look like nobody’s first anything. I didn’t learn to draw from mom, I never had the patience, but I’m a great hair colorist and I just finished staining the ashy cabinets that David bought for my new office because they looked too “cool” in my warm toned room. (It’s 3am now-thank you very much Muscinex D!)
I could go on and on about the gifts my mom passed on to me and my brother but I only have time for two. For those of you who read Mafia Hairdresser, it does chronicle the coming out process of the hairdresser. His controlling mother has a hard time with his being gay and comedy ensues. Bla-bla-bla. Just like how that story was not the main story at all in the book, it was a blip in mine and my mother’s history together too. We both look back at that time, the real version, and laugh: What was that all about? That wasn’t one of the gifts per se, but I think it’s a good set up and shows you how close we are.
The first big gift (that I have time to share) I got from my mom was when I saw a movie on television. It was called. Twilight of the Golds. It was about a grown gay man whose sister and her husband have the means to know if their unborn fetus is gay or not. The family deals with ramifications of what if we could just have a straight child, wouldn’t that be easier on the child? On us? The gay son even struggles with how he feels about the situation and what of his existence if his mother could have found out if he was gay too? I was bawling after that movie. (It’s sooo good. You should rent it!) I remembered I called my mom that day, but I skirted around the issue until she finally asked me, “Are you asking if I have any regrets that you’re gay? I wouldn’t change any part of you or what you or I went through together. I love you just the way you are.” I cried with love, joy and release then. I’m crying as I write this now.
The second big gift from Marie Elshere was when I came back from Canada. I felt broken. Way before that I still hung on to the regret that I had couldn’t hang on to my high school sweetheart, Chuck. We only lasted 8 years, from our Jr. Year in high school till I was 24. My ambition did that relationship in. And then I serial dated for what seemed like the next two decades. Canada came about when I became engaged to a man whom I long distance dated for 2 ½ years. I thought everything was going to be great and I’d finally settle down. When that relationship broke, I broke. Was I ever going to be happy?
In between Canada and moving back to Chicago, I stayed about 3 weeks at my parent’s house. I think I stayed in bed for a week of that time. I was so sad and I made myself sick and tired. I cannot remember what conversation or subject prompted my mother to say what she did about my situation, but I remember when she said it, a weight was lifted and it has changed my life ever since.
She said, “You know, dear, having a relationship and getting married is all fine and good. I’m proud that your father and I have lasted so long. But, you know, it’s not for everybody. You might be one of those people who don’t settle down with one person. And that’s okay.”
When my mom told me that, I began to heal. And I also realized how blessed I was that I didn’t come from a home with divorced parents but yet their marriage had placed an ironic self-imposed pressure on me to be in a successful marriage myself. I don’t think I would be in a happy relationship today had my mother not lifted that burden off of me.
Well, this went on too long. I didn’t write this for mom or for anyone but me and I just kept goin’. It’s 5am. I’m gonna walk the dogs and take my Claritin.
Mom, if you do read this: I love you. And quit smoking. Think of it as a new adventure.
“I did not write much about more about my mother after this entry but continued writing in real-time and added that to the ebook.
R.I.P. Marie Elshere; Your son loves you very much and is happily single AGAIN!”