Monthly Archives: July 2008

My mom’s legacy

I had dinner with my aunt, my mom’s sister, last night. Thinking about people who we thought would be at the funeral but hadn’t come had made my aunt go down a path that had really affected her. She thought about things Mom had done that people didn’t really know about and so, they couldn’t fully appreciate them. She wanted that to change, because it’s her legacy. So she’s writing down these things, so her children and grandchildren will know them, and so my family and I will know them. We talked about a few of them, and it touched me so much, I need to pass them on now.

Because it’s my mom’s legacy.

Marge and the twins

When my mom was 15, she went to a summer camp and she introduced herself to another 15 year old girl named Marge.  Marge’s stepmother was my mom’s piano teacher, and my mom being one of those friendly people, she walked up and said hello.  They became close friends that summer and stayed in contact when they went home.

Marge wasn’t happy at home with her father and stepmother, a teenage girl’s rebellion against her father remarrying and introducing someone as “Mom”.  At 18, she left and got a place in New York; she had to be a very tiny fish in a large, strange ocean, coming from a tiny place near Quakertown, PA to NY.

But she told my mom she was happy; she got a job, a boyfriend, and her own life.  My mom would visit, first by herself, then with her boyfriend turned husband and then with their young children.

My mom was 23 when she got a tearful call from Marge: she had gotten pregnant, her boyfriend dumped her when he found out, and she had just given birth to twins.  She had tried to keep her life together, but she had failed, and now with no money, she was having to give her twin girls up for adoption.

Mom first sent a telegram, then arrived in person: Marge would keep her twin babies and she’d do it because they were going to move in with my mom and dad.  They had little money themselves, but they’d make it work.  She insisted.  And so at 23, she brought her friend and twin babies to live with her own family.  She helped Marge get a good job and put money away, refusing to take any.  For almost a year, she took care of Marge’s twins and my brother who was the same age, which meant it was like she was taking care of triplets.  She also 1 year old Gerry, 3 year old Cheryl, and 4 year old Terry in our family’s tiny, 3 bedroom rancher.

When Marge decided it was time to go (with help from my grandmother who was worried Mom was being drained too much from all this), my mom told her she didn’t have to, but Marge was ready.  Still, my mom had them over every Sunday for years, until the twins were teenagers, and sent home meals.  When the twins wanted bikes for Christmas and Marge couldn’t afford them, “Santa” made sure there were 2 bikes next to that tree.

Eventually, Marge moved back to Quakertown when the girls were in high school, but she and my mom stayed close right up to the end.  She said she always considered my mom as her sister.

And if it weren’t for my mom, Marge would never have her 2 girls or her grandchildren and great-granchildren.  And those twins never would have known their mother.  They had a family and a life as one because of my mom.

Irene and my sister

My dad had a girlfriend in high school named Irene.  They dated until he went into the service and overseas for the war.  She in turn got married and had a couple of children.  At some point, she and my dad, now married to my mom and with a herd of children (had to keep having kids until we had a boy!), got in contact with each other again.  Irene had fallen on very bad times; she lived in poverty with a bed a dresser drawer on the floor in a slum apartment.  Her daughter had a dresser drawer too, also on the floor, and that was their only furniture.  Irene had become an alcoholic and had more bad times than I can imagine.

Rumors spread about her and my dad, since they had been high school sweethearts, which didn’t help my mom of course.  And that’s only important because of what happened later.

When I was three, Irene’s apartment building burned down.  She managed to save her daughter, pushing her out of the burning building to the firemen below.  She couldn’t save herself and died in the fire.

People rarely adopt or foster children because they say they don’t want to inherit someone bad genes.  And when they do, they demand babies.

My mom had six children, still in the same tiny rancher, still with little money.  And yet, she took in a teenage girl who came from a chaotic, poverty stricken, alcoholic home.  The daughter of her husband’s old girlfriend.  An angry, hurt teen with issues and bad genes.  First with my dad, and then by herself when he died a few years later, she raised this kid that the rest of the world deemed her not good enough to be part of their family.  She went from being Aunt Doris to Mom for this girl.

She became my sister, and as much my sister as all the ones my mother gave birth to.  Unlike Brad Pitt who only claimed his life had meaning as a father once he had a biological child, my mother made no differences between any child.  And as a testiment to her and my sister’s strength, she turned her life around, fighting back the issues she had from her old environment and genetics.  She went to college — only the second person in my family to do it — and walked into that school with her head held high and my mom next to her.  She dedicated her career to helping other “undesirable” people, children like her, alcoholics, and the mentally ill.

And when her biological family contacted her twenty years ago, she went to my mom and explained she wanted to know these half-sisters, but “You’re always my mom.  They don’t change that.  Where would I be now if you hadn’t loved me when no one else would?”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

I couldn’t do what she did.  I’ve thought of being a foster parent or adopting, but I know I’d just suck as a parent.  I have tried to help people as much as I can, no matter what it costs me.

My mom wanted to be a pediatric nurse.  She wasn’t.  But she ended up helping families anyway.  And this is just part of the legacy she left behind.

PS: As a little personal footnote, after talking with my aunt, even though we also discussed how bad we felt with Mom gone, it was a good experience for us. I found out that I’m the same age that my aunt was when her mom, my Nana, died.  She put it so well.  She said, losing that parent, makes you suddenly aware that no one is behind you now.  Not like they were.

And because I actually had something so good come out of the night, finding out these things about my mom, I put on the pants she bought me for my birthday on that last day.  Because it felt good to see them for the first time.

Disney Magic Meets trip report on my site

I added the trip report for Magic Meets and Hershey Park to my website under trips. Only mentioning it in case someone is interested.

Some more tears over Mom

I had a bit of a rough night. I colored my hair because what gray I have was showing, and I remembered my mom a few years ago noticing I had gotten a few grays. She got this horrified expression on her face and I thought I had a tick or something in my hair. She leaned over to my sister Cathi and whispered something. I kept saying, “What! What?!” Cathi broke out laughing and told me what Mom said: “She has gray hair!” Like I had gone completely gray overnight! And as I remembered all of that, it was so unreal that she was gone; I felt like I could pick up the phone and laugh with her over the whole thing again.

Then I remembered her last day, and how I pointed out that she never went completely gray. She still had nearly as much black as she did gray. And suddenly, it was VERY real that she was gone. I remembered sitting next to her in the restaurant for lunch, and her voice as she talked about thinking she’d never live to see her great-grandchildren. Or how she wanted a housekeeper but was worried she had a big medical bill again, like she might have had with her cancer treatments years ago or the heart attack years before that. Or how she got impatient in the mall when she saw something in a store and I wasn’t around to push the wheelchair in that second, so she’d scooch around in it but moving the chair around with her feet, like Fred Flinstone in his car. And I’d come back to the spot where she had been and call out, “Where’d you go, crazy lady?” Or see her scuttling by in some aisle. How frustrated we got trying to find slacks in my size, and I was fed up but she insisted on keeping at it so I’d have a birthday present.

And I just broke into tears. Because I intensely felt how I’d never see or hear any of that again.

Tonight I’m having dinner with my aunt and my sister Cathi. We’re in the same area as that day when we had lunch with Mom, although not in the same place. Still, I feel it…. John and I went into the bookstore this weekend, the same one I was in with Mom that day. It ate at me for a long while, as I remembered her wanting some book and I kept asking the people for it, because it was on the computer and was supposed to be there. And how I couldn’t find what I was looking for either and her disappointment that she couldn’t get what she had planned as my present.

It’s so odd that I had that moment last night, where I felt like she wasn’t gone, because it’s the first time I felt like that. I’m always aware that she’s gone; it’s just a fact that your heart knows, and then something comes along, like driving through our old town, that brings it sharp and hard to my attention. But last night, everything in me rebelled against that knowledge; it became a bad dream that I had and was only trying to convince myself it had been real.

Until I remember that last day….

Disneyana Jones is online!

My friend, Dave, started his blog, so the Steamboat Willie design is up and running.  He named his blog “Disneyana Jones”! LOL

My review for “The Dark Knight”

We saw it at the drive-in on Friday night with Journey to the Center of the Earth which was, unfortunately, weak.  That’s all I need to say about that; I hear it’s got great 3D effects, but the movie could have been much better.

As for the new Batman movie: SPOILER ALERT!!!

Heath Ledger is phenomenal! He did exactly what an actor is supposed to do: create a full character.  He changed his voice, his body movements, everything.  His Joker is complete with his own mannerisms, speech patterns, and dark energy.  From his different walks, hand movements, inflictions…. every scene lit up the screen!  It’s no wonder people are already talking about an Oscar; he deserves it.  I give credit that the film did a good job of walking the fine line with the Joker of showing just what a psychotic freak he is without turning his scenes into gore.  The audience knows, through Ledger’s perfect performance, offscreen voices and great cutaways, exactly what he is doing, but it’s not put in front of in a gore fest.  Hitchcock would love it, and because they did it right, they took the Joker to dark, intense psychotic level that he really is.  Heath Ledger was so fantastic, I found myself excited whenever he came on the screen and nearly literally sitting on the edge of my seat.  As you can tell, I can’t say enough good things about his performance and it’s bitterly sad that he’s gone.

I also really liked Harvey Dent and his storyline, including the different take on how he became Two Face.  It worked very well, and Aaron Eckhart did a wonderful job of playing Harvey Dent through the character’s entire story arch.  His chemistry is great with Maggie Gyllenhaal, and the two of them create a couple that really works.  It’s important to the story that it does because the relationship between them is such a strong catalyst for his character.  Maggie doesn’t play a Rachel that’s fantastically, physically beautiful, but such an attractive woman who has the great characteristics of strength, intelligence, warmth, and integrity that you can see why these two men are so drawn to her.

Can you hear the “but….”?

The movie has two of them.  First:

Christian Bale was an utter bore.  As much as I can go on and on about Heath Ledger being brilliant, Bale goes the opposite end of the scale.  He dragged the movie down!  He showed the same emotion — which means he showed none — about being in love with Rachel, wanting to catch the Joker, talking with Alfred about being Batman…. EVERYTHING!  It all had the same droning voice, the same expressionless expression….  Bruce Wayne/Batman is an intense character.  He and the Joker are the same that way. They are the ying and yang with each other, at once alike and so very, very different.  But as much as Heath Ledger did with the Joker, Bale did nothing with Batman.

The second thing wrong with this film: did none of them read Batman?  The suit is stupid — he looks like the battle action Batman figure that came out, complete with hanglider.  Ugh!  Then there’s the character mistakes such as:

Batman abhors guns — hello, parents murdered with a gun, remember?  He hates them so much that (I’m geek enough to know this, how sad) that when Dick Grayson became a cop, Bruce wouldn’t let him wear his sidearm into the house or the cave, and bellowed in rage at him for taking a job where he had to carry one, even if he never used it.  This is NOT someone who puts machine guns on his motorcycle! Another thing: how stupid do they think the movie audience is?  The car is supposedly so messed up, it can’t run because it’s been blown up and crashed up.  Yet the same systems work perfectly fine on the cycle when it tears out.  AND how is it that the cycle can do that flip over action so Batman doesn’t crash, but in less than a minute later, he doesn’t know how to flip the cycle and crashes?  Plus, how is it he’s all the time and money to build penthouses, new Bat equipment like the car-cycle hybrid, etc. etc., but doesn’t get his house fixed?  And, what is he doing in a warehouse?!  Damage to the manor does not destroy the entire cave system; it’s a CAVE.

AND he does not give out his secret identity.  Lucius Fox has no idea that he’s Batman.  And Bruce never uses Wayne Enterprises money or the R&D department for a good reason: so no one can trace that back to Bruce being Batman.  He has a private R&D guy and uses his private funds.  By making this change, they open a can of worms that they never answer: how is it Fox and this accountant figure it out, but no other accountant or R&D guy or IT people see those funds and equipment disappearing?  Stupid change; if you’re going to make changes to the Batman canon, then you have to make good ones, like the change to Harvey Dent’s storyline.  Not ridiculous ones like the Batman ones in this film.

Last: the movie should have ended 45 minutes to an hour earlier.  They had the perfect ending, and then dragged it down with a whole other, mini-movie and a very weak, lame over the top garbage ending.  Gag!  Not to mention, they kill off a fantastic character that they could have done a whole other movie with!  They had so much material, it should have been its own movie rather than squish it into the ending of this one and drag it down.  They could have ended with Joker’s point of his real triumph, and left on that note, giving Eckhart his own film to really delve into Two Face’s revenge.  And Bale’s whole speech about let them hate me blah blah blah…..

It’s still a very good movie, thanks to Ledger and other cast members.  But it could have been a great, excellent movie if Bale and overwriting hadn’t messed it up.

Steamboat Willie blog design

A friend of mine saw the vacation blog design I did in December, and asked if I’d do a Disney blog design for him.  I knew his favorite Mickey is Steamboat Willie, but no design idea really made me happy until a few days ago.  So I finished it at lunch (because of course I didn’t do any of this on work time!).  I still need to put some finishing touches on it, such as copyright credits for his work and Disney’s art, but they’ll come when he creates his blog account.  Right now, this is under mine.  Here it is:

I started off, naturally, with a free template and then changed the majority of the elements.  Basically, I kept the basic blue background, adding the large in color Steamboat Willie (that’s from the stamp), and the white bar near the top.  The little Mickeys in the divider bar are all from screencaptures from Steamboat Willie, and the one in the box is actually an animated gif.  It also plays his whistling theme when you go to the blog (just once! no infinite looping); you can see the player in the footer.  Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to use the bgsound property instead of embed.  Yet.  😉

“Storyboards” is just a working title for the blog; I don’t know what Dave will do.  I had to put something, and since he was an Imagineer and a film maker, I thought it was a good common ground with the posts being the storyboards of his life.  But let’s face it; who’s going to get that?  LOL!

Have we been In the trash?

What makes you say that?