Friday, March 13, 2009


Dear Mom,

It's so strange to think that today would have been your 70th birthday. Oh, the party we would have had! I bet you'd be even more hilarious by now, some on account of you being crazy little you and some on account of age doing its thing that makes some folks a little battier. I wish I could have met 70 year old you. But that kind of sadness and sorrow talk is for tomorrow, the 14th anniversary of your death, one day after your 56th birthday when you were still, as the realization encroaches upon me more each year, just so goddamn young. Tomorrow I'll deal with sad. Today I'll deal with a celebration of you, possibly with a birthday cake and definitely with that one meal that I make every year and that always involves my own little rituals.

And I'll tell you a story you'd appreciate.

I was back home in Chicago in February for the JET interview (yes, I might be doing Japan again) and got to spend time with everyone, and on the last day there before I went to Indy to see my dear friend J (who I met the first time I did JET and who you would have L-O-V-E-D if you'd met him because he's almost as crazy as you), Dad and I went out for breakfast. We actually went to a restaurant, not just to a store with samples like where he used to sometimes try to take you for breakfast when he was being the lovable ass Dad likes to be (you'd love COSTCO for a meal's worth of samples, though, seriously).

Breakfast done, Dad gave me the keys to his car and was going to just run to the bathroom, which was around the outside of the building since the place used to be an old gas station, for what I assumed should be a quick trip. I got in the car and sat in the passenger seat awhile, but it was taking him forever, and it was really cold. Chicago, February, you remember the drill. I put the key in the ignition hoping to start the car and get some damn heat going in that cold bitch (you'd've said something about a witch's tit), but you have to push something or do some fancy action while turning the key to actually make it turn, and I wasn't sure just what, so I sat and waited some more, getting colder. At first I was just cold, but after 5 minutes I was a little annoyed that Dad hadn't just let me stay in the warm restaurant with my coffee if it was going to be one of those sit down bathroom trips instead of the stand up kind. By 10 minutes I was a little worried. I mean, Dad's not exactly a spring chicken, and he was in there a really long time. I started to wonder if he fell in or if something bad had happened.

I considered some options. See, Dad has a cell phone (OMFG, I know! Crazy, isn't it? He resisted, but now he has one, and you'd totally have one, too. Everyone does, and lots of them are small enough to fit in your back pocket instead of in some big bag you keep in your car.), so I could call him, but if all's well and he's just on the crapper, that would really be the weirdest phone call of my life. Just, no. Still, I was weighing the option. Turns out my iPhone (long story - it's a small computer that's also a phone, though the computer aspect often works better than the phone aspect, even though it's a phone...) had very spotty coverage north of Chicago, and in this particular location, I had zero signal, which means I couldn't make that potentially weird call anyway. The phone sorta saved me from myself, I guess.

So I just keep sitting there, worried, wondering at what point I need to do something like knock on the bathroom door (with great potential to be no less weird than a phone call would have been) when I saw Dad standing in the parking lot looking completely lost and dazed and confused. I was instantly worried that something was wrong. He might be getting old-ish, but he never looks confused like that.

I open the car door and step out, still kind of inside the door, and wave to him and we have this conversation across the parking lot:

Me: "Hey, Dad, what are you doing?"

Dad: "Looking for you. What are you doing? My car is over here."

Me: *speechless, face turning 18 shades of red*

Um, yah. The car I'd been sitting in for 20+ minutes? It looked like Dad's car, but it was decidedly Not. Dad's. Car. Maybe the owner had left it unlocked, and my pushing the button to unlock it remotely hadn't actually unlocked it (or they didn't and it still had somehow). Of course the key fit in the ignition when I wanted to turn the car on for heat because it was still the same make of car, but that's why the key wouldn't turn. There wasn't a lot of stuff in the car, but Dad still doesn't keep much in his car, either, and it's not like I'd taken inventory for cross-reference.

So as I start to sheepishly make my way out of the car that I now remembered was in a completely different part of the parking lot than where we had parked upon our arrival 90 or so minutes prior, a handful of women are walking in the direction of the car. If it's possible to turn even redder at that point, I did, and I started apologizing up one side and down the other, trying to explain basically that I'm enough of a dumb ass to sit in the wrong car to wait for someone, and they just looked bewilderedly at me and my flusteredness. Yah, the car that I was in that was Not. Dad's. Car.? Um, Not. Their. Car. Either. Too. Oh. Gee. Zuss.

Of course, while I'd been worried about Dad, he'd been even more worried about my unexplainable and sudden disappearance after his 1 minute trip to the bathroom and had gone back in the restaurant, was asking if anyone had seen me, was doing the math on the bathroom keys and generally was just getting concerned, so I felt really terrible that I'd made him worry so much. Once the worry part had been over awhile, I think he found the humor in it, and I hear that the way he told it to my sister, your other daughter, he ended his story by saying "there's a little bit of your mother in that girl."

Indeed there is.

No matter how long you are gone, I'll always be your daughter. Happy Birthday, Mama. I love you. I miss you. You live on through me, and sometimes it's so obvious that it almost ain't even funny, except that it is. Thanks?


  1. What a great story Maggie, I was LOLing - really - all the way through. My thoughts are with you... it's amazing how after all these years our loved ones are still forefront in our thoughts.

  2. Oy.
    But in a way it's those sort of things that remind us of the people we miss and make us realize that in a way their "legacy" continues. Even in the form of a blooper.

  3. dear maggie, i had tears in my eyes and a smile on my face at the same time... beautiful letter!

  4. Wow, what a beautiful story and such a wonderful way to remember your mom :)

  5. Such a hilarious story, and so well told that by the end you had me in tears. Bittersweet tears.
    Beautiful post, Mags.

  6. How funny, and sweet. Sorry you lost your mom, maggie.

    My mom made this same mistake with cars. She came out of the supermarket, where my dad was waiting in front with the car. She loaded all her groceries in the backseat and jumped in the front to find a strange man staring at her with his mouth open. Ha! We still tease her about it.

  7. What a beautiful letter. I have to say, I laughed, and I cried and then I laughed through my cry, which is kind of the best kind, I think. I know this is an incredibly difficult time but I love how you carry and share her memory and all of her quirks and habits. beautiful beautiful post.

  8. *lol* My grandmother did the same thing once, it was her favorite story to tell... except it was years ago (1973) and she sat for an hour until the owner came!! LOL!

    Anyway; this was a beautiful letter Maggie. I laughed, I cried, I laughed some more. I'm sure your mom would be so proud of you.

  9. What a great and funny story, for such a sad reason. I talk to my dad all the time, don't know if he's listening, but I like to think he is. He would get a big kick out of a story like this.

    I can just imagine how embarrassed you were. Thanks for sharing the blooper.

  10. i was crying by the end--lovely tribute.

  11. Such a great story. I am glad you can celebrate your mom. I know she is smiling down on you.

  12. Oh Maggie, that story was awesome. Not only for the sheer hilarity, but because I loved the glimpse of your mom in you. You had me in tears by the end.

    Such a wonderful tribute.

  13. What a great post, Maggie :-) It made me laugh, smile and become a bit wistful...

  14. What a great tribute Maggie! Your mom sounds like she must have been an amazing woman. this post made me laugh and cry all at the same time.

  15. So funny in a weepy kind of way.
    I lost my dad 27 years ago and still have imaginary conversations. I hate all of the things he has missed in my life and the big void left in his place.
    My dad loved a good prank, and I'm a little like him that way. Any time I pull one over on somebody I know he would be so proud. I can feel him smiling at me.

  16. I do adore they way you right, my dear. But seriously, I laughed pretty darn hard. Mostly because it is something I could (maybe already have)do.

    Enjoy your celebration/remembrance day of her today!

  17. it seems that daughters really miss their mama and it does get better with time, but that sting is always there. this is really a sweet letter to your mom and she, no doubt is smiling down on you, especially when
    she sees herself in you....
    try to smile tomorrow too.

  18. I'm giggling through my tears.
    Funny and sad.
    It's good that you look like her so much!

  19. Freaking hilarious! I've come close myself, but have luckily been stopped when the door to "my" car has been locked. It's something so many of us have almost done! Thanks for the laugh and for sharing your beautiful letter to your mom with us. My prayers will be with you tomorrow!

  20. What a funny story. I am sure your mom would have loved it too.

  21. I just laughed out loud at you. But with love.

    I'm sure your mom, if she you know, can, is smiling somewhere. Happy birthday to her.

  22. Happy Birthday, Maggie's Mom. It's a day late, I know, but that's me - a day late and a dollar short.

    Wonderfully written, Maggie. I was laughing all the way through.

  23. Maggie,
    I loved your last post! I miss my parents too! I was wondering where weekly winners was this week? I miss it when you don't blog! I need to redo my blog and get to blogging! I am still smoke free!

  24. I love this.
    I hope you are doing well during a painful, crazy, upheaved time.

    Have missed your photos that make me want to force you to chef for me.


  25. What a funny story. That is totally something I would do.

    I'm so sorry about your mom. As you know, I understand all too well.

    Celebrate her today. You are right, crying is for another day. the Birthday, that's the day to cherish in your heart.

  26. That was so funny! I would have been totally embarassed too!

  27. Seriously SO funny Mags. Hilarious. And I got tears at the end there. *hugs*

  28. Oh, heartbreaking, touching, funny.

  29. How crazy that your Mom & my Grandma (who we lost to ALS last year) had birthdays 3 days apart! I thought of Gma all day on Monday but just didn't know what to post. This letter was lovely. {sniff sniff}

    My thoughts are with you, dear! I hope your packing has been going well!

  30. Oh Maggie! That made me pee my pants a little bit.

    I love this post so much, but it makes me sad too.


  31. Maggie . . . this was totally sweet. I can imagine you sharing this story with our mom, sitting on a the couch, sharing a laugh, crooked smiles and knowing glances.

    I can see it . . .

    This was just, perfectly lovely.

    She's smiling . . .

  32. Oh, Maggie. You had me smiling all the way through to the end, when you had tears streaming down my face at the sadness that your couldn't 'actually' tell this story to your mother. But I was still smiling, despite the tears.

    I hope the next day wasn't too hard on you to get through.

    Modertion on. Hmmm. Did you have some weird comments? At least I figured it out. Yeah, the blub about it below the comment box should have been a clue, but geez, you actually have to read that to have it clue you in. But, the comment I made on your last post, I thought disappeared somewhere, until I saw the blub that it was waiting approval.

  33. Beautiful and touching.
    It is good to remember every moment and cherish it always.


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