Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sweet innocence/hard reality

This old photo is breaking my heart. It's my mother in the center with her newborn baby Mark on her lap. Steve is standing to her right wearing the ironed white shirt, Michael is standing in front with the cute little shorts with suspenders. I'm the geeky big sister in the back. There was one child yet to come, our youngest sister Joan. It breaks my heart because the photo was taken so long ago, in the innocent mid-1950s. Our mother is a beautiful young woman, obviously pleased with her young family. We are all dressed like we were going to church (very likely). We lived in a rambler in the suburbs and we went to Catholic school. We had pot roast or spaghetti for supper on Sunday and our grandfather always came to eat with us. Every summer we drove to our grandfather's house on the Chesapeake Bay. We ate crabs and got stung by sea nettles. Steve was an altar boy and a cub scout. Mike promised our mother that when he grew up he would never leave home and every night when he was grown he would bring her a bag of doughnuts and a pack of CocaColas. I was going to be a nun or an airline stewardess. As Mark got older he longed to be a trash man--he would put his toys in a blanket, climb to the top of the bunkbeds, and throw the toys down into an imagined garbage truck.

I look at my mother's innocent face in the photo and wonder if she ever imagined that she would be 85 years old, a widow for less than one year, when that baby boy she is holding would be shot and killed. Every mother's greatest fear is that one day she could lose one of her children. But to get to the age of 85 and have her youngest son murdered is too much for an old woman to handle. She said today that she would not hesitate to trade her life for his, that she wishes she could have died in his place because the sadness is too much for her, that her life will never be the same. The loss is too great and he was her son for 55 years. The innocence was so sweet  . . .

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