Lazin’ at Lac Champlain
June 17th passed recently with little fanfare, although my mother would have celebrated her ninety-first birthday on that date if alive. I’d like to think both my deceased father and brother—my only sibling—were merrily celebrating Mum’s birthday with her on the inimitable other side, should such an existential state exist. My son never met her. She died in 1965 of uterine cancer, well before his and her time. Not much was known about the dreaded “c” word back then, and she was obsessively prudish, not seeing mostly male doctors about her nagging abdominal cramps that afflicted her for many years prior.
Lee, as she like to be called, was always on the cutting edge of cool: into ’50s Art Deco, the latest in clothing fashions, 45-rpm rock-‘n’-roll records by Elvis, The Platters, Sam Cooke, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper; listening to the original “Good Guys” on NYC radio all day long, forever driving a classic 1956 Ford Fairlane 500, light-blue, two-tone, two-door convertible until she died. My friends asked me often if she was my sister when Mum picked me up after school with the top down and her hair wrapped in a brightly colorful kerchief, wearing rock-star sunglasses while looking like Rita Hayworth. Lee has been missed regularly since then, as I was a young boy at the time of her death and have always felt ripped off in life as a result.
A good-hearted gal she was, helpful to our neighbors, faithful to my dad, her friends; and friendly to everyone she met, greeting them with her mischievous smile and exceedingly good nature. I certainly didn’t inherit those wonderful traits, being the old grump I’ve been told I am; but I’ll help anyone in need if I can.
What a tremendous waste of vital, human energy lost, it seems to me, to have grievously expired at such a relatively young age, her having just turned forty-three, ravaged by a devastating disease that nowadays can be placed into remission for good, allowing one’s life to continue for many years to come. Where might I have ended at this latter stage of my life, had she lived on to guide me? I never had the chance to really know her, but Lee’s free spirit has lived on in my heart; so perhaps I’d have ended up exactly where I’m at right now, a cynical grump at times who has a soft heart, loves great music and having a good belly laugh as often as possible.