Friday, November 6, 2009

For You, Gail

It was on Nov. 6, 1939, exactly 70 years ago today, that MotherBlog - real name Gail - was born in New York City.

It was 15 years ago today, in 1994, that she celebrated her 55th and final birthday; she died of lung cancer five weeks later, having been done in by 35 years of smoking. She passsed away all too soon, never having used a cell phone or email, never having used the internet, never having met her two grandchildren, never knowing that her oldest son became a lawyer.

As an aside, TigerBlog believes MotherBlog would not have been a fan of online shopping. She liked to be out with the people, talking to them, listening to their stories, telling them her own.

She remains to this day the single most tolerant person TB has ever met. If she was intolerant of anything, it was intolerance itself. To attend a holiday party at her house was to mingle with every subset of society; Thanksgiving with Gail (never "Mom" or "Mommy" or even "MotherBlog;" always "Gail") meant a collection of young couples with kids, gay and lesbian couples, elderly couples, whites, blacks, people from all over the world, Republicans and Democrats - anyone who had no other place to go was welcome.

She stood around 5' 3", if that, but when she hugged you, you knew you'd been hugged. She loved Steve McQueen, and she loved to curse. She was very far to the political left, and she and her younger son spent hours and hours playing point-counterpoint about their two favorite subjects: Ronald Reagan and the Giants-Redskins rivalry.

She was a nomad of sorts, a wanderer who lived in New Jersey and then relocated to Washington, D.C., because it sounded like a fun place to be and then later to Augusta and Atlanta in Georgia, again, because it seemed cool.

She was a graduate of Mt. Sinai School of Nursing, and in her reinvention of herself around the age of 40, she earned a bachelor's degree in politics and became something of a lobbyist for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society on the subject of long-term care, long before health care and its costs and issues became fashionable.

She traveled around all over the country, visiting chapters for the M.S. Society and nursing homes, meeting with elected officials, even testifying before Congress. She had friends from all over the country, and TigerBlog still has a container full of sympathy cards from everywhere, from total strangers, all talking about Gail and what she meant to them. One person called her "the bravest person I'd ever met."

Before she died, she insisted on being cremated and having her ashes scattered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, to serve as a permanent reminder that there's at least one person out there keeping an eye on what was going on.

And so it was, on Mother's Day 1995, six months after her death, that TigerBlog, BrotherBlog and a group of her friends traveled to Washington to fulfill her wish. As an aside, TB thought we would be the only people who had ever done this task; instead, there were two other similar memorials going on at the same time. Gail insisted that no tears be shed and that instead glasses be raised, and she in fact had written her own obituary, which TigerBlog read on the steps of the Capitol.

She was a big sports fan, even if she knew little about sports other than the fact that she loved the Redskins. She loved to talk about her son the sportswriter; she'd listen dutifully to a report on the latest men's basketball weekend or whatever it was that TigerBlog had just covered, even if she didn't exactly care about the games themselves.

TigerBlog remembers only one Princeton game she ever attended, the 1991 men's basketball game at Penn. She was passing through Philadelphia or Princeton or wherever, something she hardly ever did, and she agreed to go to the game. TB remembers how she sat by herself in the stands while TB took care of the radio and then his story.

When it was long past the end of the game and the Tigers were getting ready to get on the bus, TigerBlog introduced Gail to the head coach and chuckled when she called him "Mr. Carril."

Looking back on that moment, TigerBlog can see some similarities between the two. They were both born to very little money. They shared a strong work ethic. They were impossible to BS. They both gave so much to their professions and were well-known and well-respected across the country for it.

And yet they traveled in completely different universes. So, for that matter, did TigerBlog and his mother.

Please forgive TigerBlog for a little personal indulgence today, but it is his mother's birthday.

Happy 70th, Gail. It would have been nice to tell you in person.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Any mom would be honored and proud of that tribute. TB has quite a bit of Mother Blog in him.