When I came across this picture of my Mom and me earlier today, it brought back a flood of memories. Many of what a tight unit my Mother and I made. As we get older, we often forget the impact our Mothers have had on the people we are today. How, through kindness and unconditional love, they made us strong. Preparing us for the long road ahead. As we grow, it’s important to remember the sacrifices and selflessness they exercised. Though my Mom could be tough. She always made an effort to shield me from any pain that would come from learning the hard way. Thanks Mom. Your sacrifices have never gone unnoticed.
I was home one day and decided to see if I could find a movie on Netflix. It seemed to be a better choice than watching CNN or any of the twenty four hour news networks. Unless I know ahead of time just what I want to watch. It can take up to an hour to find something that I feel can hold my interest for more than it’s entirety. Within a matter of seconds, I found a Seth Rogen film I had not seen or even heard of. It was even under the ‘Critically Acclaimed’ category. So, how can I refuse? Now don’t get me wrong, Seth is pretty one dimensional in his work. Throughout his career, he’s pretty much cornered the market as far as lovable losers are concerned. Still, I love his work, and in many ways, identify with his characters.
Going in, there were two other factors that drew me to the movie. One; It’s filmed in my then current city of Seattle and much like my years as a New Yorker, where I would be able to name most of the streets and locations featured in the various franchises of Law & Order. I easily recognized many of the Seattle streets where the film was created. What I did not expect and did not bargain for was the reaction I had to Jordan-Gordon-Levitt’s character Adam being diagnosed and struggling with cancer. As someone who watched a beautiful soul succumb to leukemia and die when I was only eight and was told I had month to live due to a brain tumor when I was twelve, it fucking wrecked me.
I was seven or eight years old when my Father started dating Angie. She was like no other person I had met before and maybe until I met the woman who would eventually become my wife. Angie was born in Taiwan and lived with her very strict, traditional and educated family in Queens. I’m not sure how the two met, but with Angie being was a teller at a local bank and my father still driving a bus for the city. The chances of them crossing paths was pretty high. On the nights we’d pick her up from the apartment where she lived with her parents. I’d have to hide in the back seat until they emerged and I got the signal that the coast was clear. She, along with her family had immigrated looking for a better life and like many, the chance to work towards the American dream. A recently divorced bus driver with a son was more of a nightmare than a dream.
Angie and my dad were polar opposites in almost every way. While my father stood 6’4 with a booming voice. Angie was tiny in comparison, always speaking softly in what often seemed like whispers. Her jet black hair often hung down below her knees. Often causing her peers to ask how she kept it looking so manageable and beautiful. Though my Dad was always a heavy drinker and an occasional drug user. Unlike my Father, Angie never acquired a taste for alcohol, drugs, or gambling. Such distractions or deviances never interested her.
Her generosity and penchant for spoiling me were undeniable. However, introducing me to New York City’s Chinatown and adventures on Mott Street would impact and influence me the most. She would read the Chinese comic books I’d buy each time, teaching me a new word, phrase, or Chinese slang term. As a kid who hated the Wringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus, my Uncle Ray and Aunt Mary would take me to each year. Angie’s taking me to the Taiwanese Circus left my mouth gaping in amazement and adoration. The experience blew my mind.
By the age of seven, I had already witnessed a friend fall to his death and been to a funeral, but seeing Angie fall to Leukemia was the hardest thing I’d witnessed before or since. Seeing her lay in a hospital bed connected to tubes. Experiencing the process of her flowing black hair become stubble, only compared to what I saw in war movies depicting prison or concentration camps. The treatment, drastic, yet unsuccessful only seemed to make things worse. Eventually, after often brutal chemotherapy treatment that only seemed to worsen her condition, she would come home with my Dad , but it was short lived, as she would soon return to the hospital where she would pass.
Even now, when I bring her up in conversation, my Dad easily recalls detailed memories of her kindness, their time together, and what it was like sitting by her bedside at the hospital. As I write this, I try to focus on all the good and kindness that she brought us. The positive imprint she left in her twenty seven years on this planet. Maybe, writing about the suffering will help me heal enough to focus on the good things.
As for her family. I didn’t meet any of them until the day of the funeral. Like I said, they would have never let their daughter date a man who was divorced with a kid. When I think back to those days; and I often do. I didn’t like it, but I kind of understood. Looking back, I can’t help but think, that experience had a lot to do with my drive in volunteering on so many cancer related fundraisers. To think that something good came out of that tragedy is as rewarding as it is hard to believe. In the end, Angie may have been the greatest, most positive influence on my early childhood. Her presence and overall impact certainly influenced me as an adult and effected the way I’ll always want to treat people. I will always love her and appreciate the short, yet impactful life she lived. Till this day. I still have the Chinatown shirt she bought me on a trip to Mott Street. I had to be eight at the time. Though it hasn’t fit in more than forty years, I keep it as a token of her kindness and the last physical item representing our time together. Thanks Angie, you will always hold a place in my heart.
Recently, my father and I have engaged in numerous conversations regarding drinking and his alcohol consumption over the years. This morning’s call to him had no intention other than to tell him how proud I was of the man he’s become. As of late, I’ve become somewhat reluctant to write about him within a specified period, as not to paint him as a one-dimensional character. You see, the stories and the time frame in which I’ve chosen to write, come from a time, though not forgotten, happened long, long ago. If I can take away anything from both our conversations and the many experiences we’ve shared over the years is that A; We’re lucky he’s alive, and B; Grateful for the changes he made.
Though we often clash on things such as politics, religion, music, and even sports, they all feel pretty small when I think of how far we’ve come in creating an environment of mutual respect and admiration. So, in short, I just wanted to write a few words for a man I always looked up to, but could never dream of coming even close to being.
It’s been close to a week since my Mom’s first visit to our new home here in Jersey City. During her week here, I made it a priority to capture some intimate images of her stay. Being that we’ve lived so far from one another for over twenty years now. I don’t get to see her nearly as much as I’d like to. While her stay had it’s share of ups and downs. It reminded me of how much I love, respect and appreciate how much she’s shaped the person I am today. By far my favorite moments of her visit was seeing her interaction and the positive foot print she left on everyone she met. Her smile, positive outlook and ability to make complete strangers feel like family are inspiring. Looking back at her visit, I realized that the thing I enjoyed the most was hearing her speak in Spanish s0 often with anyone and everyone she new spoke the language. For me personally, it’s always been one of the many traits that made her so beautiful. Till this day, I still remember the first words she taught me as a baby “Dame Un Beso.” (Give me a kiss.) All these years later, I still tell people about my first words and about what an amazing woman my Mother has always been. Despite all our differences and endless similarities. We still love one another to the fullest. Thanks Mom.