Gemini Mom & Son

On my 65th birthday, I asked my friend to shoot a series of senior photos of me in my birthday suit. At the time, I felt like 40 and on top of the world. Today, I’m 70 going on 35. I become younger and happier on the inside each day. I attribute much of that to my Gemini mom. Despite living in an insane world where humanity is marching forward toward more and worse bad shit happening by the moment, I feel more joyful and healthier than ever.

Geminis remain forever young. Hermes lived over three hundred years in the flesh. My mom stopped aging at 39. Many people never questioned that until she was in her late fifties. In her last few days of her life, mom’s intensive care doctor told us that in all his years, he had never had a patient who was so sick and so determined not to look like it. While wheeling mom around the hospital, people thought I was her husband. She’d say “Thanks for the compliment, but he’s my father”. “Pleased to meet you”, they’d say to me. At sixty, I was still a potential embarrassment to my mom. Some things never change.

Mom was a consummate Gemini and a poster child for the geriatric crowd at seventy-seven. She maximized her best and minimized her worst qualities. Mom used to say she had “healthy neuroses”. Being her healthiest and happiest self was the only thing that made sense to her. Mom once said to me, “Most parents make most of their mistakes on their first kid”. That was true in my case. My brother who was four years younger and sister who was seven years younger were spared mom’s inexperience.

 

 

Mom considered raising her children her greatest accomplishment in life. I certainly did my best as a young child to make her proud of me. When I turned twenty, I confronted mom to tell her that I wasn’t perfect and that she had made plenty of mistakes. She replied, “Well son, I’m sorry for anything I did which caused you any harm. My mistakes were not intentional. I tried my best to be a good parent. You’ll understand when you’re a parent. You’re an adult now. You must grow up and get past whatever holds you back. You need to be as healthy as you can be.” What could I say? She was right. In the final analysis, my siblings and I all turned out well in ways that matter most. Mom’s optimism, relentless frankness, and loving encouragement compelled all of us to be true to ourselves.

 

Geminis have a unique sense of humor. While mom was lying in her hospital bed with tubes going in and out of her, she said to me, “What worries me is how nice everyone is to me. Do they know something I don’t?” My sister Jennifer warned, “You’re not allowed to die until you finish raising my (teenage) kids”. She joked about buying mom’s casket at Costco and mom loved the idea. My brother Gary said, “I’ll start worrying when you stop putting on your makeup”. He threatened to taxidermy and install her in a corner of his living room. If you want to get a real taste for mom’s humor, you’ve got to check out this exercise ball video that she made as a response to my extremely health conscious sister sending her the ball. For whatever it lacks in quality, it makes up for in laughter.

One of Gemini’s notable qualities is true friendship. Mom attributed her ability to make friends quickly to moving frequently in her childhood. With so many changes involving multiple schools, mom learned to adapt and develop social skills to make new friends. If you examine her balls of thumb, you’ll see many long lines parallel to her lifeline. Mom maintained lifelong bonds from her early childhood. She and her friends loved each other through Heart Attacks, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Cancer, and other diseases of old age. Mom’s friends were her riches. I too, cherish my friendships.

The luckiest thing mom ever did was to marry my dad. They met at a bus stop. It was love at first sight. She was a twenty-one year old virgin princess. He was a twenty-five year old former bad boy in the process of turning good. She played Eurydice to his Orpheus and Persephone to his Pluto. I was conceived on their wedding night and born nine months to the day later. Mom wanted to have a natural childbirth, however after thirty-six hours in labor, I was cut out. She came within inches of dying and spent weeks convalescing. When I first discovered astrology, I sought an eminent astrologer for my first reading. “This is a death chart” she told me. A person’s horoscope is also their mother’s transits at birth.

Geminis are thinkers and communicators. Mom was one of the most well-read people I ever knew. She was interested in psychology. When I was about ten years old, mom read Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl. It reinforced what she already knew and confirmed her most significant value in her life, which was the knowledge and understanding that while you can’t always control what happens to you, you have the power to choose what you think, feel, and do about what happens to you. When I went to Carnegie Mellon University to study industrial design, mom went back to college to get her master’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh and become a psychiatric social worker at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. She was an innovator who was famous for her case notes and ultimately became a matriarch in the hospital system.

Although mom stayed at home during my childhood, she also stayed busy. Mom supplemented dad’s income by writing from home. One year, she won twenty-five contests by saying something in twenty-five words or less, finishing a sentence, writing jingles, or winning crossword puzzles. She sometimes published articles in consumer magazines like Redbook and Ladies Home Journal. I never shared this, but mom was a ghost writer for syndicated cartoons. The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, and Family Circus were clients who frequently purchased her gags. She worked with a local artist. Of course, our family was the source of her materials. That’s mom and me below.

When mom turned 80, she wrote, “Eighty years of age does not seem old to me. Old is when one is again dependent as we were in infancy – needing help as a constant to feed and care for oneself. I may die from an illness before I ever get old, then on to the next adventure.”  I wholeheartedly concur. Mom was eighty-three when she passed away. She continued to ponder the meaning of life until her final moments while battling metastasized breast cancer. I promised her I’d ‘pull the plug’ if it became necessary. Fortunately, she let go on her own.

Depending on my circumstances, I may employ my “Doctor Death Do It Yourself Kit”. Rather than anyone habitually wiping my dribbling face and disgusting butt, I’ll spare my family and friends the hassle and mess and instead leave them with positive memories! In my Gemini mind, it’s not tragic to expedite letting go when it’s your time.

5 thoughts on “Gemini Mom & Son

  1. Mark, thought-provoking as usual, full of surprising twists and turns. Your mom had a good answer for you at 20, from her perspective anyway. And this is not to criticize her, but she didn’t really deal with you, as you dared to confront her. Being as strong as she was, I assume that she would have if she could have. In any case, that was an important moment for you. Interesting detail, also, that she couldn’t ‘deliver’ you through the birth canal; for what it’s worth, I see a parallel between the C-section and the cartoon, in which the mess, the shears, and the child turn out to be a ‘message’ of love. As you know I didn’t have children, but I think among the complicated emotions newborns raise, especially for mothers, is that mixture of absolute dependency for survival mixed with unconditional love. As for being the architect of your own death, that is interesting; after watching parents, beloved and intelligent, turn into nonagenarians living in a parallel reality, I too have thought about sparing others as well as myself. I longed for it to be over, as hard as was to admit at the time, and to say now. But there is something about letting life happen, as it were- the “fullness of time” kind of thing. We’re born alone and most of us die alone, but we really aren’t alone. I love Rilke’s poem written in the voice of a dead person. It’s important to think about one’s mortality. I look forward to more of your thoughts on the issue if it comes up.

    • Thanks Deborah. Your thoughtful and provocative response makes me glad that I continue to put my thoughts and ideas out into the ether. I love the metaphor between the C-section and the cartoon. I think I hung on for 36 hours so that I could end up with the natal astrology that I have. In the end, death is about transformation and letting go, which is my major life theme. At seventy, I still have a very clear sense of destiny and how much my free will plays a role in that. I look forward to discussing that in person with you sometime…

  2. Oh gosh! I witnessed the most graceful death of my mom a Gemeni as well. She hung on ferociously until it was no longer possible and then just gave up on all hope and efforts. The day before her death she invited her banker into her room and ratteled off bank account numbers and what to do with each. Then on the day of her passing she had the minister in for a long visit and then each of her children were called in to her room to be given a word of advice. The advice was absolutely perfect, the words that we all needed to grow as humans. My mom embodied grace in her living and especially in her going out of this world. Not one time did she take pain killers in the 9 months of batteling cancer. The day before she left I asked her to promise me that she would come back to me and there would be a sign. 9 years later Josephine Rose arrived as a birthday gift, maybe she is a soul returning to this earth, one who I have longed to reconnect with for many years~my mother/daughter.

    • Thanks Montana. Your response brought up a lot of interesting memories for me. My mom didn’t let go until she personally said goodbye to each member of the extended family who came from all over the country to offer their love. Mom prepared for months ahead to make her transition as graceful as possible for herself and her children. She planned out every detail of her estate and living will and delegated certain responsibilities to each of her kids. I was executor. She asked each of us what we wanted and made sure we were all aware of those choices. None of us are very material, so dealing with stuff was easy. No matter hard one tries, though, it’s what you don’t anticipate that bites you in the butt and the devil truly is in the details. None of us anticipated the downturn in the economy and the real estate market tanking. Mom worked so hard to leave something for her children and we ended up with less than two-thirds of it (before taxes). Before mom passed she made me promise that I would be the glue that holds everyone together. She also told me that if there is another side that I should rest assured that she’ll be in touch… I often see little signs that I interpret as messages from her. I’m still waiting for something major.

  3. Several things. You can really write. Your Mom was really right AND a writer. Pleasant read.

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