Mom, would you be proud of me?
14 years ago you left this world. Not by choice… yours or mine. The day cancer finally took your last breath was a pivotal moment in my life. It was the day I was instantly a man stuck in a teenage body. I was became “old” without the proper knowledge and wisdom to reinforce the situation I was now in. Mom, I love you, but a 17 year old should never be asked by a doctor if it’s ok to take you off life support. For a long time I carried a lot of guilt from that day and from that painful choice. More guilt arose when I realized that I could have seen you the week before and choose not to, not knowing how sick you were. Even more guilt arose from that day when Zack died. The last 14 years have been about healing and learning from that day. Life has been a journey…
You wanted so much for me… you wanted to do so much with me. We talked about Europe and taking the train from country to country. Spain, France, Germany, England, Ireland. “How much money do we need, mom?” – “A lot – so we’ll save our pennies” you said. You pushed me to be better and felt Saint Rose was the right place to get me there. You taught me that home cooked meals will always be better than store bought or any restaurant. We talked about what it means to truly respect a woman… to love her with every ounce of your heart and what that really means for both of you. On more than one occasion you expressed concern about being a “good” parent. It was tough being the child of divorced parents. Two lives, two sets of rules. You showed me that there is nothing (NOTHING) more important than family and that nothing gets in the way of that.
I traveled. A lot. 4 continents and nearly 20 countries. I have climbed mountains in Peru to nearly 17,000 feet. I ate ceviche, rode a dune buggy, and saw the Nazca lines. I experienced Peru! I have ridden camels through the Sahara desert. I baked bread in the hot sand, bartered for leather goods in the markets of Fes, and watched belly dancers perform during traditional Moroccan feast. I experienced Morocco! I drove a convertible through the Napa and Sonoma wine countries stopping at the best vineyards in California. I visited Uncle Joe, drove down Lombard Street, and walked across the incredible Golden Gate Bridge. I experienced San Francisco! I sat in a cave and watched the Gypsies dance the Flamenco. I botellón’d in the plazas, took Zack to my favorite cities and places when he came to visit me, and skied above the level of the clouds in the Sierra Morena mountains of Andulucía. I experienced (lived in) Spain! With my mighty strength, I held up the Leaning Tower of Pisa so it wouldn’t fall down. I ate the best (and I mean the best) pizza margarita in Florence, rode a gondola in Venice, and sipped limoncello on the island of Capri. I experienced Italy! Mom, you encouraged me to travel and I did… it changed me for the better and I can’t thank you enough for that!
You took me to the College of Saint Rose for an interview shortly before you died. I told the admissions counselor everything I had done, experienced, and even about you. Before I left the admissions counselor told me that he was proud of my journey, that I had been accepted, and that I should be expecting a formal letter in the mail any time soon. Soon I found a professor who believed in me, supported me, and looked out for me for four years. She guided me to Spain and shared my experiences with her classes. I participated in Division 2 athletics on the Cross Country team and was a conference runner-up… twice. I found friends who I hold dear to my heart to this day… and even the woman I would ask to be my wife. Saint Rose changed my life for the better as you told me it would. I can’t thank you enough for that!
More than 14 years later and I can still taste your homemade chicken lasagna. Pasta made from scratch with your Kitchen Aid mixer (which I still have and use), sauce from tomatoes and basil that you grew in the garden, and cheese from local farmers. You made the best dumplings, muffins, and fresh coffee. The kitchen is my favorite place to be in the house. Learning to cook methodically but adventurously, I have learned to enjoy foods from all over the world. You gave me the love to cook bug and I can’t thank you enough for that!
10 years ago (tomorrow to the day), Diana and I officially became a couple. We became a couple during a trip home from college… we visited with you at your grave. She simply sat next to me as I pondered in my thoughts, gently holding my hand while placing her head on my shoulder. She played with a 6 year old Creszenz as though she were her older sister, never holding back. She embraced our family and all of our quirks without judgement. Soon my girlfriend became my best friend who, 3 and-a-half years later became my fiancée, and another year-and-a-half later became my wife. I cherish Diana… every moment, every experience, every strife and accomplishment. I love the way she dives into something she feels is important and does endless research on it so she can completely understand it… I love everything about her and our lives together. I love the family I married into and the family we have become together. You set me up for this kind of compassionate and respectful love for a woman from those talks we had, and I can’t thank you enough for that!
Every experience you and I had together coupled with all of my experiences that I have had since you died have prepared me for my life now, 14 years later. I truly believe it has prepared me for my life as a father to a daughter. To Lillian Jane. I carried that terrible guilt with me that I didn’t see you the weekend before you died… I was selfish when you asked if I was coming for the weekend. I said no because I wanted to (
would rather) be with my girlfriend who was leaving for a week of vacation. For a long time I was angry that you didn’t tell me you were that sick. Mom, nothing would have stopped me from seeing you had I known you were THAT sick. But then I became a father… it all clicked and the guilt melted away. It was 3:45 am and I miserably got out of bed beyond exhausted to change a wet diaper. She was 2 months old when I realized what you had done for me. I stood there looking at her… loving her. In that exact moment I completely understood what unconditional love is and what it means. There is nothing I would not do for that little girl and there is so much I want to show her, teach her, and give her. That is what you gave me. You gave me a foundation and a direction… and I ran with it. AND I CAN’T THANK YOU ENOUGH FOR THAT!
So mom I ask you, would you be proud of me?