Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wholly Mary

Yesterday one person stepped forward with a topic idea. My nephew Jason (Nancy's boy) emailed me and said, "I like when you talk about the family, always seem to learn something new. And yeah, I do read it, almost every day." It floored me because I didn't even know for sure that he had the url to this site. Yeah, yeah, I sent it to all 4.6 million people on my email address list, but who reads emails anymore?! Anyway, his simple comment touched me. Love ya Jas, and... as you wish.

The above picture is my nephew, Homer (Tom's son) and his mom, Mary. Homer has been part of my life since he was born when I was 15 years old. He was the sweetest, funniest little boy - one of those kids that was so easy to have around, you could forget there was a kid around. He's grown into a fine man - served his country as a Marine, has a beautiful wife and two fantastic children. Proud Auntie? Hell yes, you betchya.

I don't get the credit though (maybe a soup├žon). That pretty solidlly goes to Mary. I liked her from the minute my brother brought her home. She was covered in dirt and grass because they'd had to leap from the car into a ditch due to a tornado that chaperoned them on their first date. I'm sure she was a bit rattled, but if she was, it didn't show through her laid back style and sense of humor (oh, c'mon... you know a sense of humor was going to be part of my admiration!). Mary was there for me through some troubled teen times - I could talk to her and she wouldn't try to shush me or sweep the problem under a carpet like so many other adults in my life. She called me Burb.

I fell out of touch with Mary (and for a time with Homer) shortly after she and my brother divorced in the mid-80's, but I never forgot the friendship. Clearly, in that missing time, Mary did an astounding job raising Homer through his teen years. By the time opportunity provided for me to meet up with Homer again, he was already a young man in the Marine Corps. At some point during that time, I had a dream that I'd met up with Mary. In my dream, we met in a crowd, just looked at each other, and I said, "Sure is good to see you again." She replied, "It is." And we hugged. Speed forward in time (which is pretty much what happens anyway) to Homer's wedding (see above pic), and the first time I'd seen Mary in... oh... 20 years? We caught each other's eye as we moved through the crowd, and as I reached to clasp her hand, my exact words (without giving it a thought), were, "Sure is good to see you again." You know it. She said, "It is." And we hugged.

Mary was already fighting breast cancer then. It was the last time I got to see her. Mary died last summer at 52 years old. She barely got the chance to know her granddaughter, Madison, and never got to meet her grandson, Marshall. Homer tells me that almost every day, he finds himself reaching for the phone to call her and tell her about something funny the kids have done. No surprise that Homer and I have had lots of conversation about cancer and loss - both of us having faced it at the same time. We've spent hours crying, laughing and cussing online. I'm glad I could be there for him in some small way.

But I'm not his Mother. There's no substitute for that. There's no balm that makes that wound any easier for him to bear. Nothing I can say will heal that ache when he reaches for the phone, just wanting to say, "Hey Mom... guess what your granddaughter did just now...?"
Last year Homer did the Race for the Cure run in Florida, in honor of his Mom. I had a dog tag engraved with her stats for him to wear while he ran. He was kind enough to accept and wear a second tag with the stats of my friends, Cindy Simon and Roxan Wynn.

This year, it's my turn to wear the tags. I proudly walk for Mary Johnson, for Homer and his family. Consider this: breast cancer tends to run in families. By donating today, you may very well be part of someday saving the life of that adorable little girl in the picture above.


  1. Thank you so much Barb for sharing this beautiful lady with us...and I just know that Homer loves ya even more for taking up her cause and for all of us once again, I am so humbled and honored to be your friend...every step you take will be a promise made and a promise kept!!
    Love you Kemosabi

  2. Thanks Barb for this wonderful post and thanks homer for the idea that generated it.
    Yeah there is no substitute for being able to pick up the phone and go hey mum, guess what someone did today or "Hey gran, guess what I did today." mind you that later normal involves hearing what happened at about 100mph..
    My mum's still here although only just she had cancer of the womb but through her faith and one brilliant surgeon she's still here.
    ** Hugs **



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