Monday, October 17, 2011

It's all about me.

Saying goodbye as the curtain closes.
Mary Francis Lawton Morgan (February 26, 1922- May 31, 2011)

My mom died this past May and suddenly it dawns on me what made her so great. She had this uncanny way of making you feel special. Case in point: I was one of six children – number three in order of birth – but she insisted in calling me the “oldest of the four.” Maybe it was to ignore my older siblings. I don’t think so. Maybe it was to deprive me of the middle child syndrome. Probably not.

My brother is 11 years older. So, for a long time, he was an only child. My sister is three years older and the only girl. My brother Greg was declared the “navigator” on family vacations and relished the opportunity to monitor the maps and travel directions. He was “Greg the Great” on his birthday cakes from Hough Bakeries every year. Dan was always “so sensitive.” Rob is the youngest and both parents pronounced him “the Best” which, no doubt gave him the ability to be his own person. Each of us had a niche that helped us define ourselves. Each, in our own way, a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Mom was larger than life. She loved the theater. She performed in countless community productions. She directed plays too. She and dad made annual trips to New York City that included Broadway Shows, of which she kept a collection of Playbill programs. She studied and read plays. She completed a Master’s Degree in Dramatic Arts at Case Western Reserve University in her early forties. She was talented. She could turn on the star-power at business functions with important clients, at parties, at social events, at presentations, in large rooms, in small rooms or one-on-one. She had skills she was able to use in juggling six children in a way that made each feel unique and special.

The drama of growing up, as you might imagine, with mom directing the activity, is one that includes countless sub-plots. After all, life isn’t easy – even if you are fortunate enough to live with the Morgan family at 15106 Edgewater Drive. As we reflect on our experiences and memories of mom we each have our own take on what it all means.

The Irish Catholic in mom would have been smiling when we came together in Southlake, Texas to celebrate her life. May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be ever at your back. May the good Lord bless and keep you in the hallow of his hand. It was a competition, as family members took turns sharing stories often not waiting for a lull in the cacophony of overlapping dialogue, tears and laughter. (After all, we naturally want to cast ourselves in the lead role of this production.)

We compete for airtime because we want to perform and entertain. Indeed, we are all talented in projecting lines and expressing ourselves. The stories are all familiar and retold with the usual flaws due to our own brand revisionist history. Mom always said “I will do anything for you kids, as long as you remember.” We will mom. (Even though, with time, we may modify a detail in the script or staging.) We are all grown up now, but when we are together we cannot forget that we were all once just children. The sadness only comes when we realize we must go on without you mom.

If the job of a parent is to raise children to be self-confident and assured we have it in abundance. Dad is 93, and still has the ability to laugh at things. Mom was that woman behind the great man. Dad served in WWII. He started a business and ran it successfully for the better part of four decades. All the while, mom is ready for each grand entrance at the Cleveland Yachting Club, the family road trip to the Football Hall of Fame in Canton (Ohio) or at a parent-teacher conference. Someone’s got to feed these kids too. She is not much of a cook, but the dinner theater makes up for it. So it’s Hamburger-Helper, Sloppy Joes, Pizza, Tuna Casserole or mom’s famous chicken soup. There’s always enough somehow. Take your time eating and chew your food. If you are good you might just get a chocolate cupcake for desert.

The outpouring of sympathy from friends of the family on social media (notably facebook postings) starts to give a picture of just what a magnificent performance her life was. “Your mom was a great lady.” “Your mom helped my mother deal with the death of my father and gave her courage to go on.” “I always loved your mom.” “I remember having so much fun when I was at your house growing up.”

As I look around the room at my siblings, I see they all have self-confidence. They all have that extra talent it takes to be a successful person. Whatever you do: Photographer, Commercial Real Estate Advisor, Retailer, Tennis Instructor, Corporate Communications Specialist or Company President, you will need that. If you are lucky, someone will catch you early in your development and say. “Oh honey, you always know just what to do. Just make sure you remember to enunciate, pronounce your words and project.” It’s all about me. Thanks mom.

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