Today’s my mom’s 82nd birthday.
Even with her advanced Alzheimers, I’m glad she’s still here.
This morning, as every morning, I got up and turned on some music while making coffee. I had it on random, and the first tune that came up was Herbie Hancock’s ‘Don’t Stop’. It completely stopped me in my tracks. Haven’t heard this funky track in a very long time and it made me think of when I discovered this album and listened to it, non stop. I was about 15 and while my mom wouldn’t sing along when I’d blast Miles, Live at the Plugged Nickel - she would sing along, dance and ask me to play this Herbie track, again and again. For one thing, it goes to show you how hip my mom was - but that track also completely describes her.
She was not, by any conceivable means, born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She was born in to a true blue collar home where education wasn’t something anyone even considered. Socially, her path was set with no tradition or promise for breaking out of this predestined life. But my mom had dreams - and a talent for singing. While growing up under the German occupation and seeing her father’s friends in the resistance being killed, she would dream of singing with a band in a place with no war and with a bright future. Refusing to do what her friends would do and what her family would do, she (already then) did her own thing. Her dreams and talent gave her a recording deal at 17 on a major label - and even hit the charts. She dreamt of foreign countries and got a pen pal in France. She thought he was French with baret, baguette, Gauloise and trench coat et al, but when she went to visit him in Paris at the age of 18, she found out he was a Vietnamese medical student in a black suit and tie, who’d lived in France for many years. She fell in love and stayed for 20+ years. Again, she went against the grain and did her own thing. An inter-racial marriage in the 50’s, with a man beyond her social standing. No one gave her, or them, any chance. But guess what, they’re still married today!
Mom and dad eventually went back to Copenhagen because she wanted to raise us as Danes. Everyone said she was crazy giving up her singing career and life in Paris. But, again she did it her way. Came home, became a nurse. Together with my father she raised us with a clear and unquestioned feeling of love not only being real, but never ending, unconditional and eternal. She also gave me the spirit of dreaming, reaching for the stars and to never let go of your dreams, not matter what people might tell you.
When I look into my kids eyes, I see my mom. When I look in to my heart, I feel my mom. When I play a melody on my bass, I hear my moms singing voice.
I’m going to go see my mom (and dad!) now, wishing her a happy birthday. I’ll bring her flowers in her favorite colors and I will look into her eyes and hold her hand. With her Alzheimers, I know I’m not going to find her in those beautiful eyes and I won’t hear her soothing voice either. But I will be able to actually be with my mom. I know she’ll grasp my hands, holding them tight, as she still does wether it’s a reflex or not. I’ll look around and see my dad, my brother, my kids, my family - and I’ll see her in all of us. In body, spirit and soul - giving me much comfort, hope and inspiration.
I love you, mom. I’m grateful and proud to be your son.
(originally posted on Facebook on November 8, 2014).