Mommy Dearest: 1936 – 2022

Sad news.

Mommy Dearest suffered a stroke recently and did not survive. Even though she was in her eighties, we are still in shock: her health was much improved in recent weeks after a life-threatening downturn in August.

She lead a nonlinear life. She had no profession or career in the traditional sense of the terms. She was, by turns, daughter of a newspaper publisher, small business owner, astute investor, voracious reader, passionate school board member, impulsive and compulsive traveler, successful real estate agent, adored aunt, beloved sister, devoted wife, then widow, and to me, her only child, a loving, kind, generous, and patient mother.

She was not perfect, to be sure. Her cooking was well-intentioned. Her fashion sense was hit-and-miss. When challenged, she could turn icy and aloof. Her treatment of employees and staff ran from benevolent to imperial. Her wicked sense of humor, however, prevailed in most instances, and she was forgiven more often than not for her occasional verbal shots-across-the-bow.

In the public sphere, she advocated tirelessly for education, working with local and state officials occasionally. In private, she encouraged family members and family friends to stay in school, go back to school, and finish school.

She often shoved dollar bills into unsuspecting hands or wrote checks and mailed them to surprised recipients who needed a little help with tuition, textbooks, or fees. A brief comment came with the cash: Get an education. Do your best. Stay focused. Work hard.

She was a Roosevelt Democrat who became a Reagan Republican for a period of time and then drifted back to being a moderate Democrat later in life. She saw the toll poverty took on Americans and knew the government had a role to play helping people improve their lives. She also knew that there was no substitute for personal initiative.

Her favorite city was Florence, and after my father’s death, she contemplated moving there. But she could never grasp the language. In fact, her Italian was so bad that the locals would gather at the neighborhood tabacchi to listen as she tried to purchase bus tickets from the proprietor. Despite her best efforts, she butchered their Italian. They laughed. And she laughed right along with them, waving her newly-acquired bus tickets high in the air as she exited the shop triumphantly.

Except during her recent hospitalizations, she read a newspaper front to back every day of her life. Usually more than one. Never online. Always in print. She just never cared to see her name in print.

Suffice to say, Mommy Dearest will be missed. We are grieving.

  • BGT


31 thoughts on “Mommy Dearest: 1936 – 2022

  1. So sorry to hear of your loss. Your Mother sounded like a truly wonderful person. I enjoyed reading about her life. You were very lucky to have been her son. Take care.

  2. I’m so sorry for your loss Byron! She was an extraordinary woman to say the least. You follow in her footsteps with class, ease and gentle grace; she must have been very proud of you and your many accomplishments!

    You and yours are in my thoughts and prayers especially during this time of remembrance and sorrow!

  3. Byron, thank you for sharing this. I am so sorry for your loss. I love the way you describe her, and love people like this who resist simple description. She sounds complex, with a rich character, and allowed herself growth throughout her life. Seeing all aspects of a person is essential to knowing and loving them, and helps us to accept our own imperfections or missteps. It can be overwhelming to lose a parent at any age, so please allow yourself the time and space for your feelings.

  4. Sorry for your loss, Byron. My mother lives far away, and lives alone. It’s stressing to me to hear her talk about her health issues. I’ve told her I’d be willing to come live with her. But of course, she doesn’t want to “burden” her poor son. Things can be taken from us in the blink of an eye, and I will call her soon to let her know I appreciate her being there for me all those years.

  5. Uncle Byron, I grieve with you. I know this tribute only barely captures your mother but I am grateful to have read it. You are in my heart today. – Kathleen

  6. Byron, I am so sorry for your loss. Your mother sounds lovely, inspiring, and like a person I would have loved to know. This is a beautiful post — thank you so much for sharing. My love and thoughts are with your family in this difficult time.

  7. Dear Byron, please accept my heartfelt condolences. Your mother sounds like a wonderful woman, and in the tradition of women born in that era, a “Great Dame”. I am holding you and your family in the light.

  8. Dear Byron,

    With my deepest sympathy on your loss.

    Next time you fly, keep your eye on the window. You’ll see your wingwoman keeping close formation.

    With the kindest regards,

  9. Dear Byron,
    You’re in the thoughts of many. Thank you so much for sharing something of her in your wonderful writing about her. No matter how old our parents are, and how well prepared we think we are, the news comes as a great shock.

    With sympathy,

  10. Please accept my sincere condolences. Your beautiful description of your mother makes me think, “I wish I’d known her”. She did it her way – what a rich life she had.

  11. Dearest Byron,

    Richard and I were so saddened to hear of you and Darlene losing your mother. Although I never met her in person, I was always delighted to hear stories of her – she indeed was a powerful and loving source in your lives. Our deepest sympathies.

    With love,

  12. Sad news indeed! Such a beautiful memorial you’ve written for her. May her memory be a comfort to you.

  13. Sorry to read of your loss Byron. It is so hard to be living overseas when these things happen I know. What a great tribute to an obviously much loved Mother.

  14. Dear Byron, please accept my deepest condolences for the loss of your mother. She sounds like an extraordinary person! Thank you for sharing a little of her life and legacy with us.


  15. Dear Byron,

    Belated condolences. Your mother sounds like a force, an extraordinary force. Time heals. Prayers for you and your family.

    With love,

  16. My sincere condolences, dear Byron. The loss of one’s mother is unlike any other loss to be experienced in life. May happy memories bring you comfort and strength as you adjust to your new normal.

  17. Sending you belated condolences Byron. May your mother’s memory live on through you and your family.

  18. Hello Byron:

    I know that I am late here (I’ve gotten away from reading online for a while), but I just read this and wanted to express my sincerest condolences on your loss. Your mother sounded like a wonderful person.


  19. Byron,

    My sincere condolences, what a beautiful tribute. It sounds like she left a strong impression on her family and beyond. Her memory is living on through your family, and this blog and your books show that her belief in educating people in particular live on in you.


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