Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day, Mom

My Mom, Anna Marie Hett, as she became Anna Marie Shay on Feb. 18, 1950, in Denver.
It's been a long time since I could wish my Mom a happy Mother's Day in person. Anna Marie (Hett) Shay died in April 1986, just a month shy of her 60th birthday and her 35th Mother's Day. She died from ovarian cancer, still a killer although early detection has prolonged patients' lives well past the 18 months that my Mom had. It was already well advanced when the docs detected it.

Mom got to meet her first male grandson, my son Kevin, who was born in Denver (also my Mom's birthplace) on February 14, 1985. Kevin and I travelled to Daytona Beach for a family reunion and my brother Dan's annual Fourth of July bash. I flew alone with Kevin because my wife had to work and would follow us a few days later. She was going to attend her 10th high school reunion of the Seabreeze Sandcrabs. 

I wasn't prepared to fly with a four-month-old. I got all sorts of advice before take-off. Make sure he sucks on a bottle or a binky during take-off so his ears won't clog. Keep him awake before you leave so he naps on the plane. Don't freak out if he cries and annoys the other hundred passengers.   

As you might guess, the trip was a disaster. I had to feed Kevin in the airport so he stared wide-eyed at me as the plane rose out of Denver. His head didn't explode and he didn't cry, though, not right away. And changing a baby in a 727 restroom is not the easiest thing in the world. One thing, though. Women took pity on me. Oh, what a cutie. Let me hold him. Oh, what a good dad you are. I filed that bit of info away for future reference.

When I greeted my mother, she wore a turban. It was an odd look for her. I had seen her wearing nurse's caps and Easter bonnets and rain gear and even winter caps when I was little and we lived in snowy places. The turban, of course, covered her bald head. I've seen lots of them since on cancer patients. But in the summer of 1985, it took me awhile to get used to it.

She was crazy about Kevin. She held him for hours. She had two grandkids already, both girls, so she took extra time with Kevin. And she knew that he wouldn't be in Daytona very long. And she was probably guessing that she wouldn't be around very long -- and she was right.

I did get to visit with her one more time before she passed. And she got to hold Kevin again. I worked for the Gates Rubber Company in Denver as a publications editor. Gates decided to get into the NASCAR sponsorship game. The corporate honchos had recruited a driver to wear the Gates colors and plaster decals all over his car. The company needed one of its editors to go to Daytona and do a story. I lobbied hard for the assignment. Other staffers were anxious to desert Denver for Daytona in February but, in the end, I won the sweepstakes. I took my family too.

I hung out at the race track for three days, waiting for our driver to show up. Several of our sales people were there, fretting about our mystery driver. His truck broke down in North Carolina. A storm had held him up. He was stuck in Georgia.

While I hung out at the speedway talking to drivers and crews and taking lots of photos, Chris and Kevin visited family. My Mom got lots of holding time. Chris's mom had passed away from cancer in 1984 but Chris's father lived nearby. They visited while I waited.

Our driver never showed up. To this day, I'm unsure why. The company decided to rethink its NASCAR sponsorship policy. I got a tremendous trip out of it. We held Kevin's first birthday at my brother Dan's house in Ormond Beach. We still have pictures of that Valentine's Day evening. The toddlers were tearing around the house and having a fine time. Mom was there for awhile but grew tired and my father took her home early. All of our kids were young then, and most of Kevin's cousins (and his sister) had yet to be born.

Not that long ago. But it seems like ages.

Twenty-seven years later, two of my mother's children now are undergoing treatment for cancer. Time and scientific research have brought many improvements to cancer diagnosis and treatment. My sister Mary's carcinoid cancer was caught in its early stages. My brother Dan's leukemia was diagnosed during routine blood tests. My sister Molly will donate her bone marrow to Dan in a routine that is light years ahead of the old invasive marrow harvesting procedures. All of them will be treated at the fantastic MD Anderson medical complex in Houston.

I miss you, Mom. Thanks for showing us the way. Happy Mother's Day.


Susan Barlow said...

What a beautiful tribute to your Mom...she certainly raised fantastic kids in that Hartford home. My thoughts and prayers are with Danny, Mary, Molly and all of the Shay family; I'm sure your Mom is beaming with pride from the heavens above!!

RobertP said...

I will second that. Mike, your mom was very nice to me when you took me home to visit over break. She was a rock in the midst of a houseful of Shay kids who left me dazed and confused. And she was a good cook!

I know she is very proud of the person you are.


Anonymous said...

We miss her also! Dan and Nancy