Archive | September, 2011

Old Man Needed an Angel

20 Sep

Some time ago, I was visiting with my father, Bob Livingston, at his Petaluma home.

As anyone who stays at the Livingston Hacienda can attest, you will find yourself – at some point – up after midnight, watching old cowboy movies. You will also find yourself talking about music, and sailboats, and inevitably… Mom.

I still remember receiving the call that morning. I was at work, sitting at my desk, typing away at an email.

The call came from my sister Angela. She delivered the message with perfect grace. Her words were simple: “It’s Angie. Our Mom died this morning.” As the men were taking the body out of the house, Ange said she had to go.

And that was it.

I’ll be eternally grateful to Mike and Chris, my two office mates who I now consider real friends, in part because of their surrounding me with support at that awkward moment.

I gathered myself together at my desk, and sent off a few emails, passing the work-torches as it were. I informed them that I would be gone for awhile, and that I was going to California.

As I walked to my car that morning, I remember feeling a very strange sensation. I was in shock, to some degree. But the sensation was an odd mixture of sadness and overjoy. I specifically remember looking up and whispering to the clouds, “Thank you.”

I’m not sure if I was thanking God for the absolutely fantastic little Irish spark plug that was my mother. Or maybe I was sensing that she was already up there, out there, on the ether, and I was thanking her directly.

Thank you, for bringing me into this world.

Thank you for wiping my butt (thankfully, this ended well before adulthood). Thank you for walking me to the High’s and buying me gum, and for taking me to the pool on those sultry Maryland afternoons. Thank you for believing in me enough to send me to college, and to Europe, and for sticking up for me against all manner of bully, sour-faced teacher, grumpy guidance counselor and sibling rival.

Thank you, and thank you, and thank you… trailing off into the blue spring sky, as I trundled confusedly down Cathedral Street to my car.

But the beauty of being the child of a mother like Marjorie Ellen is knowing that no thank you could ever suffice. One thank you would be as good as a million. It’s beyond gratitude, this strange confluence of energies, and love, and blood.

Or as the great Billy Collins writes: “She gave me life and milk from her breasts, and I gave her a lanyard.”

Well, enough.

But here’s my point. As much as I loved my mother, and like a good Irish boy, it was a lot… another man lost his fairer half that morning.

I am so delighted that he met her and stole her away from that basketball game, lo those many decades ago. He was quite the tough young bastard in those days. I’m convinced that if he was anything less, he wouldn’t have gotten the cute little cheerleader from Powder River country.

And while he often says he didn’t deserve her, I know better. And she knew better, too (she told me on more than one occasion, during our quiet evening discussions before she passed away).

The point is, these two lovebirds showed us how it was done. You gotta let your ass hang out and really love someone to have anything. You have to fight, and make love, and make up, and raise your kids, and do everything as hard and good as you can. And the whole key to this thing is staying together, if you can manage, till the end.

That’s what Mom and Dad managed to do, and their story is not yet completed. Their legend grows, year after year. We continue adding chapters, Dad and us kids, and we’ll continue to do so until we’re gone, and our kids will add chapters, and this long song will continue forever. At least that’s what I like to tell myself.

I wrote this song in honor of Mom and Dad, in the wake of Mom’s passing. It’s my lanyard, to them both.