Category Archives: Memories of mom and dad

Mary Anne O’Hara’s Last Song Request

Our mom, Mary Anne O’Hara, made her final exit on August 7, 2001. She was 74;  the mother of eight kids in 12 years. (Her best quote ever: “The ’60s are a blur and it’s not because of drugs. It’s because of kids.”)

I was smack-dab in the middle of the procreation. As the years unfolded, it became increasingly clear that the dynamic wasn’t working for either of us.

In time, I became a “troubled teen,” and my already tenuous and strained relationship with her continued its downward spiral.

I am now almost 58; the mother of just one daughter, now 24.

(I now can understand how overwhelmed she was, yet still empathize with that middle child starving for attention and lacking self-esteem.)

Shortly before my mother died, we had a pivotal moment. I asked her to share something that would be a sign; a signal that would instantly convey that she was there with me in spirit.

She thought about it for a few seconds, and then her beautiful blue eyes shined even more brightly.

“When you hear this song,” she said, that will be your sign.” It was “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

(Superb choice, Mom. ❤️ you, until we meet again.)

I’ll be seeing you in all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces all day through
In that small cafe, the park across the way
The children’s carousel, the chestnut trees, the wishing well

I’ll be seeing you in every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way
I’ll find you in the morning’ sun

And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you
I’ll find you in the morning sun

And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you

Written by Irving Kahal, Sammy Fain • Copyright © BMG Rights Management US, LLC

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Lefty, can ya’ pick me some lemons?

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It’s Thanksgiving  Day, circa 1973 —a little after noon.

I’m 14 years old. Our home in Southern California’ s burgeoning San Fernando Valley is bustling with action.

By now, my mother has finished preparing the stuffing. The small saucepan with the repulsive turkey neck, liver and giblets and globs of fat is simmering on the stove.

The 20-plus pound “bird” has been defrosted, slathered with mayonnaise and is safely ensconced in the black and mottled gray roaster.

It’s a happy day. I and my seven siblings are scattered throughout our sprawling, ramshackle rambler.  Football games are on. Strains of “Rosalita” by Bruce can be heard in the distance. Some of my brothers are out back shooting hoops. Everyone is getting ready to get their gobble on.

Our dad, the “Big O,” is in great spirits. He’d been a bartender in NYC way back in the 1940s, and knows his stuff.  And now he is prepping for the revelry ahead.

Whiskey sours are on the T-Day happy hour agenda, and fresh lemon juice is a key ingredient. Luckily, we have three prodigious trees that collectively produce more lemons than we can ever consume.

“Lefty, can ya’ pick me some lemons?”

“Lefty “ is my dad’s nickname for me. I am the only south-pawed inhabitant of 4571 Encino Avenue, and he’s called me that for as long as I can remember.

I spring into action, hurry out back and gather a dozen or so. They feel warm in my hands from the afternoon sun.

I scurry inside with the prized citrus sensations in tow. “Here ya’ go, Dad!”  I say, proudly.

He beams back, pleased with my work. I am at this moment supremely happy.

The “Big O” then proceeds to prepare the first batch of whiskey sours. I watch, transfixed. The blender turns on, the concoction whirls loudly away, and then silence. I watch as he lifts the lid, dips a spoon in and tastes. After a few more sprinkle of sugar and squeezes of lemon, he’s satisfied.

He pours the first serving into a tumbler, and takes a sip and smiles.

“Dad, can I try it? I ask. “It looks so good!”

He takes a puff off his Raleigh and ponders my request. “Lefty, it’s  pretty strong.”

“I’ll just have a little bit, Dad!” I promise.

He pours a glassful and hands it over. I take a small sip — and my tasebuds do a happy dance. It’s delicious;  like fresh lemonade with lots of sugar and ice and but something more.  I take another sip. “Careful, Lefty!” my day says. I laugh and watch as he putters around the kitchen and keeps an eye on the score of the football game. After a bit, I start to feel all warm and bit fuzzy.

“Uhhh, Dad. I feel a little weird. I’m gonna go lie down for a little while.” I retreat to my room,  head for my bed and it’s lights out.

I  awake around 8 p.m. , groggy and confused. I wander out to the kitchen. A picked-over turkey carcass sits forlornly on the kitchen counter, adjacent to a pan of congealed turkey gravy. I lift the lid on a nearby pan, and stare at the lump of cold mashed potatoes.

I grab a plate, assemble my meal — and fill my glass with water, and then fill it again. I feel a bit chagrined, but quickly recover. There’s my plate to attend to, and I even spy a few surviving pieces of pumpkin pie!

It’s Thanksgiving Day 2013 — an unconventional year for me. No gathering of the three sisters and family. No traditional turkey dinner.

The out-to-dinner plans I had for today fell through. My college girl is spending time with her new boyfriend’s family, meeting them all for the first time.

Parents die. Families scatter. Children leave home. Traditions change. And life goes on.

Later today, “Lefty” will be picking some lemons, counting her blessings and savoring so very many memories of Thanksgivings gone by.

Cheer to you, “Nana” and “Big O”!

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A fond farewell to my ‘other’ dad

The funeral was last Saturday at a Catholic church in Edmonds, Washington.
It was just as Granddad had wanted–down to every last detail. What a man; what a life well-lived.

James DeFrancesco entered my life in the mid- ’80s when I began dating his son, John.
John & I lived together in a tiny studio apartment in Burbank. Granddad came to visit (Grandma had refused considering the living situation). We had no chairs–just a giant waterbed, dresser and a toaster oven. Granddad was gracious as always, and found a spot to perch on the edge of the bed. That day, I had already become a fan.My dad, Tom, O’Hara died suddenly less than a year later, and James and Tom never had a chance to meet. I think they would have gotten along well, those two WWII vets.Granddad was the antithesis of my boisterous, larger-than-life dad in every way. My dad peppered his speech with a profusion of profanities and loved nothing better than a good debate—about anything. (He was a lawyer after all.)  I adored my father, and was devastated by his death.As the years went by, I got to know a different kind of dad. Over time, Granddad helped fill the void.  He was soft-spoken, but exuded such a quiet strength. He was incredibly patient, kind and always fair. He was never mean-spirited or judgmental—ever. He always spoke the truth, and always treated me as if I were his own daughter.That patience, that kindness—that gentle spirit—I see it often in my daughter. I’ve always known it came from Granddad; never had a doubt about that.Over the years, I’d occasionally tell John how fortunate he was to have such a wonderful dad. How fortunate we all were to have had him in our lives for so long!
Read his obituary here>> 

 

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