Saturday, February 11, 2012

Happy birthday, mom

As I write this, it is late in the afternoon of February 11, 2012, the 105th anniversary of my mother's birth. Her name was Gertrude Elizabeth McMeel Hush. She died 26 years ago, but we lost her well before that to the personality-eradication of Alzheimer's.

This morning, as is our custom, my sister Terry and I got on the phone and sang "Happy Birthday" to mom together before rushing off to the obligations of the day. Now, as the day ends, I'm reminiscing. One of the things you discover after you lose someone to dementia is, eventually you forget most of the awful parts. You get your good memories back.

This photo of my mom hangs on my living room wall. She must have been quite young when it was taken, a teenager. By her twenties, the softness of her features was replaced by delicately sculpted bone structure. Those finger waves make me think it was the early to mid-1920s. But she never lost that faraway look.

When I think of mom, I think of music. It was a huge part of her life and became part of mine. She loved classical music — symphonies and concertos — and I came to love them, too. She also liked romantic songs. "Autumn Leaves" was one of her favorites; she never heard Diana Krall sing it, but I'm sure she would have liked it. 

Mom and I never saw eye to eye about my beloved blues and rock 'n' roll, but I have fond memories of sitting with her, both of us giggling, listening this next song. It's Harry Nilsson's version of "It Had to Be You," and if you listen all the way through, you'll hear a new twist on the lyrics. Mom, this one's for you. (Note: The video below directs you to click through to YouTube. Trust me — it's worth it.)


  1. Happy Birthday to Divinipotent Mom. She was gorgeous.

  2. Thank you, Libby. She really was. You can see a photo of her from her modeling days in this post.

  3. I love how you make your family come alive. It's sentiments like these that keep us alive forever.

    My guess is the photo was taken after 1925, based on the cut and the fabric.

    Happy Birthday to your mom.

  4. Thanks, Dan. It could have been 1925 or 26 - she would have been 18 or 19 then. But a couple of years later when she was modeling she looked very different - delicate and fragile.

  5. Happy 105th to your stunning mom. I'm glad the good memories come back to the surface once the roiling waters grow still. She is lovely.

  6. Me too. That's such a comforting thought... the eventually you are left with the good memories. Beautiful post. (LOVE this version of It Had To Be You! Very funny!)

  7. Thank you, Susan and J. The fact that Alzheimer's so completely destroys people makes getting good memories back incredibly important. It seems to be universal at least in my family — when my sisters and I talk about mom, it's always about life when mom was still mom.

    And glad you enjoyed "It Had to Be You." That whole Harry Nilsson album, "A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night", is outstanding. Some of the songs are just plain lovely "— "Lazy Moon," "Lullaby in Ragtime" — and some are funny. His version of "Makin' Whoopee" is another giggle-inducer.