Tuesday, December 21, 2010 2 comments
This is a true story, in case you might think that it was not.
I received an odd request from my 84-year-old mother the other day. She lives in a very small town, doesn’t own a computer nor wants to, but occasionally asks me to assist her by doing internet searches on some topic of interest or purchase something for her that she couldn’t. After some chit-chat, she asked me if I could find a specific book for her. Of course, I said; I had done this many times for her. What was odd this time was the book itself: a new biography on a famous alternative/funk/punk rock band. As you would guess, she doesn’t listen to the band's music nor really knows much about them. Why, I sputtered, why on earth do you want me to send you this book? She didn’t answer me right away.
“How much is it?” she asked.
I told her the price, not outrageous but not inexpensive either.
“OK. Please send it to me. Thank you.”
“But why??” I persisted. I had somewhat of an idea.
A close friend of hers, a man even older than she is and who now resides in an assisted-living facility, had phoned her to chat and wish her a Merry Christmas. My mother has known him for what must be 60 years now, and has always held him in the very highest regard: kind, sincere, intelligent, creative, a loyal friend. I knew him myself, and although it has been many years since I have seen him I have always agreed with my mom’s assessment. I have always been happy that she has had the good fortune to enjoy such a good person in her life for so long. So many are gone now; so many were never good at all.
This man was married to a fine woman for many years until her passing from Lou Gerhrig’s disease several years ago. As close friends do, my mother and her friend shared stories of their lives, their children, and then grandchildren. The man and his wife had a daughter who had a rough time of it, and ended up a destitute single mother of several children, one devastatingly handicapped. They helped her out as best they could. For many reasons, it was not easy to do so.
When his grandchildren were little, for many years my mother would send them cards with a little cash around the holidays and on their birthdays, knowing it would help. This is the kind of thing she does, and never seeks any attention or response for it. I didn’t even know that she had done it until years later after the children were grown. My mother told me the story when I brought home a copy of Vogue Magazine. One of the grandchildren, a tall, stunning young woman, was the cover model. She had done very well for herself, very far from her difficult upbringing, and there is no doubt you have seen her face many times. My mom’s friend was incredibly proud of her, and saved all her covers and ads when he could find them. The grandfather missed her terribly; she had not been in contact with him since she left home.
A few years later, he told my mom that he had heard that his granddaughter had began a romantic relationship with a member of the aforementioned rock band, sort of known as a crazy guy onstage, but also as intelligent man and an excellent musician. A short time later, the model and the musician had a baby girl with a funny name, who is now getting close to school-age. In his recent conversation with my mom, the man mentioned the new book about his maybe-grandson-in-law’s band (he doesn’t know if he and his granddaughter were ever married).
“So,” I said to my mother over the phone, “you are buying the book to send to him.”
“Yes.” My mom paused a long time, and then sighed heavily. “He was so hoping there might be a picture of his great-granddaughter in it.”
I was silent for a short time. “You know, it’s very unlikely. You still want me to get it?”
“It doesn’t matter. If there’s a chance, it’s worth it.”
My mother’s dear friend, in his 90s and who also doesn’t own a computer, has never seen a photograph of his great-granddaughter. But in the two seconds it took to Google the baby’s name, I or anyone else with a computer, can.