Sunday, June 2, 2013

Jean Stapleton's Passing

I owe a great deal of my political activism to TV shows by Norman Lear. All in the Family WAS my family. My mother was the perfect wife and mother with great moral values while political views were only occasionally voiced. My father and I constantly fought over political issues just like Mike (my namesake) and Archie. I always thought my mother was so much like Jean Stapleton's character, not really as extreme but in her heart and soul. Many years later, after my mom had died, I went to see a movie with my sister. The name of the movie: "Michael." In the movie Jean Stapleton's character dies but later comes back as an angel.

There is a list of coincidences here, but before I go on, I must relate one thing. My mother used to tell me that finding a penny was lucky. After she died, I "told" my mother, that if she could hear me and if she wanted to say hello just leave a penny on the ground for me. I have followed this tradition of saying hello back to my mother each time I find a penny. My wife does it now, as well.

On the way into the movie "Michael" I found a penny on the ground, then another, then another. (I  even found a penny upon leaving the theater later.) As my sister and I were walking down the corridor towards the movie, "Michael," it was playing in the very last theater. The movie in the theater just before that one in the corridor was "Mother." So when I looked down the hallway I saw Mother... then Michael...and there in the movie was Jean Stapleton, who dies, who becomes an angel.

There is one other star that my family thought was like my mother, not because of her characters or acting or beatific voice, but solely because of her looks. That star was, oddly enough, Lena Horne. She was not the correct race, of course, but yes, yes, there is something in Lena Horne's manner, and facial expression, her cheek bones and eyes that mirrors my mother.

The day my mother died was on Christmas Day. Yes, it was tragic, but my Christmas is a normal one, now 35 years later thanks to my wonderful wife. Anyway, the day my mother died was awful. There was a Christmas tree right there beside me that Christmas morning in the hospital, where I signed my mom's death certificate. The day wore on with family members coming over bringing food....yes...Christmas food.

By the end of this day, I was so tired. I was so sick of, honestly, seeing people, of Christmas presents laying around unopened, and so many things. I just had to get out. I told my Dad and Sister that I was just going to go to a movie (movies became my refuge on Christmas Day for many years after that.) I looked through the paper and no movie was appropriate but I decided on "The Wiz," a remake of the "Wizard of Oz" starring...."Michael" Jackson. It was a segregated world in those days in Montgomery Alabama and I found myself in a theater of people that were of slightly different ethnicity than my own. Those were odd days as I was the only white boy in the audience... which suited me fine that night. I was outspoken about racial equality in 1978, but really I was too young to fully understand the issue. I had been surprised that I was the only white guy that wanted to see Michael Jackson...but... looking back, I later realized the telling nature of this.

So I am in this movie theater watching "The Wiz" and Leana Horne appears. She is the good witch of the north... dressed all in white, sitting on a cloud, a vision (as far as I was concerned) of an angel in heaven. Tears were rolling down my face and that is where I had the first good cry about my mother's passing. I imagine I must have been quite the sight in that theater.

These are some of the main coincidence stories (and there are others) about my mother....until today. I started to write this story on Facebook... a quick nod to the wonderful Jean Stapleton...until I remembered and put together what had happened today. It has been a long dry spell for found pennies, but today, as I got out of my car to buy some vegetables at Vegies-to-Go I found a penny... then another. I said hello to my mom and went in to order my meal to go. As I was standing... waiting, I noticed a man standing and waiting looking at a flat screen TV in the corner. This restaurant had never had a TV. The Hispanic guy who takes my order is ALWAYS there, 6 days a week. I turned to him and said... "Oh, a TV!  I bet that makes your life better!" He laughed and said that indeed it did. I turned and watched the TV and what the man was watching was an obit of Jean Stapleton on CNN. Goodbye, Jean Stapleton. You will be missed.

I only remembered the pennies as I started to write this account. Another "coincidence" to add to my evidence that they are not coincidences.

Hello Mom...