Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in accepting his Oscar a few minutes ago, thanked his mom for bringing up four children alone.
Yesterday, in speaking to my mom on the phone, I heard her say, "I understand how hard it is to raise children alone. I did it with four of you."
The picture above was taken of my mom shortly after we moved to Italy in the early days of 1962. She was born and raised on a farm in Declo, Idaho and was the first female in her large Mormon family to get a college education. She defied everything she'd ever been taught or believed in to marry my dad, a non-Mormon - the man she fell in love with moments after first meeting him.
My dad wanted her to move to Alaska with him a few months after they met. She told him that she wouldn't do it unless she were married to him, so he proposed, they married in her father's living room and moved to Anchorage, Alaska where all four of us kids were born; the first of whom were me and my brother Steve. Twins.
With four kids in tow my mom moved to Italy in 1962 to join my dad who'd already been living and working there for a couple of years. In the years that followed she raised us four rowdy, difficult and high-strung children with the help of British aupairs, Italian maids and an assortment of extraordinary people who came and went with regularity. My dad was rarely around - gone working all over the Mediterranean designing and building telecommunication sites for NATO in the pre-satellite era.
My dad was gone for most of my early years, working to provide for his family. The burdens and joys of raising four children fell to my mother - a college-educated woman with enough fire in her soul to light the world on fire, a woman whose own mother died when she was four years old, a little girl who was raised by her older sisters and who has struggled all of her 75 years to figure out who she is and why she couldn't always make the world be what she thought it should be.
I have been her greatest challenge - a son who was born with the same fire in his soul as she had. A son who was as fiercely independant and driven to self-determined authenticity as she was. A son who couldn't ever in a million years be who she wanted him to be.
As she defied convention to follow her heart and marry my dad, so have I defied all convention and followed my heart and loved men. I honor my mother for 75 years of hard work, determination and caring. If anyone has taught me to fight for what's in my heart, it's her. She often thinks she's failed as a mother when in fact she's soared far above the rest.
She'll probably never read these words because she's always been afraid of the truths I speak. But in her heart she knows. She's always known...