Cards from Mom


I was going through old stuff the other day, deciding what to throw out, when I found some cards my mom sent me last spring when she was still living at Waterbrooks, her beautiful home in South Conway, New Hampshire.

We moved her and my dad down to South Deerfield, Massachusetts last August.

“Dear Stephen,” she writes in her crabbed hand, “My Pumpkin survived all winter under snow but now the great sunshine is cooking it! So how are you? I miss you and hope you’re coming here when the snow is gone.

“We might get up in your town in May when the memorial for Eileen Driscoll takes place.

“So – Have a happy spring

“Love, Mom + Hi from Dad” (she made that up)

The second one reads, “Dear Steve, Spring is here + so is the beginning of summer, so I hope we’ll see you soon. You can tell me about St. Anthony Fund – Those two things came last week to Conway. [mail from a college fraternity that had my home address]

“As you know you’ll see us soon in Massachusetts — in some new house up there. But I’m not happy to lose our house right here.

“Maybe you can cheer me up.

“Love, Mom”

When I got those cards, I was still thinking of my mom as an adult, but now I can see she was already reverting to the little girl I have come to know in the past year, and I couldn’t help but think how frightening it must have been for her, in this beautiful setting among her lovingly manicured gardens, to see that she was losing her mind, while my father, debilitated by a stroke, and by severe anxiety and depression, emerged from his room to take his meals and then invariably announced that he was going to take a nap.

I did go as often as I could, and she had great friends up there, two pals she went to school with, who really stepped up. All the same, it must have been really frightening, and I wish that I had known then that she wasn’t my mighty mom I had known all my life, but a very sad and lonely little girl whose world was falling apart.

This whole vision came over me when I read those cards. And I just wished I could have done something.

When I’m with her, there’s really no time to think about these things. We just think about having fun. There’s no time to think about how unfair it is that this wonderful person, this professor of literature, this friend and mentor of so many other pilgrims and scholars, should be stripped of her reason and her dignity.

It’s just not fair.