My parents started dating their senior year at Fraser High School, back in ‘84. They met at a Halloween party that my mother attended with a different guy — one of my father’s friends. Dad said he asked who the “hot babe” was, and quickly took over his friend’s date. Dad drove her home that night. Mom was grounded for missing curfew.
My mother was a strictly-raised church of Christ kid. My father was a Detroit-raised varsity football player. My mother had a big personality. My father had a big mustache. They fell in love.
The first time my dad introduced mom to his entire family was at my oldest uncle’s wedding. The women wore pastel-colored dresses, the men wore black tuxes, and my mother wore a bright-red fitted dress to compliment her porcelain doll face and thick, curly, jet-black hair.
Red was Mom’s color. It was bright, bold and memorable, just like her personality. My mother befriended everyone, from the ‘80s band Air Supply to a random British filmmaker in Hot Springs who later snuck her into a celebrity party.
My parents married in ‘93, officially shaking up my father’s traditional Italian family. Mom was an outspoken only child who spent summers on family farms in Kentucky, while my father lived in a small city home with a big family. My mother learned new social structures, and my father learned to drive in the Appalachian Mountains.
When I was 5, my mother talked our way up to floor seats at an *NSYNC concert. She held me up on her shoulders as I danced to “Bye Bye Bye.” Looking back, I was probably a little young for my first major concert, but my mom didn’t care. Years later, she still bragged that Joey Fatone waved at us that night.
My mother was big fan of concerts, TV and supernatural movies. I never really understood the whole paranormal fascination, so when I came home for breaks, we would watch trashy reality shows. Once, we binge watched the entire season of “Little Women of LA.” We were pretty proud of that.
During this past Christmas break, we lounged on the couch and watched cliche Hallmark movies, perfectly predicting every outcome. We thought we were hilarious. My mother loved to laugh. She had “laugh lines” next to her eyes from smiling so much.
My mom had a contagious energy. She excelled at her career as a registered nurse and nursing instructor. She was even enrolled to begin classes for her nurse practitioner’s license in January. Caring for others wasn’t just her calling, it was her lifestyle. She loved to love people.
The last time I saw my mother, she had just woken up to care for a friend who had fallen in their driveway while shoveling snow. It was the morning of Dec. 27, 2017, and she set out her nursing supplies on the kitchen table waiting for her scraped-up, impromptu patient. I left as she was tending the wounds on her friend’s face.
On Jan. 5, we buried my mother in the frozen Michigan ground, surrounded by more than 100 of her family and friends. My mother hated the cold. She preferred sunshine and sand between her toes, but we knew she was lying on a beach somewhere, probably snapping selfies on a lawn chair. So we said goodbye as they closed my mother’s casket. She still looked beautiful, modeling her latest red dress.