Monday, January 14, 2019

Good bye, Mom.

My parents and I at Silver Springs in Florida.

On December 29, my mother fell in the bathroom of my parent's home in Florida.  My father called the paramedics and, on the way to the hospital, Mom started acting confused and having trouble breathing.  The medical team found she was bleeding within her brain and transported her to another hospital that specialized in neurosurgery.  Despite their efforts, the trauma to her brain was too great and she fell into a vegetative state.  On January 2, my father made the decision to take her off life support, which my two brothers and I supported.  Mom would never want to be laying in a hospital bed, unable to move or talk.

On January 10, she passed away at 6:02 pm EST.

Mom never understood my love of genre films and novels, but she never tried to change me.  Sure, she was quite restrictive concerning the movies and television shows I could watch as a kid, but she never censored what I could read.  And she made certain I had an appreciation for film and literature beyond the horror/sci fi/fantasy genres, something I will always be grateful for.  

The joke in my family was that my love of horror, sci fi and fantasy was cemented before I was born.  In 1960, my pregnant mother and father went to see the latest Alfred Hitchcock movie, a little film called Psycho.  I always claimed the chemicals released in Mom's body during the scarier moments of film affected me in the womb.  Mom would always counter that argument, saying what probably affected me was Dad leaping into her lap when Vera Miles turned Mrs. Bates around.  And Dad would sheepishly admit he did jump high enough at that moment to easily clear the armrest.

I wish I had a picture of that moment,
but I have to settle for this.

The first genre film I saw outside the womb was 1953's Invaders from Mars.  I was in my grandmother's basement alone when I was three of four, watching it on her large console black and white television.  Sure, it's kind of silly watching it now, but at the time, the film frightened me so much, I had nightmares for weeks.  Needless to say, Mom wasn't very happy, given the sleepless nights she endured consoling me.  Sorry about that, Mom.

Sure, you can see the zippers on the back of the costumes,
but it scared the hell out of me as a kid.

I grew up at a time when movies were changing.  MPAA ratings were replacing the outdated Hays Code, and films delivered more onscreen deaths and mayhem than in the 50s.  Mom felt it was best to shield my brother and I from the more violent aspects of GP rated films (and no, that's not a typo), as she was worried the affects it would have on us.  At the drive in, she wouldn't allow us to even watch the trailers to the Connery era Bond films, as they were too violent in her opinion.  Of course, we'd sneak peeks when we could.  Hey, tell a kid they cannot do something, and they'll find a way around it.

But if the film was rated G, we could watch it.  So I got to see Fantastic Voyage, Planet of the Apes and The Andromeda Strain at the local drive in, though in hindsight, the latter two films would probably be given a PG-13 rating today.  I can only imagine the discussion that came up later, after I asked what Dr. Zaius meant by "emasculation."

No wonder Taylor was so pissed off by the end of the film.

But while Mom restricted what movies I could watch, she allowed me to read whatever I wanted.  Mom felt reading was more important to my development than watching movies, and as I had a college reading and comprehension level by the time I was in the sixth grade, she allowed me full access to whatever I wanted.  So while I couldn't see The Exorcist until it was released on ABC (with all the nasty bits excised), I was allowed to read it, as well as Dune, Rosemary's Baby, the novelization of The Omen, and many other "mature" novels before I was in junior high.  It might have raised a few eyebrows at the local library, but Mom never said no to any book I wanted to read.

I was also the first of my brothers to have a small, black and white television in my bedroom.  I suspect Mom wasn't happy allowing that, as she didn't want me locked away from the rest of the family.  But they were tired of me switching to genre offerings during the commercial breaks of the sporting events everyone else watched, so she relented.  Of course, she had strict rules I had to follow, one being I could only stay in my room to watch local creature features.  I was fine with that, and was able to watch the occasional Universal Monster Movies that would come to local stations uninterrupted.

It might sound like Mom was overprotective, and that's true to a point.  But she would allow my brothers and I to watch films like The Birds (shown unedited here in Portland at the time) as long as it was a family viewing.  She also deepened my appreciation of cinema as an art form, encouraging me to watch films like Citizen Kane, Vertigo, and other classic.  Rather than locking myself in my room watching nothing more than monster movies, Mom forced me to gain an appreciation for other cinematic genres.  And I can't thank her enough for that.

And Mom, a fan of musicals, fostered my appreciation for them as well.  After watching West Side Story, she introduced me to Romeo and Juliet and other works from Shakespeare.  She took me to a Portland production of Sweeney Todd and West Side Story.  Thanks to her, I developed a love of musicals and live theater, which I carry with me to this day.

Music, murder and cannibalism.  I never thought
I'd be watching such a show with Mom.

When my parents moved to Florida about ten years ago, Mom was experiencing extreme mobility issues.  She wasn't able to walk without the aid of a cane, and later a walker, which also left her unable to dance, an activity she loved.  Her ability to paint was also affected by her systemic neuropathy, to such a degree that she had to give it up.  The spare bedroom in the house was full of brushes and paints growing old from disuse.  I can't imagine how much that aggravated her.

But it never kept her from taking me to sites I wanted to see.  We traveled 90 minutes from their house one time I visited, so I could walk the streets of Green Cove Springs and find the locations used in Zaat.  She couldn't get out of the car and walk with me.  Instead, she told me to have a great time and stayed in the car for about an hour while I wandered about.  I knew she was feeling the effects of the trip for the next two days.  But she never complained and was only worried that I had a good time.

And I did.  Thanks, Mom.

We also visited Silver Springs, where some scenes in Revenge of the Creature were filmed.  Again, she watched me board a glass bottom boat, insisting I take the full 90 minute tour against my objections, while she and Dad waited for me at the dock.  The photo at the start of the article is of us on the dock before the tour. I love that she did this for me, but I just wish she'd been there while I geeked out as we drifted above the filming location where the Gill Man once swam.

Yep, I survived a trip to the Black Lagoon!

Recently, Mom started recording genre movies she enjoyed for us to watch together during my yearly visits.  Last May, it was the thriller Dead Calm, which I'd never seen.  I was such a joy for me to watch with her, even if she dozed off once.  Just watching a genre film she wanted to share with me was wonderful.

It hit me a few days ago that Mom told me early in December that she'd recorded the Vincent Price classic House of Wax off TCM and wanted to know if I wanted to watch it with her.  My first response was to ask if she'd seen it, and she laughed, saying she'd watched it in the theaters when she was a teen.  Now, I've seen the film countless times, including in digital 3D at The Joy Cinema.  But my response was simply, "I'd love to watch it with you!"  And so our 2019 Movie Night was set.

It would have been a blast.

And now, sadly, that will not happen.

So, within the next few days, I'll be sitting on my couch with a bag of popcorn and a few bottles of Snapple (Mom's drink of choice after giving up martinis due to her neuropathy) watching House of Wax and hoping she's watching with me.

Goodbye Mom.  I love you and miss you.  Thanks for guiding me on the right path, both as a human being and a cinema fan.  I hope you're out dancing on a beach, between painting sessions.