Last days with Mom

Righteousness and what it means, the quality of being morally right or justifiable, Bravery is the right hand of Righteousness. 

It was 1963, I was 8 years old and in the car with my Mom, we had just turned onto Swain place off of Northfield Avenue in West Orange, like we had done a hundred times before over the last 8 years. I was in the front seat, we were almost at Ma and Pops house my mom parents, my grandparents. 

As we turned off of Rollinson street onto Swain place something changed, as we got down the block a few hundred feet, we could see some woman just starting to back out of a driveway, Further down the block another car, a convertible was coming in the opposite direction toward us. As this scene came into focus you could see the convertible start to accelerate and a rapid speed and it seemed as he was turning his car into a missile heading straight for this woman’s car who was backing out of the driveway. 

Betty immediately slammed on the gas, got up to where the woman was trying to back out, passed her and swung her station wagon right in front of the convertible, causing this guy to slam on the breaks and skid to stop only a foot from our car. All this ruckus caused Pop (My grandfather) to come ambling out the house, and he got into a verbal battle with the guy in the convertible who was clearly out of his mind with road rage, it was apparent that his intent was to run his car right into this woman’s car and cause her severe injury if not kill her. 

Pop was a sly fox as he walked in front of this guys car he was saying to him look what you did to the street here you got it all marked up with your skid marks, (he was really gathering a visual of this guys license plate #) Meanwhile this guy, is throwing a nut in his car yelling and screaming at Pop, Hey get out of the Road Santa Clause! The woman backing out now shielded by Betty’s car drove off and extricated herself from the situation in the opposite direction unscathed thanks to the bravery of my Mom. 

She taught me about Righteousness without ever saying the word, she never talked the talk, she walked the walk, immersed in Faith and Righteousness, her bravery showed me how it all works.

#7 Daren Peter O’Connor 

It was March 1964 and my Father came up to say goodnight and have a very limited conversation with my Brother Andy and I, I was 9 years old, I remember him saying to us “we are going to have another baby” I remember laying on my back and looking up at him and saying “another one”? without missing a beat, he slowly turned around with a small groan shaking his head, eyes looking toward the ceiling as if looking for divine intervention, then he slowly retreated to his bedroom.

Bedroom and house setup:

Pull out couch,

3 bedroom house with one bathroom

Back to the story of Betty, making lunches, running kids around

She would take everything that nature threw at her, but there was always room for more, she would always take time to make a meal for someone and send it out all wrapped up, complete with a side of gravy, bread, and dessert. She was truly a superwoman, who never complained, she just got it done… 

August 1964 I was at Ma and Pops house, Ma was in her big green chair on one side of the living room, Pop was in his Easy chair on the other side watching the Mets get killed, I would always ask him, “hey Pop how are the Mets doing” Oh they stink he was say so disgusted, as he loved his Mets. He would have to wait 5 more years for his beloved Mets to become the Amazing Mets and win the World Series in 69. 

The phone rang and I was at my post in the front parlor with this old bench like seat where they kept the phone, a black dial classic with such an annoying ring!

When I visited I was the dedicated receptionist, as I had an intuitive love of electronics, wiring, and anything that had the slightest aroma of cool and creative, the phone was the only hi-tech thing in my world at that time.

I picked up the phone and it was Mom, she just delivered #7, “Hi Mom” oh its a boy? Ma and Pop now have a back and forth with the name Daren, Gavin, Gary? Gavy?, Gave, this banter went on for about 2 minutes,  so on August 26th, 1964 we welcomed to the world, Daren Peter O’Connor.

The Fire: 

It was 1965, I was 10 years old, I was at Ma and Pop’s again, and I was in the parlor again, and Ma and Pop were in their respective chairs in the living room, it was either late fall or early winter as the storm door was on and I was inside waiting for my father to pick me up from work on his way home. The phone rang and I answered again, it was Mom, her voice telegraphed into the core of my soul, GET POP, what’s the matter Mom GET POP!!!

I yelled Pop, he must have picked up on the anxiety in my voice as he came into the room very quickly. He stayed on the phone for only a few brief seconds, hung up and immediately called one of his friends at the Fire Dept. Our house was on fire, my Mom instead of trying to get the fire dept or police knew she could get more action from her Father than anyone else, no such thing as 911 in those days.

Pop was still on with one of the Fire dept members, just then my Dad came in with his business suit on and long overcoat, and Pop without even breaking stride with the conversation, yelled: “Gump your house is on Fire”! My father immediately exited slamming the door and damn near taking the hinges with him. 

So this means my Mom was at home with a newborn, and a house full of kids and had to get everyone out with what clothes and bare essentials she could all by herself, only Betty could pull this off!

We were all displaced at Grandparents and friends home for a time while the second floor was rebuilt.

After the repairs were all completed and were all back together again I remember we were at one of our classic Saturday afternoon backyard barbecue’s where all your cousins or neighborhood friends would come over and we have a picnic, back then everyone had lots of kids, and there was no such thing as entertainment as we know it now, except for maybe 6 or 7 channels on a black and white TV.

I remember my Father talking to one of my Uncles about the size of the family in relation to the size of the house and how he exclaimed, “I think I want to Move West Bill” I was over the moon, we were moving West! I had dreams in my head of wild rivers in Montana, the Badlands, wild horses, western sunsets, the Mountains and valleys of Utah, and the coast of sunny California”!

It turns out his version of West meant 8.7 miles west or 21 minutes by car West to Florham Park. But that is where we ended up and then an entirely new chapter had started in 1968. 

After my Dad passed in 2008 it was really difficult for my Mom to get over him, they had been together since childhood as High school sweethearts and were having kids even though they were kids, my Mom had 4 kids by the time she was 25 years old, almost inconceivable by today’s standards. 

She suffered some hospital visits, pneumonia, double lung infection, a few falls and broken bones, but nothing could stop her gregarious nature, even after she was diagnosed with dementia a few years ago, her spirit never dampened, and she never gave up. 

The Blessing: 

On May 1st, 2018 I prayed to the Lord and asked for a gift, that Betty is blessed with being able to stay at home and pass on peacefully in her sleep without any pain, surrounded by her family, her friends, and in the home that she so dearly loved. That prayer was answered at 1:59 AM on Tuesday, March 19th as I held her hands and watched her take her last few breaths, moving from this world into the arms of Jesus.

An Irish Exit

Aging is Indifference
My Father always warned me if I lingered Lazily
Too far into the ocean
The tide could not pull me back.

I resist the riptide
I stay close to the shore
Close to sunburnt days
Seasoning my skin with freckles,
Only shaking off the sand for dinnertime.

Wooden grandfather clocks are for decoration.
Each summer’s end leads to anticipating the next.

Seven decades my senior,
I still could catch you stealing chocolate in the kitchen
Mimicking the giggles of a toddler,
Telling old stories with a sailor’s grin,
Beaming with baby blue eyes.

So sudden a lifetime of cheerfulness
Got swept away. 

By Kelsey O’Connor 

Amen: From the Mercy Album “I AM VICTORIOUS”
Written and performed by Matriarch/Archbishop Christine Mercy Johnson and James Kevin O’Connor

Pick up your copy of the new album Gratitude here!

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