By Tony Fitzpatrick
This World Series couldn’t have happened at a better time. Last Monday morning after a beautiful funeral mass celebrating my mother’s life, my family—five brothers, three sisters, all of their spouses, her twenty-one grandchildren and five great grandchildren—buried my beloved mother. Bagpipes played a lovely Irish lament. My sisters eulogized my mom just as my brothers and I had for my father in 1998. If one can describe a funeral as joyful and beautiful, my mother had this.
When the inevitable call came from my sisters at the hospital I got there and joined my siblings. We were all there, just like our mother had been for us our entire lives. I tell myself I was prepared, but I for damned sure wasn’t ready. It is an awful untethering that forces us to realize that we are now grown-ups. A status I’ve been resistant to my whole life.
My mother had mentioned to my siblings that if this was the end be sure the wake was finished at 7pm so people could go home and watch the Cubs. Being from the West Side, my mother was a Cubs fan, my dad a devout Sox fan—but actually more a fan of the game—he’d watch damned near any ballgame.
She would have loved this series—she loved Joe Maddon, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and was very happy they didn’t trade Javy Baez. She’d have loved that Kyle Schwarber got to come back to face the Indians. She thought it was funny that everyone called him “Bam-Bam.” Mostly, she’d have marveled at this team’s desire; their refusal to give up. How deep they would dig when their backs were to the wall—and just how unflappable Maddon is.
I’m a lifelong Sox fan, but this team really made baseball fun to watch this year. With all of the crime, cesspool politics and entombing sadness that surrounds Americans right now; the Cubs make us remember what is good about where we live and who we are and this is no small thing. My mother would have relished the pure and unbridled joy of it.
In truth my mom’s favorite sport to watch was basketball—she was CRAZY for the Bulls—specifically Joakim Noah whom she adored and was none too happy when he was traded to the hated Knicks. She said prayers to Saint Anthony that Noah would find his way back to the Bulls. I tried to explain the salary cap and other complications, but my mother was adamant: he should be a Bull.
My mom had to mother me a lot harder than she did my siblings. I was the one who got in trouble. My mother was forever having to talk to nuns, teachers, cops and other authority figures explaining that I would never do it again, and for the most part, I didn’t—I found new ways to transgress.
My mother refused to give up on me—in my early twenties, she would buy me art supplies so I wouldn’t give up on myself. She sacrificed a lot to make sure I found my way. She never judged me by my worst moments. Through the worst of my drug and alcohol madness, she hung in there with me.
The reason I ever amounted to anything is because of my mother’s trenchant faith that I would one day stumble across my better self and embrace that person. Man, I tested that faith.
She had this way of making me and my brothers and sisters feel like we were her favorite. She kept the delicate confidences of a whole family and advised us with tough love and honesty in the kindest way possible.
My mother was deeply religious in the best way—when someone was in need or in pain, she lent comfort. If someone we knew had a death in the family, my mother would send her homemade bread or a meal for the family. She was the one people could call when things were tough. If one of our friends was having trouble at home, my mother was often the second mother to these kids.
My mother despised bigotry and those who passed judgment on others. She always counseled us to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. She possessed an immense generosity of spirit in that she wanted and looked for a way to believe the best in others, especially her kids. Everything that is good in me is because of her. My goal now is to be more like her. She was Annamae Fitzpatrick. she was ninety-one, and the best person I ever knew; and I am her son.