Saturday, October 4, 2008

An important day in (my) history

Fifty-one years ago today, something happened that affected everyone in the world, and something else happened that affected very few but changed my life completely.

On Friday, October 4, 1957, the Russians launched a rocket that put an unmanned satellite named Sputnik into orbit around the earth. It circled the globe once every ninety minutes and people were both amazed and frightened. The Space Age had begun, and the Russians got there first. A great emphasis on science and mathematics began in American schools, along with a great decline in the liberal and fine arts. Who would need music and drama and painting when the barbarians were at the gates? People were abuzz. The world had changed forever.

I didn’t find out about Sputnik for three days because on Friday, October 4, 1957, at about 7:30 in the morning, something else happened. My mother died. She had been in St. Joseph’s hospital in Fort Worth for nearly a month, the latest hospitalization in her eight long years of battling cancer. We had known for about a year that she was, as they say, terminal. She was forty-seven years old. I was sixteen. Nothing has been the same since. My world, like the larger world, had changed forever.

Some people say time heals all wounds. They are wrong.

by Emily Dickinson

My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If immortality unveil
A third event to me

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.


  1. Condolences on this sad anniversary. You're right. We never really stop missing those we love and lose.

  2. My goodness.....all this time, when I've looked at your childhood photo here on your blog.....your mom was standing right there holding your hand. Do you feel as if that's where she's been ever since that Oct. 4 so long ago.....she's right beside you, but just out of sight. That's a beautiful, comforting way to envision a loved one who's passed on. "Friends in High Places"......I read that phrase in a memorial in our newspaper today......a daughter was remembering her mother and thanking her for watching over her for many years.

  3. Do you have recollection of the event going on in the photo? Was it a parade? What was your mother saying to you at that moment?

  4. Thank you, Pat, Ruth, and Jeannelle, for your good wishes and for commenting on this post.
    In many ways it seems very recent. It's startling to realize it happened so many years ago.

    I'm grateful to have "been there" for my own children into their forties, and I hope to see my grandchildren become adults with families of their own. Of course, one never knows when the inevitable will happen.

    I really don't know what the occasion of the photo was, Jeannelle. I don't recall a thing about it. I look dressed too warmly for it to have been the Fourth of July.

  5. I'm so sorry about your mom! She was the age I am now, and you were the age that i remember thinking if my mom died, i wanted to die too. Very tough to lose a parent.

  6. Warm hugs to you on this anniversary date. I lost my father almost twenty years ago and it is still like yesterday when I think of him. Of course there will always be a piece of my heart missing from losing my daughter two years ago. I only can take comfort in knowing I can help take care of her daughters.

  7. In a time of economic turmoil it is good to see that the human touch is of more importance to enjoyable post.

  8. Thank you Rosezilla, Egghead (Vonda), and Thud for your comments.

    Rose, I did want to die. But since I didn't, I'm still here. But the emptiness remained.

    Egghead (Vonda, I'm so sorry to learn about your daughter. I'm sure you are a wonderful grandmother to her children.

    Thud, I'm glad you liked the personal touch of the post. Welcome to the "plague-o-sphere" (a word I just coined). Winston Churchill said, I think, that we are two nations separated by the same language. I read some of your blog but didn't understand a lot of what you were talking about. And I searched for "scouser" and discovered that you are either a resident of Liverpool or a sailor's stew consisting of meat, potatoes, onion, ship's biscuit, etc. (and God only knows what the "etc." might be -- squid's eye, maybe, or boiled rat, or an occasional amputated finger).

    Nice to meet you, and come again. I shall try to ramp up on things Liverpudlian. The only things I am familiar with are the Beatles.