The Not So Great Gatsby

nsggHi Nick,

Borrowing from Eric B and Rakim, it’s been a long time, I shouldnt’ve left you without a dope note to read through. The end of the summer into fall threw me some curveballs and unlike the Red Sox, I didn’t see them break until I had already swung. For me, the onset of fall is like a new beginning. The summer heat breaks and the air becomes crisp and all our favorite clothes come out. You know the ones – the clothes that conceal and flaunt at the same time in a combination of our choosing – a sharp contrast to the bundling of winter or the nakedness of summer whose extremes dictate your dress. I am no longer a school boy, but my body may have learned a kind of back to school muscle memory because each year at this time, I feel like it’s an opportunity for new beginnings and not the ending of yet another year.

On September 11 of this year, my mother was rushed to the hospital. September 11 is a date already etched in our collective psyches as the day terror consumed us and the tragic ripples of that day still affect so many people every day. I had a hard time wrapping my head around why and how somebody or a group of people would want to hurt so many people in 2001, and I still struggle with it when it interrupts my day, bursting into my thoughts like a sudden downpour from an innocent looking black cloud. So many people all around the world sacrificed so much on the day of and in the name of September 11, that it doesn’t seem fair to invoke that particular date when telling my tale, but it was the date, and there is a point, so please read on if you would be so kind.

My mother was rushed to the hospital. She thought she was having a heart attack. The EMTs thought she was having a heart attack. They put her in the ambulance, hooked wires to her chest and sped off into the night. I know I haven’t mentioned my mother before. I prefer that everyone think I landed on this planet a fully formed Gatsby. Perhaps I landed in a spacecraft after my home planet Krypton exploded. Or maybe I arrived in a time machine from the roaring 20s stinking of bathtub gin. The truth is, I wouldn’t be the man I am today if mother Gatsby hadn’t first been such a shining example.

Much of my past is purposely shrouded in secret. But to be perfectly honest, Nick, I didn’t Charleston into town fresh from an oral silver spoon removal procedure. When I was just a young lad, giddy with anticipation for the first day of school, as I referenced in the beginning of this note, the FBI came knocking at our upper-middle-class-suburban-family door. My father had done something incredibly stupid and brazenly illegal and they decided he should spend some time in pinstripes to think about it.

Mama Gatsby had never worked. She hadn’t even finished school. She stayed home with us kids, as many mothers did back when I was young. It would be difficult, she told us, but we were a family and we would get through it. What she didn’t know was that my father also left her penniless. When that news reached her, as if carried in Philippides’s messenger bag, is when we really saw the mettle Mama was made of.

She went back to school full time, and got a full time job, all the while trying to dig us from the financial and legal hole she had no hand in creating. She tried to keep things as normal as she could for me and my two brothers living through a scandal in a small town. She graduated from college and got a job teaching in the inner city, but not before having a grand mal seizure and having brain surgery to remove the tumor she must have gotten as part of her divorce. And I am only giving you the Cliffs Notes version of the story. Mama Gatsby would be an inspiration to anyone she met, and I am lucky enough to be her son. To say I was worried would be an understatement. If I had lost her, September 11 would have been a day for me that terror struck twice.

By the time I reached the hospital she had already been seen, and heart attack was ruled out. She had some kind of cardio event that, while scary, was actually fortunately a signal for the doctors to install a pacemaker. I am overjoyed to say that she should be back to her old self post haste.

As you can imagine, Daisy was with me through this and when I brought up the date, she suggested something ingenious. “September 11 is such a negative day in your life. Take it back. Make it positive. Every September 11, do something with your mother that you both love doing together. Make it an event you will look forward to.”

Most folks have specific dates that they hold in infamy. Maybe it’s the day you got divorced, or lost a loved one, or lost your job. Don’t let a month and date hold power over you. Take it back. Turn it on its head. Celebrate that day. Find a silver lining in that dark cloud. I’m excited to think of a fun way to celebrate how much I care about my mom. I might not be able to wait until next autumn. But I know that when something bad happens, instead of mark the date as a curse, I will spend that day counting my many blessings.



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