Watching the Academy Awards Sunday night I don’t expect to become teary-eyed when Pink sings “Over the Rainbow,” to commemorate the 75-year anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz.” But there I sit, sobbing like a child, as scenes from the movie flash behind the singer.
Sobbing like a child. It is 1965 and I am lying on my stomach, head propped in my hands as I am transfixed by the production on our TV set. I am watching “The Wizard of Oz” for the first time. My mother, father and older brother Tommy are all lounging in chairs and on the couch behind me.
The movie ends, and I lay my head down in my folded arms and sob. My family asks, “What’s wrong, Kelly?”
“That’s the most beautiful movie I have ever seen in my whole life,” I express through tears. “…In my whole life.” I am four. My family finds it amusing, but they understand, and next thing I know I am being cuddled in my mom’s arms.
So deeply inspired, I do my best Judy Garland impersonation by belting out “Over the Rainbow” for weeks, whether it be around the house, or even to entertain friends. Finally Mom tells me to give it a rest.
Numerous tornadoes permeate the relationship I would have with my mother over the years. As in many families, my mid-late teens prove to be the most tumultuous. No amount of wizardry could alleviate the dysfunction, frustration and misunderstandings that would saturate our lives.
By the time we’re able to smooth things out I have moved out from my childhood home in Northern California, and my mom, little brother Brian and step-dad are moving up to Oregon where they will remain for the next 25 years. I do see my mom every year or so, and keep in good contact with her via phone and later, email and even Facebook.
It is February 2012. I sing “Over the Rainbow” one more time for my mom. I am seated by her bedside in the hospital following a major stroke that she had two days before. She cannot speak, her motor skills are very limited, but she is still somewhat coherent. She is going in and out of sleep, and I sing softly to her as I hold her hand. I know a lot of songs, but this one just seems right.
No sobbing, no tears; just a feeling of warmth, love and acceptance; acceptance that the end is near. We both know it. My step-dad and I talk with the doctor about preparing for the inevitable.
I spend two more days with my mom, but then I have to leave and head back home to San Diego. I tell her I have to go, and her blue eyes well up a bit and a pained expression comes over her face. I tell her I love her, then hug and kiss her goodbye. She gives me a gentle squeeze. I walk out of her hospital room and into the hallway. I thank the doctors and the nursing staff. Fighting back the tears, I head down the hall. Part of me wants so badly to turn around and run back to her, but I know if I do, it will only make it more painful to leave again; so I continue walking.
Fast forward to now, and “Over the Rainbow” still has the ability to touch my inner child and transport me back to all things Mom. I feel her presence and I even talk to her now and then, and hearing that song feels as if she is sending a message to me. It’s a message of love, of forgiveness, and maybe even gratitude; after all, even through all the ups and downs, we both got to be in each other’s lives for over 50 years.
Love, Life, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Rainbows and Mom. The words bring a smile, and a feeling of warmth comes over me. It’s her, again.