I’m starting the initial research to plan my video interviews. The interviews will eventually be turned into a “masterful” documentary. I will of course interview her siblings, who are a cast of characters, and her friends. But I thought I would start with Billy. Billy is my half brother from my mother’s first marriage. I grew up with him and my amazing dad raised him so I don’t like to say ‘half.’ As the story goes, she hated her family life and started dating a man, got married, and had a baby too young. The kicker is Billy was born blind and has aspergers, something no one knew a thing about in 1972. Billy is my brother and I love him, but he can be a menace. We argue. We laugh. We tease. When I was first dealing with the fact that my mom was gone, I would confide in him. He said this, which has always helped me, “Mom is always with us.” So simple. So eternally comforting.
Naturally I started my journey with a phone call in to Billy hoping it would lead me down a path. Perhaps I overshot hoping for another moment of clarity. I hung up after a brief conversation only to realize he didn’t have a single story for me. Just that the Celtics are in the playoffs. Sure after a long chitchat he’d probably start spewing some real gems. I wasn’t up for that. I wrote in my notebook, ‘Come up with better questions.’ It hadn’t occurred to me that maybe I’m a little late. It’s been over four years and maybe people have moved on. Maybe some have forgotten the role she played. Sure it was traumatic to stumble upon the outlandish notion, but on the other hand thinking about someone who has passed away can be sad and some may be in a place where they feel it’s easier to ignore it. I understand that feeling. Like a blackout, I’ve probably been guilty of doing it too, but didn’t know until someone smacked me in the face with it.
And then… the phone rang!
Billy called to tell me a short story, but one that shows who my mom was. The background: From what I’ve read, people who have aspergers can become fixated on things, activities, people, etc. I’ve observed this as well. Billy loves sports, food and the radio with an unwavering dedication. And now, his story Sidenote: He didn’t remember many other details, because, well, it was 26 years ago!
Mom knew how much he liked the radio so she set up a meeting for him to meet Debbie Ruggiero, a radio personality who happened to have the same last name as Billy! He said, “Mom was so happy when she picked me up from Perkins.” So simple. So eternally comforting.
Discovery #1: My mom always encouraged her children, husband, friends, her children’s friends, friends of friends, strangers, and pretty much anyone to pursue their passion.
Quick connections: Debbie Ruggiero is a radio personality turned politician. In 2008, she was elected to the House to Representatives (D-RI). She is one of three openly gay reps, for which I give her mad props. (Sorry sometimes slang is the only way to convey the feeling.) Sadly in 2007 her partner, Joyce Ioanes, of 22 years lost her battle with cancer. My heart goes out to Debbie and her family.