Over the past few years I undertook the task of cleaning out my parent’s attic. It’s not that big of an attic but it’s legitimately taken me years to go through everything. There was a lot of stuff packed in there. Like my dad says, for 50 years we brought stuff in, but never threw stuff out. I knew some of the things I’d find, but couldn’t even imagine the other. I likened the whole experience to urban archaeology with its own rules for the ‘dig.’ Like , instead of carbon dating, I used saved calendars and expired coupons to narrow sections down. My mother was a saver. She saved money by using about a third of the coupons she cut out. She saved the rest of the coupons in paper- clipped together stacks, which in turn were saved with stacks of currently important papers, which eventually found their way into boxes and carried to the attic … and stored in reverse chronological order. In front were the most recent memories. Mostly, Grandchildren. Roughly 20 years of programs from plays, chorus concerts and dance school recitals. An album full of photos of all five from when they were babies. Tokens, drawings and booklets from Grand Parents day at schools. She hated to miss any event. My mother was a big fan. She was a big fan of her Grandchildren, just like for years, she’d been the biggest fan of her four boys. When I played basketball, or soccer and even later when I started the sketch comedy, she was my biggest fan, hardly ever missing a show or a chance to brag to anyone who would listen. In the late 90s, I wrote and performed in a weekly sketch comedy show called Comarama. I found every program in a neatly tied bundle. I found the programs from every football game from Dan’s senior year, along with the picture-pins and ribbons she proudly wore to every game. I found what every token and brochure from when Tom went to Notre Dame, all packed into, of course, a plastic bag from the Notre Dame book store, and stored next to her Parent Diploma, thanking her for her four years of support. If you ever heard her talk about Andy’s goalie days, you could tell in the pride in her voice who was his biggest fan. She bragged about Andy and Dan both playing hockey, and how all five of her men, my dad included, became huge fans of hockey a sport she introduced us to. A sport she learned to love in the old Pittsburgh Hornet days when her dad, a sports writer, took her to work. The multiple scrap books I found full of pictures and articles tell a certain tale, but I remember this: Dan and his friend Roger stopped by the house one night while the rest of us were watching a Pens game. As play went on my mother casually said, “That’s off side.” Sure enough, the whistle blew, the linesman called it, the announcers announced it, and Roger turned amazed and said, “How did she know that?” How did she know that? She taught us. In the 70s section of the dig, I found a diary style calendar from 1978. I turned randomly and read a day: I don’t’ remember the details of the entries, but I remember that I had to be at a basketball game, and at the same time, Dan was going someplace else, Tom somewhere else and Andy, too. Where didn’t really matter, what mattered was, not only did my parents have to split up, and decide who would take who to what event, they had to organize it down to the hour, perhaps the half hour of when they would need to pick one up and get the other there, and that’s not even counting eating dinner. That’s a lot of stuff packed into one day. And that was only one day. And they did that for years and years. That’s a lot of planning and getting us to and from here and there packed into those years. My mother loved it. She lived for her boys. Back in the 70s, I found our big two room tent. My mother loved camping. My dad tells the story about the first time he was going camping. My mom didn’t want to go. But my dad said we have boys, we have to do boy things so he was going. The night before they were leaving, Mom changed her mind. She would go. I’m guessing she didn’t want to miss something important. She didn’t. And that decision changed her life. As soon as the trip was over, she began planning the next one. And throughout our childhoods, she planned dozens and we packed a lot of adventure into those simple trips. Although she did tell my dad once, she likes everything about camping except the sleeping part. And my dad said, “That’s not camping that’s a picnic.” My dad’s funny. So was my mother. I don’t think you could know any of us without knowing that. We get it honestly from both sides of the family. I knew my mother was funny, because I knew her when she was at home, comfortable. In public, she didn’t command the spotlight. We were her spotlight. But in the attic, I uncovered boxes and boxes transferred from my grandmother’s attic, where I found stuff from my mother before she was my mother: yearbooks and class pictures from high school, and Nurses Training – Oh, yea, my mother was a nurse – where to a person, her friends’ inscriptions on the pictures and yearbooks told how funny she was. These are the people who would know. Who still knew, because my mother kept in touch, even organized a Nurses reunion a few years back. Every single one attended. I bet they laughed. I’ll tell you the last funny thing I remember my mom doing. She was in the hospital, tubes sticking out, tracheotomy preventing her from speaking, and a large puffy glove on her left hand because she had a tendency to grab her hoses and pull. I said, “That looks like a boxing glove. Are going to box me?” And she reached out, almost in slow motion and bopped me in the nose. In different decades, I found a lot of bowling material. My mother was the secretary of her league for many years, and in those year, she made friendships that lasted the rest of her life. Friendships she can still count now. She served on the Beaver County Bowling Associations Board of Directors for years, including going on a trip by herself to Wisconsin to attend a Future Leaders conference. When she was first asked to go, she didn’t want to. But, like the camping, she didn’t want to miss the opportunity. So, she did it. She overcame her fear of flying and loved it. Listening to the story from her point of view, you could tell it was one of the most rewarding experiences of her life. She wrote the Bowling Association newsletter for years. It was a time consuming, difficult task that she undertook with a passion. She loved it. She was proud of it. We were proud of her, for serving, for flying and for being a writer. My mother was a writer. Deeper in the attic I found snippets of short stories and even a draft of a book she’d written. In the 60s and early 70s era of the attic, I found tons of Cub Scout material. My mother volunteered as a Den mother. I found copies of homemade programs from dinners and events, stories for meetings, and folders full of activities, games and anything that might be useful for Cub Scouts, because that’s how my mother was. When she was in, she was all in. She loved those kids. And those kids loved her too. While she was in the hospital this last time, my brother ran into a doctor, who had been one of those cub scouts. When he found out my mom was in the CCU he didn’t hesitate. He stopped whatever he was doing and he went to her room to see her. That’s the kind of effect of my mother had on people. That’s the kind of effect she had on us. I don’t have time to tell you about all of the 50 years worth of stuff packed in there. That’s a lot of stuff. I don’t have the time to tell you about all the books I found, because she instilled a love of reading in four boys. I don’t have the time to tell you about all the picnics we went on because she took the time to prepare them and us before my dad came home from work. I don’t have time to show you all the pictures and the souvenirs she’d collected as a child when, before she was 6 years old, she’d been in 18 states. I don’t have time to tell you about all the bags of yarn, and how my mother crocheted. She made an afghan for each grandchild when they were born, just like she’d done for each one of us when we graduated from high school. We each picked our own color and design and she made them. Because back in those days I considered myself a budding rock star, I asked for mine to be a British Flag. If you know anything about crocheting and that flag you would know that triangles and diagonal lines were near impossible. But with the help of my dad, they designed each piece with graph paper, and she did it. When it came to her kids, she would find a way. My mom lived for her boys. And in the end, when the three of us met to start our struggle to make the hardest decision that any child could have to make, before we had to decide if and when to terminally wean her from the ventilator, she died. We believe she died to save us the pain of making that decision because that’s how my mother lived. In that attic, I found that my mother was funny and fun. She was smart and sweet, and loveable and loving and warm and genuine. She was creative and dedicated. She loved her family, she loved her husband and her kids, her grandkids and her extended family and her friends, who were like family. She loved them all, and we loved her. Some of these things I knew, some I forgot but remembered rummaging around that attic and some I never knew. Most importantly, what I found in that attic was the same thing I found out about her life: there was a lot of stuff packed in there.