Mary Evelyn Fuller was born on December 20, 1924. She lived through the Great Depression, she joined the Navy and served as a Wave during World War II. She was a daughter, to Halcyon and Leslie and a sister to James, William, Richard, David, Bart, Jack and Jerry. She had to clean up after them and she basically raised, Bart, Jack and Jerry. Leslie didn’t believe in boys doing house work and her mom was suffering from Asthma. So, like any sensible girl she ran away from home at the ripe old age of 18. First she went to California and then to Washington, DC. Washington was where she met that Joe McNabb that made her laugh. As my father told it, he was in a bar in Georgetown with a gorgeous blond on his lap, but when he saw my mom’s long legs come down the stairs he stood up, stepped over the blond, who had fallen to the floor, and was smitten. First of course she set him up with her girl friend, …but after about six months she agreed to date him , and well, Joseph and Mary were married in May of 1949.
Mary’s first twenty five years with Joe was interesting to say the least. Dad had joined the Navy and they sent him to Barbados, Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Imperial Beach, Virginia. In addition to having to move at the drop of a hat (usually by herself), she had to move out children aplenty, Michael, Martha, Peter, Stephen, and me as an afterthought! Living quarters were whatever the Navy or my dad provided in a rush. From Quansit huts to lovely two story homes with maids. My brother Stephen’s first word was Maid! But mom always made a beautiful home, even if the floor caved in and the roof leaked! Unfortunately, Mary had to bury two of her children, as a mother I cannot imagine the grief. Patricia in 1960 – her birth almost killed mom and yet she came back and had me! And dear Peter who died at the age of 19.
But the Mary we knew here in California was a woman whose children had grown, but kept coming back. A woman who felt time was on her side. She worked at a Retirement home here in TO (it went by many names – but she called it the Elephant Graveyard), she joined Newcomers, she played Bridge and something called Bunco???? She played with me. First at TOP Theater and then later Gothic Productions. At TOP Theater she was pulled onstage as a last minute understudy. It was a scene stealing performance as an actress whose job was merely was to walk from one side of the stage to the other, but my mom, under the direction to know who she was, where she was coming from and where she was going, decided that she was exiting the ladies room and going back to her dressing room. Since she’d been in the bathroom, there was of course toilet paper on the bottom of her shoe! She talked about people asking for her autograph for years afterwards!
She nursed her husband, our beloved dad, during his illness which took him from her in 1988. But she was comforted by neighbors, friends and family who seemed to be everywhere. She made my family possible, first by telling me that I would find love when I stopped looking for it. Then when Wayne and I became parents for the first time, she was there, helping us raise James (along with Grandma Amy and Grandpa Pat) as I worked and my husband Wayne went to law school. When I became pregnant again it was my mom, not my doctor who told me I would be having twins! See, mom’s last two brothers were twins and she said that when the doctor delivered Jack and Jerry at home, as he was leaving the house she yelled out the window “TAKE THEM B ACK – WE HAVE ENOUGH BOYS HERE ALREADY!!!!
Mom was also backstage a lot, providing wisdom, warm lemonade and a boost to nervous actors who needed that extra shot of confidence. Later, when she could no longer help backstage, she was my family’s greatest fan, Wayne, me, James, Mariah and William.
For my sister, Martha, Mom was and will always be a friend, and confidant, those two were closer than two peas in a pod. I often thought since mom had no sisters, she had Martha, then just to make sure Martha wasn’t lonely she had me. Martha and Mom went on many trips together, Martha always knew what mom would like. Only one time did mom choose something I bought over something Martha bought. Once.
But Mom was there for Michael and Stephen too. Though for some reason, God only knows, they didn’t seem to need her quite as much as Martha and I. But that’s okay, she needed us too and our mutual need kept us going through the rough times. On Thursday, when she passed, I dreamt of millions of sparrows on a tree. We were her sparrows, always flying back to her home and she welcomed us back with open arms to let us roost as long as we needed to. We must make our own nests now, and welcome each other into them as need be. Mom taught us well and we are ready to accept the responsibility. On the wings of angels may you find the peace and comfort you so deserve. I love you mom!
^^^^ UPDATE - at Arlington National Cemetary, they put us in a family waiting room before the funeral. I looked out the window at a bare tree covered in sparrows. As I watched hundreds of them flew off the tree and began to spread out – all but four or five. Funny, I suppose my brain was reminding me of that tree and I suppose I had seen it before. Probably twice. But I felt like mom was sending me a message that just as Dad and her continue through me Wayne and I will continue through the children. Lovely.