My second mom

Warning. This is not a post about sports. It is, but it’s not.

What you are about to read is not a breakdown of the upcoming Super Bowl XLIV, a spring training preview, a mid-season NBA review or a Tiger Woods where for art thou piece.

This is a post about love, life, family and passing. So please, if you’re not in the mood to shed a tear, turn away now. I won’t mind. But if you do feel like celebrating the life of someone very special, by all means read on.

I’ll wait while you get some tissue.

My best friend’s mother passed away last week. This is a woman who was my mother’s best friend for forty years. This is a woman who helped raise me. This is a loving, caring soul who had a profound impact on my life.

When I was only a few years old, we lived in Freehold, New Jersey. Yes the home town of one Bruce Springsteen.

bus-crash-freeholdOne morning, out of the blue, a school bus crashed into the side of our house. Miraculously nobody was injured, but from that accident came several lifelong friendships.

A woman came over to my house that day and asked if there was anything she could do to help in our time of need. Natalie and my mother have been best friends ever since. Forty years of ups an downs, laughter and tears, good times and bad.

Years after the bus crash, mom and I were living in Manhattan, but the cost of living in the city was too much for a struggling, single journalist to afford. It was Natalie who once again came to our rescue, taking us in despite the fact that she herself was broke.

sox-yanksNatalie’s son Jason and I grew up together and remain best friends to this day. We were products of the 1970s, raised by single, strong, professional women. They molded us into the men, dare I say gentlemen, that we are today. For that, we are eternally grateful. We wouldn’t have had it any other way.

When mom worked into the night, it was Natalie who cared for us. She took us to Cooperstown, a trip I remember as if it were yesterday. When Jason, a Yankees fan, and I, a Red Sox fan, would beat the living tar our of each other, it was Natalie who would separate us. We were so bad, she once threatened to leave us on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike.

Natalie was an extremely knowledgeable sports fan. Back when the game meant something, she could rattle off the stats on the back of a baseball card as easily as her two sons could. She allowed us to watch games all night long… although it had to be in separate rooms when the Sox and Yanks played. She would then play piano and lullaby both her ogres to sleep.

Years later, when mom struggled with the depression of a second divorce, it was Natalie who once again nursed her back to health. But mom is only one of many who Natalie touched along the way.

me-mom-natThe daughter of two holocaust survivors, Natalie was devout about her faith. Judaism was her passion. Although Jason and I suffered from a bacon-less existence and a steady diet of gefilte fish and matzo balls, we learned to respect the importance of faith and of following our dreams.

Nat was passionate about sports, music, languages, travel, business and of course, family. Her competitive spirit kept us up playing Scrabble all night long. I could never beat her. She would routinely pull a slew of vowel-less four-letter words out of thin air. I protested, until later finding those words in the dictionary.

Unfortunately death, like taxes, is inevitable, but there are just certain people you never imagine being out of your life. Yet as Jimmy V said, cancer is indiscriminate. It cares not whether you’re young or old, black or white, man or woman. In the end, it beat her. It was the only thing that could, but not before she blessed everyone who met her with a lifetime of laughter and memories. We didn’t call her Crazy Nat for nothing.

me-and-j-at-rayjayIn a world where we mistakenly look to athletes to set examples for our children, Natalie was the ultimate role model. And I will miss her.

This is not meant to be a somber post about someone’s passing. It is meant more to celebrate the loving heart of someone very special. This may not be sports related but it is something I felt I needed to write out of respect for what Natalie meant to me and my family.

If you’ve made it this far, I’d like to thank you for honoring the woman we called my second mom. And Jason, you are forever my brother.

55 thoughts on “My second mom

  1. Dude, I totally understand where you are when someone you love passes on that you dearly love. Just remember the good times you shared like you have outlined. You got friends bra, hang in there, things always get better. ej

  2. Wow, you are the best man and mom loved you guys so much……..Love your Brother, Jason

  3. Chris, this was a beautiful piece.

    Jason, you are in my prayers. Our Dad left us 2 years ago this month because of this horrible sickness, way too soon. Sounds like you have wonderful memories to help heal the pain. God bless you and your family.

  4. Hi Chris,

    Sorry to hear about Natalie. That was a really nice tribute, which I’m sure she would have loved. Please pass along my condolences.

    Alex

  5. Chris

    I totally understand and I just wanted to comment on this , as I know where you’re coming from on this particular subject. In terms of myself , though my father,who has since died some 5 years ago. The relationship that he had with myself and my siblings was far from being a great one. He deserted my mother and his kids for another woman . And it essentially fractured the familial unit.

    It wasn’t until my mother remarried that I truly appreciated what a ‘father figure’ really meant. Along with it came an extended family of two additional brothers by my step-dad’s first marriage. Be that as it may , I still look up to him as the father I never really had. And despite his ongoing age , we still keep in contact with each other regularly via the phone. Albeit , that he’s not really tech savvy, as he hates things such as laptop computers and other such devices. He swears by his cellphone which is his one surrender to the ‘modern world of technology’. But I love him more than life itself. Just as much as I love my Mom and two younger siblings (sister & brother- ) as well as my nieces and nephews.

    Once again my sincerest condolences to the family in question !

    Alan Parkins

  6. Chris,

    What an awesome post, you said it all. Growing up with Jason and Natalie in Elizabeth you pretty much touched on everything she ever meant to any of us. She was a second Mom to everyone she knew, young and old. She took care of people like they were her own children. This post touched my heart. Thank you for saying what we all felt about her.

    Jonny

  7. Wow…Chris…This is a very sad story, man..
    it made me cry…=(

    There are not many people in the world now days like your step mom, Natalie..

    My sincere condolences to the family.
    May she rest in PEACE!

  8. Sorry for your loss buddy.

    Supercross is coming to Daytona soon.. They might even jump over school busses!Be Ready! I’m callin out the Chump!

  9. Ath…. thanks.

    J’s gonna come down here soon and we’re gonna take care of him.

    Of course, by ‘taking care’ I mean running around town, drinking whiskey and misbehaving.

  10. DB…. thanks.

    She was really someone special. Always positive, always generous, always loving.

    Whenever she came to visit, she never came empty-handed.

    Like I said, J’ll be down here to stay with us for a few weeks so that’ll be fun.

  11. Al… it seems like we all come from broken, dysfunctional homes these days.

    And Nat was definitely dysfunctional… he he. We loved that about her.

    Like I said, that’s why we called her crazy Nat. But she had a HUGE heart.

    After the Red Sox FINALLY won the World Series in 2004, I remember her calling me to say congratulations… which only slightly made up for all the ribbing she gave me over the years that the Yanks would clobber us like a baby seal.

  12. Jonny… thanks, man.

    It was the least I could do to show her how much I felt, and what she meant to all of us.

    Your comments prove my point. She touched so many people, everyone she came into contact with, from the people she helped raise to the exchange students she would house in L.A.

    Thanks again for sharing, man. Glad you enjoyed.

  13. Martina…. dude. You guys are insane.

    Just try not to be too much like Evil Kneivel on the poker table.

    Fritchie sent me pics of you and Dautel kicking it the other day.

    Reunited and it feels so good.

  14. “Ha-Makom yenahem etkhem b’tokh sha ar aveilei Tzion vYerushalayim–may the Omnipresent comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”
    May her memory for a blessing.

  15. Hey Chris Nice writing, remember she is always with you in your heart and soul.

    take care long time since Ive heard from you

    Jeff

  16. Being a loyal Colt fan that I am I will go out on a limb and say yes the Colts win 31-16.

    The Colts moving from Baltimore in the middle of the night with moving trucks made me cry as a child.

    I stuck with them though and they delivered a few years ago and will give me joy again on Sunday…I hope.

    Speaking of Baltimore…have the O’s decided to get it together and compete or will we waste another $100 million on washed up pitcher’s who outright suck!!!

  17. JD, my man.

    I talked to you the other night when you were out with Fritchie and Martina, you drunk bastard.

    So tell me, have you ever had anyone threaten to drop you off on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike?

    You thought you were the only person that could do that to a guy, huh?

  18. Hey, I’m the best cook in my family…u come to my home…I’ll cook for you….=)

  19. Chris

    The world is now so screwed up as in terms of what deem to be ‘family values’. But I guess it goes with the ever changing socio economic climate ?

    Dropped this piece as of today. I think you can have some fun with it. Especially as it regards to who’s the Fighter of The Decade ? The BWAA voted Pacquiao over Mayweather. But that’s besides the point. Have fun while reading.

    I Won’t Discuss Politics But I Will Discuss Sports ……..

    🙂
    Alan Parkins

    🙂

  20. Jonny May… thanks, man.

    I’m in a poker tourney later tonight. Wish me luck.

    I’ll try to forget everything you taught me about poker so I should be just fine.

  21. Al… apparently some news outlet recently asked fans whether or not sports figures should be role models, and if so which one?

    Names like Venus Williams, Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols came up but the most popular answer was that athletes SHOULDN’T be role models.

    With kids still looking up to athletes like we did as kids, I imagine it’s tough for kids not to idolize their heroes.

    But as much as I admired my favorites athletes growing up, I’m not sure I ever looked to them to set examples. I had plenty of adults surrounding me to show what, and what not, to do.

  22. Chris, your Mom raised a really special guy. I’m sure Natalie helped as well.
    I love your Mom!

  23. Sara… you’re a sweetheart. You should have seen Nat and Mom hanging out together. Laughs for hours on end.

    She’s always had great taste in friends. She obviously still does.

    See ya’ soon and thanks for swinging by.

  24. Dear Chris:

    Natalie was my dear friend for over 20 years. We traveled together, we ate together, we laughed together, and you have succeeded in capturing her zany and wonderful spirit. She will indeed be missed by so many. Rest in peace, dearest Natalie, and rise in glory!

    Francie

  25. Chris,

    Very nicely written.

    I can’t believe I never knew about any of this… you never once mentioned it Freshman year and I have a very good memory of that time.

    Adam

  26. I knew Natalie from Hillside. As you can see I myself am a Natalie and we both dated the same boy, at the same time, his name was Larry Rotgun and they married. I am so touched by your kind words and sincere love of a special person… as I read I could see her smile and those great dimples, even hear her voice after all these years (more then I care to mention). May she rest with peace and rememberance of all you stated here on this page with such sincerely and heartfelt love. Natalie Digiesi Bash

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