In the past few weeks, I've been using this blog and other social networking to get out some feelings I have about my mother's heath. She is seriously ill, but has an excellent chance of recovery - the doctor say the course of medicine she is on has a 70% recovery record. Truth is though, my mom is 82 and the medicine is supposed to make her sick along with making her better. She is this little southern woman who lately has seen even smaller as her health has failed.
The good news is that women in our family live to a ripe old age. My grandmother lived almost to 100 and mom has 4 sisters all of whom are either in their eighties or close to it. With any luck and some providence, I should get to enjoy my mother's company, if not for many, at least for a few years to come.
Which strangely enough, brings up the subject of Teddy Roosevelt.
Recently I had lunch with a friend, and a fan of Bonnie Pinkwater. We'd been corresponding and trading lunches since last March when we'd run into each other at Left Coast Crime in Sacramento. While enjoying a meal at the Garden of the Gods Trading Post, he shared the titles of a few good books he'd enjoyed in the past year. One of them was 'River of Doubt'by Candice Millard. The book is non-fiction and relates the 1000 mile journey the past president took on an unexplored tributary of the Amazon. I am currently reading - actually listening to - the book in my car.
Now, I am a student of history, minored in the subject in college. I know the usual stuff about Teddy and maybe some not so usual stuff.
Face on Mount Rushmore
"Talk softly, but carry a big stick" His response to the Barbary pirates who were plaguing American ships. Think 'From the Halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli.'
Twenty-Sixth president of the United States of America. Youngest in history.
Leader of the 'Rough Riders' in the Spanish American War. Led the famous charge up San Juan Hill.
Came from a prominent New York family, was Chief of Police of New York City. Was instrumental in cleaning up the corruption that had become rampant in the police ranks.
Was asthmatic and did rigorous exercise to get over his infirmities. A practice he continued all the days of his life.
Boxed in college and had a boxing ring set up in the White House.
Came out west to clear his head when tragedy struck him or the people he loved. We'll visit this theme again in a minute.
Was one of the premier naturalists of his time and donated to the collections of the famous museums of his day.
Tried and failed to run for a third term of presidency (losing to Woodrow Wilson) in the Progressive or "Bull Moose Party'.
Was instrumental in setting up the National Park system we enjoy to this day.
All of which is fascinating, but it isn't the reason for this post. I began it speaking of my mother and her recent struggles with her health. While I am confident she will beat this round of cancer, She is eighty-two and my father died at eighty-one. Someday, I will have to live in a world where this sweet women doesn't call me weekly on the phone.
So here's the reason for this post. In 1884 Teddy Roosevelt lost not only his wife but also his beloved mother. And not just in the same year but in the same day. I can only imagine the grief he felt at this monumental loss.
Here was a man who played out life on a national stage, was the hero of millions, was one of the most popular presidents ever to hold the office and he was powerless in face of these twin tragedies.
So here's the thing. Life throws hard things at you sometimes. Sometimes those hard things threaten to overwhelm. Sometimes, you just feel like going off to a dark place to weep. And I suppose that's okay.
For a while.
But in the end, Roosevelt remarried, raised four children, and got on with his life. I don't know about you but this makes me hopeful that all of us can do the same.
Life is good.