The Gospel Truth

With Apologies to Abe

February 17, 2012

I have quipped that I had only two real identifiable talents in life–a very good memory and a very big mouth.

During my many years on radio they have both served me well.

I just loved that song from the 1950’s that was on the weekly Hit Parade TV show that we watched as a family when I was growing up in Queens.

Al Stillman and Robert Allen composed Moments to Remember, which was recorded by Four Lads in 1955.

The song also features a woman, who is not credited in the song, whose voice is first heard in the introduction to the song:

January though December/We’ll have Moments to Remember

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Stirred the echoes of my past

The line I remember most was–the day we tore the goal post down–we will have these moments to remember.

While I seriously doubt the width of my mouth will shrink, I worry a lot about losing my memory.

My mother died of Alzheimer’s disease.

I watched her lose her entire ability to communicate with me and anyone around over the last 12 years of a disease that probably started 18-20 years before her death on 3/11.*

First it was speech.

Then it was her ability to walk and stand up

Then it was her inability to care for herself and get out of bed.

The good news was that she was pretty much unaware of her memory loss and ultimately her life ebbing away from us all.

My obsession  with memory loss runs very deeply within my soul.

It was her illness that prompted me to write my first produced play, The Last Memory of an Ol’ Brownie Fan.

Actor Tom Kelly personified my fears

This was my cathartic way of dealing with my latent fears.

I didn’t know a great deal about my mother.

She was not as sharing with personal information as I am–I doubt if anyone talks as much about him or herself as I do but I often wish she had because she would have given me a lot more to remember her by and more importantly to pass down to her grandchildren and as many generations as I can make.

But by comparison with my mother, my dad was a mute.

He was an introvert almost to the point of being shy, except when he had a Manhattan or two.

Unfortunately I learned way too few things about him.

He never mentioned his mother, except to say her name had been Louisa Stiehl.

My mother, the blabbermouth, told me that her mother-in-law had hanged herself when he was 12.

She told me that in an Alexanders’ Department store  parking lot 44 years ago.

I often wish that they had told me that when I was younger because I would have cut my dad a lot more slack than I ever did.

For all I knew he found his mother hanging there.

Deserved some slack

Maybe that explained his adult demeanor.

My mom did say that it was menopausal.

To think that was in 1909 and had it happened two generations later, with modern medicine, I would probably have gotten to know her.

His father was another story.

Even as a boy I could tell there was almost a latent anger in his voice about his father.

Perhaps he blamed him for the loss of his mother.

My dad’s mother was my grandfather’s second wife.

He was the one who took the family out of the Catholic Church after a tiff with a priest in the Confessional.

He was just 12 years old.

My father never joined the Church but his two sisters did.

His oldest sister was the devout one whose close relationship with a Jesuit was largely responsible for my getting into Xavier HS.

He didn’t think he was a good businessman after an injury forced his retirement from the NYPD.

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NYC’s finest around the time of my grandfather’s service

He died of heart disease at the age of 75 in 1937 the same year my dad got married.

But so many questions about my parents remained unasked and unanswered.

Their answers could have provided more information about roots that might have given more clarity to my own life.

I also wished I had asked him more about his business knowledge–after a short-lived medical career of just 18 years my father went into private investments and was very good at it.

My mother’s mother died in 1957 when I was 14.

I really did not know much about her.

I think she got her husband, who was not a Catholic to convert.

She was very morally strict and hard on my mother.

She was also my Irish connection, having been a Dolan.

She also had a lot of family in New Jersey.

They are all just distant names to me.

My grandfather died in 1984.

I have to say that he was the opposite of me–taciturn.

I think he only said four things to me in my 19 years as his grandson that I remember.

The most memorable was that Ty Cobb was a dirty player.

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He even sharpened his spikes

Evidently he was a baseball fan.

I wish I had that to share with him then but the subject never came up again.

He did teach me to tell time–I’ll bet most kids today can only do digital–and tie my own shoelaces–I can still do both.

There is a lesson for all of us in this post.

What  I did learn is that it is so important we tell our kids and their kids about ourselves–who we are, what we hoped to have been and where we made our mistakes.

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Tell them about yourself

This includes even the blemishes but without gilding them.

But we should always tell our stories with the utmost of human respect and empathy for what they did, tried to do or failed to do.

Kids need to have that connection with the past, since the schools don’t provide that anymore.

You and I and the millions like us are walking encyclopedias of the past.

That’s how we advance the human family.

That’s how we validate our own humanity.

As we grow older, we add even more pages of memory for our children and their children and so on down the line.

We need to pass on our stories before we pass on ourselves.

Do this before the mystic chords of our memories** become nothing more than faint echoes without detail, substance or meaning.

It is probably the best legacy we can guarantee them.

* They don’t give the year for 9/11, so why should I give the year for my mother’s death?

** Paraphrased from Abraham Lincoln’s 1st Inaugural Address, given in March of 1861.

About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at