On My Mother’s Birthday

My mother, Kathleen.  This photo was probably taken about 20 years ago.  Photo by Callen Harty.

My mother, Kathleen. This photo was probably taken about 20 years ago. Photo by Callen Harty.


I honestly didn’t think you would make it to 89. In fact I really didn’t think you would make it to 88. In the last couple years you have lost so much weight, you have had hospice coming in a couple times a week for a year, you were given last rites a half a year ago already. And yet, here you are at 89.

You have survived things that would have killed most others your age, or even younger, through sheer strength and determination. You have lived more than twice as long as my father. You have outlived two husbands. You have suffered and struggled and survived. I know where my survivor instinct originated. God only knows how much longer you will continue to survive. I have given up trying to predict when you will give up. I know it’s coming, but at this point I’m not going to even think of predicting you won’t make 90.

None of us know why you’re hanging on to this realm so tenaciously. I thought that at some point you would want to go meet the maker you have believed in so fiercely all these years and to be reunited with the loved ones who have already gone, so it feels like there must be unfinished business here. It ultimately doesn’t matter, but I think we are all still learning lessons from you.

Yes, you are physically weak–considerably less than a 90 pound weakling now–too thin for the hospice folks to even bother trying to weigh you. And your mind comes and goes. It can be hard not to be recognized by your own mother or to have to listen to you talking about things that are real to you but make no sense to the rest of us. And yet, even then, there is light in your eyes. Faith, hope, love . . . life, all reflected in your eyes.

I hope you hold on as long as that light is there and as long as there is some kind of joy for you in you doing so. Happy Birthday, with love and light.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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1 Response to On My Mother’s Birthday

  1. marcea0k says:

    So incredibly beautiful and loving.

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