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Looking Back to 1965-The Phone Call That Changed My Family Forever

A tragic car accident changed everything

I’m not sure when we got the call. I don’t know if one of my brothers phoned, or if it was my sister Lynn. All I remember is that it was one those fateful phone messages that forever altered the complexion of our family. 

My mom had been in a car accident. Teresa and I were about 12 at the time, on the precipice of adolescence and all it’s pubescent promises. 

Those promises would have to be parked. My mom was in the back seat, having gone to lunch with a few of her friends in Studio City.  

They were rounding Ventura Boulevard near Market Basket near my aunt’s Mexican Flea Market, when they were rear-ended from behind. Instead of putting on the brakes, my mom’s friend accelerated. The car went smashing into the side of the building, and my mother’s femur was crushed.  

In her younger days, she had been a professional dancer. As any athlete can attest, being immobile is one of the hardest challenges imaginable. Every family has its shares of tragedy.  

Show me a Leave It To Beaver household, and underneath, you’ll probably find some family tragedy. Maybe it was child abuse. Maybe it was drug addiction. Perhaps it was a brush with the law or some weird illness.  

Every family has its stories, triumphs and challenges. Well, this was our family challenge. My older sister Lynn was on the verge of getting married, so she didn’t want to park her plans to help out with my mother. My brothers were all in their own orbits, so the task of caring for my mom fell upon Teresa and me.  It wasn’t easy. 

Nine months in a body cast isn’t something many people can fathom. My mom took these hardships like a trooper; doing her best to rehabilitate, gain strength and mobility in her right leg, so she could become active again.  

I remember taking her across the street to our neighbor’s house on Pacoima Court, as they had a pool. There, she would do her exercises, as I shared my classroom adventures while attending summer school. We became very close during that time. 

I remember Teresa and I being being driven to Walter Reed Junior High by a burly woman named Mary Johnson. Obviously, my mom wasn’t able to get us to school, so Mary did many of the household chores.  

She wasn’t the friendliest of females, but her iron will held our family together, with a resolve I can only imagine. As the years commenced, my mom began to return to those activities she loved.  

Although her leg wasn’t the same leg anymore, she eventually took up golf after she married her second husband, Eddie Mayo. She never complained, even though one leg was a good two inches shorter than the other. Despite her setbacks, she tried to remain an optimist.

Most of all, she led by example, and to this day, I still hold those lessons she taught close to heart. 

And although she’s been gone for over 11 years, I still hold her dear to me when things are tough.  

Compared to some of the things she had to endure, my life is pretty easy. 

Thank you mom, for all you’ve done for me.

teresa mcgrath November 22, 2011 at 10:41 PM
wonderful article mary....i remember lynn driving furiously down laurel cyn, as we were walking back form the boulevard, as she just received the call...we didn't know that, and wondered why she looked tense, and didn't wave at us...mom shattered her femur, and had several bone grafts, and surgery for staph...her stamina and fortitude will be forever ingrained in us, as she fought to oversome 10 years of body casts, braces, etc...the dirckx family helped out with mom, as did other neighbors and her teacher friends...mom eventually returned to work as volunteering with the assistence league and teaching kids to swim...we love you mom
Mary McGrath November 22, 2011 at 11:08 PM
Thank you for your recollections Teresa. I remember seeing mom in the hospital that first night, and she was so uncomfortable. Every family has its challenges. I welcome hearing what other people had to endure. Thanksgiving is a time for all of us to be grateful for what we have, despite the obstacles we've experienced.
Mike Szymanski November 22, 2011 at 11:10 PM
Mary, this beautiful story and Ilona's : http://patch.com/B-zSl make you want to appreciate your moms, they're both beautiful reads...get a Kleenex box.
Mary McGrath November 23, 2011 at 05:19 AM
Thanks Mike.....this story was a wonderful read. Brought tears to my eyes.
Mary McGrath May 13, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Happy Mother's Day to all of you, and if you still have your mother, you're very lucky...I miss mine everyday...

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