November 15, 2018

Farewell To Mom–A True “All-Star”

May 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Mary Lou Lazzari lost her long, courageous battle with cancer on October 9, 2007–the nasty disease having robbed the world of a once-vibrant, wonderful human being. O.K., you may wonder why a death of a loved one would warrant being the subject of a sports column; I kinda wondered about that, too, but the answer soon came easily to me: her loyal fostering of my involvement with sports–both as a participant and as a journalist–was never-ending. In short, it was both her support and encouragement over the years that still remain responsible for yours truly being able to put my ideas about sports in print on a weekly basis. And she was there from the very beginning.

Yeah, I guess she could have been considered an early, active “sports Mom,” for sure–but she worked full-time, too. Looking back, she’d never miss my games in Little League; as Dad worked second shift, she’d be sitting with other Moms as I’d hear her high-pitched “Yeaaa, Bobby!” after I’d strike out an opposing hitter. I remember that surprising me at first–coming from such a reserved, quiet woman–and it didn’t strike me until years later that the glowing smile on her countenance and subsequent cheering during those early days was strictly due to immense pride in her only son. I guess that is what “real,” loving mothers do–they nourish, protect and selflessly support–and no one did it quite like Mary Lou.

She KNEW very early on that sports would be an obsession of mine–and she never did a thing to discourage it. She’d always be the one applying the bandages or wiping my brow after a particularly rough pick-up game or practice–usually only inquiring if I had experienced fun or not. And she KNEW the answer would always be “yes”–and she’d simply smile and go about her business. Again, she was just being a “Mom;” if Bobby was doing what he loved, all was well with Mary Lou. And my Mom just loved seeing kids compete and show good sportsmanship; I can only guess that in her day, she was the ultimate “good sport.”

She wasn’t the strict parent in the family (she left that part of the parental responsibilities to Dad), but she commanded respect in the most simple, subtlest of ways. She’d insist that I’d be home for dinner at 5:30 every day–no matter where I was or what sport I was playing; if she knew I was within earshot, she’d call me from the front door with her sweet, clear voice echoing “Bobby!” throughout the neighborhood–and she knew I’d be there momentarily. I just couldn’t fathom disappointing the woman; her confidence in me doing the “right thing” from a very early age was something I’ll always remember.

We both grew older, but she never stopped being a “sports Mom.” Long after my aspirations of a pro sports career had faded, she’d still be there watching me play softball throughout southern Connecticut–still yelling “Yeaaa, Bobby!” when I made a good play in the field or garnered a base hit. And she sounded exactly the same as she did back in the days when I wore a baggy uniform in the Derby Little League–the difference being that, as an adult, yours truly knew much more about what the term “loving mother” meant. Yes, her devotion was infinite; man, I was a lucky kid–AND adult–because she was ALWAYS there. I could be playing horseshoes at a picnic or showing her grandkids how to shoot a basketball and she’d STILL look at me with that pride-filled smile–and her “Bobby” would simply become a Little Leaguer all over again.

No, she wasn’t a sports “fanatic”–the kind that zealously examines boxscores– but she would always ask me if she could borrow my copy of the most current Valley Times for no other reason than to see her son’s picture and words in print. And when I recently started co-hosting a local cable TV sportstalk show, she’d be sure to tune in at 9:00 every Monday–even if it DID mean giving up a part of her beloved “Dancing With The Stars” or other favorite shows. And over the past decade, she developed a great fondness for UCONN women’s basketball–and simply never missed a game on TV. I assume she was impressed by hard-working women who demonstrated devotion, excellence and good sportsmanship–people very much like herself.

You see, it was ALL about family to my Mom–as she put ALL retirement plans/activities on hold while moving to another part of the state to strictly become a live-in nanny for her grandchildren; man, how lucky they were to have her driving THEM to sports practices/games and cheering THEM on like she did for her little boy Bobby so many years ago. I think of my Mom and I think of the term “unconditional love;” she had an endless supply of it.

Since her passing, I’ve received tons of personal greetings, phone calls, emails, etc.–all with a similar theme: Your Mom, Mary Lou, was an exceptional person. A former boss of hers called–telling me she was the “best employee we ever had;” the words “special,” “wonderful,” “lovely,” came up often about a woman I’ve often referred to as “the other Mother Teresa” due to her caring nature. Even during her final days of consciousness, she was the same Mary Lou–classy, strong, concerned about others. Yeah, I know–who could be more fortunate than me–and shame on me for probably taking her for granted at times. I could never relate to friends of mine who weren’t too close to their mothers; what can I say–Mary Lou was just too special.

I love you, Mom. Please excuse the tears shed while writing this remembrance as there were many; for some reason, I know you’re smiling and still cheering somewhere. You may not have held a college degree, but you surely possessed a Doctorate in motherhood. You were the ultimate All-Star, the best of the best–you know, like the MVP of the All-Star Game. Although the scourge of cancer took tons from you, it never touched your soul; yeah, I guess nothing can destroy a well-lived existence and immense legacy. I’m sure we’ll meet up again sometime–when I can hug you and thank you one more time. And in that “better place,” I’ll expect to hear you calling “Bobby!” from afar on occasion–and I’ll be sure to get home on time.

Good-bye, Mom–from the luckiest son in the world.

Bob Lazzari is an award-winning sports columnist for both Connecticut’s Valley Times and NY Sports Day, where his “Sports Roundup” column is featured weekly. He is a member of the Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance and host of “Monday Night Sports Talk,” a cable television show on CTV/Channel 14 in Connecticut.

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