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Friday, April 11, 2008

Munich 1997

posted by on April 11 at 13:00 PM


After I got my first book deal I took my mom to Europe.

Mom always loved the New Year’s Day Strauss concert broadcast every year from Vienna on PBS. We used to watch it together, and I was thrilled that I suddenly had the resources to take her, if not to the concert (tickets are impossible to get), then at least to Vienna.

We spent a few days in Zurich, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in Vienna, and then we took an overnight train to Munich. While in Munich my mother came down with what we thought was pneumonia. After a short visit to a hospital in Munich—which convinced mom that socialized medicine worked—she spent three days in bed in our hotel room, hoping she’d get better so we could enjoy the rest of our trip. She didn’t. She never really did, not completely. She later concluded that the “pneumonia” she came down with in Munich was actually the first signs of the pulmonary fibrosis that would eventually take her life.

Anyway, she took this picture from her bed in Munich. On the back she wrote, “Mom’s view of Munich, January 1997.”

The one story we liked to tell again and again about our trip to Europe was actually about something that happened before the trip: When I arrived at my mother’s house in McHenry, Illinois, the day before we were to leave I was shocked by the size of her bag. It was a rolling bag and it was… enormous. I could fit inside it. And it was heavy. I could barely lift it. Since I knew I would be carrying/rolling her bag through airports, train stations, hotel lobbies, and through tiny European towns, I felt I had a right to ask my mother to open her bag and show me what the hell all was taking to Europe. Inside her bag I found a two-pound bag of chocolate. My mother was taking chocolate—American chocolate—to Switzerland.

I assured mom that there was plenty of chocolate in Switzerland. She was unmoved. It was her bag and she was going to fill it with whatever she thought she might need—six pairs of shoes, three warm jackets, two rolls of toilet paper, two pounds of chocolate—and if I didn’t like it she could stay home. We carried that bag of chocolate across an ocean and through three countries and back home again. Unopened. Because there was chocolate in Switzerland—good chocolate, chocolate mom liked—and some pretty decent chocolate in Austria and Germany too.

Anyway, I’m off to mom’s wake. I’m bringing chocolate.

RSS icon Comments


Chocolate is delish, but it makes you fat, Dan.

OT: Because of Slog, I will never be able to read the word enormous without thinking of Christopher Frizzelle.

Posted by Mr. Poe | April 11, 2008 1:22 PM

My condolences, Dan.

Posted by Johnny | April 11, 2008 1:23 PM

That sounds exactly like something my Mom would do. Except she would have spent the entire time complaining about how bad their English was as well. Nevermind that she doesn't speak three words of German.
My sympathies again, and try not to get too drunk. Or if you do, be careful.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | April 11, 2008 1:29 PM

Very touching post. Sincere condolences to you and your family Dan.

Posted by Rodster | April 11, 2008 1:31 PM

It's so hard to lose a cool, fun to be with, wise parent, I'm sorry Dan.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | April 11, 2008 1:49 PM

Sweet story, D.

Taking Mom to Europe - such a good boy. She must have been so proud.

Posted by Bauhaus | April 11, 2008 1:49 PM

My condolences to you & you family, Dan. Chocolate and stories of your mom sounds like wonderful things to share with others.

Posted by JenK | April 11, 2008 1:51 PM

I still haven't taken my mom to Europe, but we did pay for a vacation for her in Paris. But I did travel around France with my dad, who likes to pack as light as I do ... still wish we'd gone to that rave in Boulogne.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 11, 2008 1:53 PM

@1, I know the feeling, makes me want to hit on Christopher but then if he is "enormous", everyone in Seattle would have ridden that ride and you know what they say about THAT!

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | April 11, 2008 1:56 PM

I guess we know what she took when she visited Newcastle.

Posted by David | April 11, 2008 1:59 PM

very sorry for your loss, dan. great story.

Posted by JasonC | April 11, 2008 2:02 PM

Great story... I'd like to know if you brought back any Swiss chocolate. That would have made for an even funnier suitcase.

Condolences to your family... Hopefully you have a good/appropriately funny priest or deacon at the wake & funeral.

Posted by Julie | April 11, 2008 2:29 PM

You're a mensch, Dan, even if you are lapsed Catholic. And your mother sounds like she was a delight and wise ot boot. Tipple some cocoa to her for the rest of us out here in cyberspace.

Posted by Spoogie | April 11, 2008 2:40 PM

Wonderful story, Dan. Memories like that are the most precious. She'd appreciate the gesture.

I lost my mom a little over a year ago, too. I brought Vegemite to her funeral reception.

Posted by Sylvie | April 11, 2008 2:41 PM

This post reminds me of a great website I was sent to yesterday:

Posted by meks | April 11, 2008 3:07 PM

My condolences to you and your family, Dan. Your mother sounds like an amazing woman. Great memories like this are priceless.

Posted by Jill | April 11, 2008 3:23 PM

@13: I concur.

Dan, I hope your mother let you know you how happy you made her.

I can easily imagine that she did.

Posted by saxfanatic | April 11, 2008 4:26 PM

@13: I ask you: Is there any phase more redundant that "lapsed Catholic"? Surely it describes the majority of papists.

Couldn't we instead simply call the faithfully observant as "devout Catholics", and use the simple adjective "Catholic" to describe the rest of us?

Just asking.

Posted by saxfanatic | April 11, 2008 4:33 PM

@1 and @9 -- Thank you. My work is done here.

Posted by Christopher Frizzelle's Substantial Endowment | April 11, 2008 5:39 PM

I raise my piece of chocolate to you and your mom. Tomorrow, I leave to visit my dear parents in Florida and the chocolate-covered pecans are packed.

Posted by epiphenita | April 11, 2008 6:56 PM

A lovely memory for you, hold on to them Dan and I hope they bring you much comfort. Your mother sounds like she was just wonderful. Kudos for you.

Posted by 2lesmoms | April 11, 2008 7:12 PM

Sincere condolences, Dan. Sounds like you and your mom had a great relationship. Hold on to the wonderful memories--it sounds like you probably have many.

Posted by RainMan | April 11, 2008 7:44 PM

I'm so sorry to hear that your mother has passed. I'm sure you made her very proud.

Posted by shannon | April 11, 2008 8:17 PM

What a sweet if having Savage Love reduce me to tears wasn't enough. She sounds like a sweetie and a riot. So sorry...

Posted by abomb | April 11, 2008 10:29 PM

Sorry for your loss, Dan. My mother passed away from cancer two years ago so I feel your pain. The memories will keep you strong and I know she must have been really proud of you....

Posted by Rachel Frank | April 12, 2008 12:09 PM

Lovely post, Dan. Thank you for sharing these sweet memories. Wishing you well...

Posted by Tim | April 12, 2008 1:26 PM

When you are able, write an entire book about your Mom. Good therapy, and justified. I can't wait....
Let them eat Chocolate!
With love, Susan.

Posted by Susan | April 12, 2008 4:08 PM



Thanks for sharing her, Dan.

Posted by violet_dagrinder | April 12, 2008 5:51 PM

I'm very sorry for your loss. The stories you have shared about the relationship you had with your mother touched me and my family (including my mother). My thoughts are with you and your family.

Posted by Donnie Young | April 12, 2008 6:13 PM

I'm so sorry for your loss.

What a great story. And I can see where you get your sense of humor.

Posted by Jennifer in New Jersey | April 14, 2008 2:51 PM

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