Was able to see my mom for the first time since she completed cancer treatment. Two years of devastating news, reassurances, surgeries, tests, radiation, MORE surgery, chemotherapy and MORE radiation were finally (we hope) at an end. Tests have come back clean and it looked as though she wasn’t going to have to endure any more treatments that were in essence half killing her body in order to eradicate the disease.

When my mom arrived for breakfast at Mimi’s Cafe I almost didn’t recognize her. Besides the new clothes due to the noticeable weight loss (see “half killing”, above), she’d taken my suggestion to go a little crazy with hair color in her wigs. My mom walked in a ginger!

 

I loved it, especially now that she had some color in her cheeks again. Hilariously, this also made a specific picture with my little sister possible.

My stepdad was referred to as “Charlie” for the remainder of the day.

We had plans to see the Titanic exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum that day. I’m a sucker for anything historical, and the Titanic has always been such a unique tragedy, not leastways because of how recent it was.

I was amazed at just how much was recovered from the bottom of the ocean. All human remains had long since dissolved from the bacteria and water pressure found two and a half miles on the ocean floor, but everything from the expected cookware and light fixtures to receipts and paper calling cards were brought back up and cleaned. Water damage was purposefully left intact on things like a typed letter to home from one man’s belongings and a beautiful dinner jacket that had belonged to someone in first class. A brass chandelier had been smashed together, probably due to furniture or something more alive hitting it when the ship went down. They wouldn’t allow photos during the exhibit, but I wish I could show you one display of what had to be 50 porcelain dishes perfectly arranged in the sand and largely undamaged. The wooden cabinet they had been stored in had fallen to the ocean floor and then rotted around the dish ware, leaving them perfectly stored in the sand.

One of the challenges of making any historical exhibit less dry than burnt toast is figuring out ways of making it relatable. This had the really engaging and entirely morbid idea of giving out “boarding passes” when you arrived with the name, age and a good amount of information about an actual passenger on board the Titanic. At the end of the exhibit was the list of who had survived. I was a mother of 3 in second class who didn’t live. My stepdad was a haitian (the only passenger of color) in 3rd class with his wife and two female children. While his family survived, he did not. They had divided the list of passengers by class, and while the numbers of 1st, 2nd and 3rd class passengers who survived were comparable, the ratios were completely different. About half of first class had survived, maybe a third of 2nd class, and less than a quarter of 3rd class. Most of the crew had gone down with the ship.

It was extremely sobering, especially when they had a huge floe of ice for one exhibit and encouraged us to touch the ice, feel just how cold it was, then point out that the water people had fallen into that night had been even colder than the ice in front of you (due to sea water having a lower freezing point). I can’t imagine the shock to your system falling into that water would’ve been; how quickly a death from hypothermia would’ve set in.

There was also a James Cameron-directed documentary entitled “Ghosts in the Abyss” about visiting Titanic with Bill Paxton. It rolled from brief comedic moments of Paxton’s obvious discomfort about being two and a half miles below the surface to a truly striking pan up of the bow of the Titanic half sunk into the sand with the chandelier lighting shining through the railings. As the cameras and submersibles roll through the ship, computer or photographic overlays would appear of what the Titanic had looked like before sinking.

A poignant moment happens when after a dive they cut to a crew member obviously signing off on a vlog type entry with the time and date: 6:11am on September 11, 2001.

The diving crew emerges to the rest of the ship somberly informing them of the terrorist attack on the United States. With all your emotions already at the forefront of your mind after empathizing with the needless death occurring all those years ago, the similarity and shock of so much sudden loss is all the more terrifying. There were tears. Don’t judge me.

Morbid as it was, the parallel of 9/11 with the sinking of the Titanic made a perfect ending for the short film. It may not have been the most uplifting family activity, but I’m glad I could experience it with the people I care most about. Reminds me of how lucky I am to have them in my life and not to take for granted a single day that I get to spend with them.

/end morality lesson.