Rita Catherine Schober was born on October 30, 1926. She was the youngest of the three Burns girls and she was my Mom.
I was her baby. The youngest of five. I’m 7 years younger than my next oldest brother. Mom called me her “love child” but really I was what happened on a trip to Miami Beach in early 1963.
I’m not sure when my Mom started to be known as “Ritzie” but it’s what I called her for as long as I can remember. Even when i was young. Everyone did. I rarely called her Mom. It was just Ritzie.
Ritzie passed away on Monday, April 22. She was 86 years old.
But this isn’t a sad post. Ritzie would be pissed off if I did that. This is a post about what a great Mother she was. Not only to her five kids but also to her twelve grand kids, her seven great grand kids, the neighborhood kids we all grew up with, the co-workers she had later in life and just about anyone who had a chance to spend five minutes with her.
Occasionally I’ll run into someone I haven’t seen for years and years and the first thing they ask is “How’s Ritzie?”
I thought I’d write about the things I’ll always remember my Mom for…her “Greatest Moments” if you will…at least in my world.
Now these are my “Greatest Moments”. Some are funny. Some are poignant. Some aren’t a very big deal…but they are to me and all are pure “Ritzie”.
So here we go…
– Rita is the reason I have the career I have today. She was a receptionist at JMB Realty Corporation in the John Hancock Building in the early 80’s. It was the first job she had since my Dad passed away in 1981. In fact it was the first job she had in 39 years. I was working at Water Tower Place at the time and I used to go over and have lunch with her. I got to know a few people and the next thing I know I’m in the commercial real estate business.
– When I was about eight I was stung in the stomach by a bumble bee. Rita pulled the stinger out…with her teeth!
– Rita spanked me one time. I was throwing rocks at the street light near our house. She told me to stop. I didn’t. She told me to stop again. I didn’t. She yelled at me to stop. I didn’t. I guess I deserved it.
– The first car accident I was in was with my Mom. It was in a car wash. Swear to God. A car wash. I remember looking at my Mom while she was explaining to my Dad what had happened. She kept repeating “In a car wash” (pause) “In a car wash” (longer pause) “A car wash!!”.
– Going to church with Rita meant you were sitting in the first row.
– Rita’s drink of choice were Manhattans. Preferably a VO Manhattan on the rocks. She loved them. Loved them a bit too much sometimes. So she had to switch drinks. She started drinking Tab & vodka. Disgusting right? I remember once a short time after my Dad passed away, my Mom was invited to a wedding. She didn’t want to go alone, so she brought me along. She asked me to go get her a drink. So I walked up to the bar. The bartender was about 80 years old. I told him I wanted a Tab & vodka. He looked at me funny. “Do you want those things mixed together?” “Yes” I said. He said “I’ve been bartender 40 years and no one has ever ordered that. I said “You better learn because that woman over there is going to have about 10 of them”.
– She taught me to always let ladies on and off elevators first!
– She once drove from the South side of Chicago to the Wisconsin border…with the emergency brake on.
– After I finished my first marathon in 2009 Rita was the first one I called. She said “What? Why’d you do that? That’s crazy!”
– Once she was pulled over in the middle-of-nowhere Minnesota for speeding. She asked the cop “Where did you come from?” He just pointed in the air. They had used a police helicopter to catch her.
– On August 8th, 1974 we were in the Wisconsin Dells. I was 9 years old. I had been playing in the pool, getting burned to a crisp when my Mom came running from the motel room. “Get in here!” she said. I remember it was about 95 degrees outside but about 40 in that motel room. She sat me down in front of the TV. Richard Nixon was about to resign as President of the United States. “I know you won’t understand this now but you will one day. It’s history. Watch”
There are more stories but these are just a few of mine.
Rita was an extraordinary person. She had a remarkable love of life and family. She was funny, smart, blunt, a constant worrier and she never put up with any bullshit. She also had no problem speaking her mind. None at all.
She was pure South Side Irish.
She defended her children to the death and we could do no wrong in her eyes…even my brother Danny.
Kids flocked to Ritzie. My kids hung all over her. They couldn’t get enough of Gramma Rita. She always had cookies or candy at the ready. I would try and stop her from giving my kids candy at 9am but she would just look at me and say “Edward…Be quiet!”
I will miss her dearly. She was my Mom and I loved her very much.
Now if you’ll excuse me…I’m going to go have a VO Manhattan on the rocks.