Trish Farrer is quite proud of her son, Marco, 15, who received the 21st Ward Michael Gioquindo Courage Award in 2013.

Trish Farrer is quite proud of her son, Marco, 15, who received the 21st Ward Michael Gioquindo Courage Award in 2013.

by Janet Gilmore

Trish Farrer, waitress at Maria’s Ristorante in Roxborough, does her job with great skill and good humor. If you saw Trish trying to carry a delicate martini glass, filled to the brim, to a customer (laughing and never spilling a drop), you might believe that she hasn’t a care in the world.

You would be wrong.

The oldest of Trish’s three sons, Marco, was born with four life-threatening heart problems. He had his first surgery at one month and one day old. “If I didn’t go with my gut feeling that something was wrong and take him to the hospital, the doctors said he wouldn’t have made it another week,” said Trish.

A mother is the world’s expert on her children.

Marco has had a total of 13 surgeries in his life. He is now 15, thanks to some skillful doctors and a very loving mother. Marco was only six years old when I met him at a garage sale at our house. He is a beautiful and unusually thoughtful older brother to Gian Carlo and Luciano. He only had 10 cents, and he was trying to decide between two statues. He couldn’t believe his luck when I reduced the price to five cents, and he could buy both, one for himself and one for his mom.

Because of the seriousness of Marco’s illness, Trish and her husband stopped working temporarily in 2009. Their health insurance only covered a certain percentage of the medical costs, not nearly enough to pay for the surgery. Maria’s Ristorante held a Benefit for Marco Dinner.

About 100 people — family, co-workers and restaurant patrons like us — who knew what kind of stress Trish was under and were pulling for Marco showed up to contribute. They (we) raised over $10,000, which was used for Marco’s surgery.

Marco’s health stabilized for a while, though he has to be monitored often. Last year, Marco suffered a serious stroke during his latest surgery. He had to learn how to talk, walk, write and brush his teeth. He was like a baby again. Trish spent her days driving him back and forth to therapy, and her nights working.

Marco asked his mother, “ Why am I living? I’ve suffered so much.”

And how can anyone explain that to a kid? “Keep living, Marco, so that I have a son.”

In 2013, the Farrer family was told to show up at the Al Pearlman Sports complex on Port Royal Avenue in Roxborough at a certain time. To Marco’s astonishment, he received the 21st Ward Michael Gioquindo Courage Award.

“Did you cry?” I asked Trish.

“Are you kidding? I bawled my eyes out.”

Marco has made good progress since his last surgery. He’s back at school and has re-learned to talk — very softly, but still.

The school Holiday Dance was coming up.

“You know, mom,” Marco said at the last minute. “I’d like to go to the dance.”

“But you don’t have a jacket. And you need a haircut.”

“Oh, my hair’s OK.”

After the dance, after all Trish’s worries that he might not mix well or feel well or have a good time, Marco came home as flushed and excited as any young fellow might on the border between boyhood and young manhood.

And did he go to his room and rush to get on Facebook or Twitter or his phone?

No. He went to Trish’s room, where of course she had waited up to find out how his evening went. And then, after all those years of hovering over her son’s hospital bed and worrying, her high school student lay down on the bed to talk to her. He was so excited, had so much to tell her. He had danced with a girl.

“What was she like?” Trish asked.

“She’s beautiful, mom. I’m so glad I went.”

Marco talked on and on, and then, exhausted, he kissed his mom goodnight and went to bed. Trish wept. In the gene pool lottery, she had gotten exactly the right kid.

That evening, that conversation is just what one hopes for when the doctor tells you you’re going to have a baby. And a mother might hardly recognize the teenager who is now taller than she is and has long, hairy legs. She used to touch her son’s face when he was little, thinking it was impossible that the child’s smooth face would have whiskers someday.

And now he had danced with a girl.

“Don’t you wish everyone could see your kids the way you see them and know how awesome they are?” Trish asked me.

I do.

Despite his struggles, Marco is a very lucky young man.