The Tom Hanks Connection

Leave it to Mom to send one last message through her favorite actor…

by - Posted on Jan 5, 2015

Actor, Tom Hanks

The last time I spoke to my mom was two days before her death, at age 71. Had I known, I would have made sure to tell her how much her quirky humor always brightened my day. Mom, though, for her part, managed to send me one last message. Through Tom Hanks, of all people.

Tom Hanks is my twin. No, we don’t look alike, we don’t have the same parents, but according to Mom, that didn’t matter. Years ago, she read an article about him and called me up. “Sweetheart, you’ll never believe it,” she said. “You and Tom Hanks have the same exact birthday—July 9, 1956!”

It became an inside joke. The similarities between us were endless, Mom liked to say. We’d both been born in California, the third child in our respective families. She even pointed out that I’d led a Forrest Gump-kind-of-life. I’d served in the Army Reserve, tried my hand at a number of careers and traveled all over the country. No matter where I was living, though, Mom would mail me Tom Hanks magazine clippings and movie reviews, along with notes that said, “Look what your brother’s been up to!”

Even as mom entered her golden years and her health wavered, we saw all his movies as soon as they were released, then called each other on the phone to discuss them. Mom loved Big, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, but her favorite was Saving Private Ryan. After all, we came from a big military family and Mom’s brother had fought on D-Day. Mom couldn’t have been prouder of all the good work her “son” did on behalf of U.S. veterans.

Read More: A Message in an Episode of Jeopardy

So when Saving Private Ryan popped up on TV one evening in January, I just had to watch it. For the next two hours, I followed Captain Miller, played by Tom Hanks, as he stormed Normandy Beach and led his group of rangers behind the German front lines in search of the film’s eponymous soldier. Just before midnight the last scene flashed on the screen—an aged Private Ryan visiting the Normandy American Cemetery in France. I gasped. There was a stunning detail both Mom and I had always overlooked! I wanted to call her that instant, but it was late, and she hadn’t been feeling well. I didn’t want to wake her.

It was the next day that I found out Mom had died in her sleep, just as Private Ryan had been paying his respects to Captain Miller. The same time I’d spotted the date carved on his gravestone. June 13, Mom’s birthday.

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