We talked a few days before she passed, the last time that she was able to speak. I knew something was different. She didn’t greet me with her usual, “Hey, baby! What’s happening?” She was already leaving this life behind.
One Of A Kind
My mother was a force of nature. She was smart, witty, creative, vibrant, and always the life of the party. The photo above was taken at a costume party sometime in the 50s, and it perfectly captures my mom’s fun-loving spirit. I’m not surprised that she chose New Year’s Day to make her exit.
Mom was not only our leader at home, she was our Sunday School teacher, our homeroom mother, our Brownie and Girl Scout troop leader. There was no getting away with anything. Not that my sister and I ever really tried to get away with anything. “I have eyes in the back of my head,” Mom told us. We believed her.
Life With The Queen
Mom was strict and had high expectations. Life in our household was pretty much according to Mom’s Rule Book That Encompassed Everything. “I am the Queen,” she told us. She would grin, but we knew she was serious. And she had no qualms about doing whatever she deemed necessary to make us obey.
For example, my sister and I were never allowed to squabble or to say ‘bad words.’ Should we even say something like “Shut up!” to one another, we had Tabasco sauce put on our tongues. In much later years, as dementia erased my mother’s social filters and her favorite phrases became “Kiss my butt” and profanities that I will not divulge, we told Mom that she had better behave or we were getting the Tabasco sauce. She would flip us a bird. And we would laugh.
Reflections On Life With Mom
In my 20s, I left Florida to make my own way in the world and to figure out how I wanted to live, on my own terms. There were some challenging years as I renegotiated my relationship with my mom. But as I came to understand that Mom’s rules were her way of trying to keep us safe, my compassion, love, and gratitude grew.
Mom was only eighteen when she married our dad. I came along a few years later, followed quickly by my sister. “We planned for you and we were excited to have you,” she often told us.
Mom was an accomplished and creative cook, seamstress, artist, and hostess. She managed our family’s finances and was responsible for keeping track of all of the details of daily life. She loved to read and had a quick, sharp mind. Whatever our mom turned her attention to, she did well.
When my sister and I were in elementary school, Mom enrolled in college and then became a kindergarten teacher. But she made sure that she was at home every day to greet us after school, where our ritual was to hang around the kitchen table with a snack and chat about our day. She was always interested in us. At 5:30, she repeated the ritual with our dad, this time in the living room with cocktails, carefully measured, no more than two drinks, ever.
My mother was the last person I would ever have expected to be stricken with dementia.
A Long Goodbye
I’ve been saying goodbye to my mom for several years now. Dementia took away both her short term and long term memory, and there was no way to reminisce with her about the past and all that we shared as a family. But she always knew my dad, me, my sister, and Eric. Although my dad died on May 1st, she had no understanding that he was gone. She simply thought that he was in another room.
We are grateful that our mom passed quickly, and that she did not suffer. And we are grateful that she knew us, up until the end. My sister and I are convinced that Mom had a moment of clarity, realized that our dad was gone, and in her strong-willed way, decided, “Enough! I’m outta here.”
Immersed In Memories
Eric and I have been living in my parents’ home in Eastpoint for a year now. Were it not for the pandemic, we would have left last March after clearing out and preparing the house for sale.
I do not think of the pandemic as a blessing in disguise. It has been too horrific. But looking back, I’m grateful for these many months of living here, in this home that my parents built, on the beautiful property they so loved. I have had time to grieve and time to celebrate. And I’ve had plenty of time to stroll through the memories of the life that my folks created and shared with us.
I never had any doubt as to how much we were loved. Thanks, Mom, for always being there, and for showing us just how rich, full, and wonderful life can be. The world is a bit less colorful without you. ♥️