Posts Tagged ‘mother’

It’s been a year, exactly …5:38am, as I sit here, since my mother passed away. I think the anticipation of such an anniversary has been burdensome. I phoned friends and emailed friends to remind them of this date and to be prepared in case I “needed” them. I’m not really one who likes to “need” people — I’ve always thought it showed a bit more weakness than I wanted. So, I’m not sure what this day will hold, really. But I remember, at 5:38am, when my sister called from the Alive Hospice facility downtown.

Both my sisters had spent the night there with my mother — I was too tired at that point. Too tired to sleep, too tired to be there, too tired to watch my mother drift away one last night. I knew why the phone was ringing (I also know that the sun is going to set everyday, but that doesn’t keep me from longing for it to warm my face just a little longer). Nothing good ever comes out of a 5:38am phone call, but, I answered it just the same. I collapsed on a bean bag on the floor when I heard the words spoken — overcome, confused… my body and my mind had parted ways briefly. I was already dressed, in anticipation, so I gathered myself and went to be with her, one last time…

My mother was a magazine person. She had books too, lots of books. But, typically, the magazines were so plentiful that she kept a large portion of them teetering in two stacks on a coffee table in her house. If you nudged the coffee table ever so slightly, the stacks would fall — I picked up those damn magazines more than once.

When she moved in with me, the magazines came too — they were a set. I had resisted the need to ever subscribe to magazines as an adult — the occasional kids mag and a cooking mag were all I cared to have. But, with the addition of my mother also came the addition of those magazines. I enjoyed reading them (as a side note, I read magazines from back to front — I don’t know why, always have… if you can enlighten me on this quirk, please do), she picked good magazines — there was always just so many of them. I have no idea how long of a subscription she paid for in advance — a year now, and they haven’t stopped arriving in the mail. Some every week, some once a month — all with her name on the label.

I don’t know what the day will bring. I’m sitting here in the same bean bag that held my collapsed body a year ago. I’ll push the publish button on this story and I’ll wake my kids for school. I’ll prepare their breakfast and help them organize their bags. I’ll go to work and I’ll talk to people and I’ll laugh with people and I’ll move on. Because no matter how much I want time to stand still or to even just slow down for a second so I can catch my breath — it won’t. My journey didn’t end a year ago. My journey continues — and hopefully, my North Star will allow me to see it. Maybe I’ll use those “lifelines” to phone a friend and just say “hi”. And they’ll know the real reason is because I needed them — just needed them — and that will be ok, because sometimes we just need a little distraction to remind us to move on.

But for now, for right now this morning…my journey is going to start with reading an interesting article in one of these damn magazines.

And now, enjoy this clip from one of my mother’s favorite movies and one of her favorite songs… Edelweiss (sung by one of the all-time sexy men!)

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Next Wednesday, March 31st, will mark the one year anniversary of my mother’s death. I’ve thought about it a lot these past couple of weeks. I’ve thought about the mourning process and how long it lasts and what exactly it is — really. I think mourning is different from grieving — I have my own thoughts on grieving. But mourning, it’s different… I think mourning might, at some point, settle in to relief.

I had a great-aunt, Aunt Dot. I loved her, we all did. She was crude and funny and bossy and rough around the edges and caring and nosey — she was wonderful. Long before I was born, she was badly injured in a car wreck. It left her paralyzed from the hips down. Her husband worshipped her — worshipped her. He lifted her in and out of her wheelchair and in and out of the bed. He drove her everywhere. He put her leg braces on her and propped her at the sink so she could do dishes or cook. He cleaned. He cooked. He did everything for her — he worshipped her. When she passed away, I remember my uncle and the lost look in his eyes. I remember seeing him get into the car at the funeral home as we all were leaving to go to the cemetary — he collapsed in the back seat. He was inconsolable. He had lived his life for her — and now she was gone.

A few months later, he took a trip. It was the first time he had been away from his home in about 30 years. I would never have asked him if the feeling he had was relief — but I’m sure that’s what he was experiencing.

I think when you go through a health struggle with a loved one — cancer, injury, prolonged illness — and then they pass away, the mourning period looks different. I think at some point you have to admit that the feeling you have is relief. It’s a little scary — relief. It’s hard to get a handle on it.

We battled cancer with my father for 2 years from diagnosis until he died. Six weeks later my mother was diagnosed with cancer — in between my father’s death and my mothers diagnosis, my oldest sister’s husband died from colon cancer. Cancer sucks. That month and a half was so not a good time in my world. We battled cancer for 14 months with my mother from diagnosis until she died. Thirty-eight months straight of a long hard battle for my father and my mother — that I lost. It took its toll.

I wrote some things for my mother’s funeral that I had her minister read (I was, of course, unable to speak). One of the things I mentioned was how I felt like I hadn’t had a chance to mourn my father’s death because the battle never ceased long enough to breathe — 38 months.

So, I mourned — for both of them — when my mother died. But then the mourning gave way to relief. And the relief gave way to guilt. The guilt is leaving — slowly.

So, next week will be the one year anniversary of my mother’s passing. I’ll wait to see what the day will bring. I’ll let you know.

And now, enjoy this song by Anthony Skinner. We were fortunate to have Anthony and his wife sing this song at my father’s funeral.

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Shortly after my father passed away, I was eating lunch with some friends. This was actually the first time I had been out with friends since he passed. His illness was long and hard and messy and unexpected and sad — it was sad.

Lung cancer.

He had been a smoker for a long time but had actually quit several years earlier, or so we thought — he was a sneaker. His illness started out with a diagnosis that we didn’t expect. It quickly went to a surgery that we didn’t expect with an outcome that we didn’t expect. But, this isn’t about the perils of smoking — I guess it’s your choice if you wish to die a most painful death.

My father loved to google. He loved to research everything on his “more powerful than NASA” computer. My youngest daughter has a nut allergy — fairly severe. I don’t think I can explain the number of links that my father sent me on a daily basis, the number of articles and websites that he bookmarked all about nut allergy’s. He had the same fervor when it came to finding out about lung cancer. When someone said that we had two lungs, he corrected them to say the lung was divided into 5 lobes — 3 on the right and 2 on the left. The surgery to remove his cancerous tumor required the removal of all 3 lobes on the right side. But this story isn’t about lobes, or smoking, or peanut allergies. This story is about pennies and dimes and quarters.

So, back to that restaurant on my first outing after my father passed away. When we sat down at our table, I noticed a lone dime on the table at my place. I didn’t touch it, assuming the waitress must have dropped it (I realize it was only a dime, but still). The waitress approached the table and focused on the dime. She looked at me and asked if I had put it there. I replied no. She was startled and immediately began to tell our table a story of death and reoccurring dimes. She said she began finding dimes everywhere after a dear friend of hers passed away. Her story stuck with me because my father’s death was still so fresh on my heart and because she was so determined that a group of strangers who sat at her table understood her story.

I began to notice dimes everywhere after that — in the laundry, on the floor, on my desk at work, in my car. I know this isn’t unusual. You hear a story — you hope it’s true… you imagine it’s true. I found enough dimes though to spark a google search on the subject. Turns out many people have stories of finding dimes shortly after a loved one passes away. I don’t think believing in Heaven is a pre-requisite for believing a force more powerful than you could be sending you a message in the dimes.

So, my dimes.

I believe my father was letting me know he was ok and that we should move on — I’m a big believer in moving on. In case you’re wondering, when my mother passed away, I didn’t find an unusual amount of dimes… I found quarters — she always was a big spender.

And now, a little something from Billie Holiday and Teddy Wilson.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about closure. At the time, I thought that if I posted about closure then it would come more easily — and maybe it did. It’s hard to tell sometimes, when the memories will take your breath away and when they will let you rest.

I made a new friend on twitter last week (oh really, can you just let it go). It’s strange to think how easily friends can be made on social media outlets, maybe I’ll conquer that post on a different day. Back to my new friend, Lisa Bonchek Adams. Turns out, on top of being really funny (which is always my first qualification), she is a writer (am I that predictable), a thinker, a survivor. I read a post of her’s recently about her mother-in-law. It greatly affected me, I won’t tell you about it here — you’ll need to visit her site and read it for yourself. But, the name alone, Barbara’s Closet, sent the closure I wanted retreating to a far away corner.

I’ve gone through most of my mother’s things and sorted them for family and Goodwill and me. There are a few things remaining that I’m not quite sure what to do with.

When my grandmother was 81, she moved in with my parents. My grandfather had passed away just a few short months earlier and given her own weakened health, she couldn’t live alone. She lived with my parents for about seven years before she passed away. I remember going in my grandmother’s closet at my parents house — it never dawned on me that my mother never really cleaned that closet out. I don’t think my mother ever gave away all of my grandmother’s clothes. There was always something of her in that closet.

A few months ago, I was cleaning out my mother’s dresser. I came across a pair of pajama’s that I immediately recognized — but they weren’t my mothers. They were my grandmothers — her favorites. I remember seeing my grandmother in those — light blue, satin, pants and a shirt. My mother kept them in her drawer all these years — 13 to be exact. What am I supposed to do with them?

The things left for me to sort in my mother’s closet don’t really amount to much, but they were hers — her favorite things. It was hard to box her things up and give away — clothes, shoes, purses. I haven’t known what to do with the things she was using when she passed away. You know, her purse with all her stuff in it — driver’s license, lipstick, compact, the tissue she was using. The clothes I had just washed for her are still on the dryer. Her make-up, perfume, a half empty bottle of scope, her hairbrush. What am I supposed to do with these things?

I think my lack of ability to “throw out” these things isn’t necessarily tied to an emotional state or memory. I’ve never been one to tie my memories to objects. I tie my memories to senses — a smell, a feel, a taste. But in the case of my mother’s most recently worn clothes, her hairbrush, her purse — I think that my mother might need them again. I keep thinking she’ll need them.

So, for me to do closure, I suppose I need to actually do something with those clothes on the dryer. I need to toss out that bottle of Scope. I need to give away that last purse.

Closure is funny isn’t it? I guess you can get by, get on, get going without really being completely accepting of the circumstance. Maybe closure isn’t about accepting and moving on, maybe it’s about remembering and staying whole.

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One of my children, (I will refrain from using names or ages to protect the innocent) has a recurring dream about Hitler. Yes, Hitler. We have tried to pinpoint what led to this dreamland interference… but, nothing stands out — no books, no documentaries, no school discussions. I know if some dream therapist is consulted as to what this dream means, he will say that Hitler represents me, the mother — it’s always the mother’s fault.

The list of things that we blame on our mother’s is endless: my clothes are too small, my clothes are too big, my hair is curly, my hair is flat, I missed the bus, I don’t like dinner  — endless.

But, we somehow manage to carry on.

I’ve decided this must be due to the thing known as unconditional love. We know that our children can blame everything that goes wrong on us and we will still love them, we will still come back to them, we will still allow them to blame us. Of course, until I was a mother myself I was on the other end of the blame.

In the 1950’s, autism was blamed on mother’s. I found this explanation in Wikipedia (What? You know you use Wikipedia too.):

The term refrigerator mother was coined around 1950 as a label for mothers of children diagnosed with autism or schizophrenia. These mothers were often blamed for their children’s atypical behavior, which included rigid rituals, speech difficulty, and self-isolation.

The “refrigerator mother” label was based on the assumption — now discredited among most, though not all, mental health professionals — that autistic behaviors stem from the emotional frigidity of the children’s mothers. As a result, many mothers of children on the autistic spectrum suffered from blame, guilt, and self-doubt from the 1950s throughout the 1970s and beyond: when the prevailing medical belief that autism resulted from inadequate parenting was widely assumed to be correct.

Can you imagine, a disorder as wide spread as autism blamed on mothers? As a mother, we really have some ground to make up. Or do we? Maybe this is our time to re-claim a guilt-free existence. To stop accepting the blame for all the world’s ill-fated ventures. To let the chips fall where they may. (Yes, I know — not going to happen.)

Today alone, I will be given and accept the blame for: my oldest daughter’s room being painted a color she no longer wants (yes, she picked out the current color just last year), my son’s unfinished book report due tomorrow (yes, he received the assignment two weeks ago), and my youngest daughter’s favorite pink Dora popsicles are all gone (ok, I do have to take responsibility for that one).

When my mother first became ill and moved in with us, she was in a wheelchair. If she needed to get up at night, she would call and I would come. This night, when she called out for me, I was completely in the state of disorient that can only be described as that lack of sleep when you first bring home a newborn and everything sounds like an echo. I raced down the stairs still in my semiconscious state and missed the last two steps. I slid down hard on my bum — it hurt. My mother immediately apologized saying it was her fault for needing my help. I laughed. She laughed. Why is it so easy for us to accept the blame?

I can still try to blame things on my mother. It’s her fault that the laundry I folded for her some nine months ago is still on the dryer, with no one to wear it. It’s her fault that her purse with all its contents is lying in the bottom of her closet with nowhere to go. It’s her fault I stare daily at that half empty bottle of perfume because I can not bring myself to toss it out.

At some point, I’m sure we all become adults and accept responsibility for our own mistakes, for our own short-comings, for our own happiness. To blame is easy, to accept is not. But, to move on is the key.

As the mother, I know I’ll be given the blame — as the mother, I know I’ll accept the blame. So, I’ll pick up paint chips for the bedroom, I’ll edit the book report, and I’ll go to the store for pink Dora popsicles. And, when Hitler makes his way back into dreamland, I will be waiting to chase him away. When it’s all done… I’ll get the hugs and the kisses and the love. Which is really what matters the most.

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