Last Saturday night, I had intended to be hanging out at an apres Hallowe’en “Day of the Dead” party but about the time the doors were opening for that event, my mom took one final lung full of breath and then cashed in her chips.
I’ve spent the last week in a town that I hate, burying a woman that I love and hanging on to a very delicate thread that ties me to sanity and the big picture. Okay, it slipped away more than once.
I expect I will feel a lot of things about my mom’s death over the next little while. There hasn’t been much time to just sit and let the reality wash over me. I’m sure that will come, and at all the least convenient times.
Here’s the thing.
I am a mix of good things and bad things. Somedays I am hard pressed to know what the good things might be, especially lately.
Whatever good there is in me got planted there by my mom.
When I was a kid, my mom wouldn’t let me watch Hogan’s Heroes. She said Nazi concentration camps/POW camps weren’t funny.
When I came home at age five and said someone had ‘jew’ed’ me out of something, she sat me on a stool and told me why I shouldn’t talk use expressions that justified treating other people atrociously.
When I came home at age six and said someone ‘gyp’ed’ me out of something, I got the same conversation, this time about the persecution of the gypsies rather than the Jews.
When I have acted like a dope, my mom could tell me to grow up and get over it and…. I would. More often than not.
I have always held my mom, and her opinion of me, in very high regard.
My mom died of Alzheimers, but more to the point, she died from isolation. When she was in her fifties, she and my dad moved to a town where she had to start all over again. And that was just too hard. It was too hard for her to find a job at that age and her social circle was vaporized, so that her only friends were the wives of my dad’s friends. And that didn’t actually click.
I feel bad about the loneliness my mother lived with for the last chunk of her life and I find myself wondering if there was anything I could have done better to support her.
My mom was smart and funny and ethical. She tried very hard to be fair, and I try to do the same.
It’s been a long time since my mom and I could have a conversation. She stopped knowing who her kids were about 3 years ago. And yet, she knew we were all there sitting with her right before she died. Something was different, her eyelids would flutter when one of us would talk. I dunno, but I know she knew we were there and I know that it mattered for her. And then she died.
If you knew how completely unlikely it is for me and my siblings to all be in the same room at the same time, you, like me, might think that she had actually died of shock.
So… my mom is dead.
Because it’s been so long since she participated in her life, I convinced myself it was just sort of a technicality. But I sat in the car and wept when we drove to the hospital to tell my dad that the woman he married 57 years ago had died.
The funny, not ha-ha funny but kick you in the ass funny, part is that everyone in my family has been having kittens about my dad and his crap-tastic health and his not-long-for-this-astral-plane future, and then my mom goes and sucker punches all of us and I think, “Good for you, mom. Good for finally getting some tiny shred of the attention you deserved.”
If there is one decent thing about my mom and Alzheimers, it’s that she was completely unaware of my whole cancer process, chemo and all its vile side effects. I am glad she never had to watch me go through that.
So, R.I.P. Mom.
Thanks for doing all you could to make me a decent person and the world a decent place.