Posted in Family

Happy 93rd Birthday to Mom in Heaven

I can’t believe it’ll be 3 years this summer since I lost my mother. Her picture sits on my bookshelf, and I talk to it sometimes. I try to tell her about the things she’s missed and how much I miss her. I’ve told her about the two kittens, now grown cats, that I rescued three months after she died. I know, as a cat lover and the person who taught me how to be kind to animals, she would’ve loved them as much as I do. I show her the new books I’ve written. She was always so proud of me up until she began to forget that I was an author as she slipped into dementia. I tell her about her smart and lovely granddaughter who has another year of high school before she goes to college and how I hope I’m being as good a mother to her as she was to me.

I remember how she raved about the award I won for my writing in college and how she was so happy at my graduation from library school. I recall how she persuaded me to apply for the open position at the library where I’ve now worked for 30 years.

I miss our lunches together when we celebrated our birthdays, and today on her birthday, I miss them even more. I remember the sad times, too. The pain and confusion she often felt and how she hated me to leave her when I visited her at the nursing home. I wish I could’ve spent more time with her, that I didn’t have to go to work or finish a book or pick up my daughter from school or summer camp. I spent half my life with her, and she always considered me her baby because I was the youngest. It was tough for her to say goodbye when I got married, but I knew she was happy for me.In some ways, it was a mercy that she left when she did. I know she was lonely, and no one could fill that emptiness. I know she was bored with time she no longer grasped but that moved too slowly. I know she hated to be in a wheelchair and that so much of her daily activities were dependent on others. She’d raised four children and married at 17. She didn’t have the easiest life, but her family meant the world to her, and, coming along after her older kids were nearly grown, I was the baby she didn’t expect but was so glad to have.

It was also a mercy that she never lived through COVID. It would’ve been even harder for her being isolated further, and it was possible she would’ve caught the virus and died like some residents who’d lived with her. Before she began losing her memories, she would get upset if I didn’t call her every day and called me to complain. Sometimes I found that annoying, although I realized it was because she worried about me. I missed those calls when they no longer came. Now I tell her I’m okay. I’m still working at the library and being careful. I tell her not to worry.

So I wish her a happy birthday as I look at her photo. She’d be 93 now. I tell her I hope she’s with Dad and Oliver, the Siamese cat she so loved and whom I adopted when she could no longer care for him. I also hope she’s with her own mother, her father, and her beloved older sister who passed away without her knowing a year before she did. Even if she’s with all the ones she loved while alive, I know she’s still with me and always will be.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Saying Goodbye to Mom

This isn’t my usual post about books and writing, but I know a lot of you have seen my Facebook and Twitter posts about losing my Mom on July 21st.  So many of you online friends have sent condolences, lovely pictures, and private messages. My publisher emailed me to let me know that I should take my time before I dived back into edits on the book that  I’m currently completing. Locally, my friends and family were there for me Monday night at the Funeral Parlor viewing.  Several members of my church dropped by to express their sympathy. A large number of my co-workers came from the library. Two neighbors of my mother also attended the viewing and one came to the mass yesterday at St. Paul the Apostle Church. Some people have donated to animal associations in her memory because she was a big animal lover, and our house always had pets. Without the support of all these wonderful people, my family and I would’ve had an even a harder time coping with our mother’s death.

On Monday night, I shared some memories of my mom after the Deacon read Bible passages and prayers for her. For those who weren’t able to make it due to distance or other commitments, I’m including it on this post. I know many of you have also suffered the loss of a parent or other close relative or friend. No matter how old or sick they are, it throws you for a loop. Your world turns upside down. The guilt is always there, even though the sensible side of you knows that there was nothing you could do. Even though you realize that they are in a better place rather than subsisting without a quality of life.

Thank you again for your patience and kindness at this sad time as I deal with my grief. As words have always been important to me, below are the ones I wrote in memory of Mom. I will also be dedicating my upcoming book to her.

My Mom was seventeen when she married and had three kids before she was twenty-one. She had her fourth, me, eleven years after my brother, Jack. She told me that when the doctor asked her what she wanted — a boy or a girl — because she already had two sons and a daughter, she said she’d like to have another little girl because daughters are special to mom’s. Now that I have my own daughter, I understand how she felt.

As the baby of the family, I was a little spoiled by my older siblings and parents. When my sister and brothers married and left the house, my Mom and I grew even closer. Since there were less mouths to feed, she stopped preparing the wonderful meals I remember – her special meatloaf, delicious spaghetti with homemade sauce, and pot roasts with roasted potatoes that I woke up smelling as a child when she started cooking early on a weekend morning. The three of us would go to dinner at the Sizzler which used to be on Old Country Road and was my Dad’s favorite restaurant. Mom and I also dined for lunch on our birthdays in February and May at the Milleridge Inn in Jericho.

When I was ten, Mom and I went to Cantiague park for a picnic before school started in September. We noticed a gray and white stray cat that looked hungry and wasn’t wearing a collar. My mother, an animal lover, took the cat home. She tried to find its owner, but no one claimed her, so we kept her. I named her Kitty, and she had three kittens the following month. The two male cats got out of the house and never came home. We had the mother cat and her daughter for a long time. We had many other cats and a few dogs throughout the years that Mom cared for, and I remember the sadness we all felt when we lost them.

As I grew older, Mom and I would shop at what used to be the Mid Island Plaza (now Broadway Commons) at Gertz which later became Sterns and is now Macy’s. There was a mystery theater there once, and I remember having a nice meal and a fun afternoon with her at the show. There was also a BINGO hall at Mid-Island, and Mom and I loved to go there, too. We never won a lot but enjoyed playing and being together. Mom was luckier at lottery tickets. She never won any huge prizes, but she won smaller amounts that she reinvested in more tickets hoping she’d hit the jackpot. 

Another store that Mom and I used to shop at was Newberry’s that was like a 5 and dime shop. Mom bought sewing supplies there. When I first married twenty-six years ago, Newberry’s was still around. They opened a pet shop in the store and Mom, sensing that I was lonely since my husband was working nights at that time, suggested we go there and look at the kittens. That’s how I got my cat, Floppy. After he passed and Mom went into White Oaks, I took her Siamese cat Oliver whom she’d had for twelve years. She loved that cat so much that she refused to leave him at her house when she lost power during Hurricane Sandy, so we took them both into ours. Later, when I adopted Oliver, I learned what a special cat he was. He’s been gone less than a year now, and I want to think they’ve found one another wherever they are.

Before Mom started suffering from dementia, she gave me a pin that was in her family that she wanted me to pass on to my daughter, Holly. I kept it in a safe place and showed it to her recently. That wasn’t the only thing she left us. I know she left me with a love of animals and books that I’m sharing with Holly. She read to me all the time as a child, and maybe that’s why I became a librarian and an author. I’m glad I had my mother for 90 years, although the last five of those weren’t the best for her.

One thing that gives me comfort now that she’s gone is a story she told me a long time ago. Even though she married out of her faith, she was raised Catholic in a religious home and we used to go to Church together. She said that when she was young, she was given the last rites by her family’s priest when she was very ill with Rheumatic Fever. There was a painting of Jesus in her bedroom. She was running a very high temperature and lapsed into delirium. She saw a white light at the end of a tunnel where Jesus stood in a white robe. He told her to go back because it wasn’t her time. She went on to marry my father and raise four children and lived to see her 90th birthday. Remembering this tale she told me, as I stood by her bedside a few days ago while another priest gave her the last rites, I realized that it was now her time. She’s with her beloved cat, Oliver who died this past November; her older sister Madeline who passed away two years ago, and my Dad who’s been gone for fifteen years. I miss her but hope to see her again one day when it’s my time.