2 Years Later
On November 15, 2016, my 69-year-old mom passed. It’s two years later today.
Being okay with her not being here has gotten easier: I no longer feel the impulse to call her (which would happen at high and low times). I’m a little less sad she’s not here. More and more, I accept the fact that she’s not here. I think less often of her final days and weeks, which were not happy for me and my family, but also weren’t the worst you could imagine—there were many moments of connection and laughter with mom.
She set me up nicely in life. This, combined with the fact I was 31 when she passed, makes the sting bite less than it would have, say, if this happened 10 years prior. I have the emotional skills to get through life and have some success—with relationships, work, family. A mom does a job and sort of releases over time. By the time I was about 29, about the time we learned she had cancer again, it became a relationship where we supported each other—it wasn’t one-sided anymore. She was still doing more of the supporting—literally with gifts, a home to stay at on a weekend, always being there when I needed to talk. In contrast, when she called me there would times, when there seemed to be no purpose to her call, that I’d respond curtly with, “Mom. What?”
She was just checking in and maybe wanting to hear my voice. Sometimes she called because she was worried about me, since I’ve had my moments where that’s been deserved (I haven’t always been the most stable financially, certainly not emotionally). She didn’t often directly tell me she was worried about me—but she told my brother, who told me after she passed.
Or she’d call to tell me about characters she found hilarious. My love of odd characters comes from her. Most recently, we’d hear about the old Italian man who made homemade mozzarella-and-prosciutto sandwiches and walked around with a cart at her office selling them. At first, I thought that was a cool thing but then I heard from my mom that the sandwiches were no good at all. Knowing my mom, she probably interviewed this guy for hours, in total, about his life and cooking process. She really just did this for her own entertainment value; I carry on this curious legacy.
I think of my mom’s quirky behavior a lot—probably more than I think of the things she did to be a great mother: pack fresh lunch every day, buy us everything, take us to the nicest restaurants, find us camps, teams and schools, teach us how to cook, encourage us that we can do anything we set our mind to, urge us to always smile, keep us focused on school and academics, and her favorite—cut my fingernails and toenails all the way through my high school years (she could not stand a long toenail).
It’s harder to put a concrete memory on the actual love she put in to build us up. It’s so much easier to remember bizarre and funny behavior, hilarious laughs, and screaming arguments where she wanted me out of the house. I do remember some specific moments where she saved my ass, too--like when I was convinced by a bad doctor while attending college as a freshman that I might have testicular cancer and she was all like “hell, no” and took me to New York to see a much better doc who said I was fine. But I wish I had more specific memories that came up from when I was 8, 9 and 10, 11, 12 , and 13. I feel I don’t have that many—until my brother reminds me of them.
The funny stories come up in my head a lot. Because Thanksgiving is coming up, here is one. My mom would often invite a down-and-out person, a handyman, or someone she just had a good feeling about, to our Thanksgiving table. This was a great trait. However, my mom did it in her own funny way. She would not tell me this person was coming in advance. I swear sometimes I wouldn’t find out until the person showed up at the door or I was helping her in the kitchen an hour before dinner. In my early 20s, a very talkative man joined us and none of us kids really knew why. But the man, who dominated the conversation at our Thanksgiving, invited a former friend of my mom’s over for dessert, which he thought would be a pleasant surprise. But it was not--my mom had turned against this woman over the years, and hated her. So, on this particular delicious Thanksgiving, my mom’s generosity came back to bite her in the ass. Which, as generous people know, can happen. There’s a lesson from this—make sure to tell your friends who NOT to bring (haha).
I miss you mom. You are a hilarious, bright, smart, supportive, and amazing mom. We love you everyday, forever.