I waver between adding “already?” or “only”
One year ago today, Mom passed away.
Mom passed away Wednesday, December 6th about 6:25 p.m. She was two days shy of her 69th birthday, four months shy of her 50th wedding anniversary. With her when she died was my Dad, myself, Maggie and Joel. Amanda and Missy were there, but had stepped out of the room to go get a soda. It’s as if Mom waited till Missy was out of the room to leave. When she went, she went quietly, with no fanfare. If it hadn’t been for the monitors suddenly reading 0′s and straight lines, you wouldn’t have even known anything happened.
Sometimes I still find myself reaching for the phone or thinking “just wait till I tell Mom [insert something]” … other times the dull feeling hits immediately and I think “I sure wish I could tell Mom [insert something].”
I love her as much now as I did the day she died. More, maybe. I’ve been saving memories and thoughts that I want to share with her when I get to see her again in Heaven. I figure she’ll have probably seen all of them, but she’ll listen anyhow. She always did, no matter how many times you’d told a story, she’d sit and listen like it was the first time she’d ever heard it. She never made us feel like we were an imposition, even when we frankly were.
She was a good woman, the best wife and mother anyone ever saw. She enjoyed being a wife and a Mom, and it showed. She wasn’t perfect, but she was close enough. She was more than just my Mom, she was my best friend. No matter what happened, I could count on her. If I’d screwed up, she was the first one to tell me so, and then she’d put it all in perspective with some smartass comment and she’d set about helping me fix it — even if all she could do was be there with me to remind me that she was there, life would go on, and she still loved me.
She was grace under pressure, with a reminder to never take yourself too seriously. And always with the commentary, the life’s lessons summed up in a sentence or two. “Wear clean underwear!” • “Stand up straight, you’ll get a hump back.” • “Salt’ll dry up your blood.” • “Don’t go out of the house without powdering your nose and putting on a little lipstick.” • “Did you take a bath in that perfume? Didn’t anybody ever tell you less is more? Get a wash cloth and scrub some of that shit off. You smell like a French whore.” • “Your family comes first. End of the day, all you have left is God and your family.” • “Family sticks together. That’s what you do. You don’t have to love each other, but by God you don’t let anybody mess with your family.” • “Pick your battles.” • “Crying isn’t going to fix anything. Don’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself, do something about it.” • “It’s only a mistake once, and there’s no shame in making a mistake as long as you learn your lesson. Now, the second time, it’s a lesson you didn’t learn. There’s no excuse for that.” • “If you give someone your word, you keep it, no matter what. Don’t make a promise you can’t keep.” • “If you do something wrong, admit it. Own up to it and then do what you can to make it right.” • “Always take responsibility for what you do.” • “Is this really something you need to worry about?” • “Will worrying change it? Can you do anything to alter the outcome?” If the answer was yes, she’d say “then get off your ass and do it! Come on, I’ll help you.” If no, “then stop this crap. Get about fixing it so it can’t happen again. Come on, I’ll help you.”
We weren’t supposed to worry, because that was Mom’s job. She was the family worrier, and the family fixer. Sure, Dad could fix any physical object that broke — electrical, plumbing, car, it didn’t matter, Dad could fix it. But Mom! Well, Mom could fix the unfixable things, like a skinned knee, a bad dream, a rotten day, a broken heart. Up until December 6, 2006 anyhow.
Feisty. Up till the very end, she was feisty. She’s probably still feisty up in Heaven, giving God the ol’ what-for. My Dad and Darin used to joke that one of these days they were going to get a phone call and they’d have to come bail us (and whichever of my daughters happened to have been with us that day) out of jail because someone had pissed us off and we’d let ‘em have it.
She could make you laugh no matter how mad you were — or how miserable. She didn’t really crack jokes, she just made wry observations and smartass comments with absolutely impeccable timing.
And oh, how she laughed. She had the most amazing laugh. She loved comedy shows (Carol Burnett was a favorite, even in reruns) and she’d sit in the living room and just laugh till you couldn’t stand it anymore and you had to come see what was cracking her up so much.
This photo was taken of her with my cell phone last year, on November 14, just twelve days after she’d died the first time. Her “Trial Run” as she called it. Even 12 days after dying (and 22 days before she would die the second, final time) she was able to smile that 1000-megawatt smile of hers and make a few pithy comments.
She taught us all that nothing was so horrible you couldn’t find something to laugh about. And up until December 6, 2006, she was right. On December 6, 2006, there wasn’t one damned thing to laugh about. And if you’d asked me on that day, I’d have probably told you I’d never laugh again. Of course I would have been wrong, but on that day, I would have believed it.
The day my son died, July 10, 1999, Mom was the person I called. Even on that horrible day, she gave me things to laugh at — some of them without even trying. I don’t know how I would have made it through all that if it hadn’t been for her.
I tried to tell her several times last summer when she was dying (I didn’t know it yet, I still thought “she’ll get better,” I had no idea they’d already given her a death sentence because she wouldn’t tell any of us kids) just how much she meant to me. I tried to explain that up until she’d gotten sick, I thought Sam’s death was the worst thing I’d ever have to face. You don’t expect your children to die before you, you do expect your parents probably will, so you think you’ll be able to handle that a little better, at least. But the thought of losing her was a hundred — a thousand — times worse.
We both cried so many times the summer of 2006, times when it all built up inside me and I tried again to express my love for her, and everything she meant to me. Times when she’d finally stop me and say “it’s okay, I know. You know how much I love you, you were my child and you mean everything to me.” We cried the time she said to me, “listen, just in case anything happens, keep an eye on your Dad for me. Just … take care of him. Give him somebody to talk to. Don’t let him sit around and mope.”
Did I ever tell her “well enough” … does she know, now, from Heaven? Can she look down and see — feel? — what I couldn’t ever say just right?
The whole thing was, it hit me at the time that I knew Sam for a whole 76 days. But I knew Mom every day of my life. Every single minute of my life. At the end, I knew Mom for 47 years and … wow. So, I just sat here and counted up how long I’d known Mom when she died. I was going to say “At the end, I knew Mom for 47 years and x days” …. and it turns out that the span between September 21, when I turned 47, and December 6, when she went home to God, is exactly 76 days.
I don’t think I have anything else to say right now.
The Original Musings: The post I didn’t want to make