“Yes,” she answers. “Love you, sweetheart. Love you.”
“Love you, too, Mom.”
Her time in this life is short. She’s ready. Her body is spent. She does everything to keep her mind sharp; does everything to show her children and loved ones that’s she’s still present and still Mom.
But the cancer and leukemia are slowly robbing her of her self-hood; of her being.
And I am not ready to say good-bye; not ready to fly solo, but solo I must try.
I find myself at a loss for words these days. My heart is heavy and my thoughts are cloudy.
I have never been keen on saying “good-bye” to people, and if the truth be told, I’m the relative that always tears up at the airport and has to blow my nose a few hundred times before sending people on their way.
What can I say? Underneath my wry humor and at times quick wit, I’m an emotional lightweight; especially when it comes to my mom and people that I love.
Mom had to leave her apartment 3 weeks ago and was placed in assisted living. My siblings and I felt she needed more assistance and mom agreed to the move. She was struggling with trying to do simple, daily chores and could barely make an egg for herself to eat for breakfast. She knew that she couldn’t live independently any more and WE knew that she couldn’t, either. All the aides and help from family and friends could not maintain her and keep her safe; no matter how hard everyone tried.
My oldest brother contacted me this week. Mom is in the hospital. Didn’t really surprise me because I talk to her every day and have been keenly aware of the fact that she was not feeling well for some time now.
He called me for a second time this week. I knew when I saw his number on my cell phone that it wasn’t going to be a social call. Everyone that knows my brother knows that he’s not one for idle chatter.
So when I got the second call from him in as many days this week, I knew the call wasn’t going to be fun.
“Hey,” he started. “How ya doing this morning?”
“Swell,” I answered. “What’s up?”
“I just got off the phone with Carmie (our cousin).”
“Mom’s not doing so great. Doctor is referring her to rehab and then recommended that she go to the nursing home, after rehab,” he informed me.
“Hm,” I mumbled. “Doesn’t sound too encouraging.”
“Well,” he answered. “I called Uncle Toney. He’ll go up and see her and said he’d give me a ring later.”
“Yeah,” I responded. “That sounds like a plan. Call me, if you hear anything.”
My mom is over 3,000 miles away, struggling to survive, while at the same time praying to go home.
And I, her oldest daughter, idly sit with heavy heart and cloudy thoughts.
My mom wants us to play and to live life fully and doesn’t want us to feel sad. When she passes, she wants us to go to lunch and laugh with each other and remind each other of past fun times.
And I so want to honor my mother’s last wishes. I so want to be the dutiful daughter.
But it’s hard to laugh and go on living, when my mom is over 3,000 miles away and struggling to survive.
And at the same time praying to go home.
But I know my mom and I know how much she loves to laugh. So I need to hitch up my britches, and I need to go on, because that’s what Momma B. wants.
And what Momma wants, Momma gets.
It’s time to get up.
And it’s time to live.
Have a good day, People. And I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.
Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself to get through the emotional roller coaster of having her placed in assisted living – she’s going to an old folks camp to be with her friends.
So, why do I feel so sad?
I always thought that she’d die in her current abode with a heart attack – never imagined that she’d end up with stage 4 breast cancer and congestive heart failure – never in a million years.
She keeps going, my mom. She keeps putting on her lipstick and keeps ironing her clothes and combing her hair.
And every day she tells me, “I just don’t understand why I’m so darned lazy. I’m tired just getting out of bed in the morning. Doesn’t make any sense to me. I gotta keep eating to keep up my strength, but I’m too lazy to cook any more; just too darned lazy to cook any more,” she continues before telling me that she can’t talk any more.
My 89-year-old mom is going to an assisted living home and I feel guilty and sad and every emotion in between.
“She’ll be safe there and have activities and have friends to talk to when she’s lonely.”
Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself to ease my guilt.
“Change is good,” friends and family tell me.
“But Mom and I aren’t too keen on change,” I respond.
“She’ll be fine,” they insist. “She needs the extra help and she’s ready to go.”
And they’re right: she does need the help and she is ready to go.
So, I’ll put on my big girl pants and be grateful that she has loving, caring family members and friends to look after her and let her go off to the old folks camp and pray that God and the angels continue to watch over her.
In the meantime, I’m grateful for the continued thoughts and prayers as we stumble along living life in our shoes.
In October of last year, my mom’s 101-year-old aunt passed away.
I was saddened when I first heard the news because dear old Aunt Molly was very loved and quite the character to all who knew her. But she lived a good life – a full life – blessed with a loving daughter, grandchildren and great grandchildren; and a handful of nieces and nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews, who just adored her.
Aunt Molly wasn’t a rich woman, financially speaking, but she had a heart of gold and would give you the shirt off her back, if you needed it.
As a child, I keenly remembered wanting a new outfit for my Ken doll and never had any money to buy it. We didn’t have allowances in those days. Mom barely had enough money to feed us, let alone buy a silly suit for my Ken doll. So Aunt Molly, discovering my little wish one day, decided to play a female version of Robin Hood and came over the house with a jar full of change that she had collected from the under sides of her couch cushions.
“Lucie,” she said, while I was sprawled out on the living room carpet playing with my Barbie and Ken.
“Do me a favor, honey, and count the money in my change jar. Let’s see if there’s enough money for this new suit for Ken,” she smiled while winking at my mother.
I knew the exact cost and counted each coin with anticipated excitement.
“Oh my God,” I exclaimed to my aunt as I finished the tally. “There’s enough money for my Ken outfit and money to spare!”
“Are you giving all this money to ME, Aunt Molly? Or do you want some of it back?” I selfishly continued, all the while praying that she didn’t want the inconvenience of lugging any of the left over change back to her house.
“No, Lucie,” she responded. “It’s all yours, Honey.”
That was my Aunt Molly.
And when it came to eating, she was always on some special “See food diet”; whatever food she SAW, she inevitably ate. But according to her doctors, she wasn’t supposed to be eating it.
You could never set out a plate for her to join you in your meal because “the doctor said” she could never eat whatever it was you were making.
So, you’d reluctantly set the table (minus a dish for Aunt Molly) and start serving the food.
“Ya know, “ she began. “The doctor said that I shouldn’t be eating too much pasta any more, but what do they know? Cazzo! A little pasta ain’t gonna kill me, for God’s sake. Gimme a little taste of that, ok?”
“OK,” one of us would respond. “But Aunt Molly why don’t you let me get you a plate and some silver ware and I’ll make you a small plate of food?” the individual would kindly suggest.
“No, no, sweetheart. I can’t have this any more. Just get me a spoon and I’ll just take a little taste, OK?” she responded.
So, a spoon would be gotten and Aunt Molly would commence to tasting.
A few tastes and an empty plate later, Aunt Molly would be gently poking me in my ribs and asking, “Lucie, maybe you want some meatballs with your pasta? The meatballs look kinda good. The doctor says I shouldn’t be eating any meatballs, but what do doctors know? Cazzo! A taste of meatballs ain’t gonna kill you, for God’s sakes! Maybe get us some meatballs, honey, ok?” she implored, all the while continuing her part of the dinner conversation.
“Ok, Aunt Molly,” I responded. “But seriously, why don’t you let me get you your own plate and I’ll give you a smidgen of pasta and half a meatball?”
“Cazzo!” she answered, “Didn’t your mother tell you? I can’t eat this stuff.”
“Yeah, we know, Aunt Molly,” I started to say, and then everyone at the table chimed in, “’Cuz the doctor said you shouldn’t be eating it. Right, Aunt Molly?” we teasingly asked her.
“Cazzo!” she again responded, using her favorite Italian swear word.
“Darn doctors don’t know anything these days,” she continued while scooping up another spoonful of pasta.
“What ‘cha gonna do?” she lovingly added while nodding her head and smiling.
“What ‘cha gonna do?”
My mom’s aunt was a kind, loving, beautiful little character, who I’ll always remember chatting and nibbling at our kitchen table. She had a memory that never failed to amaze me and a heart made outta gold. She was one of my first advocates and heroines and had a story and a smile to share with anyone and everyone that’d give her just a “taste of time”.
R.I.P., Aunt Molly. You’ll forever be 50 to me, dear heart.
You’ll forever be 50 to me…
Have a great day, People, and I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.
“It’s too hard here, “ she said while we paused momentarily from our morning walk. “It’s too hard here and I‘m moving to North Dakota to be with family,” she informed me and quickly changed the subject and asked how we were adjusting to the area.
The Princess and I met Marsha over the summer when we first moved to our new home. We thought that a water aerobics’ class would be just the thing for two, out-of-shape seniors and would give us the opportunity to introduce ourselves to some new people. So, we reluctantly squeezed into our undersized swimsuits and headed out to our community pool to meet some new folks.
And meet new folks we did. But whoever said water aerobics was easy on the body and good for what ails you never injured their sartorius muscle on their hip and walked around with a limp for two months!
Yep, I knew the moment I injured it. Lucky me. I take a water class for gentle exercise and injure myself.
But I digress.
Marsha was one of the lovely individuals that I met in the pool this summer, and I knew from the day I met her that she and I could be good friends over time. So, when I hurt my hip and had to stop class, I felt badly that I wouldn’t be able to develop a friendship with her. I had always hoped that I would run into her in our little community and was altogether delighted when we happened upon each other during a recent morning walk.
“Gosh,” I thought when spotting her walking on the other side of the street. “This is totally cool. I’ll get a chance to tell her why I stopped coming to class and maybe she and I can set up a time to have tea and chat.”
And then she told me that she was leaving town for two months and that when she came back, she was going to put her house on the market and was moving to North Dakota to be with family.
“It’s been hard living here by myself for the past few years. I lost my husband and in-laws all within a short period of time, and it’s just been hard on me living alone.”
Totally bummed out about her impending move and unaware that her husband had passed, I said, “ Oh my gosh, Marsha. I didn’t know your husband had died. When we chatted in the pool this summer, I assumed the activities that you were talking about with your husband were recent, and that he was still alive. I am so sorry.”
What she shared with me next, struck me as so forsaken. She informed me that, “Nobody wants to hear your sob story. I don’t want to be a downer in people’s life, so I just didn’t say anything to you.”
I still can’t get what she said out of my heart. Here’s this lovely, caring individual walking by my home for the past 4 months thinking of dropping by to say, “Hi”, but not doing so because she didn’t want to appear too pushy or forward; or better yet a downer if she shared a sad part of her life.
All I could say was that, “I wished she had dropped in. That she might have been treated to some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. “
And then I asked her, “What’s the worst that could have happened if you knocked on my door? That I said that I had an appointment and couldn’t visit just then?”
“Big deal,” I continued. “We could have set up another time to chat and it would have been great.”
But she was afraid of rejection I’m sure and looking foolish maybe. I don’t know for sure.
I see so many missed opportunities for people to connect and share their lives, but too many individuals are afraid to take that step and put themselves out there because they’re afraid of rejection; afraid of being turned down.
“Your losses are a part of your life, Marsha; a part of you,” I continued. “It’s not a sob story to me, but a part of your life that would be important for me to know if it’s an important part of what makes you, you.”
“Gosh, I’m so sorry that you didn’t stop by; so sorry that you didn’t drop in, “ I told her and gave her my business card with my email and phone number.
“PLEASE, “ I asked of her. ”Do consider calling me. Please think about having tea with me before you leave.”
And she graciously smiled and we parted and went on our way.
I don’t know who I felt sorrier for that day – me for losing what I saw as a future good friend – or she for losing an opportunity of a solid friendship?
Guess it was a tie.
We both lost.
May the holiday season be filled with good food, much laughter and the company of loving family and friends! And I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.
I never quite understood, until recently, what many of our friends and family members meant when they told us, “We may not have seen you a lot, but we always knew you were there.”
Over the years, the Princess and I developed a loving group of dedicated friends who shared many an adventure with us. We played bocce ball, held Christmas parties, played board games together, organized camping and hiking expeditions, took long beach walks and went on many a snow shoeing outing over the winters.
And in between time, we became family to a number of individuals and created quite a few traditions that people came to look forward to and are currently missing.
We, too, are missing those special connections and traditions from of our past. Some of our CA friends have told me that they are cruising by our former home and reminiscing of times gone by, and it saddens me to know that somehow our moving has left a hole in their heart; and that somehow they’re feeling less connected and less whole.
The fast pace of an ever growing Silicon Valley and the affluence and entitlement that was coming with it forced us to look at our life in what we once thought was Paradise and head out to new digs and fresh adventures and start some alternative traditions with a different group of people.
We have a special bond with our CA friends that was nourished with shared lasagna, garlic bread, numerous glasses of wine and a lot of laughter over the years.
People need community and a sense of belonging.
And eating good food and drinking fine wine while you’re doing this, was a definite bonus.
I get that.
In light of all the heartache going on in the world today, I think we need it now more than ever before.
In our own silly, innocent way, every time the Princess and I got people together, we were letting these individuals know that they were important. They mattered. We loved them and we cared.
So, let me state this very clearly: “ Relationships (both near and far, new and old) are damn important to the Princess and me. We value the laughter, the love and the steadfast support as we go forward in this new chapter of our life. And encourage each of you to write, call, and make plans to visit us and share in some lasagna, French bread and fine wine.”
And being the “Queen of Pot Lucks” and skinflint that I am, you’d best be bringing your own wine and bread. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be making the lasagna!
In the meantime, enjoy the remaining days of summer and I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.
As we age, we’re told to mix up our routine. Keep our brain challenged and break out of our day-to-day pattern. It’s healthy for us, or so we’re told.
And to some degree, I think there’s some merit to the medical studies that espouse such recommendations, but I think there’s also something to be said for sticking to a routine.
Routine is important. Just ask my mother. Disturb her before she has her first cup of coffee and visits the loo in the morning and she’s not a happy camper. God forbid, if you should bother her before her favorite television show, “The Price is Right”, is over. Not a pleasant experience to have with her.
Every morning, my cat and I dance. She whines. I feed her. She jumps up on my desk, starts chewing on my paper work and walking across my computer key board. Then she wants to go outside. Of course, she can’t simply walk out when I open my patio door. She has to walk around the perimeter of the living room first, then around the overstuffed lazy boy rocker and finally she’s ready to exit. I have to patiently wait while she does this little two-step of hers, and then I can close the door and go back to whatever I was doing.
There are days that I’d like to choke the little twit as she slowly prances by me and looks up as if to say, “Humans are so clueless.”
Maybe Boo’s trying to teach me patience, or maybe this little tango is something that keeps her safe and she depends on it. I don’t know. I’m no cat whisperer, and I certainly haven’t a clue as to what makes a cat tick.
I do know, though, there are days in my life when everything is crazy and life is one crisis after another. Having a routine and sticking to it keeps me secure: Taking daily walks. Going to exercise class on Wednesdays. Seeing my yoga buddies on Fridays. Reading a good book and falling asleep on a rainy afternoon with our other cat, Molly, spread-eagle on my belly. All routines I relish and enjoy.
And when the sump pump breaks, the IRS notifies me that I owe them $5,500, the inspector says my house has termites and my doctor tells me that I have pneumonia; I remember to get up, wash my face, put on a little lipstick and face the day, ‘cuz that’s what Mom taught me to do.
I’m not so much into the lipstick, like my Mom, but I definitely understand and appreciate the need for a consistent schedule to keep me going. There are days when I need the safety and comfort of knowing that I have certain things planned. So, when life comes along and messes with those plans, I still have the comfort of knowing that my daily regimen is still intact and it can be restarted with the dawning of a new day.
I keenly remembered how my special needs kids depended on a routine. They vociferously complained about it on a regular basis, but change it on them once in a blue moon, and they let you know they weren’t pleased. For many of them, their day to day home life was chaotic and their only source of reliability and sanity was my classroom and the safety of its expectations and schedule.
As I slowly age, I realize that I need to keep my mind challenged and continue to learn new skills and stretch my imagination, but I also realize that there are days that I need to feel stable and safe and having some structure and routine in my life is ok and actually beneficial to me in a number of ways, both physically and emotionally. So, I give myself permission to throw caution to the wind, and on those days I need to have a miniature snicker’s bar after I eat lunch, I go for it and sometimes even have two!
In the meantime, I need to feed Boo Boo, again, and wait at the patio door while she sashays around the border of our living room furniture. Have a great week, People, and I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes!