Last week, I spoke about my mother. I described how she had been struggling mightily after open heart surgery. I am very sad to have to say that she passed away yesterday, during the early morning hours. She will be greatly missed.
My mom was one hell of a woman. She lived through many things that would have defeated a lot of people. Her family struggled with poverty during the Great Depression. She saw two brothers go off to World War II (thankfully, both returned home safely). She had a failed engagement at a young age. Her first baby was stillborn and she had a subsequent miscarriage. She told me that she had made her peace with being childless before finally becoming pregnant with me after about six years of marriage. She dealt with having Hodgkins' disease in her thirties, while she and my dad were in the midst of building their own business. She raised three daughters and had five grandchildren. She nursed my dad through leukemia and was with him when he died. And she lived (pretty independently) for three years after suffering a heart attack that -- according to her doctors -- would have killed most people. My mother was tough. Much tougher than I.
In fact, she would often say as I was growing up, "You have to be a little bit tough in life." And one of her favorite stories to illustrate this was of her oldest brother, who enlisted in the Army during the Second World War. He wrote home to their mother and basically said, "I am going to join the paratroopers. I hope I have your blessing. But, if I don't, I'm going to join anyway." Join he did, and he was part of the 101st Airborne when they invaded Normandy on D-Day. (If you don't know what the 101st Airborne is, and if you don't know what D-Day is, and if you don't know what the Invasion of Normandy is -- then your education is sorely lacking and you had better find out. ) This uncle of mine told my father that he considered every day of his life after D-Day to be a "bonus". That was how bad it was falling out of the sky in a parachute on that fateful occasion. My mother liked to tell this story as an illustration of being "tough" because she considered her mother to be tough for being able to handle this. After all, how many mothers these days are considered tough when they have to send their sons off to college -- where they have meal cards and sports facilities and counselors to talk to if they get home sick? And -- just so you know -- I am in a glass house here. I shed plenty of tears after dropping my son off at school. My mom also considered her brother to be tough for volunteering for this job. No shit, right?
Along with teaching me to be tough, my mom taught me to create an orderly and enjoyable home life. A place of respite for the family to return to after a "day in the trenches". No matter how hard things got -- in my father's job, in our family finances, with anybody's health, in the extended family, with Richard Nixon and his antics, with Jimmy Carter and his inane moving of Daylight Savings Time so that everyone's lights were on during the day instead of in the evening (anyone remember that?), with gas lines, with the sexual revolution -- my mother made sure we had a secure, dependable, and usually fun domestic life. Each and every day she made most excellent meals, our clothes were always clean (ironed, even), and there was a routine to the housekeeping so that things were pretty darn spotless. We had swimming lessons, music lessons, and great birthday parties. She also sewed most of our clothes when we were growing up. She even made us "belly tops" -- our term for halter tops or half shirts -- the ones that show your tummy off. Take that, modesty police. ;-)
My mom was also an avid movie buff and reader of books. The movies she liked? Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, James Bond, the Mad Max series (she had a crush on Mel Gibson), and Woody Allen. The books? All the most popular fiction the library had to offer and Rose Kennedy's autobiography. There is also a closet in her room full of what my husband calls "bodice rippers". You know -- those paperbacks, whose covers are graced by illustrations of beautiful people with their clothes falling off. My mother always insisted that it was a waste of money to buy books, especially if there was a good library in town. But, she obviously made an exception for these romantic tales and anything by Ian Flemming. My sisters and I are going to have to battle it out over these... Tee-hee. ;-)
My mom, as you can see, was quite a spirited lady. And I'm sure St. Paul is now finding this out. She always had a few issues with him. And I'm sure he is hearing from her even as I type.
May you rest in peace, Mom. See you on the other side.