With her family surrounding her, Mom passed away on Monday October 14, 1996.
Someone from the funeral home came to the house to fill out paperwork and take Mom. The woman noticed that Mom was still wearing her Timex watch that she wore for years with the mismatched band and round, brown face. As the woman started to remove it from her wrist, I asked her if Mom could keep it with her as she was always late for everything and for some reason the moment seemed funny. As it turned out, there was a Nor’easter a few days later and Mom was late for her own funeral. She must have been laughing.
Mom was the glue that kept us all together, like it or not. Having raised nine children, she knew us all like chapters in a book. Yet the binding that kept us together unraveled shortly after she was gone. We no longer got together for holidays as a family since Dad didn’t cook, sibling A wasn’t getting along with sibling B (or their spouse), or maybe just that the magic was now gone.
I was four months pregnant with my first child when Mom left us. The reality that she would not be able to share in any of my children’s special occasions and their life in general can still bring tears to my eyes. I feel like both my children and Mom have been cheated from knowing each other. She was, after all, an expert on kids in my eyes. I knew she would have stayed with me to help me with my newborn and later give advice only if I asked for it.
I talk about Mom to my kids to try and give them a sense of who she was as a person, not just the picture in the frame that sits on the bookshelf. She loved vanilla ice cream, mustard on sandwiches, and a can of beer with dinner. NEVER a glass of milk which she hated. She would box up all of our old clothes that didn’t fit anymore and send them to a Native American reservation in South Dakota or to the vacuum cleaner salesman who also had twin girls. She believed in giving back and volunteered for lunch duty and the booster club. While I was in high school, she secretly took refresher nursing courses at a local college so that she could start working again. She had come a long way from the days she had contemplated becoming a nun!
We were all packed in to the big blue Buick station wagon one Saturday evening and my older brother and his friend kept shouting out the windows as we drove through town. We thought it was exciting when the police officer pulled us over. That had never happened before. When he asked my mother where she was coming from, her embarrassed answer was, “would you believe Church?”
I would love for her to be here and share these stories. Instead, there is a quiet that can be deafening, for the phone doesn’t ring with her voice on the other end, or a joke left on the answering machine because she was afraid she would forget the punch line and didn’t want to call me at work.
Now I try to think that even though Mom may not be physically here for recitals, graduations, concerts, sporting events, holidays, etc. she’s now got a front row seat to it all from wherever she is.