Friday, May 7, 2010


After my sister's funerals, I felt as though I was living a sort of shocky, fuzzy existence. She had always said,  "You know, after Mother and Dad are gone it will be just us left.    My brother-in-law had collected all the things that meant the most to her, and distributed them between her two best friends and I.  At the time the memories weren't enough, I needed something tangible, something of hers to be with me all the time.  Neither her bracelet, nor the silver charm bracelet she had given me for my sixteenth birthday would do, I was afraid I'd break or lose them.  I had a single earring left from a pair she had given me when I had my son, so I had a second hole put in my left ear, because she was a southpaw, and wore the earring.

My father started calling me.   A lot.  "Worried about your mother, she's forgetting things, like the car, and walking down the airport road a lot." 

Evidently my mother was ever so much more shocky than I.  My father was blasted away from his sorrow having to watch out for my mother.  I spoke to her.  She told me walking made her feel better, so I asked her not to walk quite so far down the airport road, and that would make Dad feel better.  She agreed.

My mother had been into exercise long before it was as popular as it is now.  Ask my knees.  She had my sister and I taking skiing lessons the year after we learned how to walk.  Winters we had lessons taught to us by a married couple, who also happened to be Olympic downhill medalists. Summers, my sister would spend in town having her swimming and tennis lessons with her friends.  I was sent away to summer camp for two months, and was able to add learning to jump horses to my repertoire.  My mother, though having a variety of sporty little cars over the years, would walk to work everyday, up the grueling Hospital Hill, then through the parking lot to the clinic in the back.  So it only made sense she would resort to something she always loved to do.

Every time my father would call I would ask if he needed me there, but he said no, you've been out of work too much already.   [Thank You Chief B.R. for saying "Take as long as you need," and meaning it, every time]    So I would talk to my mother on the phone. A lot. Sometimes she called four or five times a day, most of the time forgetting I worked permanent midnight shifts.  But it was OK. I needed to hear her and she needed someone to listen. 

June came around and I went up for my sister's funeral. There were three large tents set up in case it rained, which it didn't, but they wouldn't have held a third of the people who came. They came from all over the United States and Canada.  I don't remember much. There was a lot of jostling, I assume it was hugging since I do remember being introduced quite a bit to a lot of people, but I couldn't see their faces.  Several times I sought out my parents, led them to a quiet place to escape, and we sat in silence.   Then it would be my son or daughter leading me away from the crowd.

What I hadn't noticed until my children and I were back at my parents house later, was that my mother was horribly thin.  It's what we do, or rather don't do, when we are upset.  We forget to eat.  Its not any fancy eating disorder, we just have too many other things on our minds, and we eat to live, not vise versa like some.  My father said he would make sure she tried to eat more, my kids and I went home.

"She fell," said my father. It had been two weeks after the funeral, and I was still in a fog.  "Where?"     "In the house, I came home from the store and she was on the floor, the ambulance took her."   They wouldn't let him in the ambulance, and he knew he was too upset to drive.  I told him to call one of his friends to get him up there, he was losing it and couldn't think straight.  I called the hospital.  Luckily my mother knew everyone from her long stint working there before she went to work for the cardiologist.  Someone got the phone to her.  "Do you need me to come up?"   "No, I just fell, you need to work, I'll call you later."

My father brought her home from the hospital a week later with twenty-seven broken bones, some of which were ribs.  He called me and said he needed help, he couldn't take care of her alone, they hadn't given him any information on nurses to come to the house.   I made the calls and that afternoon she had a visiting nurse.  But three days later my father called.  "She wants you here."

I arrived that evening to find my poor little mother in bed, she could hardly turn her head.   "Look at me," she said, raising one totally bruised, black and blue arm, "I'm broken."   I sat down next to her bed.  Then she looked at me and said "Go get me a cigarette please."   I had to go rummaging to find them.  I lit one and held it for her while she smoked it.  Our last clandestine adventure, as my father came racing down the hallway. "Smelled something burning," as he looked at my mother, my hand holding the cigarette to her lips, he added, "thought yah gave those up."   Oops.  We had gotten caught, but she smiled, then spoke the last words I would ever hear her speak.  "You were always so brave.   I never was, played it safe, you have more fun."  She closed her eyes and went to sleep.  The doctors said she must have had hundreds of little stokes that night.  She never woke up.  She left us on July 18th.  She was buried in our family plot next to my sister.

After her funeral, my father didn't want anyone in the car with him but my son, so my son drove him home, my daughter and I followed.  When we arrived, much like my brother-in-laws mother, my mother's ne'er do well sister was walking out the door with her boyfriend , my mother's fake fur coat over her arm.  "Well, we had to use the facilities before we left for home," she said, as my brother-in-law grabbed the broken door handle and said "Sure, see ya." 

"Gosh Dad, I'm sorry, I should have had one of the kids stay here, their trunk is probably full."    "No, it doesn't matter, they couldn't get what was important," he said, as he reached into his suit pocket.  He handed me my mother's gold watch.   It was a part one of my parents cute 'when we first met' stories.  When they first met, both of them had really nice watches. Each had bought a watch with the very first paycheck, from the very first job.  My father handed me the watch and said, "Its yours now."

Once again, a thing I had, but could not wear. I had another hole pierced in my left ear.

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