When I was growing up, mom and I went at it all the time. She once told me it was because we were so much alike, she wanted me to do some things differently than she did. When I was in my 20s she apologized for any hell she put me through. Well, of course I accepted her apology because there’s no manual for parenting; mom and dad did the best they could with what they knew. That’s what parents do, you just do it and hope you get it right and if you don’t, then you’ve learned something and you move on. At least that’s how I see it. Besides, the older I get, the more I remember the really great times and just chalk the rough times up to learning experiences.
Looking back at the adult years, mom and I had a million great times together. Oh hell, there were times we drove each other crazy, but that’s a great part of it — the crazy. And it’s a family thing because she had that with Grams and Grams had that with her mother! The crazy never goes away nor should it because it’s really great. It’s part of that whole family dynamic. In my family there are so many awesome stories that come out of the crazy– wonderful moments that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
My sis and I each had a unique relationship with mom. Kim did things with mom that I did not do with mom and vice versa. I used to joke with mom and tell her Kim was the fun one, but really it was more about sharing those things that we enjoyed with mom. Kim and I are a year apart, but we are such very different personalities and so that was actually of great benefit to mom.
I am calm and relaxed and less up for adventure. I lived closer to mom so I liked to accompany her to medical appointments and errands. I’d go over to her house and she’d tell me all about a new species of bird she saw, or show me the latest new flowers on her plants. Sometimes we’d watch Judge Judy or QVC or research our family history, or just sit and reminisce about the good old days. One time I came home from work and changed clothes, went over to mom’s house to bring her some groceries and we wound up on the computer for three hours googling the old house she grew up in in Brooklyn, the parks she played in and her old school.
Mom enjoyed my sister’s visits because Kim liked to go out and do things. Kim was always more adventurous than me and so she’d take mom to the beach, out on a boat, or out to eat at their favorite seafood restaurants. One time she even took mom out in her pickup truck and taught her how to cut doughnuts in a pasture. Kim did things with mom that were fun and exciting and mom loved it because it made her feel like she was a teenager all over again.
Mom didn’t love one of us more than the other, she loved us the same, but had a unique relationship with each of us, and it worked out perfectly. It must’ve been a family tradition because it was the same type of dynamic that Grams had with mom and Aunt JoAnn, and that our great grandmother Nonna had with Grams and Auntie Nina.
Often, when mom was in the hospital or in rehab, I’d take off early from work and go spend time with her. I did it even when I was tired because it was the right thing to do and it made a difference to her. My sister worked hard all week, and though she lived more than two hours away, when mom was in the hospital or rehab, she would pack her stuff and spend the entire weekend there with mom making sure she was well-cared for. It was what we did. Not because we had to, but because we wanted to. The reward was watching mom defy the odds and surviving illness again and again and again.
On the dining room table in mom’s house is a clipboard. She would take her blood pressure daily and send to her nephrologist once a month. The last entry that she made herself was June 22nd. Seven days later, just 4 days after her 74th birthday, she was in the hospital and six weeks after that she was gone. Today I walked over to her house and looked at the clipboard, my fingers tracing over her handwriting, the unique slant in the letters that could only come from a southpaw. And I thought, “My God, has it been two years already?”
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