My mother made her transition yesterday and as I’m writing this Nick and Molly are at the hospital having our first grandchild. I sit here thinking about life and how it works. The twists and turns, the unexpected. The circle of life. One soul leaves and another one enters.
Shopping was her sport. My father used to say she was getting her Masters in shopping - lol!. I prefer to think it was her doctorate. We were out and about one morning and we stopped to eat breakfast. On the way home we were driving by Somerset Mall. As I was driving past, she said excitedly “What are you doing?!?” I replied, “I’m going home.” She said, “Carey, you NEVER drive past a Macy’s store without going in, turn around.” So, to Macy’s we went.
My mother never drank (to which my Dad might have been heard on several occasions saying You don’t know what you’re missing - lol!), her happy hour of choice was sitting at the counter of our local Sanders having her favorite Hot Fudge Cream Puff. There really wasn’t a dessert she didn’t love, but in the end her favorite was rice pudding. She actually rated the local restaurants on the pudding - 5 Star on Eureka was her favorite.
She loved going out to eat. When visiting her, the first thing she said was “I’ll take you to eat somewhere.” She joked with me one time that my Dad was probably up in heaven saying he was glad he left a substantial amount of money so she would spend it all on restaurants. Italian, Polish, Hungarian, a good burger, she loved it all.
She moved here from Illinois so most holidays were spent away from her family. Since her family wasn’t here she created holidays that included neighbors and friends. She loved Christmas Eve always serving lasagna, ham and her famous potato salad. Shopping for all her children and grandchildren was a joy for her. The tree was overloaded with presents. She created the “Big Box”. It was a large box wrapped in newspaper with a small prize inside. The children would get excited every year to see who would be the recipient of that year’s prize.
She loved to travel and did so in her later years with my father. Always telling people that she went to Europe several times. When I mentioned her travels when laying on the bed with her on Saturday, I said she went four times; she opened her eyes, held up her hand and said “Five times, Carey”.
She was a fashionista. She wanted to go shopping one day and I asked her what she was looking for, her response: Skinny jeans. She was 88 at the time. I said Mom you’re 88! She said “What? I’m still with it!
As much as my Dad loved our house on 918 Highland, she LOVED her condo. Always excitedly telling new doctors or anyone new she met about her lovely condo. It was her dream come true.
My mother was strong in her faith. At the age of 13, she decided to be baptized as a Methodist. I don’t know many 13 year old children who make such a monumental decision at that age. She remained true to her faith even when she married my Dad who was Catholic. She had to sign an agreement back then agreeing to raise her children as Catholics and she did so. On Fridays, when we couldn’t have meat, she adhered to the same rule. We were never allowed to attend her church with her, yet she faithfully went to hers by herself every week. She gave up sharing her faith with us when she married my father. But we didn’t need to go to her church, we witnessed her faith every day.
At times, my mother and I could have a contentious relationship as sometimes mothers and daughters do, so when I became older and hopefully somewhat wiser, I pursued a different kind of relationship with her. I looked at my mom through adult eyes instead of a child’s eyes. I found a woman who had a great sense of humor who loved to laugh and chat over great meals. She had a difficult time with having to give up her independence. Even to the end we heard how she was still upset we had her give up driving. She had dementia and fought hard to maintain her dignity through it all. In our alone time, we had long discussions about life changes and acceptance. The adult Carey learned to appreciate those times with her.
One of my sisters said recently that we should treat our Mother as if she is dying. I thought about that and if I was treating her like she was dying, I would create happy memories with her. Memories to hold on to forever. Covid got in the way of spending more time with her, with my compromised immune system I had to stay away a lot of the time, but I was able to have her at my house one Sunday recently. I thought about what I wanted to do with her that day and instead of just sitting and visiting I decided she would teach me how to make her potato salad. She sat at the kitchen table peeling potatoes and we talked about all the times she had made it, which led to reminiscing about wonderful memories she had. We ate dinner with all my children and on the way home she looked at me and said “I always have the best time at your house and today was the best time I’ve had in awhile. Thank you.” That was my last gift my mom gave me. She may not have remembered later that she was there but none of that matters, she was with me in that moment and that is everything.
When she talked about her making her transition, she always said “Make sure you tell everyone I had a wonderful life”. So today my mother is gone, probably eating a Sanders hot fudge sundae with my Dad who she missed desperately. She left this earth happy in the life she created and I think it doesn’t get any better than that.
So life has come full circle, my mother is leaving and Baby C is coming into the world. I really wanted to place my first grandchild into her arms but somehow I know she’s helping him/her enter this world and I’m thankful for that.
Rest in peace Mom, I love you.