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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Happy 80th - Little Mother


Today would have been my mother's 80th birthday and, knowing her, she would rather be where she is than say she was 80. Bless her heart, she passed away three years ago. She did not accept aging very well. She fought it tooth and nail. Her death was a shock to everyone who knew her.

We were packed and ready to go on a trip back to where my grandparents came from in Sicily. She had been complaining about her feet hurting. It interfered with her tap-dancing. Yes, at 75 she had fulfilled one of her lifelong dreams of being a tap-dancer and performed regularly as a member of the Golden Follies at local functions in the Hayward area. In fact, they had a big show at Chabot College and it was filmed.

She had named me after Judy Garland because when she was a kid, the Wizard of Oz had inspired her with the dream of singing and dancing, which she was unable to fulfill herself. Like many parents, she tried to 'force' me to do what she felt she could not do. Believe me, when I saw her dancing on stage for the first time, I was overjoyed. For her, that she had made her dream come true, and for me, that I was finally off that hook. She had just danced a few weeks before.

She also rowed a whaleboat with a crew of women older than her once a week in Lake Merritt, Oakland. They were on the boats by 8am every Wednesday morning. She had to drive about 20 miles to get there. She had just been there a couple of weeks before.

She was president of her local chapter of the Native Daughters of the Golden West, traveling all over the state for their fund-raising program for children who needed medical care.

She was an incredible woman to have as a mother. We were more like friends. Only 20 years apart, there were more years between her and her oldest sister, than between us. She was the youngest of nine. She had seven older sisters (who always had a comment for everything she did), but she loved them all. One of her greatest dreads was that she would bury them all. God bless her, she didn't have to.

As a kid, she taught me to eat right, by example. We always had fresh fruit and vegetables in the house. We never had junk food around. Soda and ice cream were treats we only had at birthday parties. She cooked at home every day, even though she always worked outside the home, usually full-time. She believed that a woman should have job skills and be able to be independent, to take care of herself.

She would come back to kill me if I told you of the adventures we had together during the 60s. Knowing I will see her again someday, if not tonight in my dreams, I won't say a word.

When I was 48 and she was 68, we both went sky-diving for my birthday. I have a video of her floating through the air. She looks like she is totally blissed out. That same year we went to Crete together and had a marvelous and sometimes challenging trip.

We laughed until we wet our pants more than once. I haven't laughed like that since she died. We smoked cigarettes and drank brandy together, knowing it was no good for us. She nagged me all the time about my weight and the fact that I never exercise. She became a weight trainer at 24 hour fitness at 68! I'm 60 and I'm lucky if I can walk 1/2 a mile.

About a week before our trip, her blood pressure went sky high. She had my sister take her to the emergency room. They admitted her. When I got there, they said they wanted to do tests, but she would probably be going home in a day or two. Apparently, before I got there, they had told her that she was going to be on dialysis three times a week, would have to stop driving and would need an oxygen tank.

My mom, who had been driving the tour van for the senior center full of people my age - not being able to drive! No way. During the early hours of the next morning, she tried to leave like a lady. Her heart just stopped. But, not having her DNR done yet, which she planned to do when we got back from Sicily, they brought her back and put her on machines. She never regained consciousness, her organs shut down and did not come back and so after 3 days she went into the light. Her boyfriend and I stayed with her day and night for those 3 days.

Hurricane Katrina had hit only a few days before she went to the hospital. I used to live in New Orleans and knowing my mother, she watched it all on T.V. thinking about what 'could have' happened to me if I still lived there. She was like that. Worrying about what could have, should have, might have been. Also, her name was Katherine. I know she cried when she saw all the people suffering, she had a huge heart and a lot of compassion. I believe that Hurricane Katrina broke my mother's heart and when she saw that no one was helping people, she just wanted to get down there and do something herself. She had planned to join the Red Cross Relief program a few years before, but hadn't gotten around to it. She was probably sorry she wasn't there - playing with the kids; cooking and serving food.

After she died, I felt like part of my body was permanently removed. My life has totally changed. Gone the 5 hour phone calls, the laughing, the crying together. I have never cleared her voice messages off my unified messaging system, but I haven't listened to them either. I can't face dealing with her belongings which are stacked up in my house and in storage. Everytime I open a box, her perfume fills the air and I am sad again. She loved expensive perfume and I will say this for it, it lasts.

I ask for her help all the time. I hear her 'nagging' me every day. I miss her something terrible.

Happy Birthday, Little Mother. Thank you for everything.

8 comments:

Thyme2dream said...

What a beautiful birthday tribute to a beautiful soul:)!

Leigh said...

Oh my goodness, thank you so, so much for sharing your mother with all of us! She sounds like a truly amazing person! I feel your loss so deeply; my own mother passed away just over 4 years ago. It is so hard to deal with that void, isn't it. I talk to my mother every single day, too. It sounds like your mother left quite a legacy, as did mine. We are indeed very lucky women.

Altered-gypsy said...

What a beautiful post! I am sure she still feels your love.

Mike Golch said...

My condolences on the loss of your Mom. Mine would have been 78 years young this year. I lost her to ling cancer in 2007.

Purpled Sky said...

Your mother is an incredible woman and she's lucky to have daughter like you. This tribute touched me deeply. Thank you!

seanymph said...

I still have my mom, shes not very active tho. She never was. Ive watched her and dad just vegetate in their home for yrs. But then they have always been like that. You are so lucky to have had a mom who clearly enjoyed life. And what great memories too. She will always be with you, she taught you alot about life!

Jackie said...

What an extraordinary Mum you had and I can understand why you miss her so much.

Thanks for sharing with us and posting the photo, she was a very attractive woman.

Had to laugh at the 60's bit, many of us would rather those days were kept to ourselves LOL

Broadway Matron said...

Wow - what an absolutely great lady! She did it her way, right to the end. We should all hold her up as a role model - Lucky you to have a Mom like that