My mom would be 73 today. I both wish she could be here to celebrate the day and am so grateful that she isn’t. She’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about a year before she died, so she’d be five years into that diagnosis by now. It made her so unhappy — not the diagnosis alone, I don’t think, but the feeling of losing who she was. Unless something had radically changed, she would not be glad to be four years farther down that road.
That said, I miss her. We weren’t a family who celebrated much — for most of the years where I lived far away, she got a phone call on her birthday and not much more. I wish I could go back and send her more sappy cards, the kind that told her how much I loved her and how grateful I was for how she loved me. I seriously offended R once when I said that I felt like the people who loved me most as me were all dead, but the love of a parent for a child is so different than the love of a child for a mother. Some day he’ll get it, but not, of course, until I’m dead.
That’s kind of bleak, though — I am again violating my sending positivity into the universe rule! So positivity — when I was a kid, my mom was the very best in our neighborhood at pulling teeth. She used to joke that she became a nurse because when she was little, she’d been sick and she’d had to get so many shots that she decided when she grew up, she’d be the other person on the end of the needle. But she was good on the other end of the needle, or the tooth as it were, because she did not flinch. One quick yank and that tooth would be out. You could get sympathy and a popsicle afterwards, but in the moment, you got brisk efficiency and matter-of-fact toughness.
My dad doesn’t like games — of any sort, really. He says he doesn’t like the feeling that he’s being manipulated. But my mom enjoyed them. We’d play cards at my maternal grandparents’ house, pinochle mostly, and sometimes Monopoly. But my favorite game to play with her was Mastermind. We usually played that at my other grandparents’ house. (Both sets of grandparents lived in the same town, so that’s where we went on vacation most often.) Of all the people that I could play with back then — siblings, grandparents, cousins — she was my favorite because we were so evenly matched. Both of us could usually get the answer in six moves, and sometimes less, and neither of us made mistakes in scoring. I don’t know how much alike my mom and I were in general — my feeling is not very much alike — but we were in the way we approached puzzles and games.
When she was dying, unconscious, close to the end, I was talking to my dad, I think, about how magical she always made Christmas when we were little. Undoubtedly helped by the fact that the grandparents lived in Bethlehem, PA, which is a town that takes the holiday seriously, but truly, my memories of childhood Christmas are sparkling and sweet, cookies and fun and laughter and lights. She tried to sit up and her hand tightened on mine. I don’t know what she was trying to say, but I’m glad she got to hear how much I treasured those memories and credited her for creating them for us.
The last thing she said to me was a few days earlier, similar circumstances, talking to my sister, thinking she was beyond hearing, until she sat up and said, “love you,” without opening her eyes. I feel really blessed to have gotten that moment, that time. I miss her so much, but I know I was lucky to have her for as long as I did.
My sister called a few days ago and said my nephew might have to work on Thanksgiving. My dad called this morning and he’s sick, doesn’t think he’ll be healthy enough in time to come to dinner. It’s still going to be a nice meal, of course, but… eh, I should probably go buy some cheap leftover dishes, so I can send them lots of food.
And I should probably get on with Noah’s words. I was working on a scene this morning with Rose, and it was really fun. I need to get back to it, because fun is good!