My mom died last December. She had been sick but I wasn’t ready. The truth is that I would never have been ready. There was always so much unfinished between us, but no amount of time would have ever fixed that.
It is so strange to lose a parent. For months my dreams were filled with her. In these dreams she was always alive — very much so — and telling me what to do. Upon waking I felt her loss once again, but I also felt lucky to have had her alive once more, even if only in my unconscious thoughts.
Here are some things I want to tell you about my mother:
She was beautiful beyond belief. She looked like a movie star. When I was a little girl she would leave the house on Saturday nights dressed in sequins and fur, false lashes and eyeliner in place, leaving me wondering.
The Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle usually took her 30 minutes. She always did it in pen, and never had to look in the dictionary.
She loved to play. She played cards, put together jigsaw puzzles, sat in front of slot machines for hours on end. Backgammon, scrabble, you name it. She was unbeatable at scrabble. Fast and filled with 7-letter words. Her scores were always above 300. She never said no to a game, not even Monopoly.
At the age of 15 she went to Vassar, but left after a year to get married.
Her sense of humor was dirty. She loved to talk about disgusting things, especially at mealtime.
She didn’t like to eat, especially if it was fancy. On their first date, she gave my dad her steak and then asked him to stop at a hotdog stand on their way home so she could eat something she liked. If forced to eat, her favorites foods were:
Chocolate covered orange peels,
Grilled cheese sandwiches with bacon and tomato.
She loved to drink. Take how much she hated to eat and double it.
She hated hospitals and died at home, in her sleep. She was 71 years old and had only had one mammogram.
Her willpower was second to none. When told that she had to quit smoking she stopped cold turkey after having smoked endlessly for over fifty years.
My mother believed that the most interesting people smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol. She always reminded me to sit in the smoking section when I was travelling by plane as she was sure that I would meet the best men back there.
Her real name was Robinette, and children teased her when she was little, calling her “Robin Redbreast”.
She was brilliant, especially with words, and she could name any flower or plant she saw (where did skill that come from?).
She grew up in an extended family setting, living in Brooklyn with her parents, her aunt and uncle and their son, and her maternal grandparents.
She was an only child, but hoped to have a huge family (she had to stop at 3 due to an incompatibility between her blood and my dad’s).
She had a lot of jobs, including:
Charm school teacher,
Volunteer with schizophrenic drug addicts,
Head hunter, and
Real estate agent.
She wished me a daughter just like myself (and not in a nice way!).
We were not so unalike, but we never really talked about our similarities. I don’t think I was the daughter she always wanted, and she hadn’t been the daughter that her mother wanted either. We all had so much in common but had trouble seeing it.
I have a daughter now, and she is not just like me, but she is the daughter I always dreamed of (and better) and I would not want her any other way. I try to embrace our differences every day, and help guide her through this wonderful thing called life.
I miss you Mommy.