Sunday, May 11, 2008
My mother has been dead almost 19 years... I can clearly recall her some days, others I have to struggle to remember how she looked, sounded, smelled. And that breaks my heart.
Mama never had more than a 6th grade education. She grew up dirt poor, a middle child in a family of 8 kids from an Irish father and a Cherokee mother. She grew up in the Depression in a small KY town. Her family lived off of what they could grow and hunt down. She once told me she would never, ever eat groundhog again...
She married my father when she was in her early 20's. He was in his late 40's. He was a traveling salesman. (Seriously. His story will come later...)
She had 2 children early. My sister and Big Brother #1, then 10 years later Big Bro #2, then 5 years later, me. She thought I was menopause! HA!
Mama may not have been educated but she was smart. She knew how to cook, raise a garden, mend worn out clothes to look new, how to soothe a fever, calm a scared child, raise a family on next to nothing, love a very complicated older man and most of all, love us unconditionally.
Once when I was about 9, I became very dramatic and went through a period of threatening to run away. Finally enough was enough, Mama didn't argue or plead, she quietly packed a suitcase, walked me to the car, put me in the backseat, started the engine and asked me where I wanted to go, bus station or my older brother's house?
Needless to say, I never threatened to run away again.
Another time I got mad at our dog, Dinky. He had chewed up something of mine and I was furious. I (again very dramatically) stated we should shoot him. Mama got a gun and asked me to hold him and then asked where she should shoot him. Lesson learned. Mama would have made an incredible children's therapist!
My father died when I was 15 and BB2 moved out about a year later, leaving Mama and me to navigate my teen years on our own. It could have been a lot rougher had I had a different mom. Lucky for me I had her.
My friends thought my mom was cool. She had a great sense of humor, she would joke around and act just as silly as us. She didn't mind teenagers messing up the house or hanging out. I realize now that me envying all the formal living rooms and spotless houses was so stupid. None of my friends hung out in those rooms. They weren't warm and inviting. They weren't accepting or comfortable. My mom opened her home and her heart and that made the difference.
When it was time for me to go to college it was hard for us both. By then Mama had had a series of heart attacks and by pass surgery. But she insisted I follow my dreams. For awhile I came home every weekend. Then we both realized we would and could be okay if I didn't do that. When I got my first apartment she would come and spend weekends with me. I took her to the theaters I worked at so she could see what I was doing for a living. I am sure my new world was strange to her. But she gamely followed me around not judging or lecturing, just taking it in, excited by my journey.
The hardest thing I ever had to do was leave for New York. If I wanted to succeed in theater, that was where I needed to go. I remember us both talking and crying about my decision. Cutting those apron strings were hard.
She never visited me in NYC, but regularly sent me care packages and cards. I would faithfully call on Friday nights no matter what. I knew she had the phone right beside her and wouldn't mind waking up.
While I was in NYC, our cat Bojo had to be euthanized. He was probably about 11 or 12; an un-neutered male, never vaccinated long haired yellow tabby that had become more her cat than mine over the years. Bojo had gotten in one too many fights and was ailing badly. Neither Mama or I had the spare cash to really give him the treatment he needed and he appeared to be suffering. That was a horrible, terrible phone conversation. Together we knew what had to be done. But she was the one who took him to the vet and ended his suffering. I carry the guilt to this day that I couldn't be there for either of them. I am sorry Bojo. I am sorry Mama. Forgive me. I hope you both are together in Heaven loving each other today.
My old friends continued to stop by a visit Mama when they were in town to see their parents. They would update me on what a joy it was to see her. Since she died, I have lost track of many of them. She was the link in the chain from my teens to my twenties...
Mama loved my husband. Before we got married, I had one last big trip. I headed off to Russia and Japan with a theater tour. The hubster called Mama and took over the weekly phone calls since at that time the phone service from Russia was unpredictable and impossible. They would talk and talk and she grew to love and trust him.
Mama died shortly after we got married. The last time I saw her was the weekend of our wedding. I did talk to her after that of course. I even talked to her the day she died. As did all her kids. Her death was unexpected. She was in the hospital for a routine procedure. The tough little woman had pulled through so many harder things that we didn't expect a blood transfusion to do her in...
But she left us quickly. With a sigh, she just left, surrounded by family, after talking to or seeing all her children. No dramatic lingering death. No heroic measures. It was as if she knew we would all be okay, that we were all going to survive and it was OK for her to go.
I don't wish her back, sick and suffering. I know she is free from pain and in a better place. But I miss her to this day. I miss my Mama.
God bless and Happy Mother's Day.
I love you, Mama. Hug Bojo for me.