Mom wanted her sacred Black Eyed Peas for New Year’s Day, like she did every single New Year’s that I can remember. I neglected to pick some up from the grocery store before New Year’s Day and they were out of them. Luckily, Ben came to my rescue and had a couple cans and since he was sick in the bed, he didn’t do no cooking that day anyway.
I cooked Mom her BEP’s. Did the cabbage, and she also wanted Pork Chops. I threw in some mashed potatoes cause I just like them. She ate and thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it and I was pretty tickled to get to do that for her.
Now, here it is, January 31 and Mom is gone.
I got to thinking today about Mom’s last few months and the way she handled the fact that she was well aware that cancer was in her lymph nodes and spreading but she didn’t choose to take any treatment. I did not blame her then and I do not blame her now.
I couldn’t help but smile and shake my head at how she did this Dying Thing her way. She wanted to be able to enjoy what days she had left. I also know, just knowing her nature, that as a mother, she was thinking of us throughout the whole thing.
Mom took care of two husbands as they withered and died of cancer. Neither situation was pretty. She watched both men go through chemo and radiation and saw how it weakened them. She tried, as much as she could, to spare us some of the ugliness. I can’t help but feel like part of her “denial” was for our benefit. She was a typical mother, “protecting” her cubs, even though the cubs are 43 and 41 (in about a week).
Ben was talking yesterday about his mother’s weight dropped to something like 80 lbs during her final months. Mom was griping in the doctor’s office on January 13 about how she needed to get some of the weight she’d gained while taking steroids off. Photos taken the day after Christmas, she looked like herself, although a more withered version of the lady in the photos we took at Warner Park a little over a year ago. She ate good and kept her weight nicely.
I am reminded that today is the 38th anniversary of my grandmother’s death. Mom’s mother died rather unexpectedly, less than two months after my grandfather died of a heart attack. Maw Maw did not have cancer. I’ve seen her autopsy report (somewhere, I’ve written about the famous conversation of Mom answering the phone telling me she was sitting there reading “Mama’s Autopsy”, like she was telling me that she was sitting there reading a People magazine or something. Heh) Maw Maw had some arteriosclerosis and some other typical conditions a woman in her early 70′s would’ve suffered from. Most in the family believed Maw Maw died of a broken heart. One of the sweetest love stories I know is that of my grandparents.
So, 38 years ago this week, Mom was still coming to terms with losing her beloved father so unexpectedly. They were on the other side of the country, in California and she was in Tennessee. Then, her mother died, going downhill very rapidly. She was there at Christmas and before January was over, she was gone.
How in the world Mom coped with being 2000 miles from her family, with these two little kids, still adjusting to life in Nashville (in 1972, Nashville was not quite as hopping as it is today, folks. She lived in Los Angeles from the time she was a young teenager. BIG adjustment) losing both of her parents so close together….I can’t even wrap my head around that.
I never asked Mom how she did it. She never talked about the effect those losses had on her. She talked a LOT about her parents…”My Mama and Daddy” she called them, with her voice getting a certain reverence and affection that she never used when speaking of any other person or thing. She adored her parents. I wish I would’ve asked her how she did it.
If you have lost parents, you know how it goes-everybody grieves differently. With me, I’m “normal” (shut up, I am too!) the majority of the time, but, I’ve had a couple days where the ache for my Mom is crippling. For me, it comes in almost being sore all over. I’m glad the bad days I’ve had have fallen on the weekend. I work with a bunch of hardened, smart ass construction types. I can’t have those moments around them.
Ben is good at being a smart ass when he wants to be. He was not like that to me yesterday evening when I had a meltdown. He was so warm and wonderful and I’m grateful that he was handy. He understands how I feel. He’s still going through it. I’m glad we have each other. I don’t know that it makes it easier but it’s nice to have somebody around you who knows what it’s like.