A Letter to Mom

Mother’s Day – 2019

Dear Mom,

Christopher and I met some time ago and mapped out a project to honor your memory. I have written a few things that will be included in it. Some of them have appeared here on my blog page. I’ve gone through pictures and have picked out favorites. I have other ideas as well, and eventually, we will produce and publish it.

The night Chris and I talked about this project, we exchanged ideas of what we could do. One of my favorite ideas he suggested was to write you a letter. You would think that it would be extremely easy to sit down and write to you, but this one simple idea has turned out to be the most difficult of them all! I have started letters to you more than once, but I cannot seem to be able to finish them. Today, I am going to write this! Through tears and pain, today, I will complete this letter!

Today will mark the 13th Mother’s Day that has passed since you passed away. I won’t even begin to pretend that it gets easier. It doesn’t – I wish you were here. I wish I could once again tell you in person, how grateful and how thankful I am that YOU were chosen to be my mother. I wish you knew how happy it made me growing up to know I was making you proud of me. You were my biggest cheerleader and there have been SO many times that I have needed you since you have been gone.

So many things have changed over the years. There have been countless times that I have wanted to call you. There have been so many times I needed to hear your voice. I have needed your guidance and advice more times than I can count. Before making big decisions, I have found myself asking, “What would mom say about this?” The longing to be able to share just one more conversation with you is ever present, and never seems to go away.

I have been told by so many people that you would be proud of me. I believe that. I graduated college, mom! All those times you told me to go to school and get a degree and I kept playing around on the radio … I’m sure it drove you crazy! Well, I now have that degree! I worked hard for it and earned it – knowing the whole time that it was what you and dad always wanted me to do. Even though you were not there physically, I felt you there in spirit. As I addressed the entire graduating class – I pictured you there, smiling and proud. When I mentioned you in my speech, it was the only time I thought I might break down.

You won’t believe this, but Dante’ is 17 now! He is in high school now! I don’t even know where the time went, mom! He’ll graduate next year! I remember you telling me how fast I grew up and how you couldn’t believe I was graduating…I completely know how you felt. He is quite the young man, mom. He is so friggin’ smart! He has made such an impact on his teachers and friends. They all talk of what a joy he is. He is polite and a gentleman. He is always going out of his way to help people by holding the door and things like that.

You’ll be happy to know that he wants to do something with trains when he graduates. I would venture a guess that it is probably because of that day you took him to the Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine! He STILL talks about that day. It is a memory that he will never forget – and neither will I. He misses you, too. He never lets me forget your birthday, Mother’s Day, or the anniversary of your passing. We have spent many hours at your grave sharing memories, laughing and crying. He always makes sure that we stop and get flowers for you, when we visit. He will never forget the love you showed him, and you remain one of the most special people in his life – you made quite the impact on him in 4 short years. Both of us are glad that we have so many pictures of you two together!

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Remember that day we were all together at dad’s? You were trying to sleep and Dante’ was running around being loud? You laughed and I asked you what was so funny. Do you remember your response? I do. “I hope when you have your next baby that it is another boy. That way, you will know just what kind of stuff you and your brother put your dad and I through!” Well, and I have my suspicions that you played a hand in this, your wish came true. Dimitri was born shortly after you left us.

Blonde hair and blue eyes – I know you’d have spoiled him just as much as you did Dante’! Yes, they fight with each other, just like Chris and I did! There are many times I yell back to them in the car and I can hear you saying the same thing to Chris and me! It’s pretty amazing to put pictures of Chris and me next to pictures of the two of them – it’s crazy how much they look like us! Dimitri loves to sing and is in choir. He’s in middle school now and he’s quite compassionate. He is SO competitive and gives his all and hates to lose! He plays video games and gets into them much like you got into playing that pinball game at the Dugout!

He is always telling us how much he wishes he could have met you. He hears stories from Dante’ and he gets sad. He knows what an amazing grandma you were and he wishes that he could have share some memories with you, like his brother. I wish that he could have, too. I think that’s the only disconnect I have from him. Dante and I can talk about you and the times you shared together, but Dimitri gets sad, because he missed out on that, and that makes me sad, too.

I had a very difficult time after you passed away. There was quite the roller coaster of emotions I had to deal with. I was in a deep state of grief, trying to cope with your death and at the same time, there was the joy of the birth of Dimitri. Factor in the stress of the loss of another radio job, depression, and a variety of other issues and you can guess how messed up I was. I was taking all kinds of medications, altering the dosage, adding new ones and changing to different ones in hopes of finding a way to cope and to be happy. All that did was make me someone I was not. There are times I do not even remember saying or doing things. It took me many years to get through it and to address the issues I was facing. This meant doing some things that took me out of my comfort zone. This meant facing some hard truths about me and where I was in life. This meant severing ties with things and people that were holding me back and forcing me into a whirlwind of unhappiness. It was not a good place for me – or anyone else close to me.

I am ashamed to admit that I thought of ending my life. The unhappiness and depression were very bad. With help from therapy, I was able to look at some things in my life and make a very difficult decision. Divorce was not easy. Coming out on the other side, the true colors of those who I thought cared about me began to show. Rumors and untruths continue to be spread in an attempt to discredit me and make me look bad. You, of all people, know that I am far from perfect. However, it hurt to see how quickly people took sides and believed so many lies. It is hard to not let that bother me, but I have gained some powerful tools through therapy and true friends that have helped. I have been able to move forward.

Mom, all you ever wanted for me was to be happy. I am SO happy today. What I wouldn’t give for you to meet my wife, Sam. She is amazing. She is beautiful. She doesn’t take any crap from anyone! She does what needs to be done and doesn’t make rash decisions. You would like her a lot. She is supportive, honest, responsible, and loves me. I love her more that I could ever explain to you. She is one of the hardest working people I have ever met. She is a true blessing to me. She loves Dad, Rose, and the boys, too. It is because of her, that I am where I am today. She was a lifesaver, mom. She asks about you often and loves to hear me tell stories about you. I want you to know that she is taking good care of your boy, and she is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Because of all that has transpired, and where I am now, my relationship with Dad and Chris are stronger than they’ve ever been. We speak often on the phone and I have seen them more over the past two years than I probably did through that first marriage. Sam will often ask, “Have you talked to your dad? Did you call your brother?” It’s pretty amazing. She knows how things were in the past, and refuses to let that continue. While I am glad to have those relationships thrive, it makes me sad that I missed SO many things with you during that time. I should have stood up more and made sure we spent more time with you – I regret that so very much. For that, I am sorry.

It hurts to look back and know what I could have and should have changed. Hindsight is 20/20. Oh, the things I would have done different! I would have called more, mom. I would have made more time to come visit. I would have told you I love you, every chance I got. The list of “should haves” “could haves” and “would haves” is SO long!!! There are things that I wish I would have wrote down or asked you. So many things that left with you that I can only wish that I had asked about.

Oh, and before I forget to mention it – thanks for your letter. We found them almost a year after you left us. It was probably the most amazing thing I have ever experienced. Here was a letter to me that you had written years before Dante’ was born. “Know that I love you” was the first thing you told me. I think it probably took me 20 minutes to compose myself after reading that line. My eyes are welling up with tears right now as I remember it. Thank you for that. I have it, along with the tissue I wiped your tears away with on your last night here and other things that remind me of you. I only wish that you had been able to write something to Dante’ – I know he would treasure that as much as he treasures the photo book you made him with those pictures from Thomas the Train.

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13 years gone and yet it still seems like yesterday. So many holidays without you. So many birthdays. 13 Mother’s Days. I hope that you always knew how much I loved you and still love you. I hope you know how much I miss you. I hope you know that even though there were things we didn’t see eye to eye on everything, I was glad that God chose to make you my mom.

Thank you, mom, for all you gave me. Thank you for the many days you stayed home with me when I was sick. Thank you for the hours of phone calls containing laughter and tears. Thanks for the memories that will live on in my heart and soul. Thank you for putting band aids on cuts and scrapes. Thank you for singing off key in the car. Thank you for being such a wonderful grandma. Thanks you for your wisdom. Thank you for understanding hugs. Thank you for telling dad things I told you not to tell him. Thanks for every single thing you did for me – there is probably not enough room on the internet to list them all. Most of all, thank you for being my mom. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I miss you and will forever love you.

“See you later”

Love always, your son,

Keith

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“My mind knows you are gone, but my heart will never be able to accept it.”

A Peak at Mom’s “Project”

Today would have been my mom’s 71st birthday. I wrote a very emotional blog about her last year and for new followers to this blog, you can read it here:

https://nostalgicitalian.com/2018/04/04/moms-70th/

The Project

Last year, my brother Chris told me that he wanted to create a project that would honor our mom. I have a list of things I am supposed to be doing for this project, and as I sit here remembering her today, I thought I would share one of the things I wrote for our project. I hope my brother doesn’t mind me sharing this here.

“S” Meals

“Just like mom used to make” is a phrase you hear often when someone tries something at a restaurant or when a restaurant is promoting their menu. Maybe YOUR mom cooked like that, but mine did not. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of meals that I would love for her to make for me today. I loved her Impossible Cheeseburger Pie, Meatloaf, and her amazing Tuna Noodle Casserole. I have an old cookbook she had, but I really have no idea how she tweaked those recipes.

Here’s the deal, it wasn’t that mom wasn’t a good cook, the issue was she didn’t change the menu too often. We had a joke in our house – Mom’s menu consisted of “S” meals. What is an “S” meal? Well, it’s just what you think it is – meals that start with the letter “S”. Now, it is a possibility that they were also called “S” meals because they were very simple to make, I don’t know. Here now, is a sampling of mom’s core menu items:

  1. Spaghetti. It was a staple at our house. No surprise, after all, we are Italian. Sadly, her sauce always came out of a jar and was almost always Ragu.
  2. Sausage. She would go to the store and buy one of those rings of Italian sausage and fry it up in one of those square electric fry pans.
  3. Sloppy Joes. Could this meal be any easier to make? Brown up some meat and throw in some Manwich!
  4. Soup and Sandwiches. Two S’s for the price of one! A “combination” “S” meal! This was a frequent meal at our place – usually closer to payday.
  5. Steak. Usually, it was fried up in the square fry pan I mentioned an item or two ago. As kids, we hardly ever ate steak. I’m not sure why we didn’t, maybe it was because a fried steak was almost always tough. Usually when this meal was served, my brother and I opted for the alternate “S” meal, Spaghetti-O’s!
  6. Subs. Let’s be real here – this is really just another form of a sandwich, but served on a roll instead of bread! (Side note: My dad used to make what he called “Flubby’s”, which was a take off of Tubby’s subs. It was ground hamburger, lettuce, tomato, and Italian dressing.)
  7. Swedish Meatballs. Sometimes we called this Sweet and Sour Meatballs or Waikiki Meatballs. As a kid, the taste of these made me want to throw up. As I have grown up, I am actually a big fan of sweet and sour meatballs and chicken. I’d probably like them now. I remember the recipe was on a recipe card, which is sadly long gone.
  8. Salad. Yes. Salad could be a meal at our house. She got a recipe from my great Aunt Lois I think. It was leaf lettuce, vinegar, and grilled bacon. It was actually very good. I may have to see if I can make it sometime.

In a nutshell, those were the meals. We look back on this memory often and laugh. I miss her very much and would give anything to sit and enjoy conversation, food and laughter with her.

One last dinner story

If my mom were still alive, she’d probably kill me for telling this story. This, however, is one of my favorite dinner time stories:

Every now and then, mom would make corned beef and cabbage. Most of the time she’d cook it up in the crockpot, and it would be very tender. There was one time, however, where the corned beef turned out very dry. As we ate it, we were all thinking it, but NO ONE had the courage to speak up and say anything, so naturally, I did. I will say up front that as I look back at it, I regret the way I handled it. It does make a great story, though.

I started by simply saying, “Does this seem a bit dry to anyone else?” This made my dad laugh almost instantly. When he started laughing, I figured this had opened the door for me and allowed me to keep making fun of the meal. I proceeded to do what The Three Stooges would do with something like this. I began to:

  • tug at my throat
  • act like I was choking
  • put one hand on my chin and the other on the top of my head and pretended to force my mouth up and down to make myself chew
  • slam my hands against my chest
  • pound at my shoulder blade like I was choking

All of these things made my dad laugh. They made my brother laugh. My mother, however, was not happy. You could see her getting more and more angry with each of my actions.

She finally threw down her fork and stormed off to her room and slammed the door. My dad, brother, and I all sat in silence at the table for some time. I think my dad went to make peace, but the damage was done. I didn’t understand at the time, and she even laughed about it later (much later). It hurt her very bad that day. I apologized for this more times than I can remember. I still feel bad about it today.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mom. I miss you and I love you. I would give anything in the world to have a piece of that dry corned beef with you right about now….

Monday Memory – Pranked

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It’s April Fool’s Day. In honor of this, I thought I would share a funny story in which I was the victim of a funny prank. It’s funny now, but at the time, I didn’t find it funny at all. My memory is a bit fuzzy on some of the details, but I am sure my friends will be more than happy to fill in details or correct me if I mess up details.

The TP Bandits

One of the highlights of my senior year of high school was going out toilet papering. We’d go to the store, buy 12-24 rolls of toilet paper and go out and hit some friend’s house. I don’t know how or why this became the “thing” to do, but we did it. If it was your birthday, you could almost count on your house being hit.

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There were groups that went out together: 1) The Cheerleaders, 2) The Jocks, 3) The Choir Kids, and 4) The Band Kids (and there were sometimes groups within the groups). We belonged to a sub-group of Band kids. We called our group The TP Bandits. There was never a doubt that we were the ones who hit your house. We had printed up (on a crappy dot matrix printer) signs that read “You have just been TP’d by the TP Bandits.” There was a cheesy and terrible graphic of two cowboys on it. We usually left it in the mailbox. I got a megaphone for Christmas one year, and it was not odd for us to yell something like “Love ya, Babes!” to whoever’s house we hit.

I am sure that Toilet Paper stocks went up that year. It was completely out of control! My dad would always wake up the next morning and come in to wake me up by saying something like, “So, your friends were here again last night. Looks like you’ve got some cleaning up to do!” Because we went out a lot, I got TP’d a lot. It was like that scene in The Godfather where Sonny is explaining how “they killed Luca, so we hit them back and killed ….” If you went out and TP’d – you could expect to get it back.

It wasn’t just houses, either. There were plenty of times where we TP’d cars. Many times, we’d do it when the friend was at work. My friend Diana always reminds me of the time we got her car while she was working at Frank’s Nursery. She’ll have to remind me, but I think she had left her car unlocked and I think we TP’d INSIDE it! I am almost positive I remember TPing around her rearview mirror.

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The Prank

As best as I can remember, we went to one of the colleges (I think it was CMU) to watch a football game. It was an optional trip and the whole reason we went was so we could watch the band’s half-time show. I don’t remember if it was something that you had to pay to go to, but that was probably the case. Because of that, I remember that not all of my friends were going on the trip. I would soon learn why.

I remember the buses turning into the parking lot at the high school (and here is where my friends may need to refresh my memory) and noticing something on my car. My memory is not clear here, but as I remember it, there were empty toilet paper rolls on my radio antenna (I do not think they had TP’d the car). It was at that moment that I knew that I was in for it when I got home.

I am not 100% positive on this, but I think my friend Joe was the mastermind of the whole thing. I remember getting in the car and heading home. As I turned onto my street, I could see the streams of TP waving from the tree in front of my house. The closer I got, the more I realized that it was MUCH more than that! The lawn was white – like it had been covered with a layer of snow. Branches were wrapped completely and so was the tree trunk. The front yard and back yard had been covered in toilet paper.

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As I drove by, there were friends sitting up on the roof awaiting my arrival. They were waving and smiling and I was furious! I called my mom from an ancient Nokia cell phone and she answered with a smile, “Hi, baby. Where are you?! You have guests here!” I remember asking if they had gone into my bedroom and she told me I’d have to come home to find out. I had lots of memorabilia in there and I was worried that something might get broke. I couldn’t believe that she had let them in my room.

Joe had asked my mother if they could come over while I was away to “decorate”. My mom must have thought this was a hilarious idea, because she let it happen. I am guessing if he had asked my dad, he would have told him to get lost along with some words of profanity. I am sure my mom probably helped string some toilet paper around, too that day!

When I finally got up the courage to return home, my friends were still up on the roof. There was one of those contruction barriers with the flashing light on it. They had painted it all white and in big black letters painted “Love Ya, Babes!” I am sure that Derek was solely responsible for that!

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I got out of my car and looked around as I walked into the house. I gotta tell you, it was a masterpiece! I was impressed at their work. It was beautiful. It was the kind of TP job you wish you had time to do! Word is that the police stopped at the house more than one time and my mom was right out there to tell them it was totally fine with her! I can only imagine the talk back at the police station that day.

The “piece de resistance” of the job was what they did to my bedroom. As I turned the corner to go into my room, I looked into my doorway and saw nothing but newpapers! There was literally a pile of newspaper coming out the door! They had blown up hundreds of balloons, laid those down first, and then crumbled up newspapers and put them in the room to make it look like they had filled the room floor to ceiling with newspapers!

As angry as I was at my mom for letting it happen, I smile about it now. That was the way she was. She knew that I had done more than my fair share of TPing around the city, and this was the ultimate payback! I am sure she was filled with excitement at the thought of having a bunch of the gang over to do it and probably laughed the entire time. That’s one of the reasons so many people loved her – she loved a good joke and this certainly was one!

I came to find out that more people were in on the joke than I thought. Even kids who were on the trip were aware that it was happening while we were there! I was the brunt of many jokes that following school day! I was red-faced, but not because of sunburn. I carried the embarrassment with me throughout the day. It seemed like every one, even those who weren’t in band, knew of the prank and were talking about how cool my mom was for letting it happen!

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It is the best prank that has ever been pulled on me to date – and it wasn’t even done on April Fool’s Day! For my friends who were there: What details did I leave out? For my friends who weren’t: What was the best prank ever pulled on you?

FYI – these pictures are NOT of the job they did. I’m sure someone has some, but I sadly, do not.

Mom’s 70th

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April 4, 1948. 70 years ago today, one of the most heroic, strongest, and special people was born. She wasn’t an actress in television or movies, and was far from famous. As a matter of fact, unless you know me personally, you probably have no idea who she is. That is the reason for this blog. Today, I want to introduce you to my mother. This blog will serve a few purposes: First, I want to, in a very simple way, pay tribute to the first woman who I ever loved with all my heart. Second, I hope that those reading take away a small lesson from it. Lastly, writing my feelings out has been very therapeutic and helps me personally be a better person.

The bond between a mother and a son is as special as that of a daughter and a dad. It wasn’t until I became a father that I really truly realized just what my parents felt when they held me for the first time. Sure, I have seen hundreds of pictures of my mom and dad holding my brother and I. In each of those pictures, they wear smiles as big as Texas! Once you become a parent you know that the smile, no matter how big it is, doesn’t even begin to express the joy that you feel within you!

My mother and father met because she saw his name in the paper. My dad was in Vietnam fighting in the war, and my mom wrote him a letter. They were both from the same city and they corresponded until he came home. Neither mom or dad told me us much about the letters, but they obviously liked each other because they ended up getting married.

You always knew where mom was. My mother was loud. She was Ethel Merman loud! Remember the first play you were in, and the teacher or director said that you needed to talk to the wall in the back of the room so people could hear you? That’s kind of the way my mom talked normally. And boy, could she talk! She spent countless hours on the phone talking to friends and family (I guess this is one thing I inherited from her, because I am the same way). My house was the one you would call and always get a busy signal (this was back in the days of corded phones and there was no call waiting, kids). There was never a doubt when it was time to come home – mom would simple open the door and yell, “Keith Allan” and even if I was four streets away, I could hear her!

She laughed just as loud. She enjoyed life and it showed. Her boisterous laugh could shatter glass, and she didn’t care. I remember watching Bill Cosby, Himself on HBO with her. She laughed so had. She could be everyone’s friend, but don’t cross her, because if you did, you would certainly regret it. She could be incredibly loving and at the same time, when crossed, be terribly angry.

While she was usually loud, I do want to interject that there were plenty of times where my mom spoke to me in a normal or soft voice. Those talks were usually because I came to her with an issue and she gave me support or advice. Sometimes, she spoke softly to me when I was sick, in pain, or upset. The fact that she could speak to me in this way, made what she was saying even more meaningful.

Back in the day, we didn’t have cell phones to take pictures or movies. My dad had an 8mm movie camera and he had many films that he had taken of my grandparents and family, and eventually, he took movies of me as a baby. While I don’t remember these events personally, I can watch them and be a part of the memories caught on film. One of the movies I remember the most is my mom guiding me down the hallway in our house on Brandywine on various vehicles. It’s actually silly to think about, because it was almost like I was a model showing off different outfits, except there were no outfits, they were toys. There was mom smiling and pushing me down the hall on a tricycle, then a big wheel, some other contraption, and finally this metal fire truck. Man, I remember that fire truck! I am glad that there are pictures floating around of it still. I wish I still had it!

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Mom was a night owl. She would stay up late and watch old movies on TV until 5am and then finally go to sleep. On Saturday nights on Channel 20, she would watch these ridiculous Kung Fu movies. I remember one day walking in and wondering why the hell the people’s mouths were not matching up to the words being said. She laughed and told me that they were speaking another language and I immediately said, “but I can understand them”, which made her laugh more. Because she was such a late sleeper, I remember many mornings when my brother and I would go in and jump on the bed to annoy her. It’s funny the things you remember from when you were a kid – not sure why, but I have never forgotten a set of sheets that had stripes on them or the gold comforter that used to be on the top of my parents bed.

Mom (along with dad) was certainly my biggest supporter. I remember her being in the audience when I was the lead role in the school play. I was a snowman. I had to sing. She helped create my costume. It was basically a white stretchy thing with pillows around my chest and belly to make me look like a snowman. My grandma and my aunt were there that night, too. She was smiling so big when she came back afterward. I remember her telling me how good I sang. It was such a boost. I will always remember that. On the other side of the coin, she held me and told me everything was ok when I my car lost the Pinewood Derby.

While mom was a good disciplinary, there were times that my brother and I often had to wait for the “higher authority”. “Wait until your father gets home…” were words we did not want to hear. I’m not sure who spanked harder, to be honest, because they could both leave a nice handprint on our behinds if we deserved it.

Like any child, as you get older, you think that you know it all and think your parents are overprotective. You feel as though they are doing everything in their power to make your life miserable. When you are an adult, you look back and realize that they always had your safety and best interests in mind. Mom and I did go through a period where we did not get along. My dad and I were obviously a lot closer during this time. It wasn’t until I was 20, that my relationship with mom grew stronger than ever.

In early 1991, I was single and had the opportunity to move away to do radio full time. I would be four hours away from home, and at the time I was ok with that. It was during this time that mom started to call on a regular basis to check up on me. She sent me “just because” cards and letters. Her letters and cards helped me, a guy who thought he’d be ok away from friends and family, feel so much better. I could not get to the mailbox faster each day, in hopes that I would find a note from home.

In 1995, I was just doing radio part time, and was working in the Mailroom at EDS. I was told by a co-worker that I had a phone call. When I picked up the phone it was mom. She did not sound right. I asked her what was up, because she never called me at work. She told me that she had just got back from the doctor and told me she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember feeling like I had been punched in the stomach. I sat staring off into space for what seemed like eternity until she said, “It’s going to be alright and we are discussing treatment options.” I could not fathom what I was hearing. As I hung up, my boss asked if everything was ok, and I told him about the call. He immediately sent me home, saying that was where I needed to be.

Breast Cancer. I hated that disease. It had already taken the life of my grandmother, and now it was threatening to do the same to my mother. She was a fighter and I knew if anyone could beat it, she would. There were many times I sat back and wondered if she was going to be around for future things in my life. There were times when she would go into remission and we would celebrate, and then there were times we heard of the return of the cancer. There were many ups and downs and she was strong through them all.

She had a lot of help from her friends during this time. Diane was like a long lost sister. They were like Thelma and Louise, Lucy and Ethel, and Laverne and Shirley. They would hang out together somewhere, come home and get on the phone and talk for hours. There was such a love between the two of them. She was such an amazing support for her. Recently, Diane also lost a battle with cancer. I am sure mom was at the pearly gates to great her and the conversation picked up where it left off.

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There were only two times in the 10+ years that she battled the disease where she thought of giving up. The first time was about a year and a half before my oldest son was born. Mom was not a grandma yet, and when she found out that her first grand baby was on the way, she gained a new strength that I had never seen. She was not going to NOT be here to hold her grandbaby. A surge of determination and strength came to my mom. It was amazing.

She was the one who slept (very uncomfortably) in a chair in the hospital waiting room as my oldest son was being born. She, along with my mother-in-law, were the first to see him. They saw me wheeling him with a nurse down to the nursery. I don’t think I ever saw her happier. It was magical. I saw a whole new sense of love in her. My God, she loved him more than anything.

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In the four short years she spent with my son, she spoiled him rotten. When we found out that he was developmentally delayed, she spoiled him even more. He made her smile as much as she made him smile. The mutual love they had for each other still brings tears to my eyes. After therapy sessions, I would take my son out for breakfast and we would call her on the phone. It was always a wonderful thing to witness. She would always tell me to make sure to call when we were at breakfast. I can still hear my boy telling grandma about Thomas the Train or Elmo.

She knew he loved Thomas the Train. Towards the end of her battle with cancer, she bought tickets for us to go to see Thomas and ride the train. She was so sick by this time, but she was not about to miss out on this day. She was moving slow, she had a walker and her wheelchair, and I was worried she wouldn’t be able to get up on the train. What was I worried about? When it came time, she stood and walked up there to sit next to her grandbaby. There is one picture of her on the train with him that remains one of my all time favorites. You would never know that she was sick.

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The only other time I saw her give up during her battle with cancer, and that was when they told her there was nothing more they could do. There was really no further treatment and now it was all about making her comfortable. She knew at that point that she fought a good fight, but the cancer was going to prevail. At this point, it was time to start saying goodbyes.

Toward the end, there was one day when we were all together in the living room. Mom was in her hospital bed, and we all sat around telling stories. My brother, my aunt, my dad, and I laughed, cried, and all heard things we’d never heard before. It remains one of those days that I will remember forever. At one point, she said she was tired and everyone left the room. I asked if I could have a minute with her and we got to share some very special conversation. As my son left the room, she shed a tear and said to me, “That one is going to hard to leave behind”. It is a memory that is etched forever in my mind.

I was out at a restaurant when the call came from my dad. “I think you should come home. We’re close.” Just a day before I had spoke with mom on the phone, and she seemed a bit out of it, but ok, so I was surprised at dad’s call. The minute I walked into the living room when I got there, I knew just how close we were. We all took turns sitting next to her and talking to her. She was not able to speak any more.

At one point, I could see that we were all exhausted. I told my dad that I would stay up with her if he wanted to rest. During the time I was with her, I held her hand, spoke with her, told her how much I loved her and how much I was going to miss her. I reminded her of some Bible verses we had talked about in the past. I wiped tears from her eyes with a tissue and prayed with her. Throughout that time, her breathing was mostly shallow. At one point she took a bit of a bigger breath, and it returned to short breaths. Then, at 5:24am on October 25, 2006, she took a long, deep breath, and she passed away still holding my hand.

One year later, while looking for something in my dad’s basement, my brother found a bunch of envelopes. One was addressed to him, one to me, one to my dad, etc… What an amazing thing it was to read a message from my mom long after she passed away. The sad thing was that the notes were written before my son was born, so she doesn’t mention him in it. “Know that I love you” was the first thing she said to me. There was never a doubt, mom. Never a doubt.

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There was a reason I picked the song “Hero” to dance with my mother to at my wedding. She showed strength that I could never know as she battled that damn cancer. She fought like no one I had ever seen. She pushed and kept pushing. She said she was going to “kick this cancer’s ass”! She hated it with a passion and she was bound and determined to win! She was truly my hero. I was so amazed at her fight against it.

Now, 12 years later, the pain of her passing remains. She lives on in many memories. There are so many things I wish she had been around to see. I wish that she was around to see and spoil her second grandson. I wish that she were around to know some of the people who have played such an important part of my life over the last 10 years. There are people who have come into my life since she passed away that she would have loved. I am sure that there would be things she’d have opinions about, there would be things that would make her angry, and there would be things that would still make her laugh. She would have been there for council, as she had always been in the past. I only wish that I had done more with our time together.

The lesson I hope someone takes away from this blog is one that I have stated in the past: Make every moment count. Answer the phone calls from mom, one day those phone calls are going to stop. Make time to listen to the same story mom has told you a hundred times, one day you will long to hear it again. Never stop telling your parents you love them, one day they will not be around to hear it. Never stop hugging your mom or dad, one day you will miss the comfort you found in them. Everyone is put in your life for a reason. Some may be there to guide you. Some may be there to teach you a lesson. Some may be there to love you. My mom was in my life to do all of those things.

The sad realization is that time is a funny thing. You never know how much you have. There is never a guarantee of tomorrow. Hell, there is never a guarantee of the next hour or minute! Use that time wisely, because it is too precious to waste. Again, that old saying from the band room grease board holds true, “Live every day as if it were your last – some day you’ll be right”. In the same way, you never really know when you are going to be talking to or seeing someone for the last time. Make that time count.

I would give anything to tell mom Happy 70th Birthday to mom face to face today. I know if I did, I would probably have some crack about her being old and call her Old Grey Haired Sally or something, and she would smack me and laugh. I would welcome that today. She is missed by so many, and my heart will forever ache that she is not here today. She lives on in memories. Those memories still bring tears, but also smiles, because they are memories of her. I have written this blog holding back tears. There are so many more memories I could share, but I will end for now.

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Happy Birthday, Mom. Thank you for all you did for me while you were here….and all you continue to do for me in your absence. As I said at your funeral, “See you later”.