My mom died this morning. She was frail, but there was no warning this was imminent.
My mom grew up in Brooklyn, one of two girls. She was the daughter of Polish immigrants who wanted to taste freedom.
She met my dad at a party during World War II. They married after the war ended.
They were together over 65 years. All that time and still passionate about each other.
A terrible piece has been ripped from my father today.
I remember her sending me to school with cream cheese and olive sandwiches, while I went through that phase. I remember pizza on English muffins and cakes, somehow baked in a kitchen the size of your elbow. I remember chicken basted with so much fat and butter it might be illegal. While she cooked, she’d let me snack on the skin.
My mom was vivacious. By the dictionary definition, attractively lively and animated, she was a triple threat. My mom was great to have at a party.
She sewed. She knitted. She kept my sister and me from killing each other.
She went to work when I was in my teens. First at the Queens College Bookstore, then the Colden Library. She liked being associated with Queens College. Later she would work in the library at University of Bridgeport. Another good fit.
This was the time my parents traveled. They saw Europe, Israel and China. In retrospect, I wish they’d seized more of those moments. The past few years travel was no longer an option.
My dad worked for a company in Stamford. He commuted from Flushing every day. When they moved his office to Trumbull, my folks moved to Connecticut… to Hamden where we’d later move.
We told my folks Helaine was pregnant on the actual day they moved. In that pre-cell era we had trouble reaching them until after dark.
Stef grew up with her grandparents. She had a relationship unlike most kids. Her grandparents acted younger than their age. They were fun companions, especially during summers at their condo’s pool.
After they both retired my folks moved to Florida. They loved it. Helaine and I often refer to it as life extension.
Age was not kind to my mom. She fell, shattered bones and never really recovered. She became scared to walk. She was petrified she’d fall again.
My mom drew more and more inward until she would speak in one or two word sentences. She lost her curiosity. She lost her warmth. That was sad.
I remember saying, “I love you,” at the end of one call and hearing silence.
Amazingly, she was able to bounce back a little. Though she tired quickly, she could start a good conversation. If you tried really hard you could even get her to laugh again. I love yous were once again exchanged.
But it was all a facade. Thirty seconds in and she was physically and mentally spent.
We spoke yesterday. She thanked me for calling, as if I was doing her a favor. I made a mental note to stop asking her what’s new.
Did she remember how I used to call every night while driving home from work? She smiled. I’m sure I heard her smile over the phone.
I told her I wanted to have those conversations again. She knows.
Tonight, our family is very lucky. There are no loose ends with my mom. No questions of where she stood. She knew we all loved her very much–two children and spouses, four grandchildren, three great grandchildren and my dad.
We have mourned my mom’s deterioration these past years. Her life was often joyless and in pain. Her suffering has ended. For that we are grateful.