Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Final Portrait

My mother died three years ago on March 27th, 2010. She died on my birthday. When people hear this they want to feel sorry for me but I stop them short. While I miss her terribly, and while my birthday arrives with a bit of pain and has become more contemplative for me, I feel that it is a blessing that she chose to die and begin the next part of her journey on the day she gave me life. Read on.


In the final years, mom pulled in her life closely around her. Metaphorically woven together into a comfortable, snuggly feather bed, the fabric of her life consisted of her family, a “day girl,” a friend,  her home and her husband’s memory.

Her sister Annette and brother Harold; remaining sisters-in-law Elaine, Ann, & Esther; her more like a daughter than a sister-in law Delores, cousin Ann, and her good friend Ida; a number of nieces, nephews, and great nieces and nephews living their own lives, with their own families, in their own parts of the country were in touch by phone and period visits.
Her daughter Libbe, while feeling guilty at times about their interactions gave her a life, a home, the safety of knowing her needs were taken care of, a lot of meals out, books to read, movies to watch, someone to shop with, a friend to talk to, love, and more. 

Her son-in-law George, while not always having the patience to explain things to her in a way she would have liked him to was her financial advisor, maintenance man, schlepper, TV partner, technology provider, dinner companion, best friend, many of the above together with Libbe his wife, and more.

Her son and his partner, Michael and Gregory, while not always as available to her as she would have liked were the memory of life in and visits to Chicago; voice of calm, comfort, and creativity; many telephone conversations & periodic visits, pride, love, joy & more.

Her grand children (Scott, Lauren, and Jackie ) and their spouses (Jodi and Steven) while not always living their lives as mom would have liked them to, provided her with great grand children, support, company, dinner partners, a source of conversation, fun, celebrations, gifts, love, and more.

Her great grand children (alphabetically: Ben, Brandon, Charlie, Chelsea, J.D., Jennie, Jerry, and Jessie) while at times noisy, over-active, and/or misbehaved, were a constant source of love entertainment, celebration, compliments, milestones, and more.

Her best friend, Bernice, shared meals, joined family functions, had sleepovers, and discussed their children and other life issues. Bernice enabled mom to continue being Jewish in her expression, in her complaining, and in her view of things in an otherwise Jewish deprived Texas.

Her “black day girl” (using that term only as a point of divergence and comparison) started out as an outside caregiver from the 
“service.”  Eventually Latonya worked directly for mom and for more than six years became, among other roles; an inseparable part of the family, a grand daughter, a sister, a girl friend, a confidant, and probably one of the most important people in mom’s smaller world  because of the continued independence she helped mom maintain. “A sister from a different mister!” Latonya, Cory, and Carmina became an important part of mom’s family.

All of the people in mom’s life helped provide her daily NEED to worry. She was quick to let you know those worries and what she thought about “Poor This One” or “Poor That One.” I think that if she didn’t have something to worry about on a daily basis, she would not have been with us for as long as she was.

Besides the comfortable environment of her daughter and son-in-law’s home, her havens were the kitchen, the living room, her bed room, and her bathroom. She could often be found at the small round kitchen table paying her bills, having a bite to eat or a cup of coffee, sorting her pills, waiting for her Libbe to wake up so they could go to lunch. She loved watching television gangster and crime shows in the living room, especially when she could share them with her George. Her bathroom was neatly lined up with lotions, potions, and unguents from one end of the sink counter to the other. The stool in the tub enabled her to bath at ease with the help of a medicare nurse that would come in twice a week to help with that task.

Her room consisted of a twin bed, a night stand, a comfortable chair, the closet filled with her clothes, an oxygen machine, and her iPod, DVD viewer, and TV. On bookshelves along the wall were the books she had read so voraciously sometimes keeping up to five books going at one time, as well as picture frames and other mementoes. The chotskies lined up on the shelves were of every type from cheap to valuable and reminded her of those she loved and the life she so looked forward to each day. The walls were covered with photographs of the family through the ages and other memorabilia. On one shelf, stood the bride and groom Stieff Teddy Bears from their fiftieth wedding anniversary. On the nightstand next to her bed was a favorite picture of her husband Lou and a small prayer book. Most nights her daughter and she would remember him by reciting a prayer together.

Her physical ailments were those that any ninety two year old might encounter with an emphasis on her heart and lungs. When she sorted her pills into the correct compartments for each day, she could (and would) tell you the name of each pill and its purpose. The bulk of her pill bottles before sorting were kept in a white plastic,  smaller size laundry basket and consisted of what seemed like dozens and dozens and dozens of brown plastic bottles. 

She was so aware of her health needs that more often then not she could diagnose her own ailments before they fully arrived. During the final ordeal of her life she awoke early and knew she needed to go to the emergency room. Sure enough she had identified the very early stages of pneumonia. 

But early or not, it seemed that it was time for her to leave us. She rallied and failed and rallied again and failed again. In a dream she finally had a visit from dad, having wondered for the five years since his death why he hadn’t visited earlier. She had time to say her goodbyes to each of the immediate family members and friends. She wondered aloud why God didn’t want her yet. She said she was ready to go.

She pulled her life even closer around her and while her family and friends stood watch, her own wishes of not suffering, not having to go to “the home,” not causing too much of a burden to her children, and leaving while she slept were granted.

Saying “She is missed!” does not begin to describe the great sense of loss so many of those whose lives she touched and whose memories she will continue to touch, feel. Rest in peace daughter, sister, wife mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, great grand mother. Rest in peace Adeline.

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