Saturday, April 19, 2014
My Mom died today.
My Mom died today after an 11 year struggle with total disability and dementia. She was a fighter in life and even in dying. She did it in her own way over the last two weeks. My Mom was strong-willed and a very private person. She loved to work and was her own boss for over 40 years in the antique jewelry business. She had the “eye” and her clients, as well as competitors, loved her. She was known throughout the business as the consummate expert. She bought and sold beautiful items and all admired her for her savvy and ability to be a visionary as to what was gorgeous and wearable.
She traveled the world looking for treasures and my dad went with her acting as her Sherpa. They had an amazing life and after he died she really went downhill. She has been cared for lovingly by a wonderful group of women for the last 11 years. She enjoyed the caregiver’s young children who grew up calling her grandma especially as her own great grandchildren in the beginning were living in other states.
My sister and I remained close in vicinity to our mom. Once she started her business, at 40 years of age she was busy. She was not the “go out to lunch kind of mom” and when we did take her the conversation came back around to how long she could be out to eat before she needed to get back. She normally ate in her office surrounded by customers and her inventory. This was her life. I once worked for my mom and it lasted a year; I couldn’t wrap a UPS properly according to her and when I mentioned, in joking, that none of my packages have ever been rejected by UPS in my lifetime, it held no credibility. It was her way or the highway. My sister tried next and she lasted 2 hours. She couldn’t imagine how I had done it for one year.
They say someone loves you the best way they could and my Mom was no exception. She definitely loved us, but in her own style. She dressed to the nines and was always trying to get my sister and me to be fashion plates, to no avail. When we were young and not able to have a say or choice we looked smashing. But as we aged out of her choices, we looked like typical teenagers and my sister having gone to Berkeley in the People’s Park era, brought home boyfriends who literally had only sandals or no appropriate footwear. My parents took it in stride. Well, almost. They did outfit one young man with shoes to go to dinner.
I was a pleaser and an anxious child and the best thing I remember was my mother playing the “what if” game with me. I would imagine the worst possible scenario and I talk it through with my mom. The real happening was never the worst case, so I got over my anxious period time and time again. Eventually, it worked. She worked from the negative to the positive. Not sure that was right for everyone, but it helped me.
As I recall my childhood (which is very difficult for me), I was happy, but anxious. I was loved and taken care of. Even though my mom was controlling, I knew she loved me. Sometimes she didn’t always express it in ways I could feel but it was there. I did save one letter when I was separating from my then husband and moving to my own apartment by myself and it was so heartfelt. She supported my decision to divorce. It was the best letter I ever received from anyone. She had a tough time growing up with a father who was sick from her 10th year until he died on her 19th. She grew up faster and I think much of her childhood was not as easy as others. She loved her dad and spent many hours when he was sick developing film with him in his dark room. She talked fondly of her parents and I was privileged to know her Mom and loved her. She was the best Nanny a granddaughter could have had.
My kids were fortunate to know my Mom well into their early 40’s and when they had children. My Dad never had that chance. And how he would have loved his great grandchildren and she did. But as grandparents to my sons, they were the best. Trips around the world and lots of love from both of my parents to their grandsons were a regular occurrence. My Mom was the serious one and my dad, the joker. My Mom retained her royalty until the end. She always looked so together and even as she aged, she had nails, brows and hair done weekly until it became impossible for her to move or even be lifted into a wheelchair. As we cleaned out her closets, when we moved her out of her big home and into a rented apartment, my sister and I were amazed at the designer clothes she had that were still classics. She also shopped for bargains and knew what she was buying at all times. Most of her clothes went to consignment shops and the owners were thrilled to sell them.
My Mom was private and didn’t share with anyone. She never went to therapy and lived a lot in denial which worked for her. Hard on my sister and me, but this helped us to be the women we are today. My sister is much more private than I am and has always been that way. I share most everything and as my mom used to say, “anything on your mind is out your mouth” and it was true.
I will miss my Mom and her little quips as they were often harsh and said in a manner I couldn’t or wouldn’t accept. She was smart and educated but still a wife and mother from the 50’s. My mom’s life was not easy and therefore it was hard to live with her when you had a mind of your own and exercised your own will. But she taught my sister and me well, to stand up for what we believed in and fight to make it happen.
I will miss her fierceness, her strength and her ability to stick with it. On her gravestone, that she wrote, (I told you she was controlling) is only “She Lived and loved” and for that I am glad. In her own way she loved and lived with the best of them. RIP, my dear Mom. Your job is done. I love you.
As she wanted there will be no funeral or memorial but just an “immediate family only” service at the graveside.