Monday, August 15, 2005

For Mom...

1949-2003

Growing up, I was never one of those kids who had nightmares about monsters. I never thought monsters lived under my bed or in my closet. Having a nightlight on wasn’t required for me to be able to sleep. My nightmares were based in reality. My fear was of real things I couldn’t control. The only constant nightmare I had involved my mother dying and me powerless to stop it. This nightmare was recurring in some form till two years ago. Two years ago on this day my nightmare came true. My mother passed away after battling skin cancer at the age 54. What do you do when your one base fear becomes reality? Is there anything that makes one think more about lost opportunities? I would like to say after two years that I’ve come up with answers, but I haven’t. What I do is live off memories of my mother. The Christmas before she passed away, her parents gave me a book containing pictures chronicling my life. I don’t see that as being coincidental. So, this week I'll be sharing some memories of my mother along with the other posts. I’ve shared a few in my movie post, here are some more.

My first early memory is when my mother was packing to leave for her grandmother’s funeral. I was sitting on the bed crying. I wasn't crying because my great grandmother had died. I had met her maybe a few times in my short life. I was crying because my mom was leaving. Obviously, I was a momma’s boy.

When I had the chicken pox as a kid, she laid out a cot in my parents bedroom. While I battled the chicken pox, she would bring me Pop Rocks and some other gift everyday when she came home. She also told me to stop scratching. I still scratched.

My Mom was a nurse, which helped when I was sick. The problem was when she had to work the late shift. Often I would try to stay up till she came home. Usually, I’d end up falling asleep. One night, I woke up after falling asleep, to find a coloring book waiting for me. It's the little things

Because of my history with cancer, I was constantly going in for tests and check ups. The tests blew. There’s nothing like laying on a cold table in your tighty whities while a room full of doctors poked and prodded. But it was worth it for two reasons. First, I didn’t have to go to school. But the best reason was I got to hang around all day with my Mom. I got to see where she worked, and talk with all her doctor and nurse friends. It was mother/son day for me about every month. It kind of made all those exams worth it.

Every artistic and musical bone in my body I got from my Mom. She always encouraged me to take piano lessons, and would always sign me up for art programs during the summer. Piano lessons I wasn’t so fond of, but I did love my art classes. She would never allow me to miss a day, ever. Except for one day. One day she let me sleep in. We then gathered as a family in my little brother’s room. I remember the sun shining through the window while we just talked and laughed. I think Thundarr the Barbarian was the cartoon on the TV.

Mom always did the Holidays well. She was always the hostess for Thanksgiving. She would make my Halloween costumes from scratch. But what she especially excelled at wasChristmas. From the presents to the food, she did it all. She always got me what I wanted, andMom always did the Holidays well. She especially excelled at often things I didn’t know I wanted. When I was around seven, I remember waking up one Christmas Eve, and watching my parents wrap gifts. I’d sit there at the top of the stairs and peer through the railing. Yes, I did it at first to prove my suspicions of Santa Claus’s existence. But, the following years I did it to watch my Mom and Dad being Susan and Al. She was not very good at hiding the Christmas gifts. My brother somehow always found out what he was getting.

Coinciding with Christmas was my birthday. I was born three days after. The story goes that I was late. Imagine that. So, to make sure I was born before New Years, my Mom started doing chores to coax me along. This completely explains my dislike for manual labor. I think Mom felt guilty that I was a December baby, because she really went out of her way to make sure I celebrated my birthdays. Even when four out the 35 kids I invited showed up, she made sure I had a great birthday. I always had parties, and never got the combo Christmas/birthday gift.

My first post divorce memory of my Mom is when she took me and my brother fishing. My brother and I had already gotten the divorce talk from our Dad. This was the Mom talk. I don’t remember much of the talk. I do though remember standing there while Mom watched us fish. She had that somber look on her face I’d never seen before.

I doubt there’s ever been a Mom that worked so hard to make a step-family a family. When she remarried, she worked tirelessly against our reluctant attitudes to make us one family. To her credit that is exactly what we became. The words “step” and “half” aren’t used in our family. We are all just brothers and sisters.She was there for all of us. When I had my back surgery, she stayed in Cleveland till I was finally released. Even though I was high on Morphine, I can remember her and my Dad there. Seeing my Mom and Dad together at my bedside gave me perhaps a glimpse of what could’ve been. She was there when I needed a car. She was there to teach me how to dress and color coordinate. She was there when I graduated, and had hair. When I wanted to pursue the radio biz, she helped me move. She even drove to Nashville to help me move back, when I realized radio wasn’t for me. Even when she thought I was making the same mistake by pursuing film and television, she still supported me.

Perhaps that’s the problem. She was always there when you needed it. That’s what makes that text message I received saying “Call Mom!” such a painful memory. It’s the only text message I’ve ever received, and it was letting me know something was wrong. When she told me she was diagnosed with cancer, that rock I had counted on so much began to crumble. I never want to recieve another text message again...ever.

Still, she was there. When I first came home since she was diagnosed, she had my step-father take her out of the hospital to meet me at the airport. Even though she was sick from the chemo she took me out to lunch. She was still the rock. She still couldn’t stand us pandering to her every need. Even then I still held hope that she would survive. How couldn’t she? If I can survive cancer, certainly she can.

It wasn’t till the last two weeks she was alive that I became fully aware of the end. The woman who had relied on her for everything was now having to take care of her. Still we got glimpses of Mom. She fought to stay awake till my oldest half sister got back from Europe. When I got there, they gave her a few days at the most. She was up and walking around the next day. When my grandparents got into a car accident that same week, it was my Mom who got up to try and help my grandmother get around. Even though she couldn’t eat, she still wanted to sit with us at the dinner table. When someone didn’t have a fork, Mom got up to get it for them. One day she really wanted a bake potato, so my Uncle James and I drove into town to get one. If there’s one thing I knew it was how to get people lunch. Returning with the prized bake potato, I gave it to her. Nobody thought she’d eat it, but she ate the whole thing. I like to think it was because I got it.

The last good moment was at night when we were putting her to bed, after going over some pictures. She sat on the bed and asked everyone to leave except me. I sat down next to her, she took my baseball hat off, and we talked, cried, and said our goodbyes. She then had each one of the other kids come into the room individually to talk with her. Even to her last days she was still the rock. She died in her sleep soon after.

So that’s my Mom in a snapshot. Ok, a three page snapshot. I miss her every single day.
I still have moments where I pick up the phone to call her on weekends. They don’t seem to happen as often as they did and that scares me a little. I don’t know if I want to reach the point of acceptance. I don’t want be at ease that she died. I don’t want to fill that hole. If I fill that hole, I’m afraid I’ll forget even though I know that’s impossible. I won’t forget because I have a huge family full of brothers and sisters, and nieces and nephews to remind me. I have them to be the rock my Mom was. I have my Dad. I have friends like Bob who listened and understood.

I realize I’m at the point of rambling and it’s now 4:30 in the morning. I don't even know if this all makes sense due to the "dust in my eye." My point of this post is to proclaim that I had the greatest Mom in the world. I miss you Mom.

Love,
Brad

2 comments:

MOL Junior said...

mol jr sad

bobby said...

Thanks for this, Brad. I'll say here for the world that your mom rubbed off on you. When people need a description of Brad I always say -- among other things --one of the most generous people I know.