Monday, June 2, 2014
I’d like to thank all who have written, called, visited, emailed and texted since my mother’s death. You’ve soothed me and made me remember the good times. Some of you posed interesting questions. So, here are the answers — and a few memories you might enjoy.
My mother and father met on a blind dinner date. She was divorced with two young children. He was a bachelor. She walked in at 96 pounds, wearing red lipstick and a black cocktail dress. Dad looked up and said, “Oh. My. God.” They were married six months later.
She kept her house spotless. SPOTLESS. Let’s just say I didn’t get that gene.
She had so many talents—she sewed, painted, crocheted, did needlepoint and gardened passionately for 60 years. Every bed was covered by her afghans, and her curtains—I’m talking lined, pinch-pleated satin drapes — hung at every window. In comparison, I once refinished a chair. It took me two weeks.
She was the funniest human being. When I was 23, she made me laugh so hard I wet my pants in the passenger seat of her 1967 Mustang.
Her middle name was Theodosia, like Aaron Burr’s daughter.
A few years ago I walked into her room at the nursing home to find her all excited. “Great news!” she announced. “We are Joosh!” (She also pronounced Irish as “Arsh,” and Brunswick as “Bumsick.”) I tried to explain why we weren’t, but she didn’t quite understand the matriarchal line. “But I just found out my Uncle Willie was Joosh!” she insisted. “I think Uncle Willie converted,” I said. “It doesn’t make us Joo — Jewish. Sorry, Mom.”
She taught me to watch my weight. “If you gain more than five pounds, hit the brakes,” she said. “If not, you’ll get huge and have diabeetus, and they’ll cut your foot off.”
When she was 58 years old she jumped up and led a conga line at a luau.
She loved watermelon, lima beans and fried fish. (And Little Debbie cakes, although she wouldn’t like me telling you that.)
She was quite strict: Children could not interrupt an adult conversation, shout indoors, or ignore any directive from her. Dad called her She Who Must Be Obeyed.
She was my size, but with more delicate features.
My oldest brother, Bubba, was her angel. He navigated Medicare, handled her finances, took her to appointments, met with health care providers and caseworkers and most of all, remained patient as she found fault with every doctor, hospital, at-home caregiver and nursing home. He’s earned his heavenly crown.
She was very, very kind to anyone less fortunate.
Even though she voted for JFK, she couldn’t stand Jackie Kennedy. She thought she put on airs.
Her favorite movies were “Singing in the Rain” and “The Color Purple.” Her favorite song was “Where the Boys Are,” by Connie Francis. I love it too, but I can’t listen to it now.
She worked as a beautician, substitute teacher and nurse’s aide. She enjoyed nursing because it allowed her to help people in a practical way—and she loved hanging out at hospitals. In another time and place, I think she would have studied medicine.
She loved my holistic, tree-hugging sister Moonbeam, but didn’t understand her. About 10 years ago, she realized that was OK: You can love someone who confounds you. Life goes on.
She had two sisters and two brothers. Eleanor died 15 years ago, and I’ll bet they’re having big fun right now.
She was, as my brother T-Bob wrote, “a wonderful mother.” Not perfect, but perfect for us.
Julie R. Smith, who inherited her mother’s blue eyes and blunt tongue, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.