Years ago, when the children were small, we would get on an airplane and fly to Florida to visit my parents. The children called my parents G’ma and G’pa Airplane. Sometimes we would drive in the car from Connecticut to Florida to visit. Back in 1988 after my dad died my mom did a good job of taking care of herself. She paid bills on time, did grocery shopping, make crafts, had a bunch of friends, played bingo twice a week, drove her car with no problems mostly to the grocery store, hairdresser, or bingo. Dad had made her promise to take good care of herself and to get her hair done every week at the beauty parlor. Mom quickly figured out that if she did her own hair at home she could use the money for an extra night of bingo. Smart woman. Another thing she did after dad died was to get her ears pierced; it was something she had always wanted to do…and she finally did it.
After I moved to Georgia the drive to visit my mom was a lot shorter. I enjoyed our visits and drove to see her as often as possible. On one visit my children and I cut down a tree, constructed a trellis for her vining plants, relocated a snake, painted the mailbox and the light pole near the driveway. On another visit, we painted the birdbath and planted colorful flowers around it.
Then one day my sister decided that my mother could no longer care for herself. Huh??? And just like that, everything changed. Mom’s house and car were sold to total strangers. My sister took my mother along with furniture, knick-knacks, retirement and Social Security and several savings accounts across the state to live in St. Petersburg. Since sister is a nurse I figured that mom was in good hands.
When mom lived on her own she and I had been in the habit of talking every week or two on the phone. She was sharp as a tack, had a good sense of humor and knew exactly what she was saying. After my mom was settled in her new living situation I would call on the phone but sadly was not allowed to talk on the phone unsupervised. Slowly, I began to see the light. My mother was being removed from my life. And I was being removed from hers. I was powerless to stop this.
I drove to St Pete to visit my mom and sister, arriving with a smile on my face and gifts in hand. Even being there in person, conversations were monitored and supervised. Well, guess I won’t bother to do that again.
Long story short, I had not seen or heard from my mother in years. For quite a long while, I didn’t actually know if she was alive or dead. I wrote letters, send cards, sent emails, sent gifts, but received no response from my mother or from my sister. Years passed. The only way I could check to see if she was alive was to check the obituaries and Social Security Death Index. The fact that her name did not appear was a small comfort.
Then one day, totally out of the blue, my sister lets me know that mom broke a hip. It was a two-sentence email. Well, at least it was news.
A while later, my sister emailed a one-sentence message to say that mom died…two days previous. Thanks for letting me know.
Please don’t respond to this blog. There is no need for sympathy. Mom was “lost” to me several years ago and I have had plenty of time to adjust.
Oh, you may want to know a bit about her. My mother celebrated her 100th birthday in August 2015.
Her parents came to America as immigrants looking for a better life. They settled in Pennsylvania. Here is my mother as a teenager looking slightly embarrassed in the handmade, hand embroidered costume of Ukraine.
During her high school years, she was very athletic; her sport was tennis. She would often be taken out of Math class to assist the physical education teacher.
In her late 20s, she moved away from home to work in a big city. She would call her mother every Sunday. All her siblings would be gathered in the dining room and together they shared the news of the week.
Mom, Dad and my curly-haired big brother looking fresh-faced and tan after a day at the beach.
Ah, there I am. Here is Mom holding me in our ultra-modern kitchen with all the conveniences of the day. Agitator washing machine, toaster, waffle iron…look to the left and you will see the handle of the snow shovel leaning against the coal bin.
So mom is gone but she had a great life.
(Originally written 2016)