It has been 20 years since my mom’s death. Exactly. On July 5, 1993 I received a call (from my ex-brother-in-law of all people) telling me that she had been found dead that morning, in bed. She apparently had died peacefully from a heart attack in the night. Sadly, my nine year old niece was the only one there with her at the time, but she was wise enough to call her father when she was unable to wake Grandma up.
I’m not writing this post to rehash sad memories. I just want to take a few moments to remember my mom and to share a little about what made her so special. To that end, I’m reprinting a post from Mother’s Day several years ago.
It also seems appropriate to mention that women need to take their symptoms seriously. Yes, we can and do have heart attacks, and sometimes our symptoms are different that men’s. When we got to my mom’s house that morning, we found a medical book she’d apparently been reading the night before…about indigestion and stomach problems. Maybe if she’d taken her symptoms seriously I wouldn’t be writing this now.
Here now, my post. To my mom:
I realized today, as I planned to write this, that I didn’t have a single digital picture of my mother, who died in 1993. This is a photo of a large picture that hangs in my hall. The color didn’t come out very good, but I still think it is a beautiful photo. I’m not sure how old she is there, probably a few years older than I am now. Anyway, on Mother’s Day, here are a few memories about my mom.
My mom won a Shirley Temple lookalike contest when she was about eight years old (she was the same age, born only five days after Ms. Temple).
When my mom experienced her first kiss, it was with the man who would be my father. She was 21 years old and it was love at first sight.
My dad, who was raised in a male-dominated Danish household, tried a “white glove” test early in their marriage. My mom responded by going on strike, until my dad realized that it wouldn’t play in the USA. He never tried that again!
When my mom visited Denmark for a couple months, before we were born, she managed to learn Danish (not an easy language to learn!). When she lived in Southern California, she learned to speak Spanish. She learned so easily because she was not afraid of failure and didn’t care if anyone laughed at her if she made mistakes. I hope she passed a little bit of those traits on to me.
When my parents realized that they were unable to conceive, they adopted three children. First me, followed by my two sisters. I’d say thanks, but I know it isn’t necessary. We were as much a part of you as if you’d given birth. I will say thanks, though, for making us feel so special for being adopted. We knew that we’d been chosen.
My mom made me take ballet, piano lessons, tutoring for my bad handwriting. I fought all of those every step of the way. Thanks, Mom, for standing firm.
My mom allowed me to “sneak” in hamsters, a Guinea pig, a couple kittens and several dogs. Thanks, Mom, for not standing firm.
My mom worked all her life, teaching (she worked as a substitute when we were little). Mom taught us that we could do anything that we wanted to. There was never any talk of “female jobs” vs. “male jobs.” It wasn’t even a consideration.
My mom was always happy to have all our friends at our home. She hosted slumber parties, pool parties, and my house was always the place that my friends (and my sisters’ friends) wanted to hang out.
When the first Black family moved into our neighborhood (this was in the 60s), Mom was the one who welcomed them, in spite of the negativity of other neighbors.
My mom volunteered at Fairview State Hospital (for the mentally retarded) when I was a teenager. She made me volunteer, too. Thanks, again, Mom, for helping me learn all the things that experience taught me: the importance of volunteerism, how to help people who really need help, how fortunate I was to be healthy.
When I was a kid, my family hosted foreign exchange students, our own Danish relatives going to school in the US, other family and friends who needed a place to stay for a while, and we fostered special needs high school students. Our home was always a madhouse of people, different languages, confusion. A little late, Mom, but I apologize for sometimes being such a little bitch to some of those visitors. I hope you know that I finally learned what a wonderful person you were and how many people you helped, and that the small inconvenience in my selfish, teenage life was inconsequential.
My mom earned her Master’s in Special Education when she was in her 50s. At the time of her death, she was working for Riverside County, working with families in the east Coachella Valley to help them deal with theirs special needs children.
Mom loved to dance, and when she discovered Jazzercise when she was about 60, she was in heaven. She was an ardent follower.
My mom died of a heart attack at the age of 65. Obviously a shock that someone so full of life could die so young. At her packed memorial service, so many people, many of whom couldn’t speak English, came up to my sisters and myself, to tell their stories of how my mother had helped their lives.
Your feet were size 5, Mom, but you left awfully big shoes to fill. I hope you know that I’m doing my best. Happy Mother’s Day.
April 28, 1928-July 5, 1993
Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there!