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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Remembering and Wondering about my Mother

I had a mother once.

She’s been gone for 12 years, and sometimes I forget what it’s actually like to have a mother. To have someone (if you’re lucky) who cares about everything you do. I mean every single stupid thing that happens to you. Who will care for you without question when you’re sick. And continue loving you even when you’re, regretfully, a bitch.

There are times, many I bet, that my mother didn’t like me. She once called me the "black sheep" of her three daughters. But I always felt she loved me. Truth is, I remained a selfish “adolescent” daughter for a long time. I was 32 when she died, and our relationship remained similar to when I was 16…meaning I still showed little interest, patience or appreciation toward my mother. She died before I got married, although was alive long enough to see me get engaged and to look through one wedding magazine with me. She died before I had children, which is the biggest loss, for everyone. For my boys because I witnessed how much she loved her other grandchildren. 
For my mom because she would have adored Ethan and Jonas. 
And for me, because as a mother myself,  I now get it. I get her, and how she felt about me. And with that knowledge, maybe our relationship would have been different.

I think of my mom, whose name was Carol, more frequently these days. And not just because of Mother’s Day. But because of cancer.  For one, with my new shorter hair, I look more like my mother. When my sister recently posted old photos of my mom, Facebook tried to tag them as me. 

We also finished treatment in the same season. My was mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the fall of 2001, right around the time of the terrorist attacks.  She was 68. That November, she had a hysterectomy. I remember sitting in her hospital room while she was recovering. I remember her saying “I want to be a little old lady one day,” and me reassuring her,“You will, mom."

She did her chemo treatments through the winter, and was pronounced “in remission” that spring, in May I believe. It didn't last long. She died on August 26.

I’m pretty sure I’m not on the same trajectory as my mom; But it’s hard not to think about this similarity. She felt safe, and then she wasn’t. She wanted to volunteer and help other ovarian cancer patients, but she wouldn’t.

I think about this, but I don’t dwell on it.

The thing that bothers me the most right now, however, is how little I knew my mother. I mean as a person. Who was she really? What was she was like as a child? Or growing up? Or as a young adult who went to Israel, the Promised Land, and met the man who would later become my father?

my mother as a child

on her wedding day

Maybe this desire to know more about her is happening now because I’ve reached (gasp!) middle age. Or because I just had a brush with my own mortality and I wonder: what will my children remember about me? Will they care who I was, other than just their mother, when I’m no longer around? 

So, after seeing my friend Betsy’s wonderful tribute to her first husband Joe, I am stealing her idea. She asked people to tell their favorite stories about Joe, and it was just such a lovely and funny and powerful way to bring him and his memory “to life” again, that I wanted to do it too.

I’d like to invite any of you who knew her, who remember her to share a word, or a funny story, or something about her that I might not have known, something that happened before I was born, or after but was too young to know (Kevin, feel free to make something up).

I’lll start with this:

She was kind. 
That is the first word that comes to mind, the one I added to this cool Mother’s Day Cloud.

She loved Billy Joel.
And Engelbert Humperdink.
And the Mets.

She once got pulled over for speeding with me sitting in the front seat of the car. I was maybe 7,  but it was like the wild west in the 1970s, B.C. (before carseats). I was holding the frog bulletin board she had just purchased for me and  she begged me to cry so she wouldn't get a ticket, but I couldn't do it. I tried this with my kids a couple of years ago and they couldn't do it either.

When I was in my twenties and a friend of mine (whom my mother had never met) had surgery, she delivered a gift, a stuffed animal, to the woman’s hospital room. For some reason I always loved this story. Maybe because it was a stuffed animal, but also that she went out of her way for someone she didn't even know. And she did it because I asked. Thanks, mom.

Eva, my father's mother
One of my great grandmothers (on my father side). Name unknown.

Grandma Yedda (sp?) My mother's mom

Monday, April 14, 2014

I Had a Port Once

An Ode to My Port 

Oh port oh port oh port
Our time together was short
but imPORT
you saved my veins
and caused few pains
but now it's time to abort.

Bye bye....

Saturday, February 1, 2014

It's February 1st! Happy New Year!

I started writing this blog at 5pm on December 31, 2013. In my adolescence,  I'd sit on my bed at this hour with a  clunky Sony boom box and listen attentively for my favorite songs of the year to come on the radio so I could make the ultimate mix tape (raise your hand if you did this too). Now thanks to MP3's and iTunes, I no longer have to waste my time listening for Chaka Khan and Brian Adams. I can write blogs instead (although if you must know, my favorite song of last year was a tie between Another One Bites the Dust by Queen and Basketball by Kurtis Blow, which means I'm officially middle aged and out of touch w/ today's music).

Trying to sum up 2013 for me is like trying to boil eggs with no water. It's like trying to tie your shoe while someone's tickling you. Or perhaps, more simply, it's like trying to play chess if you're me. It cannot be done. At least not yet. So instead, I'll just offer up this unoriginal but fitting sentiment: "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."

If you require  more specificity, I give you my 2013 Best of Times "mix tape" of sorts.  What follows are my top 10  moments/events from last year in chronological order:

  • Waking up from surgery on February 12th and looking at my Facebook page. You guys know who you are, and you rock. I was blown away by the number of people who checked in on me and offered prayers and positive thoughts, and who wrapped me in my moldy green pig -in-a blanket of luv. I think all that luv had something to do with my fast and nearly pain-free recovery. I felt similarly supported and cared for when I posted  my very first I Had a Boob Once entry. I could barely sleep for fear of the reactions of putting myself "out there." I was still working for Lahey Clinic at the time and thought I might lose my job for talking about my boobs and my childhood glue sniffing habit but instead, the Human Resources Director emailed me about how much she loved the blog (and she's close to 70 I think...). So I felt much better. Then I left my job anyway to spread the gospel of family dinners, but I digress.

  • Having my head shaved.  I've already written about this in detail, if you want to review. Oh what a relief it was....

  • The Mother's Day Red Sox game.  I seriously wasn't expecting to enjoy that game as much as I did. Ben got us great seats and It was a beautiful day and despite feeling a little "off" from chemo and the kids getting really whiny by the 4th inning and getting in a near fist fight in the eighth, I had an awesome time. And I'd never been a baseball or a Red Sox fan. Now I am.  Red Sox games were a close second to Will Ferrell movies as the best entertainment during my crummy chemo days. 

  • Listening to my kids talk about baseball. Another fabulous yet free and simple form of entertainment this year. Mostly it was Ethan, the 7-year-year old "expert" trying to teach Jonas, the rookie. Here's what was overheard as the boys watched baseball this year:

Jonas: If we’re voting for them, we clap.

Jonas: Big Papi’s really good. He’s hit a lot of home runs.
Ethan: Actually he’s not that good.
Jonas:  What number was Babe Ruth?
Ethan:  50. (real answer: 3)
Jonas: Is Justin Pedroia dead?
Ethan: Yep. (real answer: uh, no. And his name is Dustin).
Ethan: "Yoshi" Berra was an MVP for both the American and National Leagues.

  • The Vermont College of Fine Arts writing conference. In 2012 I passed on this conference, citing guilty feelings about leaving my family and money as the reasons. Last year, shortly after learning of my cancer diagnosis, I emailed Ellen, the conference director, and said, 'sign me up.' I went away  for one week in August and had an amazing, soul-enriching time and I met some incredible people! (you know who you are if you are reading this). That conference gave me something to look forward to during treatment - But the real thing was even better. 

  • Our one trip to the Beach this summer. In Gloucester and despite the $45 parking ticket.  

  • Similarly, this one day with my family and my friend Jeanna at the lake house. 

  • The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I never wrote about this, but in October, our friend Sara walked in my honor in New York (her mother had also been a breast cancer survivor).  It's touching and also very strange to have someone walk for you when you're still alive (i can't really comment on what's it like when you're not). What is an  honoree supposed to do, exactly? We  went down to New York and met Sara and her family at the finish line. Her father, who I had never met before, gave me a great big hug. He'd read my blog, so he knew I was neurotic. Listening to the survivor stories, I cried. Quietly, behind my sunglasses  I heard variations of my own story. Those stories and the incredible number and diversity of people at the walk made me feel part of something much bigger than myself...even if I didn't want to be part of it. There was no getting out of it. I was now a life-long club member. And I found some comfort there.

What I realized most looking while back at the last year is how things or events that I'd taken for granted before or may have been just a blip in my mix tape the previous year, stood out the most. A trip to the beach and standing in the water up to my waist. A baseball game with ice cream. A boat ride with family and friends on a beautiful day. Just feeling good. It would be nice to hold onto that appreciation in 2014 (although not nice to have to go through treatment again to do so...). 

Wishing you all a healthy and happy new year (and hope your January was lovely). xo