My mom would have been 62 years-old today. She would still be here if she hadn’t smoked for most of her life. Well that’s not totally true. She could have also died by now from a number of other causes. But for the purposes of this tribute, we’ll blame tobacco.
Mom had me when she was 16. Years later we figured out that she had lied about her wedding date so that it wouldn’t look like her and Dad did things in the wrong order. She became a grandmother at 36 when I did those same things in the same order.
I never wanted her to smoke. I used to hide her cigarettes. My grandfather, Hal Kadish, hated that she smoked. Mom tried to hide it from him. I didn’t speak very clearly as a child (some would say I still don’t) and when I got mad at her I’d threaten her with, “I tell Ha you moke tiggywets.”
Mom would answer with, “Go right ahead, he’s not going to understand you anyway.” She was right.
My sister remembers, “It was always fun when Nana and Grandpa would make a surprise visit when we were young, we’d all run around the house moving ashtrays and hiding them, like they couldn’t smell the smoke all over the furniture and curtains!”
My sister also remembers when, “Mom sent us all to Massachusetts to learn about the birds and bees from Auntie, she sent the book and all!”
By the time Mom was diagnosed with cancer I was living back at home. Nana lived down the street and was always at our house. My favorite story of all is one that I witnessed but I’ll let you read it in my sister’s words. “When mom was on chemo she was cranky and needy and kept asking me for things, her 20th request that day was for Frosted Flakes, so I gave it to her and she looked up at me with big eyes and said there was too much milk, so I picked the bowl up and drank half of the milk and handed it back. Nana almost rolled out of her chair!”
My brother had the weaker stomach out of the three of us. My sister was accustomed by now to cleaning up puke and I had seen it all in the Group Home that I was working in. When Mom’s hair started coming out, it sort of freaked him out. So my sister carefully removed her hair and I put it into a bag and then placed the bag near my brother’s pillow on his bed. He had no idea what was in the bag as he opened it. He didn’t think it was funny at all but I still can’t stop laughing about it.
When she was sick, with the cancer, and out of work, she’d be afraid to go to lunch and run into work people because they would think she looked too good and that she was feeling well.
Being the oldest of Mom’s children, I had her longest which meant that she was there for my first wedding and my first three children.
She collected owls. We had owls everywhere in the house. When she died we let some friends and family take an owl home with them. I kept several of them. One of them is hanging in my hallway. When I see owls anywhere, they make me smile. I bought an owl paperweight on the Cape one year and keep it on my desk. I had an owl envelope opener that disappeared from my desk one day. I’m thinking someone broke it and discarded the evidence. I have a pretty good idea who the culprit is.
Mom used to go to concerts with us. She loved Dennis DeYoung and Styx as well as Phil Colllins and Genesis. At one concert she couldn’t see because someone was leaning up against the railing in front of her. He left after she yelled, “Get the f**K out of the way!”
I love music because of Mom. It was always on in the house and the car. She turned me on to Barry Manilow, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Johnny Mathis, and so many others in the Seventies. I still listen to all of them. I remember her singing Dr. Hook’s When Your Body’s Had Enough of Me and a rather obscure hit, Roger Whittaker’s The Last Farewell.
I don’t know where to stop. My brain is spitting out memories much quicker than I can type.
I’ll wait until the day she died in June to share the eulogy that my brother and I wrote and I read at her funeral.
I haven’t visited her grave in a couple of years for two reasons. One is because she always said not to bother because that’s not where she was. The other is because it is in a rough section in Hartford. People use the road through it as a shortcut to the other side of their neighborhood. The last time I visited it, her stone was pulled out of the ground and lay about twenty yards away. There were deep tire tracks in the mud. Someone had become stuck and attached a chain to her headstone to pull their car out of the muck.
One memory that I can call my very own, happened every Monday night during the football season. My dad bowled that night and Mom would let me stay up to watch the first half of Monday Night Football. I would bring down a shoebox of little cardboard helmets that I had cut out. And throughout the game I’d test her and ask her to name the team that each helmet belonged to. I was so proud when she’d get one right.
Didn’t I just say that I don’t know where to stop? I think now is a good time. I’ll post this now before I go to bed. Happy Birthday Mom. I love you. I miss you so much.