Saturday, May 10, 2014
A different mother's day: here's to the MILFs
I didn't. We didn't have a bad relationship, it was just . . . unique.
She was the cool mom, the mom who made all my friends wish she was their mom. I offered her to them with increasing frequency until they were old enough to understand why.
She used to walk me to grade school wearing hot pants and a halter top. The game was to see how many horns honked at her on the way. When she left me at the gate, generally every boy in my class stood tiptoe to watch her walk away. Mom was a MILF before MILF was a word.
Looking back, I'm sorry that at the age of 40 plus she still felt like she had to get the affirmation of random men blowing their horns and pre-adolescent boys blowing blood vessels, that she couldn't see her own worth without their input. She didn't really have women friends, other than me; she didn't trust women.
She died in 2006, after hiding her emphysema diagnosis for 5 years because she didn't want to stop smoking. Even after she had to go on oxygen (for chronic bronchitis, she claimed), she would still disconnect herself and go out into the hall to sneak a smoke.
When she was in the hospital for the last time, unable to speak for tubes, I came up from Philly to see her, and as it turned out, to say goodbye. I wasn't sure she even realized I was there, but when her doctor came in and said – and who the hell says this to a dying woman? – "Aren’t you sorry about all those cigarettes now? You can't even talk to your daughter."
Turns out she was still in there. She raised her hands, one with an IV in it, one without, and gave him the finger with both hands. Can't say I blamed her.
She died a few days later. I was home, and my stepdad couldn't bring himself to go to the hospital, so my uncle, her younger half-brother, was with her when she died. I went back up the next day to spend some time with my stepdad (and to clean out all her stuff – he was adamant, I couldn't leave until she was erased from the apartment), and we had dinner with my uncle. As we were driving to a restaurant to meet some other local relatives, a thunderstorm hit. We had to pull over for a few minutes because we couldn't see the road in front of us.
A particularly loud clap of thunder rattled the car windows. My uncle, in his wisdom, and having been partly raised by my mom, said, "Well, that's it. Gene just found out there's no smoking in heaven and she’s turned around and gone to hell."
In the spring, we spread her ashes at my uncle's property, where my mom had spent a few years in her teens, probably her happiest years, and the reason she dragged my stepdad north for retirement. My uncle, a small man, bow-legged, heavily armed and with a more-than-passing resemblance to Yosemite Sam, took the box with her ashes, walked up to the top of the highest hill on the property, opened the lid and let her swirl. "You always wanted to travel, old woman!" he shouted. "Now get to it!"
He loved her dearly, as did I. I just can't say we always liked her a whole lot.