She would have been 79 today. She passed away 25 years ago. I was 22 at the time and I was devastated. It was completely unexpected and sudden.
My Mother was Italian. She was the youngest of 4 girls. Her Mother died during childbirth. The 4 girls were put in orphanages. My Mother was adopted and raised by a childless couple. Her father remarried and had another 2 girls and a boy. I believe it was in adulthood that the siblings reconnected and remained close. We always had holidays at what would have technically been my step-grandmother's house.
I am the oldest of 2 girls. My parents were married 11 years before they had me. My Mother was 36. She had 2 miscarriages prior. They were beginning to think they weren't going to have children. My sister was born 17 months later.
I was very close with my Mother. I would sit and watch her make spaghetti sauce from fresh tomatoes from the garden or clean huge fish that the neighbor boy brought over from his fishing trips with his Dad. I was always watching her when she cooked, no matter what it was. Whether it was simple fried pork chops, cube steaks, Sicilian steak, lasagna or bracciole. I was always there watching. I'm sure my love of cooking was cultivated in her kitchen.
I also am a perfectionist at ironing. Every day I watched my Mother iron my father's shirts and his handkerchieves after school while we watched Leave It To Beaver in the living room. I would always ask her why she bothered ironing the handkerchieves, especially considering they would get wadded up in my father's pants pockets right after he took them out of the drawer, but she insisted they had to be ironed. It was the 60's and that's just what wives did.
My Mother was my best friend and she was the Mom of our block. True, there were other stay at home moms on our block, but they didn't have the patience or compassion that my Mother had. Our house was the 'go to' house whenever any of the other kids on the block were having a bad day at home. Sometimes the kids would wait until late afternoon when my Mother would sit on the stoop, other times they were bold enough to ring the bell. My Mother always had a treat and a hug and a kind ear for all of them. I must admit that I was a bit jealous of the attention they got and I would always tell my Mother how she was being so taken advantage of because all they came for was the cupcakes, brownies or candy bars. Of course now I've come to realize that wasn't really true. Some of them just came for the hugs. For them, the treats were the icing on the cake. We had one neighbor with 5 kids and their Mom was always hollering at one or all of them for something. If I heard her hollering, I could count the minutes until one of their kids showed up at our door. Another neighbor had 7 children. Same thing. Yet another neighbor, the Mom started drinking beers at 10am and had her children clean house for her and get dinner ready while she sat back and watched her soaps. How did I know this? Because our friends always complained about the chores and if we ever tried to go to their house before their Mom let them out after chores, she would answer the door with a brewski in her hand.
Four years before my Mother passed away my sister and I threw our parents a 30th Wedding Anniversary Party. I rented out the local bar that had a hall that our relatives always used for occasions. I conspired with my Mother's sisters and her step-mother. Somehow I managed to cook all of the food at my mother's house on the sly. I made barbequed beef and took it to her step-mother's house and put it her their freezer. My sister and I purchased all the other necessary items and ordered salads from the deli store. One of my Aunts had sent them an invitation for a Wedding Anniversary for one of her sisters. My parents had no clue the party was for them. My mother even purchased a card and a gift. When they came to the hall and we all yelled "Surprise!" my poor mother turned around and walked out. Her sisters had to chase her down. She was embarrassed by all the fuss. After a few minutes she came back to the party and we all had a really great time. It was the first time I'd seen my Mother have more than 1 drink. If it's possible, she was even more sweet than usual. After the party my sister and I loaded up our cars with the leftovers and took them back to my parent's house. I sat up with my Mother for hours and she just talked and talked.
A few years later on New Year's Eve I didn't have any specific plans. I drove to my usual haunts and found nothing going on. I could have hung out anyway, but I kept thinking how my Mother was home alone. My Father had gone out to the bar he hung out at on Friday nights and my sister was out as well. After driving for awhile the guilt of her being home alone got to me and I stopped at PDQ (similar to 7 Eleven) and got a bottle of Cold Duck, a can of cheese spray and a box of Triscuits. I know it sounds funny, but hey, I was in my twenties! Besides, beggars can't be choosers when the only thing open was PDQ. My Mother and I drank the Cold Duck and had our cheese spray and Triscuits and rang in the New Year with Dick Clark. My Mother and I talked and laughed until my Father and my sister came home.
My Mother died suddenly the morning after my sister and I came back from a weekend in Madison. I'll never forget when my supervisor came up to me and said my Father had called and wanted me to go home right away. My sister was working with me at the time. I took my car and we drove home. Neither of us looked at each other. Tears streamed down our faces. Somehow, even though our Mother was never ill a day in her life, somehow we knew she was gone. When we pulled into our subdivision and saw the police squad in the driveway, we knew for certain. One of our friends drove us to the hospital, but she was gone before she left in the ambulance. A valve in her heart burst. Nothing could be done.
I don't remember what happened the rest of that day, other than I never slept. The next day our Father made us go with him to the funeral parlor. He told us that we had to go so we would know how to handle things when he passed. He was right of course, but that didn't make us feel any better about going there. When my Father did pass 6 years later I just went to the same funeral home and told them to just do it all up the same and I signed the papers. I really didn't need to go through that experience with my Mother to do that, but I think my Father had the idea that I was the oldest and that I had to know how to do that sort of thing. Surprisingly I did remember all the minutaie of the process, my sister of course did not. I don't think I slept for an entire week. I had never drank coffee before my Mother passed away, but I started drinking it after and I pretty much lived on it that entire week. My Mother had always said coffee was for grown-ups and had always looked down on youngsters drinking coffee. I guess with my Mother gone I suddenly felt like a grown-up. I still drink coffee to this day.
I think I cried the hardest the night of the funeral as people were getting into their cars and driving away from our house. I walked one of my friends to her car and it suddenly hit me that I never gave my Mother grandchildren. She so loved children and she often babysat for some of the other families on the block. Eventually I did have children, kind of late like she did. I'm hoping she's looking down from heaven and watching over her 2 beautiful grandchildren.
1 hour ago