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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Happy Mother’s Day

At the end is my usual post for Mother’s Day. Not every year, but often. At the top is something entirely new from my perspective of being a Mom of 2 children with mental illnesses.

I am the person I am today because of my Mom and I thank God every day for that. Why?

• I witnessed her love, compassion, and strength every day, not only to people she knew, but strangers.
• I watched her struggle and persevere through tough times. She was a SAHM. The only income was my Dad’s. Working for a division of GM lay-offs were common, once a year or every few years. My Dad had 3 back surgeries. That was back when a back surgery had you hospitalized for months. My Mom didn’t drive but managed to visit him every day while we were in school and be back home before we got home from school, and we had a hot homemade meal. She carried groceries home everyday because she could only buy what she could carry.
• I definitely admire and appreciate everything she did to keep our household afloat.
• My Mom had always made time to talk to neighbors, their kids, strangers at a bus stop, my Dad’s family who popped over once a year or so with no notice.

I would never say I was ever near her level, as a person, parent, neighbor, relative, human...anything. 

I’ve had different challenges but in the heat of them I always asked myself “What would Mom do?” (WWMD?) Without that question I was lost. 

When I think now, I don’t think there is one person on this planet (or off this planet) who knows ALL of the challenges I’ve had. Some of them were mortifying and I have only told a couple of people...20+ years later. A lot of it’s repetitive. The same challenge over and over. 

Separating from my ex and all the mortifying things I did/went through to do what I had to do to keep my kids safe.

My daughter’s hospitalizations were grueling and soul wrenching. While I was in the family room at the hospital with her I was calm, cool, collected, like it’s a normal day. In the beginning she is catatonic, psychotic, seeing huge bloody dogs chasing her, lunging at her, wide-eyed and terrified, didn’t talk at all (poverty of speech), refused to eat, paranoid she was being poisoned. After I crossed the threshold out of our visit and passed the window I fell apart. 
A P A R T. The first time my knees buckled, tears streaming, couldn’t breathe, shaking.

Watching my son fall apart almost before my eyes, when he had his first psychotic break. As it’s happening, recognizing the signs, the symptoms. Keeping my cool getting him from the pizza joint to the hospital.

The over 20 hospitalizations for my daughter. Not knowing where she was for days because of HIPPA. Turned out she was in the psych ward, but I had no idea if she was even safe before I heard she was there.

Having 2 children with mental illnesses, all the research, medication research, all of the confused thoughts that I could not challenge so as not to upset the child.

Dealing with the other symptoms when they are not actively psychotic.

Thinking about those lost years when the kids were having the worst symptoms. When they are actively psychotic, looking them in the eyes and seeing nothing. My kids who were teens at the time...were just gone. Even though they are in their mid 20’s (Wow! That just hit me.) they are living their teens. I pray they move beyond their teen years, the teenage behavior. I can’t think about what could have been and instead think how I can help them to progress as far as they are capable.

Without witnessing my Mom’s strength and compassion I would not have gotten through any of those challenges.
My encore post:

For those who are fortunate enough to have your Mother around this Mother's Day, give her an extra hug.

Lilacs were my Mom's favorite. We had several bushes in the backyard, where she could enjoy them while she was hanging out the laundry to dry. There's nothing like the smell of laundry dried outdoors and the smell of Lilacs. In 2009 I planted several Lilac Bushes in front of my porch. The bushes now fill in the entire front of my porch and the fragrance is amazing. Sitting on the porch, drinking my coffee, breathing in that wonderful smell takes me back. For some reason, Lilacs and Coty Airspun Facepowder are the smells that most remind me of my mother. I recognize both instantly and it takes me back.

March 10, 2019, she would have been 91. She passed away 35 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 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. My love of cooking was cultivated in her kitchen.

My Mother was my best friend and she was the Mom of our block. 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, cookies, brownies or candy bars. Of course now I've come to realize they came for the hugs. For them, the treats were the icing on the cake. 

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. One of my Aunts 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. 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 we 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. After driving for awhile 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, ate 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 my Father made me go with him to the funeral parlor. He told me that I had to go so I would know how to handle things when he passed. He was right of course, but that didn't make me 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 minutiae of the process. 

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.

Today I will be sitting on my porch, drinking in the smell of my lilac bushes in full bloom, drinking my coffee and sharing stories about my Mom with my kids.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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