Friday, March 02, 2007

Finding Words.

Mom died last night. She would have been 78 in two weeks. She hadn't been feeling well for a while, but this was sudden and unexpected.

I still don't know if I will be going to Carolina for a funeral, or, if she wanted to be cremated, to a memorial service on Long Island (as that's where most of my family is). Or maybe I won't go anywhere--it's impractical and inconvenient, as life and death tend to be.

Donna wants me to go. She says it will bring closure. I say closure is misunderstood and overrated. Sometimes you have as much closure as you're ever gonna get, and pursuing it further only prolongs the ache. Sometimes you think you've had your closure and proclaim so as you set aside the book with a satisfied sigh, only to realize later that there's still pages to go in that chapter (and then maybe a whole second volume you didn't even know about).

Besides, it was Donna who brought me my closure, years ago. She was the one that made me see that it can never hurt to tell the people you love that you love them. Mom and I had never expressed this to each other, unless you count birthday cards.

Dad died in '85, also suddenly, two days after his birthday. Being sixteen, I was too wrapped up in whatever to remember to buy him a gift or a card, and I felt guilty about it so I simply said nothing. No 'Happy birthday,' no 'Good morning,' not even 'How was work?' Then he was gone, and the weight of those unsaid words pinned me for years and years. Even after dad died, I found those words hard to say, and I admit I could still say them more now. But mom and I exchanged those words at the end of every phone call for the last few years and whenever we saw each other, and I can never thank Donna enough for that.

My brothers and sisters think mom wanted to be cremated because, after my Aunt Claire died last summer, she mentioned the ridiculousness of the expense and rigmarole of a funeral. The day my aunt died, I dreamt that she was talking to me at a family picnic. I didn't recognize her at first because she was younger than I ever knew her to be, and frankly I hadn't thought of her much in years. She talked to me at length in the dream, and days later I found out from mom that she died right around the time I was sleeping. I had no recollection at all of what she said in the dream.

A few years after dad died my brother Charles got married. The night before the wedding, my mom was lying awake and crying, thinking about how she wished dad could be there. It's not fair, she thought over and over. Our dog, Rocky, who slept at the foot of her bed, suddenly got up with wide eyes and the fur of his back bristling. Mom asked him what was wrong, and then she heard three loud knocks. She didn't know where the sound came from, but Rocky settled back down and went to sleep, and soon my mother did too. The next day, mom told this to my sister Jackie, who said, "Ma, your song!" My parents' wedding song was "Always," which contains the lines:

Days may not be fair, always / That's when I'll be there, always.

When Donna and I married a year and a half ago, I read her the lyrics of that song as part of our vows. Shortly after, mom and I (along with Donna and her dad) danced to "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You," a favorite of mom's. After learning mom was gone last night, I watched TV with Donna, holding each other, my head alternating between numb and spinning. The first puzzle on Wheel of Fortune had the category "song lyrics":

- - - - / - / - - - - / - - - /
- - - - - - / - - - - / - /
- - - - / - - -
It didn't take long for me to figure it out. This time.

I'll miss you ma. Say hi to dad for me. I love you both.


Blogger MO'SH said...

The wedding, of course, was the last time I saw your mom. And, par for the course, I had a great time. She never treated me like another son, which was fine since I'm already someone's son. She always treated me like her son's friend in a 1950s sitcom way -- an important part of the scene, and the day. Almost like, "the dog's in the yard, the frogs are under the pool, the radio's playing songs, the mail's here, Mike's here..." I always loved coming over. Years later, of course, she "took me in" again in Calabash, pretty much financing our lazy adventures down there (I hardly remember working, just drinking wine and eating at buffets). Looking back, I see what an important figure she was in my life.

Those Bingo Biddies in heaven better double up on ink -- they're going to be in for tough games!

Sat Mar 03, 01:24:00 AM 2007  
Blogger the feeb said...

when you said your mom was 78 i was surprised. i always thought of her as a young person. she always seemed (to me) someone who lived their life fully. that was a really lovely eulogy you just wrote. i love you brother and you have my deepest sympathies.

Sat Mar 03, 10:13:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Morsel said...

Beautifully written. We love you and Donna, by the way!

Sun Mar 04, 10:47:00 PM 2007  
Blogger JGerardi said...

I have been fortunate that I have never lost someone truly close to me, at least in recent memory. My grandparents all died when I was wee little, and my parents are both still kicking. Believe it or not, at 37, I attended my first funeral, something I had largely avoided like the plague my whole life (for a co-worker of my wife, BTW).
I remember your mom well and as I read your piece I thought about the unique relationships friends have with their friend's moms. They vary from age to age, but they are always, at least in my experience, really precious things. My roomate in college lost his dad last year and I talked with his mom on the phone. While away at school, they were my home away from home, or my family away from home so to speak.
As I relayed to you in an email from a while ago, and it is a stupid little thing, but I remember it vividly, you me and your mom went to toys 'r us and were looking at Star Wars figures. She bought you a few and asked me if I wanted one. I thought that was so cool, my parents wouldn't even buy me figures except on bdays and holidays, I always had to save my allowance (it was Princess Leia in Bespin Outift by the way, a strange choice.)I spent so much time at your house growing up and genuinely thought your mom was... amused by me for lack of a better term. I also remember her trying to get me to go to the tryouts for the part of the little kid in The Toy cause she thought I looked like a mini Jackie Gleason.
Anyway my condolences and hope you are doing well.
Jeff Gerardi

Tue Mar 06, 12:46:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Brian Kunath said...

I met your mom only once; when I walked into her house in Calabash one afternoon, with a cigarette in my mouth and still wearing my Crab House uniform, and there she was sitting on the couch, back to visit from the West Coast.

I registered little other than discomfort at the time -- Mike whispering something about feeling suddenly awkward. Why not? We were interlopers, already half guilty about our essentially eventless lifestyles of gecko-spotting and sessions of afternoon TV.

But I possibly felt worse about clomping in with that cigarette dangling from my lips because your mom didn't know me from Adam. She just knew about the guy who once made the place look like an episode from Cops (according to her friend) and who may or may not have been dancing with a black woman on the front porch one evening.

She could have kicked me out. She probably should have. But she didn't. And I'll always be grateful to her for that.

I'm sorry to hear about her passing. You wrote a beautiful eulogy.

And though we haven't actually spoken in years, and despite my 50s-era attitudes about betraying my feelings, I just want to say that love you man.

Mon Mar 12, 02:17:00 PM 2007  
Anonymous Mick said...


Just happen to be up and thinking of my old friends and I stumbled upon your blog and learned of your mother's death. Although we haven't spoken in many years, I still think of all of you often. My deepest sympathies in the passing of your mother. Please know that my thoughts are with you and your family.

Mick LeVick

Wed May 02, 12:24:00 AM 2007  

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