Remembering Mom

Mama after chemotherapy

Happy Mother's Day 2008

As I watched my mother lay dying in 2002 I had nothing left for her but unconditional love, compassion and forgiveness. All those years of bickering and tough love and substance abuse were put aside, and I was so grateful to have the lifestyle which allowed me to take care of her that last year.

Yup, we only have one mum and dad, for better or worse, and we love them even though we might not like them. They love us if they know how - I was lucky - my parents weren't my best friends as a child. They were strict disciplinarians who relied on corpal punishment as a means to keep us in line. They worked long and hard to provide us with the material comforts of life, never really interacting "per se" but rather acting as "handlers." My dad was ALWAYS working - two jobs to raise his 7 children; and my mom worked with him in a swimming pool construction and maintenance company back in the '60s - Azure Pools. Wasn't that nice! I grew up in the water, spending every summer swimming and diving and thinking I could breathe like a fish!

Azure Pools

Their company on Van Nuys Blvd. in Los Angeles, CA. San Fernando Valley - I was a Valley Girl!
Their company on Van Nuys Blvd. in Los Angeles, CA. San Fernando Valley - I was a Valley Girl!

Happy Birthday Mom

Another August Birthday in sunny Sepulveda, CA.
Another August Birthday in sunny Sepulveda, CA.

Later

The company folded as my mom and dad could no longer agree on the "money" aspects; mom wanting more, dad eager to give services for less. So Mother started a career as a horse-racing fan frequenting Santa Anita, Del Mar and Hollywood Park. She was a professional gambler in those years, and also drank too much. Daddy kept servicing the pools but no longer built them. They stayed together another 30 years spending their 50th Wedding Anniversary together. By then Mother just wanted out, and Daddy knew it.

The years we spent in Southern California were exciting and fun and fast. Here is a picture of them together on their patio with pool in Sepulveda, CA, @ 1975.

The Big Move

Daddy finally got to retire in 1989 when he was 70 years old. He and Mother moved to Paradise, CA., just three hours north of my home in Sonoma County. Daddy got to raise chickens and grow a garden and slow down a bit. He and Mom took some cruises and went to Reno often to satisfy my mom's lingering gambling habit. Time passed, we had many wonderful reunions in that house until 1997 when Daddy died from a massive heart attack. It was fast, no languishing in a hospital bed. He made sure of that, didn't even tell mom until it was too late. He died in her arms. We were shocked; luckily I had just talked to him. Not so for a few of my sisters. It was very hard, but in the end we knew he hadn't suffered. It wasn't so easy with Mom.

Within two years she had moved to New Mexico (she was 78 years old) to be closer to her high school sweetheart with whom she had started a clandestine relationship a year before my dad departed. I'm sure that's one reason he gave up. Couldn't go on living the lies my mother had shoved down our throats all our lives. Anyway - the sweetheart wasn't that pleased as he was married, but Mom persisted and lived within two blocks of him, always ready to have a quick rendezvous or see him after church.

I had moved closer to her, but when she was diagnosed with lung cancer I sold my house, stored my stuff, and moved in with her for that last year. It was a hoot and a holler. We laughed and cried and remembered - argued and agreed to disagree. She was amazingly resilient - had learned to forgive, liked to smile and help others. She became the child in old age - as often happens. We are born helpless and end up that way too often.

It was an honor to help her - love her, cook for her, take her to countless doctors, sleep in the room with her, fight with the physicians and nurses about her progress. She was my mama, who helped me through so much as a young woman; who suffered through alcholism and substance abuse, as I have. We are so much alike I realize now, after a lifetime of trying not to be like her. I certainly see her when I look into my own eyes. Her lessons are my lessons. Her suffering is my suffering. We are one person, really, all of us with the same issues and desires and needs.

Love your Mama, she will be gone in a wink!

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