Tag Archives: death

Happiness Is Doing What Your Mama Says (even after she’s gone)

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My mom died five years ago today.

 

I’ve spent the past four anniversaries of her passing confounded by the shock and awe that goes into the passage of time.  I wrote about it last year, and the year before that, and so on.  I’ve always focused on my kids because – truly — nothing is a greater catalyst for maternal awareness than grief and loss.  It halts us:  little boys sprouting facial hair and muscled man-limbs in the blink of an eye, teenage girls blossoming into fascinating young women (with – eek! – boyfriends) and the dizzying commitments on calendar pages that keep us busier and busier (and busier…) with each passing year.  If only we had a dollar for every friend to lament, “Where did the time go?” on a post or picture.  It happens every day.

 

I think this year, though, I’m feeling different. I’m certainly still amazed by the quickness of time (and yes, I am still in disbelief that I can now legally grab a beer with 50% of my children). But I’m finding as time moves on, I am less paralyzed by the passage of it and more accepting of the presence – and present — of it.  I like it.  I really, really like knowing – and even not knowing – something’s coming ahead.  This slight shift in my personal paradigm keeps me excited and hopeful for the future, even on the down days.

 

Graduations.  Colleges.  Engagements.  Professions.  A stubborn boy’s long hair FINALLY getting chopped … There is so much greatness going on at every turn of our lives, and so much promise, it’s almost unfair not to be happy.  I have to be honest:  if my mom ever caught wind that there was anything other than joy where her grandkids are concerned, she would be one pissed chick.

 

So while I miss her like crazy, I can’t often stay sad for more than a moment or two.  That’s just not how she rolled.

 

I’ve no doubt part of my mind shift came with turning 50 this year.

50.

Holymutherfkkingsh*t, right? How the effing hell did that happen?  I’m pretty sure I can still dig up my tee-shirt that boasts “We work less and party more, cuz we’re the class of ’84.”  Seriously, this is something.  A lot of reflection comes with that magic number.  I remember planning my mom’s 50th surprise party.  We crammed all her friends into my tiny newlywed apartment and basically threw her a keg party.  She didn’t drink beer but we did, and as far as entertaining, okay, we knew little else. It worked.  She was elated – and equally annoyed:  she had just become a grandmother and was none too happy that her little baby Jesus didn’t make it to her kegger.  Still, she was surrounded by love.  And was until the end.

 

On these anniversaries I think of the friends my mom left behind and I am so, so sad for them to be going on without her.  I know profoundly the void they feel.

 

She taught me well.  Like her, I’ve become adept at insulating myself with friends who care deeply for me, friends I would do anything for in return.  Most are a phone call away.  Others, a car ride.  One, a plane ride taken on a moment’s notice.

 

Growing up, I used to read Erma Bombeck all the time.  I loved the stuffing out of her.  During winter break of my senior year of college I came across her column in the New York Daily News entitled “No Greater Friend Than a Best Friend.”  I clipped it and held onto it for a couple of months and then mailed it in a birthday card to Kristi, my best friend since 5th grade.  There was rarely a time we were ever living in the same state together for very long.   Kristi held onto it for almost a decade, then sent it back to me in a card for my 30th birthday.   I framed the yellow newsprint and sent it back her way when she turned 40.

 

Naturally it made its way back to me a few months ago.

It’ll hang on my wall for another ten years until, well, you get it.

 

 

How unfathomably fortunate that I have a 40-year friendship going strong?

How impossibly amazing for my mom to be the subject of such beautiful memories for so many?

How ridiculously wrong that my own children didn’t plan my 50th festivities???  (I kid, I kid.  I masterfully controlled every detail.)

 

I think about her every day but I honor her today.

 

You’re on so, so many minds today, Mom.

Cheers and love.

xoxo

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram. 

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Daughter Strong: Four Years of Reflection

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Mom doing what she loved best

My mom died four years ago today.

I no longer spontaneously cry – making beds, walking down the produce aisle, seeing commercials for cancer centers when I least expect it —

But I still catch myself absent mindedly reaching for the phone when something funny happens.   You know, the house phone.  I can’t really name too many people I still talk to on my house phone anymore.  Even now, 1460 days later, I’m not ready to get rid of it.

I’ve honored her memory every passing year by putting into words the changes that have crept into my life in the time without her and have usually marked its passage by focusing on my kids;  their size, their maturity (or, hello, teenagers: lack thereof), and their role as unknowing anchors in my unsteady journey through middle age.  It’s funny;  I often wonder how they’d take knowing the true strength of their super powers.

What’s heaviest on my mind on this anniversary, though, is the profound change of my emotional core.  My emotions – and the things that affect me — have veered tremendously from what once was.

You know what angers me most now?   When friends roll their eyes over their mothers’ forgetfulness.  Or annoying habits.  Or intrusiveness.  Or anything, really.  I find myself irritated when they complain about perfunctory – and quick – visits with their moms and I often suppress the need to scream when hearing they  dutifully “have to” go see their moms for dinner, or doctor’s appointment, or — again — anything, really.  It infuriates me that they just don’t get it.  Or understand what others would give for one more day.

Know what makes me happy now?  That my mom died so young.  And quick.   It’s actually a rather ironic personal admission I’ve made peace with.  She was only 69 when she passed and the toxins in her body were vicious and speedy, taking her within six months from start to end.  The thing is, prior to her diagnosis, she was beautiful, hipper than most her age, and stylish.  Extremely stylish.  She was envied for her magnetic humor, was incredibly charismatic and if I may be cliché, a treasured friend.  Really and truly treasured.  She was also quite the hot ticket:  In sickness, when she was too weak to get to Kohl’s, she circled items out of their circular and sent me out to buy them.  Shoes and bags she never did muster up the energy to use.  But she had to have them.

She was immeasurably vibrant and if I’m being totally honest, I find comfort in that image being my final remembrance of her.  I will never, EVER know her as a frail, feeble old lady, with white hair and stooped shoulders.  I will never feel pointed sadness helping her up a flight of stairs.  I won’t ever have to visit her in a nursing home and spoon feed her.  And I will never know the unfathomable despair of watching her recollection of me and other loved ones fade from her memory right before my eyes.  She will forever be my great-shoe-wearing, never-leave-the-house-without-makeup-wearing, always-with-awesome-accessories-wearing 69-year-old mom.  And that is my beautiful image.  And that makes me happy.  I imagine I’m not the first person who’s lost someone too early in life to cling to this shred of positivity, so I’m not sorry for it.

Know what I care about now?  Hmmmm.  Not so much.  I keep a firm grasp on my family, of course, and make sure we stay intact because it’s all we have and all we need.  It is the good stuff for sure.  But all the other stuff?  Meh.   See ya.  Grudges, weight-gain, the-sky-is-falling hysteria of every day that screams BREAKING NEWS?  I let all go.   I learned how to surround myself with drama-free friends.  I ask myself, What’s the worst thing that can happen?  And I realize it’s not the end of the world if (pick one) a kid doesn’t go to college or a spouse loses a job or a kid drops OUT of college or the bills are piling up or the kid doesn’t play Varsity or someone snubbed someone on Facebook.  Ah, what the hell, pick ‘em all.  None truly matter.

Not in the least.

So I really don’t care about all that much these days.  Just the good stuff.

I wish she could see how fantastic her grandkids are turning out.

I wish she could see the living room chairs I just spray painted.

I wish she could see how long my hair’s gotten.

I just miss her like mad.

And when my youngest, sitting in my passenger seat, innocently blurts out, “This song reminds me of Nanny…

I know we all do.

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram.

How Long is 3 Years? Any Mom Can Tell You

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I lost my mom three years ago today and began marking the anniversary of her passing with some reflections about passing – time passing, that is.  Most people don’t notice time passing in any given day but Moms certainly do.

 

Moms get it.  We get it when we look down at our 8th graders and see hairy man legs.  Even though we’ve seen that gangly leg a zillion times it still halts our heartbeat for a second when we, you know, really see it.

 

We notice time passing when our 10th graders start sporting sideburns and facial hair and we realize we never even saw it coming.  One day it’s just, well, there.  When did that start? we wonder.  Geeze, we’d focused so intently on the deepening voice …

 

When the summer days start getting shorter moms become aware of time when our college coeds start gathering their things again.  Already?  Really?    We watched them whizzing around for a few weeks, burning the candle at both ends (a mirror image of ourselves so many years ago) and then poof, they’re gone again.

 

We moms also give a knowing nod to the slow passage of time when our oldest children – kinda sorta adults in the making — start paving their own paths through life with or without our gentle suggestions. Having to watch mistakes being made — then figured out — oddly enough causes time to stall a bit (insert nervous laughter from parents living with young adults).

 

It’s pretty easy to see how moms become acutely aware of time.

 

This past weekend a big group of friends and I took a ferry over to Provincetown and spent a spectacular summer day carousing in the sunshine (and, okay, perhaps a few bars, too).  It was a stunning day yet I had tiny moments of sadness throughout it because it dawned on me: the last time we all did this together was exactly three years ago.  I know this so well because it was the one lone day of fun I experienced that summer before spiraling down the heinous rabbit hole that was my mom’s cancer.

 

I used to phone her on the weekends to catch up, telling her all about the kids’ games or what I bought on sale that afternoon or any frolicking I’d done with my zany friends.  Sometimes I’d just pour a glass of wine and shoot the shit with her. She’d always turn down the volume on the Law and Order episode in the background and listen happily as I went on and on, blissfully content in the animated updates of my life with her beloved grandkids

 

That last ferry outing is seared into my memory because when I phoned her that evening to tell her all about it, for the very first time she was unable to keep up her end of our conversation.  She was frail and whispering and I remember hanging up and sobbing.  I knew:  she was fading away from me. Our special phone thing was never going to happen again. Within days I was back with her in New York, where I didn’t leave until her horrific ordeal was over, just weeks later.

 

I remember every moment of our final phone conversation.

 

156 weeks have flashed by and still my maternal awareness of time flares at the most unexpected times.

 

Today, the dynamic of my family is dramatically different than it used to be three years ago.  Now a household of teenagers and young adults, it is, if I’m being honest, a much lonelier place for me.  Mind you, it’s not a sad place – quite the contrary – it’s busier than ever and full of laughs (ahem, hilarious at times) and as chaotic as any other family of six usually is.  But as Dorothy Gale once said, “People come and go so quickly around here.”   That tends to happen in a household of primarily self-sufficient bodies.  Work schedules, college distance, school events, social commitments, you name it.  Family dinners are a rare occurrence now and more often than not there are nowhere near six people under the roof at any given time.

 

Everyone’s so busy they’re hardly ever here anymore.

 

So sometimes it just gets a little lonely when I remember about that pesky – and fleeting – time thing.

 

It makes me appreciate car rides.  And conversations.  And calendar pages with few markings on them.

 

And it makes me feel wickedly sneaky frying bacon for the sole purpose of waking teenage boys out of weekend slumbers.

 

And it makes me acutely aware that small moments are very, very good.

 

And  — without question — it makes me vow that forever … if I happen to get a phone call from one of my loves that is afar … I will turn down the volume of Law & Order and listen up.

 

And be very, very happy.

 

Just the way my mom was.

 

 

 

 

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was just featured in the Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook.