A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance

Friday, April 3, 2009

My Mom

Today is the 15th anniversary of the day my mother passed away. And it still seems like yesterday. She was only 71 - in a family where most of the women live well into their 80's. Mom and I had our tough times when I was a teenager - I thought she was so out of touch and overly protective. Then I became a mother and suddenly she got smarter! By the time I was in my late twenties, Mom became my best friend and that never diminished. We talked to each other almost every day, even when I moved to another state. Our phone calls were probably annoying to those around us - we would call each other about anything. Something on tv, a funny story, a sad one, family gossip, anything. Often I would call her just to hear her voice and laugh and feel centered again.

One of the greatest gifts in my life is that I now have almost the same type of "phone call" relationship with my own daughter and it's something I cherish.

Mom grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Chicago, married her childhood sweetheart, had three kids, and was the happiest being a wife and mother. She was an incredible cook. One of those people who could whip up a wonderful meal on the spur of the moment with whatever happened to be in the house.
Our floors were always sparkling. She would wax and buff them, then put newspapers on them so we wouldn't get them dirty and they would be shining when my dad got home. Mom was a typical 1950's housewife - about 30 minutes before she knew my dad would be home she would get us kids cleaned up, change her clothes and refresh her makeup, start dinner and be sure the table was set. To her, it was the perfect existence.
My brother was born when Mom was 42 - she thought she had the flu! But, oh how proud she was of her new son.

My parents got divorced shortly after their 25th anniversary and my mom was devastated. But she pulled herself together, found a lot of inner strength, and forged ahead. She had a smile that would light up a room. She went out of her way to always find something good in everyone, to try to lighten up a tense situation, and to bring humor to our lives.

We laughed a lot! My brother and I spent a great deal of time just trying to make mom laugh. After she died, we came across a tape recording she had made of many of our answering machine messages to her - along with her own voice telling us how much she loved us, that we were her "trophies", and how much she enjoyed our ability to make her laugh and to make her happy. Of course, we cried a lot when we heard that.

I remember when mom was in the hospital room and we knew it was almost over. There were so many people who found out about her and came by to visit. And almost every one of them had a story about how she changed their lives for the better, how she was there for them, how much they would miss her. I remember how my brother was ready to drop out of his residency program at Stanford and stay in Tucson with her if she had to go to hospice care. I remember my uncle walking over to her bed and saying, "Damn it, Ro, please wake up!"

We were all so distraught at that time. It was Easter Sunday. My brother and I, his future wife, and my kids all flew to Tucson to be with her. We were at her apartment packing up her stuff (we knew she wouldn't be going back there) when my uncle called from the hospital to tell us she was gone. We stopped what we were doing, had a group hug with lots of tears in her living room, and then headed to the hospital to say our final goodbyes.

I don't know if there is any Internet access in Heaven (or if Mom has learned how to use a computer!), but, Mom, if you're able to see this, know how much we love you and still miss you. How rarely a day goes by that I don't think about you. How you would have laughed at the fact that your little girl is now a grandma (in fact, both of your daughters are grandmothers) and how much you would have loved your great-grandchildren. How you would have loved seeing Tony and his ever-growing family and knowing his four kids.

How I still sometimes find myself reaching for the phone to tell you something.


ba and the boys said...

that was just beautiful. thank you. now i need to go get more kleenex...

namaste said...

oh sandi. (((hugs!)))

when i saw the title of your post on my blog, i said, "oh no. is it that time?"

i have read many tributes on blogs. yours is the FIRST one to make me cry. this is so beautiful and wonderful, sandi. i don't know how i know, but i feel positive that your mom is reading this and experiencing all the continuing beauty of her wonderful legacy in you guys.

THANK YOU so much for sharing this sandi. if you don't mind, i am linking this on my blog. i really look up to you sandi. i love that you are in my life.

btw, the pic of your mom feeding your brother looks just like you!

namaste said...

note to self: do not fawn and type thru tears. i didn't realize i said your name so repeatedly. ugh! i sound like a dope!

It's Me said...

:::reaching for the kleenex::::

if i start a response, i'm afraid it will turn into 200 paragraphs.

the love of a mother is equal to none. i can truly understand how you feel, sandi. i'm crying.

Fleur de Lisa said...

Your mom was such a beautiful woman. Part of it was her 'outer' visible beauty but I can see that gleam of joy in her eyes and the stories you tell about her are so full of life. There's nothing like a mom!


Desert Diva said...

Your mother was a beautiful woman - both inside and outside. I'm sure there's a special place in heaven for her. Your tribute brought me to tears...

Jenni said...

I miss Grandma so much. I wish she was still alive so my kids could get to know her (although I'm sure I would have received more than one lecture about how I shouldn't let Jeff cook all the time!).

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful person, both inside and out. What strength she had.Someone to look up to and emulate. How lucky you were to have her!
My mother is much the same. The stories are similar too. I cry now when I just think of my mom not being here any longer. She's 76 now. I call her all the time, just like you used to do.
I still miss my grandmother who passed away when I was 16. She helped raise me was more like a second mom. But I talk to her still. Everyday. And I truly believe that she hears me. I am convinced that your mother hears you too and is right there beside you.
Big hugs, Sandi :)

Proud Italian Cook said...

Sandi, This is such a beautiful and touching post and a tribute to the mother she was to you and your siblings. I lost my mom when I was 9 to cancer, oh how I wish I had memories like you. She knows how much you love her!
xox, Marie

Luz said...

Lovely blog and photos about your mom and she was a beautiful woman. Thanks for sharing. Thankfully, my mom is still living and we do talk on the phone everyday.