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Today I get to read about my mom here at Writers Conference – thank you so much Victoria Zackheim – and I want to share with you how I came to know that I had become the woman she always wanted to be.
It was the last time I saw her. She was in an Assisted Living facility; I now refer to our last visit: Assisted Loving.
I went to spend 10 days with her. I stayed at a hotel nearby, walking distance. Our visit was hard. Some days she was feisty and difficult and irritable, and on others she was tender and frail and gentle. Some days she had no idea who I was, one others I was her Amy; some days she was filled with rage and howling noises, other days she was silent and watching cartoons – her favorite. She wore a soiled nightgown and her hair, once coiffed weekly and curled, was now full on gray and stick straight.
She had once been a beauty – a beauty queen – she was now small and shrinking into her own skin; disappearing physically and emotionally.
I spent time down at the bar at the hotel I was staying at, and went back to my room. Undressed, washed up, got into bed, called Ken and chit-chatted for a while. In the middle of the night I got up to pee. I stopped at the full length mirror, and I looked at myself – full on – naked; and I saw myself: a woman who never had kids, a woman who followed her heart even when her heart was cracked & chipped & yes, broken; a woman who was feisty and crazy-ass and yes, often testy and impatient; a woman who went for her dreams and never gave up even when it felt wholly fucking impossible, a woman who chose a creative path – writing; a woman who chose unconventional and rebellious and shaky as her foundation; and as I stood there looking at my body – a body that was slender but not tight, a body that was strong but not muscular, a body that had so many hidden scars that had turned into stardust, and I knew in that moment, in that hotel, in front of that mirror that I had become the woman my mother always wanted to be.
And in that moment, in that hotel, in front of that mirror I let go of much of the anger & much of the disappointment & much of the bitterness I held onto for so very long and replaced that with a profound appreciation that she – a woman who gave up all of her dreams of being an artist and all of her hopes of living a creative life and her desire to be unconventional – that she brought me into this world.
***Thank you Amy for these beautiful words. They reflect so much that is in my heart about my own momma!”
Another birthday without my mother, D’VASHA, is upon us as she is not here on earth to celebrate. Being a Leap Year Baby, my mother would be celebrating 24 ¾ years-old or in reality 99! My mother had a dream to live to be 100 years-old as she wanted to be recognized by the POTUS; although she would not want it to be our current President (and I use that term lightly.)
My mother was the first generation born in the United States after her parents immigrated from the hell hole of the POGROM life in Russia. As the story goes my Baube and Zayde, and various family members ran and hid on several occasions when the Cossacks barged into their Sheitels killing whoever was not fast enough or strong enough to get out of their path. My mother’s father, my Zayde Friedman, came to the United States by ship riding steerage among hundreds of other looking for a better life. In the early 1900’s you had to be sponsored to come to America, and he was through cousins who came here before him. When Zayde came to America, he left behind my Baube Ida and their first born, my Aunt Jean. He first settled in Boston, Massachusetts and after a short time moved on to Detroit, Michigan where additional relatives helped him establish a life and a career as a tailor. Once he had enough money saved up, he traveled back to Russia to bring his family home to America. What he found upon his return was a deserted village, and in time he reunited with his wife Ida and daughter Jean, and a second daughter Ann. Zayde did not know his beloved Ida was with child when he came to America to prepare a home, can you say surprise? (Within years they became citizens of the United States.)
It would be many years later on February 29, 1920, that my mother was born she was one of seven children of which only five lived into adulthood, my mother the last one of her family living until October 11, 2016.
I was born on March 4, 1950, and although I would not be a Leap Year Baby, my momma was determined that our birthdays would be shared. For the majority of my life, we shared one birthday cake, and I became a year older several days before my official birth date. In recent years I would manage to get up to Detroit to spend our birthday together whether it was a party for her special day, on her 75th, 90th, and 95th imparticular. At her 95th birthday, my mom gave a little speech, and she reminded us, her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren as well as nieces and nephews that she was in charge because she had earned the right at 95-years-old! It was on that day she proclaimed she would live to be 100 so she could receive a proclamation from the sitting president, who would have thought?
My mother was in excellent health, who would have thought she wouldn’t live to be 100 years old? And who would have thought that our government would be in such dismal shape as we approach the year, 2020? My mother was a work of art; she was a kind caring individual; she would think about others before herself, and yet she was not perfect. If my mother liked you (loved you), you would know it, and she liked most people. However, if she didn’t like you because you scorned her or her family, she was unforgiving. She truly was a Grizzly Bear when she felt it was necessary.
My mother and I had a very tough but loving relationship. Most of my life I felt like a disappointment to her, and because of that I often misread her words and actions. However, I was lucky to learn that I was liked and loved by my momma, we shared her last weeks together expressing our thoughts while the elephant sat in the room and we never mentioned the words that identified death and dying. For me, there was no need because I knew that my mother would live on in me, my brothers, my children and theirs. We hold the DNA that provides me the opportunity to hear her voice, see her smile, and even her look of dismay that makes me sit up straight and think, how would momma like me to be today?
So today she would be 99 and a year from now that milestone 100. This morning before Alex left for work he said; we need to celebrate her life next year. She was our matriarch. She nursed my dad through years of ill health bouts and never once complained or uttered a disparaging word even when it meant turning their life upside down. My mother was empowered (and she may not have known it) but it is her strength that has provided me with the capacity to seek life and commemorate the lives of others.
Just a side note, I have learned that our current POTUS does not indulge in sending out the 100-year birthday proclamations. I guess he is too busy trying to build a wall.