A year without Mom

30 comments on A year without Mom
4 minutes

Mom died a year ago today. I’m surprised this day is already here, as the time has flown by.

Mom with her dog Abigail, 2012.

When Mom died, I was relieved for her. She did not enjoy the last year of her life, with the chemo and all of the procedures on her back. “If this is my life,” she said, “it sucks and I don’t want it.”

My feeling of relief persisted over the following months, while my life kept going. I have a full life and it’s very easy to just be distracted by it. My heart hurt, but I was not overcome with grief.

A couple weeks ago I noticed that I was unusually crabby, was having trouble sleeping, and felt more down than usual. I wondered what was going on until I saw on my calendar that today was the first anniversary of Mom’s death. The body always knows, even if your conscious mind is oblivious.

I’ve been thinking about some really good memories with Mom. When my brother and I were small, once she made a picnic lunch for us. Mom knew that if we walked along the utility poles behind our houses, we’d come to a wide clearing. She spread out a blanket on the tall grass and spread out sandwiches and chips on melamine plates. It was such a simple thing, but at that young age it felt like a big adventure to me. Another time, she took us downtown on the city bus — Mom didn’t drive — and we shopped at our city’s big local department store. She bought us lunch on the mezzanine. I’d never been waited on at a restaurant before, and I was so impressed with Mom for knowing how to navigate the grown-up world.

Mom in the kitchen in our first home, about 1973

I remember making pizza with Mom, many times. It was my job to shred the mozzarella, in those days before pre-shredded cheese was a thing. She figured out how to make milkshakes in her blender, and would make them for us as a special treat every once in a while. When my brother and I were old enough to do chores around the house, one was drying the dishes she washed. We had the best conversations at the kitchen sink. Mom told me later that she figured her two sons would open up to her best if they were doing something side by side, which was a remarkably astute thing for her to realize.

When I was in my 20s and lived independently, I always invited Mom to spend a week with me in my apartment every summer. I lived four hours away, so I didn’t get to see her very often. One of those summers I still worked for a local AM radio station part time, and the fellow who did the mid-day show was sick for a few days. My boss knew I was on vacation from my regular job and asked if I’d be willing to fill in. Mom didn’t mind, so I said yes. I owned an old radio from the 1940s, full of tubes, and it had a warm, rich sound. Mom talked for the next 25 years about how much she loved hearing me on the radio, playing the old standards that station programmed, through that period-correct radio. I’m so happy I got to make a strong memory for Mom, just as she had done for me so often when I was young.

I’m glad for Mom that she died, as her life offered her nothing she enjoyed in her last year. There were no realistic prospects her life would improve. I’m relieved that the heavy involvement my brother and I had caring for her in her last couple of years is over — I feel like I have my life back. Sometimes I wish I could call her just to feel connected to her for a minute. There are times I wish I could rely on her understanding and advice as I always had. That only means I must now lean on my own wisdom and experience, which I’m finding to be far more considerable than I’ve given myself credit for. But all the same, I’m sad she’s gone.


30 responses to “A year without Mom”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Lost my Dad in 2003, when I was working and living in Washington DC, so I came home to watch out for my Mom, taking a big down shot in employment. Mom passed in 2011. Both my parents had pretty good lives, and remained physically and mentally functional until a few weeks before their deaths; something they both had wished for. I feel very sorry for people managing elder care for their parents who are mentally or physically deficient for months or years before their passing. I wish I could have been better for my mom on a daily basis towards the end, but battling marginal employment to stay in a city I didn’t really like, to be near and available for her, was psychologically debilitating for me and a constant struggle. I wish I could have found employment in my field and just been able to spread money around to make it all much easier. There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t think of my Mon and Dad.

    BTW, most of my corporate management career was for large regional retailers, and we were constantly discussing the change in how the business ran and how it was changing to not be much for anyone. One of the areas that was painful to let go was the department store “nice” restaurant, where most kids had their first decent dining experience, usual with their Mom, and table cloths and a wonderfully personable waitress/waiter, and maybe even a Shirley Temple. It was a sad day when that opportunity started disappearing in the late ‘80’s, and I’m glad you were of a generation where you could still experience that!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Dad’s cancer came and went over a decade, and macular degeneration slowly robbed him of sight during that time — but for the most part, Mom cared for him. My brother and I were left to care for Mom, but things were bad only for a year. So I guess we are fortunate.

      I feel indeed happy that I lived at the tail end of the department-store era. I even got to experience Marshall Field’s on State Street a few times before Macy’s took it over.

  2. Steve Lamb Avatar
    Steve Lamb

    I’m glad you have such pleasant memories. Stay focused on the positive things. God bless.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you Steve!

  3. Mauro Avatar

    Dear Jim,
    I lived the same experience recently: I clearly understand what s in your mind now.
    We must keep the smiling faces of our beloved parents in our heart, and we will never be alone.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I almost chose to remain single. Having a new family has prevented a great deal of loneliness. Losing Mom would have been doubly hard without my new family.

  4. DougD Avatar

    Yeah, it was 4 years for my mother this year. Same feelings of relief and sadness, and that time keeps going. Luckily Dad is still doing well at 85.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      85 is a good, long life! I hope he’s healthy and happy.

  5. Margie Avatar

    A beautiful tribute. Those memories are precious. Love the two pictures. Thanks for sharing with us.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you Margie!

  6. Suzassippi Avatar

    Isn’t it fun to see the pictures of our parents as they used to be? (Kind of like seeing the ones of me as I used to be, too.) I get that wanting to feel connected for a minute–I still have days where I think “If I could just call Mom” and it’s coming up on 5 years in a couple of months. This was a lovely remembrance of your mother.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Wouldn’t it be lovely to hear our mothers’ voices one more time?

  7. Cousin Josi Avatar
    Cousin Josi

    My mom passed suddenly23 years ago. I still think to call her to tell her something. I really wanted to talk to her as I navigated marketplace insurance, she used to sell insurance. I remember going to lunch with my Grandmother almost every weekend to the fancy Robertson’s tea room, the lunches at J.C. Penny and the lunch counter at Kresges, a dime store with a lunch counter, best club sandwiches and pie, cannot forget the pies. Loved your mom and dad. They were a big part of my life. Holidays were a packed crowd, 3 or more crammed into my mom’s house. Great storytellers.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You lost your mother too soon.

      I knew about the tea room and Kresge’s counter, but I didn’t know Penney’s had a lunch place as well!

  8. tbm3fan Avatar

    My mother has been dealing with slowly advancing dementia since 2015 and she is now 91. In April she fell and broke her leg and while in the hospital for one night something changed. She was discharged, unsafely, the next day and went into hospice based on what my RN niece knew. She filed formal complaints against the hospital with the state. Given the weekend to live she blew right past that. Later with diminishing O2 saturation levels given a week to live. She blew past that. She may recognize me deep, deep down in the back of her mind but outwardly just stares while in bed. I have come to terms with her passing as it would be best for her knowing her.

    I wasn’t prepared for my father in January 2019 after brain surgery for benign tumors. I definitely wasn’t prepared for my younger sister’s sudden death in December 2019 from a brain aneurysm. I was watching “The Pacific” last night and boy did it bring back a flood of memories of my father since he fought in the Pacific to. That really caught me last night. My sister will come up in December since she died on my birthday.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m very sorry that this is your current experience with your mother. I wish none of us had to keep living when we got to that point.

  9. Kodachromeguy Avatar

    That is a very nice tribute. I’m sorry for you and your brother’s loss. As we get older, memories of our parents come back up to the surface, especially after our parents pass away.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks, friend.

  10. -Nate Avatar

    Very well put Jim ;

    loosing a parent is a once in a lifetime thing and everyone reacts differently .

    I was never close to my mother being and “!OOPS! baby ” .

    When she died I didn’t feel much for a year then a deep sadness set in as I pondered what might have been .

    Don’t wait too late to make time for your children ~ one day you’re in the delivery room watching them get born and the next you’re holding your grand children and wondering what the hell happened .

    I have so very few good memories of either of my parents, cherish the ones you have .


    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m sorry you didn’t get to have a close relationship with your parents. I realize I’m blessed that I did.

  11. Tracie Silva Avatar
    Tracie Silva

    Thinking of you. Your mom was a special lady!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you Tracie!

  12. Ed Avatar

    I also was relieved and happy for my mom when she passed Jim. I spent as much time with her as much as possible while she was in hospice. My moms been gone now for about 23 years. Her birthday will be next week.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      23 years! That’s a long time. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  13. Clifford Baldwin Avatar
    Clifford Baldwin

    Thank you, Jim, for this touching post. The photo are wonderful as well.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you Clifford!

  14. brandib1977 Avatar

    Lovely memories, Jim.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar
  15. J P Avatar

    It is a terrible conflict when a parent is in a final illness with no hope and bad quality of life. At the end, we have to take it as a blessing – that there is no more suffering, and also that we got many good years. Thanks for sharing your good memories here with the rest of us.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Jim.

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