My mom passed away on October 29, 2009, on the 80th anniversary of Black Tuesday. The Great Depression was ever-present in Mom’s mind. Money, and the fear of not having enough, was a specter in her life. She was terrified she would run out in her old age.
One of Mom’s oft-repeated stories was the day my grandfather mis-timed his rent “game”, and my mom’s family was out on the street with all their belongings. My mom was a very impressionable 11 years old at the time. I never could quite relate to her financial angst, because she and my dad always provided for us. The Great Depression is a story to me, but it was reality for my mom, till the day she died.
My mom looms in my life. My dad was there. Mom was and is omnipresent. She was determined for all of her children to have a better life, and I have. I am successful thanks to Mom’s grit and determination.
I am very sad that Mom was never able to celebrate her success. She made it, and yet she never could accept that she was financially secure. I think her proud independence and deep humility helped her succeed and also prevented her from truly enjoying it. She used to say, “have fun, get your work done”. I wish she had more fun.
For Mom, work was fun, and fun was work. She had an incredible drive, an inner-power, which you couldn’t ignore. She cared about everything. Everything mattered, even the smallest detail. She was the penultimate perfectionist.
You didn’t mess with Mom’s kitchen. From the roses on the birthday cakes so carefully crafted to the hand-ground chop liver, Mom ran the show. Only later in life did I realize how much effort she put into the things I took for granted as a child. Her house was always in order. I need order in my life to feel comfortable.
Mildred was a very private person. She was not comfortable sharing her personal thoughts. I’m grateful I got to know her a bit better after she retired. She became more and more open with me. Mildred was a formidable woman but she was a frail human, just like me.
When I was growing up, she was Supermom. As she got older, she became more approachable, and we had a real friendship. I didn’t have the same opportunity to get to know Dad in that way. Mom’s passing makes me realize how much I knew about her, and I how little I knew about him. I hope that my kids see my fraility now so they have more time to get to know me.
I’m sad. Mom was perhaps ready to die, but she was alive just two weeks ago, when I last saw her. I’m sad, because she didn’t want to die. I don’t think she was afraid. I think she was not really ready. She had a lot of drive left in her, which she showed when I last saw her, just two weeks before.
Yet, she was starting to suffer from dementia. She knew this, and entrusted me to take care of her finances and bookkeeping. She knew the end was near. She had a clue about her dementia. Mom was proud but aware of her limits. Her fierce independence gave way to her more powerful pragmatism. Mom was too smart to hide from herself.
Mom passed away in her home after experiencing one of the “magnificent” sunsets she so loved to watch from her “Manor”. All her children were with her either in person or on the phone. Thank you Barbara for calling me so I could say goodbye. I can think of no better way for her life to end.
Goodbye, Mom. You were great, and I love you.