Monday, July 11th, 2011
As she lay dying, I spoke to her on the phone. I told her that it was okay to go. That she would live on through me and Fi.
I told my mom’s sister how much Fia loves sautéed spinach.“Your mom loved that growing up. We’d call her Popeye,” she said. I cringed. Dear lord, please give Fia the good genes from her. Like love of spinach and not crack.
It’s not that my mom didn’t have some amazing traits. In her early years she was smart and beautiful. Kind and colorful. But that was then. In her darkest days her childhood friends would shake their heads and tell me, “Everyone in high school wanted to be Suzy Newlon. Such a shame.” We’d all look down and mumble awkwardly in agreement.
Five decades of alcohol and drug abuse—including picking up a crack habit when she was 62-years-old—a few suicide attempts and a clear-cut diagnosis of bipolar—didn’t really give her a fighting chance.
One recent Christmas she went around her Florida condo complex with a 20-foot ladder. She climbed up the trees and spray-painted the coconuts red. It was an instant hit. On another Christmas she tried to kill herself by jumping off a parking garage.
I truly believe some people are born to conquer addiction while others are just born to stay addicts.
Last year at 64, her life had become desperately depressing and tragic. I rarely spoke to her. Neither did my siblings. But then a miracle occurred.
She had an intestinal rupture and went septic. Almost died. Ended up on life support. And while her health slowly deteriorated, her life got surprisingly better.
For the next 11 months she was mostly confined to a hospital bed. She had psychiatrists who tweaked and tweaked her mental meds. She had hot meals and an entire staff at her beck and call. She was the queen bee and basked in her royal treatment.
“I love it here. I can order a milkshake at 3 in the afternoon,” she’d tell me in her southern drawl.
The next day she would complain that the chicken was dry.
“Mom, this is a hospital, not the Four Seasons,” I’d remind her on the phone.
“I know that, but how hard is it to cook chicken right?”
I’d roll my eyes; secretly glad she was even complaining. In the past, depressive days meant curling up “in the ball” on her couch and refusing to speak to anyone.
At least now we knew where she was and that she was safe. It was also finally safe to bring Fi down to meet her. A hospital—germs and all– is far more sterile than her living conditions had become over the years. And I knew what I was getting: glimpses of the mom I had in childhood; when she was a superstar. Cool, fun, unconditionally loving.
Over this past year almost every trip down she was alert and attentive. She couldn’t get enough of Fi. This is a woman who had missed so much of my life. My wedding, my pregnancy, the birth of my daughter. We were both getting a second chance.
She would tell me how much Fia reminded her of me when I was little. I’d relish the stories. And feel relief that (so far) it seems Fia has much more of me in her genes than her grandmother. I can only pray the ones she does have from either of us are the good ones.
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Losing a Parent, Must Read
Friday, July 8th, 2011
My mom kept the best baby book for me. All my friends who have seen it are envious. Not only did she write down every doctor appointment/milestone, but for years she also wrote in the back of it the funny things I said as a kid.
Before she passed away, she kept telling me to do the same. And to keep a daily journal. I did do a baby book and it’s pretty comprehensive so far (no banter, as Fia is still on words, not sentences), but the daily journal thing continues to fall by the wayside.
“It only takes a minute at night to write down what you did that day with her,” she’d say.
And she’s right. But I just don’t do it. I justify it partially by having this blog. It’s an online journal. Not every detail is here, as that would be boring for everyone. But there are a few things I want to remember that she does. I’m going to try and update it periodically. So read no further as this probably won’t interest you. Instead, get out your pen and pad or your keyboard and do the same. If we don’t, how will we ever remember it all? They’re only going to be babies once.
- When she says bye-bye to someone (other than me or Phil) she waves, takes her finger to her nose, then sticks out her tongue. I think it’s a sign of affection.
- She kicks off her left shoe constantly. I’ve checked to see if that foot is bigger or smaller. It’s not. It’s just her thing.
- In the morning when I pull her out of her crib, she says “Elmo, Ernie, Abby” (it used to be “cat” or “Waaynee”). She gathers her little monsters in her arms and carries them out of the room with her. It’s about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. She holds all three of them while drinking her bottle (ba-ba).
- She loves her stroller with the tray in front. She is able to “perch” on it. She likes to wave to everyone walking by. She’s like the mayor.
- She’s obsessed with ice. We’ll be in a coffee shop and someone will order an ice coffee. She hears the clinking of cubes and yells, “ICCEEEE!” Same thing at home whenever I open the freezer.
- I call her “Silly Sally Fun Buns” and “Hot Dot Buns.” She was such a little circle/”dot” in the beginning. She also has such cute butt cheeks, so we started calling her Buns. Then “Fun Buns” and “Chitty Chatty Fun Buns” and on it went. I’m sure she’ll be horrified to read this when she’s a teenager.
- She loves taking big objects and putting them other places. For example: she drags the wagon at the playground into the toy house. The tricycle she drags up the steps and onto the jungle gym platform. Same with the toy stroller. Then she likes to send them down the slide and watch them fly. I always make sure an unsuspecting kid isn’t in the path of a runaway toy.
- She is a very busy bun. And a busybody. She is fascinated when other babies cry. And she loves older kids–especially boys. Like ages 5 and up. When they are in a mood to entertain her, she goes wild. Laughing, snorting, shrieking, flapping, clapping.
- When I read her the book “I Like It When” at bedtime, even in her sleepy stupor, she manages to imitate everything the book says. When I get to “I like it when we splash about” she splashes her hands on the page. On “tickle” she pretends to tickle herself.
- She also likes to imitate her dad doing P90X. When he’s jumping up and down, she tries to do it. But her feet do more of a march in place. Or for the arm part, she throws her arms in the air as best she can.
That’s it for now at 19 months. More to come.
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Tricks and Tips