Take Me Somewhere Else
As you age, you learn that one of these days your parents aren’t going to be alive any more. It’s inevitable. You’re supposed to outlive them, love them the best you can (you know…since they raised you and all), comfort them as they get older, and then hold their hand as they go off to a place that you won’t be able to follow. You know their death is going to happen. It’s coming one day so you better be prepared for it.
Tim and I have been together 18 years now. In that time span, we’ve said goodbye to both of sets of his parents/step-parents. His step-mother, his father, his step-father and then his mother. In there somewhere was the passing of my father. My mother lingered on to hold the crown of the only parent between Tim and I that lived!
That was until today. My mother passed away this morning before 6:00am.
The earliest memory I have of my mother is her making me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I distinctly remember where the peanut butter was kept. I can see the cabinet in my mind. I remember thinking that whatever that was that I just put in my mouth was AMAZING. And I wanted to remember where that shit came from. I remember being left with the baby sitter at the kitchen table with with my brother, Jim, with dot-to-dot books with Cracker Jacks and my mother kissing us goodbye before they left for the night to wherever they were going. My father was a stern, strict, harsh man. He ruled the roost, there was no doubt. He even ruled my mother. But, once in a while, there was a bright ray of kindness that she snuck in there to all of us when Dad wasn’t looking to remind us that she was the mother. And, for all intents and purposes, she was on our side.
My mother was one of my best friends growing up. She saved my life by jumping on my father’s back when he was beating me after I found his treasure (his dollar coin collection) and spent them on candy at the store. The Now N Later company made a killing off of me that month. Dad wasn’t happy at all. He went ballistic, and I will forever in my memory hear my mother yell, “That’s enough, Bob!” as she jumped on his back to tear him off of me. I might have been all of 10 years old then.
My mother was the one who caught me smoking. I had been smoking for a few months. I attribute that to Johnny Galbraith one cold day as we were playing in the woods. It was cold and he told me he could warm me up. I was only 12 years old…so there was no sexual innuendos then. He gave me a Salem cigarette. I lit it up, the trees started spinning, and I was hooked. It might have warmed me up, I don’t remember because to be honest with you – I was high and didn’t care. A few weeks later while I was at the bus stop waiting to get on the school bus, my mother pulled up in her car and caught me red-handed with the cigarette in my hand. From that day forward we’ve been “smoking buddies”. You’ll see why in a minute.
It was my mother who first heard that I am gay. She asked my boyfriend at the time, Chris, how long we had known each other and Chris answered, “Chuck and I have been lovers for about a year now.” Chris outed me. My mother in turn outed me to my dad. I wasn’t beat, I was banished. I was in the Air Force at the time and was home on leave. Chris and I went to a hotel to spend the rest of our leave. It wasn’t until later that Mom called me to tell me that she was fine with me being gay, but I needed to give dad some time. I agreed.
A few years later, Mom had a stroke that paralyzed her left side. Dad couldn’t do very much for her since he had every bypass ever invented on his heart. So I spent time in between college and running restaurants to bathe her, clothe her, feed her and eventually just moved back home so I wouldn’t always be so tired from school, work, and her. Now that I think about it…I was trying to make it easier on ME instead of easier on her. Dad and I didn’t get along at all. There definitely was no love. But I was there to make sure Mom was doing good. Until one day she got vocally angry about how I folded her socks wrong after doing the laundry (which I did as well). This got Dad stirred up and he kicked me out. I stayed at my brother’s house for a few months to get money saved for my own apartment. I slept on my nephew’s bedroom floor with Midnight (their black lab). When I got my own apartment just blocks away from my parent’s house, my mother hopped onto her mobile scooter and headed to my apartment to smoke on a daily basis. Dad would not let her smoke and would threaten anyone who let her. I figured that she was an adult making her own adult decisions, if she wanted to smoke – and since she saved my life a few times from my father’s hand – I would let her come to my place at any time to do whatever it was she wanted. This caused a huge rift between my father and I. But my mother and I remained close.
Mom and Dad eventually got a divorce. Mom had met another man, Grant, who would take care of her like she had never been taken care of before. Grant treated her like a princess. The family and I are simply amazed at how this man came out of nowhere to take care of Mom while she can hardly do anything for herself. Even after the divorce, it was Grant who found my father dead in his house. Mom moved to Missouri to be with Grant’s family. She never liked Florida and was only here because Dad brought her here. She complained about living in Florida a lot! Now living in Missouri, my mom and Grant would drive down to Florida to see my Aunt (her sister) Sandy, my brother, and I and then just drive back. It was a day trip for her. Grant would lift her out of the car and set her in the wheelchair to bring her into our apartment. Spend about an hour, and off they went. My mother loved Tim. Tim and I joked that I think Mom loved Tim more than she did me. She never ever failed to tell me she loved me and in the same breath tell me that she loved Tim. And then added, “Tim’s my boy.”
And I loved her. Growing up I used to brush her hair or rub her legs before I went to bed. She was always so tired. We laughed. A lot. Sometimes we laughed so hard that I might have pissed a little. I won’t ever admit it if I did. But, it might have happened a few times. She bought me smokes. Not many since I think I only smoked like two a day. And they were usually her cigarettes anyway that I had snuck out of her purse. She taught me to never go into a woman’s purse. Ever. And I still don’t. She was there for my graduation from both high school and for college. She taught me how to drive. She taught me how to count my money. She was the one who would send me the Sunday comic section every single week while I was in the Air Force, since that was the only section I waited for all week long when I was at home. We cried, especially when I was giving her baths after the first stroke. She felt she had lost her beauty, and I cried because she was crying. It was impossible for me NOT to cry whenever she cried. It always broke my heart to see my mom crying.
Our calls got further and further apart when she moved to Missouri. I can’t tell you why. I figured she was with Grant and her new family. I just didn’t want to bother them. I had my own thing to do and she was doing hers. I told Tim that I needed to call her more often. We even made plans to send her chocolates, Girl Scout cookies, and more flowers since Grant had to put her into a nursing home. We just didn’t get to it in time. She was in the nursing home for a few weeks before she had yet another stroke last week and was sent to the hospital. She had passed on this morning. The call from Grant confirmed it.
My longest running best friend has died. And I am sad. I’m not grieving, because I know she’s in a much better place now. She was seriously miserable these last few months. When I talked to her on the phone she complained about everything, “The room is too cold,” or “they won’t let me smoke,” or “they push me in the chair too fast,”….that was typical “Mom” stuff. I’m sad because after 52 years, I will never hear her voice again. We won’t laugh even when she’s being mean about something. And I won’t ever hear, “I love you, honey,”
Good bye, Mom, I love you too. Rest in peace. I’ll look for you among the stars.