Archive for October, 2012

What a Bunch of Cry Babies…

October 7, 2012

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Hi – I’m Michael. I’m her baby.

That’s what my mother always said when she introduced me. I’m the youngest of four and Glo told my wife I was her best work. My mother never lied…

This weird image occurred to me late one night while she was in the hospital – shark teeth – a mouth full of shark’s teeth. Probably because of all the news of sharks on Cape Cod, but I thought about it for a bit. Sharks have rows of teeth, one behind the other, and when one breaks off another moves up to take its place.

With Glo’s passing, my brothers, my sister and myself are the front teeth now and I for one don’t like it.

That’s a lot of responsibility. Ads say people judge you by your smile and here we are – front and center – but Glo had confidence in us. She always told me that no matter how much we rebelled and tested her she knew we’d turn out all right. She said it was the Sargent genes.

We all did turn out all right. Now we all have families of our own and some of our children – Nana Glo’s grandchildren – have begun their own families – new teeth for the future.

She liked to point out she had grandchildren from A-Z …twice! My mother liked that kind of humor – bad puns and wordplay. Nana Glo knew that our kids would rebel and test us – She would tell me payback’s a bitch, knowing that everything would be alright. They have the Sargent genes, too.

I would like to add a word or two here from our other sponsor in the family gene pool,  Reginald – our father, but he had a hard time getting a word in edgewise in life so why should death be any different? – Thanks anyway, Reg and a tip of the chromosome to you, too. I know you too played a big part in our lives.

But this is about our mother and your friend and neighbor.  Gloria had thoughts and words for all of us; often not complimentary, but always heartfelt.

Let me tell you about her last few weeks. She had been truly sick for just a very short time. That first weekend visiting her in the hospital I saw how frail she had become. Just a week early I had come down to visit and I took her to the doctor’s office. She had a cough and Dr. Moncholi thought she should have a chest X-ray. We went over to Cape Cod Hospital and we walked all the way to the back of the complex for her X-ray. That was our last real walk, though I did push her around in a wheelchair to look at the art up on the hospital walls, which she could describe in detail.

When she knew that the likelihood was slim of regaining back her health and her independence – to garden, to go to craft shows and symphony, to fully participate in life. She decided that it was time – over all of our objections.

She knew what she wanted. Glo always knew what she wanted. She wanted water, but with no ice. She wanted to vote – Joe got the absentee ballot and she voted. She wanted to die.

She gave us all a moment or two with her. I read the obituary to her I had started and she gave me some corrections and additions. I read her the shell of what I’m reading to you now. I cried.

We all cried because we would miss her. She called us all crybabies and she took off her oxygen, laid her head back and closed her eyes. This was to be the moment. My mother can be an impatient woman, but her body didn’t get the memo.

So now she wanted to watch the debate and was going to watch the debate on her terms. You would only be allowed in the room if you were going to be serious. You had to be seated fifteen minutes in advance to get the chit-chat out of the way. You got shushed and waved off if you so much as cleared your throat. Midway through she fell sound asleep. Her body needed this, exhausted from the steady stream of visitors and illness. But the timing was perfect, she was being transferred out of the ICU to another room.

Awakened from the move, she watched to the end of the debate and clapped. Clearly, this was not for the president’s performance, but for achieving her goal – watching the debate. During the news that followed I noticed she paid particular attention to the weather. I’m thinking to myself how weird that must be – of all the mundane things in life we do, we still do them even with our last moments… She was checking out the five day forecast. Looks like a crappy holiday weekend, except for Friday – drizzle and overcast every day except Friday. My mother got wide eyed and energetically nodded her head in the affirmative each time the weatherman mentioned Friday in the forecast. Little did I know she was making plans, she always knew what she wanted.

We set up for hospice care in her home. The bed was delivered and Peter set it up in front of the slider facing the pond. My daughter, Addy, shopped for some food we could all pick at – She has learned a great lesson from her mother – even in the worst of times people need to eat.

The next morning, Thursday, we got her home in an ambulance with my wife riding in the back with her. Glo was having her own parade and Pam tells me she waved to everyone along the route. Hello, Goodbye! As soon as she was settled Jeff brought her cat, Nuit, so she could pat him. That was something else she wanted. She also wanted Nuit listed first in her obit as next of kin – he is.

Now picture this scene – My mother in a hospital bed in her livingroom, a couple of her kids or grandkids attending to her, hospice nurses doing paperwork, nieces and nephews catching up with each other, my daughter drawing up doses of morphine at the dining room table – and my mother’s gardener arrives with a diaper wearing chicken on a leash. Norman Rockwell never painted this family tableau.

My mother pats the chicken. We all talk about the chicken, the gardens, and what needs to be tended to – and life becomes normal for a minute. We begin making plans, we make jokes about the chicken’s nickname – Wee Willy Winky  – and we think we might be here for sometime – weeks perhaps. But that is not what Gloria wanted. She was not one to linger, when it was time to go – it was time to go.

I think about how she died. We were all in her living room. Her respirations were getting less and less deep, but she did not labor. I needed to sleep and I laid down on the loveseat next to her bed. What seemed like seconds later my wife shook me – I was snoring. I repositioned myself like I always do when I get the shove and went back to sleep. It was only a few minutes later when my wife shook me again and said, “Your Mom has stopped breathing.” I got up and brushed my mother’s forehead and looked around. Surrounded by her family, just as the first light of Friday broke, the only nice day of the week according to the five day forecast, my mother died.

She knew our future – she knew it was her time. I think I see some of what she saw. She had taught us our lessons and put herself inside all of us. She no longer worried. She would live because of the lives we live – and that our children live.

Think about it.

She gardened – We all garden. She has a house of knick knacks – We all have houses of knick knacks. She has cats – We all have cats. She liked to talk – We all like to talk. She was always right – We are always right.

So that’s what I see. We are her. She knew that. She knew things would be OK because she knew she would live through us, her kids and grandkids. We will garden, decorate and feed our cats and, most of all, we will love. Because she loved us.

I miss her. Who will buy me ties like this –  on clearance – in an art museum gift shop? I know I still owe her a thank you note…