Now and at The Hour…

mom 6 mos pregnant

my mother, with her firstborn Nan inside her

Do most people believe in ghosts? I think they do, if by ‘ghost’ we mean that sudden sensed presence of one now departed. In fact, show me the person who claims never to have had this experience; never to have ‘heard from’ such a one.

I know I did, once. Only once, but I ‘heard’ all right. It happened about three months after I lost my mother, who died very suddenly, right before my eyes.

She was 80 and I was 38 and still a child myself in some ways. All I knew was that living my life without her seemed impossible; she was still that much of a parent to me.

She had a pragmatic kind of sense that she expressed with a wonderful bluntness.

Take the time I called to tell her we’d be welcoming a 19-year-old Austrian girl into our home to help care for our baby while the older children were in school, she laughed right out loud.

“Great! Now you’ll have FOUR kids!” she said, and come to think of it she was right about that. I felt such tenderness for this sweet young woman, so far from her home in the Alps, that my ‘office hours’ as a listening mom never ended. A full 90 minutes after I was supposed to be at church for choir practice, say, I’d still be sitting on the front hall stairs with one of them, whether the seven-year-old, or the nine-year-old, or the 19-year-old, listening, listening, car keys dangling in one hand – ‘til it got so late I knew the only lights on at church would be the outdoor ones illuminating the steeple.

She was pretty frail by then and she could hardly see, but she weighed in on things just the same.

“An aging actor in the White House?” was one tart remark from the spring of 1980.

Another: “Cookies IN the ice cream? Isn’t that going a bit far?”

Every week I would drive the 20 miles to my childhood home to see her and if I was ever delayed because of a deadline she’d be equally frank.

“Just write anything!” she would cheerily say on those occasions, even knowing that the wonky, stay-up-all-night-doing-homework daughter she had raised could never do a thing like that.

She loved to laugh. here she is the day she came home from the hospital with a broken hip that would keep her out of work for a month. Still smiling, as you can see.

mom nan '67 mom broken hip

Twenty years after, with Nan beside her

Eventually, she moved to a wonderful assisted living facility in my town – and brought her renegade ways with her: Once during a fire drill there, with sirens blasting, she buttonholed her best pal Alice, who was obediently caning her way toward the elevator. “Never mind that nonsense!” Mom told her with a wink. “Come, we’ll hide in my room here, and have some sherry!”

Ah, she was something. And what a hole her passing left in my life. In the weeks after it, I listened for her on every frequency I could think of. Where WAS she?

I heard nothing for months. And then I had this dream:

In it, she and I were descending a wide flight of stairs; kind of sprinting down them, in fact, with that galloping rhythm you develop when you do that.

I suddenly realized what was happening. “Mom you’re RUNNING!” I said.

“I know, isn’t it great? I’m not old anymore!” she said back.

And that was the dream. It lasted maybe two seconds.

Still, it comforted me.

And in these weeks with so much stirring and returning to life, the thoughts of powers beyond our ken? Well, those thoughts comfort me still.

Nan says goodbye to Mom

and twenty years after that, as Nan looks upon her face one final time

10 thoughts on “Now and at The Hour…

  1. Your mother was a wonderful person. You were lucky to have been there when she passed. Many a good memory was sparked today.

  2. She was special. She made me feel special one summer when I went daily to the House while she changed my bandaid.

  3. The word “special” doesnt quite do your mom justice, Terry. She certainly made me feel special, in a positive sense. I typically cringe when other people call me “special” because in the way they usally mean it, it comes across as either patronizing or demeaning to me. With your mom, it was her sincere compliments and acts of love she has shown me that made me feel that way. One time when I was either 8 or 9 years old, my family and I were visiting at the house in Lowell around the time of my birthday. When my parents were on the other side of the pool, your mom waved me over to her. As I approached, her eyes twinkled at me and she whispered ” I hear was your birthday…” and without missing a beat, she dug into her large black purse and took out a crisp dollar and snuck it into my hand, then gave me a kiss and said “Don’t tell anyone, it’s our secret!”

    Any child of the age I was then would have been thrilled to receive that dollar bill, but the way she did it seemed more significant. I gave her a big hug, more because of the way she made me feel like an equal to the family, and perhaps at that moment, her “special great-neice” in the sincere sense. No dollar bill can buy that kind of sentiment no matter how much it’s worth.

    This is just one of the many memories I have of her and I feel truly blessed to have had her in my own life. Thank you for letting me share her love and memories here.



  4. The picture of Nan at your Mom’s casket really touched me, Terry. Not even quite a profile, I couldn’t mistake that girl.

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