Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Post for Mom (1.22.2012)

My Mom passed away in August, 2011. Lately, I've been thinking about my Mom and how much she would enjoy being part of my blog.  Because my Mom's eulogy was written to reflect her, it's pretty funny - or at least, it's supposed to be. In honor of her, and for no particular reason other than she has been on my mind lately, I dig this out of the Severino archives and make it public...
I have spent the past few days thinking about how to honor my Mom in a eulogy. Some of you here knew her. Many of you did not. I thought the best way to honor the life of my mother was by telling you all the things I loved about her – and there were many. That is not to say that there weren’t moments when we drove each other crazy because don’t forget – she WAS my mother after all -- but these times were few and usually given enough time and enough Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, we would laugh about how hard-headed we both were and start laughing.
But back to the reasons that my mother was awesome. First, one of the things I loved about my Mom was that she was a lot of fun. I think she would enjoy being remembered that way and it certainly is the truth. Hopefully you can see that from some of the photos. She had this great spirit. She was funny, “sassy” and she never acted her age. I loved that about her. She had an irreverent sense of humor that always cracked me up. A good example of this is when my Dad passed away in 1992. The back story is that my Mom’s family was German, French and Dutch…and she married into, well basically The Sopranos. When my father passed, my Mom did her best to “do the right thing” according to the Italian relatives. This meant the professional Italian funeral home, inviting all the Italian relatives, and having several people attend services who even my Dad would have called “professional mourners” (4’ nothing, all in black with veils). Well anyway, my Mom went through all this to honor my Dad and to make my little Italian grandmother happy. Anyway, so after the wake and the funeral, we finally get home and sit down to relax and have a glass of wine. My Mom has a stack of funeral cards and she decides this is a good time to open them. She opens the first one – and a check falls out. Opens a second, and a few bills fall out. This went on for quite a while…and we were just speechless. Neither of us had any idea that Italians give money at funerals! And my Mom is just like “I had no idea your Dad was such a profit center”…and we are just crying with laughter in the middle of this terrible loss. THAT was my Mom….
Another thing I really loved about my Mom was her sense of adventure. I always admired that even after spending nearly 50 years in Poughkeepsie, she just picked up and started a whole new life in Sag Harbor, NY near my brother. I think she was there a week before she joined the Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum Volunteer Committee. A month later, she was organizing events and practically knew the whole town. She just amazed me. One of the other things she did when she moved to Sag Harbor was to get a job working as a receptionist at a swanky Easthampton real estate office. One of her favorite stories to tell was when Alec Baldwin first came into the office and she called him as “Mr. Baldwin”. He replied: “You can call me, Al.” We lived on that for weeks. We’d be in the middle of something completely different, and one of us would pipe up and just say: “You can call me, Al”.
And of course, her final big move – back to the Midwest to MN to be closer to me and Sam, was really a gift. Ben and I had moved to MN when Sam was 5, so she really didn’t know him as an adult. Suffice to say, they wasted no time catching up. They were two peas in a pod. They had that amazing connection that happens between grandparents and grandkids. It always cracked me up but slightly annoyed me that when she and Sam were in a room together, I was superfluous. Those two just connected on another level and it was such a gift for Sam to have that and such a gift for me to see that connection.
My Mom was an avid reader of everything. She was NEVER without a book. It was almost like breathing or eating to her. If she ran out of books, she would RE-READ them and I’m talking The Complete Works of Jane Austen. I actually brought in a volume that she had loaned me to read and as I stopped and started and clutzed my way through the first novel, taking forever to get into it and feeling like I had ADHD, she had called to say “Could you bring it back? I’d like to read it again.” 1,364 pages and she wants to re-read it!
And finally, my Mom had a ferocious sense of humor. To know my Mom was to laugh with her. To add to some of the words I described her with earlier, I would add: She was a CHARACTER. Here’s a good example: The evening that my Mom passed was an emotional one. But even in that, my Mom managed to figure out a way to get me laughing and leave her mark. Granted, she had some dementia toward the end and was good for a tall tale or two, but that last night, Mom was sound asleep and as I sat there listening to her unsteady breathing, two nurses came in to adjust her pillows. I was watching them go through this rather delicate process when one of the nurses said to me – completely sincerely – “Is it true that your Mom was really an undercover police detective???” I said “No, not to my knowledge” and we laughed. All I could think of was that even during my Mom’s transition to the next life, she was still trying to make me laugh. It reminded me of what I loved about Mom so much. And what I will miss about her.
When the end finally did come, we had more than our fair share of miracles. The last words my mother spoke to me happened on the Saturday before she died. She was sleeping and suddenly woke up and found me sitting next to her. Out of nowhere she said “I love you. Please remember to tell Sam I love him too”…and then she closed her eyes and drifted back to sleep. The Monday she passed away, Sam and I were both able to say goodbye properly. And I suppose my one regret about that evening is that I didn’t let Sam give her his usual “raspberries” kiss on her cheek [INSERT LOUD INAPPROPRIATE SOUND HERE]. It just seemed wrong at the time. But now I wish I’d let him because he always did it and she probably would’ve loved it. That was Grammy. I suppose that if that’s my biggest regret, I’m doing OK.
So, at this point in the evening, I’d like to address the guest of honor in order to properly say goodbye:
“I miss you, Mom. I tried to do what you would want me to do – like picking out the best picture for the program and making sure all the other pictures make you look thin. It’s what I do for you and what I would want Sam to do for me some day. I can’t believe you are gone from this earth, and it will take so much more time for me to “get” that. Not a day goes by that I don’t think ‘Oh, I should give these earrings to Mom’ or ‘I wonder if Mom has enough Diet Snapple’. You are not only my Mom, it’s like you are a PART of me. And that is not a bad thing. I will miss you so much but know that that part of me – YOU -- will live on in our hearts and you will never be forgotten. I love you, Mom.”