Saturday, May 13, 2017

Eighteen Years and Some Change

Right before Mother's Day in May of 1998, my mother was saying good-bye to her children. She had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer years before and the cancer, once gone, had returned and wasn't looking back. I remember being in her room at U of M as she told me she loved me. She barely spoke above a whisper for she didn't have the strength. I thought that was the last time I was going to see her alive.

But the next day when I arrived at the hospital, she was up, walking around, and full of energy. We talked, and apparently, she wasn't ready to go yet. That was my mom. Always determined and did things her way.

My mother didn't have the greatest childhood. She was the youngest of three girls born to Italian parents. Her sisters were a bit older than her. She didn't grow up with a lot of toys and when people did try to give things to her, my grandmother would donate them to the poor. I think this kind of upbringing shaped the woman she was and the kind of mother she would become.

She went to college and became a social work and later a teacher.

She married my father in 1968, she proposed, and had her first child in 1969. Four years later, I was born and not far after that, my youngest sister. She was a stay at home mom until I was about six or seven, when she decided she was going to go to law school. I have memories of her studying at night for the bar exam and remember the day she passed it.

She studied law for quite a while and when we moved to Ann Arbor, she obtained her realtor's license. She worked as a real estate agent until she decided she wanted to own her own company. She started a title company and used her realtor and lawyer expertise to get her feet off the ground. She was good at it. I worked for her one summer and remember her "training" me. It was her way or the highway. She was a hard worker and did things thorough and well. If you weren't going to do it the way she wanted,  you weren't going to do it.

I was in college when she sat my younger sister and me down to tell us of the cancer. We were in the living room sitting on the brown couch that we had at the time. It didn't phase me.

Yes, it was cancer, but cancer didn't know my mother.

She was going to win this fight.

And she did.

Until she didn't.

Soon after she came home from the hospital in May of 1998, I realized that this strong and courageous woman was losing the battle. It was the first time that I believed there was something out there stronger than she was.

According to my father, on the night of June 5, 1998, my beautiful mother told him that Sally, her older sister, her mother, and father were there for her and she was ready to go. He told her he loved her and she him.

She gently closed her eyes and went with her family, all of whom had passed away many years earlier.

I don't know why, but I find comfort in that story. It tells me that she was reunited with those she loved well before me.

So on the eve of this Mother's Day, I want to say thank you to a woman who was gone too soon.

Thank you Mom for teaching me how to be kind, strong-willed, independent, and determined through the way you lived your life.

I will forever miss you.

My mother at 26.

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