Sunday, May 14, 2017


The last decade of my mom's life was hard, ugly, filled with times none of us would ever want a parent to endure. Yet even in the midst of the indignities, even as we recoiled at the deterioration, even as my mom receded further and further from this universe, even with all the sadness and pain, there were moments of joy and laughter, often unintended, unexpected, and thus precious. 

My mom was an extremely positive person, a cheerleader who made my sister and me believe in the greatness of marriage, of our father and ourselves. I was told by her that I was the cutest, the smartest, the nicest, the best athlete, the best singer. Maybe a little of it was exaggeration (ok, it was all lies) but it was just her way. She never belittled, she never made me feel the choices I made or the people I loved were anything other than perfect. So it was fantasy, but it was her fantasy.

As the dementia overtook my mom, it robbed her of many of her abilities. First she had difficulty in recalling events of the day. Later she would be unable to retrieve words or thoughts. The English language began to slip from her grasp, as sentences would contain non-sequiturs, English and Yiddish would bump into each other, sometimes only incoherent sounds would be uttered or speech would totally disappear and my mom would sit there in silence.

My children adored my mom in the way grandchildren are supposed to. If she spoiled me, and she did, there was no length she would not go to for them. If she loved me and was proud of me, and she was, she loved them and took pride in their accomplishments with equal intensity.

With my mom's decline, our children came to visit their grandma to give her the attention she deserved and to spin tales of the day to bring her happiness. She was noticeably more alert and animated when her grandchildren appeared, often able, in short bursts to show a glimpse of the person she once had been.

On this one particular day, about two years ago, my daughter was spending an afternoon with her grandma. My daughter  had recently been to her cousin's wedding. There she had met a young man who quickly and clearly captured her heart. And now, she was telling her grandma what a wonderful thing had just occurred.

"Grandma, I was at the wedding and I met a boy." She continued on, recounting the event, the thrill in the beginning of this courtship clear and unequivocal. If anything, to try to make a point that could be easily understood, she was even more animated in her tone and more effusive in her phrasing.

My mom took this all in for a long moment and then began her response.

"Why that's......"

The term she was searching for was clearly beyond her grasp. Her eyes darted up and to the left, as she reached into her brain for just the right word, the one that this woman, who adored nothing so much as her grandchildren, who showered them and their every decision with praise, who would never question or demean, could remove from the basket as the perfect choice. She hesitated for one second more, and then almost bellowed the following to complete her sentence:

My daughter is marrying that young man in less than a month. He has filled her heart with happiness, her smile is bigger, her laugh is louder, her life is better because he is in it. And I know that my mom would have adored her newest grandchild, would have thought him the smartest, the cutest, the nicest, the best athlete (I can't vouch for his singing) in the universe. She would have been at the wedding with a smile that would not disappear, with a love that was boundless and with words that conveyed how beautiful and extraordinary a pairing this was.

It is tragic that my mom is not going to be there, that she will not get the chance to attend the wedding of a grandchild she cherished. And I would like to think that this is what she was communicating when she uttered that totally foreign and incomprehensibly inappropriate reply to the news that her granddaughter was so smitten.

Or maybe it was that she just wanted us to tell this tale so that she could always give us one more reason to  remember her with a smile and a laugh.


pam said...

Loved that Grandma Dotsy... Tom and I will take a spin on the dance floor for her.. celebrating Alex! xo

Anonymous said...

Beautiful— Dottie is always with you—and watching over your family! She’s in everything that is BEAUTIFUL AND GOOD!


Anonymous said...

Your Mom was the best Mom, the best grandmother, the best Aunt Dot, the best of everything!
And you know Rob, she WILL be at the wedding too!


Anonymous said...

So well said. Your mom will definitely attend the wedding and the great memories will live on forever. Happy Mother's Day.
Jeff C

Anonymous said...

My mother sadly also was not alive when my daughter married her soul mate, but luckily heard about him in the early part of their romance. I never doubted for an instant that she was there at their wedding and has been a part of their now 2 little boys' lives. When my first grandson was a baby he would always look off to the corner of the ceiling in my apartment and smile. I am sure he was smiling back at his guardian angel.


Anonymous said...

A great story. I can relate, because my dad died just months before my daughter's bat mitzvah (and we decided to have one to some extent to please him, since to his disappointment none of his other grandchildren had had one, and my daughter was rather ambivalent about whether she wanted one). But as in your case, she at least had a chance to tell him that she was going to be bat mitzvahed, which pleased him no end, though he still had his marbles and didn't call it "tragic." That's such a hoot.


Anonymous said...

This one was pretty wonderful!