Saturday, December 04, 2010


Everyone has been telling me that my mother could talk for hours about her children and grandchildren. Please cut me off if I go on for too long.

My mother was the most generous person I have ever known. She hated spending money on herself. In recent years, she began giving her house a well deserved renovation, though she always worried about how much it was costing. We had several conversations about how expensive her new furnace was, and how the old one was only leaking a small amount of carbon monoxide.

A long, long time ago, she paid for my college almost entirely on her own; tuition, books. dorms, a little extra to allow me to order a pizza every once in a while. This seemed fair to me at the time, as I wasn't really that interested in going. After college, her home was always open to me and my sister when we got tired of paying rent elsewhere...and her home still seems to be open to way too much stuff that never made a permanent move with either of us. When I started pharmacy school, I never asked for any tuition money, though I'm sure she would have given it to me if she could have. She did lend me money to buy a car when I started, and never complained when I took lot longer than planned to repay her. When we bought our first house, we needed a little extra money to prove to the bank that we were worthy of a loan...the next day we had 3 months of mortgage payments in our account. Years later, I told her to stop sending me $25 for birthdays, anniversaries, and Hanukkah, as I figured she could use the money more than I could. Occasionally, she would let me take her out to lunch (on her birthday or Mother's Day), but the checks never stopped, and after we moved to NZ, she began mailing them directly to our American bank.

Nicole says I had been talking to my mother every day since moving to NZ. I think it was more like once or twice a week, but over the last 9 months she had started to get very good at skyping. She was eventually able to tell when I was online, and sometimes could manage to stay in the frame of the camera. Many of our conversations were about movies she had seen or books she had read. Perhaps because of this I have been feeling much guilt for being so far away.

My mother loved meeting new people, especially Jewish people. I cannot count the times when she spotted a Star of David or a Chai on somebody and exclaimed: “Are you Jewish; I'm Jewish too." I still have a fear of elevators. If you met her more than once, she would probably hug you the next time you saw her. I think I hate hugging people because of this.

Nicole probably remembers the transcript better than I do, but I believe my last words to her were: “I'm sorry I moved here.” “Are you crying? I'm crying, too” she replied. She was having a little trouble catching her breath, but if she was crying, it was not noticeable.

Maybe this doesn't really relate: radio in NZ is horrible (especially because Nicole's car stereo only gets one station). Last week this one station played Werewolves of London (by Warren Zevon). Warren Zevon was best known for this song, and also for being a frequent guest on David Letterman (and a frequent stand-in for Paul Shaffer). A few years ago he was on Letterman one last time; he was dying of mesothelioma, and knew he only had a few months to live. Maybe you've heard one of his quotes: “I enjoy every sandwich.” Today we're at a funeral; tomorrow go and do something you enjoy. Eat a sandwich. I don't know if my mother enjoyed every sandwich, as she thought she had at least another 10 years in her, but she was living up until the very end. She could walk, she could see (two of her biggest fears about having diabetes), and she was on a South, South Pacific cruise. And if she had ever met Warren Zevon, I'm sure she would have said: “You're half Jewish? I'm Jewish, too”.


Unknown said...

After reading your words I'm wearing my Chai outside of my shirt at work for the first time.

The only thing worse than dealing with loss happening right in front of you is dealing with it when it's happening half a world away.

I'm sorry for your loss, Michael. (As is Sarah who pointed me to this post.)

camelland said...

i was moved to tears by this post. maybe because i was also faced with mortality before i ever expected it. don't feel guilty, altho i know it's normal to feel this. you have great memories of her, and she will always be with you.