Iris was the oldest of my mom’s sisters, and the last one of her generation. After a heart attack/stroke last week, she chose to move to Hospice. However, at that time there was no reason to think that things would happen this quickly.
But I did want to pay a tribute to my “other mom.”
However, these are accomplishments. They are part of the fabric of her life, but only part.
She had a strong sense of family. She and her sisters had a powerful bond. It always distressed her, in many ways, that they had died so young. (Eleanor in the mid-50s, Mom and Gracie in the mid-70s.) It felt wrong to her that she was the only one left; yet she had a tough core of survival.
She simply adored her three children and I think the grandchildren even more. In the past decade or so, she was able to know and cuddle several great-grandchildren as well.
And, she loved the children of her nieces and nephews, as well. They loved her, too, as one cousin shared with me last night. Years ago, Iris spent a few days with the family and when she left, my cousin’s five year old son simply did not want to let her go. Perhaps to him, she was the fully-accredited stand-in for him own Grandma, Iris’ sister, who died long before he was born.
To me, she was a second mom – the only remaining sister for more than 30 years, the only remaining elder on mom’s side of the family.
When they lived in Lansing, we spent holidays together. One time we were having a creative package-wrapping contest -- the most uniquely wrapped gift won a prize. Iris cut open a green pepper and from the top removed the seeds. She added a pair of earrings for me, wrapped in tin foil and replaced the top, tying it with a red ribbon. I think she won that year!
She listened and cared about me as my mom would. I’d share teary things with her, and joyful ones. She loved cats and would listen to my Gypsy (and Stimpy) stories eagerly – and share one or two of her own.
When she finally met Rick a year-and-a-half ago, she adored him and gave me the feedback any girl would want to hear from her mom when she brought about a “really special boy.”
There wasn’t a phone conversation we had that she didn’t ask about Rick or his boys and reinforce how much she liked him. You want your parents to like your choices. She was my other mom.
Right now, I am trying to grapple with the idea that my cousins and I are now the “older generation.” We are the elders. I keep thinking we’re still the kids – and when we get together, we still act that way!
But the fact is, the torch has passed to the next generation. It’s sobering. It’s hard for me to imagine that we are the “old farts” with our collective mishmash of ailments, sickness, foibles, frustrations, and joys.
I know that Iris died the way she wanted to. In her sleep, without pain, and ready to leave. She had expressed this to me many months before – I truly think seeing her own husband suffer for a long while, as well as her sisters and the other men in our family, really made her committed to wanting to leave without fanfare, extended pain or complication.
She did. And right now, I envision a big party with all the sisters laughing as they once did. There is good food, and most definitely a lake.
Eleanor would share her paintings, mom would show her the newest crafty things she was working on, Gracie would play “boogie on the black keys” and Iris – sweet, sentimental Iris who cried when opened almost any birthday gift or received a sweet letter or card – would shed a tear or two between the laughs.
They are the sisters. Together again.