Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Mother – The Elvis Factor

My mother died 31 years ago today. It seems like a lifetime ago.

It seems like yesterday.

I won’t write in length about her, because I have before, mainly here, and many of you have read about her and made very kind comments that have meant the world to me.

But I think about her almost every day. And, to paraphrase a line from the movie “You’ve Got Mail,” which I watched back-to-back on telly recently, “Sometimes I miss her so much I could almost die.”

I don’t dream often about my mother – or my dad or Stimpy, for that matter. I wish I did more often.

But last week for whatever reason, she chose to enter that dream world.

I don’t remember the entire scenario – I believe looking for something, some sort of searching was involved. I returned to what I suppose was an apartment and decided to go back down the elevator. When the door opened to get on, my mother got off.

I burst into tears and we hugged each other.

And when I woke up, right after that, tears were streaming down my real-world face as well.

I’ve thought about that dream a lot, because what was interesting to me – in retrospect – was that she “looked just like herself.”

“Who else?” you might ask.

Well, my mother had lots of looks. There were the ones I never knew in person – the little girl…

The teenager at the lake.

The high school senior.

The newlywed, on her honeymoon.

The young mom, all pretty and stylish.

There was the mom of my childhood – young as well, but 30ish. (Yes, I was the kid who went to Show and Tell and told the class my mother turned 40. I was so proud and I couldn’t understand why she cried. I wonder if she’d known how soon she would leave us, if she would have cried about such a silly thing as a birthday.)

The mom of my teen years – we really got on, and I felt so lucky, because some of the kids I knew didn’t get on with their moms.

The Christmas mom.

The mom who laughed all the time and loved me, my dad and her sisters and their families with a powerful energy and warmth.

The mom who went to England with me, who did brass rubbings, who fell asleep in the theatre which she dearly loved. We ran ragged during that trip – neither of us realized then that the ovarian cancer that would overtake her three years later had already started to take its course.

My mom, who never got a present she didn't adore!

The brave mom, who handled the seizures that came when her cancer metastasized into her brain with relative good humor. Who welcomed guests to her hospital room with such joy and grace and that you would have thought you were coming to the house for tea.

The one who seldom complained as the disease ate away at her body. But that same disease couldn't destroy her soul.

When I think of cancer, I think of this – the seizures, the pain. It frightens me in ways I can’t always explain. And I wish I'd been old enough to ask, "Are you afraid?" "Tell me things..."

The mom who stepped off the elevator in the dream looked much like this mom – the brave one, with her prednisone face, her frosted-blondish wig, her smile. All five feet of her. The one whose photo I snapped with my dad, two or three weeks before she died, doing her best to look good for us.

My mother was frozen in time, and it’s the way I think of her most. It’s not unlike how we think of Princess Diana or JFK or Elvis. One pose of image that is almost iconic.

For me, the Elvis image is the white suit with the spangles; the Diana image (images is probably a better term) is in a smashing gown (generally that black cocktail dress she was photographed in the night of Prince Charles’ television interview, or a wonderful purple gown). For JFK, my image the man playing with his children in the Oval Office or with the wind blowing back his hair on a yacht at Hyannis Port.

Frozen in time. Never to get older, to have the lines and wrinkles, the cottage-cheese thighs or the extra chins that seem to come our way every day, no matter how well we try to disguise them.

This year I will turn the age my mother was when she died. It’s a weird feeling. She was 58; I just want to get through that year. I want to do the things I haven’t done; experience everything. And with joy.

Because I know life can be cut so very short.

I miss you, mom. But you taught me well.

Do you have an "iconic image" in your heart of someone you loved?


Jane Rosemont said...

Oh, Jeanie, bravo! I completely understand this, the mystery as deep as the love. The photos are beautiful, thank you so much for sharing them and your thoughts on this anniversary.

Donna said...

What a beautiful tribute to your Mother....nice blog!

Beth said...

Well of course when I started reading this wonderful tribute I started crying. I just so know very well the LOVE that you have for your Mother. I think that one year I will be writing the same things you have written here. I feel so fortnate to have had my bestfriend with me for 80 years. And my heart breaks for that you only had 58 years. But I also know in my heart of hearts, that our Mothers are always with us. They are every flower we see and smell, every good book we read, every sunrise and sunset, every delicious dish that we taste.
I think it was very significant that you dreamed about her. Just her way of refreshing your memories again, as if you could ever forget.

Herzblatt said...

Jeanie, I could cry while reading about your mother....how wonderful you can write and how wonderful was your mother!!!
And I especially feel very very sad, because my mother died last year (I didn`t write about it in my blog)and I couldn`d cry!!
Isn`t that horrible???
I always suffered under my mother because she wasn`t absolutly interested in her children. She always was interested in her journeys around the world..in jewellery...furs....the money, my father earned....and many other things.
She sent me to a boarding school, when I was 14, because she didn`t want to have the trouble with a teenager in that age....and during the 6 long long years I had to stay there(it was like being in prison), she visited me 3 times.
When I got my first child, she didn`t come to hospital. She always was against my marriage with my wonderful husband...(we love each other now for 37 years)because his parents were not rich....
She never was interested in my life and I never could share my problems or nice things with her.
She never wanted to see her 2 grandchildren....and my children suffered because they wanted to have a grandmother like other children have.
She tyrannized my father without end and he died because he was not able to live with her any longer.
Then he met another man in the age of 70 (he was 70, too) and she lived with him together the next 17years.
She also tyrannized him and we always said that we treat our dog better than she did with her boyfriend.
When she died last year he was very glad because he was her nurse...cook...housewife....everything and he is 87, too.
She didn`t want to see me the last 2 years...all the time, when I phoned her...(I was a good daughter),(she lived one and a half hour by car from us)she said, that she didn`t feel good enough to see us and when I sometimes phoned her and her boyfriend was on the phone, he told me, that they are playing cards all the time....
She was the most egoistic woman I have ever met.
So I didn`t suffer when she died...nobody did...and I envy you for this wonderful warmhearted mother....I would have liked it to have such a mother!!!
I love your thoughts about her...you look very much like your mother.....when you meet her again in one of your dreams tell her, that I always wanted to have such a mother like she was!!
It is so sad that she could not live longer!!
We always say in Germany that God fetches the wonderful people first..

anno said...

Oh, Jeanie, this one overflowed my heart with its aching mix of sadness and joy, so much tenderness and love. Beautiful pictures -- you and your mother look like you share the same laugh, definitely the same smile. Thanks so much.

Joanne Huffman said...

How wonderful that you have such strong warm and loving memories of your mom. I sometimes wish I could tell my mother something and then remember she's been dead for 20 years; but her love lives on in everything I do and who I am.


Cat with a garden said...

Mom is really watery right now. How young you were when you lost your mom! What a sweet tribute! Two years ago the mom of our mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through everything with her, the terrible treatments, the wig, the operation... The fear of losing her is horrible at times, but breast cancer is one of the best treatablest... so we guess there's hope. We certainly do hope.
Purrs, Siena & Chilli and mom Britta

Anonymous said...

Such a lovely tribute to an obviously lovely lady, Jeanie. Thank you for sharing her with us.
I am so lucky to still have my mom, but I lost my wonderful grandma three years ago. Life is just too short, isn't it!?

I know the spooky feeling you are talking about, though. I am the same age my dad was when he died. It is hard to reconcile with that.

Dreams like that (I've had them too) make me think they must be watching over us, and that is comforting, isn't it?

Linda said...

Beautiful post! Thanks for your comments on my blog... I have lost your email and it doesn't show up because you don't have it in your profile!!!!

Naturegirl said...

Jeanie a beautiful tribute to your precious mother.
As you know my mother died in Jan. and I am still grieving her passing. I too have had dreams of her. I see her face when I look in the mirror.I suppose our mothers feel we need their presence right now..I know that I do with the situation with my daughter.Our mothers are never too far from us..always in our hearts!
peace to you hugs NG

Kris said...

Very moving tribute to your mom, Jeanie. It sounds like she was a wonderful person. I love the old photos.

Judy Winter said...

I wish I had known your mom, Jeanie. But through this post and others, I feel I have gifted with a bit of her magic. You were and remain blessed as her daughter.

shoreacres said...


What a wonderful post, and how sad that you lost your mom so young. And yet, you didn't lose her at all - that's obvious from your words and your expressions of loving remembrance.

I need reminders like this from time to time. At 62, with a mother who is 91 and healthy as can be, it's easy to think it will go on forever. It won't, of course, so there is much to be done in the time that's left.

beth said...

oh jeannie...now I understand those feelings you've been dealing with...

and my thoughts are with you in hopes they help in some little way...

I'm so lucky to have both my parents around and I need a post like this to remind me just how thankful I should be...{more often without taking it all for granted}

my dad just turned 69 and mom will be 68 in june and they are so active and witty...

thanks for reminding me to count my blessings !!

Laura said...

I wish I could ease your heartache; it is such an overwhelming sadness but it is tinged with sweetness. Missing someone like your Mom; not believing that she is not here; it is so hard. I am happy you could share the pictures of her and your family with us. I would have been lucky to have known her. Hugs to you.

Quiltmoose - Dagmar said...

Another beautiful post! I wish I could write like you can. Your mother must have been an extraordinary woman. Thanks for sharing your memories!!!

Hugs, Dagmar

Relyn said...

What a beautiful woman your mother was. So much more important, she was a wonderful woman. I believe she would be very proud that she raised a woman who could miss her and honor her and still say, "you taught me well."

Very proud.

karlascottage.typepad.com said...

Missing my mom never stops either. And when I get to see her (rarely) in a dream it is so real and means so much. I certainly understand.

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