Since my mom died a few weeks ago, I’ve felt compelled to write and post here more than usual. Up until now, I’ve honored my pledge to “under-whelm” your inbox by posting a blogonly once a month. That goal was also self-serving in that I didn’t “have to” post here more often. (To clarify, I do write often, just not blogs for my website.)
Mom was one of the biggest supporters of my writing journey.
But here I am, my third post in less than a month. I hope you understand.
Mom was one of the biggest supporters of my writing journey and my goal of publishing my memoir. Before she died, I had told her about a big “first” for me: being interviewed about my memoir on the Midlife A-Go-Go podcast. Mom was excited, but she never got to listen.
I wish I could hear her voice.
When the interview first aired last week, I believe Mom heard it. I believe she knows all that goes on in my life, more so than she did while she was earthbound. But still, I find myself waiting for her call to tell me how proud she is. I wish I could hear her voice. I imagine it, I hear it in my head, but I ache for the real thing.
Since I won’t hear from Mom, maybe you can listen for a few minutes and tell me your thoughts. It would give me a smile. Mom, too.
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On Friday, September 27, my eighty-seven-year-old dad, who often has trouble sleeping, got up at 3 AM. In the independent-living apartment he shared with my mom, he took a few steps from the bedroom to the tiny kitchenette to get a bite to eat. He grabbed a pita bread, then took a few more steps to the liquor cabinet and poured himself a scotch.
As he sat on the living room couch enjoying his snack and his “middle-of-the-night-cap,” my mom, eight-six, appeared with her walker at the bedroom doorway.
“Do I hear the tinkling of ice-cubes?” she asked.
“Yes!” Dad answered.
His “yes” would have been enthusiastic and drawn out, both arms and one scotch raised in celebration, his eyebrows raised like a character in a Norman Rockwell painting.
“Does that mean you’d like a shot of bourbon?” he added.
It meant exactly that. So Mom shuffled to the couch while Dad fixed her drink. They sat for about fifteen minutes, holding hands, until Dad broke the silence.
“Whoever said these were the golden years could not have been a day over fifty,” Dad said. “There’s not much golden about getting old.”
There’s not much golden about the “golden years.”
Mom agreed. She would know
Two years ago, she had heart surgery from which she never completely recovered. At times, she seemed to be on the mend, then a UTI or stomach bug or new medication would spiral her back down and we’d wonder if we were going to lose her.
In the past month, though, she gained strength and spirit and seemed to be on a solid rebound. She had asked my sister and I to plan a joint visit for a “girls weekend,” which we hadn’t done in years. I had booked my flight for tomorrow.
Sitting on the couch with his wife of sixty-three years, Dad found the silver lining of another color.
“But, truly,” he said, “this is a Golden Moment.”
Golden Moments are the silver lining of aging.
I’ve enjoyed Golden Moments with my parents, too.
After I graduated from college in 1980, I never returned home to Pittsburgh. Between my relocation to Troy, NY–my husband’s hometown–and my parents’ moves later in life, I’ve lived anywhere from 500 to 3,000 miles away from them.
When I came in town to visit, I usually didn’t make plans to catch up with friends or to sight-see or take side trips. I preferred to spend my precious little time with my long-distance family.
Once, my sister-in-law asked me, “So what are you going to do while you’re out here?” I was dumbfounded. I wanted to say, “Nothing,” because that was the truth. But it seemed so boring. It seemed small compared to the jet-setting lifestyles of some of my siblings. I can’t remember how I answered.
I’m not suggesting that there’s a right or a wrong way to spend time while visiting family. I wish I had been better about keeping in touch with friends. But I have no regrets about the Golden Moments with my parents. Especially now.
My golden moments give me no regrets.
In their living room at the independent living facility, Mom and Dad sat and held hands for another fifteen minutes, enjoying the silence before going back to bed.
Dad would have followed Mom into the bedroom. He would have put her neck pillow in place and raised or lowered the head of the bed to the perfect angle. He’d have arranged another pillow under her ankles so her painful heels didn’t bear any weight. Then he would have tucked Mom’s favorite pink blanket under her chin and she’d be asleep before Dad made it to his side of the bed.
That evening, after an uneventful day, Mom and Dad again sat on the couch, watching the PBS News Hour. Around 7 PM, Mom stood up, pitched forward, and was probably dead before she hit the floor.
My heart aches that Dad witnessed that scene. I grieve for his loss. I grieve for my family and many friends who loved Mom. I grieve for myself and the loss of my best girlfriend.
I lost my best girlfriend.
Tomorrow, I’ll fly down to visit Dad. Instead of a girls weekend, it will be a father-daughter week. Dad and I will sit on the couch, holding hands, sharing a drink, enjoying our Golden Moments. Mom will join us and I’ll feel her hand in mine. I feel it every day. It’s golden.
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I’m at a lull in my memoir manuscript. I’d been tackling the After section—the two decades or so since my son’s 1997 diagnosis with a brain tumor. It’s this time period–after the climax of the story–when most of my personal growth occurred.
Most of my personal growth occurred in the After.
Before and During are in semi-final draft form; writing their dramatic scenes was easy compared to wrangling the life lessons of After onto the page. That’s why After is still partially in the “shitty first draft” stage (per Anne Lamott). And The End has not yet been penned.
One of my followers on social media wondered recently if she had missed any posts here on my website, since she hadn’t seen anything lately. Another follower who subscribes via email made a similar comment.
Nope. They, and you, haven’t seen new posts here because I’ve been working on the “business” side of my authorship trajectory. I’ve been trying to make a name for myself in the writing world, trying to get “found.” In the process, I’ve spread myself thinner than gingerbread cookie dough.
For me, maintaining the business side of a writing career requires personal growth daily.
I wish I could clone myself or at least grow another pair of hands, but until that technology is invented, I’m stuck with fitting all my to-dos into the same 24 hours that you have.
But I do worry that some of you are missing out, so I’ll share some “business side” insider info.
Here’s the inside scoop:
If you follow or like my Facebook writer page, you’ll get to know me better, not just as a writer, but as a person. My page is strictly non-political (how often does that happen nowadays)? In fact, I strive to post only messages that bring people together, rather than tear them apart. Recently, I’ve told some stories of Christmas tree ornaments I made when I was first married. The message is not about Christmas per se, it’s about the lessons we glean from the mementos we save.
And if you subscribe via email, you’ll get in on some action coming up in 2019! For example, I’d love your help in tweaking my new header design for this website. And I hope to create a guided meditation audio with your input. It will be FREE to email subscribers only! If you’re not sure whether you’re on my email list, don’t worry–you won’t get duplicate emails if you sign up twice.
Just scroll over or down to the “Enter email” box, and sign up to get in on the action in 2019!
There. Business commercial over. Back to my manuscript…
As hard as it is to write the After section of my memoir, the final chapter makes it all worthwhile. I’m blessed to have that reality. So many sad stories don’t have happy endings; mine does. My journey of personal growth was long and arduous, but I survived. As did my son. In fact, we are both thriving.
In fact, The End is so surprising and uplifting, I’m thinking of naming the final chapter
“And then a miracle happened.”
Tis the season for miracles, is it not? I’ll be looking for moments amidst the holiday hoopla to create a miracle of words on the pages of my memoir.
And as soon as After becomes Finished, I’ll be sure to let you know.