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Last Dance For Mary Jayne: Part 2: 1/14/15

In Should I Even Be Talking About This?, Writing on January 14, 2014 at 12:16 pm

My mother spent a week in the sun, and then, just like that we were back in the airport, bidding goodbyes and promises to call. I don’t remember, but I was probably relieved to have my house back after company, which is my usual M.O. She loved the sun, and decided on that visit that she was going to move to Florida once and for all, where she would garden and soak up the sun like a sponge. She had no fear of the sun, or sun-damage, and unlike me, would spend as much time in it as humanly possible. I’m convinced that had she been given the chance to migrate south, she would have drained the sun of some of its power, and perhaps set global warming on it’s ass. And  shares of old school Bain de Soleil would have gone through the roof.

It all changed when my younger brother called me one morning from Connecticut, the middle of the week, asking me if I’d heard from my mother or knew where she was. I was in Florida, thousands of miles away, so no-  I hadn’t. He went on to explain he’d just seen her on Sunday when he took her grocery shopping.(She couldn’t drive because of her epilepsy) She had left a shopping bag in his car and he was trying to return it. He became alarmed when she didn’t answer the door on Monday night. It was now Wednesday. No one in the family had seen or heard from her. I think we all know where this is going.

Later  that day, my brother enlisted the help of the landlord to open the apartment door- and this is where they found her- slumped over in a chair, dead for days (we still don’t know exactly how long….medical examiners gave a three day window. The official date of death was the day after she’d been last seen alive- the day she’d been shopping with my brother, January 21)  Obviously, this was a horrible thing for him to discover and go through, and was the very thing one worries about when a parent lives on their own. It’s the worse case scenario we all dread, but ultimately hope won’t really happen to our family, or us. And the very thing we all live in fear of: dying alone and having no one notice our passing. She was fifty nine years old. The only thing that could have made this story sadder, would be if she’d owned the proverbial single-lady cats, who’d be hungry and becoming feral as they circled her body on the chair.

My brother called me from my mother’s house to break the news. Of course, when I saw her number flashing on the caller I.D., I breathed a sigh of relief- see, it was all a big misunderstanding, like an episode of Three’s Company! I knew my brother was over-reacting. Everything’s fine, now!. I could hear my mother laughing about the mix-up. “Oh, you goonie-birds! Stop worrying about me! I’m fine!’ she’d giggle. She was constantly being baby-sat and second guessed by  friends and relatives because of her illness, and heaved sighs of discontent at us regularly over all of the interference. This was just another one of those things: An adult woman (with epilepsy and prone to gran maul seizures) does something out of her routine and everyone freaks. She probably took the bus downtown. Even though it was the January, and the  dead of winter, the roads slippery with black ice, and below zero and why would she, especially since she was loaded up with supplies from her Sunday shopping expedition. But it had to make sense in order for my mom to be okay.

“She’s dead!’, my brother told me in an urgent, high-register voice. ‘I told you something was wrong!”

He was distraught, and on the verge of tears as he gave me the assignment of calling our other brother with the news. I immediately dialed him at work and blurted it out, and his reaction was similar to mine: ‘What? Are you sure? No- that can’t be’ then the sound of a dial tone as he hung up abruptly. He told me later he ran out of his office and through the parking lot outside, literally trying to outrun the bad news. Meanwhile, I went into a low-grade shock, and tried to recall the last phone conversation I’d had with her: were there any clues? Did she say anything telling? Chances are it was focused on my son (her’ boo-ba-lah’) and her impending move south.

I made quick, halting calls to my husband, and made arrangements to fly north.  I missed the winter, and meant to visit Connecticut in the bleakest month (January) to experience not so much the biting wind and icy snow- as the cozy feeling of sitting beside the fireplace,  gently blowing on a a cup of Swiss Miss- looking out the window as snow fell like confectioners sugar. But it took the loss of my mom to make that happen and I thought of how many times she played the part of sacrificial lamb. Always taking less for herself so that we would have more. Even in death. I stood in my living room that day, tugging on my hair and rocking back and forth on the balls of my feet, staring blankly out the sliding doors towards the plastic chair my mom favored, wondering why, if sitting by this pool again was all the woman wanted out of life, couldn’t it just be afforded to her?

  1. Poignant stuff. Thanks for sharing.
    TP

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  2. What a touching story and one that is too hard to simply click on the “like” button without sounding cruel. Your mom taught you so much and was an inspiration for life. There’s not a person alive who hasn’t wanted to go back and redo something in the past: to hug more, laugh harder, not sweat the small stuff. She made you what you are today, good points and bad, giving you memories. Now as a tribute to her, live your life abundantly and dance in the rain. I wish I were there to give you a hug and a smile, and hope you’ll accept one across the miles instead my dear new friend, blessings,

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    • Thanks for reading my posts, and thanks even more for your kind words. So many people go through these things- every single day, and yet no matter how often you hear about it or read about it, it’s always such a unique and personal experience when it happens in your own life. And maybe someone else feels the same things (that feel so foreign as they’re happening!) and maybe that’s why we write, to say ‘hey, this life thing is tricky for all of us…but we’re going to be okay…’

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