If Only I Could Call Them

When Daddy was dying, it seemed the thing he hated most about dying was thinking about what he was going to miss. He said he wasn’t afraid of what would happen to him, but he was sad he would miss his family, and he would miss some of the big moments.

I think, we, the ones left behind, often feel the same thing. There are lots of times I think, “I wish Daddy were here to see this.” And since December, I often think, “I wish I could call Mother and tell her about this.”

In the last few weeks, I’ve found myself wishing they were here more than usual. I always miss them, but situations arise that I would love to share with them, and that’s when I really wish they were here.

In May, I wrote a piece titled Behind That White Picket Fence (click here to see it) about how we never know what’s going on in someone’s private life. A friend from college commented on my post, making me think of Mother and something that happened twenty years ago.

When I was about 30, a friend was diagnosed with colon cancer. Her name is Susan, and I think she was 28 or 29 at the time. She was/is married (in fact, I introduced her to her husband) and while her husband was supportive, her parents jumped right in to help. Her husband needed to work and couldn’t be there all the time, so her parents took turns spending the night at the hospital with her and stayed during the day, as well. She had  complications after surgery, but they were there to advocate for her. If I remember correctly, she was in the hospital for months.

During this time, my maternal grandmother and a friend of hers were breezing through Mobile on a trip and stopped in to visit Mother. We will call the friend Gladys. Mother had never met Gladys and frankly, found her to be rather harsh. They were there for a few hours, so Mother didn’t jump to that conclusion quickly.

While they were there, insurance became the topic of conversation. Gladys, at some point, complained about her insurance agent, saying he had not been responsive over recent months. When she mentioned his name, Mother knew she had to say something. She responded, “Well, I’m sure you don’t know, but his young daughter has colon cancer. She’s had surgery and complications, and he has been spending days and nights at the hospital with her. If he hasn’t been responsive, that’s a good reason. God bless him.”

That evening, Mother called me to tell me what had happened, and she was a little hot under the collar. Of course, I reminded her Gladys probably had no idea, and while Mother realized that, she was miffed Gladys wasn’t giving Susan’s dad, her insurance agent for 30 years, the benefit of the doubt.

So, after Susan commented on Behind That Picket Fence, I sent her a message telling her about the exchange. She responded by telling me she was happy to hear my mother had interceded. She reminded me her daddy had stayed with her in the hospital and had even devised a way to wash her hair, simply because he knew it was something he could do that would make her feel a little better. He made some sort of “contraption” that made it possible for him to wash her hair while she was lying in bed. The nurses didn’t want him to do it, but he did, and Susan immediately felt better. Afterward, the nurses started started using the same contraption and method to wash the hair of other patients.

That exchange with my friend was one of those moments I wish Mother were here. I wanted to call and tell her I had shared the story with Susan, and in response, she told me what great things her daddy did for her. In fact, Susan told me her daddy was retired by the time she was diagnosed, so no wonder he wasn’t responsive! He was no longer the agent!

But I couldn’t call Mother. She would have loved that story.

There are also things I’d love to share with my daddy. Just this week, I had lunch with my cousin, Ardrue, who lives in Cherryville, North Carolina, about an hour away. Ardrue and I started getting together over the past couple of years. We had never met until early 2016, but I had heard about Ardrue my entire life. She is my daddy’s first cousin. Their mothers were sisters.

When I say I’d heard about Ardrue my entire life, I mean it. I remember, as a little girl, hearing Daddy and Aunt Katie talk about Ardrue. I don’t remember the stories, but who can forget a name like Ardrue? I’ve told her this, so it’s OK…I remember asking daddy, “What kind of name is Ardrue?” I remember seeing pictures of a little girl/teenage Ardrue when I would go through old pictures. Her name appeared on the backs of several pictures.  In fact, I can hardly wait to get back to Alabama to go through pictures and find some to bring back to show her.

Ardrue has told me stories about my daddy as a young man, and she has shared stories about the family, as well. When we are talking, I love when she mentions a familiar name in one of her stories. Sometimes she is even surprised I recognize a name. Most of the times, I recognize the names from stories Daddy used to tell…he was a good storyteller. She is a charming lady with a great sense of humor. I’ll have to ask her if a sense of humor runs in the family. It’s hard to tell, because in all the old pictures of my grandparents and great-grandparents, they all look so serious.

And this is one of those times I wish Daddy were here. He would be thrilled Ardrue and I  get together. Not only that, but we enjoy each other’s company! He would want to sit right there with us, laughing and talking. The two of them would be able to reminisce and remind each other of things that happened when they were children.

But I can’t call Daddy. He can’t join us for lunch. He would have loved spending time with Ardrue.

And recently, when our daughter was away for two weeks on a group trip to Iceland and not allowed to use her phone to call home, Mother and Daddy would have commiserated with me. They likely would have been calling me three times a day to ask if there had been any email updates from the group leaders.

While it’s painful immediately following the loss of a parent, there are other times that are difficult too. Interestingly, for me, it’s usually the happy times that I miss them. I wish they could see my daughter play lacrosse and field hockey. Daddy would have loved watching her play basketball too. I used to always call Mother from my car after I dropped off my daughter somewhere, and I would call her after any of my daughter’s games and give her the post-game wrap-up. That was a habit that was hard to break after Mother passed.  I wish I could just pick up the phone and call both of them to tell them funny stories, talk about trivial stuff, and brag about my daughter. They would love knowing my brother and I talk almost every day, and we still call each other to get answers to trivial questions. And they would be so happy to know we have been vacationing together.

But I can’t call them.

If only I could call them…

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Mother/Daughter Traditions

This Mother’s Day will be my first without my mother. My sweet mother died in December, never getting to see 2018. As anyone knows, the “firsts” are tough. It has me thinking about things we used to do together.

One thing we used to do together was clean silver. Doesn’t sound like much of a tradition, right? I know, it sounds tedious, and it can be, but with Mother, it was fun. When I lived in Mobile as an adult, once a year, usually in December, we would clean silver. I would go to her house on a Sunday afternoon, and she would bring out all her silver and the silver polishing cream. We would sit for hours, polishing silver, talking, and laughing…always laughing. Our hands would ache, but we would keep working…and talking…and laughing…and working. After a few hours, everything was sparkling, and the holidays could begin. Every time I clean silver now, I think of her. I’m grateful for that memory.

I have found a much easier way to clean silver. I tried the aluminum foil dip method, but it didn’t work like I thought it would, and it created a sulfuric odor. I found Connoisseur Silver Wipes and tried those. They worked like a charm. With very little effort, my silver comes clean with these wipes. I highly recommend. You can purchase them at Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, or online at Amazon here.

When I was a little girl, she and I would make the traditional Easter Bunny cake together…you know, use one circular layer for the face, and use the other circular layer to make ears and a bowtie. At the holidays, we would make what we called a Marshmallow Cake, but I think some people call it a popcorn cake. Sounds weird, I know, but it’s very festive, and it’s what we did. Marshmallows, butter, peanuts/cashews, M&Ms….it makes a lovely treat, especially if you use red and green M&Ms. I’ve known people to throw in other things too…chocolate chips, pretzel pieces…you pick your favorites.img_85301.jpg

Once my daughter turned four or five, Mother would make biscuits with her every time we visited. I’m so glad they did, because it’s a good memory for my daughter. This year at school, her English class put together a cookbook of recipes, and my daughter’s contribution was the buttermilk biscuit recipe she learned from my mother. When I told Mother, she was thrilled, and now that she has passed, I’m even more glad my daughter chose that recipe and more glad they had that “tradition.”

After I was married and while Mother still lived near Mobile, for birthdays or other special occasions, we would have brunch at The Grand Hotel Resort in Point Clear, Alabama. She never wanted to go for holidays, because the crowd was crazy, but for birthdays, it was great. I remember going for several of her birthdays, for a few of my birthdays, and I remember meeting our family friend, Polly, for brunch there one Sunday. I specifically remember going for my 40th birthday. My daddy had died the previous fall, so it was a bittersweet celebration. My husband and daughter were there too, and we got some cute photos of our daughter playing on the hotel lawn by the bay.

 

It’s funny how these traditions start. Sometimes, you do something once, and you don’t realize it’s something you will continue.

Back in 2011, my friend, Leah, and I took our then-seven-year-old daughters to Los Angeles. It was a special trip. I had gotten passes for the girls to visit the set of the Nickelodeon show, iCarly, which was the hottest show on Nickelodeon at the time. Milly had fallen in love with the show when she was about four, so she was a long-time fan. The girls were excited, and frankly, so were the moms!

When we took that trip, it never occurred to me I would start taking Milly to LA every year, but I do. It has become a mother/daughter tradition. We have a favorite hotel, favorite restaurants, favorite foods, favorite shops, and now we have friends we love to visit. Every time we go, we make a point of seeing places we haven’t seen before, but we make sure to visit all our favorites too. Often, we take friends with us. Lots of times, she and I have talked about how it is our mother/daughter tradition, and I tell her I hope we will continue to do it till I’m really old. Maybe one day she will have her own daughter and continue the tradition with her. Don’t get me wrong. I plan to keep going as long as I can! We are making memories she can carry with her for a long time.

I wish I had started doing annual trips with my mother when I was younger. I wasn’t an only child, so sneaking off for mother-daughter trips wasn’t as easy. Plus, my brother always adds an element of humor whenever he’s around. We wouldn’t have wanted to leave him behind anyway. Daddy was funny too.

In 1997, though, I did take Mother on a trip we talked about for years afterward. We went to Mexico City, and it was a glorious, fun trip. I’ve loved Mexico City since 1982, when I visited with a group from high school. Mother and I covered as much of the city as we could in four or five days. The first day we were there, a Sunday, I decided we would go to Chapultepec Park like the locals do on Sundays. Chapultepec Park is Mexico City’s version of Central Park. It’s covers over 1600 acres, and it is the home of Chapultepec Castle, which sits atop a hill with a view overlooking the city. We walked all over that park that day, visiting the castle and the zoo, which was the first zoo outside of China to successfully breed giant pandas. It was a great memory for us that would have made a wonderful tradition.

As Mother’s Day approaches, it has me thinking of all sorts of things I used to do with Mother. Mostly, we laughed, and that’s a great memory. Her compassion and sense of humor were unmatchable. We miss her, but we are thankful to have great memories.

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