I’ve written about my mom before, but this one is a little different. Kind of like my mom was. Born in 1944, she was a ‘tweener’ baby. Not a war baby and not a baby boomer – just in between. I think technically her generation was called the Silent Generation because, well, most were not given a voice in major politics or society of their time. It was interesting listening to her talk about being part of a gap generation that wasn’t born due to war yet wasn’t part of that ‘me’ generation that followed the end of World War II.
My mom grew up the child of two Depression-era parents, both born in 1920. Her dad lied about his age to join the war with his friends, and spent 36 years as a soldier having taken part in a number of major conflicts, most notably The Battle of Guadalcanal where his ship was bombed and eventually sunk. My mom and her brother were inseparable and it showed in their relationship until her death in 1991. My mom’s best friend was her father, for whom BabyGirl is named. And that friendship was evident any time you saw them together.
My grandpa and my mom often didn’t have to speak to communicate. For the longest time, I truly believed they could read each other’s mind. And when my mom died, I think part of my grandfather did too. My grandfather was a prolific writer, and despite us living just a few miles away, he and my mom used to write each other letters and send each other cards all the time. They were often just funny stories or newspaper clippings with odd news. If the internet or smart phones had existed for them I bet they’d have mastered instant messaging and texting very quickly.
There are many traits about my mom that made her special. The one that stands out, though, is her gratitude. My mother was thankful for so much, despite the challenges she faced. There were years throughout my childhood where my mom was not well at all, but I don’t ever remember her complaining or wondering why her. She worked and went to nursing school, requiring her to find other arrangements for me and my brother to live so we wouldn’t be taken away from her. It wasn’t optimal but it worked. She wasn’t angry or sad that the system didn’t work with her, she was thankful that there were options for her that may not have existed for the women who came before her.
People took advantage of my mom because she was ‘too nice’. It’s a trait I inherited. My mother saw the good in people. She believed in the goodness of humanity and even though she didn’t know what the Law of Attraction was she embodied it. When my mother had the stroke that was the reason for her final hospital stay, she lost her ability to speak. But she figured out how to communicate in some way to make sure others knew how grateful she was to still be alive. But she also made it clear that she was thankful for the 47 years she had, if her final breaths were on the horizon. Her last spoken words to me were ‘I love you’. Six weeks later she died – alone. She waited for my brother and my dad to leave for the night. I had already said my goodbye’s days before.
In the Jewish tradition, each year on the anniversary of a loved-one’s death a memorial prayer is said. Most years, the Jewish calendar coincides with the secular calendar. The calendars don’t mesh so it seems like the Jewish dates jump around. Which is why about every 5-7 years there appears to be a huge gap between secular dates and Jewish dates. This year for my mom’s memorial (her Yahrtzeit which means ‘Time of Year’ in Yiddish) comes nearly 3 weeks after the secular date of death.
Because I don’t often acknowledge her death on the secular date, the 20th anniversary came and went without much sadness. I felt relief that I wasn’t a blathering mess on November 6th. But here it is, days away from the Jewish memorial and I’m really sad and I miss her infinitely more than I ever thought I would after 20 years.
At 42 years old, my mom’s been gone nearly half my life. Yet I can still hear her voice and often still ‘see’ her when I’m out and about. My mother believed in the good of humanity and was immensely grateful for the life she had and the contributions she could make. Her funeral was attended by hundreds of people, and there are still times I get notes from people who knew her who just want to tell me how much they, too, miss her.
I guess it’s fitting that the 20th anniversary of her passing will be remembered this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
Eileen Rae Greenberg-Drachman