My mom Bertha was the youngest of 5 children born of Russian immigrants. They had one son and 4 daughters. One daughter died at
age 17 because someone threw an old wooden milk crate with metal spokes at her and one of the spokes was sticking out and punctured her heart.
Like many of my mom's generation, they were poor and only completed 8th grade as they needed to leave school and get a job to help out the family.
My mom, being the baby in the family, always wore hand-me downs. The clothing was good enough but having worn the shoes that no longer fit her sisters caused her to have foot problems during her life. At age 15 she took her first paycheck and bought a pair of shoes that were better suited to her. She worked as a seamstress in NYC for a children's clothing company. Even though, late in life, she had surgery to correct her toes, it only made a slight difference, yet, she never complained.
When my mom was in her middle 20's she met and married my dad, a union which produced a son and a daughter. The entire family resided in The Bronx, NY. By the time my brother, myself and our cousins were teenagers, we all moved to Queens, NY.
During her childhood her father had a drinking problem which caused him to be abusive at times. Despite this fact, the 4
remaining children grew up to be wonderful people with families of their own, undoubtedly due to my wonderful grandmother's influence.
My grandfather died when I was 16 and a month later my grandmother died. He had a stroke and apparently her heart gave out. There was one time when I walked into their bedroom and found my mom diapering her father and when I said that must be hard to do, her response was "one must do what is necessary no matter how uncomfortable it may seem and family does for family." I was devastated when my grandmother died. She had been my best friend, someone I could always count on. When I would sleep over in her apartment she would put a perfumed hankie under my pillow and tell me that all children should have "sweet dreams."
Soon after I realized that my mother was my best friend and she remained so until she died on 10/6/09. There was never a time she judged me or my actions, she was always supportive. She was kind, caring, and helpful to all. Sure there were a few times we drove each other crazy over something we may have disagreed on but it never lasted long.
When my father retired they moved to Florida. It was my father's decision, my mom did not want to move far away from her children and grandchildren. Nevertheless, when my children were comfortable enough to fly without their parents, they spent summers with their grandparents and have wonderful memories. My dad died in 1992 and my mom survived 10 years without him in their Florida condo. By that point, she required some assistance with her daily care. We brought her up to New Jersey and she resided in an assisted living facility for 2 years. She then had a fall and required more skilled care and was transferred to a nursing home for her last 5 years of life.
She wasn't financially wealthy or famous, she was simply my mom. In my eulogy to her I recalled the following...
My mom was the bravest person I know. There was a time when using a meat slicer she sliced the skin off 5 fingers, she wrapped her hand in a towel, got on the bus and went to the ER and she never complained.
I remember how she toiled to make me a beautiful princess costume for a school play when I was in the 6th grade. It was a 3 tier yellow crepe dress with gold stars all over; she even made me a gold crown and a wand with a star on top. Somehow she fit this task into her already busy schedule of usual chores (raising her family, taking care of my four grandparents and doing the books for a restaurant), it took her a week to make it and she never complained.
She could have sent me to primary school every day with a lunch box, instead she made the time to bring me lunch 2 days a week and together we sat talking in the school auditorium. No matter how inclement the weather, she never complained.
She made sure that every year my birthday was celebrated in the classroom by bringing cupcakes and bags of goodies for everyone. She wore cotton dresses so that she could afford to buy me a camel hair winter coat and she never complained.
When grandma and grandpa needed help whether it was physical or financial, all their children stepped in to help. And they never complained.
I remember her raising my cousin's son for his first 8 years and relishing every moment for she treated him and loved as if he were her own grandchild. And even though she was a bit older then, she never complained.
Her grandchildren meant everything to her. It wasn't her style to just buy them presents; she was the type of grandma that got down on the floor to play with them. She played dress up with them and they put on plays much to our enjoyment; there were bonds set aside for their college education; she felt hurt if they were hurting, she took joy in their joy.
When her brother and sisters died, she worried for her nieces and nephews even though she knew they were wonderful young adults and successful in their lives. She was proud of all of them.
People say that we remember those we love in our heart's and mind. I think even moreso, for when I look around at the faces of my cousin's, in them, I see the faces of their parents, so yes, our parents live on. DNA is a wonderful thing :-)
During the last 9 days of her life, I stayed at my brother's home as he resides one mile down the road from the nursing home. I spent 8 to 9 hours a day at her bedside trying to feed her and provide her with liquids. She had not eaten for almost 3 weeks; I was able to get her to drink cold ginger ale, always a favorite of her's, about 16 ounces a day. The last two days of her life, she stopped drinking fluids as well. I knew the end was near and often cried at her bedside. Watching her slowly fade away from the mother I once knew. She had become aphasic probably due to a mini-stroke; she did not speak and her eyes appeared glazed and staring into space. The day before that happened I laid my head on her arm and cried. She lifted her arm, put it on my back and rubbed it. So maybe she did know how I felt.
There was more, but it has been difficult writing this as my eyes well up with tears. And while many others will say that they
had the best mom, I know that my mom is at the top of that group. I will always love my mom, cherish the memories and while I don't believe I will see her
again, she is ingrained in my mind.
My mom taught me many life lessons and is primarily responsible for me being the person I am; she was proud of me, so I guess I turned out ok
I miss her terribly, sigh.