Thursday, September 17, 2009

You Are My Sunshine

My mother died a month ago today. How is that possible? It feels like 10 minutes. Those last days and moments with her are still fresh, as is the aftermath of doing and numbness.  I am flooded with memories.

For Mom and me, memories and music went together.

Most summers when I was a kid (late 60's/early 70's), I spent a month in Florida with Aunt Marie and Uncle Jack. Mom got to save a little money on child care, give my nanny a vacation, relax herself a bit, and I'd get to have a month by the pool! At the end of my stay in Florida, Marie, Jack and I would take a scenic drive to New York to pick up my Mom and most of my family to continue up "Up North" to Saranac Lake or Lake George for a few days together.

We'd travel in 2 cars, making funny faces at each other as we passed each other on the highway along the way: Uncle Walter, Aunt Fran, Uncle Joe and Aunt Kay in one car; Aunt Marie, Uncle Jack, Mom and me in the other.

The cabin on Lake George had no television and barely any electricity. It had a deep back yard, a wooden dock and a canoe.

I always knew it was time to come in when I'd hear the singing start.  I'd run up the hill while someone started the barbecue. By the time I got up to the house, the grown-ups were singing all sorts of show tunes, songs from the 30's, 40's and 50's (cocktails apparently hasten the heating of the coals or at least make the wait more interesting).

My Mom, her four siblings and Aunt Fran grew up together in Witherbee, New York and had known each other since the beginning of time; after dinner clean-up always included more laughing over all the "old stories."

We'd all upstairs at bedtime . . . me and Mom in one room, Marie and Jack in another. One large dorm-type room had 2 bunk beds: Joe and Kay took one, Fran and Walt the other. Just like a bunch of kids, giggling would start up in some corner. Then "good night John-Boy" . . . then the singing . . . "Irene, good niiiiiiiight . . . . Irene, good-night . . ."
Today, my family and I will remember my Mom with music.  I've asked everyone to sing one of my Mom's favorite songs - You Are My Sunshine; from wherever we are, we'll be together singing (perhaps silently) and remembering Carmen today at 12:35 p.m. EDT.  It will connect us to each other and to her, with music, with shared memories and love.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Funeral arrangements are like peas??

I didn't listen, but the information got through anyway.

Just like with my Mom's peas. God, they were AWFUL. I mean A-W-F-U-L. They were so bad that even she would have to laugh . . . I'm sorry, they just smelled like . . . FEET. She'd claim they only smelled funny (it was NOT funny) because she "fancied 'em up" with minced onions. Ohboy.

She'd make the peas. I'd torment her. We'd crack up. I'd refuse to eat them. She'd start a conversation about something over dinner to distract me and, sooner or later, I'd eat those peas without even realizing it. Guess she had the last laugh!

Same way with her funeral arrangements. She'd insist on telling me, "you know, Connie, when I'm gone, there's a family plot in Huntington" or "I want to be cremated with my ashes sprinkled over my mother's grave."

I'd refuse to engage in this conversation. Like a little kid (all the way through my thirties and into my forties, mind you) it was like I'd squeeze my eyes shut, stick my fingers in my ears and go "blahblahblahblahblah" so I didn't have to hear about her stupid funeral arrangements or think about her dying, which was never going to happen any way so why are we even talking about it.

Just like those peas, it got in. When the time came, I knew exactly what did she and did not want. It was actually comforting to be so confident that I was doing exactly what she'd want and didn't have to fret or perseverate over anything. I knew I was doing the right thing. Making the arrangements was as easy as it could possibly be because she made sure it would be.

I didn't like it . . . any more than I liked those peas.

To you parents, my advice is: don't give up on the peas or making sure your kids know what to do and what you want. They may not like it, but they'll thank you for it.