Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

About My Mom

A warning to readers: This is a very personal, family-related post. If you came here looking for gardening info, then you might not be interested in reading this post.

Still here? Good. Give me a big hug.

Some of you may remember my series of family-related posts from a couple of months ago, when I visited my mom in Massachusetts to celebrate her 90th birthday. We all had a good time, and at the party we managed to surprise her with a bagpipe player.

Well, my mom passed away on Christmas Day, December 25, 2011, at the Kaplan Hospice in Danvers, Massachusetts, surrounded by family members that she loved. I wasn't there, unfortunately, although I have no doubt that she loved me, and that she knew I loved her too.

Despite the fact that she never smoked a single day of her life, she had been suffering from COPD for a few years now. She awoke one night a couple of weeks before Christmas, unable to breathe, and asked my brother-in-law to take her to the hospital. She was there for a couple of weeks, while they tried to adjust the many medicines that she was taking. She was given a choice of going to rehab or to a local hospice to try to recuperate. Finally, she requested that they send her to the hospice. I truly thought she would be there for only a few days, and would be home again with my sister perhaps by Christmas Day.

But instead, her condition declined. My sister called me here in Washington to let me know she was not getting better. But my mind rebelled. I thought she would rally, and I didn't want to believe the worst. I was in shock. I felt paralyzed. Maybe I should have gotten on a plane immediately. But I didn't, and I wasn't there when she passed.

My mom, Margaret (Withers) Scott, exploring a garden. I think she looks about three years old here.

My mom didn't believe in making a fuss about anything. You know how sometimes people talk of someone's temper having a short fuse? Well, I'm not sure my mom's temper even had a fuse. She seldom talked of her own feelings -- in fact, she was the type who denied having them. I spoke with my brother-in-law while I was at my sister's sorting my mom's things, and he mentioned that whenever she went with them to Bible study, and the talk turned to how she felt, she would always speak in the third person. "Well, people sometimes feel..." Never "I feel..." That was her way of distancing herself from her own anger, doubt, fear, even love. And she seldom if ever asked how other people felt. I don't think she wanted to know, but not because she didn't care. Because it would have brought her own feelings too close to the surface.

I don't know if that was a result of her upbringing, or her nature. I do know I am like her, except for the temper part. I have a very long fuse, but when it goes, it really explodes over something that appears to be minor. I do remember once -- when I was being a typical moody teenager -- my dad saying that he wished I was more even-tempered like her.

My mom is on the bottom right, with school friends.

Growing up, sometimes her motherly advice was hard to take, and often contradictory. Here's an example. Both sentences came up in the same conversation. "You're not smart enough to attract a smart man." "Men don't like smart women." I got that advice when I was in my early 20s, and I still don't quite know what to make of it. I think I did attract a smart man, and I don't think he minds that I'm not a dumb blonde (although he would like me to lose some weight).

My mom in a raccoon coat

I found a little slip of paper in one of my mom's dresser drawers, amongst the myriad addresses of friends and other random papers, including some that were completely empty. I don't know where she got it, but she kept it because she thought it was important. Here's what it said.

"Speaking of the tongue, that tiny portion of the human anatomy which is so hard for many people to control, there are a couple of proverbs it would be wise to heed. The first says: 'A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.' A harsh or false word, a confidence revealed, an unkind remark, once expressed cannot be taken back. The second proverb says: 'Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue, to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak.' A gently clever bit of good advice!"

It seemed to me that passage epitomized my mom, and was her final piece of motherly advice.

For info about the Kaplan Family Hospice House, click here. By all accounts, they gave great care to my mother in her last days.

For info about COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), click here.


And to my dear brother-in-law, if you're reading this (and I know you are), don't worry about my grieving process. It's private, and it's buried deep, but it will surface eventually (this post is part of it). Just take good care of my sister, I know she's stressed right now beyond measure.