Mommy Dearest suffered a stroke recently and did not survive. Even though she was in her eighties, we are still in shock: her health was much improved in recent weeks after a life-threatening downturn in August.
She lead a nonlinear life. She had no profession or career in the traditional sense of the terms. She was, by turns, daughter of a newspaper publisher, small business owner, astute investor, voracious reader, passionate school board member, impulsive and compulsive traveler, successful real estate agent, adored aunt, beloved sister, devoted wife, then widow, and to me, her only child, a loving, kind, generous, and patient mother.
She was not perfect, to be sure. Her cooking was well-intentioned. Her fashion sense was hit-and-miss. When challenged, she could turn icy and aloof. Her treatment of employees and staff ran from benevolent to imperial. Her wicked sense of humor, however, prevailed in most instances, and she was forgiven more often than not for her occasional verbal shots-across-the-bow.
In the public sphere, she advocated tirelessly for education, working with local and state officials occasionally. In private, she encouraged family members and family friends to stay in school, go back to school, and finish school.
She often shoved dollar bills into unsuspecting hands or wrote checks and mailed them to surprised recipients who needed a little help with tuition, textbooks, or fees. A brief comment came with the cash: Get an education. Do your best. Stay focused. Work hard.
She was a Roosevelt Democrat who became a Reagan Republican for a period of time and then drifted back to being a moderate Democrat later in life. She saw the toll poverty took on Americans and knew the government had a role to play helping people improve their lives. She also knew that there was no substitute for personal initiative.
Her favorite city was Florence, and after my father’s death, she contemplated moving there. But she could never grasp the language. In fact, her Italian was so bad that the locals would gather at the neighborhood tabacchi to listen as she tried to purchase bus tickets from the proprietor. Despite her best efforts, she butchered their Italian. They laughed. And she laughed right along with them, waving her newly-acquired bus tickets high in the air as she exited the shop triumphantly.
Except during her recent hospitalizations, she read a newspaper front to back every day of her life. Usually more than one. Never online. Always in print. She just never cared to see her name in print.
Suffice to say, Mommy Dearest will be missed. We are grieving.