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Mama - tribute to a great lady

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sweet Mama Sweet Sweet Mama.
Of all your five kids, I am the only one that still calls you Mama. All of my life, you are my Mama.

Mama played the violin as a child. She rarely spoke of it as an adult. I have a picture of her when she was eleven in a long dress and long brown ringlets posing with the violin, bow up, for the camera.

When Mama was only five, her sister who was age one was in little buckled Mary Jane shoes. In that picture, mama is standing beside her Daddy, sister held in his arms. The buckle of her sister's shoe, tangled in Mama's hair and the picture was snapped with an expression of pain across my Mama's face. She said, no one bothered to notice her. "Not then, not ever." I thought, no one noticed me, either. I felt closer to my Mama because I understood her. She said, every one thought her sister was so pretty and so cute and that made her feel ugly and unnoticed.

Mama didn't complain about stuff like that. It was just that way. She was pretty matter of fact about most things. I usually am, too. Unfortunately, people take that as being cold hearted. But we aren't, there just isn't any need to feel sorry for the way things are.

Standing in line for bread during the years of rationing and getting to the front of the line after hours in the sun to find out the bread is gone for the week. Giving up her new shoe rations that only came once a year, to a family that had four boys because "boys wear out shoes faster than girls." Eating four kinds of jello for dinner so they could say they had a variety but there was nothing else. Only getting meat for Sunday dinner once a month.

People have become shamefully lazy, greedy and overindulged. I am guilty.

Mama passed away on United States Memorial Day, May 27, 2013. Ultimately it was a broken pelvis from a great fall that caused sudden decline. She was two years into a diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease. She also had macular degeneration which had closed off her visual world in the prior six months or so.

She and I had called every Tuesday and Thursday as I was getting off work (2:00 her time, 4:00 my time) for over four years. It was a routine that I started and she continued when I knew she was beginning to show signs of dementia long before she realized it. I called her, and in time, if I didn't get it done on the minute, she called me. Even when the disease progressed from mild dementia into Alz. it was a familiar that we kept up. She stopped calling me one month and a week before her fall. When I called her, she was disconnected and confused. When the call ended, I cried.

She has been gone for months and I still reach for the phone on my out of the work place on Tuesday and Thursday. That was our time to chat, then later repeat the same questions and answers over and over, then later, for me to do most of the talking and her to say random things. But no matter... every time she was done talking, she would say, "I'm so glad you called me. I was wondering how you were." My heart would soar, "I called you to check on YOU, Mama! I love you."

Right up to her very last days of consciousness, Mama knew the names of all her children. What a blessing for us. She would ask questions, sometimes the same ones over and over because she could not remember. But she had the presence of mind to be curious about you, your life, what was going on around her. It was the built in journalist in her who had been inquisitive and capable of writing amazing works of interest that kept her aware of the world around her.

She had a unique ability to draw information from you and cause you to tell her about your life. She was truly interested in what you were all about. Because of this, many people never knew what her favorite tea was, or her milkshake flavor or what cookies she enjoyed the most. She kept them talking about themselves and there was no lag in a conversation with her.

Mama missed grapefruit after her liver transplant. The acid cancels transplant meds. Mama was raised mostly in southern California and spoke of free produce that they got when it was culled by the conveyors when she was a kid. So, cabbage, cantaloupe, artichoke was free or "sometimes half a penny" when she was a kid and she told of going out to the fields to get what they could carry during harvesting, when she was just a girl, and sharing with the neighbors.

Fresh produce was something Mama loved and knew how to chose the best ones! I didn't appreciate this until I was an adult, myself. She taught me much about pineapple and oranges, artichokes and asparagus. Mama loved strawberry milk shakes, chocolate chip cookies with walnuts ("until your tongue swells up from the nuts"), lemon powdered wedding tea cakes and English Breakfast Tea; and I loved Mama.
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