Inherited Forgetfulness

My mom was really good at forgetting things. Super good at it. In another sense she was good at remembering things falsely.

She frequently lost her purse. Or glasses. Or keys. She never remembered her passwords. Ever. Even with a password keeper on her phone it caused her an insane amount of stress. She also struggled to comprehend financial life planning – unemployment, retirement, social security, etc. She benefitted from hearing things seven or eight times. And she was always confused about Daylight Savings Time. Seriously, every six months we had to revisit which way the clocks should change.

As for me… I have inherited this forgetfulness and today was a prime example.

Today is the last day of school and I am proud to say that James and I biked to and from school together and Miles not only is NOT flunking his classes, but he has no D’s either (a pretty huge accomplishment for an indifferent teenager). Our deal was that if Miles finished the semester with A’s, B’s and maybe a couple C’s, we would reward him with a PS4.

After eating lunch, I took him to get this said PS4. We spent a long time looking at games and chatting it up with the kind GameStop lady.

Then came the purchase.

And my card was nowhere to be found…

Now, if you know me, you know that my purse can be an endless abyss of stuff – kleenex, blocks, pens, socks, snacks, papers… I could probably pull a Mary Poppins lamp out of there one of these days. So, I went to my car and frantically pulled all this crap out of my purse to look through all the places it might hide. It wasn’t there.

I searched the glove box, the console, the floor, my work bag… and over again. It wasn’t there.

Feeling embarrassed and frustrated with myself, I went back into the store to announce that we could not purchase it because I did not have my card. She agreed to hold them for us until we got back. James and Miles were a bit disappointed – but this is not the first time I have gone to purchase something and not had my card…

We arrived at home and I promptly searched all the regular places: jean pockets, bathroom drawer, bedside drawer, kitchen drawer, really all the damn drawers in the house. Then I re-searched my car. No luck. I took everything out of my purse – all the kleenex, piles of papers, old receipts, a container of granola, a used spoon, and six pairs of socks. The card was nowhere to be found. Miles supported my search and helped me search my car for a THIRD time. It wasn’t there.

Feeling defeated, I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down. In my purse search I found two Target gift cards (score!) and started calling to see if there was anything left of them. Finding myself 15 dollars richer, I opened my wallet to put them in.

And there it was.

Staring at me.

Laughing.

My card.

It was there in my wallet all along. I had looked. I had shuffled papers around to see. But in my flurry of mom-ness, I missed it.

Silently I held it up and showed Miles. We had a good laugh about finding it in my wallet and of all the bizarre contents of my purse. And now we’ll head back to reclaim our purchase. And I will make sure I have my card before we leave the house.

This experience happens more often than I would like to admit. And I would always call my mom and share these details. She knew what this was like – the frustration of having lost something or not understanding something, the embarrassment that accompanies it, and also the humor that follows.

I love all the things I took from my mom – except for this trait. But now it holds a special meaning. I get to roll my eyes at myself for my forgetfulness and think about all the humor my mom added to my life because of hers.

Thanks mama, for my inherited forgetfulness.

Sad Night

“Mom?” whispers the little voice in bed next to me who is trying to fall asleep. “I miss Grandma Debby,” he says as he begins to cry in my arms.

I hug him ever so tight as we both cry. I attempt to ease the pain by telling him how much she loved him. I reminisce about how fun she was – a simply wonderful grandma. He cried and nodded. I asked if he wanted to hug while we fell asleep. He nodded again. He dried his eyes with a tissue and snuggled in close. It only took two songs into his bedtime music and he was asleep.

But the hard moment comes now when I am left thinking about my mom. It’s a painful happiness to think about how wonderful she was. On one side it is so joyous to remember her and feel her humor and love. On the other side it brings back a flood of memories. Of hospital rooms. Of late night texts. Of the loss.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to feel the happiness without also feeling the pain.

And I think about my little guy. Does he think about her often? Does he worry about me? How does his little mind comprehend all the events that have come to pass? How does his heart feel when he’s sad like this?

And now he’s getting sweaty against my chest and arms. I rearrange and set him next to me. I grab his little hand and just hold it and look at him. I wonder how many times my mom did that to me.

She really was wonderful. It may always be painful to remember my mom, but worth it every time.

Miles

I remember telling my parents I was 18 and pregnant. My dad was making pizza and covered in flour and simply replied, “It’s not the end of the world.”

My mom had been sitting with me for a long time as I cried and made life altering decisions.

She was good at sitting with people.

Considering all the reactions they could have had when their teenager tells them she is pregnant – I was pretty damn lucky to have such caring parents.

On Christmas Eve 2001, I brought Miles home to my parents’ house full of cats and love.

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My mom was always very cautious to not overstep her boundaries as a grandmother. She often asked me if she was being too mom and if she needed to be more grandma.

So thoughtful.

She deeply loved Miles from the beginning. He was not the easiest baby. I was also young and didn’t know what the hell I was doing. She did.

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Miles had two houses, three parents, six grandparents, 4 great-grandparents, and many aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. This was both a blessing and a struggle – especially in December when we had to juggle his birthday and multiple holiday gatherings.

My mom was always sensitive about this time of year. She wanted to make sure that we weren’t spread too thin; that Miles got to celebrate his birthday with the most family there; and that we got to enjoy some time as our little family.

This year will be different without her.

On July 16, 2017, Casey brought Miles to the hospital to see grandma as she lay in a coma-like state, her soul trying to decide which way to go. Miles was there when my mom passed. Her heart rate and oxygen dropped in about 30 seconds. And there was nothing. The nurse listened to her heart and checked her pulse.

“Is she gone?” I asked.

She nodded.

We all cried and embraced one another. Miles, too. I never got tighter hugs from that dude than I did that day and the following weeks. He can tell when I am sad and I still get the occasional extra-tight hug.

I remember hugging Miles and saying, “She loved you so very much.”

She did. So damn much. She always wanted to be as involved in his life as possible. And questions… So many questions about how school is going for him, how his dad and other grandma are doing, about his friends… She was good at investing in relationships, especially with Miles.

He knows she loves him and she always will.

He will be 16-years-old on December 23rd.

I know, right?

And I’m sure this summer was a formative experience for him. A kid who is incredibly sarcastic and smart, forging his own path as a young man, and working to make sense of the world around him. He’s pretty wonderful.

Thanks mom, for being my mom and instilling the values that I now pass down to Miles. Thanks for housing us when he was first born. Thanks for being my sounding board when I don’t know what to do as a parent. Thanks for being there for Miles.

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And thanks for being a really fun grandma. I know this is what he will remember.

Communication

The biggest thing I have had to learn as an adult is communication. As wonderful as my family is, we were never good at genuine, honest communication. I remember family meetings as an attempt to practice sharing and hearing one another. I remember conversations that skirted the surface of issues. I remember laughter and family game nights. I also remember silence and closed doors.

Communication is something my mom has spent a lot of time on – how to communicate genuinely to us, to her friends, to her God, and to herself.

It was not uncommon to start a conversation with my mom and her admitting that she has been perseverating on something that happened two months ago and she’d like to talk about it.

It was not uncommon for my mom to come in the door, sit down in the kitchen and ask how we were – not how the surface appeared, but how we were.

It was not uncommon for my mom to revisit a topic that I had brought up in the past, and want to know the progress and next steps – and perhaps more importantly, how I was feeling about it all.

It was not uncommon for my mom to want to hear everything in every conversation happening in the room – and to interrupt to find out what was happening in a story that she only heard the end of.

It was not uncommon for my mom to share how she felt.

It was not uncommon for my mom to share how much we meant to her.

It was not uncommon for my mom to cry, to get anxious, to get excited, and to openly share that with whomever she was with.

It was not uncommon for my mom to love and to share her love.

In the end, I’d say she did a pretty darn good job working on her communication skills. It doesn’t mean she was great at it. She still butted in conversations, she still took things too personally, and she still invited herself to things she wasn’t invited to. But she was ever-evolving and always open to hearing how she could do things differently.

What if we all lived life with genuine honesty?

What if we all communicated with the purpose to give and receive love?

A living obituary.

An obituary that happens while we’re alive. While we’re here to hear it from those that love us the most.

My husband said it best:

Your mom was the person she always hoped she would be.

Tell those in your life that you love them. Tell them how they have made a difference in your life. Tell them that they are enough.

While they’re still here.

Communicate. Not just words. Genuine. Honest. Love.

Colorado

My mom was raised in Colorado. Her love for the mountains never left and she passed this on to all her children – a love for the air, the trees, the colors, and the perspective one gains when they are in the mountains.

One of my most memorable Colorado trips was a camping trip we took the summer I was 16. I had just lost a dear friend and the drive to Colorado was full of sad songs and poem writings. The theme song for the trip was RENT’s Seasons of Love. We camped among the trees and I often found alone time to write and think – a still moment amongst those who loved me.

In high school, my best friend and I accompanied my mom to Denver for my grampy’s wedding. My grammy passed when I was very young and my memories of her are fleeting – mostly created through old photos and stories. My grampy remarried a wonderful woman, Donna. She lives just outside of Denver and always welcomes us with a smorgasbord of food before we enter the mountains.

In January 2012, I traveled up with my mom for my grampy’s funeral. Family came from all over and converged for stories and togetherness – perhaps one of the greatest gifts funerals give us. We took my mom up to the mountains for a couple nights after the services. It was snowy and cold but the views were spectacular and the company did not disappoint.

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I married a man who has an equally big love for Colorado and we try to make it to the mountains at least once a year. Sometimes we are accompanied by my siblings, sometimes his parents, and sometimes just us. This past summer we went just our family. It was during this trip that my mom went to the emergency room.

My siblings and I began text strands and FaceTime calls about how best to help mom – she had just turned 65, was working two jobs, not eating well, and struggling with depression. This is what we thought we were battling. And perhaps it was. However, as the days unfolded we slowly found answers and realized we were battling a bigger beast – Cold Antibody Hemolytic Anemia.

After my mom was admitted to the hospital, we decided to cut our vacation short. On the last morning in Colorado, we hiked up to Lily Pad Lake – one of my mom’s favorite hikes – and enjoyed the views and sense of family, of being together and of caring so damn much for one another.

We headed back to Kansas and I drove all night – getting back about 3 am. I slept for maybe 2 hours and quickly showered and rushed to the hospital. I arrived at 6:30 am and walked in my mom’s room.

She embraced me weakly and we both sobbed.

“I thought I was going to die,” she cried.

“Me too, mom. I love you.”

She had no energy to move, to lift her head, to speak – that is what Cold Antibody Hemolytic Anemia does. I sat in a chair next to her and we both dozed off until the doctors and nurses started moving us down for her treatment.

This was the moment.

Just my mom and I.

Togetherness.

That is really what Colorado is all about. Being together with people you love. At that moment, her hospital room was my Colorado. I didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.

Thanks mom, for Colorado.

Music

I studied Social Work and was/am particularly interested in Solution Focused Therapy and how a strengths-based approach translates into parenting, work and life in general. During college, my professor asked us to write about a traumatic event through a Solution Focused Framework. We were supposed to look for the change agents and the positive coping skills – not just the silver lining, but the grit and tenacity it takes to make it through a traumatic event and come out on the other side more resilient.

So this is part of my mom’s story. Not through the lens of gut wrenching sadness – believe me, it was and is there – but a series of memories of what got me through.


Mom Memory 1: Music

As a child music was a part of my life. I grew up on oldies, a little bit of county, and praise songs. Sometimes we would play a game where everything we said had to be in song form. And my parents would often sing me to sleep with songs such as “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and “All the Pretty Little Horses”.

From July 13th – 16th, music filled my mom’s hospital room. After she suffered a major stroke on July 12th, we were transferred to ICU. Throughout the next couple days she had a never ending line of friends who came singing hymns such as “Amazing Grace” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness”.

Being Moshers, we sang “I Like to Eat Apples and Bananas” on more than one occasion, trying to fill the room with laughter.

I spent the night at the hospital on Thursday, July 13th. My brother left the CD player on repeat when he left so there was music in the room for us. However, the only thing on the CD was Pachelbel’s Canon… all. night. long. At first it was annoying, but I was too tired to get up out of the plastic hospital chair. It then became soothing and I kept it on repeat all morning too.

My mom’s brother had been practicing the Native American flute to play with my mom. When the room was quiet, he embraced this instrument and played for her with compassion and love.

As relatives came, we joined in song together. The longest rendition was by 4-year-old Niece Nora. No one is quite sure what she was singing, but it was a lovely song created in the moment just for Aunt Debby.

My Uncle Jim Mosher played his harp Thursday evening and all morning on Sunday, the day she died. His melodies were slow and familiar hymns mixed with long tones and the room’s tears. A peaceful comfort blanketed my mom, our visitors, and the nurses in the ICU.

My mom passed away the evening of Sunday, July 16th. The grief settled over us and we cried and embraced one another. We naturally formed a circle around my mom and shared stories and memories – and songs. Even in this time, we took turns playing songs that reminded us of mom.

“When words fail, music speaks.”

After her passing, my siblings and I divided up her Native American flutes and other instruments. And we have enjoyed playing them – definitely not doing them justice, but we think she would like it.

I continue to listen to songs that remind me of her. It helps me feel her and sense that she is here enjoying the music with me. Music has been and will be a cornerstone of our family. Thank you mom for creating this memory for me – this family value of music. I love you and look forward to feeling you in the next song I hear.