I gave my mother, May Goldberg, lots of grief. One of my first memories was being so hysterical when I started grade school (I went straight to first grade at 5 years old because the deadlines were wacky back then), the principal asked her to come and calm me down. I can still see my 5-year-old self sitting with my mother in the stairwell outside the classroom, in a state of abject terror. Somehow she got me back into the room!
I remained in a constant state of hysteria about school till my very last final at NYU, worrying incessantly about tests and grades, and having a nervous breakdown (a real one) when I went to an out-of-town college at 17 and couldn’t handle being away from home. My mother even flew up to Syracuse to try and calm me down, like she had done 12 years before, not having much success this time around.
When I was in my mid teens and wanted a new piece of clothing, which mom thought was too expensive, I’d go to my father to get his permission to use the Lord & Taylor card.
I talked back to my mother, preferred to share my problems with my dad, detested the hot lunches she served when I was a kid, and continually refused her demands that I go to bed when I’d fall asleep on the vinyl-upholstered sofa in the den.
I chose my own wedding venue at 21 years old, married someone mom didn’t cozy up to, and went off to start a career, instead of having babies and staying home like she did. (Note: She was a talented artist who went to Pratt, but quit to marry and have kids. I always thought that was a BIG mistake.)
I sent her home after one night, when she came to help us out after our son was born. Despite her imploring, I stopped talking to my sisters for years when I felt they were selfish to me, and iced out my dad for a long time, too.
I also stopped talking to my mother for years when she refused to handle a family situation the way I thought it should be handled.
I didn’t comfort her when my dad, the love of her life, died. I didn’t invite her on my family’s vacations. God knows where I was when she had a kidney stone. And, I rarely asked her for advice about anything. I even picked out my own wedding dress with my future mother in law.
Good grief, I was a crappy daughter for a very long time.
Thankfully, I grew up, even if it took until I was around 50 to get there, and my mother was 75. We went to lunch together. I invited her to dinner about once a week. I wanted her thoughts about Edgar (the love of MY life who I should never have let into my life!), about my home, even about my clothes.
I invited her on one of my business trips, when we drove to Cleveland together. She helped me take my first excruciating steps after my hysterectomy.
And, I was there for mom when I found her lying dazed on the floor of her apartment one Sunday morning, after she apparently fell from her bed in the middle of the night, then couldn’t get up. She had pulled the cover down to warm herself.
I was there for her every day and evening in the hospital, following her hip surgery, when she was in horrible pain, and I’d run through the halls looking for a doctor or nurse at God-awful Lenox Hill, where no sick person should ever have to go. And, I was there every single day when she went into a rehab facility, still in horrible pain and seeming to be slipping into oblivion. She would constantly cry out “it hurts,” and developed bed sores, which I assumed were the cause.
I bought her a special body pillow, headphones so she could watch TV without bothering her sick roommate, and new comfortable clothes.
My mother never got to wear most of the clothes, because she died less than two weeks later, from a raging infection throughout her body. She had diabetes and apparently should never have had the hip surgery after her fall. That’s another story.
I was home the morning I got the call about my mother’s death, and when I went to retrieve her possessions and start making funeral arrangements, I discovered the bed pillow had been stolen. I would have wanted to take it home with me as a memory. The sack of clothes, her glasses and the handbag she had with her on her last journey are resting in one of my closets, where they shall remain until I die.
My mother told me she loved me during the last few years of her life, as I told her. I can’t remember ever having exchanged those words with her before.
Mom, you did your best with a difficult daughter. I am sorry I gave you so much grief for so many years. You deserved better. I am glad we had a chance to show each other love before it was too late.
Happy Mother’s Day. I miss you, and give daddy a kiss for me!