She Left Us Her Best

When my mother-in-law died eight weeks ago, she left a handful of close friends behind, who have always been like family to us “kids”. Her best friend of 65 years, J, was with us the week between mom’s massive stroke and her death. She had found mom in her bed unresponsive after mom failed to show up at her house for a class they were scheduled to attend. She was sitting next to me in the emergency room waiting area when my husband came out from meeting with the doctor to tell us the impossible news, that his healthy, active, vibrant mom would not survive. J and I held each other and cried, each of our hearts breaking for the other. My 30 years as daughter-in-law felt so small compared to 65 years of best friendship. She helped us make photo boards for the funeral and was one of a handful of people who were with us at mom’s burial.

We keep in touch via text as we did even before mom was struck down and the other evening my husband and I went to see the Downton Abbey movie with her and her husband, T. We are all big fans of the show. As she and I sat in the back seat on our way to the theater, we caught up in person as the men talked up front. Mom never watched the series and would not have gone to the movie with us had she still been here. Although I wouldn’t say she was with us, as we offer to ourselves and others when there is loss, but the 15 days from when J found mom and we laid her to rest was. You don’t go through something like that together, sitting for a week together, in a room for hours and hours, day after day, telling stories and taking turns holding hands with someone you both love, waiting for her to take her last breath, both praying she goes quickly and being terrified that she will go at all, and not form a new bond.

We had a great time, the movie was wonderful and as my husband and I drove home after dropping J and T off at their home, he said, not for the first time, “They are such good people.” When my husband had asked T to be a pallbearer, T became visibly choked up. “It would be my honor”, he replied. We’ve always had our own relationship with them but things have definitely changed. Our hearts are broken and we have filled in each others’ holes and cracks just a bit.

It’s hard to imagine a time when I won’t equate this woman with those two weeks when we lost mom and that’s okay. Together we endured the very worst thing life has to offer: death.


Nighttime Neighborhood Listen

I am taking care of my neighbor’s outside cat and every night around 8 o’clock I sit on the porch with her while she has a bedtime snack and headbutts me for loving.

I have lived in this place for over 25 years but never sit out front at night. It has been interesting to learn the patterns of the streets surrounding us in the dark: the steady buzz of traffic from our cross streets, the occasional shout from a nearby bar, both experienced on Friday, followed 48 hours later by the quiet stillness of Sunday. The man two houses down who comes home every evening 15 minutes after the hour. What it sounds like from the outside as my husband closes our windows. The varying temperatures after the sun goes down as summer gives way to fall. The amount of dog walkers is surprising to me, as is the number of mosquitos.

Last Sunday I listened to parents pick up their two small children who, I learned, had had tomato soup for dinner while staying with their grandparents overnight. As the young family drove off, a little girl’s voice repeated over and over, “Bye, Grammy! Bye, Grandpop!”, until she could no longer be heard.

I am enjoying every minute out there each evening and feel the fool for missing out all these years. I encourage you to try it. You will find, as I did, that day noises are new and different in the dark. But you know what? They still sound like home.


“Are Uber Still Mad?”

“Are you still mad?”, the Uber driver said, when I told him about my vision loss. I have never been asked this and i knee-jerk replied, “Not any more.” I thought about it and realized I was never mad. I was sad and lost but never angry. I wonder why I wasn’t? The child SCREAMING for the last hour at the coffeehouse where I write this is pushing me to the brink of Incredible Hulkdom. But waking up blind did not. Something to explore in therapy or perhaps we let sleeping anger lie.

I appreciate this stranger’s insightful question, the recognition and acknowledgement of what had happened. This guy was a character and I would never have guessed such a remark would come from him. I admit it, I pre-judge my Uber drivers, mostly from a safety factor, but I will cop to the human element as well. This man was the biggest surprise of 58 Uber rides.

You never know what you’ll face in life or how you’ll react to it. And you never know what awaits as you slide into the back seat of an Uber.

Be smart.

Be safe.

Be open.

Twenty minutes in a car with someone you’ve never met before and will most likely never see again can have an unexpected, positive, lasting effect. The seat belt I wore across my chest in the passenger-side back seat of that Jeep Renegade was unfastened a few weeks ago, but I still feel that Uber driver in my heart.


P.M. (Per Mom)

When I got sick as a child, my mom had a saying, “You always feel worse at night”. As I made my way through life, this Momism applied to so many things. Teenage relationships, both with girls and guys, the night before an exam, then job interviews as I moved into adulthood. Grown-up issues seemed impossible in the darkness of my bedroom; illness, dying parents, money troubles, my life’s purpose, becoming insurmountable as the clock changed to p.m. The most recent addition to feeling worse at night: post-menopause sleeping challenges.

My foot surgery in July brought Mom and her wisdom to mind as I settled into bed each night with one last ice pack before sleep. It hurt, the bandage must have been made out of poison ivy as my ankle itched to insanity. Somehow I managed to drift off and in the morning it was as if that torturous time six hours before had not occurred.

I’m in my 50s and I miss my mom everyday since her death seven years ago . But even at my own advanced age, when I go through a medical situation, whether the common cold or going blind, I want my mom. It’s not the same as having her here physically, yet she still comforts and takes care of me. Momism. “Mom is in me.”


I See No Evil But People Still Speak It To Me

Within a few months of each other, two different adult men have told me they would kill themselves if they ever became visually impaired.

What the hell do you do with that?

Friends say that I handle people’s reactions to my delivering the status of my sight with grace. The responses are varied yet always surprising. This particular statement left me feeling grace-less. In both cases, I didn’t say anything, because I was gobsmacked. And when I gathered myself to craft a reply, it was neither nice nor proportional to the declaration. So I continued to stare, open-mouthed, at the outline of their heads.

It turns out that hindsight is 20/20 even for the legally blind. I realize now, I should have killed them with kindness.

When my mom passed away, I kept anything I thought I may want, with the thought that I would go through the items when emotions weren’t running so high. I would lose my sight a few months later and the bin stayed closed until a few months ago.

Mostly paperwork, there was a hardcover book, a calendar from 1993, I had assumed was my mom’s when I saved it in 2012. I put it under my Merlin electronic magnifier, only to see not my mom’s writing, but her mom’s, my nana.

Nana had made entries into the calendar for three years, adding 1994 and 1995 to each day. Most of her notations were about the weather, when the landlord mowed the lawn, and when people came to visit or called her. It is a documentation of three of the last four years of her life, she died in 1996 at the age of 95.

What surprised me the most was that three years before she died, she had made notes off and on that read “Not Good”. She lived alone in Philadelphia until a few months before she passed, and I had no idea she wasn’t feeling well for so long. I don’t think my mom did either. I was newly married back then and although I spoke to and went to visit her often, I wonder all these years later if I should have known nana was having a hard time.

The other unexpected revelation is that she captured the minutia of life. I have tracked events in a calendar for over 30 years and written this blog for eight. I had no idea Nana did this and it seems that I may have inherited this practice from her.

While initially I began going through the book, I decided to keep it by the Merlin and read her entries for the current date each day. Global warming experts could enter her records into evidence based on the temperatures she noted this time of year in 1994.

I read an average of 100 books each year. But this page turner is #1 on the Sister Rain Bestsellers List. It’s got drama, it’s got suspense. And just like its author, it’s got my heart.

I love you, Nana. I hope that now, every day, you’re “Good”.


Farm Fresh Address

Living 35 miles outside of Philadelphia, my hometown is not a booming metropolis. However, when I go to Lancaster or the mountains (which is generic for remote areas west of us, mostly wooded with big hills and lakes, a generic term used here like the beach being called “the shore”), those places are so much farther removed and rural from urban life than us. Perception, said the visually challenged blogger, is everything.

My favorite part of summer is the produce stand near our house, fresh corn on the cob, tomatoes, cantaloupe and my addiction, peaches, are ripe for the buying. As we run errands on Saturdays, the delicious smells from our purchases fill the car better than any tree-shaped freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror. Before we go to the stand, we have to make sure we have all denominations of bills as there is no cash register nor are credit cards accepted. Instead, there’s a locked money-box with a slit and usually there is no one manning it. After years of this method of payment, as the season comes to a close, I finally wondered: Does the honor system equal the boondocks?

I tried to imagine a hot dog cart or bodega in the city using the same process to collect cash. Or Target, Costco or Kohl’s. Maybe as a skit on Saturday Night Live, but in real life, it just doesn’t work. Unless, of course, you are lucky enough to live in a zip code similar to mine. We have mail delivered right to our home, this can’t possibly be the sticks!

Philadelphia is in my blood and I enjoy the hustle and bustle of any metropolitan location. But driving up to a wooden stand in the middle of a cornfield with some dollars in hand is the place to be. Where I live, and this system, is a privilege . . . and an honor.


Scroll To Top