The morning of August 3rd, 1994 was a life changer for me. I was in the bathroom putting in my contact lenses – I only had one in when the phone rang. Annoyed at the inconvenient interruption, I answered the phone to hear my dad on the other end.

All he had said was my name, and I said with some irritation that this wasn’t a good time – that I only had one contact lens in and was trying to get ready for work.

“We lost your mom” was all he could choke out. Here my father was trying to relay devastating news to me, and I was bitching about my contact lenses. I still feel really shitty about that 18 years later.

I had just gotten married 5 weeks before. My parents, wanting to help with the wedding, came up from Florida and were staying on the bottom floor of the two-family house my dad owned. Hubby and I occupied the very small upstairs apartment.

When we had returned home from our honeymoon, my dad broke the news to us that mom was in the hospital. He said she had fallen and broken her hip earlier in the week. I was relieved that it was nothing more serious than that. Mom, in the past, had suffered a heart attack and a mild stroke – her health was never the best while growing up. So I was relieved that we were dealing with a simple broken bone.

Or so I thought.

As a result of a battery of tests performed on my mom after her hip surgery, her kidneys failed. They also discovered that her heart was in really bad shape – bad enough to require a transplant. The heart doctors could not work on her unless her kidneys were functioning, and the kidney doctors could not work on her with her heart in it’s present condition, so there wasn’t much that could be done.

She was sent from a hospital in Jersey to Columbia Presbyterian in NYC where believe it or not, her doctor was the then unknown Dr. Oz. there were days when she was fine, and then there were days where she was delirious. We’d sit by her bedside while, in a fitful sleep she’d agonize aloud over stupid things like our being late for a barbecue.

Those weeks were really tough for me. I was newly married, and I had a full time job. It was really hard for me to get into the city to visit her on a daily basis. My sister, who was a stay at home mom, went daily – sometimes twice a day – to sit with mom. I felt awful that I couldn’t do the same.

On the evening of August 2nd, I had hubby drive me into the city to visit with mom. My sister had decided to take a night away from the hospital and play in her volleyball league – something she had neglected over the past month and missed. Hell, she deserved the break.

Hubby didn’t feel comfortable coming up with me to the room – it was too intimate a setting and he hadn’t known my mother all that well by the time she fell ill. He decided to sit and wait in the car for the hour I would spend visiting with her. When I got up to her floor, I couldn’t see her right away. The nurses were in with her, and I would have to wait.

That wait turned out to be a doozy – more than 20 minutes long. You have to remember, this is the time before every Tom Dick & Harry had a cell phone, and there was no way to let hubby know that the last 30 minutes had been wasted sitting in a waiting room. When they finally told me I could go in, half of my visiting time had been eaten up.

I spent the next 30 minutes sitting with my mom and watching TV. They had washed her hair for her and she said that it had felt really good. I had brought her my Walkman and an audio tape of “Jurassic Park” for her to listen to if she got bored with television. Yes, my WALKMAN – It was only 1994, many years before the iPod.

We talked about this and that – how married life was, how I wanted to try to have kids right away, and all the while the show “Sister, Sister” was on the TV. I wondered why in the hell she was watching that show. When it ended, and Roseanne came on, I knew it was time to leave. I didn’t want to leave, mind you – I wanted to stay and talk to her for hours. But hubby was waiting in the car down in the street, unaware that I had been delayed in getting into her room.

I asked her if I should run down and tell him I needed more time, but she said, no, that she was just going to lay back and maybe listen to Jurassic Park, and go to bed. I kissed her good night, told her I loved her, and that I’d be back in the next day or two.

And that was it. I got the call from my father the next morning with one contact lens in. I immediately went to the downstairs apartment to be with my dad, but I could not stay long. As fate would have it, my bosses were away at a convention, and we were extremely short staffed. There was no way I could call in.

I hugged my dad, got dressed in who knows what, and drove to work. I told my coworkers, who made the day easy for me, letting me stay in the office and just do graphic design work rather than having to wait on any customers. That evening I drove to the funeral parlor to meet my family about the arrangements.

That was 18 years ago today.

I miss my mom. She had a warm soul – the kind who always wanted to hug you, always told you she loved you. But at least I got to experience the love she could give. 3 months after her death, I became pregnant with my first child, and it was sad to think that her 6th grandchild would never know her. Neither would her 7th. My kids never got to call her Nana, or to have some little crafty thing made in their honor.  I never got to see her face light up at some silly little baby antic performed by my girls. I had to embroider my own children’s names in the Christening gown along side all the names sewn in by my mother.

18 years ago today, and it seems like yesterday.

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