My mother, Dora Furr, would have been 84 today, had she lived to see the day. She passed away two years and four days ago, somewhere in the evening of August 31, 2011, although on her death certificate they recorded it as September 1. (I’m still not sure why.) She died of “diseases of the elderly”, which basically means “everything gave out,” although her condition’s initial decline was due to a persistent MRSA-like infection of her legs.
My main regret was that I didn’t have a last conversation with her that gave me the opportunity to say how much I appreciated all she’d done for me. When I last spoke to her, she was an inpatient at a rehab facility and was very groggy, incoherent, and peevish … and at the time, I had no idea that would be our ‘last call’.
I never spent as much time traveling to visit her as some people might consider appropriate: maybe one visit every two and a half years. I’d hate to go through old Quicken records to figure out exactly how often I went down there, because I might be wrong; it might have been even less frequent than that. When I did visit or call, our conversations typically lacked depth; she would typically tell me about every person in our extended family who had had surgery in the recent past, and if no one had, she’d typically tell me about random acquaintances I didn’t even know, who had. Mom did not have Alzheimer’s or any kind of senile dementia that I’m aware of — she just had a well-worn groove when it came to topics she liked to talk about.
I don’t have kids; Carole and I decided that it was for the best that we not have any, given my travel schedule and Carole’s tendency toward depression and certain other related issues. I wouldn’t have been around to share the job of parenting and Carole wouldn’t have made a great solo mom. That decision severely impacted the number of topics that Mom would have been interested in discussing; I know that if I’d had kids she’d have wanted weekly updates on them. But since our nest was, is, and always will be empty, our store of entertaining stories mostly had to do with our cats, and I have to say, I don’t blame Mom for not having a lot of interest in what our furry little friends were up to.
Mom had to settle for having grandkids by my sister Julie. My brother Rob and my sister Elizabeth and I all had other life outcomes. So it goes.
So — in any event, our conversations were often banal, trite, and more or less for the sake of having conversations than for any actual value that came out of them. I never knew what to say or what she’d be interested in hearing about, and she never seemed to have much to share other than “same ol’, same ol’.” And I feel bad about that.
Mom was glad that I had my life in order and that I was gainfully employed and married and had my own house (mortgaged) and had been able to settle in a beautiful area where I could be happy. She didn’t hold it against me that I was at the far opposite end of the eastern seaboard from her — me in Vermont, her in Florida. I wish we’d had more in common and had more to talk about. Everyone wants to write the Great American Novel. Everyone wants to have the ideal relationship with their spouse. And everyone wants to be able to sleep at night knowing that they did right by the parents, who did so much for them. And that we left nothing unsaid that ought to have been said.
Unfortunately, we don’t always get what we want.
I still miss her. I know it’s hard for my father, too — he still hasn’t packed away any of her clothing. Her belongings are just where she left them the last time she was in the house. They may well stay right there until the day he, too, dies.
Each of us has our own way of coping with loss. I wish I knew what mine is.