SUE AND HER MOTHER, “MAMA”
She’d been in the hospital since early spring. At one point her temperature had been 108 degrees, but I had no fear of her dying then. On the day that she did die, I really didn’t know any details, but I had a feeling that she died. I remember being very frightened and it was connected with that.
My father came home and told me. She died early in the evening and he had to deal with arrangements or whatever, and when he came home, he told me. I remember crying a lot and telling him I had prayed. I don’t remember… There was a table or a couch there. I just got right up in his lap and he cried too.
What I can remember over the years, running it through my head, was waiting for him to get home, being uneasy. My older cousin was babysitting. I was put to bed and I remember I didn’t sleep the whole night at all. I remember it was super early in the morning. It was still dark. My dad was outside with Tom, my brother. He was 10 at the time. I don’t remember the next day.
The funeral was at St. Denis. I remember a lot of people being there. I don’t remember going to the cemetery. A lot of people back at the house, mostly relatives on both sides of the family. It was hot and sunny.
Emanuel Swedenborg was born Emanuel Swedberg on 29 January 1688, and died 29 March 1772. He was a Swedish scientist, philosopher, theologian, and mystic. He is best known for his book on the afterlife, Heaven and Hell (1758).
Swedenborg had a prolific career as an inventor and scientist. In 1741, at age 53, he entered into a spiritual phase in which he began to experience dreams and visions, beginning on Easter weekend of 6 April 1744. This culminated in a ‘spiritual awakening,’ after which he wrote books about what he had seen and heard.
(This information condensed from Wikipedia.)
Swedenborg’s Rules of Life are:
1. Often to read and meditate on the Word of God.
2. To submit everything to the will of Divine Providence.
3. To observe in everything a propriety of behavior, and to keep the conscience clear.
4. To discharge with fidelity the function of my employments, and to make myself in all things useful to society.
These nearly 250 years later, those simple rules still sound true and worthy of observance.
KATHLEEN AND HER MOTHER ANNE
She died in her sleep the night of January 31, 1979. For her last two years she had a very bad heart. She suffered from heart problems all her life, but during those last two years she had two heart surgeries. But the doctor said the last wasn’t very successful. She had the valve in the aorta replaced. It was a plastic appliance. He said it was like sewing into wet tissue. It couldn’t hold a stitch. He gave it to her straight, but surprisingly, she wasn’t morbid about it. Typically they say depression sets in after heart surgery. Not her.”Just let me get on with it.” There was a significant change in her after that operation.
My mother was always so boisterous,loud––couldn’t say anything calmly. That’s Italian too. But she really mellowed. Those last few years after she had heart surgery she didn’t drink. She had had something to drink every night, and that did affect her. That was a catalyst for her to be loud. When she was stirring the pot while she was burning the food, she was drinking.
She was a remedial reading specialist working with handicapped children. She had her master’s and was working toward her doctorate. She worked very hard.
He was barely three, leaning casually on the bee table
as though on a cracker barrel at a country store
having a chew and telling stories with cronies––
three or four––who themselves had stories to tell.
But here there were hundreds of clustering bees
wondering about this young stranger.
Was he friend or foe? Was he flower or bear?
A giver or taker? They all became investigators
crawling over his platinum crown, dyed a living
brown and gold, and moving as he now began
himself to move. I called to him, Slowly,
slowly. He came to me and under the rush
of the outdoor faucet, the investigators met
with a new element: a surprise of water
so quick and wet, they left his head in panic,
flew off to dry in the summer air. But his hands
were stung again and again before the honey tribe
flew off entirely. Years passed of not understanding
why he insisted on wearing long sleeves,
on wearing long pants in the heat of summer.
The bees, of course, the bees. He was able,
however, to divorce the horror from honey
and claimed the first spoonful from the first jar
to crown his English muffin; to reclaim
that sweetest of sweets from the sharpest of stings.
FRANCES, AND HER MOTHER EVA
I was putting another bit of butter in the pan. My daughter Valerie said, “No! No! No! Now I know why I’m not a good cook like you and your mother.” Valerie skimps on things. I never thought of myself as a good cook like my mother. She cooked like an artist. She’d use real butter. Nothing was too good. I cooked for a family of eight kids, which means you have baked spaghetti. I may have picked it out [what Valerie said] subconsciously. She doesn’t give compliments. It came out accidentally.
[My mother’s] emphasis on good manners was very important in that she instilled in me a real consideration for the feelings of others. That’s what I consider real manners, not the formal observation of which fork or which knife. Never eat in front of anybody else unless you share with them.
Years later, if I was in a park or subway, I wouldn’t eat unless I offered something of what I had. You never, never have anything in public unless you share it. In this day and age, it might be called social concerns. This was during the Depression. My mother never, never turned anyone away, and she sent them away with a sandwich. It must have been the era. Everybody helped everybody.
She was an incredible disciplinarian. Every Saturday morning I had to simonize the furniture. You had a job to do and you had to do it. She bent over backwards to make sure I wouldn’t be spoiled. She took care of all the important growing-up things. You always stood up when your elders came into the room. It was almost a Victorian graciousness. It was also contributing to the belief of the times: subjugating oneself to other people’s needs. When you have company, you don’t take the last piece of something. I remember coming into the kitchen and there was a breaded pork chop on the plate. “No, Daddy. Mum said you can’t have it.”
We had a gardener and a man who did heavy work. I was always told you must be very, very polite. I had long, long golden curls, my mother’s pride and joy. The gardener would always tease me, “You gonna give me one of your curls?” I went into the house and cut off two of my curls and stuffed them into his pocket somehow without him noticing it. I thought I was being nice. When my mother brushed my hair, she nearly killed me. I thought she was absolutely going to die. She was horrified that I would do that.
MARY AND HER MOTHER, MARY NOELLA
Mary speaking …
Every time I see somebody who mistreats her mother, I think, if only you knew how it’s going to be when she’s gone, you wouldn’t do that.
It was Friday night, 11 o’clock, super foggy. I remember hearing the door close and the car go out. I’d gone downstairs and she was in the kitchen. She screamed at me to get back upstairs and leave her alone. It scared me when she said that to me. I was up the stairs and was gone. I think she had snapped from everything. Anyone can take just so much.
What I could never figure out was why Dad didn’t notice that the car was gone. We got up at 7. Donna [sister] got panicky and told my father who called the State Police. Dad called my grandmother and she and my grandfather both came up. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. I was really messed up, very depressed at the time.
Dad sent me right away to the drugstore to get a prescription for some medication which he would take when he got the urge to drink. Then he took the beer bottles and dumped them down the kitchen sink.
Dad got the phone call from the police. She’d taken a wrong turn in the fog on a dirt road and landed in the gravel pit. The car sank in the soft sand enough that they had to tow it out. The farmer who owned the gravel pit was the one who had found her. If he hadn’t, I don’t know that anyone ever would have. It was so far off the road.
ALLISON AND HER MOTHER, DOROTHY
My mother had lost her brother Bob [in World War II], her mother and her first baby within three or four years of each other. She likened me to her dead brother physically––and I took it to be more than that––and that was a factor in my childhood development. My mother was actually grieving a lot, but she didn’t express some emotions. Jolly laughter was expressed but anything negative was repressed. She also was not physically affectionate with me and my sister when we were children. We were more likely to be touched by my father; we’d sit on his lap.