Earthbound Motherless

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When I imagine her she’s always sitting at a kitchen table I don’t recognize. Her dress is white and shapeless, nothing that would make it memorable. Her wings are casually tucked behind her, resting on the back of a standard issue wooden kitchen chair. She has her left leg tucked up underneath her and her right leg crossed over that knee. She is barefoot and I can see the skin of her legs.   I imagine her smoking a cigarette, because my earthly mind believes that our heavenly souls certainly must be much more capable of handling the joy that comes with addiction than these fragile human shells we carry them around in. This cigarette is just giving her the pleasure that kept her human self from being able to stop and not hurting her in any way.
There are other angel mothers there. They come to sit with her at her table. They are all dressed similarly, comfortable with their wings. They drink coffee or sip wine and laugh and gossip about us with our ridiculous worries and our ridiculous expectations of ourselves and of others. Stuck in our human shells, wingless souls at the mercy of our addictions and everything else on this earth. Occasionally their visit is interrupted, one of them will stop laughing for a moment to hear a softly spoken whisper from earth reaching across the universe.  If only you were here Mom I would know. If only I could talk to you, I would know that it might be ok …. If only you were here. If only you had never left. If. Only. You had never left. I would be ok.
The others take a break from their chattering for a moment to give the listener a chance to hear.  They fold their wings in closer to their own hearts to feel their perfect angelness and to give thanks for the peace they have at the table. They wish there was more time to share. But the earthbound Motherless never stop sending their whispers.   would know that it might be ok …. If only you were here. If only you had never left. If. Only. You had never left. I would be ok.
The others take a break from their chattering for a moment to give the listener a chance to hear.  They fold their wings in closer to their own hearts to feel their perfect angelness and to give thanks for the peace they have at the table. They wish there was more time to share. But the earthbound Motherless never stop sending their whispers.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Katerina Cavanagh

Imperfect in The Most Perfect Way

IMG_1272My sisters and I grew up in the seventies and eighties. Our mother stayed home and took care of the house while my father worked. There was never allotted “quality time” with her but there was a great deal to be learned by just being with her and we took full advantage of that. When she spent hours tethered by a phone cord to the kitchen wall, gabbing with her pals, we learned the importance of friendship. When she ran the Sugar Shack at the Little League field, we learned about business. When she decided to create a committee to block development in the woods across the street from our house, we learned about civic duty. When she clipped coupons and mailed in rebates for eighteen months to save for a trip to Disney, we learned about budgets and when she dropped everything to make out with our father every time he walked in the door, we learned how to treat our husbands.

When many years later we learned that she was dying we learned that we weren’t ready to live without our mother. We sat by her bed and cried for days until we looked at our faces in the mirror and learned that if we didn’t stop crying we would look like old women before our time. But our hearts wouldn’t let our eyes stop crying and we laid on her bed and cried so much she yelled at us to stop and get off of her because her nightgown was getting soaked. She died three months later and we learned how fragile life is and how important it is to say I love you. It’s difficult to describe the feeling of losing your Mom. There are no words to describe a person that has lost their mother  like widow or orphan. The word “un-mothered” comes very close and maybe “motherless” is even better. The motherless us learned what it’s like to have our roots ripped from the earth and the importance of letting them take hold again so we could continue to survive.

Recently I heard someone call my mother a saint. I felt obligated to correct them. She was not a saint and to remember her as one would be be to remember her incorrectly. She wasn’t a saint, we knew it and she knew it. She did the best she could. She was kind, she worked hard, she loved her kids and her husband, she laughed at the top of her lungs, she smoked, she flew off the handle, she had a ton of friends that distracted her from other things, she made horrible coffee, she yelled, she was opinionated. She wasn’t perfect. She was much better than that. She was imperfect in the most perfect way and that we have come to learn is a perfect way to be.

When our mother earned her angel wings I wrote her eulogy and shared it at her funeral.      IMG_3093 It’s titled Full Moon in Aries on the Autumn Equinox and is posted in a separate entry on this blog. It shares many poignant and hilarious moments in her life and I believe she would have thought it was perfect.

 

– Katerina Cavanagh

Full Moon in Aries on The Autumn Equinox

 

Full Moon in Aries on the Autumn Equinox – Eulogy for my Mom

December 17, 2010
The full moon was in Aries on the Autumn Equinox the day I found out my mother had cancer. She called to tell me, very matter of factly, the conversation she had with the doctor, the plan, the times, with no tears and little emotion. I said o.k. and was swallowed up by the sensation that the whole world had turned Technicolor. If you asked me before that moment how it would be to receive news like this I would have suggested that things would have turned dim but it was this crazy brightening of the world that hit me first. I opened up the newspaper and read “The Full Moon is in Aries on the Autumn Equinox” and I wasn’t the least bit surprised.
My mother was a lot of things, one of them was lucky, not rhetorically lucky, … ‘ so lucky to have such a great husband.” So lucky to have such great kids.” She was actually really lucky, when she gambled she usually won and let’s just say that the Indians at the Mohegan Sun casino aren’t disappointed that she won’t be back. She was willing to sell just about anything, in fact I just got our “Congratulations you’ve been a member of e-bay for 12 years!” notice. But one of the things that always got me was her willingness to sell things for a quarter. When we did flea markets or sold on ebay she’d say I think we can get at least a quarter for this. I schlepped more boxes of things to and from flea markets that we might have possibly gotten a quarter for than I really wanted to. I always wanted to sell big ticket items – she did too – but if she couldn’t she’d be happy to get a quarter.
Why not when you don’t have to lift ten 50 lb. boxes full of twenty five cent crap on and off the truck! She’d sell just about anything and I’d often imagine that one day she’d be sitting on a cardboard box in front of her computer in an empty house …. But she’d also save just about anything – a plastic beaded angel given to her by a friend that had died, a coffee mug she got from Nancy Max in 1978 that was chipped in several places that she still drank coffee from every day for 30years, an “I’m running away” letter from an 11 year old girl and every tooth that fell out of 4 kids heads.
She was sentimental and loyal but also very ferocious, defending my father or one of us or protecting herself from us her fierceness was formidable.
Since I was a kid, my mother has served dinner at quarter after five. In the seventies with four kids in the kitchen in the middle of summer she served dinner at quarter after five. The street we grew up on, Pershing Avenue, was in what I would say it’s hey day during the summer of 1977, ten kids could be seen from any picture window during the day, banana seat bikes raced down the sidewalk or leaned against lamp posts, traffic stopping kickball games were played in the middle of the street until 9 PM, forts and playhouses were in every backyard and …. the Ice Cream Man came in the evening. Except once, when he decided to come at 4:45 while my mother was making supper, as soon as we heard the bell someone started begging, we told her we’d put them in the freezer and save them. But supper was in half an hour and she wasn’t getting Ice Cream for anyone. Begging continued and she held her ground. AND as the truck closed in on our house ….. the bell getting louder and louder … the begging even louder.

She shot out of the door screaming at the top of her lungs, chasing the ice cream man with a wooden spoon. We chased after her, all four of us and probably a few other kids from the neighborhood as worried as we were. We screamed after her “We changed our minds. We don’t want Ice Cream.” “We’ll never ask again. “ Please – Don’t – Hurt – The – Ice Cream Man”
Too late. He stopped. She waved the wooden spoon right up in his face and told him if he ever came back on Pershing Avenue before quarter after five on a weeknight he’d have to deal with her again and he’d be sorry. All of our eyes just stared at the back of the ice cream truck, our mouths remained speechless and we watched as it disappeared over the crest. She flew by us then without saying a single word and back into the house as the clock closed in on quarter after five . She had a line that could not be crossed and to this day, there was no one that witnessed that event who didn’t worry that one day they might cross the line that would end up with her going ” Ice Cream Man” on your ass.
It was a True Blue Moon the day my mother told me that she didn’t think she had long to live. I just stared at her, I didn’t know if she was asking me or telling me. She was telling me. Most of us think that a blue moon is the second full moon in a month, but it’s not, a real Blue Moon is a moon in a Lunar year with 13 full moons. When you’re planning holy days it is very difficult to work around 13 moons. It’s the reason why the number 13 is considered unlucky and why cycles with 13 full moons are considered unlucky years. Luckily… this happens only once every 19 to 20 years . It’s why we have the phrase “once in a blue moon”
My mom was big on idioms and phrases. My favorite… “It’s better than a sharp stick in the eye.” You could be moaning about one thing or another to her and she’d say well, “it sure as hell beats a sharp stick in the eye.” “ I only got a quarter for it but that’s better than a sharp stick in the eye … “ think about it, with the exception of things like this – most stuff that gets us all worked up IS better than a sharp stick in the eye. If you take any of what I’m saying away with you , this should be it – it works very well at keeping things in perspective.

Number Two saying – “Patience is a rewarding virtue possess it if you can, it’s often found in woman and never found in man.” – she could clip coupons and send in rebates for 2 years to save for a family trip to Florida, every year in January she could start a household budget notebook with one entry – that would drive me crazy – the barely touched notebook. Not even half way filled until June. She loved when it had that one page – with just one entry, patiently waiting to get filled up. She could wait a couple of days to tell you something important – good or bad – she had the patience of a saint.
Number 3 – “The only thing more overrated than natural childbirth is owning your own business.” I’m not even going to elaborate on that one.
And the last –
The two most important things you can give your children are roots and wings. It has profound meaning on one level but for my mother it was a simple and effective way of mothering and it looks like this. Me: “You don’t understand me. This place sucks”, Mom: “Then Go.” “Mom, it’s 9 o’ clock on New Year’s Eve my date stood me up.” —Then come over here.” “Mom, what the heck? Everytime I come over your garbage is full I can’t even fit my gum in here.” — “Then Go.”
“Mom, my cat got hit by a car, my husband is a jerk, my kids are driving me crazy …. “ —Then come over here.” “Mom, I’m driving across the country to work at Yellowstone Park, I’m moving to Florida … I want to live in Panama.” —- “then Go.” Mom, our boat sunk we have no place to live.” Mom, the doctor says I can’t take care of my newborn baby myself, I’m too sick.” —- “Then come live with me…” From this I learned — it’s scary to think of your kids going away, it’s even scarier to think that they won’t. Be the kind of mother your kids want to come back to and they will.
My mother died on a Monday … a Moon day …
Today the moon is waxing Gibbous …. It’s more than half full and it’s growing. On a day that we all feel a little bit more empty the moon is actually filling and growing every minute with more light. Living with someone who is dying brings us face to face with our own mortality and it’s scary. The day my Mom told me she was going to leave me – I never even bothered to consider the moon cycle. She said, I’ve had a wonderful life filled with love and pain, and good fortune and heartbreak and I wouldn’t change a thing. I love you girls, I loved Tommy and I have known love without measure from your father, I’m not afraid to go. But I am afraid for you. I told her I was too but she had given me more than I needed to carry on – I have learned how to love without fear, to mother with a sense of humor and to welcome strangers into my life as friends and angels. The following words are not mine or hers but rather words from a country song that I think sum things up pretty well – “I love this crazy, tragic sometimes almost magic awful, beautiful life.”

The night before my mother died … a Sunday night … as we sat down to dinner my Uncle, John Hula, said grace. It was beautiful – he said “When Jesus came to this world, he did not come as a king … he did not come as a warrior … followed by soldiers in arms … he came as a blessed member of a family. Because families enrich us in ways that other things can not. Is there anyone more lucky, are the riches of a kingdom equal to the love of a family? Is there anything more worth defending than someone with whom you have a family bond …” Is there anyone more blessed than those, who like my mother in her final days, in her final hours, and her final breath shared her love and her life with someone who loved her … her family? I don’t believe there is.

Sometimes there are nights when the moon doesn’t even show it’s face and sometimes there are nights when the moon shines brightly upon our faces like a dark sun. It always marks the passage of time. The Full Moon was in Aries on the Autumn Equinox the day I realized I wouldn’t have my mother forever and the day that I realized that because I had her for as long as I did I would never be alone again.

On behalf of my sisters and my father I would like to thank all of you for being with us and supporting us through this difficult process, as you had 5 years ago when we lost Tommy. My Aunt Bobbi, who came when I told her … she just doesn’t have enough fur for me to know how to take care of her … To my Uncle John for letting us have her and then coming all the way from Oregon to be with us. To everyone that has cooked and cleaned for us, for Aunt Sue and Aunt Judy and all of the YaYa’s – your support is always inspiring. To my cousin Jodi and everyone that knows that at my mother and father’s house the door has been and is always open to all. To everyone that came from up North and out West or from around the corner. To our girls, Dawny, Sandy, Kathleen and Paula. To the hospice nurses that respected my father’s plan. To our children, who have demonstrated that we have instilled in them our commitment to this family. To our husbands, Bobber, Jean-Noel and Darrin for supporting us and passing Meem’s muster. We are blessed beyond measure to be members of such an amazing family.

November 23, 2010  moon over Manhattan was a “true” blue moon – not the second full moon in the month but the third full moon in a season with 4 full moons – there are 13 full moons in the lunar cycle this year not 12. Unlucky 13 … go figure. I was there. It was two weeks before my mother died. The Grateful Dead  were playing at Madison Square Garden.image