Once she called me in a panic.
"I need cigarettes."
"How many do you have left, Mom?" I was calculating how much time I had before the critical moment.
"Only one carton."
"Are you going to smoke a whole carton by tomorrow?"
"Don't forget to buy cigarettes tomorrow."
"Ok. Tomorrow. G'night mom."
Mom would be 86 had she not died peacefully in her sleep back in June 2001. Well, if she didn't die that day, she surely would have keeled over a few months later on September 11th. On the morning of 9/11, with mom's death not completely sunken in yet, I picked up the phone to call her and tell her, "I told you so!" (I always told her American foreign policy would bite us on the ass one day. She thought America could do no wrong.)
My last conversation with her was about that poor women, Andrea Yates, who killed her kids. Her husband just kept knocking her up and expecting her to home school the children. My mom and I were discussing how that would drive any woman completely mad. I think I was even crying about it when I said goodbye on the day I would see her alive for the last time. I have this thing about men who make their wives crazy.
I told her I'd pick her up in the morning for her hair appointment. I went to pick her up as planned, but she was sleeping so soundly that she wouldn't wake up. She was like a princess laying there. A perfect lady even in death. (Although don't tell her I said this, but this perfect lady used to say things spontaneously and in a hushed tone like, "Sometimes, Lizzy, you just have to call a fuck a fuck." "Don't you mean a spade, mom?" "A fuck," she'd whisper under her breath.)
Mom was an avid worrier and CNN watcher in the years before she died. My dad had alzheimers and cancer and couldn't walk very well and my mom was his main caregiver which literally sucked the life out of her. I was the backup until my mom's vision got so bad that I had to call in hospice home care for dad and I would take care of her needs. I still had to run over there in the middle of the night to pick dad off the floor.
Family Circle Magazine featured me in a story about the "sandwich generation" in 2000. They made me sound bitter. I don't think I was bitter so much as exhausted. I was 45 and I thought mom was going to outlive me. MSNBC then called me about being in a feature about the sandwich generation, but they wanted me to talk about how it destroyed my sex life. Huh? Oh yeah, I want to find someone to stay with mom while I go on national teevee and discuss my sex life. I'm sure my husband and son would be so proud. Not.
Mom would tell me what she saw/heard on the news and then we'd argue about it over breakfast or lunch in the Grapevine Cafe where I took her almost every morning before we ran errands together and amassed even more stuff that I would eventually have to get rid of. Shopping was her therapy. She was legally blind due to macular degeneration and she was pissed off that she couldn't drive more than anything in the world. I wished she could drive herself around too. I was constantly worried that I'd find her at the bottom of the stairs one day but she refused to have anyone stay with her.
She never did lose her spunk and I could kid her about the "binoculars" she wore to watch television. She really didn't know what she had in the house so she bought more when I'd take her shopping.
She would look at me with her 'mother expression' if I said anything about what she was buying in the supermarket, "Elizabeth. Don't start with me."
"I just don't understand how you can go through a whole bottle of suppositories in one week," she couldn't see me rolling my eyes.
After she died and I had 3 floors of house to empty, I think there were about 50 blistex tubes and hundreds of emery boards (which I still haven't used up in 5 years) when I was sorting through things. We bought them every week too. She had a giant freezer and it was always filled. She still shopped as if she were feeding and outfitting a whole family. That's a career mother for you.