After a very long battle with cancer, my mom died on Thursday.
As Wonder Woman could tell you, most children have very intense relationships with there mothers. Look at the sordid past of Diana and Hippolyta. I'm not even gonna touch that mess this time around.
When I was little, my mom gave me nothing but support, encouragement, and unconditional love. I was pretty effeminate straight out the gate. Back then, they just thought I was sensitive.
When I was little, I had an older brother, Mark. When he went off to kindergarten, it was just mom and me. She was a mother and housewife. She was busy doing her chores most of the day, so I would watch TV, play with my toys, and sometimes "help" with her chores.
I had a teddy bear named "Dum Dum." I named him after the little Dum Dum lollipops we used to get if we went to the bank with my dad. The teller would always send one over in one of those drive-through air chutes that always fascinated me to no end. I would give Dum Dum pretend baths in an empty laundry basket, obviously not filled with water. At the risk of dating myself, kids had to be creative when entertaining themselves back in the day. Luckily, I was an FGA (Future Gay of America) and had no shortage of creativity.
I also liked to "help" my mom cook. I was always by her side when she was trying to prepare the family dinner. I would take the little chair from the kids' table and pull it up to the counter and stand by her side. My favorite memory is when I helped her by cracking an egg right on the floor. I could tell she was pissed, but she didn't yell or get angry with me. My mom could be excitable, but she was also very loving and patient.
My mom was very cool. She very much encouraged creativity and individuality in me and my siblings. (I have a baby sister, too.) My mom was an artist herself, but not a terribly good one, although she had potential and I loved her style. Her anatomy left something to be desired. She would draw people's butts (both cheeks) attached to the side of their leg, presumably so you could see it from the front. She did draw beautiful faces with luxurious hair. The bodies had a nice fluidity, although her hands usually featured anywhere from four to seven fingers.
"Draw for me mommy. Draw for me," was a common request, and she always did. That is, until one day she handed me the sketch pad and said, "You try, Michael." With trepidation, I took the pad and pencil and never looked back. I guess you could credit my mom for my love of art and developing my drawing ability.
I could probably also credit my mom for my eccentricity and sense of humor. Mom loved scary movies and would always let us kids watch them. Luckily, I wasn't scarred for life and love the horror genre to this day. She also loved comedies and stand-up comics. There was always laughter with my mom, and humor helped our family get through many rough situations.
After a nasty divorce, my mom took us to Las Vegas and began raising us on her own. From mother and housewife to single mom in the blink of an eye, my mom did anything and everything to keep our new tight-knit family together.
I did everything I could to help her out, doing chores and often cooking dinner on nights she had to work the graveyard shift. I got my first job at 15. When I was 16, I got my driver's license and a car. I would take my mom to work, the grocery store, and other errands as she didn't drive. I did my best to contribute as much as I could.
I never did grow out of my effeminate "stage," and it became more obvious as a teen. My mom would often ask me if I was gay, and I would answer with nothing but silence. It's always been difficult for me to lie, especially when it came to my mother. Eventually, she wore me down, and I admitted my sexuality to her. Even though she had had a few gay friends that she loved to death, she initially cried. At first I thought she was disappointed or upset that I was gay. I later learned she was only upset because of the challenges I would have to endure living that lifestyle. She quickly got over it and eventually embraced it. Let me tell you, there is nothing more unique or sacred than the bond of a mother and her gay son. Being gay wasn't the easiest thing in the world in Toledo, OH, but I made it somehow, partly due to the love and support from my mom.
After high school, I was all signed up for college and backed out at the last minute. Apparently I didn't get the memo that college was a much easier atmosphere to be gay than high school and just couldn't face it. My mom was disappointed but never gave me any crap about it.
Thank god for natural blondes and bleach. My mom always had blonde hair, thus my brother, sister, and I were all toe-heads. When my hair started darkening in adolescence, mom allowed me to bleach my hair and even did it for me the first time.
After pushing college to the wayside, I started getting the itch to spread my wings. It was my dream to go to Hollywood and become the next Tom Cruise. I know, I know... insert one of several possible jokes here. I had the opportunity to move to Florida with some friends. Aha! A stepping stone to California, and it was. My mom hated the fact that I was leaving. She was always overprotective of her children. But she also knew that I had a restless spirit and needed to pursue my dreams. I'm often underestimated by people who think they know me. My mom always had faith and knew I was brilliant.
It was hard to leave mom. After I first moved, she would send me letters and cards. One time she wrote quotes from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane on the envelope. It was one of our favorite movies together. You couldn't get away with it in this day and age without the postal service thinking you were a terrorist. I always tried to keep in consistent touch with my mom, only shying away if I was struggling or at a low point in my life. I never wanted her to worry. But mom's always know.
After I had been in L.A. for awhile, my mom began having some serious health problems. I often asked her if she wanted me to come home and help take care of her. She always flatly refused, not wanting me to give up my life and dreams for her. She was always selfless like that.
Mom eventually got worse, but she had an indomitable will and endured more than most people could dream of.
The last couple of times I went home to visit, her health would worsen over a period of time. But she was one tough broad. I'd like to think I get my strength and tenacity from her.
A couple of months ago, mom's health took a serious turn for the worse, and we all new the end was looming. I knew I'd have to visit her soon. I also knew that that visit would be the last time I would see her alive. As a longtime smoker, my mom had C.O.P.D. and it became increasingly difficult for her to breathe. The last few weeks before I returned home, it was next to impossible to reach her on the phone. If she wasn't getting a breathing treatment she couldn't catch breath enough to talk to me at all. I knew it was time to go and say goodbye.
As a momma's boy, my family feared my reaction seeing my mom in the condition she was. I wasn't afraid. I wanted to see my mom. When I got there I was taken aback. It's hard to see a woman who was so beautiful, strong, and full of life knocked on her butt by an awful illness. Once I got over the initial shock, my heart became overwhelmed with love, joy, and gratitude. I was finally able to be by my mom's side. And she looked just as beautiful as I had ever seen her despite her failing health. When you love someone so much, you just see who they are and not what they have become. When she woke up, she was so happy to see me. I kissed her and she told me she loved me and that's all that mattered to me.
The second day I saw her, she had taken a turn for the worse. I instantly decided to stay by her side until I had to leave.
I always had and probably always will be filled with guilt that I wasn't there enough to take care of her in the last few years of her life. But she wouldn't want that. One of the things she told me was that she loved me. And that she didn't want me to fight with my siblings and we needed to take care of ourselves and each other. Okay, mom, I'll give it my best shot.
Awhile before she took a turn for the worse, I made her promise she would wait to see me before the end. And she did. I was so torn leaving, as she was still alive but barely lucid when I did. But just as she waited for me to get there, part of me knew she wouldn't let go if was still there. She probably figured I wouldn't handle it very well. But I was cool with it. She knew I was there. We shared some beautiful moments and I was blessed with the chance to bid her farewell. A lot of people would give anything for that chance.
She died the Thursday after I returned to L.A. She was unconscious most of the time after I left. It was August 31st and the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. I think my mom would have liked that. As much as it killed me and I cried myself dry, her death gave me a sense of calm and relief. I was happy she was no longer suffering. In the middle of my visit, I was alone with my mom (as I was most of the time I was there, and I relished it). I was sitting on the edge of her bed talking to her as she slept. It was a little overcast and I told my mom how bad I wished it would rain as we never got very many in L.A.
The day she died I went out to my balcony. The sky was dark and it started to rain with actual thunder. I could see the sun poking through a beautiful cluster of clouds, and I knew mom had sent me my thunderstorm. She was barely gone, and already causing a stir in Heaven or wherever we go past this mortal coil. I like to say she didn't lose her battle. She won her right of passage. Rest in peace, mom. I love you forever.
Thanks for letting me share my mom's story with you this week. We'll be back next week with more tales of Wonder.
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