You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘death of loved one’ category.

I got through the first Father’s Day without my Daddy. It was not easy, and I spent a good deal of the weekend crying.

Unfortunately, too many of my friends are also celebrating the first Father’s Day without their fathers. One of the things that is so tough about it is that you want to try to be happy for your husband or mate, who may have children but, the pain of seeing that empty chair at the table is just almost too much to bear.

I had four men that were father figures to me and, to make matters even worse, they are all gone now.

The situation with my birth father was so difficult. My mother and he had a very contentious relationship and he was verbally and physically abusive, at times, to both my mother and I. Watching my mother cry, basically through her entire twenties and the first seven or eight years of my life, was not fun. He had an affair and started another family with that woman.  He left for good the night before my first day of kindergarten.  Although we tried to reconnect throughout the years, it just never worked out. He passed away five months after my Mom, in January of 2015. Although I didn’t grieve him in the way I would grieve the other men in my life, I was deeply saddened by the thought that we would never be able to mend the fences and have any sort of meaningful relationship. That ship had sailed. He was gone forever. To be fair, despite his shortcomings as a father to me, he was very affectionate. I get that from him. He was also very musical, and my sons and I both get that from him, and he was a very, very good athlete (he was voted “Most Athletic” in his high school senior year), and my son, Jack, gets that athleticism from him. Also, to be fair, despite all of the heartache, the truth of the matter is that if there hadn’t been a Victor Abate, there would never have been a Nicole Abate or a Christine Abate. For those things, I am grateful.

During the times he was away, my Grandpa Mike (or Honey, as I called him) took over as the main man in my life. He would come, in his operating engineer clothes, smelling like hot tar and sun, to my Father-Daughter tea parties, square dances, Brownie Daddy Days. He would always make me feel special – giving me lots of hugs and kisses, coming in to kiss me good night with his big manly hands (they were like baseball mitts) and giving me sweet butterfly kisses. He made me feel like the center of his universe. I used to worry when I was little about who would walk me down the aisle when I got married. Honey always promised me that he would. He would work all day out East, driving his big construction vehicles out in the hot sun all day, and then, go all the way back home to Locust Valley to shower, change and pick up my Grandma and then, turn right back around to pick me up in Commack so that I could sleep at his house for the entire weekend. At that time, my sister, Chrissy was still going on weekends to see my biological father. I refused to go because he wanted me to call his new wife “mom” and I refused. Anyone who knows me knows that if I don’t want to do something – I am not going to do it. Perhaps that is the Calabrese in me (which I get from Honey, by the way!).

In any case, I would spend the weekends at my grandparents, which worked out well for my mom, too, as she was still a beautiful, young and vibrant woman who was able to date on those weekends. I was happy with Honey and Grandma Nickie. We would get to their house late on Friday – Grandma having to keep elbowing him when he nodded off. Saturday I would either get a ride to Kramer’s stationary with Honey, where I was able to pick out pretty much anything I wanted (usually candy, Mad Magazine and the teen magazines that were in vogue at the time.) I would read my magazines and eat my candy in the garage while Honey was in his mechanic pit working on a car, or piddling around doing any number of things in the yard. I’d bring my baton, too, and practice my routines while listening to the Top Forty on the small boom box I kept there. Grandma would cook and the smells would be heavenly. Dinner was always some delicious Italian meal and then, we would cuddle up on the couch and watch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. At bedtime, I slept in between them in there bed. I remember feeling so safe and warm and happy when they would reach over my head so that they could hold hands as they fell asleep. On Sunday mornings, Honey’s brother, Uncle Frankie, would come over with fresh tomatoes and they would do a shot (or two or three) or Sambuca. I was always allowed to have a little. We would head for home midday. I also cherished those rides home, sitting in between them, listening to songs from Grease and Saturday Night Fever on the radio of Honey’s Lincoln. He always had a Chevy pickup truck for work and a Lincoln for pleasure.

Other weekends, especially in the summer, I would go to my Aunt Angela and Uncle Neal’s, who lived in Bayville, about ten minutes away. I would spend time with my cousins Neal and David.  We had so many good times. Riding out bikes and roller skating, fishing, playing Charlie’s Angels or The Dukes of Hazzard. Unfortunately, Neal is the cousin I lost just a day and half before my step father (my REAL father) this past January. I miss him, too, every single day. Sometimes Neal and David would sleep at Grandma and Honey’s with me. We would eat Jello pudding pops, play Chinese jump rope, watch Nickelodeon and generally drive my grandparents crazy. These were good times. I thank God every day, still, that I had Honey as my pseudo daddy for those years. I know I was very special to him. He didn’t let me forget it, ever.

He started asking me when I was around ten what I wanted from him for my sixteenth birthday. He wanted to get me something special. My Aunt Angela had a beautiful rabbit fur coat and I remember I told him that I wanted that, for sure! By the time I turned sixteen, though, and Honey asked me if I decided what I wanted, I decided I wanted a piece of Jewelry – a ring. He brought me Squires in the Sears mall and let me pick out anything I wanted. I ended up picking up a ruby ring, that I still have and treasure to this day.

When my wedding day was approaching, I was very torn. My mom had been married to my Daddy (who most of you know as my “real dad”) and, of course, I wanted him to walk me down the aisle. I never forgot all of the times I had begged my Honey to do it, though so, I talked to Daddy, and explained to him my feelings and, of course, understood completely. We decided that Honey would walk me halfway down the aisle, to where Daddy was waiting, and Daddy would walk me the rest of the way and give me away. It was truly beautiful. I’ll never forget when I walked down the spiral staircase in my wedding gown, ready to get started. My Honey was waiting at the bottom of the stairs and his eyes immediately welled up with tears. He was able to get out “you look beautiful, Nicole”. It was a very special moment for us. I swear it was like people say they go through before their death – with the entire life flashing before their eyes. At that moment, I remembered all of the love and support that Honey had given me growing up and, I had to try very, very hard to not break down and mess up my professionally done make up.

The most amazing thing about my Honey was that although he was a “tough guy” –  a Marine who fought at the Battle of Iwo Jima, a mechanic, a heavy machinery operator. A big man – and one of the strongest men I have ever known with the exception of my husband, he was also able to give a little girl all of the sweet, loving things she needed. It wasn’t until I got older until I understood just how special that was. Honey passed away in January of 2009, to join my Grandma Nickie in heaven. I miss him each and every single day. And, I suspect, I always will. Losing him was so much more than losing a grandparent; it was like losing a father. And, although it hurt more because of that, I wouldn’t change a thing about having been so close to him. He was truly one of a kind.

When I was nine and a half, my Mom married my Daddy. Big Bob. When I think of the hard time I gave him when they were dating and, even when they first got married. You see, I was used to it just being my Mom, Chrissy and I. My Mom worked so much that she was pretty laid back as a parent. There weren’t that many rules. As long as I was in bed, it didn’t really matter how late I stayed up reading (I was resting, she would say!), we were able to sleep with her whenever the mood hit us (watching her little black and white TV until we eventually fell asleep), running out of the house with no hat when it was snowing was no big deal (you get sick from germs, not from the cold, she would say), we were always allowed to have all of our friends in our house, dinner time was a different time every night, depending on how late she had to work. We were one of the first generation of “latch key” kids and, that was perfectly alright. Chrissy and I had so much fun coming home by ourselves. Mom didn’t say “no” often. She was so busy making a living. Survival was the key at that time. I remember her patching our jeans and even rolling pennies once in a while so that she would run to Pathmark and buy macaroni and cheese for dinner.

When “Big Bob”, my Daddy, came into our lives, there was a huge learning curve for all of us. Daddy was stricter than Mom had been and, of course, being nine and six, we rebelled against this. WHY can’t we put our feet up on our chairs when we were eating dinner (and why did we have to be home for dinner at the same time every night?), why in the world did we need a bed time? A real one where when the lights went out, we actually had to go to sleep. Why in the world did we have to wear hats in the snow? You get the idea. There was a lot of fighting – between me and Chrissy and Daddy, between Mom and Daddy. Mom had to teach Daddy to pick his battles and to not expect us to change overnight. Daddy had to teach Mom that kids need some structure in their lives. And, he was right. But, it was hard going at the beginning.

We found our rhythm pretty quickly, though, and he was our “Daddy”. He was there for us, unconditionally, all of the time. Chrissy and I also both look a lot like our biological father so, it must not have been easy to take on these two little wildlings that look like the man that he knew caused the woman he loved so much so much pain.

Daddy was there for us when we were sick at night, had our horrendous bloody noses from the forced hot air in the house, when we were heartbroken over the loss of a “love”, when we needed advice about everything (Daddy, having been a hippie before marrying Mom, had a wealth of knowledge about most things teenager struggle with); we were able to talk to him about drugs, boyfriends, even sex. He was cool and blasted Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody in the house, along with anything Dylan, Beatles, Joplin and Hendrix. We loved listening to his stories about Woodstock, driving across country on his motorcycle, and basically living life in a way that Mom never got the chance to. He opened his own photography business and named it “Chris-Cole” after my sister and I. We were so touched that he would do that. He was still strict but, we started to feel as though it was because he loved us so much and was concerned about our well-being.

Daddy taught us that anything was possible, that if you work hard there was nothing you couldn’t accomplish. I know he was so proud that I own my own business. He felt as though I took that chance because I had watched him do it. And, of course, he gave us the greatest gift of all – our little sister, Lori, a year after he and Mom got married.

And, here’s the thing that made him not only our “step” father but our “Daddy”. When Lori was born – his own flesh and blood, I have to admit I was a little worried that he would love her more. That’s just the truth. But, the real truth is that never, even for a second, did Chrissy or I feel as though he loved us any less than his own “natural” daughter. We were all special to him, in different ways. He called me #1, Chrissy #2 and Lori #3.

He made our house a home. We could depend on his love unconditionally. Even when he was angry (and, believe me – Chrissy and I gave him a real run for his money), we never doubted for one second how much he loved us. We were his “girls”.

And, when we had children, he was a wonderful grandfather. My kids didn’t realize, until much, much later, that his blood didn’t run through my veins. It was a very important lesson for them in that it taught them that it is people’s actions that count, and not whether you are technically “related” to that person. It’s a very important lesson and I’m glad my children learned it early. It will help them when they navigate the complicated world of relationships in the future. My kids loved their Papa and, it was a joy for him to have boy children to love, after having had three girls himself.

It was clear from the very, very beginning how much he loved us and was ready to be our Daddy. When my parents went on their honeymoon, they were gone for about ten days. Honey and Grandma Nickie came and stayed at our house to watch Chrissy and I. They got in late – we were able to stay up and wait for them. They weren’t home for more than maybe fifteen minutes, just starting to show us some pictures and talk about their time, when Chrissy and I, at the same time, got those terrible bloody noses. It was bad. No matter what they did, they couldn’t get them to stop. Grandma and Honey were still there and they were helping to but, to no avail. It got so bad, and Chrissy swallowed so much blood, that she ended up vomiting it up. This is when Mom passed out (she was known to do that in times of great stress! LOL!). There we were, in the kitchen that looked like a gruesome murder had taken place because of all of the blood all over the place, with my parent’s luggage still in the doorway, when they finally had to call an ambulance. We spent the entire night at the hospital where they were eventually able to cauterize our noses and get the bleeding to stop. Imagine, this is the first night in his new “home” and a precursor for how difficult it was to raise children, which he had never done before. He stayed cool, calm and collected, spoke softly and kindly to us to calm us down, took care of my Mom, who was freaking out, and basically took charge of the entire situation. We didn’t get home until around dawn. Some men, I’m sure, would have taken the luggage and run (or at least thought of doing that) but, not Daddy. From the day he became our father, he was our father 100 percent.

During the period of transition I spoke of above, I was also lucky enough to also have my best friend’s dad, Jim, to act as another strong father figure in my life. I watched how he was with his girls and knew that I wanted what they had.  Jim (or Mr. Jim, or Poppa Jim, which I also called him) was always there for me; he and his wife would talk to me when I would come over crying about how “strict” our new father was, how he didn’t understand how we had lived and how he couldn’t expect us to change overnight. They were always there to let me know that things would get better. That my new Daddy was a good man and would adjust to having kids of his own – that he just needed some time. I was always welcome there – to eat, to sleep over, to swim, to just hand around in a house I felt comfortable in while adjusting to my new situation at home. And, my new father wasn’t very affectionate. It’s just how he was raised and how he was wired. Jim was affectionate. And, that helped me. That helped me in a very profound way. I stayed close to Jim up until his death in August of last year. So, this is really my first Father’s Day without my Daddy and without the man who was so instrumental in making my new home situation go that much more smoothly, just by being there. He did this by loving me and by encouraging me that my new Daddy was a great man and things would get easier with time. Boy, was he was right.

To make matters worse, not only am I grieving for these men who meant so much to me that were lost this year, my best friend is grieving as much as I am. She lost her father and as often as I was at her home growing up, she was at mine and had a very special relationship with my Daddy. He used to call her his fourth daughter. I was so blessed that Daddy ended up in a rehab facility the last two months of his life that Jill worked in. She was able to look in on him several times a day, advocate for him, and just her presence gave him some comfort. The thing is, because we are grieving together, it is so hard to help each other. We do, don’t get me wrong but, it is incredibly hard to try and comfort someone who is grieving for the same people you are.

I thought of all of these men this weekend, what they meant to me, how they affected my life and what they all brought to it. Although, of course, it was Daddy’s empty chair at my sister Lori’s house that broke my heart the most. He was a wonderful man. He took my mother and us kids in and was there for us always and unconditionally. People who didn’t realize he was really my “step” father (and there were many, for he always referred to all three of us as his “daughters” and gave us all equal time – whether he was bragging about us, or complaining about us), would often tell him that Chrissy or I looked like him and we would get a chuckle out of that. But, it’s true. When someone means so much to you and has such a profound impact on your life, you do start to resemble them; physically, in the way that you act, in your expressions and so on.

As is often the case, when I started writing this, I did it to get my thoughts out on paper, where they hurt less than when they are in my mind. I always end up taking something away from them, though, and this is where this particular blog led me.

It’s unfortunate the way that my biological father’s relationship with me ended up. But, again, if there was no him there would be no me.

More importantly, I was so incredibly lucky to have three other men in my life that stepped up and filled that void that any little girl who has been left by a father feels. It warms my heart that Honey and Jim were there for me in such important and meaningful ways. I will always remember them as father figures and, they deserve that title. I was honored to be able to do the eulogies at both of their funerals. I loved them both very much and, more importantly, they loved me very much. They made me feel worthy of the unconditional love of a man. They made me feel beautiful and good.  They will always hold a very special place in my heart.

And, what can I say about the man who came into our lives and made us his own? He was an incredibly giving, loving, caring, funny, dependable man who would lie down his life for any one of ours. He was a wonderful husband to my mother and taught me so much about how a healthy marriage should look. With all of the horror stories you hear about “step” fathers, ours was the best. In all respects, the “step” was just not an issue from day one. He was our Daddy. And, although it was so very hard, I am so glad that we were there, by his bedside, at the end. We told him how wonderful he was, how great he did with all of us – that we are all happy, fulfilled, independent woman, and that we would be ok if he left, in large part because of all he had taught us.

So, although I am without these men on this Father’s Day, I am incredibly blessed to have had them in my life. I had more love from these men than a lot of people have in a lifetime. I know that there is a heaven, and I hope that there is no pain there; I hope that there is forgiveness and only good feelings. I hope that they look down and realize that it is the sum total of all that they did for me, which made me the woman I am today.

I like that woman. She is loving and generous, strong and resilient, forgiving and kind. She loves her husband, her kids, sisters, brother in laws, nephews, friends and pets with all of her heart.  She cares for her employees, treats people with respect and stands up for herself, when necessary.  These are lessons taken from these men.

And, as much as I love them and miss them, I know that there love is eternal – and that they will be looking down on me, guiding me and protecting me – all the days of my life.

Happy Father’s Day in heaven. All of my love – always.

xoxoxo

I have spent my life subscribing to the philosophy of Alfred Lord Tennyson;

“Tis better to have loved and lost then to never have loved at all”

Telling myself this has gotten me through some very, very difficult times. I have espoused this same quote to my children, to people close to me  trying to make sense of the loss of a loved one and, also, to friends that were going through very difficult break-ups.

This Mother’s Day morning, I woke up and was hit with such a huge wave of sadness and despair. It’s Mother’s Day, I have no mother. She was taken from me at the way too young age of 66. I no longer have a grandmother, who really helped to raise me when my mother was sick with cancer for the first time. I was only an infant. This was my fourth year that I haven’t had either one of them on this day. I know it’s supposed to get easier and I suppose someday it will but, today, when I got up, it hurt like hell.

It’s really not fair to get a good gauge on how well I’m “moving on”. Back in January, I lost my cousin suddenly (the closest one to my age and, for that fact, probably my closest cousin).  We have been close my whole lie. We grew up together. Just a short day and a half later, my daddy passed away. He was a great man, dad and husband. Of course, I was devastated by both of these losses but, to be honest, I was not really able to grieve them properly. The reason for this is my beautiful cousin, Amy.

I call Amy my cousin because that’s what she was to me. She started dating my cousin, Neal, when they were in college so; I have known her for almost 30 years. We have spent countless hours together; at my house, at family weddings, wedding showers, baby showers, holidays, etc. Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer that had already advanced about two years ago.

Naturally, because of my history of breast cancer, I had a very active role in Amy’s life dealing wither her own diagnosis. I went with her to pick out her wig, before she started chemotherapy, spent hours upon hours talking to her and texting her and Neal; about treatment options, how they were feeling emotionally, how to treat each other and be there for each other during one of the hardest times that they will ever have in their lives, the best way to recover from the surgeries, and about just about every other thing you need to start fighting this devious disease.

Unfortunately for Amy, she had a diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer. One of the most aggressive and one of the hardest to treat. Amy, my love, had to treat almost constantly for the two years she battled. And battle she did. The treatments were brutal, as were the surgeries. She ended up with almost every side effect one can get from chemotherapy, including a very painful condition called neuropathy. When standard chemotherapy wasn’t working, we were all excited when she started a promising trial, only to find that that didn’t work, either. By the end, she was both emotionally and physically exhausted, in an extreme amount of pain, unable to breathe because the cancer had spread primarily to the lung and because of her very low immune system, brought on by the chemotherapy, was having problems with fluid in the lungs. Nothing about the entire ordeal was peaceful and there was no silver lining.

And, let’s not forget, in the midst of all of this, when she could barely walk across a room without needing oxygen, she lost her husband and her uncle (who she was very close to), within a day of each other. Being Amy, there she was, at both services and funerals, sitting with the utmost in grace and dignity, all the while most likely thinking that there was a very good chance that the next time she attended a funeral she would most likely be the one in the casket.

The hardest thing for me to witness during the whole awful week of deaths, funerals and tears was when we went to my cousin’s final resting spot at the Locust Valley Cemetery. I knew that just about a week earlier, Amy had picked this plot for herself – made all of the arrangements. I cannot imagine being 44 and knowing that I was so close to the end of my life that I had to make “final arrangements”. The very thought of it makes me shudder.

At Neal and my father’s services, quite a few people came up to me to tell me how great Amy looked. You see, Amy was a gorgeous woman by anyone’s standards, and even with the extreme pain and breathlessness she was experiencing, and being there to bury her beloved husband and an uncle she loved so very much, she still looked beautiful. I however, having known Amy for so long, could tell that she didn’t look like “herself” but, looked very, very sick.

So, my grief had, in a way, been put off. Placed on the back burner, if you will, due to the worry over Amy’s health, my steadfast promise to be there for her every step of the way, along with my participation in fundraisers for her treatment (which was not covered by insurance), etc.

Well, my beloved Amy passed away at 3:10 in the afternoon this Thursday. Now she is gone. When I woke up this morning it really hit me that they are all gone. I will never get another big bear hug from Neal (he was the best hugger), I will never be able to hear my father’s booming voice and I will never again see Amy’s beautiful smile and hear her lovely chuckle. Never. Ever. Never again. It is now a trifecta of grief and it hurts. It really hurts.

Even more tragic is the fact that my Aunt Angela loved Amy as her own. She was the daughter that she never had. They talked 2-3 times a day, every day. I used to make fun of them because they started to look alike and sound alike. They even had the same mannerisms. For all intents and purposes, my Aunt lost two children in the span of 4 months. Think about that for a minute. I cannot even imagine the pain and the absolute devastation of her heart. I speak with her every day. Every day she makes me so proud. Instead of lying in bed with the covers pulled all the way up, she is working, she is preparing for the birth of yet another grandchild this Wednesday and she is spending time with her family. She is crying – a lot, of course but, she is living. She is so incredibly strong. Then again, she is my mother’s sister. My mother happens to have been the strongest women I have ever known. I come from a long line of strong, courageous women.

And, of course, I was thinking of Amy’s mother today. She lost her little girl. Although she has a son, she does not have another little girl. Amy and Neal were not able to have children and, so, there is not even a little piece of Amy in the form of a grandchild for Amy’s mother to cling to and give her hope. The pain she is feeling is enormous. The huge hole in her heart as a result of Amy’s death will never be filled. My heart aches for her, in a primitive, real and raw way. I pray to God that somehow she is able to find some joy in the rest of her life. After watching her poor daughter suffer and pass away before her eyes will, no doubt, make this very difficult.

As painful as it was for me upon waking this morning, I can’t imagine the pain either of these lovely ladies felt when they opened their eyes. How does one feel when they wake up on Mother’s Day after just losing a child/children? There are no words in the English language to describe it. The really aren’t.

I was looking through some old photo albums for older pictures of Amy so that I could use them to post a status update about her passing. The digital pictures I have are all of Amy in her thirties and early forties, for the most part. I wanted to find some of her with her big eighties hair, with my babies, when she was in her twenties. I was successful in finding what I was looking for. While going through the albums, I came across the pictures from each Christmas spent at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  There are scores of us, sitting around three tables that had to be pushed together to fit us all. Looking at these pictures, a thought struck me like a bullet through the heart. Six of these beautiful souls were now gone from this earth. They were here, the asked us to pass the gravy, they handed out the presents they had gotten for everyone, they loved, they laughed, they cried, they felt joy and happiness and sadness and they had hopes and dreams for their futures. With the exception of my grandparents, who were in their eighties when they passed, they were far too young to leave us. They had so much more life to live, so many more laughs to have, so many more tears to shed. And, no matter how hard I try, I am having a hard time making sense of it all. There are days that I really feel my faith being tested, like today.

But in looking at the pictures of us all around the table(s), I also saw the faces of all of the wonderful people I still have in my life. Would I give up the love of even one of them so that I will not have to suffer if I lose them?

The answer is a big, resounding NO.

Tragic things will always occur in life. Of that we can be sure. Tragic things will happen no matter how many people I love and accept love from. And, when those tragic things happen, it will be the people I love whose arms I will run to. It will be those people I will cry with and pour my heart out to.

And, it are these people I love – my family and friends – who inspire me, who make me laugh until my stomach hurts and tears are running down my cheeks. They are who I will share my hopes, dreams and fears with. Without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today and I even dare say that without them, it is possible I wouldn’t still be on this earth. Their constant support and love are what helped me through my heath ordeals.  Like the song said, they loved me through it.

So, at the end of this Mother’s Day, which was so incredibly difficult for not only me, my aunt, Amy’s mother and the far too many women I know who spent their days without a mother, a grandmother, their children, and a woman who was like a mother to them, I say I am so very sorry for your loss and I wish their was something – anything – I could do to take even a small amount of your pain away. 

At the end of this Mother’s Day, my biggest hope is that you spent a beautiful day with your mother, the mother of your children, your grandmother, your aunts, your God Mothers and your God Children. But, not only do I hope that you spent the day with them, I hope that you took in every moment, that you hugged them and kissed them and that you told them how much you loved them. Because tragic things happen, and the truth is you never know what life will throw at you – they could be gone sooner than you think. If you didn’t do that today, it’s not too late. Tomorrow is another day. Just make sure that you do it because remember;

“Tis better to have loved and lost then to never have loved at all.”

Happy Mother’s Day.

xoxo

 

 

I want to thank you all for coming out to honor my father, Robert Taub. Most of you know him by Bob, although he was also known as Daddy, Papa, Robbie, Uncle Bob, Mr. Bob, Big Bob and, most recently, Slim Daddy. Whatever it is that you called him, the fact that you are here today means that he touched your life in some way.

My dad was born on January 27, 1949 in the Bronx to Harry and Dinah. He grew up in Hicksville, NY and was always regaling us with stories of the Cloister Street Gang. Just to name a few, Joe B, Dale, Walter, Richie, The DeGuilios and the Zeigs. So many tight childhood friends, who he kept in touch with pretty much right until his death. I feel that that says something very special about a person. It speaks to loyalty, generosity and commitment.

Daddy played Little League for years and then, football in High School. If I must say, he was quite a fox. When he was 18, he traveled across the country to California where he rode motorcycles, went to Woodstock, had many adventures and was quite the hippie. I know that this time in his life – just having far out experiences with his buddies, was a very special and happy time in his life.

Being a true New Yorker at heart, though, he eventually made his way home. He ended up earning a degree from Nassau Community College and after numerous jobs – he was always telling us he went to Whopper College! – he ultimately discovered that his love for photography was what he was meant to do. In the early 80s, he started his own photography business and named it “Chris Cole” after me and my sister, Chrissy. We were so proud! He had an amazing eye and took gorgeous pictures. Although he later switched careers to computers (he would be mad if I didn’t say Apples, NOT PCs), he never got over his love of photography. For his entire life, he was always there, at every event, with a camera in his hand, capturing every joyful moment.

As soon as personal computers became popular, he was hooked. Mostly self- taught, he went on to have a very successful career as a Macintosh consultant. Some of the places he worked were Sony, Viacom, MTV and CBS. He was so generous with his knowledge and helped so many people learn to navigate this new technology. I know he’s helped many of you here, whether it be which computer to buy, how to use the newest versions, or which programs would best fit your needs. He was always on the cutting edge of technology and loved his gadgets. We were always the first family on the block with a video camera, a VCR, Disc Player, Blu Ray player, TIVO. You get the idea.

These were passions of his. And, I’m happy for him that he got to make a living doing things he loved. But, as everyone in this room knows, his real passion was his family.

He met my mother, Elizabeth, a single mother when I was very young. They met out with friends at a bar. He ran over to light a cigarette for her. Of course, the way he told the story was that she saw him from across the room, whistled through her fingers and yelled, “Yo, Sailor!” They fell in love quickly and soon, he asked her to be his wife. He was a man strong enough, and brave enough, to marry my mother despite her having two very young (and let’s face it – we’re talking about me and Chrissy), somewhat wild little girls. They married in 1980 and gave us our beautiful baby sister Lori in 1981. Finally, after all of the turmoil Mommy, Chrissy and I had been through, we had a loving and stable home. Daddy, at NO time, made Chrissy or I feel as though we were any less of his daughters than Lori was. This is truly a beautiful and rare thing.

And, come on, you have to give the man credit. He lived in a house with 4 females and 1 bathroom. He lived with mood swings, emotional outbursts, snotty teenage attitudes and, it was almost impossible for him to EVER get his hand on a phone that wasn’t being used, the cord stretched to the breaking point around the corner from the kitchen into our bedrooms. In the early 90s, my parents changed their phone number. A couple of years later, I was selling sporting goods at Sears when I was ringing up a middle aged couple. When they asked for their phone number, and they told me it was 499-0103, I excitedly told them that that was MY old phone number. Their faces changed immediately from good natured to something else. The woman said to me, “Oh, Lord. Are you Nicole or Chrissy?” Apparently, they were still getting calls – lots of calls – looking for Chrissy and I at our old number. It was an expensive treadmill and I was on commission so, thank God I did not lose the sale, although it was clear that they weren’t happy!

Despite raising us three girls, who could drive him absolutely nuts, we had a very happy home. We celebrated holidays in a huge way, for every birthday, the house was decorated and filled to the brim with presents and loved ones. We took trips, we went to see movies, we wanted for nothing.

Daddy was also such a loving husband to my mother. They were different in so many ways but, something about them just worked. He would go to the moon and back for her and she knew it. When we went through Mommy’s things after she passed away in 2013, we found some love notes that he had written her over the years. Some were sweet and, some scarred us for life. Really, there are certain things children do NOT want to know about their parents private lives.  However, the one thing that was clear in each letter was how very much he loved her. She was his “toots”. I am so happy that they found each other and believe that theirs was a true love story. Daddy was heartbroken when Mommy passed away. He was never the same. The only thing that got him through it was his children and grandchildren so, let’s go there.

He called me #1. Although I was so happy to have a dad who loved me, boy did I give him a run for his money. My mom had been extremely laid back and I was NOT happy when he first came into our lives and tried to add some discipline. Bedtime? What’s that? What do you mean I have to wear a hat in 20 degree weather? I just did my hair! I’m punished? What the heck does that mean? Eventually, though, we found our groove and, once we did, it was magical. He put up with my boy crazy phase, he allowed my friends to practically live at my house – especially Jill, who he affectionately called his fourth daughter. He was proud of my scholastic achievements, beamed when I graduated from college and felt like I took after him when I became a small business owner. He was tough but fair and taught me life lessons that helped make me into the person I am today. When I married Al, he couldn’t have been happier. He loved Al like his own. They had a very special relationship. I know that Al was always there for him but, after he got sick, Al became his rock. My entire family is grateful to him for this – and will never forget that kindness that he showed Daddy and the wonderful way he took care of him these past few months.

Chrissy was #2. If I gave Daddy a run for his money, she gave him an Iron Man race. We all know Chrissy, and the teenager she was – up for anything to have a good time. A memory that comes to mind is when she traumatized Daddy by basically totalling her car in the city, coming home, parking the car right in front of the house and going to sleep. You can imagine his reaction when he woke up and looked out the front window and saw the car. After ascertaining that she was not hurt – I was seriously concerned that HE would hurt her. Despite many other stories like these, she could also make him laugh like no one else. He used to love to tell the story of when they went to the supermarket and he told her to go to the next aisle and get a 5 pound bag of sugar. He almost peed his pants when she called out to him “Daddy, do you mean the bag that says 5 libs?” As she got older, all of the values he instilled in her came to fruition. He was so very proud of her work ethic and her extremely huge heart. He also used to say that she was the most like Mommy – she would do anything for anyone – always. He really depended on her after Mommy died. She was the one who would run errands for him and check on him every day. He was also thrilled when she married Jay, the love of her life. He knew how much he loved her and that he would be able to be there to comfort her in times of need. You see, when people have hearts as big as my sisters – empathic people – they don’t only feel pain that is their own, they also feel the pain of others around them. It can be a heavy burden to bear.

And then #3, Lori. His baby girl. The greatest day of his life was the day she was born. I remember he was deliriously happy holding her – she couldn’t have been more than a few minutes old – when she farted – loudly! He was stunned. My mother leaned over to him and said, “You know that they do that, right Hun?” Again, he couldn’t stop laughing. So much that he was almost crying. Since the photography studio was in our garage at the time, my mom went outside of the house to work and he was a stay at home dad before it was in vogue. Because he took care of the day to day caring of her, there is no question that they shared a special bond. They did everything together. Wherever he went, she went. When he rented space for the photography studio, he took her with him every day. She would sit at the front desk and, as the customers would come in, she would say, “You can give me the money and then go talk to him”. She was four. He was also incredibly proud of her athletic ability. She was a phenomenal soccer player – a star, really – and, he did not miss ONE game. Ever. There he was, on the sidelines, cheering her on with that big booming voice of his. He was also thrilled with Lori’s choice of a husband. He couldn’t love and respect Chris more. My sister, as I’ve said before, can be a little high maintenance. He always knew that Chris would be able to keep her happy without giving into her every whim and landing them in the poor house.

And, then came the grandchildren.

First was Michael, who was special just for the very fact that he was the first one to make Daddy a Papa. He was so proud of his smarts and kind heart. I am so very happy that not only was he around to hear that Michael got into every college that he applied to but, also that he got academic scholarships.

Then, Jack, who was raised by a village since I was diagnosed with cancer just four months after he was born. Daddy was amazed at his resilience and kindness. He made mention, many times, about how special he thought it was that not only did Jack spend time with his baby cousins but, that he did it with a smile on his face, with patience and with love. He was also proud of his skills both on the basketball court and the football field. All the while maintaining grades high enough to land him on the honor roll every quarter since middle school.

Then Gavin, Lori and Chris’s first baby. All you have to do is look at a picture of him holding Gavin to see how much joy he brought him. Gavin is smart, kind, funny, loving and a real “Papa’s Boy”. He could put together a puzzle of the entire United States by the time he was a year and a half. You know how much Daddy loved him also, because he forgave him for being a diehard Mets fan! Daddy’s favorite sport to play, and to watch, was baseball. He was so proud and happy that Gavin shares this passion!

And, finally, Baby Mason. Daddy’s doppelganger. His zest for life, humor and spunk was a joy for Daddy to witness. Mason was the blessing that God gave to Daddy after he lost my mom. It gave him so much happiness to watch him run around with unbridled joy. Thank God for Mason – because of his incredible resemblance, it will be impossible not to think of Daddy every time we see him.

So, Daddy loved many things; photography, gadgets, computers, his friends, poker, his koi pond, all of the dogs and birds that we had throughout the years, Bob Dylan, playing his numbers, motorcycles, the Yankees, his hippie days – but, there was nothing he loved more than his family. Not for one second. Ever.

I can’t neglect to mention just how incredibly strong Daddy was. Despite many health issues in the past, he always pushed through to fight another day. Although this last illness finally took him from us, he was positive and looking towards the future right up until the very day that he passed.

Daddy, Papa, Mr. Bob, Mr. Taub, Uncle Bob, Big Bob, Slim Daddy

  • We will miss you at every milestone
  • We will miss you at every holiday
  • We will miss you at every birthday
  • We will miss you on a random Tuesday afternoon when there is nothing going on

However, we are happy that you are with Mommy. We are happy that you are with all of those who you loved and who passed before you. We are happy you are with God.

We will take care of each other because that’s what you taught us to do. We will live life to the fullest, in your honor; no matter how hard it is, because we love you that much.

And, lastly, please take care of Little Neal. He just got there a day before you. We know how very much you loved him. Please watch over him until his parents are reunited with him again. 

Love you always,

Number 1

 blog today 1

cry-crying-eye-purple-tears-Favim.com-100591

So, here I sit again – confused, upset, grateful, afraid and dealing with a bit of survivor’s guilt. I am also, once again and more profoundly than ever, realizing how music is magical and mystical – helping us through difficult times, helping us wallow in our sorrow in order to purge but, also, helping us to celebrate the happy times in our lives. It makes us think, it makes us cry, laugh, dance and, most of all reminisce. Sometimes, the reminiscing makes us happy and sometimes, it makes us melancholy but, both emotions are equally important. Without happiness, we would not know sorrow and without sorrow, we would not know happiness.

Of course, I’m talking about the unexpected and devastating loss of Prince, who is arguably one of the most talented artists to have ever lived.

The confusion, the upset, the gratefulness and the survivors guilt – that all comes whenever I hear of someone’s death, and especially when that someone has contributed (and could have contributed more) to our world in a positive and uplifting way.  I felt similarly when James Gandolfini died. He had so much more to give to this world as an artist and – just like that – all that potential went away.

I think that the death of Prince was so sudden, unexpected and shocking that it feels like, for me, an even bigger loss.

Why them and not me, again? I just had another biopsy that, if positive, could have turned my world upside down. It came back benign. Although I will still need another surgery, God willing I will survive it like I did the first twenty. I can carry on with my life. But, why? Why am I still here when this genius, who brought joy to millions of people, is just gone? Why am I, Nicole Abate, still here to see another day? I have an average life and although I always try and do anything I can for my friends and family, there will be no tributes on television when I leave this world. I haven’t left anything for the masses that they can enjoy for generations and generations to come. However, as much as I do feel the survivor’s guilt when I hear of someone’s passing, I am truly very grateful, as well, to wake up each morning and live another day.

Who knows? Maybe I touch more lives that I realize. Maybe this blog will be my legacy – especially if I can turn it into a book. Every time I do a post, I say a silent prayer that it will resonate with someone, maybe make them laugh, maybe take away some of their fears, maybe help them to conjure up some long lost happy memories of their childhoods.

It has taken me three days to be able to write about Prince, and the effect he had on my life. I’ll never forget where I was when I was told he passed by an old high school friend, Janine. I was in the car on the way back from a very productive business meeting and did everything I could to hold back my tears. I spent the next couple of days watching tributes and crying on and off. I know I didn’t personally know Prince, and from the specials I’ve been watching it seems like he was so painfully shy that not too many people did, but, I cry for  a piece of my childhood that has been forever altered, for the potential that will never be seen, and for his family and loved ones.

For so many years he had an effect on me and my friends. I remember that my friends Jill, Tammy, Francine and I watched Purple Rain so many times that we could recite every line. And we all wanted to be Appolonia. I am lucky enough that all of these beautiful souls are still in my life and we have all been grieving. The four of us getting ready to go out listening to “Let’s go Crazy” and “1999” are memories that I will always cherish.

I also had a friend (more like a brother), Vincent, who I would never go more than a day or two without seeing – we lived two doors down from each other. And, although it was not particularly “cool” for a guy to admit at the time that they liked Prince, because Vin would do anything for me, he would let me take the “Yes” tape out of his boom box and pop in my “Purple Rain” tape and I would listen, while he worked on one of his classic cars, for hours.

That album for me also turned our to be a “breakup” album for one of the young loves of my life. I had a very dramatic break up (what break up isn’t dramatic when you are a young teen) on the way home from an eighth grade school trip. I remember listening to “Purple Rain” all the way home. There was whispering, crying and there has not been one time when I could hear a song off of that album that it didn’t bring me right back to that bus ride.

So, you see, even that ONE album brings back happy memories of friends and fun times and melancholy over lost love and people I have lost along with way – including my old pal,  Vincent. Since it reminds me so much of when I was young it also makes me miss my mother, my grandparents (who could never see the appeal! LOL) and my childhood home on Doe Lane, where I felt so grown up having my own room in the basement(which, of course, was painted purple!)

I’m middle aged now, with one child even older than I was at the height of my Prince craze and yet, the guitar intro to the song “Purple Rain” always makes my heart jump and my knees go weak, especially now.

Another great thing about the Purple One was that his music is timeless. Just a few months ago, at a party at my house, Tammy and I were dancing in my living room to “Let’s go Crazy” and having a blast. Seth has the video of it – but was threatened with loss of life if it is ever released! Another happy memory made for me by Prince.

He was also an artist that could do it all. On many of his tracks, he played all of the instruments. His songs also crossed barriers; part funk, part disco, part pop, part Rock and Roll (and if you don’t believe that, listen to one of his guitar solos – You Tube “Guitar Gently Weeps” with Tom Petty and Prince), part R&B and part soul.

His protégées are too many to list. Of course, there was Vanity 6, Sheila E and Sheena Easton but, he also laid the keyboards down for Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back, gave Sinead O’Connor “Nothing Compares to you” and, hoping for a date with Ms. Hoffs from the Bangles, gave them “Manic Monday”. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

On top of directly collaborating and writing for others, there are so many artists who describe him as a “direct influence” on their music. There are far too many to count here.

Goodnight, sweet Prince. You did more on this earth in your short 57 years than most of us do in a lifetime. Where ever you are now, I hope you are singing, dancing and most of all, laughing in the Purple Rain.

I only have glass. No warm body to hug. No sweet New York accent to discuss things with. No help with questions about how to deal with the boys and their issues and problems, no calling her to help her make me feel better when I am sick, when I land safely at a destination or when I am worried or just need to vent.

I only have a glass frame to kiss.

I can’t change anything about this. My mother is gone. She is passed away and there is nothing I can do to change that. I am working hard to forgive myself for not coming home to be there when she passed. I missed it by about fifteen minutes. I know that she didn’t want us to come home from our vacation to California, she didn’t want the boys to see her the way that she looked. Even her oncologist told me not to come home a day early, but that he would meet me at the hospital that day after I got home and we would figure out the plan for putting her back into remission – since obviously even the “easiest” chemo was clearly too much for her. But, the chemo was working. Her numbers were down.

Unfortunately, since it was an infection that ultimately took her life (peacefully, thank God), there was nothing the oncology department could do. Their treatment was working. It was up to the infectious disease doctors to work on her issues. Again, unfortunately, they just couldn’t get her vitals back to normal and her infection under control. There was a tear somewhere from being so sick that week from the chemo (who knows – it might have been the stomach, the intestines, etc.). In any case, since she was so uncomfortable, they decided to sedate her to do the scan to find out where the tear was. Before she went under, she was giving my sister, Chrissy, instructions on what to do on her desk at work. Luckily for her, she never woke up from that surgery.

You see, mommy wasn’t afraid to die. She believed that she would be would God, and Jesus, and her parents and all of the others that she had lost. What she was worried about was dying from a long, drawn out cancer death. One of the last words she heard was from her oncologist telling her that her tumor marker numbers were going down (that’s a good thing). She gave him a thumbs up from her hospital bed. She went under happy that the chemo was working and she never woke up. She was blessed by God (perhaps because she was such a wonderful person who helped so many with her story of survival – remember, Mommy had cancer three times). I am so, so happy for my mom that she passed the way she did.

But, again, I have a lot of guilt. I was with her for every single doctor visit, every scan, all of her blood work. I was even her health care proxy so that I was the one that the doctor called with all of her results so that I could tell her in a way that would keep her calm and positive. And, I wasn’t there when she died. I have nightmares about my mother where she is mad at me; it could be for something as small as spilling a drink (which was SO unlike my mother) to really bad ones where she was begging me to help her and I was unable to even lift her.

I also have guilt that I put her through MY cancer. Now, obviously, that is irrational. Still, I hate that I made her worry and have stress that may have made her cancer worse – it’s a fact that real stress can lower your immune system and have whatever disease it is come creeping back. I’m working on that, too but, it’s a work in progress.

Then again, I’m Italian. I guess guilt comes with the territory.

But, I had a wonderful conversation with my friend Inez yesterday. This wonderful woman took a big chunk of her day to come up to my office to talk to me about what she had been through and how it related to certain things that she had experienced in her life. She came under the guise of talking about work. LOL. I got teary a few times but, it was something I needed. I appreciate all of the support I get on social media and from my friends and family but, only those who have been through similar situations can really understand what such profound loss feels like. Inez gets it.

One of the things I got out of our talk yesterday is that I need to try, as hard as I can, to start compartmentalizing that grief. I have responsibilities; to my husband, to my sons, to my company, to my friends. It’s a lot of responsibility but, I’m glad to have them because it also goes to show that I have so much in my life that is so important to me. So many people who love me, who depend on me and who want me to ask them for help when I need it. Inez didn’t need to be told, she could just tell; from my facebook posts, from my blogs posts, etc.

You see, I not only lost my mother, I lost my biggest cheerleader, my best friend, my confidante, my mentor and my love. It is a loss too large to be able to put into words that work sufficiently to describe it. But, I have to take my mom’s own advice and get up every morning and instead of focusing on what I lost, I need to look around and “count my blessings”.

I hope that this post helps all of my friends, and the people I don’t even know, to realize that you are not alone. I still pick up the phone to call her and realize that she’s not there. I will stare at a picture of her and take in every millimeter of her face, lest I forget exactly what she looked like. I even thought that moving into our new building would help, because I never worked there with her but, ironically, I have a harder time there because she never worked there. It’s just another part of my life that has changed dramatically.

I have good days, and I have bad days. The worst, as I pointed out in my last blog, are when I am not feeling well. I feel like a five year old but, if I could say it out loud it would be “I want my mommy!” as I stamp my feet on the floor.

I am so very grateful and happy for my friends who still have their moms. I look at pictures of their birthday cakes; some are turning 70, some 75, some 80 and some even 86 or 87. I want to give you some advice. I know that you love your moms, and that you are grateful for them but, a minute can change everything. My mom taught me that. To not be jealous of what your friends and family have, but to rejoice in their happiness and accomplishments.

To all of you out there that are blessed enough to still celebrate birthdays with your parents – kiss them, hug them, call them every day. I did. If you haven’t so far, that’s okay (and probably normal). Most people go through life not worrying about losing a parent. But, it’s not too late to start. I am eternally grateful that I did those things, however, and the reason I did was because my mom had been battling cancer my entire life so, I didn’t take one second with her for granted. That was a gift from God.

I am strong. I have more love in my life than I ever thought possible. I have been blessed with so many things, along with the bad times, since the time I was very young. I seem to get along with people well and, so, have lots of friends, I have my beautiful boys and never had to go through any fertility problems, I have my supportive and understanding husband, who is by my side every step of the way. I think I am a generous and giving person, both materially and emotionally, and it just comes naturally to me to want to help others. I know in my heart that my mother is proud of me. This is so important and one of the reasons that I will be okay.

But, the most important thing I took from my talk with Inez yesterday is that my mother is all around me, she sees what I am doing and she is supporting me from wherever it is she is now.

So, yes, it’s true. Now all I have is glass. I kiss one of her pictures every day and all I get in return in the cold, smooth feel of the glass. I can’t smell her, I can’t feel her, I can’t do anything but, kiss that glass. The difference is, now I do it with my eyes closed. I can smell her perfume, I can hear her laugh, I can feel her there, kissing me back. She is with me, always. I just have to remember that.

Thank you, Inez, for being there for me. And thank you, my faithful readers, for giving me an outlet for all of my feelings; whether they be heartache or joy. You have all touched my life in ways you can’t imagine, and I love you for it.

Peace and Love to you always.

~Nicole

10847664_10152756083483113_1657858316367146059_o

For the past few weeks I’ve been having a very hard time grieving over my mother. I know why. I wasn’t feeling great for about three weeks. Not the ordinary pain from the scar tissue or charlie horses from the “phantom limb” like syndrome I have under my left breast, which was operated on over 15 times. Bad as in I felt like I could not get out of bed, I would get exhausted very easily and couldn’t focus. At first I chalked it up to coming off the holidays and just being tired from all of the work that entails. I had just been to the oncologist so, I wasn’t really worried about the cancer (although to say it didn’t cross my mind once or twice would be lying). Finally, I woke up on a Saturday morning with a terrible sore throat. Okay, now I knew, I was just fighting off getting sick and now I was so, it would just run its course (I’m thinking a week or two of just taking it easy and I would be feeling better).

By Wednesday, when I still felt like crap, my husband took me to the doctor. Turns out I had pneumonia. I was prescribed antibiotics, steroids and a cough medicine with codeine in it. By this time, my sore throat had moved into my nose and was dripping down into my chest, although I wasn’t really coughing that much. However, I was still extremely tired. My orders were, because of my health issues, rest, rest and more rest. Luckily, I had caught the pneumonia early.

And rest I did. I worked more after each of my twenty surgeries. I couldn’t work because all I could do was sleep and, when I couldn’t sleep at night (because of those damn steroids), I was loopy on the cough medicine. When I didn’t feel better a week later, I went back to the doctor. Another x-ray was taken and the pneumonia was getting better. I was a bit wheezy, though, so was told to use the cough medicine as needed and use am inhaler and continue to rest. When you have pneumonia (and I never had), it can take a long time to get better, apparently. So, I rested Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I was feeling better by Sunday so decided to go to my nieces birthday party at a roller rink and then to Jack’s basketball game.

When I was a teenager, I could literally roller skate like Dorothy Hamill could ice skate. I could do double sow cows, I could skate forward, backwards, with a partner, with my right leg all the way up and straight, well – you get the idea. I was excited to get on the floor and do my thing. Well, let me all give you a heads up. If you were like me (and, if you are in my age group, you probably were – we spent almost every weekend at the Commack Roller Rink), unless you have kept up with it, or have learned to roller blade in between, roller skating is NOT like riding a bike! I was okay on the carpet. The second my skate hit the wood, I went down like a lead balloon on my right side. Thank God, since I was the first one out there from my family, no one I knew saw me but, about two hundred other people did. They were probably taping it on their cell phones (I’m surprised I haven’t seen it pop up on You Tube or Face Book). With the wind knocked out of me, I lay there for a moment, told myself “I can do this”, got up and, again, went down like a ton of bricks. Now, I couldn’t even get up if I tried. Finally, some guy said “hey, do you need help?” At that point, being so embarrassed and pissed that no one tried to help me up the first time I answered, “No, I’ll just wait for the guy with the striped shirt.” Picture me on the floor with kids and adults skating around me – having to move out of the way to not skate on top of me and no one asks if I need help? Nice.

When the guy with the striped shirt came around (I forget what we used to call them), he asks me, “Do you need help?” By now I am pissed. “Um. Yeah. Clearly I can’t get up. Do you think you can help me up and bring me to the wall?” Geez. Rocket Scientist.

When I got to the wall, I was able to easily get back to the chairs and take off my skates (it’s a lot easier to skate on carpet, believe me). I was so devastated. Convinced that the reason I couldn’t do it was because I haven’t been active in these past fifteen years and so, didn’t have the strength or the balance to stay up. How much more can this cancer take from me?

mama

So, getting back to the point, that I have been really missing my mommy. I miss her most when I am not feeling well. I would have called her, and she I, at least two or three times a day while I was sick. She always had a way of making me feel better – of putting things into perspective. She would have said things like, “Okay, so it’s pneumonia. You beat cancer – you’ll be fine.” Or, when I was stressing about missing work, “Okay, so you have to miss a couple of weeks – the work will be there when you get back, believe me.” She just knew me like no one else and knew exactly what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. She didn’t get pissed if I snapped at her because of any of the things she said. She just chalked it up to me being stressed and sick.

I also miss her the most when I can’t call her ( I probably would have been crying outside on my cell phone) and tell her about things that happened like what I went through at the roller rink. I really was devastated that not only wasn’t I like Dorothy Hamill anymore but, I couldn’t even take one step on the wood floor. She would have made me laugh when I told her that people were skating around me and NO ONE stopped to help. She would have laughed when I sent her pictures of the grapefruit sized bruise on my ass and the apple sized bruise on my thigh. (For the record, I also scraped my left elbow, had pain in my left arm and couldn’t turn my neck for about three days).

Most of all, I missed my mommy these past few weeks because I knew my dad was going in for a big surgery and, so as not to worry my sisters, there are things I don’t say to them that I was personally worried about, having been through what I have in my own life, I shouldered most of the worry alone. Also, the fact that the last time my dad had surgery, they were not able to remove the tube and he couldn’t breathe on his own. It was done at a surgery center and he had to be transferred to a hospital. They really couldn’t give us answers there except we would have to take a wait and see approach. I’ll never forget Al, Chrissy, Lori and I leaving the hospital that night, all heads down, thinking, “could this really be happening again?” It had not even been a year since we had lost our mother. Luckily, they were able to get the tube out the next day. But, I would have been on the phone with my mom all night, and we would have said things to each other to make each other feel better.

167f

I just miss her, damn it, and the last few weeks have been a downward spiral into a place I was in the grieving process about a year ago. I was told, though, that grieving is not linear. You will move forward two feet and then, wake up and feel like you stepped back four. This is always the advice that I give my family and friends when they lose loved ones because for me, it really helped. I didn’t question, “why am I feeling so shitty today when I had a good day yesterday?” Because that’s just the way it goes.

As for the perspective part of the piece. Daddy had his surgery yesterday. It was supposed to be Monday but, that’s a long and shitty story that I’ve told at least ten times today and don’t want to get into. It was over six hours long and, originally was scheduled to be done laparoscopically. Unfortunately, that wasn’t able to happen so, that’s why it took longer than anticipated. They actually had to collapse his lung, on purpose, to get where they needed to get to make sure that they got all of the cancer that was left. Now, the surgery went well. They got it all out. But, they had to leave the tube in so that he wouldn’t wake up and be in pain trying to breathe through one lung. This is what made me nervous. I wanted to make sure that that tube would come out with no problem. That was my main worry about this surgery. But, it was staying in for the night. I was told that they would take it out tomorrow.

On so on to the 11:11 part of the story. Since my mother had basically battled cancer three times while I was a kid (the first time when I was an infant), ANY time there was something to wish on; a dandelion before I blew on it, a blow out the birthday candle wish, an eyebrow that had fallen out and needed to be blown wish, and most importantly every time I saw 11:11 on a clock (which happened every once in a while), my wish was always the same “Please make my mommy be okay”. Well, after she passed, I think the day after was the first time I saw 11:11 on a clock and actually, out loud, cursed it. Fuck you, 11:11, you and the rest of those superstitions I grew up with don’t work worth a shit, or something to that effect. After that, my sisters and I started to  see 11:11 constantly. I know I see it at least 10 times a week. It’s not “normal”. Everyone who knows me knows I am a skeptic about those kinds of things but, I am sure, that every time I see it, it’s my mommy letting me know it’s okay, she’s okay, or whatever I’m going through will be fine and work out.

So, after I got off the phone with my sisters (my brother in law, Chris, took him for the surgery.) I said a prayer to God, my grandparents and, of course, my Mommy. I went into the kitchen to get myself something to drink and got cozy on the couch, praying that the night would go quickly so that that freaking tube could come out. I got a text from someone and, when I picked up my phone – you guessed it – 11:11. Needless to say, I felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I just knew that when they went to take the tube out, it would be fine.

I waited up for Michael and then when up to sleep at around 1AM. I slept well, even though I am dad’s healthcare proxy and if I hadn’t seen the 11:11 I would have had a restless sleep, if I slept at all, waiting for that damn phone to ring. When I woke up, my sisters were already at the hospital (I have to wait to get the okay to go, having just gotten over pneumonia). They told me that the tube was out and he was groggy from the medications but, other than that, talking to them, making jokes with the nurse, etc. He was doing really well.

So, I miss mommy but, not like I have in the last few weeks. I am on a high because my daddy is okay. And, isn’t that the way of it? Perspective. Today, I could have been mourning both of my parents. Even my ass, which has killed to sit on the last week, is not as painful. And, the deadlines I have been worrying about at work seem doable now.

And 11:11. Say what you will but, I am a believer. It’s how my mommy communicates with me and, although I’d obviously much rather have her here with me on earth, it comforts me to know that she is still looking out for me and letting me know that not only is she there, she’s watching out for all of us.

Blog 1

img063img005

I need to start this blog with a favor – being raised as an Italian, and believing in certain Italian superstitions – I need to ask everyone to stop right now and knock on wood. Thank you!

I have two boys, a thirteen year old, Jack and a sixteen year old named Michael. Now, for the benefit of everyone who doesn’t know me personally, let me just say that I am not a helicopter mom. Not at all. Not even a little bit. Again, I come from a long line of Italians and was raised around people who laid out their children’s clothes until they were in their teens, helped (or did) their homework until they were done with college and had dinner on the table every single night, no matter what. Their kids didn’t know how to cook, they were reminded, even in their teen years, when they had appointments, projects due at school, etc. Parents bought their children their cars and paid for their insurance. They called prospective jobs for their children and got all of the information on how to get the applications and even helped them fill them out. I am in no way condemning this way of parenting, it is simply cultural. I feel that this is especially true for the boys.

I wasn’t raised that way. My parents divorced when I was young. My mother was all my sister and I had for a long time. She worked full time in order to keep the house and raise us. I was a latch key kid for a while. I would walk my sister home from school, let us into the house, lock the door, get us snacks, make sure we did our homework and made sure that everything was ok until my mom got home. I learned to make macaroni and cheese, pastina, eggs and hamburgers. When mom worked late, I made dinner. There just was no other way.

When I was a little older (ten or so), my mother married my dad, who was thrust into a full family. He came into a ready-made family where my sister and I were used to doing our own thing. There was no “bed time”. As long as we were resting quietly in bed at a certain time, we could read, or tell each other stories. The time we actually fell asleep didn’t really matter. It took a long time to get the rhythm “right” as a blended family but, eventually we did. My father, however, was not raised in an Italian culture, either, and so was also not a helicopter parent. I remember a few instances that illustrate this brilliantly.

When I was about twelve, I wanted a new ten speed more than anything in the world. My father said that if I saved half of the money myself (Birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, doing chores around the house), he would put the other half in and I could get my bike. I worked my butt off and saved my money and then, the day finally came. I had enough. I’ll never forget going to the bicycle store to pick out my powder blue ten speed. Because I felt like I worked hard for it, I took good care of it. It was one of the highlights of my childhood. I worked from the time I was fourteen and never had to ask my parents for spending money. Later on, when I wanted my first car, the same thing applied. I had to save for half of the down payment, and then make the payments myself. I was working at Sears at the time, picked up some extra hours and sure enough, before you knew it, I had enough money. Dad took me to the dealer and I got my first car, a light gray 1990 Toyota Corolla. I was responsible for the payments and the insurance. I loved my first car, and will never forget it. When it was time to go to college, I worked about thirty hours a week and went to school full time. It wasn’t easy but, I believe in the long run, it taught me to be a responsible person. My parents paid for part of my college and I took student loans to help supplement what they couldn’t do. I just finished paying those loans off about four years ago. I am forty four.

Chrissy also always had a good work ethic and worked for things she wanted. Chrissy also had a wild period. She would go to school and then, cut classes. When the school would call, my parents would say “I got them there, it’s your responsibility to make sure she stays.” My parents wouldn’t go up to the school to scream at the teachers when her grades weren’t up to par – they told the school, if she can’t keep up, you can leave her back. Luckily, this never happened but, the point is, we were responsible for our own school work, doing our homework, remembering when projects were due and studying for exams.

You may be wondering what the point of all of this is, and I am ready to tell you. My mom, having had cancer three times while we were growing up, in addition to having to raise us alone for some years, simply couldn’t be a helicopter parent, even if she wanted to. There was simply no time for that.

And, the same goes for me. I’m writing this blog tonight because the first period report cards came out. One of my children made the honor roll and the other made the high honor roll. I won’t say which is which as not to embarrass them but, to say I am proud is to put it mildly. You see, just like my mom, even if I wanted to be a helicopter mom, I simply wasn’t and am not able to be.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer when Jack was four months old and Michael only three. After my first cancer surgeries, I literally could not pick my infant up. I had plenty of help from my friends and family and, of course, my husband. He worked full time, however, and was constantly taking me to doctors – for follow up surgery appointments, for chemotherapy, for radiation and all the other horrific treatment that comes with the diagnosis. My parents, sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles were invaluable at this time and I will never forget the time they put in helping us out during this period. My grandparents were in their eighties and would sleep over and get up with Jack in the middle of the night to comfort him and rock him back to sleep. I had other people step in for me to take Michael to Adventureland, to go to his “special person days” at school and to just, in general, make him feel loved and special.

Despite all of this help, however, we were mostly on our own. So, Jack, knowing I couldn’t lift him, learned to crawl at four months. Michael learned to make himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at four years old. They both, eventually, learned to pick out what they were wearing to daycare/school. Al and I would help with homework the best we could but, being so busy with my cancer treatments and subsequent twenty surgeries, there were times when they just, from a very young age, had to learn to do things on their own. They learned to make french toast, pancakes, eggs, and various other things that they could eat when daddy was still at work and mommy was recovering from a surgery. Once they started Middle School, they were responsible for their own school work. They kept track (in the agenda that they were given by the school for that very reason) of their school functions, made sure to give us plenty of time to fill out field trip forms and always knew when the trips were – they didn’t need reminding.

I would often feel guilty about the fact that I was not personally at every school event (although believe me, I was at as many as I could be, and many times at the expense of my own health). I felt guilty for not living up to how I watched the rest of my extended family raise their children.

But, here is the lesson. Michael was picked for the challenge and discovery program in the middle school (the gifted program) and was in that program for all three years. Out of six hundred and some odd third graders, he was one of thirteen that was selected. He excelled. He is in eleventh grade now and is never home. He is always with friends. Always has something to do and somewhere to go. Just like any other “normal” kid. He is deciding what to do with his life and looking into colleges and getting ready to take his SATs in the spring. He can cook almost anything. He applied at various jobs and got call backs on every one. He chose Five Guys as his job for now. He applied online by himself, took the calls regarding coming in for his interview himself, walked to the interview and got the job. He makes curfew every night and always lets us know that he is safe and where he is via cell phone. He makes us proud every day.

Jack, in spite of not having me able to lift him every time he wanted to be, not being able to change him myself when I was in bad shape, was really “raised by a village”. He is one of the most outgoing, social, sweet, tender thirteen year olds I have ever known. I have had some of my friends, who don’t have children say to me, “If I knew that my child would turn out like Jack, I would not be on the fence about having a child.” He is helpful and is the child in class that invites the new kid to come sit with him and his friends at lunch. He excels at sports and plays both football and basketball and, is now becoming interested in baseball. He is just an overall awesome child.

And, there has not been one semester, since they both started middle school, that they have not made either made the honor roll or the high honor roll. Again, they are responsible for their own schoolwork. The only thing they sometimes ask me to do is type a really long report. Words don’t work to say how it warms my heart that they have turned into such beautiful, smart and “normal” kids.

They are far from perfect, and I’m the first one to say that. The sixteen year old knows everything and can really give me a run for my money. The thirteen year old can be extremely moody and can hold a grudge (that’s the Sicilian in him, I suppose).

You see, though, when you are forced not to coddle your children and helicopter around them, they learn to do things on their own. That’s not how I felt much of the time, though. When “normal” negative things would occur, I would always blame myself for not being able to be there for them like “normal” parents. I would worry that it was because they were angry at me for being sick, at not being able to be there for them all of the time. Anyone who has been in a similar situation like me, I’m sure, feels the same way. Your never certain if it’s because of how they had to grow up, and the things that they lacked, or if their behavior is just normal behavior that all kids go through.

My mother never admitted that she felt that way but, I’m sure when we were giving her a hard time, she had the same fears. It took me the support of my friends, who would assure me that the way they were acting was perfectly normal for their ages and many years of therapy to be able to realize that perhaps, because of the things they went through when they were young, they are actually almost better for it. They have learned to cope with traumatic things at such a young age and will be more prepared for the big shit that comes down later in life. I really and truly believe this now. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when those old fears come up however, they are less and less the older they get.

There are some lasting effects. When my mother passed away, Jack didn’t want me to leave his side for about three weeks. Knowing that she died of the same disease I had, I think he was terrified that I would leave him, too. He was just too young to understand the different stages of cancer, and how I had so much more treatment than my mother (I still take an estrogen blocker each day to prevent it from every rearing its ugly head again). He gets very nervous when I am sick, even if it’s just a cold.

Michael, for a long time, would come home from school and, instead of saying “how was your day?”, he would say “is everyone alright?”. Clearly, the trauma of his childhood and losing his grandmother has taken a toll on him, as well. He even gets nervous when I sit out on the porch late in the summer, just writing or on the phone or playing on Facebook. He, also, is afraid of something happening to me. He waits until I come in to go down to his room.

They have both received the appropriate help, something that I will always thank my mother for doing for my sister and I.

The one thing that always stayed with me, however, was the fact that I didn’t take for granted that my mother would always be here. And, as painful as that often was, I couldn’t be more happy that it was that way. I always conducted myself in a way as to make her proud. Before I did something that I knew was wrong, I would think about how it would hurt her. I didn’t always make the right decisions but, there were many times that I did, and it was directly related to wanting to please my mother, to make her happy and to make her proud of me.

If that’s the worst thing that comes out of everything my children have been through, I couldn’t be happier. It pushed me to be the best that I could be. Knowing everything my mom had been through, one of my most important goals in my life was to make her happy. We were also as close as could be and I also believe that that had a direct correlation to what we went through together.

So, I’m knocking on wood right now, because that’s what us Italians do. I don’t want to jinx anything but, today I am so grateful that they came through the fire even stronger than they would have been had they had your typical, run of the mill childhoods.

Whenever my friends go through some kind of trauma, and are concerned about how it will affect their kids, I tell them my story and my mother’s story and how, sometimes, having trauma early in life, makes you stronger in the long run. And, for any of you out there reading this, and going through a really tough time, I hope that you keep this in mind, as well.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, one thing my kids never lacked is love. And, love is the answer.

Boys Pizza067

065 - Copy160

 

I believe in the whole “personality in the birthing order” psychological thing. Sure, there are exceptions to every rule but, for the most part, the oldest one is generally the most responsible, the A Type personality; she’s the overachiever who has a high drive to impress people in authority. The middle child is generally more adaptable, able to mediate, the peacemaker, a bit more rebellious and some say the most interesting. The youngest is generally outgoing, a clown, a little manipulative, financially irresponsible and let’s just say it – a little spoiled.

Now, these studies have been around for years. The first one to come up with the theory was Alfred Adler (1870-1937). The studies have also been contested on and off for years. I am not going to get into the science behind this theory, although I think anyone who has taken a psych course or two in college would be able to figure it out.

I have to say, in relating it to my personal experience, I think that anyone who knows my sisters and I would say that we pretty much live up to Alfred’s theory. Without getting too specific, I think most would agree that I am super responsible and a huge over achiever (to a fault), Chrissy couldn’t be more loving and warm. It kills her when any of the others in our family are not getting along. Lori, as anyone who knows us knows, has always been a little firecracker, is able to make everyone laugh and, let’s just say it – a little spoiled.

This blog is about her – Lori. My baby sister. I was away in California when my mother went into the hospital and subsequently passed away. My dad was, understandably, devastated, angry and trying to hold it all together, even after being told that the love of his life was not going to make it. Chrissy, God bless her soul, is Chrissy for good and for bad. That warmth, that kindness, that pure unadulterated love, made it very difficult for her to deal with what was going on.

As my faithful readers know, I’m all in here when it comes to my own experiences but, I will not go into specifics about my mother’s last days except to say that I thank God every single day for my sister Lori, and the fact that she was able to be there to hold it all together. She was able to comfort my mother, to comfort my father, to deal with the doctors and to keep in contact with me, all of those miles away. She comforted me, gave me the information I needed and prevented me from being in a full blown panic, knowing I would have to make the trip back to New York from California with Al and the two boys.

Lori and I are eleven years apart so our relationship right from the beginning was very special. I was kind of another parental figure for her. I babysat her, I changed her diapers, I fed her, I played with her. I loved her so much. It was a running joke in my family that if Lori made a mistake, or did something wrong (which was very rare), she would be more worried about how I would react than how Mommy would. After the dysfunctional way Chrissy and I were forced to grow up during our first few years because of our emotionally and physically absent father, it was such a pleasure to have a family that was “intact” and “healthy”. Chrissy was also elated to have a new little sister. It was such a good time in our lives.

As we grew older, Lori and I were able to maintain a close relationship. When I started college and began dating Al, Lori was only seven. She has no memory of a life without him. We took her to Toys R’ Us, out to eat, and eventually, when she was twelve or so, she started staying over at Al’s apartments with me on the weekends. I think she felt like she was “cool” and actually, it was pretty cool.

Unfortunately, Lori was only twenty years old when I was diagnosed. She was unable to understand how dire the situation was. Then, just a year later, my mom had her recurrence. I, being the oldest and the most able to understand what my mother was going through, was the one to take my mother to all of her tests, her radiations, her doctor visits, etc. It’s not that my sisters didn’t offer, it was just that that was what mom was most comfortable with. You see, another thing about younger siblings is that you tend to try and protect them. You don’t tell them everything you might know because, why worry them, too? And, although we have good intentions, I have spoken to both of my sisters since the shit hit the proverbial fan and, they would prefer honesty. Lesson learned.

So let’s get to the point, and how this blog is about Lori (which she will love, by the way!) There was a time, during this period, when I felt as though Lori didn’t do enough to help me. That she didn’t do enough for me emotionally or with Al and the kids. Chrissy was the one to come over at 5 AM to stay with the kids so that I could get to my surgeries on time (and remember – there were twenty). She got them on the bus, comforted them, took them to fun places to get their minds off of things, took them to practices, to games – the list is really endless. This went on for years. I will forever be indebted to her.

I was angry at Lori, but not on any really conscious level. It came out in ways that were passive aggressive. We worked together and I found myself talking to her in a way that I would never speak to Chrissy or to Lori prior to this time. There was a wall up, on both of our sides, and although I loved her as much as I always had, I definitely didn’t feel like we were as close during this period. It really did hurt me, as I’m sure it hurt her.

Don’t get me wrong, we had our usual holidays, parties, laughs. We did our annual tree trim. She was wonderful to my kids, when she was with them. Just, when I felt like I needed her emotionally, she was unavailable.

The thing is this. I should have been smart enough to realize that at twenty years old, she was not equipped to handle the possibility of both her sister and her mother having a potentially fatal disease. Add to that the birth order traits (see where I’m going?)

Point number two. None of us; not me, not my kids, not my sister, not my father – none of us would have done so well when my mother passed away if Lori hadn’t been there for us. She was a rock. She was solid. She listened to me cry and wail for hours. She let me have that release that for years, I felt I was incapable of having because of my “responsibilities” because I had to be “perfect”, because of my birth order, damn it!

We also had a heart to heart. That will remain private, as well. Suffice it to say that I realized what I thought were Lori’s shortcomings were just fear and simply put, age. Lori realized that she might not have done as much during that period as I may have needed but, more importantly, she realized why she was unable to . And, once again, a lot of that had to do with our birth order traits. Imagine how scary it must have been for her when both of the alpha females in her life, who she could always turn to, were in this terrible situation they might not make it out of. Needless to say, one short conversation later, it was if nothing ever happened between us. No bad feelings had ever been had. We had both been scared and felt helpless and our love was all we needed to completely mend our relationship. One call was all it took. Unconditional love.

I couldn’t be prouder of my baby sister. She is beautiful, vivacious, loving and caring. She is a wonderful mother to Gavin and I know she will be just as wonderful to the new baby on the way. I learn from her every day and I am so honored that she calls me now, at times when she would have called Mommy. We support each other, we compliment each others good and bad points and we make a really, really good team. I really feel as though she is now not only my sister, but one of my best friends. I couldn’t live without her. And, I’m pretty sure she feels the same way about me.

We are still very different. That’s absolutely fine. But, we have both made changes to make our relationship better since my mom has gone and I feel like we respect each other more than ever.

I would say, in all honesty, and this is a strong statement, that the single best thing that came out of Mommy’s death for me is my new and improved relationship with my baby sister, Lori. Lori, I love you, I am so proud of you and I know mommy is, too. You are a wonderful wife, mother, daughter, sister and aunt and I love you more than words can say.

So Lori, sorry if this is “awkward” but, too bad!

They say that you always remember your first love – there’s something so special about it – something that can never be reproduced.

My first love loved me before I was even a being. She loved the very thought of me. She dreamed about me before I even came to be. Dreams of how I would look, what gender I would and what my personality would be like.

My first love loved me even more after she laid eyes on me. My blue eyes gazing into her kind brown eyes. It was love at first sight. She has told me that there was nothing like it. The euphoria, the feelings that you never thought you could feel. The love that is so all encompassing, bigger than you ever thought it could be. Once we fell in love, our love was the center of both of our worlds.

They say that you experience real intimacy for the first time with your first love. No truer words have ever been spoken. The affection, the warmth, the thousand sweet kisses that covered me like a warm blanket. She tickled my back to put me to sleep, she hugged me and kissed my “boo boos”, she climbed into my home made living room tents and got under the covers with me to watch “Sesame Street” through the afghan holes. I will never forget the smell of her, or her face when she looked at me with so much love.
You take so much pride in your first love. I was, for sure, her pride and joy. Your first love is always trying to make you be the best version of yourself. Mine was always teaching me, encouraging me, pushing me to do my best and be the best me I could be.

In a good relationship, you learn from your first love. Mine taught me about perseverance – I would have to work hard to get what I wanted and needed and if I worked hard enough, and wanted it badly enough, I could get it. Mine taught me to be self reliant. No matter how many people I have in my life who love me, she told me, your best friend is always in the mirror. She taught me that it is ok to stumble and make bad decisions, as long as you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, dust yourself off, and keep going.

A first love gives you the confidence to feel like you are good enough for someone to love you as much as they do. I could not have felt more loved. No matter what struggles we had, we stuck by each other and weathered them together. We knew that we were there for each other, no matter what. And that we would go to the ends of the earth for each other.
Most importantly, your first love should teach you about unconditional love. Mine did. There is nothing I could have done that would make her not love me. Ever. And vice versa.

And so, for all of the reasons above, you never forget your first love. I think it’s clear by now that my first love was my mother, Elizabeth. She was the best first love I could ever have hoped for. And, on the one year anniversary of her passing, it becomes even more clear to me that all of the Hallmark “First Love” sentiments work well for me and mommy. The way she treated me was actually a wonderful model for the loves I had, subsequently, in my life. And, the love that I ultimately ended up with and created my family with.
Unfortunately, losing your first love is one of the most difficult things in the world. I have to say, this has been the hardest year of my life. However, because of the things my first love taught me, I kept on living. I went to work, celebrated holidays, nights out with friends and spent lots of time with my family, as she instilled in me how important that is. I feel such pride and happiness when people tell me how lucky we are as a family that we are so close. I don’t take it for granted.  I’ve tried to conduct myself in a way that would make her proud. I try to treat people with respect and love, as she did. She empathized with me, and I carry on that trait and empathize with others.She taught me about fairness and justice and, although it is not always easy, I try to always do the just thing.

I thank you, my mother, my first love. You have helped to shape me into a person who I really like. When I look in the mirror, I do see my best friend. As a bonus, I have many friends that love and care about me. I give you all of the credit.

I know that you are no longer with me on this earth however, I feel you in my soul. Just like the literature says you do feel about a first love. You will always be my first love and you will always be more special to me than you can ever even imagine.
Please continue to shower us with your love and wisdom. So many of us still need it. I like to think that you are even more powerful there than you were down here with us. You have a special place with God, because of the person you are. Even the way you passed, so peacefully and without suffering, makes me think that you are one of God’s favorites. To have Stage IV cancer and be told before by your oncologist before you are put under anesthesia that your numbers are down (which obviously made you happy), only to never “wake up” from that anesthesia, is a true gift from God. You never had to have that dreaded conversation that most cancer patients have to have about “how long you have”. You were never told to “get your affairs in order”. You never had to wither away in a bed/hospice while we watched by your bedside. It was fast, it was relatively painless, it was what you deserved.
The outpouring of love that your family received today is also a testament to how much you were loved and are missed. You really had no idea while you were on this earth how loved you were – I know that you feel it now. So many people were thinking of you today, my love, and wish you could have stayed with us a little bit longer.
So, you will always be my first love, as I was yours. I will always remember you and you will have the most special place in my heart carved out for you, always. I love you, of course, but, it is so much more than that. I’m going to  keep some of  those feelings to myself because if there is another thing that first loves have, it’s some secrets. Our are good ones, Mommy.

Until we meet again, I hope your are playing Bingo Bash and winning every hand, I hope that there is a casino that you can go to, I hope that you can see Big Brother (its’ such a good season!), I hope that they have an endless supply of Merit 100s and a nice glass of red wine for you at night, Knowing how much you loved to work, I hope God gave you a great assignment up there.  I know you are visiting us each day, I hope that you are catching up with your family, and most of all, I hope that you are remembering your first love, as I remember mine.

.
Forever,
Nicole

Me and Mom

So, I have to go to my oncologist next month – our oncologist. I have to call and make the appointment. Of course, I am filled with dread.

You see, it was something we did together – this cancer thing. We were diagnosed a year apart and every single viist we made to the oncologist was together. As if there is safety in numbers.

We had our little routine. She would pick me up, wearing pink or red (they made her feel “healthier”).  She would be sipping on a water (which she despised) because it made it easier for them to find a vein for her bloodwork. We would chat. About work, the kids, minor annoyances and things we were looking forward to. During the fifteen to twenty minute car ride, she told me no less than two or three times that “she hated” this shit and that the only time she felt like she had cancer was when she had to to go the doctor.

In any case, aside from surgeries and scans, we were on a schedule of once a month for her. I would also be seen twice a year (every January and July), as I probably will be for the rest of my life.

Like me, Mom had a tendency to talk a lot when she was nervous. Sometimes her face with involunarily tick, under her right eye. It was hard to see her like that but, I wouldn’t be anywhere else. We were so blessed that for ten years, things were always generally good for her.  Every positive thing that the doctor pointed out I was sure to repeat over and over. If the doctor said something like “The spot is small and has not changed since last year”, I would say “See, Mommy? That’s great. Small and unchanged! Remember, cancer is only dangerous if it is growing! That’s awesome!”.

So, most of the time, we left happy and relieved. We would go through Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts and get some coffee. Then would stop at the Northgate Shopping Center. First, we would go to the stationary there. We would get Yankee candles, something for the boys, a gift we might need. After that, we would venture into the deli (two roast beefs on rye, please! Mayo, lettuce, salt and pepper!). Then, Mom would stop at the fresh fruit store and get something to bring back to the office.

The chatting was much more relaxed on the way back home (or the the office, really). As she drove, I called Dad, Al, Chrissy and Lori and gave them the low down. I could hear relief in their voices.

That was that until the following month. My mother was easy but, she was a stickler for not talking about the cancer in between the visits. She would take her pill every day and I would take mine and that was that. We didn’t “live cancer”, we just lived.

And, now I am living without her. And so, it is time for another first. Yeah, we did the first Labor Day BBQ, the first day of school, pumpkin picking, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas. We did ok. This is different, though. This is something that was just ours. No one elses.

I’m afraid to go without her. I will sit in the waiting room, where we sat together for ten years, all by myself. We shared such heightened emotions in that room – unless you’ve experienced that kind of fear and anticipation, there is no way to put it into words that work. I will miss those looks that used to upset me. The looks from the other patients that said “look at that mother and daughter – how terrible that they are both seeing the doctor”. I will miss holding her bag when she went in to get her finger pricked for the CBC.  “Here, Cole. Just hold this for a minute.” It will be sad when they call just my name and not “Nicole and Elizabeth”. I’m sure that when the doctor sees me for the first time since she passed, he will hug me and I will lose it. And, the same thing with the nurses. They all loved her, of course, like everyone else I know.

We would eventually be walking the opposite way – out of the waiting room into the hallway – and freedom from that hell for another month. And, invariably, we would be on a bit of a high. Our doctor gave my mother (and, by default me and the rest of my family), the greatest gift these past ten years. He honored her wishes over being worried about covering his ass. You see, my mother, although she had Stage IV, was in remission most of the ten years she lived with it. When it did rear it’s ugly head, however, she did not want to know where the spots were, how many there were, or any other details. All she wanted to know was what she had to do to fight it. And, that’s all he told her. He would switch her meds, make her come in between the monthly visits, schedule a scan but, he never, ever scared her. He made her feel safe and well taken care of – and she was. He didn’t even scare her at the end, when he knew it was progressing. He explained that it was, and that he would have to change her meds and be more aggressive but, he never made her feel helpless or hopeless.

That was the best gift her could ever have given us. My mother was spiritual and she was good. It wasn’t that she was terrified of dying. She was afraid of suffering, of dying from cancer. We are so very blessed that she was blissfully unaware of what was going on inside of her, even when she passed. I truly believe that it was divine intervention, because of how good she was and how many people she helped and inspired, that she passed that way.

So, as I’ve said at least a hundred times on this blog alone, I am my mother’s daughter. I will call the doctor Monday, I will go to the doctor next month, I will ask for prayers and I will hope for the best. I will get through this first, too. I will then, in honor of my mother, go home and try not to think about cancer until my next appointment, six months from now.

And maybe, just maybe, I will stop for a roast beef on rye on the way home.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 864 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 12,826 hits

Old Stuff

%d bloggers like this: