Mom

Mom’s closet was full of shirts with sayings like “Kind Human Beings are my Kinda Human Beings”. This was my mom in a nutshell.

She was the kindest person you would ever come across and she loved everyone without reservation and instantly. She made friends everywhere. A couple of years ago when she came to New York to see me she told me she had made friends with someone sitting on the plane next to her. Mom and I were standing here talking and this lady spots mom, comes over and hugs her, and introduced herself to me as mom’s new friend. In her contacts list this week I found a contact for “Karen, lady from the plane.” Mom could set the foundation for a friendship that lasted years in just a few minutes of conversation and she did regularly. Everyone loved her.

The most important thing to know about mom was that she had a heart of gold. She was the kindest person you would ever come across and she loved everyone without reservation and instantly. If someone had a challenging personality, mom would search for something kind to say even if it was “Well that was a very nice shirt he was wearing.” My dad was also a constant beneficiary of mom’s always looking for the best in people. Dad didn’t usually pick out Christmas gifts, but one year he was so proud of having gotten a gift for my mom that he chose. It was a large case of nail polish remover. He was really excited to see her reaction and thought he had chosen the perfect gift because, you know, she needed the remover and here was an entire case of it. Mom said she would think of dad every time she used it.

Mom was born and grew up in New York, where she graduated from New Hyde Park Memorial High School and was a member of the Track Team (Relay), the Girls Athletic Association, Future Business Leaders of America, and an art club called “The Artisans”. Mom was soft spoken, kind, and always smiling but you’d better believe underneath it all she was a strong warrior. Her mom, my grandma, was ill since she was young and spent years in the hospital. While she was hospitalized, her dad, my grandpa became not really fit to be a father and after mom’s mother passed, my grandfather decided he didn’t want to raise her. Mom’s brother (Uncle Ed, who is no longer with us) was 9 years older than her and he and my Aunt Jan got guardianship of my mom when she was 13 and raised her. Mom never let this challenging history change her positive outlook on life. Uncle Ed was always my mom’s hero and she loved him so much. Their personalities were really similar, soft spoken and kind.

Mom moved to Alabama with me, my dad, and my brother after she visited my Uncle Gary and realized Alabama would be a great place to raise Brian and I. She was right, New York is a fun place for adults but Alabama is a great place for kids. Mom co-owned a security system and monitoring business with dad and somehow I remember her both being a full time working mom and a stay at home mom because she worked incredibly hard for the business but was always there for us kids when we got out of school.

Later on when I became an adult, we had some great trips with mom. We all went to Arizona together for Christmas 2019 to spend time with Kevin’s parents and sister and to be there for Kevin’s dad’s 80th birthday. We rented a house to stay in and had SO much fun playing dominos, Exploding Kittens (a card game, it’s more fun than it sounds), and other games and checking out the Christmas lights. She had so much fun on that trip. She also came up to see us a few times, most recently in June 2022 and we really enjoyed having NY bagels, black and white cookies, and good Italian food (though not as good as hers) and just hanging out. When Kevin went to play in his weekly Thursday night pool league mom and I ordered Chinese food and watched the movie Yesterday and we had such a great girls night in.

After mom was diagnosed I got a book of questions to ask her to learn more about her life and I learned so much from it! One of the questions was, have you ever done anything naughty. She said yes, when she was a kid she once intentionally broke her glasses because she wanted her parents to get her new glasses. That was the naughtiest thing my mom ever did, she was, in her own words, “a very good girl”.

One of mom’s dreams was to be an interior designer and her personality showed through in how she decorated her surroundings. My cousin Dave described her house as feeling like “a big hug” and every home she made felt like that and she made my dorm room and apartments feel that way too. Mom was a really talented artist, she painted and sketched a lot and she gifted her paintings, so they hung on the walls of hers, family, and friends’ homes. She painted happy things, like beach scenes, flowers, angels, and a watercolor of the word “Love”.

Mom was a fantastic cook, especially Italian food! Her eggplant parmigiana was second to none, although her favorite food was Mexican. She really liked chile renillos, chicken chimichangas, and margaritas. When she cooked, she always made a lot of food. A lot. Kevin and I would let her know we were on the way and she would say okay she was putting dinner in the oven. It was just the 3 of us. We would get there and the kitchen counters and table would be filled with food, enough for an army. Her cooking was how she showed her love and she did a lot of it. She also made sure I was supplied with snacks at all times. As an example, I visited in April a couple of years ago and the morning I had to go back mom said she’d left some snacks on the counter for me to put in my purse in case I couldn’t grab lunch at the airport. It was a container of marshmallow peeps and some granola bars. It was a very mom type of snack.

Mom raised the bar for always being “put together”, you would never catch her out without makeup done and a great outfit picked out from head to toe. My mom was never seen in, and probably did not even own a hair scrunchie or a pair of sweatpants. Often I’ll look at myself, think of mom with her great outfits, and think I have to step it up. Mom loved to watch Bluebloods, anything on HGTV, Real Housewives, and 90 day fiance. Her favorite movie was Love Actually and Steal Magnolias and Gone with the Wind were runners up. She also loved animals. Loved, loved, loved them. Snuggling with her dog Joey made her so happy. She was also especially drawn to the animals who were struggling. One of our cats, Dexter, who is no longer with us, was missing all his teeth and had nerve damage in his ear so he would walk around shaking his head and losing his balance. Dexter was mom’s favorite of all our cats because of his challenges and he always got extra loving from mom.

Mom was brave and courageous. After dad passed away, 10 months after Brian passed, mom channeled her grief into action and became actively involved in volunteering with Not One More Alabama (“NOMA”), a source of resources and support for families impacted by addiction, and became one of seventeen trained Parent Coaches in memory of her son Brian. NOMA was a great source of support to mom.

Kevin and I are deeply thankful to my family in Alabama (especially Gary and Tammy) and mom’s neighbors and friends here who cared for, loved her, and relished spending time with her. Mom always looked forward to the weekly Wednesday luncheons and she loved going to get mani/pedis with Gary. She also loved being in a neighborhood where the neighbors, like Margaret, would pop by to stick a Million Dollar pie in the freezer for her and say hi before heading back home. Mom had many, many good conversations with her friend Mrs. Linda just talking about everything, or as my mom would always say just talking about “this, that, and the other”. That was one of her favorite sayings, “This, that, and the other.” She also enjoyed many visits with Mrs. Latimer who on every visit would bring along something pretty to decorate the house that she called “little happies”. And they did make mom so happy.

I got a book of questions to ask mom and I’m so grateful for that time and conversations with her. One of the questions was what her life advice to family members was and how she would want to be remembered. Mom’s advice was to always be happy, follow your dreams, live up to the limits of your potential, and always tell the truth. She hoped to be remembered as a kind and loving person. Every minute of every day of her life was a testament to that. She was also always positive. Always. Even when she was sick in the hospital, she would tell me “tomorrow will be a good day.” Let’s have a good day, it’s what she would have wanted, and go have a chile rellino, chimichanga, or margarita tonight in her memory.

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