when it first happens your mind shuts down, goes numb. you go into shock and everything around you stretches out as if you are the background music with the world around you playing out like a picture show. a picture show, the old-fashioned kind, the one with a silhouette that looks like Mickey Mouse from behind, dark shadows on the wall. you can hear the catch of each reel of film, like slides in a projector. in those first moments, you can't imagine getting through the day. let alone a month or a year. the grief is so strong, it takes a hold of your heart, as if Seurat himself is painting patterns of pain across its surface. trying to fill the hollow spaces. only time can ease the angst, the feeling of loss never goes away, it lingers forever an echo unto itself. it ebbs and flows, fading and flourishing with a memory of scent, of sight, the presence of being, the sound, a color, anything that reminds you of her, of them.
a very good friend of mine recently lost her mom, recently as in the last 48 hours. I called as soon as I knew. there were tears almost immediately, words of comfort, broken vessels of quiet solitude, a stream of consciousness as she tried to process her mother's death. It was my heart listening, sending comfort and blessings of love across the miles, in the form of prayers and mental mantras. it really is the only thing one can do. the listening, the sharing of heart of peace.
this is the hardest part mon frite. every moment after this your heart begins to heal, it recovers itself in pieces, as best as it can. she'll always be with you, will always be near, guiding you to the places of peace, to where you are meant to be. every step you take, every moment. i believe that, i really do. it's what has gotten me through all these years.
it's been 13 years for me. i don't know how that's possible. in the beginning I couldn't imagine making it through the first year. and even though I had the best support from friends and family, and my fellow mourners at Gilda's Club, I don't think then that we knew if we could make it to now. So many of us have lost our moms, are losing our moms, our loved ones to cancer; and it is a never-ending saga, for all those people who go in remission and survive, there is another someone losing the battle, taking a last breath as I type these words.
My mom's name was Lucy, Lucia. She was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 19, where she spent her entire life. She was the warmest person I knew, her kindness is what I aspire to be every day. She liked crossword puzzles and doodling in the margins of lined notebook paper while talking on the phone. She set her own hair using ripped up tissues and paper towels. You could always catch a glimpse of a sharpened pencil behind her ear. Mom loved eggplant, melanzane parmigiana was her favorite meal. She called me her Sweet Petunia. She loved the beach and the sun. I have so many stories of our adventures by the beach, you really should ask me sometime.
We have the same eyes, hazel with flecks of gold. And the same complexion, olive based--in the summer we would change color, chameleons of the sea and sand. Mom loved to shop, and would scour the sales' racks at Macy's, Gimbels', Lord & Taylor. Many a Saturday we would take the train to 34th street - Herald Square for a shopping expedition, always ending at the counter at Chock Full o'Nuts for a coffee and a grilled cheese sandwich. Her best friends were May Dowell, Delores Steiner and Gayle O'Connell. She would make time to see them at least once a year, if not more. Mom used to work at CBS in the research library, she was once interviewed by Katherine Hepburn who was researching for her role in Desk Set. She met my Dad at a dance in the Catskills. I think she was there with someone else. That always makes me smile. Dad won her over and they were married on January 23, 1960. They went skiing at Mont Tremblanc for their honeymoon. A trip to the Bahamas four years later, and nine months later my brother was born. It took another seven before I came along. They were always together--playing tennis, miniature golf but more often than not they were dancing: the fox trot, the lindy, the waltz and the two step. Even in the weeks before the chemo stole her strength and energy completely, I have a photo of the two of them cheek to cheek in the living room.
They had big plans for their retirement, a month long trip to Sicily, more time in Aruba with their friends and siblings, but Death had other plans and separated them before they could fulfill those dreams. Perspective is everything.
Mom took her last breath at 12:03 AM on January 23, 2000, it would have been my parents' 40th wedding anniversary. My dad napping on the nearby couch, Lauren Bacall leaning out of a cross-country train in the Sahara desert calling out to some man on a horse, I am removing the morphine drip, kissing a warm cheek one last time. I was numb then, a part of me still is, and there is little that I can recall that is not steeped in a blur of beige and sepia-tones. Everything except the love. The love is crystal clear.
Thirteen was mom's lucky number, I don't know if I ever had a lucky number before but 13 became my lucky number that year, and every year after. We celebrate her life on her birthday, and on her name day (December 13); and I remember her kind loving spirit in the wee hours of this morning, on this day, as her memory lives on.
I love you Mom, now, always and forever.
Lucy Romano Preziotti
9.19.28 - 1.23.00