One of the reasons I decided to come back and write here on Bindle is because I feel like I can express things I don’t wish to share on FB or other social media. I try to keep those posts mostly about my art, sometimes about my music, and once in a while about my cats. I keep my personal life off those as much as possible.
So my plan, then, is to write in more detail about my life and art here. The art stuff may get shared to FB; I’ll see how that goes. The life stuff will stay here.
This post is about my mother. Really, about me. She died last month at the age of 90. It’s taking me a while to process this. We didn’t have a close relationship, especially since I got divorced (17 years ago) and she took my ex’s side. And continued to through the ensuing decade and seven. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I managed to let go of most of the negative stuff years ago, and chose a long time ago to maintain a relationship that was amicable if not close. What matters, though, is even with all that, she was still my mother and the connection was always there, even if frayed and fragile.
What we thought was a small tumor in the breast turned out to be a metastasis of a widespread stage 4 bone cancer. She found this out when she went in for staging on the breast tumor. That back pain she had been dealing with for a few months was not what she thought. (She had back pain most of her adult life, sciatica and disc problems.) That pain had been steadily increasing and had become almost unbearable.
She also found out that she had mere days to live, because her systems were shutting down.
How she told me…well that was pure Cleo.
I knew she was going for the staging, and was waiting to hear from her on that. On a Thursday morning, she called me and started with “I have good news!”
Well of course I figured that meant the breast tumor was operable.
“Great, tell me your news!”
“I have three days to live!”
Well fuck me all to hell, I thought.
“Tell me what’s going on.”
And so she did. She was going into hospice care that very evening, and would be on a morphine drip to keep her from the horrific pain she had been experiencing.
She was glad that her end time was going to be short and free of pain. She had every arrangement you can think of already in place. She was always an organized person.
We got to say our goodbyes, and I have absolutely no regrets that anything loving and positive was left unsaid.
She spent the next couple of hours connecting with all her friends and family, and how wonderful is that?
When I got off the phone with her, I booked a flight from Seattle for later that day and arrived in New Jersey at 6 am the next morning. My first redeye flight, and I sincerely hope never to have to do that again. But hurrah! My brother had coffee and hugs waiting for me at the airport.
I spent that day and the next at the hospice and with my brother and his family. Mom was not conscious but we were told she could hear us, so we talked to her.
Never one to follow ANYONE’S expectations about how she should do things (a trait I inherited, for good or ill), and defying her Jewish friends’ express wishes that she not die during Rosh Hashanah, she passed on the 4th day in the wee hours of September 26. I really don’t know what to make of that.
Since she passed, I’ve been dreaming of her, fairly often. Nothing negative or weird, she’s just…there. My brother says the same thing. We don’t really know why, except it might be as simple as we know she ISN’T there, and so we’re including her.
The picture I included as the main one for this post is probably one of the first ever taken of her. She is the baby in white, seated upon her mother’s lap. That was my Yaya, Stavroula. This is my mother’s baptism, being christened Cleopatra Zacharopulos, in I think, 1931, in the Greek Orthodox Church. Her father, Petros, my Papou, is the man with the white boutonniere standing behind them. Her older brother Christos is the little boy seated on her godfather’s lap. I believe that was her Uncle Takis. I recognize a few other people in the photograph, relatives I grew up knowing, but most of the people in the photo were just members of the congregation.
I especially love the pile of kids in the front.
How weird to realize that it is highly unlikely that even any of those children is still alive.
Anyway, while I was in New Jersey, my brother took me over to Mom’s apartment and asked me to pick a few things I’d like to have. I asked for this photograph.