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Mom’s Redeeming Act December 18, 2006

Posted by Administrator in Death and Dying, Family, Personal.

There continues to me much to write about regarding Dad’s death:  Cleaning out his apartment, his decorations focussed almost entirely on his grandkids, the unbelieveable callousness of some agencies, demanding a death certificate before cutting off service.

Yes, that last one is for real. Bresnan Communications, my dad’s cable supplier, demanded of my brother a death certificate before they turned off his cable.  One of the stupidest, most insensitive things I have ever heard.  He called again today, and commons sense now reigns. . .but he also told them that they need to track down the worker who told him to provide a death certificate, and make sure that worker removes his/her head from his/her rectum and rejoin the human race.

But I wanted instead to talk about my mom.

I’ve been more than a little impatient with Mom for over ten years.  You see, back in 1996, she filed for divorce from Dad.  Arguments may certainly be made that she was justified; Dad was hard to live with.  He was incredibly stubborn, often emotionally abusive, and he drank quite a bit for many years.  But by the time Mom finally left him, he had stopped drinking, and this had taken the edge off his other negative attribute.  A very large edge had been taken off.  Coupled with the fact that he had increasing health concerns, I felt Mom was being insenstive -and a crappy Catholic- in seeking the divorce.

To make matters worse, Mom asked me if she could serve the papers to my dad at my house, while my brother was visiting.  In other words, she wanted to use the opportunity of our being together as a family for the first time in over five years to put a formal end to her marriage.

In my house.

I asked her in tones of incredulity if she was nuts, and absolutely forbade her from serving those papers in my house.  (she did have the grace to ask my permission. . .but I can’t imagine what type of response she was expecting. . .).

I’ve been in a state of low-grade piss-off with her ever since.  Dad was no angel, but I don’t believe that Mom treated him with any dignity back then.

Fast forward to last week:  Dad is seriously ill and the possibility of his dying alone hundreds of miles away from me and my brother is very real.  We are scrambling desperately to get him re-located out here. . .and a running undercurrent in my hindbrain is some real resentment towards my mother.  She took a vow back in 1964 to stick with my dad “for better or worse”, and she chose to bail on that.  Now that the bill has come due, the burden of dealing with my dad in times of worse has fallen on my brother and me.  I’m fantasizing about a conversation I will have with my mom about abrogating responsibilities and leaving already over-worked sons to clean up the mess she and my dad made for us.  It was a passionate speech I had prepared, and not very polite.

But my mom, God bless her, restored my faith in her.

The day before Dad died, Mom called to ask me what our plans were for Dad’s relocation.   I said that we would like to move him in with us immediately, while we searched for a nursing home placement.  But since Dad had already put the ixnay on such a transitional arrangement, my brother and I were trying to find an immediate placement.  Finances were an issue, as Dad was pretty much living off of Social Security, some minimal  VA benefits and the meanest possible pension from his old employer, International Harvester.  Since we weren’t willing to settle for the wretched type of care, it was taking time and I was considering raiding my own retirement funds to finance Dad’s care to speed things up.

Mom then stepped up and said that she would cover whatever costs SS/Medicare and Dad’s other income would not cover.

It was a lovely gesture, one she did not have to make and frankly I had thought her incapable of making.  It did a great deal to improving my image of her.  She was willing to help Dad in his final days, after seemingly cutting him entirely out of her life ten years ago.

Then, when Dad passed so surprisingly quickly, she offered to fly out to Billings to help me and Jay clean things up.  We ended up telling her that wasn’t necessary -as Dad had not much to clean up, it only took us one day of solid work to empty out his apartment-, but even then she was always available on the phone to answer any questions we might have had and to offer advice.


The death of a close loved one is never fun.  But like pain itself,  there are some blessings that reveal themselves.  Dad suffered for a very limited time, as I know he wished to be spared much suffering.  And Mom showed that she is in fact compassionate. . .and at the most helpful time.

Thanks, Mom.  And I am sorry for having been so cold with you for your treatment of Dad ten years ago.  Thanks for proving me wrong.



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