indexI can’t cry for Mother anymore. I can’t remember her when she wasn’t this shell. I can’t remember her when she loved clothes and shopping, always kept chocolate somewhere, would go off with me if I needed a partner, was a natural engineer at repairing just about anything, loaned her money without a backward look to her loved ones.

She has a friend from forever. Their fathers were best friends. Nellie has always called Mom several times a year and always sent cards. She calls on Mom’s birthday, and this year, my mother can’t even parrot hello into the phone, doesn’t recognize what the phone is, or realize I am asking her to speak into it.

Nellie tells me she has breast cancer and that she is going to the doctor. Later I find out from her son she has 4 to 6 months and is refusing chemo. A fair choice, I think, cool in my analysis like autumn rain, and wishing my Mother’s end was as clear. I go about my day the day I learn the news, and I feel sadness gathering in some far distance in me. It’s pushing zinnatears up. I sit in the car after some errand and weep for a long time. Hard tears. Ones that tear. For Nellie. For life. For its inevitable end. But also for Mom. Somehow I can weep for her through Nellie.


12 responses to “nellie

  1. So beautiful, Karleen… ~ D

    Dunya Dianne McPherson 917-656-9137

    “I have chained my every dancing atom into a divine seat in the Beloved’s Tavern.”

  2. ……love…

  3. Margaret McNinch

    beautiful words, tender thoughts, sad feelings. the end will be a blessing when it comes for those who have lived long and have made choices or had them made for them. the tears can be sadness at the ending and the unfortunate way it so often comes. my heart is with you, my friend.

  4. A sweetly sad post about saying good-bye to our elders. Who will pick up this thread when our time comes?

  5. Beautiful. Sorry.

  6. What a very beautiful post. I wonder whether you might have also been weeping for Nellie on behalf of your mother, who can no longer weep for her own friends . . . . As we’ve shared, my mother is on a similar path but earlier in her process. Talking about your mom always loving clothes and shopping really struck a chord. So did mine. Now the former shopaholic and clothes hound is too tired, too passive, too vacant/absent to even indulge. Even the shopping addict has fallen away . . . .

    At a family gathering, we recently watched 8 mm film of when my mother was in her 20’s; a young mom with me as a toddler. Then early 30’s with me and my siblings. So stylish. Clothes the costume designers from Mad Men would love to copy. I looked across the room at my mom on the sofa, whose mind and body are deteriorating with Alzheimer’s. I looked back at the very stylish young woman on the screen of 50 years ago, waving at my father long since gone, who was taking the home movies. Watching her deteriorate more will be so very hard to watch up close.

    A close mutual friend lost a parent recently. I felt guilty to confess to her that I was envious. I hope she understood what I meant. Watching a person lose her self, her dignity, perhaps almost her soul . . . . I am not nearly as far down this road as you and am finding it almost too hard to watch. Hearing how far your mom is into the Long Goodbye fills me with dread.

    Sending you love and light and a warm hug this evening.

  7. Jeannine Holley

    My mother lived to be 100, and died this last Easter day . . . when we loose our mothers, be it with their minds intact or not, is a terrible sadness, for years now I was not able to pick up the phone and ask her questions like “Mom, what is your recipe for dumplings?” etc, you all know what I mean . . . but I always knew that we have our very own agenda for our life, and we choose it before we come “trailing clouds of glory” from our celestial home . . . we choose how we are to live and what lessons to learn as well as teach, and this is the important thing to remember, “Teach” . . . everyone who’s life we touch learns from us, and so with our mothers . . . we have no idea how many have been blessed by her, in every aspect of her life whether she is ill or well . . . I have said before, ‘I will teach my sons how to live, then I well teach them how to leave” (and hopefully a lot in between) . . .

    Love to all of you, and God Bless our mother, God Bless her life for she will not be forgotten by us as well as many people of whom we know nothing . . .

  8. I can only say how sorry I am. I am not the wordsmith that you are, my favorite author. My mother does not like me. She has never liked me, and has told me such since I was old enough to understand the spoken word. “A thorn in her side since the day I was born” was how she described me to others.I have not spoken to her in decades. Sometimes, I call her house to see if she still answers; to see if she is still alive. But I do not speak. I can not.

  9. I’m sorry. During my mother’s long illness, I seldom cried for her. I was afraid to release the emotion that I might not be able to call back. But I realized that when I cried for others, like you, I cried for her as well.

  10. You got me thinking of my mom, who has no short-term memory, but otherwise is in reasonably decent shape; and of my dad, whose death 19 years ago still draws tears from me; of my former students who died too soon, some by their own hand; of the parents of a current student (not mine) who died in a car crash last week; of Rosemary Crowe and whether she seeks release or reconciliation; of Guy Clark, a singer-songwriter I never met, but who has lost his wife and is aging too fast; and of “The Randall Knife,” a song Guy Clark wrote about his father and the tear he deserved, a song that always pulls tears down my cheeks (Here it is if you have not heard it recently: )

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