Never Stop Praying – Keep Hope Afloat: (For those of you who knew my mom, aka Helene, you will undoubtedly appreciate this story.)
May is a special month for me. Susi month! I have my wedding anniversary on the 4th, Mother’s day is on the second Sunday which always falls days before (ta da) my Birthday! All the goodies wrapped up in one month. Make no mistake, there are separate presents and celebratory dinners expected for each event. Jim, my hubby of three years today, got the ‘Susi Days’ calendar list early on and has been quite good with compliance.
Jim and I met 10 months before mom passed in 2012. We were both in our mid 50’s and felt beyond blessed to have found each other after years of heartaches. After dating for three months I knew he was special and wanted him to get to know Mom while there was still time. The flight down was a time to reminisce.
Life had been tough on my family for years on end. When Papa Joe died I found myself at the helm trying to keep everyone afloat, including myself. The Sandwich Years are hard – especially when you are the one lone piece of bologna smacked between the soggy pieces of bread. To say life in the middle age years was not the fairy tale I expected would be an understatement. Prince Charming had turned into a pumpkin years before running off with the mice leaving Cinderella to juggle aging parents and a hormonal teen who was hell bent on self-destruction. My family was my full time occupation, make no mistake. Being able to keep my two jobs while putting out weekly fires was a true testament to German gene perseverance and kind colleagues.
Exhausted and at wits end, I had pretty much given up hope that I would meet anyone I could tolerate, much less love again. I actually had made a vow that I would rather be alone for the rest of my life than to be in one more toxic relationship. That went for family and friends too. Insanity can only be tolerated so long before one succumbs to the mess.
Mom never gave up hope I’d marry again however. She would always talk about the new life I would have and tell me the best year of my life were on the horizon. All I could see was my expanding waistline and eroding tolerance lest another man leaving the toilet seat up. Mom truly kept Hope alive in the corner of her room when I kicked it out my door.
Mom and Helene shard the same body but one never knew who would show up in the morning. Mom was tolerant and adored me. Helene on the other hand was aging and could, on more than one occasion, dictate religious rules of compliance that would make the angels haul-ass out of heaven. Aging parents can be pistols when they want. I deeply suspect they enjoy the freedom to talk without regard for consequences just to see if they can get a rise out of you - rather like a parrot in a cage teasing the cat hopping back and forth chattering away meaningless insults. Just when you’ve had enough and want to get out the bat to start swinging, they come over and kiss you on the forehead and rest their head on your shoulder and softly mutter; “Thank you for being here and taking care of me.” That’s the minute you finally get why they didn’t put you down when you were three years old and painted a mural on the dining room wall with lipstick.
All those crazy years were coming to an end when I met Jim. He seemed very sane and I suspected from the onset that I wanted to keep him. Panic set in with this realization as my first instinct was to lie about my caretaker status and hide all the insane relatives in my closet. I decided against it however as some of the elephants were just down the hall trumpeting. Instead on our first date I blurted out every detail of the past 5 years in one long breath: Divorce crisis, child support crisis, house crisis, kid school crisis, legal crisis, accident crisis, medication crisis, best friend dying crisis, Joe dying crisis, mom’s illness crisis…. You know, give him all the facts and if he runs away the heart was not yet involved so one could recover. If he stayed – marry him as he must be a saint. He looked at me in an odd way and ordered another glass of wine...but he stayed.
That date was August. We both grew fond of each other and I thought Thanksgiving was the time to introduce Mom to Jim. He and I flew to Florida to be with her. I tried to prepare him that she was...well…unique. Of course I did not know what to expect either wondering if Mom or Helene would greet us. It always was a crap shoot.
We walked in the door and she pity-pattered up to him with hands on hips. A 5’1 stance of pure spunk sizing up the 6’3 of aging army Major who was peering down over her like a Great Dane over a Chihuahua. Silence. Standoff pause before she barked. " Well, what took you so long??? I've only been praying for you for nine years!" He smiled, bent over and scooped her up for a big hug and off they went together for the long weekend. She had fresh ears for all her stories and another Gopher (as in Go For whatever I need…) to do her bidding.
May is special for another reason too - besides being Susi Month. It was the month mom accepted the fact she was dying and surrendered her Will to come and live with me until Jesus came and got her. They were best friends you know. Mother’s Day she conceded her ability to live by herself. My birthday brought a special hand written letter recounting her love of me throughout the years. End of May we went to pack her up - two weeks later she was gone.
Little did we know our time together would be so short – but boy did we make long memories. After her fall down the stairs Jim was her nurse – picked her up and carried her where she needed to go. He’d flirt with her and Helene would bat those beautiful blue eyes at him as if he was her beaux. On her last day of consciousness, Mom called us to her and took both of our hands in hers giving us an Old Testament marriage blessing. She told me to take time to grieve and then move forward with the rest of my life with him as he was a good and caring man. She could now die in peace – and she did three days later.
May 4th is Jim and my Anniversary date and tonight we will celebrate the great gift of second chances. But I truly consider Mom’s blessing the day our engagement turned into our true marriage as she gave me away to a man she trusted and deeply loved. Integrity does not need time to prove itself. She sized him right away and knew I had a keeper. And I do.
Happy Anniversary Darling - I love you so.