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You wonder about my mother. Well, my mother is my hero in life. She was smart, funny, independent (except at the end), creative & terribly honest. She could strike up a conversation with anyone -- and did -- while guarding her privacy -- and she did. She was extremely proper but open minded to new ideas & customs which she never followed. She was a great date & while I was in prep school in PA she used to take me to New York to the theatre, museums, and the like.

Many years later, when I first came to New York to work after college, my mother came to my little apartment to find an empty refrigerator & a dusty floor & insisted that I had to buy food & have a maid. I explained that I never went into grocery stores & that I didn't want anyone cleaning up after me. However I agreed that I would accompany her to the grocery store only to wait outside while she shopped. I did this barefoot. I also agreed to a maid as long as I never met her, never paid her, never had to tell her what to do. This was accomplished, starting one day the very next week while I was at work. This lady bought food, cleaned the apartment, left me notes & I never laid eyes on her. A couple of years went by.

Then Carol & I started dating. One night she stayed over & slept in as I went to work. The next morning as Carol lay drowsily in bed, she heard the door open & a person enter the apartment. Frightened, she wrapped her naked body in a sheet & jumped into the closet where she was discovered by the maid. The next week, I found a note from the maid saying she felt I was now in good hands & didn't need her help any more and she never returned.

As my mother grew old, she became afraid of this and that & my father, ever the doctor & loving husband, took care of her. Slowly but surely over the years my mother fell into decline. Finally she entered the hospital as an emergency patient several times with fluid in her lungs & a weakened heart. The last time she entered the hospital, she suffered an attack of some kind which landed her in ICU where she was strapped down, intubated, fed intravenously, diapered, bathed, handled, rolled over, & examined every few hours.

Nightly we met with her doctor -- my father, my sister & I.  .My father & sister discussed her medical condition since they are both doctors while I sat across from my mother's physician merely listening. Finally I explained to my mother's doctor that I had a different agenda. I believed he was practicing the best & worst of medicine -- the best because of all the technology & medical advancements, the worst because my mother had no quality of life nor could we ever hope for one. I asked that he make her more comfortable with more drugs so she could rest peacefully. He explained her dosage & I explained that I didn't care -- I wanted it doubled. It was.

Finally my mother died strapped down, intubated, fed intravenously, diapered, bathed, handled, rolled over & examined every few hours. She was sleeping. 

The Jewish religion includes a ritual bathing by women from the synagogue who then wrap the body in a shroud to be buried in the simplest of pine boxes. But before that happened my father insisted on seeing her one last time -- something that is not done. And he wanted us all to see her, too.

I entered the storage room where the wooden coffin rested on a table. My father, sister & brother-in-law went left, towards the head of the coffin. I turned right towards the foot of the coffin & as I walked around the pine box, I gently removed the toe tag from her right toe -- just like the movies.

There was my mother, world traveler, great date, funny, smart, independent, creative & terribly honest, lying there in a simple dress, cold & colorless with a toe tag. That's the last memory I have of her.

I talked to my mother every day during the several years of her decline. I shared her fright of falling, her frustrations of not being able to write because her hands shook, losing her appetite and her strength, not being able to read (her favorite pastime) & her fear of death. Her own mother had died at age 83. She did, too. I still try to talk to her every day. Some days are harder than others.

Happy Birthday, mom, 1 July 1999

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