Sunday, May 8, 2011

a place for mom

today was mother's day here in los angeles. that is silly to write, because it was mother's day all over the country, but the way i wrote it is exactly how i want to say it. now that i think about it, i don't even know if other countries celebrate mother's day. how country-centric of me. i remember how shocking it was to realize that the united states is the only country that celebrates thanksgiving! i guess i thought that thanksgiving ranked on the same level as christmas, which apparently is celebrated pretty much all over the world, but this is not the case, as you know. neither is it the case with mother's day. but it should be. it should be celebrated all over the world. maybe i will start that movement.

here in los angeles, mother's day seems to mean lots of flowers sold, and lots of brunches. i am not so sure how thrilled these mothers are with flowers and brunches, but if they are not, they sure aren't telling any of these kids, because the flowers and brunches just go on all day long. at the whole foods market where i work, the floral department is running like nuts on mother's day, making arrangements for impatient adult children who, for one reason or another, have waited until sunday afternoon to pick up flowers for their mothers. of course, in l.a., everyone works all day every day, it seems, so sunday afternoon may be the first time that adult children have to shop for anything. (i wonder if they learned their non-stop work ethic from their mothers?)

i did not buy any flowers today, nor did i go to any brunches. i worked. i did make myself a nice breakfast beforehand, though: french toast, hickory smoked bacon, and hash browns. but i ate alone, as i usually do on sunday mornings, and read the sunday paper. my mother was not there, as she is not alive. i am sure that if she were alive, she would have been there, and there would have been fresh flowers on the table. i am assuming that she would have loved both gestures. but mind you, i would have made the brunch myself and arranged the flowers myself!

my mother died over two years ago. she had alzheimers disease, but they say that nobody ever dies of alzheimers disease. i would beg to differ, because boy, did she age as the disease progressed. you see, the body follows the brain, so...if the brain no longer knows for sure where it is going, well, you get the picture. my mother's sister, edith, is over 90 years of age, and still of stout mind, and her body is aging appropriately.

anyway, one night, over two years ago, on a february early morning, around 2am to be exact, my mother's body just stopped functioning, and she died. she was in a nursing home in montana at the time, close to my sister's house in kalispell. my mother never would have permitted us to put her into a home, but by the time we had to do just that, she was beyond knowing where she was at any given time. i will never forget the day that we admitted her. it was winter, and my sister had recently broken her arm slipping on the ice outside her home. i had flown up immediately to help her, since she was now no longer able to care for our mother, and fortunately we had everything set up in advance, so all we had to do was call the home and let them know that it was time. the afternoon that we dropped her, they were doing an activity in the main room, an activity that basically consisted of the residents sitting in chairs in a circle, and kicking or tossing a large beach ball around. the nurse suggested that we have our mother join in the activity as a way to integrate her into the home right away, and this is just what we did. i still remember watching my mom in the chair, kicking valiantly when the ball came near her. there she was, this woman who was extremely private and somewhat guarded, now sitting in a circle of strange people trying to kick a beach ball. oh, the path that our lives take! a year and some months later, she would die in a single bed in that very same home, her days of kicking beach balls long past, a shell of the woman i remember.


in a few weeks i will be traveling to san francisco for the first time since last year around this same time. i will be spending a week in the castro district, at a bed and breakfast, before making a week's journey down the coast of california with the aids life/cycle as a member of the bike parking crew. i plan to take an additional two weeks off work upon my return (they don't know yet), for a total of a whole month off of work. you heard me right. a whole month.

i don't know if my mother ever visited san francisco, but i am sure she would have loved it. when she was alive and well, i used to drive down to san diego and take her into downtown for shopping and lunch (such a good gay son!). she loved these afternoons, as did i. there was a sophistication to my mother, and it showed in her comments about the high-rise condominiums and gleaming towers of downtown. she was a glamour gal, and was so attractive as a young woman that during her time in los angeles, back in the 50's, she was once asked to do a screen test. she never did (to my chagrin--i could have been a celebrity child!). anyway, i am sure she would have loved san francisco and all its sophistication. i know that i do, and i can't wait to be there again. as i get closer to the actual possibility of moving to the bay area, i can't help but wish mom were alive, so i could have her visit me and we could go roaming in the city during lazy afternoons. maybe i would have had her up for mother's day weekend, and i would have made a fantastic brunch spread for the two of us, and i would have filled the apartment with flowers in her honor. in fact, i am sure i would have done this.

but that won't happen, because she is gone, and i am never more reminded of that than on mother's day, when everyone in the city is going to brunch with their mothers and coming into the store to buy flowers.

i don't believe that there is any part of my mother that is around--i am an atheist, you remember. well, there is the lock of hair that i have, which i asked for before they cremated her (i will never be comfortable with the idea of her being burned). i also have the dress that she not only wore, but that she made, for her wedding to my father (do i need to remind you that i am a gay son?). it is a beautiful dress, and i could not bear to throw it out after she died (what becomes of our stuff?). her absence from the world and my life is not a comforting concept, but it is just one of many uncomfortable concepts that our world throws us without a single suggestion on how to deal. well, i am hoping that during my visit to san francisco, and the following trip back down to los angeles, that i will experience the one thing that ensures that i can deal: community. community is something that my mother lacked as she aged, but i will not let that happen to me. this, above all else, is the main reason that i am planning to leave los angeles. as i have said before, the only way it seems that one can be in a community here is to either be involved in a church, or a 12-step program; neither is an option for me. so i must go to a place where community is organic.

my mother would have loved san francisco, and the east bay, where i plan to re-locate. but i am not going up there for her--i am doing it for myself--so that i don't end up like her, alone at the end of my life, in a single bed in a care home, having lost my mind. even so, i will never get used to her being gone.

me and mom at the home, with her "baby doll"


  1. Tone: Your post and your re-collection of your Mom and her importance to you, past, present and future, made me cry.
    Thanks for this as it was cathartic for me.

  2. So beautiful. I now remember you commenting, on my Blog, about your Mother. That was so nice of you to share her story with all of us. It is very similar to how my grandmother faded away.
    I hope that you do find the community that you are seeking. Don't be dissapointed if it's not there immediately upon arrival.
    You sound like a really great guy and I look forward to learning more about you.
    Take care.
    Your Friend, m.
    p.s. I'll give my Mom a kiss in your Mom's honor when I see her today. m.

  3. to dave: best friend, of all the people i know, you and i share this similar loss. i feel i know what you were experiencing on mother's day, as it was probably what i was experiencing. i came home from work and just HAD to write something, and if it spoke to you, then my instinct was correct. i hope that your catharsis was healing, and i am touched by your comment.

  4. mark, i never anticipated, when i started this blog, that i would make such meaningful "connections" through writing. but i am so glad that i have. i love your gesture of honor...and am very moved by it. i certainly feel that i am building a "community" in blogland! and thanks to the internet, i can start building my community in nocal before i move up there. i don't mind that it will take some time--i have gone so long without, that i can wait a bit longer. :-)

  5. Wow!
    You are in transition, I see. Nice to see that a decision has been made and you can live with it.
    We spent a few days in SF in the late 80's. We loved it and were hosted by a couple that never met us before but knew a friend of a friend, type of thing. They treated us like kings! Talk about community Tony.
    I am happy that you are moving away from LA for your own growth.
    Living without our mothers was very difficult for us......especially for Ron....took some time. Your Mom sounded like a wonderful person. And I must disagree with you on one point you made. Just on a biological level you ARE your mother....and your father, grandparents etc.
    And along with that 'legacy' comes who you are. After my Mom died four years ago, this realization hit me between the eyes! In some cases we are our parents and we ought to 'embrace' this.....not in a sucky nostalgic way, but in a very real genetic way. Sometimes we have no control of how we think or's has already been programmed.
    You will probably 'pick this apart', being the 'science man' and all. That's OK. Bring it on!
    Really glad that you have decided where you'd like to live.

  6. You and I caliman (would love to know your real name please) are much the same. This was the first Mother's Day that I didn't send my Mother a Mother's Day card. She always loved getting those cards. I also always got her flowers (hyacinth usually) to plant for Mother's Day. She had so many of my flowers planted around her home. My Mother died September 16th, 2010 at 86 years of age. I don't know if she had Alzheimer's but she did have dementia, which came quickly. We (my two brothers and I) promised her that we would not place her in a nursing home and we were fortunate in that we could keep that promise. It wasn't easy. The last three months of her life when we moved her to my youngest brother's house which was equipped for someone in her condition, they (my brother and his wife) didn't get much sleep. Then one day her body just stopped functioning, much like your mother's did. My Mother was also a beauty in her youth, although she was never offered a screen test. But she did get the handsomest man in town, my father. This past Mother's day was unreal for me as I now know it was for you. Your posting was heartfelt and honest and I appreciate you sharing your feelings with us. Like you I don't want to end up alone, sick, in a bed, dying. I hope when I go it is quick and painless. I too often think about The End. I try to prepare as best as I can, especially now that my partner of 46 years is 82 years old and will probably leave me in not too many years. I'll be honest and tell you that I do fear for a future alone (I'm not going to be anybody's Sugar Daddy) but I try not to dwell on it. It probably doesn't help you, but I do get some comfort knowing that I'm not the only older gay man to feel this way. I wish the best for you my friend.

  7. caliman,

    I have met Mark and he is the real deal. Unfortunately, he's taken. :)

  8. ron,

    my name is tony! i have mentioned this before and in my comments on your blog--but you must have forgotten. anyway, odd that both our mother's were 86 when they died--of course mine had me late (she was 40). i would have loved to have had her for another 20 years. and just have to say that your comments always help--i love knowing that my posts inspire you to write a comment--that means so much to me. i plan to write more about being alone during my upcoming vacation in june--have been thinking so much about it. i can't imagine not thinking about it. both the good and bad, just like being in a relationship, but without the "veil".