|6 April 2011|
For the last eight months I worked round the clock with/for my mother. Morning. Noon. Night. Before the lung cancer she planted flowers and she baked and she enjoyed meeting with her many friends at the bingo hall that served pickle sandwiches and barbecued potato chips and Vernors to northerners who missed it.
When at the synagogue there was never a shortage of people wanting to talk with my mom and even at the beach she'd always find someone to chat with.
"I don't want to talk to old people," she'd say when I inquired as to why her friends were always twenty-five or thirty years younger than her.
At the beach she'd say:
"Get me a hot dog and if it's cold you're eating it."
Two months after being diagnosed with lung cancer my mom couldn't walk like she once could. Sometimes she'd fall but always she'd say something like: "There must have been water on the floor," or "I tripped on something I don't know what it was but it was something."
The something was cancer and it had moved from her lung to other places in her body.
"You're lucky mom there was a big puddle of water on the floor," I'd say or "You're right mom you tripped on a rock sticking out of the ground."
I never saw any puddle or rock but I always wished the puddle or rock was the reason for her sudden fall.
I loved my mother dearly.
My grandparents lived in Homel which was then in eastern Poland and is now in Belarus. They left Homel and settled in Mount Clemens, Michigan and there my mom was born but in 1938 my grandfather took my mother and grandmother back to Warsaw with the intention of helping other family members.
In 1940 460,000 Jews (including my grandfather and grandmother and mom) across Poland were crammed into the Warsaw ghetto. When my mom was ten years old my grandparents along with my mom escaped the ghetto with the aid of Bund, a Jewish socialist organization.
My mother survived the Nazis', three divorces, the loss of a child, was once nearly killed by a drunk driver and in the end faced cancer head-on and opted out of treatment entirely.
No radiation. No chemotherapy. No pills. Though there were instances when she'd say, "Maybe I'll give it a try," or "I'll start treatment next week."
Once she even said:
"Tell me about chemotherapy, Norman."
Then there was the breakthrough moment we were all hoping for: My mother, her granddaughter and I were standing near the front door of her waterfront home. We were on our way to radiation! She was dressed and she was wearing red lipstick and there was hairspray in her hair and she had her best shoes on, too. But without warning my mother fell and lay on her side with a small green pillow under her head. When a good amount of time passed she said things like like: "This can't go on, Norman," or "I'll sleep downstairs tonight," or "This pillow smells."
My mother always said things that would make you laugh. Once she called me a "Chihuahua head" while we were picking out a casket for my stepfather. The funeral director asked me to step outside.
The director said:
"This isn't the place to laugh."
Most of her falls were genuine but the fall at the front door signaled the end of something.
I carried my mom to the downstairs bedroom and when I mentioned how heavy she was she said: "How dare you say something like that to me I'm your mother."
My mother never saw her upstairs bedroom again and as the months passed she grew quieter and eventually ate less and stopped drinking any liquids entirely. When I tried to make her drink Ensure she'd tell me, "Old geezers drink that shit get it away from me."
I do regular weekly audio monologues (podcasts) and post them on iTunes and whenever I'd start to record I was always interrupted by the powerful voice of my mother even when she slept downstairs.
"Are you putting out your porn again?"
Oftentimes she'd hit me with a double whammy:
"There's gonna be a knock at the door and somebody is gonna take you away. That's what they do to people like you."
My mother made regular appearances in my audio recordings and when I told her she had fans she'd say:
"They only bury one person in a casket."
To my mother this of course meant, you're on your own fans or no fans.
Years ago, when my stepfather was ill my mother said:
"A dying person will drag you into the hole with them."
When I mentioned this gem with regards to her life threatening illness she was quick:
"He was your stepfather. You've only got one mother."
My mother was strong not the type you'd think could ever die. For two weeks after her crossing I simply slept on the floor in my bedroom (If Tim Coyne can do it so can I). Images of white hearses parked in front of my house at five in the morning and the smell/appearance of a steady stream of adult diapers bursting at the seams, showering my mom, changing sheets, feeding my mom. Even seeing her body as it was taken away. These powerful scary super fresh raw shockingly real images raced through my mind and were debilitating for a period of about ten days 'til I spoke to Canadian Ken Bole of the popular DicksnJanes podcast and then Dan Klass the creator of The Bitterest Pill Tweeted me and then I watched (and learned from) how Bob Scoble took the death of his mother in this video (looking relaxed even) and the phone calls increased and the emails kept coming and now I'm somewhat better my confidence is returning and I've learned about a lot of things I didn't know (and maybe I don't ever want to know again).
I loved you with my whole heart.
NOTE: I've already starting putting pieces of my personal tragedy with regards to my mom into my stand-up routine. I start my act with: "My mom died ten days ago," and everyone laughs. Ten days ago the notion of using something like this in my act would have been too appalling for me to have even considered.
EXTRA: When I imitate the look of a corpse to an audience everyone laughs. I tell them, "I've studied this shit close-up, man. It's real."
BONUS: Those Depends highly absorbent adult diapers are a scam. Trust me on that.
EXTRA BONUS: Sick people are always 100 pounds heavier than what the scale says they actually weigh. I don't know why. You'll need two or three people to move your loved one (probably more).
SPECIAL NOTE: If your loved one wore dentures get rid of them. Your mind will see the dentures and you'll try to build a body around them using your imagination and this swirling around in your head for a couple of months reconstituting dead people around a set of smelly, yellowing dentures will make you unemployable and right quick it will take you out of the dating scene.
PRIVATE MESSAGE WITH REGARDS TO ANOTHER MATTER NOT RELATED TO THIS STORY: I swear to God I never swung an authentic Apache Tomahawk at your big titted little sister telling her if she didn't drop her pants I'd scalp her and I didn't deliberately take your big titted little sister to a smoke shop near my house so she would breath in the smoke coming from the burning bowls of marijuana figuring she'd get high and hump me. She's a fuckin' liar and if I have to I'll get an attorney and turn this around on you and your whole horny family.
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