What I keep thinking this week is how Mom was at her best during situations like this. Mom was so exquisitely empathetic. She knew how to comfort and she knew what to bring and who to call and what to say. I have been trying to channel her energy and grace and that certain can-do fierceness she had when she put her mind to doing something.
And there would be cookies, Mom’s cookies. No one baked a cookie like Mom. How strange for her house not to smell like cookies. How strange to be here and eat only strangers’ cookies, which thank you so much for your kindness everyone who has brought us sweets, but, man, we miss Mom’s cookies. You have never received a care package like one from my Mom—with a cheery card and some stickers for Olive and a Ziplock bag full of cookies and, inexplicably, some really expensive lingerie for me.
It was so appropriate when my daughter Olive started calling Mom GaGa. Because it was so Mom. Mom went GaGa over whatever she put her big heart into, whether it was one of her businesses or volunteer work or a friendship or caring for the many adopted grandchildren she had over the years, Will O’Bryan being the most recent and so dear to Mom and Dad’s hearts.
Speaking of GaGa and Olive, can you imagine a better Grandma? Really. A more devoted Grandma? Mom was born to be a Grandma. The day Olive was born was probably the happiest I’ve ever seen her. She was so giddy and so beautiful that day in our bedroom holding and singing to her first grandchild and promising to teach her how to bake and how to dance.
Mom had a special way with kids. She would get down on their level and just get silly. She was teaching Olive to bake and to dance, which was good because I’m not the baker she was and Mom had way more rhythm than I did. Mom could dance whether there was music or not—and just be so comfortable in her body.
And Mom could laugh—that infectious laughter. She loved to laugh and kids loved that.
Mom loved lists, so I wanted to list here a few of her favorite things:
- Christmas carols
- Giving gifts—way more than receiving gifts
- A good bread pudding
- Laughing with her four brothers: Ken, Steve, Brian, and Jim.
- Clean, high-thread-count sheets
- A bath in the afternoon
- That moment when you sit down at the restaurant and they bring you the basket of bread and it’s fresh-baked
- romantic comedies
- curling up on the couch on a rainy Saturday afternoon and taking an impromptu nap: she and Dad used to call it taking a “luscious”
- movies on Sunday afternoons with Dad
- Shoes and shoe shopping
- Camille Beckman French Vanilla lotion
- Ellen DeGeneres
- A good street fair
- Saturday Market in Eugene
- Girls’ nights. You know who you are, you crazy boa wearing, margarita drinking, house teepeeing ladies
- All of you.
Mom and I had our differences, but those seem so small now. I wish I had told her how grateful and blessed I feel that everything she was has made me everything I am.
When I became a mother, I realized how difficult it would be to have your daughter grow up to be much different than you. If Olive becomes a Republican, for instance, I’m not sure I could deal with it as gracefully as Mom has all of my weirdnesses.
Mom handled our differences with respect and finesse and she even embraced them. She endured hundreds of vegetarian dinners. She even ate Tofurky one awful Christmas dinner, fer Christ’s sake. She bit her tongue about my dirty, doghairy house and she listened patiently over the years to all manner of my sanctimonious rants about the war and the environment and consumer culture. She bought Olive wooden toys made in pro-worker factories. She was even reducing her carbon footprint.
When I was 19, Mom and Dad paid for a summer-long cross-country road trip that I took alone in a Nissan pick-up truck with a canopy. It was a pipe-dream of mine and it must have scared the shit out of Mom. But it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life and I’m so, so grateful that Mom was supportive and that she helped me to make it happen and sent me care packages along the way and bought new tires for the pick-up when I was broke down in Kansas. It’s exactly what I mean when I say she embraced who I was.
When Bob and I got engaged and I thoughtlessly suggested that we have the wedding at the Colonial Manor, where Mom and Dad had been living for less than six months, Mom agreed immediately. She learned to be a wedding coordinator with little notice or training, and, as you can imagine, and many of you were there, she did just about everything herself and pulled off a beautiful day that made her daughter very very happy. That’s what Mom did.
She made us happy.
And speaking of marriage, my parents were seamless. They were each other’s best friends and business partners for 37 years. Can you imagine? And they were still affectionate and so appreciative of each other. They couldn’t stand being apart and Dad can probably count those days without using all ten of his fingers.
Many of you have been asking if there’s something you can do for our family right now. I’ll tell you what you can do. Stop by in a few weeks or months and give my Dad a hug or take him to a movie. Bring him a meal. I’ll tell you this, because he won’t: he doesn’t really like chicken. And he needs to watch his cholesterol.
If you want to do something to honor my Mom, adopt a widow or a child or someone who needs some extra love and devote some time to him or her every week. Volunteer for one of the great causes Mom loved in this wonderful community. Send someone a cheery card for no reason. Call your daughter. Call your mother and tell her you love her.