I’m feeling a tad sentimental today as this date marks 15 years since my Mom passed away. She was 74 at the time of her death and had succumbed to the ravages of throat cancer. She was diagnosed in February of the previous year and went through hell for the next 11 months. But there were some victories along the way and we celebrated those moments.
She was born in November of 1930, the 4th and last daughter of Esther and Maurice Costello. Her older sisters were Rita, Roberta and Katherine (known as Kay). She had no brothers. She grew up in Watertown and graduated from Watertown High School in 1948. She met my Dad while they were both in Junior High School….and they remained sweethearts throughout school. They married in April of 1951.
She wasn’t good enough for my father…or so his mother always said. Don’t all mothers of sons say that about the girl their son marries? They went on to have 3 kids…Cathy, Ron and me. They led a good life for many years but then life got in the way and the good times were not always so good anymore. But that was their life and they rode the ups and downs like any other family would have. My Dad died in 1980 at the tender age of 50. Mom turned 50 later that same year but never dated (maybe once) and never married again.
She was an interesting woman in many ways. She loved to dance, and she and Dad could jitterbug like there was nobody watching. One of my best memories was having both Mom and Dad participate in a 50’s concert when I was in High School and seeing their picture in MY yearbook, dressed in their finest 50’s costumes, dancing across the stage. Really…who get’s to say their parents are in their yearbook. I always thought it was cool.
She wasn’t the best housekeeper but she did make sure we always left the house with clean clothes, clean bodies and a full stomach. She made the worst beef stew. You couldn’t call it stew…it was really fat riddled chunks of beef, carrots and who knows what else in a broth that tasted like dish water. It was gruesome. She knew it but made us eat it anyway. Apple Pie was not a specialty either. It always looked great until you cut it open to find lots of crust and maybe some apples.
But she made the best chocolate bread pudding with hard sauce. And she could silence a leg of lamb like you read about. And I don’t care what anyone says, her’s was the best turkey stuffing in the world. No argument. But she did always forget to put the fancy salt and pepper shakers on the table for holiday dinners….
She has a sense of adventure, particularly in her Pontiac Bonneville nicknamed “Black Beauty”. She had rules. Don’t ever call her “Ma”. Don’t even think of putting your feet on the rungs of the dining room chairs. And don’t slam the screen door as you dashed out the back door.
She and I struggled in the later years. Mostly because when my father died, we were forced to be more like roommates and less like mother and daughter. She did her best but struggled with boundaries as I got older (late 20’s into 30’s and beyond). I had to push back and put my foot down and that was not easy. She resented me and I resented her interfering in my life. I came to realize it was the only way she knew how to hold on to me. But when she got sick, none of that mattered. I did what needed to be done for her. And so did Cathy and Ron, albeit from a distance as they lived hours away. But they rose to the challenges when it was necessary. We did the best for her that we could.
Her funeral service was a little different. Thelma and Louise sent a lovely tropical floral arrangement. As we processed out of the church after the mass, the music playing in the church was “When the saints go marching in”. As we said our final goodbyes at the gravesite, the song “Rock and Roll Part 2” was played from a boombox in the back of the family limo as we tossed handfuls of snow in the air. She would have loved it.
She was proud of the three of us. Through circumstances that really don’t matter, she did not have a relationship with her granddaughters. If she had lived, she would have. Just because she did not say it did not mean she did not love us. She wasn’t the demonstrative kind. But we knew…
Fifteen years have passed and I miss her, sometimes more than I care to admit. Sadly, there is no snow on the ground here. If there was, I would have been throwing it up in the air this afternoon as I went to visit her at the cemetery. She would have liked that.