I got a phone call a few weeks ago from an old time family friend. “Jillian, I’m worried about your motha”, she said with her thick Bostonian accent. “She needs you and it has to be you. You are the one who can help her move out of her place and give her good advice about what to do with her life.” As difficult as it is to leave my family, I booked myself on a flight that evening to Hartford, Connecticut, to stay with my mother for five days and help her pack up to move out of her happy little nest.
The rain set the mood as I helped to pack up my mother’s beautiful possessions. Stoically, my mother performed the perfunctory tasks needed to move out of her beloved home and I immersed myself into her world trying to be on my best behavior, accepting her fate and trying not to get angry at Bernard Madoff or Irving Picard who is further victimizing both my mother and myself by forcing us to lose everything we have worked so hard to build.
She walked me around her place saying goodbye to her view of the mist clinging to the distant hills and the tree that cast shadows throughout the day into her office. She showed me her favorite garden path with the Bleeding Hearts, a metaphor for her life at the moment.
The days were busy with the phones and doorbells ringing off the hook. Everything had the same ring, I would answer the door when her phone rang and pick up her phone when the doorbell rang. I jumped every time the disorganized mover irritatingly yelled out “MAAAM” to get my mother’s attention and was glad that I was there to soften the harshness of it all.
Tutti, my mothers cousin, religiously arrived every day to herd my mother through the move and keep her organized. They worked beside each other resorting back to the German language of their youth. Tutti would look at me with her glasses low on her face and tell me to stop Schnubbling, which I learned is the German word for mumbling. My eyes would open wide when they would announce that it was time for a Mukke Fukk, reheated coffee. I felt like I was in a surreal movie as the week intricately wove the past into the present, reminding me of the importance of family.
To add to the insanity, there was Hank, my mothers fix it man for the past thirty years, who revealed that he had had a thing for me ever since I was a teenager. He would lurk near me, as I unpacked boxes, making lewd comments and grabbing me every now and then to kiss me on the cheek, apologizing that he couldn’t help himself.
Hank is a true testament to my mothers loyalty and generosity. She kept employing him even after she walked in on him committing adultery in her bed. My mother was never one to follow conventional ways, always taking in the black sheep that would baaa at her door.
On the final evening I sat in the kitchen amongst heaps of boxes and furniture, opened a congratulatory bottle of wine and proceeded to polish the whole thing off, as my mother gets pie-eyed off of half a glass. Hank’s son sat with me and told me how he had applied a sheet of sinister tattoos on both arms after the mother of his child left him. I preached to him about how he needed to take better care of himself and tried to convince him to take up Bikram’s yoga to cleanse his unhealthy colon.
I had never seen my mother so completely emotionally and physically exhausted but we couldn’t leave until the movers found their paper work, which had mysteriously disappeared (what also disappeared from the move was my mother’s beloved collection of 19th Century English Fairy Art). We all whispered about their incompetence as they drove back and forth between houses searching for it. All eyes fell on me, buzzed and happy, when it was revealed that I had been the culprit who had moved the papers to my mother’s office in my relentless attempt to keep her organized.
Waking my mother up at 5:30am the next morning, I worried that the move and her exhaustion would age her. I wanted to stay and make her laugh and let her know that all would be okay, and less overwhelming soon, but I had to return to my family.
This week has not only given me a newly found wisdom explaining the roots of my dysfunctional habits but it has also given me a sense of peace that I was able to be with my mother to help get her through a difficult passageway in her life.
In a perfect world, my mother would be living with my sisters and I so that we could ensure a healthy, happy existence for her. She is not ready for that yet, and so we will witness from a distance all of the transitions that will occur in her life and until she comes home to us she is in Tutti’s care.