Today while in the back of a cab in midtown daydreaming about the kind of wine I’d drink tonight if I wasn’t doing this dumb “no drinking during the week” thing, I started thinking oh fuck what happens if I attempt to blog while I’m a few glasses in? That shit would not be pretty. I am the biggest oversharer when I’m drunk. Truly, give me two glasses of cab sav and I’m waxing poetic about losing my virginity and the time I may or may not have had an “accident” while getting a Brazilian wax.
…Okay, I’m not even drunk right now and just told you that, so you could only imagine how bad it would be if I was on the sauce. I believe all electronic devices should have some sort of breathalyzer in them. I’m adding “blogging under the influence” to list of my biggest fears. Actually no I’ll add it to medium fears. Biggest is reserved for spiders, tornados, and getting diarrhea on a first date. Or plane. Either or would suck.
Medium fears: moving apartments in NYC, finding an olive lurking in my salad and eating it before I realize it’s there, running into my ex-boyfriend in my local Starbucks, blogging under the influence.
And then thinking about fears, I started thinking about all of the things I’ve had to do lately that I’ve been terrified of. Getting a flu shot. Checking my bank account after last weekend when I visited my best friend in North Carolina. Celebrating my birthday without my mom.
Have you ever had to run headfirst into something that you just REALLY do not want to do? Something really fucking hard. Something that you kinda knew you were going to have to do but hoped and prayed that maybe, juuuuuust maybe you’d be able to get out of it? And no, I’m not thinking about going to the lady doctor or moving into that new apartment. I’m actually thinking about the time I had to write my mom’s obituary.
WOW, THAT’S REALLY DEPRESSING ISN’T IT?
Okay, even though I’m writing this as if I’m talking to the little voices in my head, this is me vowing to not get too dark on you (you being the voices, I guess?). I promise to weave some humor and light in there somewhere. Or at least attempt to. Give a woman a break.
OK OK. Writing my mom’s obit.
“What the actual fuck I am 25 years old I can not do this how the hell did I get stuck with this why me why me why me why me whyy meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee?” Is basically what was going through my mind when I sat down to write this damn thing.
So wait – some background. If you (aka weird voices read my last post (which if you’re those damn voices you did) you’ll see that I’m a fan of “giving background.” I’m also a fan of rambling, but I digress. Mom was in the hospital for a little under 3 weeks leading up to her death. God I hate the word death. My therapist says this is normal. I had about 2 weeks notice for what was going to happen. Which you know, can be kind of nice. I suppose. Nice in a sense that you actually get a chance to say everything you want to say, ask the questions you want to ask (if you’re not too chicken shit to do so) and prepare yourself for the inevitable. But it’s still hard as hell. You have to spend two weeks watching the person that you care for most in the world die. Luckily I’m at a place now where I can think I GOT to spend two weeks HELPING the person I care for most in this world for pass on. But besides the day to day caregiving that goes along with that, there’s also the preparing for what’s going to happen after. Planning a funeral. A visitation. Writing an obituary. Figuring out & fixating on what the fuck to WEAR to said funeral because omg you refuse to wear black to your mom’s funeral and fucking hell you’ve definitely gained like 8lbs since being home and there’s no way that cute dress you saw at Anthropologie is going to fit you now.
However, there’s also another thing that you have to do: keep going. So you do. You just keep going. Just because your world seems to be ending doesn’t mean it actually is. So you press on and take it all one step at a time…and before you know it, the inevitable has happened…and try as you may to put it off, you finally have to sit down and do one of the hardest things you’ve ever had to do.
My mother was hands down the most incredible human I’ve ever met. Of course, she had her flaws, but she truly was one of a kind. Like Imperial Russian Fabergé egg one of a kind. (I think she’d like that reference.) Which is amazing until you have to figure out how to capture someone like that in three written paragraphs.
I vividly remember calling Mom’s best friend right after she passed. That’s a lie it’s all a blur but I do remember that when she picked up and I told her what had happened, one of the things she said to me was, “Ailsa, I hope you know what a special person she was. She wasn’t just a cool mom or anything like that. She was so special. There will never be another like her.” She really was special.
A few months after she got sick, she decided that we were going to get tattoos. I almost fell over when she told me she wanted to go get one… this was coming from a woman who for the majority of my life told me she’d disown me if I ever got a tattoo. But I said OK mom what are we getting? After weeks of text arguments, disgusted glances, and finally agreeing that we just weren’t meant to get matching tats, we decided eh well fine we’ll just go get them together. She got a flowering vine on her foot, and I got a tiny L on my arm. L for Laura, though I enjoy telling people it’s an L for Loser.
About a year later we were shopping at Urban Outfitters – because God forbid she ever look anything less Kate Moss stylish – and there was a tattoo parlor across the street. “C’mon,” she said, and we went in and got little matching hearts.
A few months after the first tattoo outing, she decided she was going to dip dye her hair turquoise. Actually, she referred to it as aqua. She had her own named for colors. Periwinkle was Tanzanite. Grey was either taupe or charcoal or pewter. She was very particular with her colors and it drove me insane… So okay she decides she’s going to dye her hair aqua. And it became her staple. For the last 3.5 years of her life, she had a teal ombré. I used to roll my eyes at it but it made her so happy. Every nurse in the hospital would comment on it. I have to admit now, it was great.
As I’m sure you’ve gathered, she always had the most impeccable fashion. I’m thinking this now especially as I look down at her over-the-knee suede fringe boots I’m wearing. Her shoe collection really was/is out of this world. *Thank you, Jesus, for making us the same shoe size* She never left the house looking anything less than perfect. One time we came home from a day of errands and she put her on her “comfies” (aka PJs) and when she sat down on the couch I noticed that she had actually changed her jewelry to match them. She was absolutely ridiculous.
She also traveled like no one I’ve ever known. Back in the days when I thought I was going to be a big movie star, I always said that I was going to buy her a house in Bali with my first paycheck because she’d always wanted to go. She traveled right up to the end… she’d do anything to fly up to New York for a weekend to be with my brother and I. People used to give her so much crap for it. But I thought it was brilliant. She’d be in the hospital one night and on a plane the next morning. She just wanted to live her life, and there was no way in hell that she was going to let some disease tell her that she couldn’t. She joked that she would see my brother graduate from college if it was the last thing she did. A giant photo of the four of us at his graduation hung directly across from her bed in the Hospital room during that last week.
When we were young she would always tell us of tales of her wild adventures. Stories of her years riding horses, how she hated playing field hockey, throwing parties while her parents were out of town, the boys she dated and the boys she wanted to date… Her beloved years at Connecticut College and all of the trouble she got into while studying abroad in Switzerland.
She taught me that you could smile your way out anything. And she really could. There was a time when she and a friend were in Milan when they were 21, and the friend was using a telephone booth and had set her brand new Gucci handbag with both of their passports, their train tickets, and all of their cash inside it on the ground just outside the booth. Of course, you’ve probably already figured out what happened. Bye, Gucci!
The two of them were now stranded in Milan with no passports, no money, and no way to get home. Mom had a credit card, but this was back before everywhere would take them. They luckily managed to rent a car and started driving to try to make it back to school in Lugano. They ran out of gas, and when they stopped to fill up the tank, the gas station didn’t take cards. Nor did they speak English. Laura smiled right through it. They got the Italy/Switzerland line and explained what had happened… and once again, smiled right through it. When they had hit a wall and couldn’t go any farther for the night, they realized they had a friend in a nearby town and decided to drop in on him in hopes he’d offer them a place to stay. I’ll never forget his name: Pierre-Luigi. I always pictured him as a very short and very round, bald man. It was a Sunday night, and all of the stores in the town were closed. They were starving and cold, but Pierre-Luigi took them in for the night. Mom told me he made them a huge bowl of spaghetti with nothing but olive oil and herbs and it was one of the best things she’s ever eaten. I always think of that story and smile when I eat a big bowl of pasta.
When her mom died in December of last year, mom told me that she slaved for hours writing the obituary. She said it was by far the hardest thing she’d ever done, but not because of the same reasons I struggled with. She wasn’t sure what to write about Grammy. And please don’t get me wrong, my grandmother was a magnificent woman, but besides being the jr ice skating champion of Scotland when she was a kid (no biggie) and then being bona fide fabulous, she really didn’t do that much besides take care of her dog and drink champagne (which lesbehonest doesn’t sound like a bad life). Mom on the other hand —- this was a woman so incredibly full of life. I snuck away from her own party two nights before her wedding to crowd surfed at a Pearl Jam concert. There’s a photo of her in our living room at home winning a karaoke contest. Her go-to was “Love Shack” by the B52s. I remember a certain night in a bar in East London when she was ripping tequila shots with all of my friends… She was the kind of person that everyone has a story about. How do you honor a person like that? How do them justice in 3 paragraphs? I don’t know. I still don’t know.
After I had put it off for as long as I could, I sat down in that living room and started to write. I did the best I could. I even sent it to one of my colleagues to proof and tweak a bit. Everyone told me it was beautiful, but I just wanted her to like it.
About a week after it ran in the paper, I had a dream where she had come back to talk to my brother and I. I walked into our living room and she was sitting at a glass table. My brother looked up at me and said Mom’s back. And it felt like she was, if only for a few minutes. She had come to tell us how proud she was of us. It was unlike any dream I’ve ever had before. I asked her if she saw the obituary, and she said she did. And it was beautiful.
There was a long while when I was petrified that I’d have to give the eulogy at her service. Where would I begin? What would I say?
I guess I’d say all of this. Minus of course the diarrhea on a first date.
If you were wondering, I ended up wearing a long aqua dress to her funeral. It had a tropical fish pattern on it. My friends called it The Fish Dress.
It matched her hair.
As long as stars are above you
As long as the seasons need to
Follow their plan
As long as the sea is bound to
Wash up on the sand
As long as you want me to
And longer by far
As long as your father told you
As long as you can
As long as I live through you
However long you say
As long as stars are above you
And longer if I may
As long as stars are above you