Penguins

This one just may well be the best written of the bunch. It shows a different side of me than what you have already seen. It’s not funny but I think you’ll find it very moving. This revolves around my favorite memory of my late-mother. Let me know what you think?

I remember one day my mom and I were driving alone in her car and she had a very serious talk with me. She told me she had about six months to live. She was about fifty-eight years old at that time but had suffered through many medical issues in her life. She had been a stroke survivor, had a heart attack and even a bout with spiral meningitis. I was shocked when I heard the news, still, even though she, and as a result all of us, her family, had been through so much.

This was during the year 2002.  Six months passed and she was still alive and gave no appearance of dying. Then years passed, more health issues followed but she was never on her death bed, very sick, yes, but very much alive. As the months and years passed by and she continued to struggle with her health, my anxieties around her health grew. I suffered along with her. But I suffered silently. I remember I would go to bed and often have trouble sleeping and what kept me up at night was wondering when I might get that God-awful call. I didn’t know how to talk about my anxieties back then. I suffered with anxiety for nearly two decades because I hated to be vulnerable, I was scared to be open about my fears, I mostly suffered in silence. Years after I met my wife I was able to begin to be a bit more honest about my anxieties but mostly I would keep my fear of my mom’s death to myself. Through the years although my mom’s health was declining, I learned how to face death by watching her. She surrounded herself with her loved ones. She connected with old friends, she went on vacations and saw her grandkids. There is this tremendous picture of her kayaking, at my dad’s house. They must have had one of those Disneyland type cameras set up like they do on the water rides because at the exact moment she fell out of the kayak, they took a picture. There she is falling out of the kayak, it is an epic picture. It is how she lived her life in the last decade. Eventually my mom became wheelchair bound. She suffered another stroke and the aftermath of the stroke really hit me hard. She went to a rehab facility and eventually got her speech back. This was her 2nd stroke by the way and she recovered fully from the first one. My older brother Dave gave her the best gift she had ever received in her life, a Daschund named Heidi. With this stroke I really got a glimpse into my mom’s mortality. Her impending death became even scarier. I wasn’t just scared mind you, I was saddened. My mom was a great storyteller and this slowed down her speech considerably. My mom was also very sharp and everything she did she excelled at. She was an excellent baker, party thrower, photographer, office manager and excelled at jigsaw puzzles. She was the most competent person I have ever known. To see her capacities diminished was heartbreaking to me. Sometimes she had hard days and other days she was fantastic. Sometimes her mind would be sharp like in the past and she was telling great stories and her reactions to things normal and other days, the stroke would take over and she would have trouble finding words, her speech slowed and she would react to things in a very childlike manner. This was very hard to watch. Sometimes she would get very emotional and traumatized, the way a 5 year-old might react to something, that was tough to watch. Some 9 years after my mom had originally told me she was going to die I was blessed to still have her in my life. For my birthday my wife, our friends Manny and Alexis, whom we affectionately refer to as the Manny’s, and both of my parents went to Chuckchansi, a casino about half an hour from Yosemite. This is well over a 3 hour drive so I am very lucky that my mom and dad made the trip. My mom was never much of a gambler so this was a bit unusual for me to see her in this light. My dad, has no inclination to gamble but the Manny’s enjoy going on a monthly basis and my wife and I are the type that we don’t plan gambling trips but if we are on a trip and there is a casino in the area, we do enjoy ourselves. We all met up around the buffet. I remember I was kind of cranky because I had to wait on the Manny’s for a little bit and I am, by nature, uptight about time, but I got over it as soon as I saw the buffet food. I was not going to ruin my own birthday. After we ate my wife went with my mom and gambled with her, pushing her wheelchair and I did my own thing for awhile. Eventually, I saw my wife and my mom at a slot machine with a penguin theme. I decided to catch up with them. My wife was being very kind to my mom. She really loved her and was very patient and understanding with her and my mom loved her as well. I could tell MariaElena was really enjoying watching my mom do her thing at the slots. Whenever she would win a little bit the machine would make a lot of fun noise and the penguins would frolic around and my mom was just absolutely filled with joy over this. She was laughing a lot. It was great to see. I really liked watching my mom get so excited. It wasn’t about the money, it was just the pure fun of the noise and seeing the animated penguins. This is my favorite memory of my mom. This also reminds me of one of the reasons I really love my wife because she can take joy from the happiness of others. She can celebrate your joy and success. After seeing my mom go through so much I really need a memory like this. I have seen her feet absolutely ravaged from necrosis of the nerves, meaning the tissue died and her feet went absolutely black. It looked like her feet were burned, they looked like they were burnt to a crisp, just dead and useless. It was devastating to see. Her feet were almost amputated but the doctors let her keep the feet, although they were dead. I have seen her mind ravaged and sadly watch her act like a traumatized child but this time I saw the stroke affect her differently. The same cruel effects of the stroke, the invasion of her mind, gave me a gift, the gift of her childlike joy before the Lord would take her. To this day whenever my wife and I see something with a penguin on it, we think of my mom. We have a huge penguin themed snow-globe in our house which is a warm reminder of that night in the casino.

If you are enjoying what you have read please visit the following link to purchase my book, The Driveway Rules

https://store.bookbaby.com/book/The-Driveway-Rules

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