Monday, January 28, 2013

My Little Goldfish

(My remembrance from the memorial service for my stepmom, at St. James United Methodist Church, Niagara Falls, New York, Sunday, January 27, 2012)

My dad always gave me the best presents.  When I was five years old he made me a fabulous rocking horse and when I was going off to college he gave me my very own portable typewriter.  Little did I know the best present was to come in 1972 when he married Carol, and after being an only child all my life, I suddenly had a whole new family.
In addition to this new mother, I had two brothers, and they had wives and children; now their children have children – so I have brothers and sisters and nephews and nieces and grand nephews.  Carol also arrived with a dear quirky aunt and a delightful animal-loving sister and I ended up with two new cousins as well – not to mention various dogs, including one very special step-poodle and an awful lot of cats.

Carol and I began to become acquainted with each other right here at St. James – for many years we attended the then-annual Mother and Daughter Banquet.  We always had a grand time – eating and laughing and singing - and did I mention eating?  Our favorite experience was the entertainment portion of one unforgettable evening – a chorus of retired men, clad in spiffy red blazers, who belted out “Rise up O Men of God” as their first number.  Carol and I laughed about that for years!

We grew closer in our relationship after my dad died in 1999.  I visited her weekly and she fed me, (or we went out for Chinese), we went shopping and we enjoyed a lot of movies.  We sat in the sunlight and chuckled at the antics of the birds and the squirrels.   Every Thanksgiving we watched the Dog Show on television. 
After she moved into Sterling House and later Clair Bridge she continued to enjoy her life – looking forward, of course, to family visits but taking part in all activities that were offered.  The level of care she received at both places was truly a Godsend.  The amazing staff always made sure she was well-fed, warm, safe, entertained and happy.  Some days, however, when I visited she would seem kind of lonesome, longing for a visit from “her boys.” But then she would laugh, pat her hand on my knee and say, “But I’ve got you, babe!”

Towards the last few years of her life, Carol developed an increasingly distressing loss of her short-term memory.  We all went through a bad patch during the stage when she was aware of this loss and became perplexed and occasionally vexed; but once she forgot this forgetting, she was, as the Buddhists call it, “living in the now.”   And this is where her wonderful personality came into play – everything and everyone she encountered was a fresh delight.  I took to thinking of her as My Little Goldfish – she just swam around and around in her little domain and she enjoyed every single minute of her life.  Let us hope that all of us may be equally blessed.

November 2012, age 97, working on a painting.