Originally written May 22, 1995, edited July 16, 2014
She boasted of seven grandchildren, of whom I was the youngest and 16 great-grandchildren.
She didn’t like cow, she preferred beef.
She made knock-out stuffed cabbage, kreplach, cinnamon bar cookies, myena and cottage cheese pancakes, and she did so in armed services amounts.
She kept a special place in her end table drawer for all of our toys when we came to visit. Mostly decks of cards.
She was the best back-scratcher. Ever.
She always had broad shoulders and open ears.
I didn’t get that one last chance to say goodbye to her and thank her for all of her love and wisdom over the years. I never let her know that I would always carry a part of her with me, even though I think she knew. She never gave me the recipe for oats, peas, beans and barley soup. I think she did that on purpose, to make me experiment in the kitchen.
I didn’t want to grieve selfishly by saying that “I could have” or “I should have” been more attentive in the last few months. It was a choice I made, albeit a bad one. It really didn’t matter if she heard what I had to say, because I don’t think she even knew who I was anymore. It was my need to tell her anyway, and I didn’t do it. So I tell her in silence. I hope she hears me and I hope she forgives me.
It is my belief that when someone dies, they are only gone if they are gone from your heart and mind. I believe that whenever I think of Mommom, she’ll be thinking of me. I know I’ll think of her when I’m in the kitchen, or when one of my kids asks me to scratch their back. I keep her bagel man on the end table in my living room.
And I have her ring. I would drive her crazy telling her how much I loved her jade ring until she finally got tired of hearing it and on my sixteenth birthday, she gave it me. It was hers for forty years before that. I’ve had it for over forty years now. I still love it.
I remember our shopping trips before I would go ways to summer camp. I never did get her to buy herself a pair of jeans. It just wasn’t her, though she never said a word to me about how ratty mine were in the 1970’s.
She called me “bug.” It was her special name for me, derived from “Judy-Bug,” which I imagine came from ladybug. My cousin Emily took it a little further, calling me “Doodle-bug,” and then eventually just “Doodle.” I’m a grey-haired, middle-aged woman, who answers to the name “Doodle.”
I could never argue with Mommom. I could only discuss. The minute our personal opinions crept in, we were doomed. And as hard as I tried, I couldn’t joke with her. Her sense of humor was on a totally different level. I didn’t care. She was always there for me and the best listener as I navigated through my teenage years. Mom and Dad “didn’t understand.” I’m not sure Mommom did, but she listened.
When my kids were born, she had some remarkable advice, for a woman who had never had any children of her own. I remembered some of those phrases when dealing with child-rearing issues, and I still use them:
“Daniel may be your first child, but remember, too, that you’re his first Mommy.” We were both strangers to our new roles in life. Or, “the baby has a big world to grow into,” reminding me to stop at times, and remember to look at the world through their eyes before I deal too hastily with a situation. Mommom was wise that way.
I post this in 2014, twenty years since she is gone. I’ll always carry a part of her with me, besides the jade ring. And while I don’t know how to make the soup or the kreplach, what I did gain from her is priceless. I will always miss her.