“Can’t think of anyone as lovely as you…”
When I was 3 or 4 years old, I asked my Mom-Mom how old she would be on her next birthday. She replied with “29.”
“But Mom-Mom,” I asked, “how can you be 29 if Daddy is 43?”
I don’t remember her answer, I just know that I was gullible enough to believe her. So every year after, even once I discovered the truth, Mom-Mom always said it was going to be her 29th birthday.
Last Wednesday, the 16th, would have been her 90th birthday. It’s been over 3 years since she died, but not a day goes by when I don’t think of her. I miss her so much, and as time passes, it still hasn’t gotten any easier.
Mom-Mom was as smart as she was beautiful. A woman of the Great Depression, she worked hard, was president of her union and worked full time at Rite Aid until she was 83 years old because she loved it. She had gorgeous porcelain skin, thick blond hair, perfectly applied makeup and curves that I’m sure caused traffic jams in Philadelphia in her heyday. She couldn’t go anywhere without running into someone she knew, whether it be an old customer from Lit Brothers, Rite Aid or a gentleman that fancied her.
And oh, was she funny. Think Sophia Petrillo from The Golden Girls, only a Russian Jew instead of Italian Catholic. Some of my best laughs have been from talking with her. You haven’t truly lived until you hear your 86 year old Mom-Mom talk about balls and how hot John Stamos becomes the older he gets.
Mom-Mom became a widow at a very young age, and also outlived her twin brother and her sisters, many cousins, her best friend and something no parent should ever do, her son. It has to be terrible to witness all your loved ones passing away and being one of the few left. Though Mom-Mom passed away in 2009, she was never really the same after her best friend Connie passed in 1999. She lost some of her sparkle.
A friend of mine from work has a picture of her painting the fingers nails of who I’m assuming is her grandmother. Whenever I see the picture, I think of Mom-Mom who religiously had her nails manicured and hair done every week.
During her last two years, Mom-Mom stopped doing those things. She became forgetful, asked the same questions over and over. She didn’t want to leave the house, and was so depressed. She was fading in front of my eyes, and I just could not deal with it.
This was the woman who told me to save $5 from every paycheck, to moisturize every night before bed, and if I were to become widowed at a young age to not remarry just have lots of lovers. Brie and I slept over every Saturday and went shopping at Clover every Sunday. I once convinced her I HAD TO HAVE a (hideous) bubble-gum pink with white polka dot dress because I’d be, and I quote, “dazzling.” It was no secret, we were the apples of her eye.
And the truth is, when I should have been there, I wasn’t. I should have picked up the phone more often, gone to visit her, even if only for 20 minutes. I should have painted her nails, she would have loved it. I can’t even tell you what was so important that I couldn’t go visit my Mom-Mom. Those last few years must have been scary and lonely for her, and I hate that I wasn’t there like I should have been. It’s one of my biggest regrets, and of course, I didn’t realize it until it was far too late.
One of her favorite stories to tell was a time when I was in the hospital for one of my heart surgeries, I had a tube down my nose, and I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink. Well, I wasn’t dumb, I knew I could get whatever I wanted from Mom-Mom, so I begged her over and over for a “drinkie of water.” Of course I couldn’t have the water, but she always ended the story, “Oh Maidelah, you looked like a bird, you were so pathetic!”
There was also the time I saw Mom-Mom getting ready for my cousins Bat Mitzvah. She was stunning in a long black dress and hair piled on top of her head. “Oh Mom-Mom!” I exclaimed, “You’re prettier than Miss Piggy!!!” In my 4 year old mind, that was the compliment of the century.
What I wouldn’t give to go back and hear her tell those stories one more time…
Happy 29th Birthday, Mom-Mom.
I Love you, always.
|Mom-Mom & Pop-Pop
Latin Casino in Atlantic City 1940’s