by Lynn Mandaville
Nov. 11 is a date that means a few different things to people. For most Americans it means honoring all the men and women, past and present, who have served the United States in her armed forces. We call it Veteran’s Day. In European nations it’s the observation of the day when World War I ended. They call it Remembrance Day.
My son, Randy, and daughter-in-law, Laura, commemorate the day the were married in 2011. They call it their anniversary.
To me, Nov. 11 is the date on which my momma died. This year it will be ten years since she’s been gone.
It was a harrowing event for my sisters and me. Leading up to that day had been a busy time planning for Ma and we three daughters to have Thanksgiving at Busch Gardens in Florida, where Ma and my sister Patty lived. My sister’s son, Sam, had told us that on Thanksgiving the park is a ghost town. We would do the whole place with no lines, eating over-priced park food and sampling a little beer. There would be no husbands or sons to get in the way. No cooking. No dishes. No Macy’s Parade. It would be a glorious girls’ day.
But a few weeks before the holiday, Ma’s COPD acted up. She went to a medical rehab to have her meds evaluated and tweaked. She would arrange for portable oxygen. Expecting quick recovery, Ma and Patty began to investigate renting a battery-powered scooter for her to use at Busch Gardens. Unfortunately, while in rehab, Ma developed pneumonia, and it worsened steadily. She was hospitalized on Nov. 9.
Because things were beginning to look bleak, my sister, Nancy, in Montreal, and I moved up our flights two weeks to Nov. 11. We, of course, were certain Ma would rally like she always had. Nancy and I landed in Tampa within an hour of each other, and Sam picked us up.
Meantime, during the day, Ma slipped into unconsciousness. She died about 30 minutes before Sam, Nan and I got to her room.
Thanksgiving was still two weeks off. We sure didn’t think we had much to be thankful for as we settled all Ma’s affairs. But in retrospect there was a lot for which to be grateful. A bunch of our cousins flew in from far-away places to remember Ma. We learned first-hand how much she had been liked, even loved, by her lawyer, her financial advisors, by her neighbors and the staff of her assisted-living/retirement community.
And as we gave away and divided up her earthly possessions, we had lots of time to ruminate on her talents, interests and hobbies, her wide travels, her late-in-life love, Allen. We reminisced our joyful childhoods spent with her — the playfulness, the quirkiness, the ways she made us crazy as we had gotten older.
Now, each year, as Nov. 11 rolls around, I have my own little remembrance day, recalling everything I can about the exceptional woman who was my Ma. Reader of thousands of books, sewer of extraordinary Halloween costumes, collector of mechanical wind-up toys and Three Wise Monkeys. A woman who loved to sing but couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Chronicler in photographs of the entire sum of her life and the lives of her girls and their kids, right up until she died. And more. Oh, so much more.
Ruth Richards Eichhorn, 1925-2007. Loved and missed by me — so much it aches.