Men are from Melrose

My mother died seventeen years ago tonight.  It’s funny the things you remember, you know.  I know that everyone suffers loss, it’s such an old story that there’s almost no story to be told at all.  But it sure is weird the things you remember, stuff gets stuck in amber doesn’t it?

Someone dies, practically speaking, they just stop aging.  Your memories of the deceased stop, but they don’t stop aging.  If you get some kind of warning of impending death your mind can go into some kind of super hi-definition memory mode.  It did for me, and I’m sure it’s done the same for you too.

I remember the weather in Miami Beach that night, it was humid and warm, my mom would have groaned at that if she wasn’t otherwise occupied upstairs at Mount Sinai.  I remember the people in the waiting room, the nervous quips exchanged between my brother, his wife and myself.  My sisters.

The other people in the waiting room, together and isolated.

I mean, it wasn’t like we didn’t all see this coming.  I hope that doesn’t sound callous.  You see, my mom was not healthy for many years; I think it was her spirit of inward adventure that kept her going as long as she did.  But she smoked cigarettes like she was in some film noir movie from the Forties. No exercise, no doctors.  She always claimed no regrets.

I remember the TV in the waiting room was on, I remember all this partly because I wanted to be anywhere else.  I focused in great detail on the things that were going on and NOT in my mother’s room down the hall.  Occasionally I thought of the ventilator, the gasping for air, the lungs filling up with stuff that wasn’t air.

I remembered something, it was important to me in that moment.  “Melrose Place” was on.  That was a show I watched, that was a show that could probably distract me from all this.

I caught the beginning, the episode was called “Men are from Melrose,” kind of a play on the whole “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” phenomena that was going on.  OK I got that.  I watched intently, turning the volume up.  Other than a scene with Thomas Calabro standing in a yard yelling at someone behind a second floor window, I had no idea what the hell was going on.

Not that this was great theater, mind you, but the scenes, the dialogue, stopped right in front of me and just fell to the floor.  I kept glancing down the hallway.  We were waiting for my uncle, my mom’s brother.  We had decided to let her go, but we had one more yet to arrive.

After he arrived my mom departed, the memories became really crystallized then, just for a bit, and then it got all blurry.  It became like any other memory from seventeen years ago, I mean you might remember stuff, you might not.  I do remember that I never saw my mom get any older.

I also remember that I kind of stopped watching Melrose Place, as every episode became a kind of anniversary. Well….OK, I watched it until the end of the series run, but it wasn’t the same.  Maybe the show just really sucked and I didn’t realize it until then.

Years go by with sadness, a kind of melancholy that presents itself when the anniversary rolls around.  That’s how I experienced it, and I’m sure it’s the same with you and yours.  Who knows what happens after?  I guess to us it doesn’t really matter because the deceased is not around to tell us.  I do know this, the memories stay the same over the years.  Memory like an old coin that we rub to keep clean and clear.  Maybe the coin degrades but we don’t notice it, it’s so gradual.  It seems the same to us doesn’t it?

But as a few years become many, the relevance kind of wears off.  I mean, what would my mom do in 2014?  I can’t imagine.  What would she think of Facebook and Kale Salad?  Digital cameras and drone strikes?  She’s confined to her own little era now.  “My Mom’s Time.”  The Clinton Years.

She would have had her 81st birthday last week, that’s a tough one to imagine.  Honestly, even not smoking I don’t think she could have made it that far; no way no how.

My mom always threatened (with a sly smile) to haunt us.  My attitude was “bring it on!”  A thing my mom and I had in common is we’d have loved to see something like that, it would be so cool!  Irrefutable ghost proof.  She would have loved those “Paranormal Activity” movies.

I mention this because of a few crystal clear memories from after she died, after I went back home to New York.   Every night for weeks after I returned home my phone would make one ding sound every night at 10:14pm.  I didn’t notice it at first, but when I did I remembered immediately that that was also the moment when my mom had breathed her last.

At first it kind of freaked me out, then it just made me think of her fondly.  Oddly, 10:14 made me think about her life, not her death. I knew she’d always be remembered by the people who loved her and wished her well.  We tell stories or write things down and we remember.  They’re still around  in that way, that’s tangible.  I’ll bet you feel the same way about your deceased loved ones.

Every February 17th I have these memories, this time I thought I’d write them down.  It helps me remember, keeps her alive.

2 replies
  1. Laura
    Laura says:

    This helps me keep her alive too, what you’ve written. Thank you. You know she was supposed to provide proof of her afterlife theories and hasn’t done it yet. It must be so fun she hasn’t had a chance yet.

  2. Alannah Murphy
    Alannah Murphy says:

    Thank you for writing this Bill, and sharing painful memories of a time I remember vividly though I was not there in that waiting room with you guys. I think of her every day, I remember her birthday and also this sad day, and I talk to her all the time.

    What can I say, she meant the world to me. Time stands still, and I shall always remember her chubby pink cheeks, the sparkle in her eyes, and the many afternoons I spent talking to her about so many things, including Edgar Cayce with Junior plopped near us.


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