Memories From the Balcony – This is Mom

So, I’m doing this to make an introduction . . .
I don’t know what she would say if she were here.
Mom, that is.
It’s been a long time since Mom was Mom, which is funny to say because moms are always moms, right?

Even if they are not the best version of being themselves; Moms will always be moms.
I know that whether she could help or not, Mom tried.
In her best way – Mom gave all she could. 

My guess is that age stepped in and pulled its trick. My guess is her frustration took away Mom’s ability to see or think clearly.
My best assumption is this: Mom did the best she could with what she had but age and the pain meds didn’t help.
Towards the end, Mom had five diseases in her spine. She lest herself to the pain and the frustration.

I remember taking a walk with Mom. This was years ago.
This was years before the sickness took over her spine.
This was when Mom was trying to stay active and trying to stay healthy.
To the best of my recollection; this was the last time I saw Mom when she was healthy.

This was also when Mom was trying to keep her life going. She was trying to do the best she could without The Old Man by her side. She tried but in spite of Mom’s best efforts, none of this was working.

Mom was in a perpetual state of mourning. She would always tell me how she lost the love of her life.
In fairness, Mom did the best she could.
She went on a few dates.
I was not too thrilled with this and yes, I am ashamed to admit that Mom’s first date was ended somewhat quickly and abruptly and also somewhat tragically. I say this because her date was a man who did not match what I thought was a suitable man for my Mother. How could he be, right?

I admit to my childishness. I admit to a moderate show of questioning with a blatant display of intimidation which was an unfair thing to do to a man who was sniveling and weak.
And he was, by the way, sniveling and weak.
No, Mom didn’t like this man too much to begin with.
She said he was a blind date which was set up by a friend from her bereavement group. 
I told Mom she needs to make better friends.

This man had a bad comb-over. He was short and shaped like a meatball. He looked like a substitute teacher that would be bullied and hated by every wise-ass kid in the school. 
Whether this was true or fair, I admit that I offered this so-called man a strong level of questioning. I moved up, nice and close, and offered my two cents before he took my Mother out on a date.

I never knew Mom was standing on the steps and that she heard everything from the other room. 
Years later, Mom told me that she got in his car and they drove about 10 minutes down the road before Mom explained that she wasn’t feeling so well and that he should probably take her home.

I think there was someone else who wanted to date Mom.
I’m not sure how kind I was to him either.
I supposed if Mom could tell you about this, she would partly laugh and partly roll her eyes.
She’d partly sigh because the choices weren’t the best. Then, I’m sure, Mom would tell you that she lost the love of her life – anything or anyone who came after would only be a far distant cry from the only man she ever loved.

I don’t know what she would say about me to you.
I don’t know if she would tell you how she always saw the best in me.
She saw this even when I couldn’t see this within myself.

I know that moms are supposed to be our number one fan.
Mine was.
I know that whether I was at my best or not, Mom never gave up on me.
Even if (or when) I gave up on myself, Mom stood by me.
No matter what.

I think the first time I realized that Mom was always on my side was after my junior high assistant principal suspended me for a few days. But this time, I didn’t do anything.
I swear, it wasn’t me. Not this time.
I was accused of something. To be fair, I have no idea what I was accused of.
However, what I remember was Mom on the phone with the assistant principal the next day. 
I remember Mom asking, “So is he guilty until proven innocent? Is that how this works?”
And just like that, the suspension was reversed.

Mom’s thought on this was if I’m wrong, Mom would tell me.
But if I’m right, Mom would always be there to defend me.

Back before the problems in my life took momentum and before my challenges overwhelmed me, I remember Mom sitting by my bedside.
I remember her being there when I was hospitalized.
I remember her taking care of me when I was sick.
She wouldn’t leave my side.
I remember her cinnamon toast and her mashed potatoes and chicken cutlets.
I remember when Mom tried to make me feel better.
I also remember Mom’s frustration when her efforts lost their power.
This hurt Mom. This hurt her deeply. 

I know this –

We forget what other people feel. We forget yet we know that other people have thoughts and feelings.
The problem is we can’t feel them the same way as they do.
No two people see things exactly alike. Even The Old Man saw things the way he did yet Mom loved him with everything she had.
Mom always wished this type of love for me.
She gave me a book, which I think I have somewhere.
I think this book was about love and how to love someone. 

I don’t know what she would say if she were here.
I’m not sure what stories she would tell you.
I suppose some of the stories Mom would share are the ones that would make me blush. 

She might tell you how I was always a handful.
She might tell you about the time I rode my tricycle down the steps and straight into the bathroom of our duplex apartment when we lived off Queens Boulevard.
I don’t remember much about this apartment.
This is back when we lived in Forest Hills.
We moved from there when I was three.
I have tiny pictures in my mind from this place. Other than that, I don’t remember much about this at all.

I suppose Mom might tell you about the trouble I used to have.
Or, maybe she wouldn’t.
I suppose Mom tried hard to block this out.
She hated talking about the motorcycle accident. She said that was one of the worst phone calls she ever received.
Then I suppose Mom would tell you that she hated answering the phone when someone would ask, “Is this Alice Kimmel?”
Mom would brace herself for the next statement, which went something like, “We have your son here . . .”

Mom never knew what to say or do.
But she tried.
Yes, there were times when I let Mom down.
But –
There were times when I made her proud.
I wish that there were more times like this.
I wish Mom could see some of the things I’ve done.
She would have been proud.
Then she would tell me how she’s not surprised because she always knew I “had it” in me.
It was only me that never knew . . .

I wonder what Mom would tell you about me.
You’d have liked her.
She’d have loved you.

Mom was my biggest fan.
She was the Old Man’s biggest fan as well.
Mom would always tell me that life is just a loan.
She would tell me that parents are only a loan.
She’d say that kids are only a loan too.

We only have so much time with each other.
That was Mom’s biggest message to me.
Life is short and the time we have can end without a warning.
Enjoy what you can, son.
That’s what Mom would tell me. 

I know that there were times when I was less than patient.
There were times when I was frustrated.
There were times when the phone would ring and I would answer.

Someone on the other end would ask, “Is this Ben Kimmel?”
I would answer yes with the preparation of what came next.
“Is your Mother Alice Kimmel?” and I would roll my eyes.

Towards the end, this was how things went.
Mom would have a hard time in the assisted living home.
I would have to deal with the mess or the trouble which was like a strange and unfair role-reversal.

Mom was losing her mind. Unfortunately, this is part of what happens to us sometimes.
I was Mom’s healthcare proxy which meant that all calls went to me.
Even the last call which went something like, “Are you Alice Kimmel’s son?”
Then the inevitable took place.
“You might want to get down here as soon as you can.”
Mom was in the hospital but unlike the other times, Mom wasn’t coming home after this one. 

I don’t know what she would say now.
I don’t know what she would tell me to do.
I don’t know if she would shake her head or tell me, “No one ever promised you a rose garden.”
This was Mom’s way of telling me that life isn’t fair. 

What I wouldn’t give for a plate of Mom’s chicken cutlets and mashed potatoes right now.
You’d have loved them. She’d love to feed us too.
We’d sit at the table, ready to eat.
This would’ve made her happy.

I know it would  . . .

Hey Mom, 

There’s a lot going on right now.
There’s too much to leave here in such a short paragraph but there are things I’d like you to see.
There’s an introduction I’d like to make when you have the time.

I’d love to show you what my world looks like now.
I’d love to share this with you

(and especially you!).

I could use a visit today, Mom.
If you can make it that is.

Love always,

Your son


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