As I sit here and think back on it now in retrospect, I think her death was the moment I lost my belief and trust in people.
I remember the weekend Mom got sick. Mom always cooked. We did not go for take out foods but remember this was 1968. Mom had the stomach flu. Someone had told Dad that he could go to the pharmacy and get her some medicine called Pabizol with paregoric and it would settle her stomach, so he dropped me off with a friend to go bowling and he got Mom the medicine. She laid on the couch in the living room on Sunday. So Mom wouldn't have to cook, Dad went out to a place that just opened and brought home a pizza with hamburger on for Dad and I to eat for supper. Back then there were no chain pizza places. I had never had pizza before and what's more, got to eat it in the living room in front of the TV.
My grandpa had died in August 1966 so my dad built an apartment onto the back of our house and Grandma moved in it. I'm so glad she did as she and Mom had a great 1 1/2 years watching their "soaps", quilting, canning and just being together on a daily basis versus the weekend we got to go down to Grandma's every month.
The next day(Monday) I got up to go to school and Mom was in bed and Dad told me not to disturb her. Right after I left for school, a family friend came to the house and Mom was taken to St. Elizabeth's ER in Belleville(where I live now). Apparently Mom tried to get out of bed earlier that morning and collapsed in the floor. It was determined later that she had had a stroke.
I called home from school on my lunch hour to check on Mom and Grandma told me they took her to the hospital because she was weak. I got off the school bus that afternoon and Dad was home. He said we'd go out to eat supper and then to the hospital. When we got to the hospital, the nuns wouldn't let children on the floor so I sat down in the lobby for 2 hours.
On Tuesday as I was getting off the school bus, I saw our car race out of the driveway. I also saw my aunt and uncle's car(who lived 2 hours south of us) in front of the house. Grandma was cooking and when I asked what was going on they just said that Dad had Mom transferred to a St. Louis hospital for better care and I should go and play with my cousins. I went down to the basement, got on the phone to our neighbor, one of Mom's best friends and said, "Mabel, what's going on with my mom?" Not knowing that I didn't know details, she said my mom had had a stroke, started having seizures and they rushed her to St. Louis. I thanked her and hung up. I called my mom's childhood friend who lived in our neighborhood and cried and she realized that I didn't know anything and called my grandma.
Dad came home from the hospital about 7:30 and said that Mom was fine and he was taking me out of school the next day and I could really see her in the hospital! Life was good, fried chicken and the works was on the table and everyone was sitting around laughing and eating just like it was a holiday. My aunt and uncle were making plans to go home the next day.
Then the phone rang and since I was standing by it, I answered. They asked to speak to Mr. Shepherd. This wasn't unusual as my dad was a service manager for all the Biedermann Furniture Stores in the St. Louis area. Dad took the phone, said hello and then said, "When and how and why?" Seems like a nurse went in to check on Mom and found her dead.
Picture this scene. Grandma's crying, Dad is outside walking up and down the road in front of our house in shock and was a heart patient himself, my uncle is on the phone calling the rest of the family, my aunt was putting her kids to bed and no one was in charge. I just knew my dad was going to have a heart attack, so I called his doctor who was at the bowling alley and he came out and gave my dad and grandma sedation.
I called my mom's friends back and told them and one said, "Honey, you're not crying. Are you OK?" I told her I had to call the doctor for my dad, and take care of grandma and everyone else and I hadn't had time to cry.
She came over and gave me a hug and then I started to cry. The rest of the family looked on and said, "Oh, we forgot about Vanessa. Margaret was her mom."
The autopsy revealed my mom died of a cerebral vascular accident to the brain stem(stroke) caused by the loss of elasticity of her blood vessels due to nicotine. My mom lit one cigarette off another.
I never touched a cigarette.
I'd like to think Mom would be proud of how I turned out and would have enjoyed my kids. Yet I know how nervous natured she was and she would have never handled the medical problems in my life, so perhaps it was best she wasn't here to suffer through that.
I don't have any pictures of her but there are several etched in my memory if I can hold onto them.
Mom, you were so loved by your only child. Had I had the spirit in me then I have today, I would have pushed those nun nurses aside that Monday night and been at your side in the hospital. I would have insisted on staying home from school that Monday and I would have been glued to Dad's side because I had a stake in this...you were MY mom. I'm sorry I didn't get to say goodbye but I did enjoy getting to eat in the living room and watch TV with you and I didn't get any crumbs on the carpet.
I remember how you celebrated my birthdays as if they were a national holiday and I know you know, Mom, that after you died, my birthday was 3 weeks later and Dad forgot about it. Birthdays don't mean anything anymore. Just another day.
I always say that you will never be gone as long as Kiereney Jo is alive because she looks like you and has your spirit. Her favorite colors are purple and lilac, just like yours, and I never mentioned that to her. She loves shoes like you did. She was more of the girly-girl you wanted and should have had. She would have loved the dolls you bought me when I wanted footballs and baseball gloves.
If you had anything to do with that, Mom, I'll always be grateful.
I love you Mom and miss you more than I can say.
But you know that, too.
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