The previous three months before my mom passed away in August of 1991, I took on the role of the stoic family contact. Daily I conferred with doctors, requisitioned medical facts to pass onto a family in denial. Mom had a secondary brain tumor, which caused a stroke, provoked by primary lung cancer. Sadly a result of chain smoking, since age thirty. She was foolish enough to believe the fifties myth, to maintain a small frame one needed the help of cigarettes.
I was a pillar of strength during those last months, keeping family and friends informed, spending countless hours at her bedside. Reading body language and attending to her needs. She was aphasic after the stroke, making communication difficult for family and friends. It was a complex demise, my brother only thirty; still a bachelor was in harsh denial. Finding it difficult to deal with the constant hospital visits, his stress manifested in a recurring eating disorder.Out of respect for him I won’t elaborate on, but will say I walked in on it. He did not fair well in those last three months. I became the matriarch of the family, contending with my mother’s sister, who was very frustrating with her naive perspective about mom’s prognosis. After mom’s death, I crashed. Completely exhausted from constant stress, daily long hours at the hospital, trying to maintain necessary responsibilities at my place and moms. Having had an ulcer bleed two weeks after her diagnoses, and a weakened immune system, I later learned, I became really ill. My brother mustered up strength to pick up the reigns where I had left off. We dealt with many loose ends together….but for the most part he did the bulk of the work. I managed to keep the guilt at bay, because I’d held it together so well before her passing.
Both really fair people we divided everything equally. I was well established, so I persuaded him to take more of the material possession, neither of us caring who got what.
One day while dispersing of moms things, I went through her large hinged sewing box that doubled as a bench. There were so many projects she had planned to do. I found the start of a pink quilt. I think it was meant to be twin size, consisting of material from my past. Clothing she’d made me as a child. I noticed a sheet and also a few patches resembling blouses she’d made for herself. Many of her household items went to charity, but I kept that patchwork piece of material. I had in mind that if my brother ever had children I would quilt it for them, a part of their grandmothers legacy. By all rights I should have kept it for Pepper, but I knew how devastated my brother would be, not having mom around for the birth of his children.
Two years later, at thirty two years old, my brother’s girlfriend had a baby. He was still grieving mom, and sad that she wasn’t around to see his first born. That’s when I remembered the quilt, bought some backing and sewed it up for my niece. She’s thirteen now and the quilt still sits in her room. My brother has kept moms memory alive, and my niece is a sentimental girl, so I know she really appreciates it! Both our girls are so much like our mom, carrying many of her good traits. My niece can do hair like nobodies business, Pepper is lacking there. Pepper is short like my mom, my niece isn’t. They both have more of a gambling spirit than we do, and are planning a Vegas trip in eight years…when my niece is twenty one! Not one of the better traits. They both have a bit of OCD, I don’t, my brother does. They are take charge girls, creative, artistic leader types, self motivated, loyal, brave, night hawks, just like mom.