Winter makes me think of my mother.

Maybe it is the memory of how much she hated the winter. How she was frightened of slipping and falling on the ice. Or how every year she made plans to move to Florida.

Every year she said the same thing."Next year I'm moving to Florida." And every year, wearing her boots with the thick rubber soles, she continued to scrape the inch thick ice from her windshield.

I knew she was afraid of the ocean. When we visited her sister in Florida the guest bedroom we shared faced the ocean. One night she said, "There is something about the ocean that frightens me. It feels like it could swallow me up." She said it just like that. To no one in particular. I knew she didn't expect me to answer.

Winters became more difficult as she got older. She was afraid to drive in the snow and she became obsessed with falling on a patch of ice.

I wanted to take care of my mother in her old age.

"Who will take care of me when I'm old?" She asked the question when I was about thirteen.

"Which one of my kids would wash my hair?"

"I would, Mom."

She seemed not to hear me although I'd said it out loud.

"None of my kids would," she said.

I thought I'd be the one. As the only daughter it was my duty.

It was my brother who ended up taking care of her in her old age. By then I had been banned permanently. The Jewish prayer for the dead had been said in my name.

She never did get to Florida, although much later, after her death, my brother told me he tried. He and the other brother and his wife took her to look at places to live. He said she wouldn't get out of the car.

I try to picture them cajoling her, trying to make her get out of the car. In the end, they flew back to the city she would always call home. The city where she was buried underneath the frozen January ground.

If anyone had asked, I would have told them she wanted to be cremated, not buried. She told me that more than once. But no one asked.

My brother's wife wore my grandmother's pearls on the plane.

The pearls my grandmother had left for me.

My mother had given them to her.

There was no one else to give them to.

After all, her own daughter was dead.

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Comment by Jaime Franchi on January 5, 2013 at 6:47am

I don't even know what to say to that one Joanie, except what a raw, honest, unflinching and evocative post.  (I guess I thought of something.)  You make me feel.  

Comment by Joan H on January 5, 2013 at 6:52am
Jaime, I moved this over from the other place... I wrote it two winters ago. I'm not sure why I moved it over. Some pieces just jump back out at me.
Comment by Zanelle on January 5, 2013 at 6:56am

This is the perfect cold January post.  Full of fear and sorrow that the winter will take over our souls.  I have a mother who did move to the sun and dresses in sparkles every day.  She loves this crazy California lifestyle and in her heyday it was a wonderful place.  Now it is super crowded and crazy.  You make me glad that I am able to help her.  She almost disowned me several times and that would have been fine with me as I almost left her too.  But here we are locked in the end of life drama.  I have no brothers or sisters to take up the slack.  Your words and images always give me so much to think about.  The lady next door's mother just passed away with a fear of the ocean too.  She was imagining at the end that she was in a small boat tossing in the waves.  Fear brings on those images and our end of life visions are a result of our own brains.   You made me want to go down to the ocean today and embrace the vastness of the rolling waves and stretch out my arms to include all of the universe.  I wonder where your mom's spirit is now?  I hope she can find some peace. 

Comment by Joan H on January 5, 2013 at 7:05am
Zanelle, I am glad you and your mother are still together. The best gift I ever got in my life is my own daughter. Definitely~go down to the ocean today. I would be there every day if I lived close enough...
Comment by Green Monkey on January 5, 2013 at 7:08am

oh Joan.... (I hope its okay to ask this) but why did had they banned you? My mothers side of the family turned on me after I started writing/blogging about my childhood. Currently, I don't know where my mother lives. or my brother for that matter. and my two sisters despise me :)

Comment by Joan H on January 5, 2013 at 8:17am
Green Monkey,I am so sorry to hear about your family. My mother said she would never speak to me again if I married my husband, and she kept her promise. She did not want a son-in-law who was black.
Comment by Unbreakable on January 5, 2013 at 8:49am
I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating. Your mother missed out on so much. What a marvelous daughter she had: a warm, caring, intelligent and priceless soul - worth far more than the principles and prejudices she clung to so tenaciously. I'm sorry she was so stubborn... And blind to the treasure that was right before her. You deserved better.

And your grandmother's pearls... Breaks my heart, Joanie.

This piece is stunning - the kind of writing that stops you in your tracks and makes you pause for a bit just to take it in. You are a grand writer, Joanie, absolutely grand.
Comment by L in the Southeast on January 5, 2013 at 8:56am

Every time I read about those pearls, I get angry.  I do not understand how the minds of some people make it okay for them to do such evil things.

Comment by Joan H on January 5, 2013 at 9:13am
Rita and Lezlie~ I was stunned and deeply hurt when I heard about the pearls. They had been promised to me since I was little. But I had to let it go finally. Thank you both so much.

Unbreakable, you always make me feel that my writing is not for nothing. :) xoxoxox
Comment by Pam Malone on January 5, 2013 at 9:47am

That's quite a piercing story. I'm sorry there was no reconciliation before your mother died.  Whatever reason she banned you for, it was the wrong reason.  Obviously, she didn't really want to go to Florida, or she would have.  She made her own fate, which is why she refused to hear when you said you'd wash her hair.  For whatever reason, she wanted to be who she was, and live how she lived.  Peace to you.


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