Collage of a life

In the past, when I was working with parent groups, all the members took a short test to determine their leadership styles.  Each person received four cards: blue, green, brown, and red.   On the front of each card was a set of adjectives, such as lively, calm, good listener, or organized.  Descriptors were different for each color.  Group members then identified the cards with the characteristics that best fit them.   In my groups we always had one or two “greens” (organized, detail-oriented), multiple “blues” (sensitive communicators, mediators), at least one “brown,” me (task-oriented), and then there was the “red.”  It seemed like there was room for only one red in any group.  The red was the gregarious one, the story-teller, the sometimes-drama queen, the one whose laugh could be heard over all others, who was entertaining, energetic, spontaneous, original, who always seemed happy and loved being the center of attention. My mother was the red in my life.

On Halloween, she liked wearing goofy costumes of her own creation and going trick-or-treating as much as any kid.  I can still remember the haunted house she helped create in a neighbor’s basement, where she took charge of the tunnel of slime, in which we crawled on our hands and knees through wet spaghetti.  When not dressed for entertainment, she was the neighborhood fashionista.  She had such good taste that I borrowed her clothes — even as a teenager — though I still have photos of me wearing glasses she picked out that truly belonged on the faces of Star Trek aliens.  

 When younger, her favorite pastimes were going dancing with my dad, gardening, drinking coffee and gossiping with her friends, going shopping and walking to the beach near Lincoln Park. Later, she liked to travel.  She loved her neighborhood and her neighbors, wherever she lived.   She loved her Fauntleroy Church and her minister.  She loved flowers and gardens, whether they contained the lush, green plants of the soggy Northwest or the spindly, parched ones of the Arizona desert.  She loved her life.

Even as she declined mentally, she remained cheerful and happy.  We took regular Saturday outings — to gardens, nurseries, coffee shops and restaurants, to Target, Rite-Aid and Bartell —  and everywhere we went was just the right place to be as far as she was concerned.  Even in her dementia, I enjoyed being with her.  When she moved into an adult family home, she still managed to be the life of the party.  She teased her caregivers, laughed and chattered with anyone who would listen, and tried to grab an extra dessert off the plate of whoever was sitting next to her.  Her eyes gleamed until the end.

In 1994, when my mom and I were planning my dad’s graveside service in the month of December, she told me we needed to buy poinsettias, lots of them, because red was his favorite color.  At the time I remembered being surprised.  I never knew my dad had color preferences for flowers or anything else.  Now I suspect I know for whom we bought all those red flowers.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
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7 Responses to Collage of a life

  1. Gabriela says:

    Dear Ann, it is always a pleasure to read your blogs and I look forward to reading them. This particular one touched me because although I got to know your mom just in the last few years of her life, I got to know an uncesored-by-anybody’s rules peson. And she was great! As you say she was a cheerful, happy, loving and funny. She never forgot to say ‘thank you’, she never forgot to say’ please’ even when she wanted us to just let her be; you could not keep yourself from smiling when you saw her. We miss her!
    I enjoyed your blog. It is interesting, nostalgic, emotional and humorous at the same time. Please continue writing.

  2. Jill Turnell says:

    That is a lovely essay about your mother. How wonderful to have so many good memories.

  3. Jackie Smith says:

    This was a such a tribute to your mom, Ann. It makes me wish I had met her. But then when I think of your laugh, your sense of spirit and adventure, and all the creativity that seems to overflow from you, I think that in you, I have met her.

  4. Karen Clark says:

    Great blog – one of your best! Your mother would have been both happy and proud.

  5. Sharon says:

    Your mother sounds wonderful and much fun — and sounds much like you.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    What a beautiful post. Even though I never met you mom, I remember the video you shared of her laughing. I think it was one of the first times you used your flip camera…and I can still remember her laugher and how it filled the office. I’m so happy that you had a red flower in your life.

  7. Becky Hashimoto says:

    You told me I would cry, and I did. Now that I’m living with my parents, who both have dementia, I realize how caught up I am with the daily doings that I forget them as they used to be. What a wonderful tribute to your mother. Isn’t it wonderful that you can remember the good times and good things in your life? You’ve been a wonderful daughter…never forget that.

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