Today is one of those memorable “Moments in History.” Something like the ones they write about in your local newspaper.
On this date:
In 1876, Lt. Col. Colonel George A Custer and his 7th Cavalry were wiped out by the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana.
Ninety-one years later, in 1967, the Beatles performed and recorded their new song “All You Need is Love” during the closing segment of “Our World,” the first-ever live international telecast which was carried by satellite from 14 countries.
In 1973, former White House Counsel John W. Dean began testifying before the Senate Watergate Committee, implicating top administration officials, including President Richard Nixon as well as himself, in the Watergate scandal and cover-up.
In 1986, a deeply personal moment in history, Mom died.
My little boys and I had been in Carson City for a couple of weeks, helping Mom to pack up her stuff for the move to our home in Pennsylvania. On this particular day, I’d taken Howie (5-years old) and Rusty (18-months old) to the library to pick up a couple books on caring for emphysema patients. Mom wasn’t doing well and after several invites to come live with us, she’d finally agreed to do so. My husband Matt was home working as a DJ in the local Titusville radio station.
I returned to Mom’s apartment with the little guys, all excited. Howie rushed out in front of me, happily calling out, “Grandma! Grandma!” and before I could get inside the doorway, he came back to me, a bewidered look on his little face. “Grandma’s in the kitchen – she’s laying on the floor.”
Holding Rusty in my right arm, I reached out with my left to Howie’s to walk around the corner into the kitchen.
Like all of us, Mom had a few habits. One of them was to watch her soaps – General Hospital was one – every weekday afternoon. Each time the first commercial came around, she’d get up to make herself a vodka and 7. I looked at the glass of ice on the counter. The 7-up can was open and abandoned.
I put Rusty down, checked Mom, and trembling, walked with over to the couch where I held the boys tight on my lap. I told them how Grandma Mollie had been really sick and her heart just couldn’t work anymore. I settled them in the other room and began to make phone calls. My voice shook with emotion. I cried. I called her best friend in town. I called 9-1-1. Or was it the Sheriff’s Office? I don’t remember.
I called Mike and Fred. I called Dad in Oregon, and Aunt Marne, and on and on and on. It was a terrible no-good day. I weirdly remember thinking at the time of Jackie Kennedy and how she had to be so strong for her kids, and that I had to do the same. Isn’t that weird?
We all got together in Carson City, we had a service. Fred, Mike, the boys and I took a short drive around Tahoe before we said our goodbyes.
I miss her so much. She’s missed so much. She was only 66. So many milestones in life, in her family, that she missed.
She had a difficult life. She had a good life, much of it a happy life. The kind of life we all have. Good times. Bad times. Sad times. Wonderful times. Momentous times.
Fred reminded my recently, when I was with him in Colorado, that he’d introduced Mom to pot. We were cracking up. When I visited her in ’79, she’d taken out her little stash and whispered to me (there was no one in the room but us), “Fred gave this to me.” Cracked me up. Still cracks me up.
I’ve thought for a long time that I must have raised my own kids right ’cause they bring me weed. Did we start a family tradition and not even know about it?
In the end, she just couldn’t give up those damn cigarettes. Her last months of life revolved around an oxygen tube in her nostrils. She didn’t sleep well, she didn’t eat a lot. She wouldn’t go out for a walk.
She’d periodically leave the O2 tank, the hose laying over the arm of her recliner and go have a smoke. It was a terrible business – the one thing she couldn’t quit.
I feel her presence today, as I do every day. I felt it when I was out in the garden before sitting down to write.
Tonight I’m joining a tour of local houses with a history of ghost inhabitants. She lived in Napa when she was a girl. Maybe she’ll reach out to me!
This photo was taken days before she died. We’d taken a road trip to the bay area to say goodbyes before heading off to Pennsylvania.
I love you, Mom. We all do.