My other mother

Our mothers were such strong women; it is strangely quiet without them. But they are at peace and, given their respective difficult last few months, it is strangely comforting. Y’all are like siblings – thank you.

These words were part of a thank-you note for flowers my siblings and I sent to the funeral of our ‘other mother’ last year. Almost as long as I can remember, Kay was part of our lives. I think that she and my mom met when her son and my brother were classmates in grade school. As a child, I didn’t think too much about Kay’s life outside of my own field of vision, but I remember how my mom would stop by their house on our way back from somewhere and run in to chat. She would always say, “I’ll be just a minute”, but of course, it never was ‘just a minute’. They always had lots to talk about! There were dinners at their house (I still remember Kay’s scalloped potatoes), and playing in their backyard (they had a sandbox!), and our mothers going to meetings of the Catholic Daughters of America and later, singing in the church choir together. As we grew older, I realized that Kay was quite accomplished—a B.S. in Nursing, director of a school of nursing in my hometown, went back to school for a Master’s degree. Perhaps she inspired my mom to get her degree; whether she did or not, I know she supported her all the way.

There have been several older women in my life who were a voice not-my-parents, a mentor, a friend, a counselor, but Kay was my other mother. She referred to herself that way and I referred to her that way. Kay was one of the two people we called when we made the decision to petition for guardianship for our mother and again when hospice care was started for her. She remained a steadfast friend to my mom as she slipped into dementia, even as she herself dealt with serious health problems.

When my mom died, her wishes stated that she did not want visitation hours, but Kay was one of the few people who joined us at the funeral home for a private visitation. I remember her rolling herself in her wheelchair to my mom’s casket and saying “I sure am going to miss you, Beth”, and chastising my mother for going before her, saying that they had planned to go together. We heard stories that day we had never heard before, like Kay and my mom having a girls’ night out and some men at another table buying them drinks!

So, on this Mother’s Day, I feel a pang of loss for my mother, but also for my ‘other mother’ and all the older women in my life who at one time or another encouraged me, acted as a sounding board, set an example. Happy Mother’s Day to you all.

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