LESLIE CRISS: Mom’s 85th birthday remembered even in her absence | Lifestyle


Through the years, when I’ve lived close to my parents, I’ve cooked a favorite meal for each of them on their birthdays.

My dad has always come up with something fairly quickly; my mom usually spent more time, giving it great thought.

When she’d finally fix firmly on the main meal, she’d spend even more time deciding on dessert.

If she were still with us, I’d have been waiting this weekend for my mom to decide on a dessert and I’d happily make it to celebrate the date of her birth.

This past Friday, she would have turned 85.

She’s been gone eight years and I miss her every day.

It’s very odd, this missing thing. Life will be moving along at a quick clip and suddenly, out of the blue, something – or nothing – will make me think of her.

That’s not a bad thing. It’s just often a surprise that catches me off guard.

My sister has shared with me that this happens to her, as well. And we both have moments when we have an overwhelming urge to talk to our mom.

She’s certainly left us plenty of mama memories to ensure her forever presence in our thoughts.

Sister Beth and I still talk about the night we both jumped into my king-size bed with Mama, struggling with Alzheimer’s and a fast-growing brain tumor, and loudly and joyfully sang show tunes until our mom began to sing along.

We’ve laughed remembering her sitting quietly in her recliner as our dad told stories about the Criss family in Yalobusha County until our Arizona-born Mama finally spoke in a semi-angry voice, “I have a family too.”

I’ve realized how fortunate my family was that damnable dementia did not rob our loved one of her kindness, her humor. Instead, we watched Mama go through a months-long period of falling madly in love with our father, all over again.

“You see that man?” she’d say and nod in whatever direction our father happened to be. “Don’t tell him, but I adore him.”

Days before she died, Mama had become non-verbal. Mostly she slept. When she was awake, she just stared in silence at nothing in particular. It had been a while since we’d heard her speak.

Dad was standing beside the hospital bed the hospice folks had delivered to my living room. Hands in his pocket, he was jingling change, a habit that once jangled Mama’s nerves.

He asked if she was in pain – more than once. “Annie, are you hurting?”

After about the third time, Mama spoke loudly and clearly the first words, the first full sentence we’d heard in what seemed like forever: “You damn right I’m hurting.”

She was a study in contradiction, this mother of ours: fierce and fragile, funny and frantic, our friend and our family.

And, oh, my goodness, she is missed.

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