Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wine, Cheese, Conversation and Caring

My step-mom Nan died last week of cancer, at the age of 84. This wasn't unexpected (cancer deaths are rarely a surprise in this day and age). I had been dreading that call telling me she was gone for several months. What does surprise me is how strongly I still feel that she's here. I look at the clock, calculating the time on the East Coast, and think about picking up the phone, before I remember that she won't answer any more. I see something interesting on the street, and make a mental note to share it with her the next time we talk. I especially remember her when I'm cooking - she loved to cook and we often exchanged recipes, or tackled a family dinner together.

Even when she'd been hospitalized for weeks, she'd always begin our phone calls by asking how I was doing. That's just the sort of person she was. Honestly interested in others. And supremely sociable. Before she got sick, it was often difficult to reach her by telephone, because her line was always busy. She could chat for half an hour with a friend or family member and never notice.

Although she was not a blood relative, I was at least as close to her as I'd been to my own mother (who died when I was in my twenties). Nan was married to my dad for nearly forty years, and they loved to hang out with my husband and me. One of Nan's favorite activities was to bring out a cheese and cracker plate and a bottle of wine, say five or six in the afternoon, and just sit around sharing great conversations. More than once we ate so much cheese that we decided to skip dinner altogether. 

I have so many happy memories of our times together. She had three children of her own, but she always gave my siblings and me as much love and support as she did her own kids. She made us all one family.

Nan wasn't a flashy person. You might not have picked her out in the crowd. She had several successful careers but she always deferred to my father intellectually (which annoyed the heck out of me). Aside from food, books were one of the many things that drew us together. There was never any problem figuring out what she'd like for Christmas or her birthday.

I guess I'm rambling - wandering through my recollections of our years together. I loved her so much - it hurts to realize I'll never tell her that again. And yet, the fact of that love has tremendous value by itself. When I learned she had been put on hospice, I felt as though someone had stabbed me in the chest. I had hoped to spend more time with her, to say goodbye, but at that point, although I made reservations to return to the U.S. as quickly as I could, I had a sinking conviction I'd never see her again. And then it hit me - I should be grateful for a love so powerful that it could generate such pain. Far better to know the hurt that comes from caring, than to remain untouched and alone.

I never told her about my writing. She wasn't a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but I had a suspicion that my work would embarrass her, and even worse, make her feel guilty for being embarrassed. Sure, I wanted to brag, to show her the books with my name on the cover. That would have made me happy. However, it would have put her in conflict, I think.

I've decided that I'm going to dedicate my current WIP to her. Of course she'll never know, but it's particularly appropriate since my main character is a chef. And every time I see the cover, or reread the tale, I'll remember her smile as she raised her glass of chardonnay, and the warm glow of basking in her love.


I'm not going to broadcast or announce this. However, if you read this post and have a story of your own to share, about love or about loss, please leave a comment. For every comment I receive, .
I plan to donate $1 to the American Cancer Society, in Nan's memory

Thanks for reading.


Annabeth Leong said...

She sounds like she was wonderful, and my heart goes out to you.

My father died almost exactly a year ago, and I know exactly what you mean about thinking the person is still there. He was an insomniac and was up at all hours, so I could call him almost any time despite a major time difference between us. Because of that, I often talked with him in the early mornings. I still go outside to take an early morning walk and find myself reaching for the phone, only to realize that he won't be there.

We lived far from each other for so long that I think I got used to him being disembodied but still very present. I still sort of expect to find him someday -- it almost feels as if he's missing rather than gone, even though I watched him die.

Thank you for sharing, and for your lovely tribute. Good luck with the WIP, and thanks for the donation to the American Cancer Society.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Dear Annabeth,

Thanks so much for your comments. I've lived half a world a way from Nan for ten years, but we were in contact so often that I was very aware of her in my day to day life.

Your experiences sound exactly like mine. I'm sorry for your loss.


ELF said...

My condolences for your loss. I lost my stepmom a couple of years ago and even though we had been estranged for years, it was still quite a shock. I think that it is wonderful that you will honor the love you shared with your stepmom in your story. Thanks for sharing.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Thanks, Elf,

I'm really grateful that Nan and I had a close relationship. It's terrible to lose someone with whom you're at odds, without asking for or giving forgiveness.

Author H K Carlton said...

My thoughts are with you and your family, Lisabet. I'm so sorry for your loss.
We lost my dad over ten years ago and we still feel him around us.
Blessings and Hugs.
Take Care.

Kate Deveaux said...

Nan, that was a beautiful tribute to your step mom. So sorry that you lost someone so special to you, she sounded like a true blessing and one to cherish. I loved how you explained why you didn't tell her what you wrote; I'm sure she would have been so proud of you — but you chose to put her feelings first and didn't want to embarrass her. That is love.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Heather,

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your own story of love and loss. In fact, though I'm not religious, I believe in some kind of continuity of spirit, that we really are all connected and no one is ever truly gone.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, Kate,

Thanks. You're an author yourself, so you know how one wants to crow about a new book. None of my family know about my alter ego, though, except my siblings (and my brother feels very ambivalent about it, I can tell).

Ah well...

Kate Deveaux said...

Thanks Lisabet, how lovely you could dedicate the book to Nan and I'm sure she'll be cheering you and your alter ego on from the heavens.

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