11 years

IMG_0646.JPGThis weekend marks the 11th anniversary of my Mother's death.  She was a gentle soul with a will of iron, and she passed over in a gentle way- in her sleep.  Her family was her life, and her life was a good one.  I left Detroit when I was 28, and so my life was not as intertwined as my siblings. I think they struggle more often than I, since they live in the setting that she inhabited.   My great grief has given way to just missing her, and an appreciation for her many gifts.  When I was in Detroit for my brother's surgery, I stayed at my sister, Marie's house.  This is the house I grew up in.  So many times I was caught thinking of my childhood- fighting with my sister over closet space, tip-toeing past my parent's door after curfew (unsuccessfully), and getting dressed  while crouching so Philip Lowman would not get a quick view of my flat chest.  Every Sunday the Joliat kids would march into Shrine Church for 7:30 Mass, and God help us if we had a bad moment.  Dad ushered, conveniently abandoning the troops.  Mom became the Mistress of the chilly look.  One giggle meant we would be stuck doing some extra chores.  We were the model of decorum.

Marie has followed one of Mom's pastimes: she is taking adult education classes.  (There must be something in the air at the house)  She has tackled floral arranging, and her house is made beautiful with her skills.  Mom did cake decoration, decoupage, glass cutting, crewel embroidery, and millinery.  All of us kids rued the hat classes: Mom was in a Cold War with Mrs. O'Hara over who could have the most eye catching toppers.  The yellow beehive of nylon net with a smattering of chenille bees would have taken the cake- but Mrs. O'Hara countered with giant feathers.  Mom could not convince herself to wear birds, and so that era closed.  The Vatican helped by eliminating the edict that women cover their heads in church.  All of us were glad, because Mom's hats were giggle producing, and as I stated, giggles resulted in a world of hurt.

This weekend the Shrine will host a Mass offered in memory of Mom- her birthday and her death day, October 17 and 18.  She almost made 72. I  wish I could be there with my family, to join hands and just appreciate the organism that our parents created.  It is not to be. It is the first year that our patriarch is absent, gone to join Mom.  Dad's gravestone arrived in time for setting before the frost, and Marie went out to Holy Sepulchre make sure all was well.  She struggled to mirror Mom's stone, and to capture Tom Joliat in 6 key words.  I think she did it!  He has a flag to honor his service, and oak leaves because we were rooted in Royal Oak.  She sent me a picture of the marker, and it has put me in sync with the gloom of this Autumn's weather.  I am closer to the grief of my Dad's passing, and over here in Chicago, I can dwell in the magical belief that he is still among us.  Being in Detroit with Mike last week, and seeing the graves has made me cast aside my fantasies.  I am freshly lonesome for the parents that spun me into the person I was, and then pushed me to become more.  I know how fortunate I am- but I am sad.  That is the dues we pay for good fortune.  Thank you for listening.  It helps.


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  • Such a touching tribute Janet, and it is so true, the grief never truly goes away, my dad will be gone 3 years in November, and it hurts every single day. Just having married off my oldest at 28, his presence was so missed that day, it was the happiest day of my life yet his not being there to witness her happiness saddened me.
    I hope that our memories of our dads will always make us smile, and yes gloomy days like this, I think of him often. Towards the end he was always so cold, and when it starts to get colder out, i feel helpless that I cant make him warm again.

    Thank you for listening.

  • Your columns continually touch my heart. It is now 35 years since my father passed away. I was but 13 at the time and not a day goes by that I don't think of him. I envy those who were able to go from being their parents child to having an adult friendship. I am sadden that my two children never have known their grandparents. How blessed you are to have such wonderful memories and such a close, caring family.

  • I have found that grief doesn't get any easier, it just becomes different. You are lucky that your parents were part of their grandchildren's lives, and they were able to see what a wonderful parent you are.

    Your family church is a beautiful one. My nieces went to the Shrine of The Little Flower for pre-school and lived down the street.

  • In reply to LindaCrispell:

    It IS a beautiful church! I am glad that our lives criss-cross this way. I grew up on Northwood Blvd. Did you ever do the Farmer's Market when they were there? Heaven.

  • In reply to LindaCrispell:

    All of us who commented here are united by such blessings of family- nice. The universal loss, and the responsibility of going on- becoming your own arbiter and compass- without guidance or validation is such an innate part of life. It is easier when you have a good head start, however long, with your parents. I had my parents much longer than many who commented- and I moved away, so my day-to-day life detached. But they were always a resource- I just had to think of whether they would be proud/disappointed/worried, and my actions were guided. Not always changed, mind you- I made a few missteps- but they put me on a pretty good path.

    Now it is our turn- and we can see what a big job it is, and how never-ending parental worrying is. When my kids talk about having kids, I hope they realize it is not a hobby or a diversion, but a vocation with no pay, intermittent appreciation, 24-7-365 hours, amazing moments of joy, amazing moments of terror and despair, and a pre-scripted separation. Scariest undertaking ever. Best leap of faith I ever made-

  • In reply to LindaCrispell:

    I really enjoy all your comments. Your mention of your Mom arranging flowers really hits home with me, as my late Mom worked at the floral shop acrosss the street from Holy Sepulchre, that now being her final resting place. There is not a day that goes by that she isn't mentioned by myself or a member of my family. You are touched forever by your parents memories. The pain begins to fade away as time goes on; you don't remember all the pain and sadness that was connected to their passing, you remember all the good times , all the laughter and happiness first. And I think that's how your parents would want to be remembered; connected to the happy, good times.

  • Janet......I always look forward to reading your posts as there is always something that many of us can relate to....children....children getting married....changing seasons...good books..good friends..good husbands..time spent in Michigan...and sadly, the loss of great parents. I lost my Dad 12 years ago very suddenly. I was talking to him on the phone, and 30 minutes later he was killed in a car crash. To this day, I clearly remember my husband walking toward me on a beautiful August evening, and I knew by the look on his face that my life was about to change with the words he was about to speak. All of the individuals that have commented have summed up the grieving process quite accurately...the grief never goes away..not a day goes by that you don't think of him.. and the grief isn't easier, just different. The greatest tribute that I believe that I gave my dad was to get on with the business of living. I hope that I have helped to raise my three children into adults he would be proud of, as I know that was very important to him. My son will be married next June, and I already know how very much he will be missed that day. My dad was only 60 years old when he died, but I will always smile at the life and energy he packed into those years. Thanks for letting me chat about him......and thanks for sharing your wonderful memories.....

  • In reply to kimoremushanson:

    Steve had to tell me, too- he called while I was at a friends having coffee, and said I had better come home. I knew, too. That was a week when I was really grateful to have a strong, task oriented partner, because I was numb. He made reservations, assigned jobs to the boys, and most of all- never said anything to scorch my heart. We are so raw as we navigate the first stages of grief that we remember the oddest, most innocent remarks as toxic, and amplify the slightest kindness into Mother Teresa status. i was glad to have an interpreter!

  • Lovely job Janet. The passing of our parents certainly makes us reflect on our own lives.

  • Beautiful words, Janet, that again touch my heart. My Dad has been gone for 17 years. I was blessed to have seen him delight in my successes and share my sorrows. He adored my children and they him. My Mom is still with us, physically, but alas, she is not the Mom we used to know. That brings a different kind of grief. Yet, she delights in seeing her first great-grandchild, my ten month old granddaughter. Around Sophie, Mom hasn't forgotten how to rock a baby to sleep with a lullaby. Thanks for sharing, as always.

  • Janet, You are correct about grief. It never leaves us, and it revisits us during the wonderful moments in our lives. My story is similar to so many. I lost my mother much to soon to a mean spirited disease without compassion. Last weekend, my only daughter was married. It was a beautiful occasion, held at the Lodge in Oak Brook. Funny though, as I reflect on the wonder of the day and my beautiful daughter I know that my family was missing an important person. Missing was my daughter's grandmother. But her unbending love, and her appreciation and dedication for her family were there with us - captured in our hearts. All of her grandchildren participated in the ceremony. She would have been so proud! This was her legacy to us: family, first and foremost. What a day!

  • In reply to einstein:

    Pat was married there- and I had the same feelings- pride, love, gratitude- and a touch of regret that she was not there. She got a real kick out of her grandkids' individual quirks. Pat has a three-pack of thong underpants that she bought him at a flea market when he was a teenager. Every time I threaten to toss them, he remembers how hard they laughed at the picture on the front, and I relent and tuck them in his old closet. It is weird the thoughts that comfort us, but it is beautiful.

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