A Mother's Day letter to Philomena, my Parkinson's-fighting, stainless-steel mom


Dear Mom,

First, I know you're lovin' that I used your given name in a post! Sorry, I still like it better than your "pen" name. It was the name of your paternal grandmother (and my great-grandmother), a woman left behind in Italy whom neither of us ever met.  Your name is all we have of her, so it's good to honor it.

I'm writing this because, although I'm not great at showing emotion, I want you to know how admirable I think you are, especially given the shitty curveball of a disease you were thrown so late in life.

No doubt about it; Parkinson's sucks.  Between the wobbly walking and the shaking and the swallowing issues and the memory lapses, you drew a crappy combo-platter, indeed.  I'd rather it was me, Ma, than to see you go through any of it, let alone the whole cannoli. I'm a lousy bystander. But you don't know that, because I'm strong in front of you. I never let you see me cry. My heart may be cleaved, but I will not break in front of you.

It absolutely amazes me that you've never complained since you got diagnosed, not once.  I know that you fear, but you've endured every step of this infernal thing with graceful equanimity.  I've always known that you were strong, but your attitude in this is nothing short of inspirational.  Your courage is immense. Dad would be proud of you for that, because he, too, knew what it was like to walk through illness-hell.  Winston Churchill supposedly said, "If you're going through Hell - keep going."  Whoever coined it, it's good advice.  I have two parents who lived it.

I know that our current motto is Eleanor Roosevelt's, "You must do the thing you think you cannot do."  You've had so many changes late in life, one on the heels of the next - Dad's death, having to give up driving, diagnosed with an incurable disease, selling your house and being uprooted at 87! Eleanor would be so proud of you, Ma.

As to our blood-family, we have waned from four to just two. (Of course, we have the good fortune to have Angie, Sandi and Tom with us, and for them I'm most grateful).  You and I have traveled this Parkinson's road every inch of the way in lockstep, and we know not what the future holds.  I know how much you miss Dad (and John) and that you'd be ready to go tomorrow, no regrets.  I'm trying to prepare for that, Ma, I really am.  I know that you want me to be OK after you die, and I will be.  Eventually.

You are small of stature - only 5' 1-1/4" (and how you hang onto that quarter-inch!), and that somehow makes your plight more poignant to me.  Yes, Parkinson's has taken a toll.  But even though you now use a walker, you stand taller than anyone I know.

I'm proud to be your daughter.  I'll never let you down.

I love you, Ma.  Shalom, and Happy Mother's Day.


THAT'S RIGHT…. come closer…. closerrrr…...

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  • I'm sure she's proud to have you as her daughter. This has got to be difficult for you both. My guess is that neither one of you wants to let the other down. Love to you both.

  • In reply to Carole Lago:

    Thank you, Carol. Believe me, as a daughter, I'm no prize. (Nor as a mother, either, truth be known.) But I take my responsibilities seriously.

  • Such a touching piece, hugs to both of you.

  • In reply to Kathy Mathews:

    Thank you, Kath. Ma's small but mighty!

  • This post brought it! so touching and sweet.

  • In reply to Michael Messinger:

    Thank you, Michael. Had a good cry reading it to Ma yesterday (her vision's kinda bad now, too).

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