My mom was a character. She was always the loudest and funniest in any group. I remember when I was really little and I'd lose track of her at church. All the adults would have coffee and cookies in the church basement after the service was over. Adults were huge to me then since I was only about 5 and I couldn't see over them to find her. All I had to do was listen for her laugh which was frequent and loud.
All these years later I can still hear it.
Mom had a really tough childhood. She was abandoned by her parents when she was about 6 and left in a trailer with her little sister. After a few days, she tried to find help by walking outside in the freezing weather and she froze her hands. She was found by some neighbors who put her hands in warm water to save them. They saved her hands but they were always misshapen after that and it embarrassed her for the rest of her life. My friends would ask "Why are your mom's hands like that?" I remember thinking that I thought her hands were beautiful and perfect. They were the hands I held and the hands that comforted me. I never saw her hands as anything but lovely.
I was mom's boy. She was my friend and my buddy and we made each other laugh. When I was in my teens at an age when I spent more and more time with my friends, I still loved to spend time with her. She always made me feel loved and appreciated.
I moved away from my hometown for good when I was 21 and for the rest of her life, I visited as much as I could, usually a couple of times a year for a week or so. Sometimes I think of all the years I missed with my mom and I feel sad about that.
When she was about 70, her personality started to change as she started to show signs of Alzheimer's Disease. It was a slow and sad decline. I'll never forget the first time I could tell she didn't recognize me. The eyes that had always smiled when she saw me were hollow and afraid.
She was still in there somewhere though, and she would show up once in awhile. She always had a joke that she remembered almost until the end. If you asked her "How are you feeling?" She'd hold up her hand and say "With my fingers."
When mom died, it was just as much of a relief as it was heartbreaking. I don't think of her as her old self who couldn't remember me. Instead, I remember this woman, my funny, loving mom who had a thousand friends and a boy who loved her an awful lot.