Mom


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  1. #1

    Mom

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    February 7, 2018


    Mom’s health had been poor for the past eight years. She went through two cancer surgeries including one just last year. Her quality of life was slowly diminishing to the point where she would stay in one spot on the couch and watch Say Yes To the Dress, some cooking show, or Family Feud. And, occasionally, she would complain about being sick.

    On this morning, Mom had me get her some baby oatmeal in hopes that she could get that down. She would throw up instead and had me throw the result away. I guess I should have taken a look at the vomit in retrospect as she would say later it was brown and stringy, but I suspect it wouldn’t have done much good. I do know Mom wasn’t feeling any better. She had lost about forty pounds in the past few months and, while she was presently at a good weight for her size (she tended to be overweight), her appetite was now a bit poor, especially in the last couple weeks.

    At this point I knew she needed to call the doctor. Mom said she wasn’t going to do that because he’d tell her to come in. Actually the last time he called was to tell her to go to the hospital because her blood numbers were alarmingly low. Mom hated hospitals with a passion; I guess we all do. It isn’t fun to lose your privacy and to have people come in the middle of the night just to weigh you. I’ve been there myself. In Mom’s case, she’d have to deal with tubes being inserted and the like not to mention two operations to remove cancerous tumors. She was never a happy camper in the hospital.

    Later that day, I would come up to check on Mom. Heather, who also lives at the house, was there and Mom was complaining to both of us about her situation. I said, “Mom, you have to call Dr. Garg.”

    Mom answered with disdain, “I know.” Of course she didn’t though. It would be Joe, my step-father, that would call the doctor who said, in no real surprise, that she had to go to the hospital. Mom reluctantly was about to go in the car with Joe, but she was unable to make it out the door. Joe called an ambulance and had me go to the hospital with her. Neither of us knew at the time that he was giving me a marvelous, and yet morbid, gift.

    Mom was able to assist the paramedics with getting into the ambulance. I sat in the front for an oddly long time as they tried to set up an IV for Mom. Her veins were pretty much shot and it was extremely difficult to get a line. Finally we went off for the hospital. The ride was uneventful; they didn’t even use the sirens as the hospital was maybe a mile away. The hospital, however, looked quite busy. All of the ambulance bays were taken and one ambulance had to unload away from the bays, as Mom’s ambulance did. It was raining but everyone took it in stride, even Mom, who, despite everything going on, was still alert. At this point there was no reason to think it was anything other than Mom having done something stupid to herself like she was known to do. Mom was somebody who wanted to do things her way, especially with her eating habits.

    We got into her room in the ER as doctors and nurses did what they would normally do. The nurse on duty was a pleasant enough person who was trying to get Mom to follow orders. The biggest problem was to prevent Mom from drinking water or chewing ice, something she was doing a lot lately. I felt bad for the nurse and I apologized, but she said that Mom was fine. I guess I didn’t see it, but the sweet side that was always part of Mom’s essence was still evident with those that didn’t know her.

    By now, Heather had arrived with my own medications, and we were both trying to get Mom to listen to the nurses and doctors. I always used to say the more you do what they tell you to do, the quicker you get out of here. We spent a good hour lecturing her on not eating sweets and the like and maybe she wouldn’t be in the hospital now. It was like talking to a brick wall, though. Mom would get better in a couple weeks and be back to eating donuts again. Or so we thought.

    Two surgeons who were associates of the surgeon who operated on her last year came in and they began to touch her stomach to see if there was any pain. This was after Mom had a cat scan and an X-ray. Mom yelled in pain when one surgeon pushed on her side. Somewhere during the pain test in so many words, Mom acknowledged she had been in pain for the past three weeks. Heather and I looked at each other in astonishment. Mom said nothing about being in pain. She only complained that she had a hard time eating anything.

    I went back inside when two more surgeons entered the room. This time, they were going to pump her stomach. They believed, rightly so, that her stomach was bloated for some reason. Mom had said she wasn’t excavating like she had been and, indeed, for someone who was constantly in the bathroom, that was unusual. Another thing that was unusual was that she was complaining of being hot. For the last eight years, she always complained that it was cold, even when it was actually quite warm, so this in itself was a little startling.

    The tubes were swallowed into her stomach and dark liquid started to pump out. “Is this what I think it is?” I asked one of the surgeons.

    “Yes, it’s blood.” I was thinking she was going to the bathroom in reverse but this was even scarier.


    Heather had to leave while they were still looking at the results of the cat scan. I told her not to say anything to Joe about the blood being pumped out. He’s a rather emotional guy and he would have gone off the deep end if he knew how serious this really was. I needed to take a break so I called Joe. I told him about the cat scan and that they were thinking she was dehydrated. That didn’t seem to surprise Joe given how she was taking pills without food for example. Of course, I left out the part about the stomach pumping.

    I went back into the room as they were continuing to pump out blood. The pumping went on for a good fifteen to twenty minutes. One liter container was full and a second container had to be used. When it was over, about one and a half liters of blood had been removed from her stomach. We found out later that Mom had something of an ulcer on her stomach. We asked if she was feeling any better and she waved her hand as if to say, “meh.”

    The pumping ended and the surgeons exited the room for a minute. It was then I saw the most horrifying scene in my life. Mom started getting agitated in bed; that in itself wasn’t unusual. But then she began squirming as if trying to get comfortable, never uttering a word. Finally, she went into the fetal position and that was when I knew this was more than serious. Mom looked at me in terror with glassy eyes as if to ask what was happening to her. I didn’t know what to do. All I could do was to tell her I loved her. This image of Mom looking at me the way she did will be seared in my brain for however long I live.

    One of the surgeons returned and I asked if he could get Mom in a better position. He joked that Mom better not be trying to get out of the bed, but then he looked at her and saw the same face I did. He realized she needed emergency help and had me sign consent forms. Within minutes, surgeons and nurses were crowding the room. I signed the consent forms and told Mom they were going to help her and told her I loved her one last time. She nodded so I know she heard me. I was then ushered out of the room.

    At first, the plan was to hook her up with an IV through her groin since the other avenues weren’t working. I was right outside the door as they began working on her. That went on for a bit as they would ask Mom things like, “can you breathe for me, Mrs. Beckman?” It gets scarier. Maybe a half hour into this, the nurse that had been attending to Mom ran out crying. Very soon after, a surgeon came to me and told me Mom was getting hooked up to a breathing tube; she wasn’t responding. It was then that the reality she could be dying sunk in. I called Joe again. “Joe, you better get here.”

    Joe answered with a frustrated sigh, “What’s happening now.” Like me, he was going through denial even before the inevitable actually happened. As it was, he wouldn’t arrive for a couple more hours even after I updated him on what was going on, including having seen the blood pumping.

    My step-brother and his wife arrived and it gave a nurse an excuse to get me out of the hallway where I had been observing through the window what they were doing with Mom. It wasn’t pretty to say the least even as the surgeon who had me sign the consent forms gave me a thumbs up.

    I met my step-brother, Mike, and Elvie. They both told me Joe was crying at home. When somebody tells you that you better get to the hospital, you know it’s likely to say goodbye. I didn’t want to believe it but I was resigning myself to the fact that Mom could be dying. I made that clear to another family member, who was acting especially insensitive. I wasn’t very nice about it either as I stormed out the door.

    Joe, who had by now been at the hospital when my blow up occurred, returned home about one in the morning. He updated me on Mom’s condition; they were talking about doing surgery. Then he told me the security guard more or less threatened to arrest me. That, of course, didn’t happen. He would have caught me in a public street by the time he caught up with me and, anyway, Mike grabbed me to take me home. Joe and I had words and I was determined to tell him how I felt the next morning.


    Feburary 8, 2018



    It was about seven in the morning when Joe yelled down the basement saying we needed to talk. Thinking this was going to be about the previous blow up, I said, “Yes, we do,” and proceeded up the steps.

    As it would turn out, the subject changed as Joe suggested we had to put our squabble aside and I agreed. He then blurted out the words no one wants to hear, “Your mother isn’t coming home.”

    I wasn’t sure what that meant. Did it mean they were putting Mom in a nursing facility? It had to be, right?

    Joe, who wasn’t one to look at reality too often, especially if the reality wasn’t exactly sunshine and roses, laid it right on the table. “The surgeon called. He said they couldn’t operate and they needed to talk with the family.” Basically, he emphasized a rather gloomy situation. Mom’s condition was grave. It sounded like she was going to die; my cries that my mother could be dying were all but true.

    And, for once, I had to be the optimist as I would tell Joe, “you never know,” even though deep inside, I knew.

    We got to the hospital around Noon. Mike and Elvie were there and other family members were supposed to meet us. Meanwhile, we looked at Mom. She was all hooked up to life support. She was being given medication so her heart wouldn’t fail. She looked peaceful though clearly unconscious. The nurse was asking us what we knew as if to prepare us for some sad news. We still didn’t really know the details but there was a sense it would be pessimistic.

    It was me, Joe, Mike and Elvie, and Rick that made the meeting. Joey lived in Wisconsin and Joe told Dee not to waste a trip from Southern Maryland. Joey, in fact, was on route as he already knew the situation was serious. Joe was hoping Joey would make it in time to say goodbye as he already knew.

    The main surgeon, who had worked on Mom during the last hospital stay, at least two other surgeons, the ICU nurse, and another representative of the ICU, entered the meeting room. It’s safe to say they were somber as the main surgeon laid it out for us. Basically, blood flow to the bowels was non-existent and, essentially, her intestines were dead. He could operate but it wouldn’t do any good; you need intestines to survive. A colostomy bag wasn’t an option either. Essentially, Mom was being kept alive by the machine. In a nutshell, we were being asked to pull the plug.

    Dee and Joey would be in tomorrow so we decided to make our final decision tomorrow so they would have some input. It was a tough call with me as Mom had told me that she wanted everything that could possibly be done to save her life. Because of that, and in spite of my own wishes that a Do Not Resuscitate order be put in place for myself, I was on the fence as to whether to pull the plug. I didn’t think that was what she wanted. The others, though, tired of her suffering, we’re leaning towards pulling the plug. It was an agonizing meeting to be sure.

    Joe and I returned to Mom’s room in the ICU as we discussed what we would do when she was gone. It dawned on me as we were discussing that we shouldn’t be talking about what to do after she was gone in front of her, but when you’re not thinking clearly…

    At around four o’clock, the chaplain at Joe’s firehouse visited and he was talking with him about fire department business and whatever else would keep Joe off worrying about Mom. Meanwhile I was noticing Mom’s blood pressure slowly dropping. I began to wonder if Mom was going to make the agonizing decision for us. I don’t believe in subliminal messages, and yet here I was thinking, Mom, it’s okay to let go.

    It was shortly after four thirty when a nurse walked in and asked if we were family members. We said we were, well, not the chaplain, but Joe and I were. She then announced she thought Mom had passed and walked out the door. There was a pall in the room. Then Joe began bawling like a baby. He was holding her hand and he swore she was squeezing it as she went away.

    I don’t know if she was in any way physically aware of our presence, whether she could actually feel Joe, whether she could somehow read my mind. I could only hope she could hear me tell her I loved her the previous night as I was the last to see her still conscious. They may have been the last words she heard from a loved one and, after the last fifty-six years we went through together, it was appropriate it would be me that would see her last when she was conscious. Joe gave both of us a gift by putting us in that situation together.

    As for me, we now had to make funeral arrangements. In the meantime, I went through the pictures and picked out the pictures of her childhood and her earlier years with me as a kid.

    And I began to remember the Patricia I knew; the free spirit who couldn’t be mean to anybody, who would give you the shirt off her back even if she didn’t have a shirt to give. It often made her vulnerable to those that would take advantage of her and it made me quite protective of her. In fact, she only really had two flaws I could see; she wasn’t much of a handler of money, and, well, she smoked. I don’t know whether it was smoking that would ultimately kill her, but she did make it to seventy-five, sixty-eight of those with a high quality of life. So many people loved her as I would discover at her service. There isn’t anyone that could possibly replace her.

    So this book is a celebration of the life of Patricia Ann Smith Horman Davis Beckman. I am so proud to be her one biological child even though she took the Beckman kids in as if they were her own. It will be a biography of sorts but, mostly, it will be a monument of sorts to a very special person.

    So I guess we can start now…
    Last edited by mrmustard615; March 12th, 2018 at 01:28 PM.
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  2. #2
    I have walked this path with both of my parents. I still feel it under my feet. And, I am glad.
    I am sorry for those who feel nothing much, when their parents die. I was fortunate, and you'll come to know you are too. My condolences. Sas

    .

  3. #3
    i like to read how people deal with situations and how it affects them....i get alot out of stuff like this but there is always empathy from a distance on my part..great read
    The only one who can heal you is you.




  4. #4
    I think you might mean "evacuating" instead of "excavating".

    I am sorry for your loss. It's such a shame that the end was so traumatic.

  5. #5
    In the Beginning.


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    November 22, 1942




    Patricia Ann Smith was born on November 22, 1942 at home in Baltimore, Maryland. Her mother, Dorothy, nicknamed Dottie, well, I’m not sure what she did for a living if anything in the early forties. She obviously would be working to support her two daughters later. Her father, Patrick Lloyd Smith, was, at the time, an elevator operator. Later he would be something of an entrepreneur if a failed one, often managing a gas station and, in the end, managing a restaurant where my Mom was helping out.

    Patrick, Dottie, and their two daughters, Dot Jr. (since she wasn’t a boy, they named her after her mother), and Patsy (again no boy, so a variation of Patrick) settled in a rowhome on Baltimore Street on the East Side. I’m not sure how long they resided there (they were at Franklin Street first where Mom was born) but money was always an issue. I suspect Grandpa Smith had problems handling money and it certainly would cause marital strife between him and Grandma. Eventually, they would be forced to move in with Dottie’s parents in Brooklyn Park where she was raised. It was ironic that Aunt Dot and Mom would be raised in that very same house for the most part. Grandma wouldn’t move out until she married Bill O’Byrne in 1961. Mom and Aunt Dot by then had already left as Aunt Dot was married with one infant son at this point and Mom was married and pregnant with me.

    As it was, Grandpa Smith had moved out at least a decade before. Mom, like me, would become a child of divorce and the effect it had on her was pretty devastating. Mom adored her father and had to contend with her mother’s constant bad mouthing of the man. Sure, he was flawed, but he was still Mom’s father, something Grandma’s second husband would often point out. Mom was very psychologically affected by the rift and she swore she wouldn’t say bad things about my own father in front of me.

    An interesting question has to be when Mom’s parents officially divorced. Grandpa was Catholic and Grandma was more or less a converted Catholic (The Great-Grandparents were actually Sweedenborg of all religions). Mom and Aunt Dot attended Saint Rose of Lima school, at least until Mom had something of a mental breakdown and the doctor insisted she be enrolled in public school. Of course, the divorce would be eventually granted and Grandma was allowed to remarry. She and Grandpa O’Byrne would enjoy twenty-three years of a wonderful marriage until her sudden death in 1984.


    Grandpa Smith


    Like I mentioned, Grandpa was pretty much a flawed person. He also happened to have a warm heart underneath his introverted appearance. He didn’t let many people get close to him and those that did, like a lady friend or two, would most likely take advantage of him. My Mom all but hated one of his girlfriends who would come to visit Grandpa when he was living upstairs from us. She had two daughters; one time they arrived with chicken pox and Mom pretty well freaked since I was exposed. In retrospect, they may have done me a favor. I would contract chicken pox, but not for another eight or nine years and a rather mild version at that. Maybe I had built enough immunity that I didn’t get the full blown version later on. It just got me a week’s vacation from school, he said with glee.

    Grandpa was pretty much a loner even though he seemed well liked as a manager at the various gas stations he worked at. In the end, he would only feel close to two people, Mom and myself. Grandma was able to poison Grandpa in the eyes of Aunt Dot and she would have very little to do with him; something that gave her great guilt when he died. I know this because she told me so when I stayed with her right after his death. Mom had a hard time dealing with his death so she had me stay there for a week or so. It was a bittersweet fun for a twelve year old kid who got to play with his cousins, not so much for Mom, obviously.

    Because, for a long time, Grandpa was pretty much Mom’s life. Oh, sure, she had me and Ike, her live in companion at the time, and she certainly had friends she could have fun with.

    But Grandpa was especially special to her. She saw his innate goodness I think. She would visit him despite her own mother’s misgivings. Maybe that was part of it; Mom could be a rebel of sorts in her own way, especially when she was young, and maybe her adoration of Grandpa was a way of rebelling against Grandma. Then again, maybe I’m overanalyzing.

    I do know I had a lot of fun with Grandpa who would sometimes take me to a gas station he was running. He’d let me play with the adding machine (even as a child, I was pretty much a nerd). He managed a Sunoco for a while and he gave me a sticker book with all the football players. I wish I still had them. He also would give me used records from the jukebox at his restaurant in the couple years before he died. He would feed me quarters for the pinball machine and I became something of a pinball wizard for a while. He also fed me turkey scraps. I think he loved to see me eat. He was a wonderful man.

    He was also a very lonely man. When I was little, he lived in the upstairs apartment from Mom and Dad (Dad’s parents owned the house). I’d visit him up there on occasion, even more so after Mom left Dad and I’d be visiting Dad. Of course, Dad remarried and Grandpa would move elsewhere soon after.

    Later, when he managed the restaurant, Mom and I would visit him at his motel room (the restaurant was adjacent to a motel). It was a sad sight. I’d see a bottle of whiskey there occasionally though I never thought of Grandpa as an alcoholic. He’d also have a porn magazine lying around somewhere. His health was also beginning to fail by around 1973/1974 and the last time I saw him, he was pretty well bloated; he didn’t look good at all. Mom was concerned enough to ask him to go to a doctor. Of course he never did, something else that kind of paralleled Mom in her last days in a way.

    About a week later, Mom found him in a bad state and she had him rushed to the hospital. After seeing my own mother in her own state just before she died, I now wonder if she had seen something similar with Grandpa. Whatever happened, Grandpa died two days later. They said if he had survived, he would have more or less have been a vegetable.

    I think it’s safe to say even though I didn’t see it, Mom was more or less despondent over Grandpa’s death. In fact I wouldn’t see Mom for a couple weeks after she told me of his death. She wouldn’t let me go to the funeral, nor had she let me go to my Great-Grandfather’s funeral who had died early that year. She was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle it. Instead, she sent me to stay with Aunt Dot for a while. As I mentioned before, it was sort of bittersweet, but I got to hang out with my cousins who were about the same age as me. The oldest, Mark, was exactly a year older than me in fact.

    As it was, there was a reason I was staying with Aunt Dot. Mom was a little more than just despondent to the point she was being kept under observation. She was obviously not in a good frame of mine and her world kind of collapsed when Grandpa died. It didn’t help that she had lost Great-Grandpa just six months earlier. He (Great-Grandpa) was probably more or less her paternal figure growing up since Grandma more of less declared Grandpa persona non gratis.

    I would return home of course. Mom would keep in touch with the Smith family for a while (she staged a family reunion earlier that summer), but I have no doubt, Grandpa was always on her mind. It’s easier for me to realize that now that Mom is gone. I always did wonder if spirits would visit, notably Grandpa Horman in my case, but I don’t really know. It’s not like something starts shaking out of the blue or anything. Even when Mom physically died, no one noticed anything different.

    In a way, I think Grandpa Smith was the most influential person in Mom’s life. She inherited his money handling, or lack thereof, abilities. She also inherited his innate sense of decency. He too, would always want to help someone less fortunate, even if he wasn’t so fortunate himself. I think those were things that rubbed off on Mom and maybe even me to a lesser extent.
    Last edited by mrmustard615; March 16th, 2018 at 11:44 AM.
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  6. #6
    As I was born in 1944, the date November 22 is seared in my brain. I'd be surprised if your mother did not share with you how the assassination of JFK, on her 21st birthday, impacted her, on what should have been a very wonderful day.
    Perhaps a party was canceled to sit around a black and white TV? Cake may not have been served. And, presents...what of the presents?

    Maybe you can write about it.

  7. #7
    Believe it or not, Mom said she really didn't know what she was doing. I would imagine she was watching me (I was not quite two yet). The TV probably would have been on though as to which channel I would have no idea. I remember she liked watching Password a lot at that time as well as a couple local shows. I'm guessing she would have seen Cronkite but that's all it is- a guess.
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  8. #8
    Absolutely, all TV stations that day continuously covered his assassination. No one even wanted to watch Password. Truthfully, your mother is the only person I ever heard of, if American, and old enough, who couldn't remember exactly what they were doing...and on her 21st birthday. My partner is 12 years younger than I am, he was 7 then, and remembers everything. I am grateful, otherwise I'd feel really old.

  9. #9
    I'm actually a history buff and I've seen all three network broadcasts on YouTube. Mom wasn't exactly what you would call a news junkie. I mean, she was upset on that day, but she couldn't tell you what she was doing. You're right; she probably is the only one who would say that. I was too young for JFK, but I can tell you where I was on 9/11, when the Challenger blew up, when Lennon was shot (my big where were you moment), even when Elvis died. I guess it's the history buff in me.
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  10. #10
    Thanks for sharing Stan. Death has a way of helping us really appreciate life.

    Put all this in print somewhere, leave it for the next generations to come who will wonder, who were the people before me, whose blood now runs throw my veins. It took many things to make your mom into who she was, passing it on to another keeps her alive and part of their lives.

    Nicely written by the way :}
    God hates a coward Revelation 21:8

    “Good writin' ain't necessarily good readin'.”

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    To encourage and facilitate "me"

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