August 2, 1985 was a day a whole like today, except I don't remember it being so hot. My sister and I went to a recreation department camp, where they had 2-week sessions, just day camp, but on the second Thursday of the session camp had a sleep over. I was a counselor in training by then, and I remember staying up all night long with a group of younger campers to help out. My mom picked up my sister and I from the bus stop that morning. Friday was always her cleaning day, the day where she scrubbed the house from top to bottom. She said she was feeling tired, and asked for my sister and I to help with the house. I was 15, a horrid age anyway for a girl and her relationship with her mom, and I HATED to clean house (not much changed there), and I was tired and cranky anyway, so I "resisted," and we had a huge fight.
I told her I hated her. She made me clean anyway.
She was real tired, said she'd been up with my dad the night before (of this I have no doubt - they didn't have too many kid-free nights, and liked to stay up and drink a lot of wine on the weekends, anyway), so she went upstairs to take a nap in the afternoon. My grandmother came over, because my grandfather was out of town, and our family always ate out for dinner on Friday nights, to give my mom a break. My dad got home about oh, 5:15 or so. He went in to wake my mom up, and soon came out of the room and called down for my grandmother to come up, but for us kids to stay downstairs.
An ambulance arrived about 15 minutes later. I had to run up the stairs to grab the dog, who was attacking the paramedics who came to help my mom. He didn't understand they were trying to help her. That's how I found out something was wrong.
My mom was blue. They pulled her off the bed to get her on a hard surface to resume the CPR that my dad and grandmother inexpertly started on her (it wasn't doing any good since the mattress would give with each chest compression).
Mom was loaded in the ambulance, and driven away.
She never came home. My dad came home a couple of hours later. He took my sister and I in the bedroom, and told us that our mother was gone. My sister wailed and punched the wall. I was just in shock.
She was 37 years old.
They did an autopsy. She died of a heart attack. For years, my father insisted that she had arteriosclerosis, not ATHerosclerosis, and that her death had nothing to do with cholesterol and such. More than 14 years later, I finally got a copy of her death certificate for myself when I started having heart-related problems. One of her coronary arteries was 90% blocked, and she got a blood clot in her aorta. She died peacefully in her sleep, of old-fashioned, run-of-the-mill, clogged arteries.
I internalized my grief; I was the oldest, and my dad fell apart, so I had to step up and make sure we kept running as a household. I called people to notify them. I wrote thank you notes after the funeral. I kept this up for all of high school and much of college, when I started to have completely unrelated issues, and finally got the therapy and help I needed to process my grief. I had told her I hated her. I had previously had thoughts of her "going away," though usually through divorce and not death. I thought I had done this to her. I hated that she died thinking I hated her. My therapist, and my father, assured me that she knew I didn't hate her. I wasn't so sure then.
Now, I am a mother. I understand.
Now, I miss her more than I ever did in the first 10 years after she died. Now, I have kids, and wish she could know them, too. I know how much she would have loved them, and they her. I hate that they are missing one of their grandparents, and in fact, the only grandparent that could have nurtured them like I do. Now, I am a grown woman, and I wish I knew what my mom was like as a woman, and not as my mother. It was too painful for anyone who knew her to keep in touch, and my father's memory isn't reliable, not that he really would have known a lot of the things I want to know about her, anyway. What made her stay with my dad despite his general crankiness and his mental illness? How did she feel about staying home? What other ambitions in life did she have besides raising my sister and me? How did she cope with the isolation of being a SAHM in a careerist world? What was I like as a baby? Why didn't she stop smoking? Why did she drink so much? What were her pregnancies like? What was her favorite food?
I hope that wherever she is now, she knows that I did, in fact, love her. I love her still. I miss her. I hope she is proud of the woman I've become, of who I try to be.
I am now 36 years old. My mom has been gone 21 of those years.
I love you, Mommy.