One of the hardest parts of having my mom die was having to watch my Dad suffer. My Mom and Dad were very much in love and were best friends. They did everything together. They had a lot of friends, who were couples, that they went out with all of the time. They vacationed together. They went on dates together. So when my Mom died, my Dad was completely lost without her.
Right after my mom died, my Dad informed us that her wish was to be cremated. This was news to us, but if that’s what she wanted, well then that’s what we would do. But it ended up being a really difficult thing to handle. We had a funeral and then went to the cemetery for the burial. After the service, her body would be taken to be cremated. Okay, whatevs. But turns out once we got the ashes, we had to go back and have another ceremony to bury the urn. It was like having a second funeral. Now that was something we could not prepare ourselves for. It was so painful to go through all of those emotions all over again. What a nightmare. Especially for my Dad.
My brothers, Juan and Dat, and I tried everything we could think of to try to help him. All of my Dad’s friends were constantly trying to get him out of the house. My Dad’s brothers constantly called inviting him places. But his answer was always no. I remember him always thanking people for the invitations and telling them to keep asking and one day he would come around. It was as if he just didn’t know how to live his life without my mom. It was extremely painful to watch.
About a week after my mom’s death, my Dad’s friends came over and helped him clean out all of my mom’s closets and donate everything to goodwill. I was on board with this. There was this feeling that if we got rid of everything that maybe things would be easier to deal with. Of course, that was no the case. And I still regret getting rid of all of her clothes and hats. I wish I had a few of her things today. Lesson learned. We also sold her beloved Volkswagen Beetle. But I did insist on saving one thing of hers. A full length fur coat. I had no clue what I would do with it, but I just couldn’t part with it.
After my mom died, my Dad wasn’t up for celebrating any of the holidays. Our house was so depressing that Christmas. It was also just so empty since my mom had died. There was no Christmas tree, no decorations. No exchanging gifts. It was just all too much. Being the only girl, it was up to me to cook something for us to eat for Christmas dinner. It was literally the first time I had cooked anything, and the meal tasted exactly like we were all feeling. Horrible.
The first birthday I had after my mom died was awful. My mom always made my favorite dinner and put a lot of thought into the gift she gave me. There was none of that. My Dad did make an effort. He had a donut with a candle in it waiting for me when I woke up. There was also a card. It meant a lot to me that my Dad had the strength to even do this for me. I opened the card and it was signed Love, Mom and Dad. It was the most depressing thing I had ever read. I was not prepared for that. I didn’t even know what to do or feel. I felt so sorry for myself, but even more sorry for my Dad. It was just too much to handle.
A similar thing happened when my cousin Shelly was getting married. My Dad felt that he should buy Shelly something off of her registry. Because that’s what my mom would have done. So he called up Shelly and told her they were going to go to the mall together. He took her to the store she was registered at and had her pick something out. From my mom. An amazing gesture, but it also just made me feel so depressed for my dad. He was just so alone.
One of the only things that I kept of my mom’s was her gorgeous floor length fur coat. The only problem was there weren’t many places to wear such an item. When you’re in your twenties and spend all your time in dive bars. But finally, an occasion came about that would be just perfect. My cousin Tish was getting married in January. She was having the reception at a pretty fancy place and I was pumped. Finally, I could walk in flaunting my gorgeous fur coat. I did worry that I would steal all of the attention from the bride, but not really. And since it was January in Chicago, it would definitely be cold enough to warrant a fur coat.
I was thrilled to wear it and the wedding was an amazing time. But of course when the wedding ended we wanted to keep the party going. So a whole group of us came back to the neighborhood to a little dive bar. More our speed. We partied until they kicked us out and I may or may not have been blacked out. It took me a few days to realize that my mother’s beloved fur coat, the only thing I had left of hers, didn’t make it home with me that night. I was devastated. I called everyone we were with. No one had it. I called the reception hall and they didn’t have it. I finally called the dive bar and the lady who answered said they did indeed have a fur coat. Her exact snooty words were, you mean the Neiman Marcus fur coat? Uh, yeah, that would be it. Why? How many fur coats could you possibly have there? My guess is not many.
Anyway by this time I was just so relieved to have found it. But also so embarrassed to go to the bar and pick it up. I felt like the pretty little rich girl leaving her fur coats all over town. So I summoned Shelly to go to the bar to get it for me. Good old Shelly walked right in to that bar, eight months pregnant, holding a toddler in her arms, her head held high. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to see the bartenders face.
Ever since this episode, I have yet to wear my beloved family heirloom. If the opportunity ever arises, that I am getting very dressed up in the dead of winter and will not be drinking any form of alcohol, I will consider wearing it once again. For now, I’ll just continue to pull it out of the closet, put it on, and put my hands in the pockets so I can feel my mom’s gloves still in there. I wrap myself in it as if it is actually my mom hugging me. And it always makes me feel better.