In memory of Jean Tecosky 10/22/31-5/27/22
The logical me knew this day would come. The rational me has been preparing for it. In fact, when mom moved in with Milton and me six years ago, there were a lot of people who had a lot to say about it. Some people thought it was a noble endeavor. Most people thought we were nuts. When people asked Milton how he can stand living with his mother-in-law, he had a simple answer. He would tell them, “First, she upgraded our cable to include all the sports channels and she’s paying for it; second, she buys all the liquor and she only buys the good stuff; and third, she goes to bed at 7:00! What could be bad?”
I also need to mention here, that my husband Milton was just wonderful to Mom… (That might have been the bourbon talking.) I’d say they were lucky to have each other. Milt says of mom there are very few people who are loved by so many… Jean Tecosky was one of them.
But actually, we were blessed. In those six years, I got to know my mother intimately… what she thought about all kinds of things (culture, history, politics); if she had any regrets about her life; would she have done anything different if she could go back and change something…
As little girls, I think, mothers are an enigma… a mystery. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be her when I grew up. I played dress up in her closet when she wasn’t looking, trying on her shoes and carrying her purses. As a teenager, we couldn’t sit in the same room with each other. When I finished college, we were cordial, almost friendly. By the time I gave birth to my first child, we were very close again. We shared confidences, she gave me excellent advice while raising my kids, she taught me shortcuts in cooking, housekeeping and handling all kinds of crises. She was, once again, the person I wanted to be when I grew up.
Mom really found her own voice, though, after my father passed away. She had always talked about having gone from under her father’s wing directly to under her husband’s protective wing. That was just her generation. When dad died, however, she had to learn to navigate life on her own for the first time in her life, at age 67.
Mom began volunteering where I was working simply to fill some of her time. She would sit and stuff envelopes in my office once a week, and then return to her condo for the rest of the week. One fine day, Howie, who was in one of the auxiliaries I facilitated, whisked her away from her envelopes, and taught her to test her limits. It was then that I saw my mother begin to blossom into the person she was meant to be all along… a woman of confidence, grace and humor; a person with her own ideals and her own opinions. She had strong convictions and deep compassion. I marveled at how easily she befriended the residents of the nursing home and made them feel important. Sadly, when I was forced to leave my job, she felt compelled to stop volunteering as well.
A former supervisor of mine, or I should say mentor, who taught me so much both professionally and personally, always used the following expression when talking about the nursing home. “Growing older is both a blessing and a challenge.” This was so very true about my mother. The blessing was obvious: four children, nine grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren. Mom used to be teased unmercifully by my brothers and me that she was “chicken little.” But in the latter part of life, one of my brothers began to call her chicken “big” because she was handling life so well.
I saw first hand how she faced each new challenge with courage, strength and determination. She stared down and conquered lung cancer at age 88. She beat the hell out of a pulmonary embolism at 89. About the only thing that was holding her back was “that damn oxygen hose” in treating her COPD. You would think after watching her fight with this, I would be able to or choose to quit torturing my own lungs with cigarettes.
Mom was not only resilient, she was realistic. How often does an elder person willingly give up driving? “Take the keys!” she said to me. “I don’t trust my reflexes.” And then who chooses to move into an independent living facility? “I’ve been depressed lately,” she told me. “I think I need to live around more people my own age. Its too lonely here.” You should know that she only lasted at that ILF for a few months when she decided everyone there was just too old. She was 84 and older than most of them, but she was bored and tired of pushing people around in wheelchairs. She wanted out.
She moved in with my husband and me with the idea in mind that we were moving to the Orlando area. Unfortunately, we were unable to sell our home. Fast forward five years, and we made the move. (Real estate markets being what they are, it was a good thing we waited.)
Mom was originally going to find her own place to live, but after all she had been through and because COVID was still haunting us, we wouldn’t have it. We set up house making her as comfortable as possible, but mom felt something was missing. She was pretty sure she knew what would fix it so she dragged me to the Seminole County Animal Shelter. We walked up and down each aisle but the dogs were all too big. One of the volunteers asked if we needed help and then brought out a tiny little fur ball. It was a Mitzvah, not only for me but for her. We decided to call her Mitzi. From that moment, Mitzi spent all waking moments by her side.
To tell you the truth, I think Mitzi is missing her terribly… she sleeps in her bed, and when the door is closed, she sleeps on the floor in front of it.
So, like I said, logically, I knew this was coming. And rationally, I had already thought about what it would be like… But how do you really prepare. Never is the right time to lose someone you love. Emotionally, I’m not sure I can deal with this.
My mother was my best friend. We were always on the same page. She was the one who encouraged my writing and publishing. She was my biggest cheerleader. Who will push me now? Who will make me clean off the coffee table? I mean, for heaven’s sake, who will tell me to put on a little lipstick?
Here is my best attempt at finding my own solution. Mom was a fatalist. She believed, to her very core, that when your number its up. Period. So, it follows that she had no fear of dying for the same reason. I guess that’s why she was so good at living. And when it was time for her to go, with my three brothers and me around her and having listened, with her eyes closed, to loving phone calls from all of her grandchildren, she simply let go and stopped struggling to breathe. I too shall adopt her philosophy.
For my father, I think of him whenever I see a rainbow.
For Mom, it will always ever be when “I see the moon and the moon sees me.”