My beautiful mom

My beautiful mom

4 words I so love to hear.

4 words I so miss saying.

I can’t believe it’s been 7 whole years since she died. My world simultaneously stopped moving and started spinning at a crazy pace and before I knew it, I had been waiting for 7 years for my mom to call and ask me why I haven’t called her today.

Not a day goes by that I don’t feel like I am missing an arm; Like there is a hole where part of my heart was, and even though I have created so much love around me, there’s just nothing that can fix it. You can’t grow back your arm, and you can’t get back your mom when she’s gone.

February-March is always so difficult, 2 weeks filled with the best and the worst: The Hebrew date of her death, then my daughter’s birthday, to be immediately followed 3 days later by the anniversary of her death. Sad, happy, sad, happy – a rollercoaster of emotions in such a short amount of time, that when I get off the rollercoaster, my head is spinning, I’m not sure where I am, and have no idea how to stand up straight again.

When I was putting Sophie to bed tonight, she asked me, “Why do you read to me, Mommy? Is it because I am awesome?” I answered, “Yes, you are awesome” and then she flung her arms around me, throwing me full force onto her bed, and said, “I love you, Mommy,” embracing me for two whole minutes. I swear I have no idea which one of us needed that hug more. It took all my strength, of which I possess none, not to break into tears in front of her.

Rarely a day goes by, if at all, when I don’t think of how different my life would be if she were here. If she knew my kids, if she would have been the difference between the postpartum depression I had with Sophie and not having it. It sounds terrible, but sometimes I wish I could just forget. Forget that she isn’t here by forgetting that she was.

But then I see my kids, and she is in all of them. She is in Sophie’s smile, in Chloe’s hands, and in Eitan’s eyes. The love she gave me passes through me and into them. I try to incorporate her into our world as much as possible.

“Sophie, you know what Savta (grandma) Rochale would say?”

“Yes, Mommy, she said you can’t have too much vanilla extract in a cake and to always put in a little bit more.”

So I pretend everything is marvelous. My family is healthy, and nothing else really matters. But I am missing that arm. Sometimes I forget it isn’t there and I can feel a phantom arm, but it isn’t really there. Everyone else sees the arm, though, they can’t see that it’s missing, so I will continue to go through life as if I am whole since nobody can see that I’m not.

 

I get about a dozen emails every week from people with a dying/dead parent, asking me for advice or just asking me to be a sounding board for them. Yesterday I received an email from someone who’s mother was just given a few weeks to live after recently finding out she had cancer. The writer asked me what I wish I would have asked my mom before she died.

A lot of what I would ask or do now is different from what I would have done at the time because I am now a mother and at the time I wasn’t even dating anyone (see how much happens in 3 years?) In retrospect, I would have asked her a lot of questions that would have made me feel stupid at the time, since they weren’t even in the near future, but I would have been happy to have the answers later. I don’t regret not asking her these questions for this precise reason – I wasn’t even able to see past the fact that she was dying to a time where I would be happy. Regardless, by the time we knew it was the end, she couldn’t talk anymore anyway, so none of these would have been an option.

I’d ask her about her pregnancies, and what it was like for her to be a mom for the first time (I am the eldest). And I’d ask her about her births and recoveries and how she got through everything. I’d ask her what challenges she came across with pregnancy and marriage and what she did to resolve them, and I’d ask her how can you love a tiny person so much and still have enough room to love another (we are three girls).

I’d ask her about my childhood, what kind of a kid I was like, what she would have done differently with us and what she would have done the same. I’d ask her about her wedding and what the planning was like, and what tips she may have for me and if she’d be OK with me wearing her wedding dress (which I did).

I’d ask her why my meatballs aren’t as delicious as hers and for her recipe for chili.

I’d ask her to reassure me that I will find someone who I would like to marry (and who’d like to marry me) and that I would be a great mom. And I’d ask for her to list the reasons since I wouldn’t believe her anyway.

I’d ask her to record a video of herself reading some stories for my future kids, like “Goodnight, Moon”, which my nephew and niece both loved so much, so they could somehow know her, even the puffy and weird version of her, though that may be painful to watch.

Most of all, I would ask her to hug me so I could sniff her and feel her touch. I would give almost anything just to feel her touch and smell her.

Hi Mom,

It’s been a while since I’ve written on the blog. As opposed to the previous times that I have delayed posting because I was crying too much – or didn’t want to cry – this time a tiny, 3.320 kilo person has delayed my post (Best. Excuse. Ever.)

I’d like to introduce you to my brand new daughter, Sophie Rachel Perez. Yes – her middle name is yours.

She was born on February 28, a couple of weeks early. A week before she was born, The Boy made me go to the doctor because I had some pain the night before. Turns out it was actual contractions and I was 1/3 of the way through, so I was sent to the hospital.

The Boy joined me at the hospital, and while Baby’s heartbeat was being monitored, I suddenly started shaking. I was freaked out, both at the concept of having a baby (whom I am expected to keep alive) and the fact that you wouldn’t be here for any of it. It’s not that I would have had you in the delivery room with me.

Or maybe I would have. Who knows? It was never an option. It would be like asking me if I would prefer boxers to briefs.

But it wasn’t meant to be that day, and as my due date approached, I couldn’t help but feel that I was going to give birth early. You see, 2 weeks before I was due was to be the three year anniversary of your death. From the moment I found out I was pregnant (and that I, most likely, conceived on your wedding anniversary), I kept having a feeling that Baby was going to come very close to that date.

A week after the previous hospital visit, after my regular doctor’s appointment, I was sent to the hospital and was induced. 12 hours after getting to the hospital, she came. Within seconds I was transformed into a parent.

It was, without a doubt, the weirdest feeling in the world. I can’t describe it. Somehow, I was able to focus completely on this absolutely awesome family that just formed, and I thought of no one except Baby and The Boy.

The next few days were a blur, as were the first days at home, where I was mainly amazed that I was expected to keep a tiny person alive with less training than I had on our washing machine. But 6 weeks later I am beginning to feel the impact of your absence.

It’s so incredible to me how things change in a moment. I was transformed into a mother with the same ease and incomprehensible speed with which I was orphaned.

I didn’t wonder how you felt when I was born – it was obvious to me that you must have felt the same insane range of emotions that I felt. But What about everything else? Did you cry? Did you feel incompetent? Did you feel abandoned by almost everyone and everything you know? Did you ever feel like a bad mother? I can’t possibly know – I couldn’t have possibly felt more loved by you.

But this is some of what I am faced with now, and I wish you were to tell me I’m doing OK. It doesn’t matter how many friends tell me I’m a good mother, I don’t believe them. How would they know? You would tell me the truth. And, since you know me better than anyone, I would believe you.

Or not. How would I know? Boxers or briefs.

Luckily for you and us, you did have a chance to be a grandmother and pass on some advice to my sister. She, in turn, passes some on to me. I think of it as by proxy parenting.

Sophie looks sooo much like you (me). She has your (my) smile and your (my) facial expressions. She has the funniest facial expression when I take the bottle out of her mouth, the same one that you had. Except on you it wasn’t funny – it was your expression when we fed you when you were dying. When she looks at me with that expression, I am overwhelmed with awe and love for her, and sadness and aching for you. I can’t separate the two from each other. I’m happy she looks like you because it gives the affirmation of your presence, but it’s so hard to be her mother sometimes, through no fault of her own other than DNA.

Furthermore, as I suspected, I indeed gave birth in very close proximity to the third anniversary of your death. I was released from the hospital on the day of your memorial. If that isn’t the circle of life, I don’t know what is.

My friend and coworker recently approached me at work, put her hands on my now-large belly and said, “How’s Mom?”

My immediate reaction was, “Still dead.”

After 10 seconds (which seemed like 10 years), I suddenly realized that she meant me. I was going to be Mom.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not in denial that I’m pregnant or about to have a baby (in about 6.5 weeks, give or take). I’m so excited and absolutely in love with everything happening with my body – even though, as Maroon 5 said, it’s getting harder and harder to breathe. I’m excited and scared and can’t wait for Baby to come – and not ready for her at all. But I guess I didn’t think of the verbal repercussions of this life-altering event.

For most women, when they become mothers, the (capitalized) word Mom suddenly has two meanings: Them and their mothers. In my case, though – it’s just me.

I’m not sure how to make the 100% switch – as opposed to joining and sharing the title. This is probably the hardest post I’ve written, not emotionally, but expressively – I can’t quite figure out how to put into words what I am thinking. This coming from the girl who owns a t-shirt that says: “I’m talking and I can’t shut up” – and I’ve earned that shirt fair and square.

Of course I think about my mom a lot now, though I have had very few breakdowns (to the point where I fear that I haven’t dealt with it enough now that Baby is so close to coming). I wish I could share with her everything going on, and my fears (to which she would say that I’m being silly and of course I’ll be a good mom).

And of course everyone says that – my family, my friends, etc. – but I don’t feel reassured. I probably wouldn’t believe her either, but for some reason hearing her say it would be different than everyone else saying it – maybe because she would probably tell me if I would suck, and no one else would.

When I found out I was pregnant, and it had actually sunk in, I suddenly began to cry one day, out of the blue. I was asked by a coworker who walked by what happened, and I said nothing, I just wish my mom were alive so I could tell her, and she said I need to find someone to replace her. She didn’t mean it in a bad way – she meant someone I could go to who I could talk to and ask questions. I do have great people in my life – including my mother in law who I trust blindly – but you can’t replace telling your own mother you are pregnant.

I couldn’t find the words to explain to her how I felt and what I meant – much like now. A friend told me about her mother  who wants to be in the delivery room with her and asked me if I would agree – I have no idea. When my mom died, I couldn’t even fathom being in a relationship, much less be married and with a child. And with her gone, I can’t even imagine what I would want. At this point, it would be like asking me if I would wear boxers or briefs – it isn’t a situation I have ever – nor will I ever – be in, so I can’t even venture a guess. It’s unbelievable to me that I am not sharing this incredible experience with my mom – but I can’t imagine what it would be like to share it with her either.

I look at pictures of her (it’s easier than it was at the beginning, though I still haven’t gotten rid of the images from the last year of her life) and I try to imagine how she felt and what she thought when she was expecting me (I am the oldest). Sometimes my sister can share stories with me that our mom told her, but it doesn’t change the fact that they aren’t coming from her.

In a few weeks’ time, I will start calling myself Mom(my) to a tiny little person (who I will be expecting to keep alive). I won’t be alone in any way – I have the most amazing husband (who thinks these 9 months are way too long) and great sisters and incredible in-laws who I know I can count on 100%, but it doesn’t change the fact that I will still be missing someone huge – the other Mom who should be there, too, sharing the capitalized word with me.

Dear Mom,

The Boy proposed on Saturday morning and we are now engaged. You would have loved him. If you are looking, then you already know how great he is. I just hope you aren’t watching at inappropriate times.

For the longest time, I wasn’t ready to get married, not because I wasn’t sure (let’s face it, I pretty much knew by week 3), but because of all of the logistics involved:

You won’t be there for me to tell you I am engaged.

You won’t be there to help me with the preparations.

Your name will be listed as z”l (deceased) on my wedding invitation – or is it not supposed to be listed at all? I have no idea.

You won’t be at the signing of the Ketubah.

You won’t be walking down the aisle.

You won’t be under the chuppah with me.

You won’t be beaming down at me. Ever.

It took me over a year to even bare the thought of figuring out what happens with the invitations, and that’s probably the least important of everything – I mean, we can just email everyone and get it over with. For the last year or so, everyone and their dog has been bugging me about when I’m going to get married, and I brushed it off with a swift, “when we decide.” It even got to the point where people were getting angry with The Boy, through no fault of his own.

They just didn’t know. And why should they? It’s not like I told them. Luckily for them, they haven’t been in this situation and can’t even fathom a wedding without their mother.

It got to the point where I wanted to elope. Forgo all of it, after all, it’s the act that matters, not the execution. But The Boy was right, our families would be hurt.

When Saturday happened – and believe me, I couldn’t have been more surprised (we have been talking about it, but I wasn’t expecting it Saturday) – I was pleasantly surprised. While half a year ago, the thought of not being able to call you made me cry, when Saturday happened, all I wanted to do was talk to my sisters. It’s not that I didn’t want to talk to you; I think it’s just that my brain knew I couldn’t, so it just sent me on the right course.

So I got the girls together and told them, and of course they screamed (and the kids asked why they’re screaming). And then I called Dad. And then I told your parents, Saba and Savta. And then I called my friends. And I did really well. I didn’t cry once, I didn’t get depressed once, and I seriously don’t think I would have been this way half a year ago.

I was doing so well, and then I wasn’t.

I went to look at rings with my friend, The Swiss, and the sales lady at last store we went into used to work at the mall where Dad had his restaurants. And naturally she asked about you.

Since it’s been two years since you left, I haven’t had to tell people you’ve died in a while; at least not people who knew you personally. I was able to get through the story fairly easily, omitting the most painful parts, like the last 4 months, and by doing what I always do when I talk about you now: Disconnect completely from the words coming out of my mouth.

But no, this encounter was made to make me cry. And I haven’t in a long time. I did a bit at night when your two-year anniversary came by when we were in Japan, but other than that, it’s been forever.

It started with her being shocked. And then telling me what an amazing woman you were, which I know. And then she had tears in her eyes, saying that the righteous die early, and I couldn’t hold it in anymore and I started to cry. And once I got my breath back, all I could say was, “She could have died in 20 years, and that still would have been too early.”

But that ship has sailed. You are gone. I am embarking on a major life event without you.

But you will be with me. You know how I always wanted to wear your wedding dress when I got married? I tried it on, and it fits me almost perfectly. So welcome to my wedding. You would only be able to be more present if you there in person.

Aryeh Klein (z"l), left, Rachel Klein (z"l), right

When my friend Shanainai sent me the link to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure about a month ago, I didn’t want to hear anything about it. I didn’t want to be reminded, I didn’t want to know, I wasn’t interested.

But then I got to thinking: Yes, my mom and uncle died of different cancers, not breast cancer, but does it really make a difference? Each cancer is different, granted, and research for each type may be done separately, however finding a cure for one can lead to a cure for another, no?

As we speak, chemos found effective for one form of cancer are being tested on other forms. I know – my mom was one of those people. It clearly didn’t work for her, but one day it will.

So I decided to listen to Shanainai and asked my sisters if they’d like to join – they immediately jumped in. Then I published the link on my Facebook wall and Twitter account, and a few friends said they’re interested.

So I hereby announce the Klein Family and Friends team. We will be doing the 5K (walk, not run) on October 28, 2010 in honor of our mom, Rachel Dagani Klein, and our uncle, Aryeh Klein, who just passed away a month ago.

There are 4 ways you can help if you are interested:

1) Participate in the walk. It will be in Jerusalem just outside the Old City. Sign up to join the Klein Family and Friends team here. Click on “Join Talia’s Team.”
2) Sign up as a virtual participant. You won’t be attending (most likely because you aren’t in Israel), but you’d like to help us reach at least 10 people so we can have the minimum team size, and make a donation while you’re at it. You can do that here as well.
3) Donate whatever you can. Honestly, even if it’s just $5, every bit helps. You can done through my page here.
4) Spread this blog post to your family and friends and see if they can help as well.

I haven’t ever asked anyone to give me any money for anything, at least not past high school fundraisers for dance team. I don’t want anyone feeling obligated in any way, and just because I may know you in person, doesn’t mean I will be angry or hurt that you chose not to donate. But if you can, I would really appreciate it. And if you can join us at the race? The more the merrier!

Hope to see you there!

I usually write when I’m down, but I had a bit of a delayed reaction. 2 weeks ago, my beloved (paternal) uncle died of cancer. He was sick for 14 years, lived well beyond what was predicted, yet this comes as little comfort. The fact is, my uncle was in his early 60s, by all accounts entirely too young to die.

His death comes less than a year and a half after my mother’s. Two blows in such a short period of time. I can’t imagine being in my father’s shoes: Losing a wife and a brother within less than 18 months of each other. My paternal grandparents gone, the last connection to his core family is now gone as well.

My uncle was awesome. He was incredibly loving. My father was always this huge superman in my eyes, the Man Who Could Do Everything. The man who, when I was 7, I proudly boasted would “beat you to grits” if you dared mess with me. But when his big brother would be with him, he looked like a 5 year old boy who looked up to his brother. And that is one of my favorite images in the world.

One, among so many, that I will now have to bring up in my mind, for lack of opportunity to see it in person.

My uncle’s passing was not a shock by any means. He had been touch and go for over a year. Luckily, we were able to see him 2 years ago when he came to visit my mother. A week or so before he died, he had a surgery that was supposed to alleviate some of his pain. What came out of the surgery was a This is It conversation, and a euthanasia wish.

A wish that was granted.

My uncle chose his future, or lack thereof, as it may be. On Sunday night a few weeks ago he called his (grown) kids and my father to say goodbye before he was given enough pain killers so he wouldn’t wake up, and on Thursday morning we got notice that he had passed.

For those few days, it was like my mom all over again, just waiting for the phone call/text message that would say it’s over. I got the message and it didn’t really hit me that he was really gone. For a few weeks. If with my mom I saw her decline, my uncle lived in South Africa, so I did not see him in the hospital, did not say goodbye, and did not attend his funeral. So really, for all intents and purposes, it’s as if he were still here.

But it has begun to sink in, and I can’t help but thank what the heck are we here for? People die so young, before they had a chance to do things, to make a difference. What was the point in my mother’s death? She hadn’t had a chance to teach me and my youngest sister how to be mothers, help us, calm us down. Am I supposed to think “She raised me, and I will raise kids who raise kids who raise the kid that will find the cure for cancer?” Because I have to say, I don’t really see any purpose here right now.

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not suicidal or about to hurt myself in any way. But I feel resigned to the fact that we are just here to “be” and that’s it. I can’t help but feel sometimes that The Boy will be better off without me, and other than him, I haven’t made an impact of significance on any lives.

To some, this may be the inspiration to do something big. But I don’t think I have anything big to give. I don’t see how I can make my mother’s life – and death – worth something. Nor do I see any point in my uncle’s suffering. Unless their deaths help others understand how precious their parents are, I honestly don’t see the purpose.

And you know what? I would have rather not made those sacrifices to begin with.