first love

first love

The years get blurry, but somewhere around 2006 or 2007, my sister Debbie and our mother sold their house in Old Bridge, NJ and moved to Florida.  For as long as I could remember, my mom dreamed of buying a trailer home in Florida and just moving to sunshine.  And then they did it. Debbie quit her job, they sold their house before the bubble burst and moved.  Debbie quickly got a job with a big bank in Orlando and they settled in a few apartments in Sanford and Lake Mary, until they finally decided to build a house in Apopka.  Life was good in those days.  Debbie found “sisters” in Cynthia and Nancy. They were happy.  Spending too much money, but they were companions, with the same sarcastic, argumentative kind of humor that equally cracked each other up as it drove them crazy.

They lived together all of those years, in Old Bridge, then in Florida, in the Apopka house, then their townhouse, the apartment, the St Catherine rental, and eventually the Independent Living apartment….until July 2023 when the unavoidable unraveling began.

There is so much to say, too much.  I’m jumping into the middle, but I’ll try to make this part make sense.  In January 2022 my mom was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure.  It was the beginning of my mom’s rapid downward spiral in her health.  By this time, Debbie had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (so much to say about that another time). The two of them could not look to the other for support — but they did.  They were immoveable on that point. They wouldn’t, (looking back maybe it was really couldn’t), leave each other. 

The years 2022 and 2023 and the first half of 2024 were the hardest of my life.  Physically, mentally, emotionally.  Our little family, the only people on this earth that were mine….we were falling apart, and my need to try to save them was eating me alive with every action I took or failed to take., with later regret.   My mom had 2-3 very serious stays in the hospital.  In Jan – Feb 2022, I was rehabilitationg mom at our house in St Catherine, while Debbie was taking care of herself at the house around the corner.  Mom was angry, unhappy, she didn’t want to do what the rehab folks, or the nurses or doctors told her to do.  She just wated to go back home to Debbie, back to the way it was going to be. Back to the downward spiral. Eventually she went back home to Debbie and I went home to Maryland, to work and trying to live my life there.  I was torn in two.  The fear of what was going on with them while I was away was overwhelming.  The frantic phone calls from FL about how one of them fell, or was taken away in an ambulance.  Some nights, I would lay in bed in tears, having a panic attack that felt like a heart attack. 

I was talking to them together and separately about change.  What if mom came to live with me in Maryland? And we found a nice Assisted Living home that could give you quality of life Debbie? The answer was silence, or distraction, or argument, or angry name calling.  Every way of saying No.  It became clear with every fight that this was only going to go down one way.  Tramatically.  Some unsurmountable tragedy was going to happen and we had to just wait for it to come knock on our door.

The knock came in July 2023.

Debbie was taken away in an ambulance in the middle of the night.  She was having trouble breathing.  By this time, she and Mom were living together in an apartment in Independent Living at the Carriage House.  My mom called me the next day to tell me what happened.  I was in Maryland, so far away.  Before I could make plans to fly down there, she called me back to say that my brother was there, and she was leaving to go to his house in Georgia.

And that was it.  My mother left Florida that first week of July 2023, went to Brunswick, Ga….and I would only see her two more times right before Debbie died.

You see, I don’t have a relationship with my older brother.  He touched Debbie and me in disgusting ways when we were young girls.  It was a shame that we had to bear this secret and hold it in our bodies and souls for our entire life.  I finally got up the courage to ask Debbie if he did it to her too, and she said yes.  I cried, I’d really hoped she would say no.  We both understood what it meant to be completely and entirely alone in our experiences as little girls. 

I’ve never been in my brother’s home. Any interaction I have had with him has been at a distance for a handful of family events. In 2022 when he and his wife came to FL because my mom was in the hospital, they asked to stay at our home down there. It was an unraveling for me to have him in Peter and my home. I exploded in anger at them in email. To this day his wife probably doesnt understand why. She may not know what her husband did to us when we were young.

But when he took Mom to Georgia… was a moment neither Debbie or I wanted.  In his act of taking our mother to care for her….he took our mother to a place we couldn’t go.  We couldn’t go to the home of the man who molested us as a boy.

Debbie would eventually go to Hospice in Georgia.  I’ll explain that next time.   This….this is the story of how I lost my mother.

On July 7th 2023 she called me.  It was her goodbye call. I didn’t know that, until it started to happen. She was particularly loving to me.  She said many loving things to me, about how good of a mother I am.  And that I was a good daughter to her. 


I asked her why she was talking in past tense to me.  Like  something was ending.

She was tired.  She didn’t want to talk any more. And that’s what it was.  Goodbye, Diane.  Goodbye, mom, I miss you.

And it stayed like that, until Debbie began to die.

I’m here to tell you, you can Lose your mother, even when she is still alive.  And it’s the kind of long, painful, daily Loss that squeezes your heart every day.  The kind that gets worse instead of better the more you try to fix it.

The ultimate lesson that this part of my life has taught me, is that you can’t fix some things.  And my unyielding need for this to be repaired causes me to go “back into battle” with my mom…only to come out more hurt than before.  My husband Peter and my daughters have been trying to lovingly help me understand…..”Diane, Mom, … your mother isn’t going to give you what you need from her.  She doesn’t need what you need. She doesn’t understand the feelings you have. She is only going to make you feel bad about needing more from her. You have to try to accept that.”

I’m trying.  Every day. 

And one day, my mother will go to heaven, into the loving embrace of my Dad and Debbie…and I just have to hope she knows how much of my love she will take with her.

I will love you forever Mom.  You were the first person to love me and I will miss you forever

Your Diane.

2 Responses »

  1. Love you Di. I’m praying for you every day! You are an amazingly strong woman and if I did t know better I would say we are so much alike in so many ways. Your Mom and sister loved you so much! I saw it in the short time I got to meet them. I saw such a beautiful relationship between you all. Life comes at us in such crazy ways and we are each challenges to deal with it in different ways. Love you! Stay strong and keep fighting! One day at a time. Treasure your beautiful yet difficult family life. There was so much love. Hugs and peace. Be strong!

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