My cousin Ann emailed on Saturday to let me know that Dave had passed away. Although I had talked with her and Davey (using his kid name to distinguish from his father) just last week when they called to tell me about Dave's imminent death, the news from Ann came as a shock. I remember, fondly I do, Ann’s first husband, Dave. I knew them as newlyweds and young parents when I was a tween and a teen. In last week's phone conversation, Davey said that he and his dad had been having breakfast together on weekends. In January Davey called Dave to arrange breakfast and Dave said he wasn’t feeling well. The ill feeling prevailed for some weeks and he went to the doctor to see if his diabetes meds were messing him up. They did an MRI and he was immediately diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer and given two months or less to live. Dave had been under Hospice care and had reconciled himself to the concept of his death. He told Davey and Margy, his son and daughter, that he’d had a great life and had done nearly everything he wanted to do: skied many western mountains, been to
I enjoyed my conversation with Davey and it actually dredged up a memory from one of the last nights of my mother's life that I hadn’t shared with anyone before then. It is this:
There was such a flurry of caregiving activity around Mama that I know I was guilty of exhaustion and had built a protective shield around me. Each night those last weeks we’d get her ready for bed, play music for her, talk some, kiss her on the cheek and tell her we loved her, then shut out the lights. It was all done ceremoniously and lovingly, but I believe that I must have seemed robotic to her. I think it was three nights before she died, maybe four, I had taken care of all the ablutions with Mike and he went into the other bathroom to get ready for bed. She was sitting on the side of her (rented hospital) bed and I was about to help her get under the covers, kiss her cheek, tuck her in. Before I could, however, she gently patted the bed beside her and quietly asked me to sit down. I did. Then she asked me to kiss her, really kiss her, goodnight – and she leaned toward me. We kissed on the lips, tenderly. Afterward she whispered, There, that was a real goodnight kiss between a mother and a daughter. She made her own ceremony of it.
I have since thought about the ways, the necessary ways, that children separate themselves from their parents. Kisses on the lips seem to be one of the first. Mike’s grandmother wanted to kiss both of us on the lips after our final lunches with her in