I’m sitting on my deck right now enjoying the warm Spring sunshine, watching the birds feverishly build their nest, smelling the lilac perfume in the air and desperately missing my mother. This time of year, Spring, sunshine, trees budding – the time of growth and renewal, and their is a part of me that is somewhat empty.
My mother, Euphrasia (yes that was her real name) Drabik died in November of 2006 of lung cancer. The doctor’s said she must have had it for quite some time but once she was finally diagnosed she was given three to six months to live and she lived for five. When she was younger she was fiercely independent, one of the first mother’s to go to work with young children still at home. She rose up in the ranks of the male dominated banking business and became the manager of one of their largest departments, the charge card division. I remember my mother saying that one day a plastic card was going to replace money – they were already in the process of developing what we now know as a debit card. She was beautiful, very religious and very self confident.
She and my dad were married for 57 years – and no, they were not the perfect couple. They certainly had their ups and downs. But they managed to live through the bad times and their relationship got stronger and stronger as the years went on. My father was seven years older than my mom and when he turned 65 he wanted to retire and move to Florida. My mom was still going strong working at the bank, but my dad was firm in his resolve and my mother retired at 58 and moved with my dad to Clearwater. There they had the home of their dreams and over 20 years of an active and healthy retired life. My dad suffered an injury in 1996 that made him quadriplegic. She took care of him for 18 months in that condition until he died in February of 1998.
After my dad died, I saw a lot of changes in my mother. Once the confident go-getter, she was now fearful and insecure. She lost some of that self-starter quality that I so admired in her. I guess when you lose someone who has been a part of your life for so many years a part of you dies with them.
A few years after my father’s death, I finally talked her into moving to Colorado where she spent the last three years of her life. I was so grateful for that time. For most of my adult life she lived in Florida and I lived in Chicago and we usually saw each other once a year around the holidays. We talked on the phone once a week and for many years she was a voice on the other end of the phone.
We crammed a lot into the three years that she was here – we went on trips, went out to breakfast, went to movies, saw theatrical productions – we did a lot together. And then one day as I was driving to work I called her and she was in tears. She was experiencing terrible pain in her back
and her side. An ambulance trip to the hospital, the diagnosis, home health care, nursing home care and then she was gone.
She never got a chance to sit out on our deck – it was under construction when she became ill. She never got a chance to see the new landscaping – to smell the fragrance of my lilacs, to enjoy the rose bushes. Those all came during and after her illness. But she would have loved them. She would be out here with my right now, enjoying the sunshine and fresh Spring air.
She was a woman from a very humble background who was determined that her daughter would be educated, confident and fearless. When I was a child I so remember her always saying to me that I would get a college education. No woman in her family at that point had, and she knew that in order to be independent and successful that education was the key. We laughed, cried, fought and loved together. She was my rock, my inspiration and my safety net. The apple did not fall far from the tree – I had so many of her qualities that it was scary.
Now there is a part of me that is gone. Time has healed the deep emotional pain I felt when she died and immediately after but time will never completely heal the hole in my heart. But now, when I get sad, I think of her sitting next to me and saying, “Now, Janice Marie – this is not the woman that I raised you to be – strong and confident. So, buck up and keep moving forward. You can do it. I know you can. I raised you to be nothing less.” And all I can say is, yes Mom you did!
So as we approach another Mother’s Day, I want to pay tribute in writing to my mother, Euphrasia Drabik. She was beautiful, strong, courageous and smart. And every day, I hope that I will become half of the woman that she was. I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!