My Mother, the Matriarch of the Family, Died

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a picture of her mother, matriarch of the family, who died.Last week, I went to visit my ninety-three year-old mother and found a stranger in her apartment. A docile, pale old lady in a wheelchair was falling asleep over her hardly-touched cake and coffee. She apologized and begged forgiveness of me, and of anyone who came near.

This was not MY mother. The mother who, weeks ago, was still stuffing her walker into the car, and shuffling off to the “beauty parlor.” The mother who bought jewels to match every outfit. The one who demanded that everything be executed in her own particular way, or you’d suffer her scorn. MY Mom could out-eat anyone, and was shamelessly vocal about whatever or whomever she disliked. Head of our tribe, she didn’t apologize.

Last week, the only thing my Mom ate with any interest was rum-raisin ice cream. It was set before her in spoon-sized clumps after lovingly prepared meals were removed and dumped in the trash. Morphine was doled out to balance my mother’s free-from-suffering time with her time to be able to think and communicate coherently. Sleep, when it came to her, was deep and steeped with groaning. Over the weekend she drifted ever farther away into her sleep.

On Sunday we sisters kissed her goodbye, said we’d be back in two weeks. But early the next morning, I got The Phone Call, the call that knocks you upside down even if you’ve known for a while that death was parked waiting right outside the door. Needing time to process this, I went to the gym. There, responding to the first person who casually inquired, “Hey, how are you?” I tested out the words too impossible to believe yet, “My Mom just died,” adding, “I think I’m an orphan.”

“No,” my friend said, looking me sternly in the face, kinda like my mother used to, “You’re not an orphan. You’re a matriarch now.”

I am still waiting to see how all this will hit me once I finally get it through my head that my Mom, the woman who gave me life, carried and protected me—and ruled my world—is dead. Sooner or later, I will be clobbered hard by the loss of her, I’m sure. But that morning in the gym, after being dubbed “matriarch,” I mustered up twice as many planks than ever before and threw myself into a fierce aerobic frenzy. Then, still breathless, I phoned my sisters to assign them various tasks from the list of all that had to be done to accommodate the great shift in our tiny family. What kind of matriarch will I be? I wonder. The glue of the family, or the iron fist?

 

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14 thoughts on “My Mother, the Matriarch of the Family, Died

  1. Lucy Bergstrom

    It’s wonderful that you and your sisters got to visit her just before she died. It’s true, death gets pretty close when you’re in your nineties, parked right outside, like you say. And in your shock over getting The Phone Call, you ran into the perfect person, who gave you some of your mother’s power by dubbing you a matriarch.
    We mothers are each someone’s little baby and someone else’s mom, the pillar of their world. You and I are so lucky to have experienced our mothers in their nineties, and to still be someone’s kid when we’re pretty old. We’re also really lucky that we have siblings to share that with, siblings that we like. Your mom was so lucky to have you and your sisters to love her and care for her.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Mothers. It’s really something how we can turn into mothers, Lucy. Never thought I’d ever go there myself, until I was in my mid-thirties. And being a mother changed everything about how I operate and how I see the world.
      Now YOUR Mom – SHE is amazing. Actually, you’re a pretty remarkable Mom yourself. So, now that my Mom is dead, I am dealing with no longer being someone’s kid. It was great to escape to her place and become a daughter again and again. I hope that, for a while, I’ll still be able to enjoy being a kid in the presence of my sisters. Wondering what the chances of having sisters in my 90s are. Take care of yourself, Lucy. Hope to see you on the 18th.

      Reply
  2. Monica Sword

    That phone call, of losing our mothers, is harsh. My brother had to make that call to us four sisters. He said each one of us started swearing as though angrily calling upon a deity or spewing expletives would somehow block the message from getting through or send it back from which it came. May your shift from orphan to matriarch evolve steadily and with grace, Robin.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Many thanks, Monica. I love that of four sisters and a brother, it was the brother who got to make The Call. Four swearing sisters. Yow. My mother swore so much that she scared the swearwords right outta me. I’d never even consider swearing if anyone was in earshot of my words. Might be healthier for me to learn this however. Probably is an efficient way to release or embrace all the emotions. Cheers!

      Reply
  3. Mary Fraker

    Oh, Robin,
    I learned of this yesterday from Laurie, and I am so so sorry that the formidable Gladys Botie no longer walks the earth.
    What a great — and characteristically strong — photo!
    My thoughts are with all of you.
    Much love,
    Mary (“Frakowitz”)

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I will never forget you Mary Fraker. What a surprise to find you back on my site. I’m glad you got to spend time and experience the best of my mom. Cheers!

      Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you, Annie. How wonderful that you appeared here on my site. Just finished a 2-month long kitchen construction so I’m ready to get back to the important thing in my life – food. Cheers!

      Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I’m going to work on that, Lynne. I know I’ve inherited the fist as I have to work hard to keep it under wraps. Thank you. You take care of yourself too.

      Reply
  4. Pam

    Good morning Robin, I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother and just want you to know I am thinking of you and her. it’ a lovely photo , and you look like her!

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank you, Pam. I just hope I can look like her if I’m lucky enough to reach my 90s. I think she was 90 or 91 when I took this photo. I already have more gray hair than she did.

      Reply

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