Mom & Dad

Misty Park


Dear Wonderful You,

Have you noticed how some people seem to have these misty, soft-focus end-of-life experience with their parents? That’s not how it happened for me. To tell you the truth, both of them were giant pains in my ass.


My mom, with a brain tumor, had no business driving her Lexus Death Star in the middle of a polar vortex. She, of course, would not concede this fact, so while she was at the rehab center after her surgery, I took her keys – and her car batteries for good measure.


I confessed the day I picked her up to go home. I was loading her things onto a little cart to take out to my car and had to hold onto it when I told her I was keeping her car keys, my legs and hands were shaking so badly. She yelled at me, I cried and took her home. Once she was sure I had left, she dug out a secret set of keys, likely congratulating herself (again) for being way smarter than her daughter.


Of course her cars wouldn’t start, so she called to lecture me about my negligence in exercising them regularly while she was out of commission. Brian took the phone and I sat on the stairs eating my hands while he broke the news about the batteries, which he had hidden in our garage in case one of her friends decided to help her do a break-in.  We knew of a couple who might.


We fought near the end of her life like we had when I was a teenager, only the roles were reversed: she wanted to be allowed to take the car; I insisted on more supervision when she was home alone; she couldn’t believe how controlling and overprotective I was being; I said the way she was talking to me made it LESS likely I would acquiesce, not more.  It would have been funny if cancer hadn’t stolen her insight and fear hadn’t stolen mine.


Carol & Marta 1977


My dad, who had always been gregarious and considerate, became sullen, self-centered at the end of his life. He was embarrassingly rude to waiters and cashiers and claimed my time with neither acknowledgment nor apology:


“On the 24th, pick me up at 1:00,” he would say after the briefest of greetings over the phone. “I need to be at the clinic by 1:30.”

“Okay …you know the 24th is my birthday, right?”


“Okay. See you then.”


It was 23 minutes to his house in Apple Valley, then another 30 back up north to the clinic, another 20-30 of waiting to start the appointment, another 20-30 once we got in. Then I would go back out to the waiting room for two hours until he was done and drive him home in rush hour traffic. Sometimes I was able to run  to the grocery store or go home to check on my kids while I was waiting.


Those appointments were for stent replacements. Once he was diagnosed, in December of last year, he got a port and a more permanent stent and started chemo. He wouldn’t take pain relievers stronger than Tylenol, so in January,  he had a nerve block procedure to manage his pain. We accidentally entered the wrong building  and he walked 20 steps ahead of me all the way through the tunnel to the other one, never saying a word to me.


I could count on one hand the number of actual fights we had ever had until the year he died, but we were on opposite sides in the 2016 election. Our political discussions, which used to stop short of doing real damage, started hurting.  Once, while he was getting one of his chemo infusions, I (stupidly) asked him what he thought about Betsy DeVos being Secretary of Education. He was a public school educator and I wanted to hear what he thought about such a catastrophic appointment. It started out okay, but eventually he told me I should move to Canada or Europe with the rest of the snowflakes and I cried because he was being mean, he was dying, and I was ashamed I had started the conversation. The nurses attended to him without looking at either one of us. We worked it out, but I still get a stomachache, thinking about that day.


Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH


We hung out on the phone a lot. Sometimes our conversations were just like they used to be. We would talk for a couple of hours about raising kids in competitive, challenging Edina,  loneliness, how hard it is to believe that who you are is enough, how important it is to listen to God. I loved those conversations, but they became fewer and further between. More often, he gave me detailed accounts of what he was eating, his pain, how quickly he was losing weight.


I would do anything to have those two know-it-alls back.  I miss them all the time.


How are you? Do you feel like some giant drain has opened up and all the good is leaking out of the world? I hope that’s just me.


I’m glad we’re back in touch.

In love and solidarity,

14 thoughts on “Mom & Dad

  1. Hey Marta, I just read the post “Mom & Dad” — it was moving, I cried. I also read the one about your piece of writing that you submitted to publishers and it made me sad… I really look forward to seeing you next week… I love you, Kerry

    On Mon, Dec 11, 2017 at 12:09 PM, Gypsy Hausfrau wrote:

    > Marta Drew posted: ” Dear Wonderful You, Have you noticed how some > people seem to have these misty, soft-focus end-of-life experience with > their parents? That’s not how it happened for me. To tell you the truth, > both of them were giant pains in my ass. My ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “It would have been funny if cancer hadn’t stolen her insight and fear hadn’t stolen mine.”

    A beautiful gut-punch of a line to read; replace “dementia and COPD” with “cancer” and that is/was my experience with my mom during her final months as well.

    Nothing was beautiful or soft until the literal end; the 45 seconds before she was rolled out of the room where she died and I was able to kiss her cheek and squeeze her hand for one last time.

    The months leading up to those 45 seconds were exactly as you have written. She was a pain in my ass, I was a pain in her ass. She and I were both desperate to hold on to some semblance of our former selves, our relationship, but neither were equipped to handle or able to understand where the other was and where one of us ended as a mother, a daughter, and the other began. I equate it to being thrown into a dark ocean of pain, confusion, exhaustion, and breathlessly blowing bubbles to figure out what way we each were facing, which direction we needed to swim…

    Your writing is so palpable, so raw, so honest, and I am so in awe of your talent. Thank you for sharing, my dear, amazing friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Just diving back into this corner of your world, Marta, and I for one am more than happy as your reader to fill in for your recently retired therapist (I will be playing the roll of good listener and cheerleader; was that what she did?). It’s so rewarding to listen to you, I’ll even do it for free. As for this post: Our parents hold such a unique place in our hearts, don’t they. I can’t imagine the pain caused when that place is left empty, and the painful process of it happening—whether quietly or with a grimace and a tussle over car keys. It must just suck. (And that’s why I’m not an actual therapist, because I’d say things like “It sucks, man, it just really sucks.”) But you were there, and that matters. When you look back, you know you were there. And you are also a great mom to your kids. One day when we’re old and pissed about dying we’ll probably fight with our children over car batteries, too, and forget occasionally to tell them how thankful we are for their care. And that we still love them to the moon and back. And that sometimes they’re the only things that keep us from losing hope in humanity (with Satan in the White House, etc.)
    I’ll be thinking of you over the holidays, and hoping that your family brings you joy and happy distractions. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Marta! It’s Jim, I assume I play a starring role in your greenhouse story, but if some of the other larger than life (both figuratively and literally) characters overshadowed me, you may remember me as Julaine’s significant other. We have since moved beyond common law to actual certificate to hang on the wall married.

    I for one am feeling your pain. I lost both of my folks going on ten years now. My mom to dementia and my dad 8 months later to heart stuff, perhaps aggravated by the series of bad decisions he made once my mom was no longer able to “run the show”. I love and miss them. We had only minor end of life disagreements: the car and my dad, assisted living and my mom. It all worked out. They did their jobs, teaching me things right up until their dying days. We parted on good terms, and hopefully I can improve on what they showed me when my time comes. I REALLY learned a lot about my siblings during that time, but we are good now and I know what I know. I am glad all this happened long ago — now would be an especially bad time.

    The last year has hit me hard. I did not get a job I may or may not have liked, then the election went a different direction than I had hoped, then our cat “Stray” died out of the blue. That cat showed up 7 years ago and moved right in. He was the first “pet” I ever had that was not picked out. He chose to live here on his own and never left the property. He would be waiting by the garage for me to pull in at the end of the day. It was like we had a guy living in a building out back that we really liked and who really liked us. I would have liked to have known his story before we met and I would have liked for his story with us to still be going on.

    All this current stuff is bringing me down. Sometimes I wish I was like Stray cat. I find myself in an environment I am unhappy with so I strike out to find the place where I belong. He made our backyard his perfect world. My problem is I am learning enough to realize maybe this is not even my world at all. My people may be on another planet entirely! If only Daisy Hill delivered there I would hitch a ride!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jim, of COURSE I remember you and of COURSE you’re out of step with common people. You and Julaine are UNcommon … that’s why I liked you (and like you) so much. It’s hard for us otherworldly types to walk the earth, but of course the consolation is knowing we’re not alone (you’re not). Peace to you, my friend. I’m so happy you wrote back.


  5. Keep on writing, Marta. The real mom and dad were not the cancer victims they became. You were treasured, admired and enjoyed. They knew they were lucky until their luck turned and their ability to balance succumbed. Much ❤️

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  6. You somehow take huge emotions and break them down and make people understand even if they have never been there. Thanks for being brave enough to share your feelings, it helps us all. Much love, can’t wait to see you soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would never be brave enough to share anything if I didn’t have the world’s most supportive friends walking me through it all (that’s you). See you tomorrow, right? For book club?


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