My Silver Lining

Thursday, November 22, is Thanksgiving in the U.S.  It is also the 30th anniversary of the surgery I had for what was then thought to be severe ulcerative colitis.  It was a difficult time for me, but one for which I will be thankful for on Thanksgiving and really every day.  Yes, I got my health back as a result of the surgery, but that wasn’t the best part.

The most important part, the silver lining, was that I got to know my Mom, and it started a close relationship that lasted for the rest of her life and that I will feel grateful for for the rest of mine.

Mom was the sweetest woman on the planet.  My friends adored her.  Our house was always open to hoards of kids.  We lived near the beach, and it was convenient for everybody to just hang at our house.  But it was more than that. For years dozens of teens used our house as their home away from home.  There was always room, always plenty to eat, always a welcome.  No one was ever turned away, and the answer to “can So-And-So stay the night” (or “the weekend” or in some cases “the summer”) was always “sure.”

But we weren’t close, Mom and I.  I was Daddy’s girl from the start.  Mom, well, I loved her.  I even liked her, mostly.  It’s just that there wasn’t a whole lot about Mom to make me respect her.  She was completely helpless, you see.  Hopelessly so.  I can’t stand that and never have been able to deal with dependent people.  And “helpless”?  That was Mom in a nutshell.

She didn’t drive.  She didn’t shop without Dad.  She didn’t go for a walk alone.  She didn’t try to take control of family problems and help figure out how to solve them.  She waited for my dad to get home to reprimand, make a decision, to blow her nose, or so it seemed.  She was utterly and totally dependent upon my Dad.  It was incredibly annoying to this girl growing up in the late sixties and seventies during one of the strongest pushes for equal rights for women.  My friends’ mothers were out protesting the Vietnam War.  Mine didn’t even vote.  They burned their bras; Mom ironed hers.  They voiced their opinions ever more loudly.  Mom looked to Dad to indicate which way was up.

After I left home and became more self-sufficient, my irritation at Mom’s inability to do anything without Dad’s help, grew.

So when Mom announced, just weeks before I was to have radical, difficult surgery, that she was going to come to help, well, I panicked.  She was going to help me?  Yeah right.  Her announcement sent me into apoplexy.  It was the worse possible news heaped on a whole ream of really shitty news.  Who the hell was going to help her?

I lived with my roommate, Keily, and my 120 lb. alcoholic German Shepherd, Goliath, in a tiny Washington, DC, townhouse, in a not terribly safe area.  I was sure that Mom would get mugged — she’d make an easy target.  I feared that she would let the dog out and they would both die.  I drove a battered and temperamental VW Bug with a stick shift that Mom didn’t know how to use.  And of course, I wasn’t going to be able to help her because I was going to be recovering from having my guts totally ripped open and reorganized.

I couldn’t believe she would do this to me.

At the same time I couldn’t hurt her feelings and tell her that I didn’t want her.  Nope.  I could never have done that.  Not if my life depended on it.  Which of course, it might.

But once she dropped that bomb, I stopped worrying about the surgery, about the recovery, about everything except how I would take care of my caretaker.  Thankfully, my brother Fred came to help too.  He could drive my car; he could help with Mom for the week he took off from work.  My roommate, Keily, was a star, too.  (That’s a whole different story.)  But Mom came for what was a very long recovery, 2-1/2 months, so felt like I’d be pretty much on my own in taking care of her.

It wasn’t long after she arrived before I realized that Mom without Dad was a different person.  Dad loved the caretaker role, and she was happy to let him play it.  Without Dad, Mom had opinions on stuff, could make decisions and could give savvy and sage advice.  I decided quickly that maybe she and I were related after all.

And as soon as we got to the hospital, I was incredibly glad she was there.  I was admitted and headed up to my room, sending Mom and Fred to get settled in their hotel.  It was about dinnertime, which didn’t matter to me; I’d been on a clear liquid diet for about a week.  And while I was starving, I knew I couldn’t eat.  I had my instructions from my doctor:

(1) Do not eat; (2) Continue taking your medicines just like you are now; (3) Show up to the hospital.  (Always pay attention to the details when your guts are on the line.)

Now Hopkins is one of the best hospitals in the country and it was also one of only two places in the country where the operation I was to have could be performed.  The surgery was brand, spankin’ new – just a smidge beyond experimental.  It was dangerous.  It was highly specialized.   My doctors were to take out my large intestine, rearrange what was left of my plumbing so that things worked normally, and close me up.  Two surgeries were involved – they had to give me a colostomy (ewwww – a bag) in between the two surgeries while my innards healed.  Only 100 of these surgeries had been done in the world.  I was my surgeon’s 7th.  I was scared shitless which is saying a whole lot for a girl with bowel trouble.

But when I got to the hospital, everything went wrong.  They tried to insist I eat; they tried to give me the wrong medicine; they forgot about me and left me hanging out in my room where I fell asleep for several hours before someone wondered who I was.  The grand finale came when two nurses wheeled in an EKG machine, hooked me up and turned it on – and the machine started smoking.   The nurses, trying valiantly not to laugh, had to quickly unplug it and get it out of there.


I called her at her hotel in a complete panic, hysterical.

“I am not going to have this surgery.  What kind of a hospital is this?  They can’t even get an EKG machine to work.  It was smoking Mom, SMOKING!!!!  I’m not.  I’m not. I’m not.”

How is it that Moms know just how to calm down the most hysterical daughter?  I was and she did.  And she didn’t need Dad one little bit.  Yup, she calmed me down, and then, I heard later, called the nurses’ desk and chewed them out royally.  I’m pretty sure that was the first time she’d ever chewed anyone out.  But she wasn’t going to let anybody or anything upset her daughter or get in the way of the surgery that her daughter desperately needed.  And whatever she said worked.  Nothing else got screwed up.  They paid attention to her daughter.

In fact, Helpless Mom became SuperMom.  She corralled doctors when they didn’t come in a timely manner, she sweet-talked most of the nurses and they seemed to come around more and more often as they laughed and joked with Mom.  She was on a first name basis with all the residents and interns, knew if they were married, where they were from.  They got a little bit of mothering whenever they came into the room, and she charmed the lot of them.

She was always full of laughter, encouragement and fun.  Except when her sixth sense told her that I was feeling sorry for myself; then she’d tell me to stop sniveling.  Sometimes I needed that.

Back at home, she was great too.  She found the grocery store and walked to and from, lugging bags of food.  She fed me and Keily, gave beer to the dog, helped me get upstairs and downstairs.  Helped me do many things that were totally disgusting.  She helped me be independent again.  We laughed our way through Christmas together and then my birthday in January.  We laughed for two months, barely coming up for air.  We talked a whole lot, too, about everything.  We became fast friends.

There is one incident though, that made me realize that I’d never really known her before.  Could this crazy woman really be my Mom?

We’d driven my VW to Baltimore for a pre-surgical checkup before the 2nd surgery, scheduled for the 9th of February.  It was late January, and there were several inches of snow on the ground.  On the way back home, the VW died in the center lane of a busy highway.  I managed to coast to the side of the road, where the bug sighed once and died.  Shit.  I was still not at my best, and the promise of a long snowy walk was not a pleasant one for either Mom or I.

But a blue Honda Civic two-door driven by a big burly guy pulled up along the roadside next to us.  He rolled down the window and asked if we needed a lift.  I was about to explain that my car had just died and would he please call a tow truck, when, well, Mom jumped into the back seat! I stood there with my mouth flapping. Because I could hear her voice from my childhood talking in the back of my head:



But there she was, the woman who taught me never, ever, to get into a car with a rapist — she was in the back seat of a stranger/potential rapist’s car.  WTF?????  What the hell was she doing?

I didn’t know what else to do, so I got into the front seat.  And there on the floor was something else that shocked me:  A  teddy bear with a green t-shirt that said “I’m Going To Steal Your Love.”

“Wonderful,” I thought, “a rapist with a sense of humor.”

As it turned out, the guy wasn’t a rapist — really!  He took us to a reputable garage where they agreed to tow and fix my damn car.

But the adventure wasn’t over yet — we still needed to get home.  The hotel across from the garage had a shuttle bus that went to BWI Airport.  From there, we were told, there was another shuttle bus that could get us back to DC.  It sounded perfect.

Perfect except for the fact that we had hardly any money left  The shuttle to DC only took cash.  No credit cards.  No beads.  No chickens.  Cash.  Shit.

We didn’t have enough for the fare, and couldn’t have come up with any more money.  But that didn’t stop Mom.

She walked up to the shuttle driver and chatted her up.

“Do you think you can let us both on for $16.50?”

“Sorry M’am, the adult fare is $10.”

“What’s the child’s fee?  I mean, after all, she’s my little girl.”

The driver let us both on, shaking her head and smiling at Mom.  Feeling like she’d done a good deed (she had).

Mom was there for my second operation, and then she headed home with Dad who had come up for it.  When he arrived, Mom didn’t just let Dad do everything as she always had before.  She showed him around — showed him her turf.  She had realized that she really liked feeling in charge, and doing things on her own, for herself and for me.

For the rest of Mom’s life, she and I had a whole different relationship.  I had always loved her, always liked her.  But her care for me, and her resourcefulness and sense of duty and just plain fun let me develop a respect for her I’d never had.

I’ve always felt lucky in a way to have had these health problems.  Because they gave me my Mom.  I would never have known her, never have laughed with her so very much.  I wouldn’t have heard the stories of her life, told with love and humor, the way she did everything.

So on Thanksgiving, I will raise a special toast to Mom, my SuperMom.

Could you say “no” to this woman?


Filed under Childhood Traumas, Driving, Family, Health and Medicine, Humor, Mom

110 responses to “My Silver Lining

  1. Okay, tears with this one as well. Wow. Who knew? That was an incredible story. I know as a parent myself, there are roles or behaviors my husband and I take on or share that sometimes our kids don’t understand. And the roles seem to just evolve and are what make the marriage work. I think those changes along with flexibility are actually what make a marriage last as well. For instance, if you love someone, you might find yourself sacrificing more than them sometimes, but your kids might see that as weakness. Not speaking specifically about your parents here, but more about me. Your mom sounded like a very wise woman in your story and she looks like it, too! Don’t quite know why you had an alcoholic dog, but I’m sure I’ll get a link on that one too…LOL


    • Well, I do offer a money back guarantee when I post links to my own posts …like this one, on Goliath, my alcoholic German shepherd. His alcoholism was NOT my fault!

      I agree with your comments on changing and flexibility in marriage — you can’t survive being married without a whole lot of compromise and role playing! I absolutely see it in my marriage — I would have eventually come around to appreciating my mother after being married for a while, I’m pretty sure!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly! I think that’s what it takes. So glad things worked out like they did between the two of you. Don’t think that will happen with my dad, but it’s okay because I’ve learned to accept things. I will read your other post as soon as I can! Anxious to hear about the dog!


  2. Such a treasure. I had ostomy surgery when I was 28 but I lost my bladder not my intestines.

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. It appears your mother really stepped up when the time came. Wonderful story, though I’m sorry you had a rough go of the pre-op stuff. But I AM glad the guy who gave you a ride wasn’t a serial killer…


    • The pre-op was terrifying. I nearly backed out of the whole thing.

      It really is a shame that in our world today, we have to worry about ripple hurting us when they just want to help!


  6. Addie

    This was wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to write and post it–you made my day.

    Your SuperMom has the best grin!! You can’t resist that face…

    When I was told I had cancer, I called my Mom. We’ve never been friends..she preferred her two sons. Still, I wanted my Mom. I was scared, worried, still had teens at home. I needed her.

    Her response? “Dont say the word cancer to me again! That’s a no-no word, and it makes me squeamish. I can’t come out there, a friend of mine needs me. Call me after surgery.” I didn’t hear from her again until she learned I was out of treatment.

    I envy you.


    • Oh dear. My heart goes out to you. There are times, even now 17 years after she passed that I still want my mom. And while I wished I knew it earlier, I am lucky that I got to know the stern stuff she was made of.

      But I would have shared her with you.



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  8. Kathy Robertson

    Hi Elyse – Roisin has posted this on her wall which was how I found you. I love the hope that you give, especially as your surgery was such a long time ago – have you had many problems since then? We are a year on from Roisins surgery and while the physical scars are beginning to heal my mental ones might take a bit longer. Thank goodness for daughters. x


    • Hi Kathy,

      I sent you an email in response to this comment. But I’ll be glad to talk with you about the intervening years. I am glad Roisin is healing, but sorry that your are getting there more slowly!


  9. Kathy

    Hey élysées. What a lovely from the heart piece of writing. You have a talent to engage your reader. I’m so glad you found your mum. She probably found herself during your lowest moment. Funny how life takes control. The story of the surgery and the hope that your recovery and full life gives is just the medicine I need. Lots of love to you from kathy robertson…roisins mum. X


    • Hi Kathy,
      Thank you for reading this post. It’s one of my favorites and it always makes me smile to read the post and remember Mom.

      I hope that Roisin has found her (?) Mom without medical intervention!

      How on earth did you find this piece, though?


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  11. hey just goes to show you can’t ever know your parents well enough, they’ll always surprise you, and keep a few quirks up their sleeves. i loved the funny anecdote about the lift with the stranger.


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  13. I almost didn’t read this post, but now I am sooo glad that I did! Because this is inspired writing that tells an inspiring story so well. And YOU are inspiring as well, Elyse. You’ve faced so much adversity in your life, and you’ve not only persevered, you’ve thrived, and you have a great sense of humor too! As well as a great deal of courage that I sincerely respect, and I am often in awe of your courage, especially at times like this, after reading your post here.

    My mother and I have also had a difficult relationship for many years, but for very different reasons. My Dad and I are so much alike that sometimes I think that I’m more like his clone than his son. He and I did have some “father as authority figure vs adolescent son” rebellion issues during my teens, but no more than normal, and those issues were resolved as soon as I stopped acting like an adolescent son who needed strong fatherly authority to stop me from being a totally clueless and immature idiot who thought I knew it all, when I knew nothing at all.

    But my Mom and I have always had very different and often conflicting personalities, and we still clash to this very day. On the positive side, my Mom began to rebel against being put in a subservient role to men long before the peak of the 1960s feminism movement. Like my Dad, she also found a way to put herself through college and she rose far above her family and social background of ignorance as a benefit of her higher education. She grew up in a very rural area, and within a family that considered racism to be normal and acceptable belief and behavior, but when she became a young adult, she totally rejected racism, and she taught her own children that racism is a terrible sin and a source of great evil in the world. She’s also always been an FDR New Deal Democrat, similar to my Dad in his political beliefs.

    And here’s where I stop talking about my Mom, because I should be commenting on your post about YOUR Mom… who is clearly a wonderful woman, and she was there for you when you needed her most, with all the love and capable skills of her maternal instincts rushing to your defense. I’m happy for you both that you and your Mom formed a new and permanent bond during that experience, and I love the photo you posted of her. Great post Elyse!

    Just one last thing… Will you ever write a post about your 120 lb alcoholic(?) German Shepherd, Goliath? Because now that’s a story I’d love to hear more about! Lol 🙂


    • Thanks for your nice comment, Chris. My mom’s transformation was pretty inspiring to me — it’s pretty neat to know a whole different side of someone that didn’t seem like it could possibly exist.

      Your mom sounds pretty cool, too. In the days of our parents it wasn’t easy to break free of those molds. That doesn’t mean you’ll always get along. (In fact, she might still be breaking them and hence the clashes.)

      A post about Goliath is in the works but it’s a tough one. I will only own up to the fact that the alcohol (his, that is) was for medicinal purposes only.


      • You deserve a ton of nice comments for this post Elyse, so here’s another one. I’m glad that you’ve been FP’d at least a couple times, because unlike many blog posts that get FP’d in a process that often seems like the most random and mindless of selection, your writing will always deserve it, and if it was up to me, this post would also get Freshly Pressed. I just read it all over again, only more slowly this time, and I’m even more impressed than I was yesterday. There’s so much that stands out in my mind, like what a horror show Hopkins was while you were there for a rare and dangerous surgery!

        But I’m still laughing about how when you needed a ride from the big burly male stranger, your Mom did the complete opposite of what she had always warned you against doing, and your priceless reaction to the teddy bear with a green t-shirt that said “I’m Going To Steal Your Love.” Lol! I think your Mom rapidly assessed what you really needed in that situation while using her intuition to decide that the big burly stranger was probably not a danger, and she made the right call, which is very impressive.

        It is cool to get to know a whole other side of someone that you previously were unaware of, and your Mom reminds me somewhat of my mother’s older sister, who genuinely loved being in the role of serving her husband and giving him all her emotional support to make him stronger, even if that meant being subservient to him in a lesser role. But… when she was not performing that role for the man in her life, my Aunt was one of the most capable women I’ve ever known, and on her own, she was far more capable than most men as far as being highly organized, efficient and effectively in control of whatever situation she needed to deal with. She was a classic example of her generation and old school all the way, but she did it so well.

        My Mom is somewhat similar to her older sister in ways, but my mother has always been a complicated collection of self contradictions and it would take me 5,000 words to adequately explain who she is, so obviously I won’t even try – at least not here. I love her and I have a great deal of respect for her, but she has been driving me crazy in one way or another, for most of my entire life. The two women that I married, one unsuccessfully after 6 yrs, and the other an ongoing 24 year long success story, are both absolutely nothing like my mother, and enough said.

        No need to post about Goliath, unless you really want to… My wife and I are both veteran dog owners and dog lovers, and we just recently lost our all time favorite dog, Bo. It may be a very long time before I can bring myself to write a post about him.

        Well, so much for me not writing those marathon comments, Elyse… Lol – But there’s always that exception to every rule, and I’m the kind of guy who will always find it. 😉


        • Next time I read that you aren’t going to leave long comments, I’m going to find this post and copy your comments in the box! Never again didn’t last very long, Chris.

          I do thank you for your comments — and you are the only one to have commented on that teddy bear, which Mom and I laughed and laughed about. I still can’t believe that the would-be rapist would have such a thing.

          (And in my younger days, traveling without Mom, I used to hitch hike. So I wasn’t terribly worried. It was the surprising fact that the woman who told me never to, did!)


          • Well then, Elyse… You give me no choice. Except to NEVER make one of those “Never again!” promises ever again! Lol 😀

            I’m surprised that no one else mentioned the teddy bear, cause you’ve got lots of followers and commenters with a finely tuned appreciation for humor, and that was very funny! Maybe since almost all of them are women, they feel that just the slightest mention of rape is too much of a taboo subject for any humor? Nah, I’m probably reading too much into what they think, but I still think it’s funny, just as you and your Mom did.

            When she was in her early 20s, my wife got pulled over for speeding somewhere in one of the deep southern states, in a very rural area, and the cop told her that she had to go with him to pay the fine in a motel. My wife was very scared of what this scenario could turn into at the time, but it all turned out to be legit, because the clerk of the court who collected the fine actually lived in a motel. Seriously. But years later, when Jean first told me this story, she couldn’t resist adding that she was really worried that she was about to “get a stiff penalty for speeding.” Lol – Which I guess is why she and I are such a good match. 🙂


  14. blogless wonder

    I love that mischievous gleam in your mom’s eyes! Please think about re-posting this story around Mother’s Day? It’s a wonderful piece of storytelling.


    • I’m so glad you liked the story, blogless. Isn’t that a great picture? Thank you for the idea to reblog this piece — I think I’m going to give myself a reminder to do that.

      You have the best blog name! Thanks for stopping by.


  15. So glad you had that time with your mother. Isn’t it interesting what brings us closer to those we love and especially when adversity is involved. As you read in my post, I’m about to move closer (geographically) to my parents than I’ve been in 26 years.

    Your post was lovely and heartfelt. Great pic of your mom!


    • Isn’t that a great picture? I’ve had it on my dresser for over 25 years — it was taken at my wedding.

      I envy you being back near your family. We’re near my husband’s and we are able to help his Mom more that we were able to help my parents as we were far away. Close is better.

      Good luck with the move, MJ. Going home is a good thing.


  16. A great story about a fantastic woman! Thanks for introducing us.


  17. Your mom sounds like she had it all figured out – how to keep her husband happy and take care of her babies. My mom didn’t drive either and of course doesn’t now and I didn’t get that about her. I can’t imagine not driving.

    But it sounds like your recovery provided the perfect bonding time for the two of you. I’m glad you had that chance to see her shine.


    • You’re right Renee it was the best way to get to know each other. She was way smarter than I ever thought. Even the driving — the world was better off when she didn’t because when she did, well, it was truly terrifying. Nobody died, thankfully, but I’m sure there were some shortened life-spans!

      It sounds like you figured out your mother without medical help!


  18. GOF

    Wonderful memories of your Mom…..reminds me of my own who always seemed to live in my Dad’s shadow, but when she was alone she became a completely different and confident person.


    • It is nice to think of her. And I think that we all modify ourselves based on who we are with in some way. I’m glad I got to see my mom as a competent person. Glad you got to see yours that way too. Of course it makes me wonder how I appear to my son!


  19. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving and are in the midst of a great Thanksgiving weekend!


  20. Michelle Gillies

    No, I don’t think I could say “no” to that woman. I often think we all become who we need to be when we are with others. When your Mom was with your Dad he needed her to be dependent. When you needed her to be … well … exactly like she turned out to be she stepped up and out did herself. She sounds like a pretty amazing woman and it’s a wonderful thing that she was your silver lining.
    Happy Thanksgiving.


    • You’re right, Michelle — we all play so many roles in our lives. I’ll always be glad that Mom got to play this one in mine.

      Hope you had a nice holiday!


  21. cooper

    It amazing that most of us in our teens and twenties think we have everything and everyone figured out. I’d say ur Mom did alright staying in the background while you flopped your way into adulthood. Never judge a book and all that.
    Happy Thanksgiving.


    • You’re absolutely right about how incredibly brilliant we all are in our teens and twenties. For his birthday one year I gave my Dad a framed picture of Mark Twain with this quote: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” It’s now hanging in my house (I periodically want to bean my son with it!)

      Mom did great, didn’t she.


  22. What a wonderful post – although now I am crying 🙂 Thanks for sharing it on such a special day – Happy Thanksgiving!


    • Thanks, Claire. I’d been trying to write it for a while, but it didn’t really gel until now, which of course, was lucky timing!

      Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving too!


  23. Great story and wonderfully written. What a great mom you have.


  24. Snoring Dog Studio

    I feel very close to weeping. Your mom! What an amazing, lovable, wonderful, strong and compassionate person. You are so very fortunate to have discovered that. We don’t seem to know our parents well, do we? Do we try to know them? I miss my mom!


    • You know, SDS, if I hadn’t been forced to by circumstances, I certainly wouldn’t have tried to get to know her — she was totally helpless — I HATED that. So yes, I am very lucky. Because she was exactly as pictured — loveable, a little bit of an imp, a woman with a terrific sense of humor and someone who saw a lot more than I ever thought possible. I miss her too.

      I bet your Mom was pretty terrific too.

      Happy Thanksgiving!


  25. As close as I am to my Mom now, there was a time that I just didn’t get her. Turns out, it was me. I was a knucklehead and she’d been in my corner all along.

    So glad you had the opportunity to really get to know your Mom – sh*tstorm and all, she rolled up her sleeves and got it done. Laughed out loud at this: “They burned their bras; Mom ironed hers.” -ha!

    Happy thanksgiving to you, Elyse


    • It must be something we all go through, like teething and puberty. But these days so many of us live separately far away from each other, so it’s hard to get back to the sort of relationships we should have. I’m glad you found your real mom, too. And Moms are always on our sides, but you can’t always tell. Dads too, but that’s another story for another day!

      Happy Thanksgiving!


  26. Your mum sounds like a very grounded women. Isn’t it amazing how someone’s behaviour can be so selfless for years without us knowing, until some event occurs to show them in a fresh light . Loved this post. I came across you via Lorna By the way. You made some comment about the Indians which chimed right on with my beliefs so I thought you where more than worth going to see and say hello to


    • Thanks for stopping by, Ducks. Lorna is one of my oldest blogging buddies — she makes me smile.

      And thanks for reading Mom’s and my story. She was pretty terrific and I’m glad I got to know that.

      I don’t know where you’re located, but Happy Thanksgiving if you’re “local”!


  27. What a great story. Mother/daughter relationships are complicated. How wonderful that you had the years together for your relationship to grow and evolve. Happy Thanksgiving!


    • Thanks, PW. You’re right, there are too many rivalries and issues often times between mothers and daughters. I was also the youngest and was Dad’s from the moment of conception I am pretty sure!

      Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


  28. A great story! My mom was similar – I didn’t have the trauma that you did, but it was more of a gradual realisation that my mom (when around my dad) was quite pliable, yet when on her own, showed her true colours. If you had to have the health problems, I’m glad you also found your “true” mom through them.
    So a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours – for whatever you me be thankful for.


    • Thanks, John. I think that many Moms have a core of this terrific-ness that goes untapped often times. Glad you found your Mom’s too.

      And I really always have understood that with all the nasty stuff, well, I got close to a seriously cool lady, and for that I’ll always be grateful!

      Happy Thanksgiving to you too, John.


  29. It’s not easy to make a story about bowel problems so sweet and touching, but you managed to pull it off, Elyse.


  30. Ah Elyse, what a wonderful story. Have you ever told her? I know we all fit some of ourselves to our partners, for our comfort and theirs. I suspect your mother fit hers to your fathers, what a wonderful love story also.

    I could have read more. Much more.


    • Thanks, Val. Yeah, Mom knew — we talked about it many times, although I don’t think she had any real inkling of how little I had respected her. But she did know how much I appreciated her, and how close we’d become. We spoke on the phone nearly every day after this time.

      And you’re right, we all do modify our behavior with our spouses and even our friends (particularly when we’re young). I think it is how we survive together sometimes. But as dependent upon my Dad as Mom was, he was just as much to her. He was so lost when she died, it was heartbreaking. And I understood it completely.

      Happy Thanksgiving, Val!


  31. This was a really beautiful story (and a great picture — no, I don’t think I could say no to her). But now I think you owe us all a post about that alcoholic dog.


    • Thanks, Laura, glad you liked it. I love that picture — it makes me smile. She looks like she’s up to mischief in it, doesn’t she?

      I’ll work on the post on Goliath. He had the best sense of humor of any dog I’ve had. And then there was his beer habit.

      Happy Thanksgiving!


  32. Running from Hell with El

    This is one of the most super stories I’ve read, and I would have kept on reading for another hour. It was that good. I love this story to pieces. Everything from the VW, to Hopkins (best hospital ever–but I’m from Baltimore, and surely not objective) to the alcoholic German Shepherd . . . oh how I loved this story!!!! Happy Thanksgiving, Elyse!!


    • Thanks El, I’m so glad you liked it. It was a long time coming, and I had to really whittle it down. So many nutty things happened with her. We laughed and laughed, and that’s what I remember.

      Hopkins was terrific, the first day notwithstanding. It’s where I go when I REALLY need a special specialist. [My surgeon’s name was Dr. Herbert Hoover — a friend told me to be very suspicious if he predicted a rapid recovery ….]

      I do need to do a post on my alcoholic dog. It wasn’t my fault — really!

      Happy Thanksgiving!


  33. Omigosh, I am holding back tears, Elyse. This is such a sweet tribute to your mom. So very heartfelt. I’m really happy for you that you got to experience that kind of relationship with your mom and gain that respect for her. I personally know how important that is.


    • I love hearing from folks who’ve been in the same place! Thanks, Janice. It is really important, and hard to find time these days. I was really lucky!


  34. You made me cry…I had an aha moment with my mom that changed our relationship in my early 30’s. I hated it at the time but am so grateful for it today. Thanks for sharing this – Happy Thanksgiving!


    • Oh, Lorri, glad you liked the story. I’m also glad you found your mom, too. I think it was easier to do when folks didn’t venture too far away. But as an adult I know I’d see Mom once a year, hardly enough time to really get reacquainted.

      Happy Thanksgiving!


  35. What a lovely, moving, funny tribute to your mom! I’m glad this anniversary is about joyful events as well as difficult, painful times.


    • Thanks Peg. Actually the difficult parts have mostly faded. I remember the whole recovery time as full of tears, but mostly because my mom was hilarious!

      Happy Thanksgiving.


  36. I loved every single word! Mom has a devilish grin in that photo, and I must say she wears it well. I’m glad you got to see her horns in action and enjoy her spark.


    • Isn’t that the best picture, Tops? It makes me smile every time I look at it — it was taken at my wedding. She was a little imp, and I too am glad I got to see her in what quickly became her element!

      Happy Thanksgiving!


  37. Clinton

    Yes, I cried too. I’m so jealous.


  38. I absolutely hate having to re-apply makeup…especially after crying… in order to look decent for going to work at the art gallery. But….I did. *snort*


  39. What a fantastic story and what a totally awesome Mom. How lucky you were to discover the other side of her. (And I’m so glad your surgeries worked out).


  40. Ruth

    The late sixties/early seventies, were a time of great anger against one’s parents. I always identified with my father, tried to be like him. (In the end, what was I thinking??) When I left home in ’69 and got caught up in feminism (well, I read feminist literature, at least), my anger turned towards my father for “oppressing” my mother and us girls. My mother, on the other hand, had “rules” for how to have a relatively reasonable marriage, and she was right in many respects. She was also screamingly funny, like my Dad. One thing she always told me (which irritated Rob to no end, when I conveyed the message to him), was that the “average man,” as she termed him, can’t get enough praise and compliments. “But you have to be careful,” she warned me, “because if you overdo it, they may get suspicious!” Brilliant and humorous advice for a happy enough marriage.
    I love your personal stories, Elyse. This is where, IMO, you really shine.


    • What great, hilarious advice! Perfect, I think. Men always balk at the truth, don’t they? (I’ll have to do a post on my favorite bit of truth/wisdom that sends John through the roof!) That said, I think that you got the praise/compliments/laugh-at-him ratio just right!

      Thanks for your kind words. And have a happy Geneva Thanksgiving!


  41. Fantastic story. Your mom was that strong all along…she just needed a reason to be it, and you just needed a reason to see it.


    • Thanks, Nancy. My Mom really was pretty neat — I’m just glad I got the opportunity to see it (although surely there might have been an easier way …) But I really think that most Moms are — they have so much juggling to do, between children and husbands and other family members.

      Happy Thanksgiving!


  42. Moe

    “ironed her bras”. Elyse, you know how to make a woman laugh out loud. Thanks for that! And what a tender lovely post. Have a fine gobble-gobble.


    • Thanks, Moe. It must have been difficult for our moms, straddling that divide as they had to. I did not inherit the ironing gene. I am in fact looking at the tablecloth for tomorrow and figuring that “wrinkling” will have to do!

      Have a wonderful holiday!


  43. This is a great, heart-warming story. Thank you for sharing it. Also, I think a post on the alcoholic German Shepard is in order. That sounds interesting.


    • Glad you liked it, TwinDaddy. Hope you have a really great, Happy Thanksgiving.

      And, yeah, I really should do a post on Goliath. He was quite a character!


  44. I wanted to keep on reading about your mom. Loved every word of this post. Isn’t is funny how certain stressful times of our lives can bring about the most amazing revelations? Getting to know your mom all over again is priceless. I have a feeling you have a lot of her in you.


    • Whenever the good parts of my personality come out, I hope I’m like my mom. My dad, who was an amazing man, had a dark wit that I absolutely got.

      Thanks for reading my story, Darla. I’m glad I finally told it — I’ve been waiting for this time for a long time and had 457 drafts of this post!


  45. Such a delightful story. I mean, I’m sorry to hear that you had such traumatic health troubles (my sister and her daughter had the same problem, so I know the pain of which you speak from an loving observer’s view)) and an alcoholic dog, but the way your mom came through was just so heart-warming. A lot got healed during that time in your life. Just wonderful and thanks for sharing!


  46. Great tribute, … and well done finally figuring out the person behind the Mom title. … and glad I, the imperial leader of a nation, was the first to Like your third honor.


  47. bigsheepcommunications

    Love this – totally fascinating!


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