Brave Sweet Sally

It looks like my mom, who made me bookish, is not going to regain consciousness. She was living in an assisted living facility for alzheimers patients with a yellow cockatoo that dances when you whistle, and we thought she’d be there for years.

She had lost all recollection, but she was still fun to be with. Every time I saw her we laughed and laughed.

It looks like we’ll be writing an obituary soon — I dearly hope I’m wrong but facts are facts — so I’ve been recollecting memories of what a wonderful person she was — the neighborhood circus she organized when we were little, abd the family Prize Day ceremonies we had every year.

These were meant to emphasize the importance of academic achievement and inspire us to new heights. The culmination was when she herself donned her special robes was about to step onto the stage to received her PhD at Brown University.

I’ll never forgesther inspiring words to me on that occasion: “Big waste of time and effort.”

I’m also recalling the songs and skits she invented for Skit Night in South Conway, New Hampshire, where we went in the summer when we were kids and where she and my dad later retired..

“It’s raining, it’s pouring, but I can keep on snoring.
I left my kids at Granny Thornes’ and I won’t pick them up ’til the morning,”

You would have to know Granny Thorne to get the joke, but take my word for it, it was funny and all the South Conway parents and kids in the audience got a good laugh.

Our family also remembers the canoe/float she designed for Venetian Night at the South Conway Club, with my cousin Chris as Cleopatra.

Whenever we visited her in New Hampshire, she always worked in a play at the Barnstormers in Tamworth or the North Conway Players. After all the outdoor recreation, she made sure we had something intellectual to chew on too.

She was a very, very good listener and very empathetic. Naturally I would say that since I’m her son, but there are a lot of people who can back me on this.

When she was getting her master’s degree at Boston College, one of the teaching assistants didn’t show up, so they asked her to become a fellow, and her fellow fellows were people from my generation for whom she was both a colleague and a mentor.

It was kind of automatic for her to think of others. She loved to shop, but it was for presents that other people might like.

That was my indomitable mom, who made me bookish. In the last year of her life I met Brave Sweet Sally who kept her love of humanity and her sense of humor while, as she put it, “The world went crazy.”

She knew she was losing her mind but she focused on love and laughter.

I know lots of people who are on reasonable terms with death, ready to accept it as the natural end of life. But the loss of our faculties at the end is a scary idea for all of us.

Brave Sweet Sally lost ’em all and walked right through the fire like Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego. She was still brave and sweet and she still loved a good laugh.

I don’t know if she heard me, but I told Sally I hope she comes back to us, in whatever shape she might be, but I really don’t think it’s going to happen.