Let me tell you about my mother: In 1976, my father was hospitalized with a heart problem. There were two other patients in his room. Shortly after their release, two of them died. My father sadly said he would be next.
My mother scolded him. She said it could be next week, or next month, or next year, or 20 years from now that he would be next, so quit worrying. In her down-to-earth way, she was trying to allay his fears.
He died a few months later. Then something unexpected happened: My mother blossomed. She displayed an independence I hadn’t seen before.
She took over the day-to-day operation of our family business, a service station, when gasoline pumps weren’t self-serve. She wasn’t a mechanic, so one of my cousins stepped in. But she pumped the gas and tended to customers and kept the financial records.
I, an only child, was starting out as a reporter at a newspaper about an hour’s drive away. I came home when I could to help out.
Fast forward to 2013: Because of growing dementia, my mother had spent 20 months in a geriatric care facility not far from that gas station, near Pittsburgh. On Sept. 4, my wife told me that I should call her to wish her a happy birthday. She would be 91.
I didn’t want to call, because I thought she’d likely be confused about who was on the line. But I called. She kept saying that she was going to get out of bed. That was pretty much it.
Two days later, my mother slipped away, as a nurse who was on duty put it. She had breakfast, went to her room, heard an aide read a birthday card, curled up, and died. Just like that.
A photo of my mother, Helen Bova, appears with this column. Before she became feeble of mind — she was strong of body and will pretty much right up to the end — she would visit me, my wife, and our two then-school-aged sons in Perrysburg.
She loved baseball. She joined us at Toledo Mud Hens games when the team played at Ned Skeldon Stadium. She even caught a souvenir baseball, autographed it, and gave it to her grandsons. She saw the Mud Hens when they moved to Fifth Third Field.
She joined us in volunteering at Fort Meigs State Memorial Park. At one event, she served breakfast and lunch to young people in fife and drum corps.
My mother was northwest Ohio’s one-person chamber of commerce in the Pittsburgh area. When I took her to an ophthalmologist, I mentioned to the receptionist that I lived in Ohio; the receptionist said she was from Perrysburg. My mother told her she should go to Fort Meigs because it had a new museum. My mother was quite insistent.
This is the third year I’ve written a column reflecting on the lives of those who don’t get their own obituaries. There’s a space for you to visualize an image of someone you lost in 2013, who maybe wasn’t written about but whose life touched yours and others’.
Two weeks after my mother’s funeral at the Catholic church she attended until she moved to the geriatric facility, the daughter of one of my cousins on my mother’s side got married there. The somberness of the ceremony two weeks before was replaced by a joyful celebration of two people embarking on the next chapter of their lives together.
My mother would have enjoyed that.
During a visit in her first month at the geriatric facility, I asked my mother whether she knew my name. She shot back: “Why, did you forget?”
That was my mom. Independent, with a touch of tartness, right up to the end.
Dennis Bova is a copy editor for The Blade’s Pages of Opinion.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org