Never ready for this.

Our family was on track to have a nice Christmas holiday this year.  Gifts were bought, wrapped and under the tree or sent in the mail.  My husband had another of his great menus planned.  There was a Contra dance on Christmas Eve that we were looking forward to going to.

I’ve also been looking forward to taking my mother on a cruise to Mexico in April; just she and I.   She went on her first cruise ever in Sept of ’06 with us.  I was teaching, as it was a knitting cruise to Alaska.

My husband spent much of his time on that cruise looking after Mom which she just LOVED as she thought him one of the most handsome, wonderful men she’s ever met.  She had the time of her life.   She enjoyed her favorite things; lots of live music, great food and feeding the slot machines every night after dinner.   I think she’s talked about it every day since then.

I was getting excited about  spending some too rare one-on-one time with her as well as going on a non-work related honest-to-God vacation.  The plan was to go by ourselves;  just ten days to hang out with my mom, do a little shopping, get massages and facials on board and live the good life.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

So a day or two before Christmas I called her to get some of her info to give the travel agent.   I needed her exact name as appears on her passport and some other info, which she gave me.  Then she went on about how excited she was that we’d be going and we started to wind each other up talking about how much fun it was going to be.   She said brightly, “I dream about it every night!” 

Then she said she was tired and wanted to take a nap, but that she’d call me back later that afternoon.

When the phone rang about two hours later, thinking it was her  I answered with my usual chirp when I knew she’d be calling.   It was not my mom, but instead my brother.   He was calling to tell me our mother had died in her bed about a half hour before.

My mom was my biggest fan, and so very proud of the person I’d become.  She’d tell anyone who would listen about my designing and being the mother of a special needs son.  Last May, when I brought her one of the first copies my book Knitting Lingerie Style and put it in her lap,  you’d have thought it was the Crown Jewels from the look on her face.  I was and am glad that she was so proud of me;  it was all I ever really wanted.

In her heyday (the 1940’s) she was a fashionista.  With their husbands away at war, she and three of her sisters  lived at home  but  held full time jobs as secretaries or hairdressers to help out their mother who was a widow.  However, much of their pay went to the assembly of some pretty darned impressive wardrobes.  All of them sewed well, and recut old men’s suits or coats to reflect the most stylish fashions of the day.  There were family photos of them  in one fabulous suit after another (no mean feat during wartime with all of it’s rationing) with gorgeous little bags and shoes, chic little hats, and furs flung over their shoulders on their way to church.  I am positive that seeing the photos and home movies of them was one of the biggest influences on my own design esthetic.

Below, my mom looking chic as can be on her way to church, with my brother and just hanging out in a casual pant outfit.


Mom in suit, 1946Mom, wide legged high, waisted pant and padded shoulders c. 1945?

My mother was the youngest of seven siblings and though her name was Angela, her family would use the diminutive “Angelina” to tease her, as would my father all through their 67 year marriage.  To say she disliked this would have been putting it mildly, and my dad would good naturedly taunt her with it just to get a rise out of her.

I continued the family tradition five years ago when I designed this garment inspired by a bedjacket pattern from the 40’s.  It reminded me so much of something she would have worn, I called it the Angelina Vintage jacket.sub1_82.jpg

I thought she would really be bugged that I named this garment Angelina and I did it just to tease her, but to my surprise she was delighted !  I ran it frequently in national knitting ads and she would excitedly thumb through the magazines at the grocery store just to find it.  If she did, it would make her day!

Later in our lives,  my mom became one of my best friends and I hers.  I still  reach for the phone a dozen times a day to call her, just to share a little snippet of something fun that I heard or did until I realize she won’t be there to answer.  I miss this terribly.  They say it gets easier with time, but at this moment I just don’t see how it can.

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23 Comments on “Never ready for this.”

  1. Carol Says:

    I guess it does get easier – but rest assured you will never forget your mother’s love and all the special times you’ve shared.

    My own mother has been gone for 11 years now, but I still want to reach for the phone to catch up on things. I sure wish there were a phone to the afterlife, since I’ve got lots of questions for her.

    How wonderful to have a mother as one of your best friends, and how heart-wrenching to lose that friend suddenly.

    Virtual hugs – Carol in Oregon (who met your mom on that wonderful knitting cruise to Alaska)

  2. Topaz Says:

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss.

  3. Barbara30 Says:

    Dear Joan,

    What sad news. My deepest sympathies to you and to your family.

    I hope it’s a comfort to you that your mother’s last day was spent in happy anticipatation of the holidays and of her upcoming cruise.

    God bless.

  4. Cari Says:

    So sorry to hear about your mother… I bet, though, that she’s looking down with pride on all your creative work. Best wishes and blessings in a difficult time.


  5. Lisa Says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Thank you for sharing her with us. Thank you for also sharing her passion of the SPCA with us. I will certainly be acquiring the pattern so that a contribution can be made on her behalf.

  6. Teri Says:

    I am very sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Charity Says:

    Big Hugs sweetie – from one of your other big fans. So sorry to hear of this. I cant imagine..
    Love to you and yours.

  8. Diana Says:

    Dear Joan,
    I am so sorry to read this.
    My condolences {{hugs}}
    Its very hard to lose a loved parent.

  9. gettingpurlywithit Says:

    Dear Joan,

    I am so sorry about your loss. I cannot even imagine how it feels to lose my mother.

    My deepest sympathies to your and your family.

  10. Melody Says:

    I am very sorry about your loss…I lost my mom 11 years ago this April, but I knew it was coming. The jacket is very beautiful and I think that your donating to her fave charity is a wonderful way to honor her life and her memory….God bless you

  11. Nora Says:

    Thank you for posting a link to this to the list. I’m sorry for your loss – though it sounds like she was not suffering? And your mother sounds like a very wonderful woman. And I’ve been admiring that jacket pattern for a long time…happy to help with a good cause.

  12. Cate Says:

    Joan, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. I still think of things to tell my own mom who passed away last April. Your mom sounded like a wonderful, fun lady.

  13. Doreen Says:

    I am so sorry about your Mom. But what a wonderful relationship / friendship you shared. I am sure that she will always be an inspiration for you. You all will be in my prayers.

  14. Mara Says:

    Joan, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. My heartfelt condolences. You paid a wonderful tribute to her and she must have been so proud of you. The best gift we can make our parents is to live happy, productive lives.

  15. renee Says:

    Yes time will wear the sharp edge away and the stone in the bottom of your heart will lighten,

    but knowing you were a source of joy and delight even up to her last hours on earth can bring you solace now for in this both mother and daughter were truly blessed.

    Wishing you all the best and holding you in my heart,

  16. Hana Says:

    I knew of your designs but just found your online site and blog. I am so very sorry for your loss. I work around aging, caregiving and hospice and have had the honor of being present with many families going through similar experiences. One thing I’ve seen, and have experienced myself, is that memories do make it easier as time goes on– you’ll find you have so much to treasure, so much to comfort you. I’ll be thinking of you. May your grief be made easier to bear by memories of your mother and by all that you share with loved ones still with you.

  17. Mary Kay Says:

    Joan, I am so sorry for the loss of your mom. It always hurts more if the memories are happy. Logical, but still painful. Keeping her memory alive by naming a pattern for her and honoring her name with a donation from the sale of your pattern that made her so proud is wonderful. May it lighten your heart to know people (like us knitters)care.

  18. Catherine Says:

    I just read of the loss of your mother. I send you my deepest sympathies. I just lost my mother in ’06 and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. Your mother was very lucky to have you for her daughter, she was also lucky to have taken a nap and gone to sleep in such a way where you know her last thoughts were probably of you and the cruise you had and the one you were to have together.

  19. Marianne Says:

    Just read this, and we talked about your mother in the workshop in Philadelphia last week. I know we thought about how proud she was of you and what pleasure she had in your work (and liked things you made for her!). God bless.

  20. Megalion Says:

    oh my gosh… I’ve just found your work and am loving your designs and trying to decide which to do first: Aimee Swing Coat, Anastasia stockings, the new Nanette, etc and then I came across this.

    It made me cry here at work. I’m so sorry that you had to lose her like that.

    I think its wonderful that you designed and named the Angelina for her and that you were donating a portion to the SPCA. I volunteer with a dog rescue here in southern california. For a while, I lived my life 24/7 there, even sleeping at the kennel among the dogs.

    No wonder I felt such a connection to your designs starting with the Aimee which is the first I laid eyes on.

  21. […] a distraction spree reading up and browsing my latest favorite knitwear designer when I came across this heartbreaking story in her blog. I had to fight to keep from sobbing into my keyboard. I know that the tears were in part because […]

  22. Kathleen Says:

    I just followed this link from your Ravelry post and wanted to tell you how wonderful your mother sounds, and how sad I am for you that you lost her. All the best.

  23. cantrix Says:

    A beautiful story, and such a beautiful pattern. Thank you for sharing.

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