My first Mother’s Day without my mom is coming up on Sunday, May 7th.  Friends ask if I miss her and how it will feel to celebrate without her.

Honestly, no, I won’t miss her. Long ago, I deeply missed the love and kindness that I needed so badly as a child. But I grew up and got over that. What do I miss today? Certainly not her endless criticism and nasty remarks about my lifestyle and my children. Nor do I miss the bitterness that showed up after her second martini every Mother’s Day.

As a mother myself, I can finally enjoy a celebration that isn’t hijacked by my mom. I don’t have to endure the pain of watching my mother ignore her autistic granddaughter, and I don’t have to tolerate her anger and resentment toward me and my husband for not allowing her to be the center of attention for the entire dinner. My husband and I are relieved of the search for and cost of taxis accessible to a 90+ year old on a holiday evening to and from the restaurant.

I can’t say I’ll miss the half dozen phone calls a day when she called for help (only on her terms, of course) or all the times she ignored—or pretended not to hear—my advice. For years I begged her to leave her overpriced East 65th Street bug and mouse infested apartment, but she adamantly refused. I won’t miss the many “conversations” that were mostly monologues consisting of complaints and problems. Nor will I miss my mother’s frustrated attempts to make me feel guilty.

For so many years, nothing I did was good enough. I bought her air conditioners, an electric heater, several down coats and groceries every two weeks. Sometimes my husband and I even brought over a bottle of vodka when she could no longer afford it.

But Mom was a natural at asking for more than I could deliver. Two weeks after I moved into my new apartment and two weeks before my own back surgery, I was nervous and preoccupied. The phone rang at 5 am (on Howard’s birthday!). Mom asked: would I please come to her apartment with her keys and help her up from the floor. She’d fallen and didn’t want EMS to break down her door as they had at other times when she fell.

I was half asleep, all my stuff was still in boxes because of our recent move, and I had no idea where I would find her keys.

“Mom, I’ll look for your keys, but even if I find them, I can’t lift you up. Remember, I’m having back surgery in two weeks.  I’ll come over but we still need to call 911…”

My mother hated that idea of calling 911, and she hated it even more that I didn’t stop EMS from taking her to the hospital. She even blamed me for the loss of one of her hearing aids!

Finally, I’d had enough. After years of rejecting all of my advice—like trying in vain to persuade her to use a walker, move to assisted living, and accept outside help—I finally wrote her a desperate “love” letter.

July 23rd, 2022

Dear Mom,

It has reached the point where you need to go into assisted living because you can’t take care of yourself.  Your living situation is so unhealthy and uncomfortable that nobody—including you—should be there or call it home.

It is unfair and toxic for you to expect me or anyone to visit and take care of you there.  Your “home” is unbearably hot with no fresh air. The place is filthy, with garbage and dirt on the floor and dirty dishes.  There is no chair or seat for anyone to sit down.  You can’t hear or communicate because you don’t have adequate hearing aids, and you can’t use a cell phone when your caption phone doesn’t work. You can’t call 911 because you need someone to teach you how to use a cell phone. You are so afraid of falling—which happens more frequently now—that you are unable to go outside. and refuse to use a walker.

I cannot and will not force you to go into assisted living because you are mentally competent, though amazingly stubborn. You say you are happy with the way you lived your life. You say you “tripped the light fantastic” with Dad instead of saving money and you’re not sorry. You turn away the nursing aides and other services that you are entitled to. If you continue to refuse this help, you will probably die alone in that apartment.

If you do decide to allow others to help you and move you to a clean room that has air conditioning and ventilation in summer and heat in the winter, I will visit you. Otherwise, we will be limited to phone calls, and we can only talk when your caption phone is functioning and your hearing aids work. I wish you could afford a better quality of life, but I can’t help you financially as much as you want because our daughter on the spectrum will always need our support, in addition to our own financial obligations to worry about.

I hope you decide to accept help.  Remember when you refused to go to Lenox Hill Hospital 10 years ago and waited until you were so sick that you almost died? I finally convinced you to go at the last minute, because I knew you would not survive. Waiting was not an option then and it isn’t now.

It’s up to you what happens next.



Mom nodded her head yes, but she refused to allow me to take the necessary actions with the social service agency that had attempted to help her in the past.

My mother died two weeks later. Not at home, as she strongly wished, but at Lenox Hill Hospital which she had so desperately wanted to avoid. Although she refused to make me her health care proxy and left no will (living or otherwise), I struggled to follow her wishes after her heart attack: no angioplasty, no tubes, nothing invasive. I just “let her be comfy.”

My mother died on her own terms. That was my gift to her.


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