It is finally time to share about my Mimi.
She has been my adopted Grandma, my adopted Mom and also one of my very bestest friends; on any given day she had been any or all of them. We agreed about 17 years ago that it was time to drop the adopted label. Since then she would sometimes introduce me as her “kid.” Those who knew that her own two children had passed away would question her, thinking she was getting senile, and either one of us would reply that I was her “red haired step child”; which got us some of the strangest looks. (Probably because my hair is a very, very, dark red)
When I met her at the very tender age of 21, it was more like I was a 16 year old in a 21 year old’s body. I had a ton of growing up to do, had had horrible role models in my own parents while growing up; and then along came Mimi.
To hear Mimi tell it, I was a mouthy brat who needed her firm hand. Roughly translated, I was a street-wise city kid who had a chip on her shoulder that needed to be knocked off and some humility and gentleness learned in the process. So she called me on my bullshit. She talked to me about the way my words had an effect on people and gave me many lessons on how to treat people and how to be a better person.
I may not have always liked her advice or agreed with it at the time(many times I went home in tears) but I always listened to what she had to say.
The most important thing that Mimi taught me was the value of having someone give you unconditional love. I didn’t have many folks doling that out when I was growing up. (When I lived at home it was in a scary world of hyper judgmental and often cruel adults.)
Mimi taught me that being a truly loving mother, one that practices unconditional love, is the best way to raise a child. Did it make me a better mom myself? Yes, it did, as she was a far better example to follow than I was raised with. Mimi was tough on me when it was needed, yet, at the same time, I knew that her love for me was still there, that she was really helping me to grow even when it seemed that she was oh so angry with me. It was great to always be confident that she loved me no matter what, the type of love that a kid should feel from her mom. The best part of it was that I wasn’t her biological kid, just one she had adopted into her heart and loved as much as if she had given birth to me.
Even though I have always known that Mimi loved me, it was never clearer than on these occasions:
One was when my first husband was sent to jail (for a non-violent crime), my mommy dearest had moved to Florida with her latest boyfriend, and I was left with my baby girl and no job. It was Mimi who sat with me while I cried, and it was Mimi who talked me through all the decisions that I had to make. She also made sure that I had food to eat and that I knew her door was always open to me. It was then that she started calling me her kid and making me feel like I had “real” family nearby. Mimi even told her husband that she didn’t care what other people thought about what was going on with me, she was sticking with me, and I was welcome in their home.
The second one was many years later when my first marriage was over (for numerous reasons), and I was having a hard time dealing with all the decisions one has to deal with when getting a divorce and small children are involved. It was a very rough time for me and one where I often felt very alone.
One day it became too much for me, and I headed over to Mimi’s for some much needed advice and comfort. We were talking. I was sitting at her feet resting my head on her knees and I just couldn’t stop crying. Mimi told me to stand up, and then she pulled me down into her lap and held me until I couldn’t cry anymore. (I realize now that she really had to love me to do that as she stands about 5 foot and I am over 5 foot 10 inches, and if it wasn’t for the arms on her chair I would’ve about crushed her). She wiped away my tears, kissed my forehead and told me that she would always be there for me, and she always has been.
The third time was when I had just gotten engaged to sweet hubby. Mimi wasn’t sure she liked this man from New York. She really didn’t like his mom interfering in all our plans, or how she didn’t really seem to like me much, or how his little sister was always causing trouble, or how she thought it was too soon after getting out of a bad marriage (4 yrs) – we literally fought for days about it. Silly me, I even went over to her house so we could keep “discussing it”!! Yeah, I married him anyway and over the years she came to care for him and love him; though this was definitely one of those instances where “Mom” did still really love me best.
The last month of Mimi’s life I had spent just about as much time with her as I used to when we first met, back before kids, careers, spouses and just general nonsense got in the way. In fact, when they first called and said that she had hours to live I raced over to the nursing home to be with her, and I was staying till she died. She didn’t go that night, and she made me promise that I would be there and wouldn’t leave her alone. So I stayed from Monday afternoon till early Saturday morning, and I only left because she was strong enough to tell me to go home.
It was about a month after I had received the call that she was dying that I received a call from my cousin saying that if I wanted to tell Mimi good-bye I should head over there because she was near the end. I raced over to the nursing home and into her room, where I found her daughter-in-law and granddaughter sitting by her bed. They told me that Mimi didn’t have long and that they had been waiting for me before leaving her as she shouldn’t be alone at the end. They left and I sat in one on her bed and talked to her. Her breathing was getting slower and slower and I knew it wouldn’t be much longer. Out of the blue, sweet hubby appeared and bent to talk to Mimi. We went and sat in the two chairs in her room to wait. Well, we had barely sat down when Mimi gave a big sigh; that was it, her last breath. I looked over at her and said to sweet hubby that Mimi was gone. We both felt that she had waited for someone to come so that I wasn’t alone.
That night, the world lost one of the best people I know and oh, how I miss her!!
Love ya Mimi, forever and always!