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Remembering Mom

Mom passed away last week Wednesday at the age of 88 years old.  But she had been dealing with Dementia for at least 5 years which had gotten progressively worse over the last 3 years.  It got to the point where she didn’t recognize me.  I’d tell her who I was and explain that I was her “number four” son.  She would nod her head but I could sense that it wasn’t registering.  We’d sit down and make small talk and she’d ask questions about where I’m living and how many children I have.  And I could see that she was trying hard to recall – but then she’d ask the same questions over again a few minutes later.  And if I didn’t continue to talk to her, she’d get nervous thinking that a stranger (me) was in her house.  And she would gently say that it’s getting late and suggest that maybe it’s time for me to start heading home.

 

It didn’t bother me because I knew it wasn’t her saying that.  It was that dammed disease.  And the last thing I wanted to do was to make my mom uncomfortable.

 

But now she is free of the disease.  And I can’t help but feel happy for her.  Now she can remember who I am and see what I’m doing from up above, so I have to behave or else…

 

Actually, mom wasn’t one to threaten or punish.  Wait, I take that back.  I remember how I used to get away with whatever I was doing that irritated mom and her empty threats that didn’t mean a thing.  That is until she whipped out the wooden mixing spoon from the kitchen drawer and slammed it down on the counter.  THAT’S when I knew that mom’s last button had been pushed.

 

I remember the time that the neighbor lady caught her nephew and me playing with matches.  She took me home and “ratted” me out to my mom.  Mom had a way with teaching me a lesson.  She explained that I should know why it’s bad to play with fire – because I could get burned.  So she proceeded to drag me in the kitchen, turn on the stove (which I don’t think she really did), and pull my hand towards the burner so I could feel what it’s like to get burned.  Needless to say, I was screaming “Noooo!” and pulling myself back with all my might while crying my head off.  She definitely taught me a lesson that day.  And I’m glad she didn’t tell dad.

 

Mom was one tough cookie.  I remember when people used to ask about our family and mom would reply that we have 4 boy, no girls – they would say to her “You poor thing!”.  But mom could handle.

 

Mom didn’t work while raising the 4 of us.  She was the taxi that took everyone to everywhere.  Mom did all the cooking and cleaning.  Although we did take turns setting the table, washing and putting away the dishes, emptying the rubbish, and doing the yard work.  But mom did everything else.

 

Mom’s day use to start off early in the morning – around 5:30 AM to be exact.  She had to make my dad’s sandwich for lunch as he would be heading out of the house before 6:00.  Then she would turn the radio on to listen to “Aku“, read the newspaper, and have her morning coffee – all at the same time.  Oh, and have her toast with Hawaiian Sun guava jelly.  Then at 7:00, it was time to wake us up, feed us breakfast, and get us to school.

 

Which reminds me… See, I never was a morning person.  When mom used to wake me up, I’d walk out to the parlor like a zombie and fall on the couch to lie down.  Mom would ask what I’d like for breakfast and I’d answer “I duuno”.  She would suggest “Cereal?” and I’d answer “No”.  Then she’d suggest “Eggs?” and I’d answer “No”.  She’d suggest “Toast, leftover dinner, pancakes?” and I’d answer “No, no, no”.  (What a spoiled brat, yeah?).  Then mom would gently say “Sorry boy-san, I can’t help you then.”

 

I’m so sorry mom!

 

I grew up in a typical oriental household where dad was the master of the house and mom was the slave.  Of course having only boys in the house, everyone wanted to be like dad.  But not me.  I rooted for the underdog.  I gravitated towards mom.  Not to become “mama’s boy” because my father would have none of that.  Mom had to treat us all equally.  But I just felt for her.  She worked so hard but it seemed to go so unnoticed.

 

Every night when it was time for me to go to sleep – and mom would be taking a well deserved nap on the bed – I always made it a point to walk to her room, kiss her on the cheek, and tell her “Good night”.  Except for those nights when she’d be ironing in my bedroom and listening to KZOO radio.  I’d lie down on my bed – and while breathing in that aroma of heated spray starch and listening to the iron make that “chuush, chuush” sound of the steam escaping – I’d fall asleep almost immediately.  I don’t ever remember hearing mom put away everything when she was done or tucking me in.  All I know is that the next thing it was morning and I was waking up.

 

As we got older, mom did start a career in real estate.  On Sundays, she spent her afternoons holding open houses.  One Sunday morning I ask my mom why she doesn’t go to church with us.  She said that going to church one day a week doesn’t make a person good.  She said that being good in your heart every day of the week is what makes you good.

 

When I was in my early twenties (living life in the fast lane) and only my mom and me were living at home, I asked my mom if she worries when I don’t come home (overnight).  She said “Of course I worry!  I just pray that you’re safe.”

 

I’m so sorry mom!

 

Mom was tough.  She was never one to show much emotion.  Or if she did, she hid it very well.  She put everyone’s needs before hers.  She didn’t care for flashy jewelry or fancy perfumes – although she did have a lot of clothes.  Hey!  That’s where I got it from!  That’s why I like to shop!  Because mom did!  Just kidding, mom.

 

But I digress.  Mom was even tempered.  No mood swings like excited yelling or depressed days.  Always stable and under control.  And when it came to talking, mom shot from the hip.  No beating around the bush or sugar coating.  She believed in telling it like it is.  And her reasoning always made sense.

 

That is how I remember mom.

27 Responses to “Remembering Mom”

  1. CMO says:

    Hi Rod–Thanks for sharing your remembrances of your mom during this precious time. It hit so close to “home” for so many of us.
    My mom’s 88th is this week, she has latter stage Alzheimer’s, I help to care for her on weekends to give my sister a break. It’s amazing that my mom can remember melodies and words to songs–she sings along to CD’s I play in the car. My mom was blessed with a clear and beautiful voice. I have recorded versions of “Sukiyaki” (including the one you posted by Japanese singers after the tsunami though she likes the original the most), she sings along to both versions. My mom also likes a Japanese version of “My Blue Heaven”, “Zip-a-De-Doo-Da”, “Somewhere over the Rainbow”. I have recordings of my mom singing some of her favorite songs with grandchildren and with her siblings. She’ll ask me “who’s singing?”, I tell her “it’s you”, then she’ll start singing along and tapping her hands in rhythm on her lap. It’s this special time in the car, singing along with my mom, when I feel closest to her now and she seems happy in the moment.
    As others have shared, it’s a moving tribute to your mom that you’re keeping the very best or her character and qualities — and during this fragile and precious time, your best is shining through in your posts. Thanks again for once again jogging precious memories — this time for our moms.

  2. Rodney says:

    @snow – Thank you. As much as I recall topics to write about on this blog – I will always remember my mom. She is so much a part of my life. I look forward to the day that I’ll meet up with her again.

    Happy 84th birthday to your mom!

  3. snow says:

    rod, you have a way with words. your tribute to your mom is so touching and heartfelt, your mom would be happy but schmall kine embarrassed. lol. i’m sure she knows how well you turned out and will continue to be… and she will always be alive in your memories and in your heart. deepest condolences to you and your family during this difficult time.

    this really hits home as my mom is celebrating her 84th birthday today and/but living with her has not always been easy between her being hard of hearing, hard head and having memory issues. i always try to tell myself to be more patient and to appreciate the moments i’ve been given but it is not the simplest thing to do. but, i am always grateful for the reminder. thanks, rod.

  4. Rodney says:

    I remember when it was just my mom and me living at home. Once in a while she’d tell me something like “Rod, when you finish your soda, make sure you rinse the cans out good.”
    And I’d reply “How you know was me?”.
    And she’d just look a me with an open mouth. I could almost see the thought bubble above her head thinking “ARE YOU SERIOUS?”.
    And she’d say “Who else could it be!?!”.

    I liked to keep her on her toes like that.

  5. Rodney says:

    @ct – So true. My mom rarely showed her emotions. But as you wrote – it’s her actions that showed her love for us.

    @kailua girl – You know what? When we start divvying up mom’s things, I’m going straight for that wooden spoon.

    @sally – I hope I continue to make her proud of me. I just have to think “wooden spoon”.

  6. sally says:

    Your mom is watching you now, and she is proud.

  7. kailua girl says:

    I love, love, love what you wrote in memory of your mom. Parts of it made me laugh and reminds me of my mom. So endearing! The wooden spoon trick is one that I would threaten MY kids with; we referred to it as the dah dah spoon. I bought a little round wooden spoon that I drew a sad face with tears on it. LOL, sometimes kept it in my purse to keep them in line. (They never got whacked, but the counter sure did!) Your mom sure did a great job raising you! I can’t believe she offered all those choices to you for breakfast – what a nice mommy! Yes, she’s up in heaven sitting on a puffy cloud, smiling down on you with love!

  8. ct says:

    Rodney,
    Thank you so much for sharing your life with your mom with all us MLCers. I am happy for you that you got to spend the time with her that you did. I guess with moms, it is the actions rather than the words that matters most, the everyday caring in cooking, laundry and taking care of your family. That is love in it’s purest form as you probably have learned now being on the other end now, what it takes to raise kids now … it’s not easy … to say the least.
    As I briefly mentioned in the past, my mom was strickened with mental illness at an early age, so I never really got to know her. And that’s what caused a lack of communication when she was finally diagnosed with ovarian cancer. And ultimately was taken from us at the age of 52 … that was almost 30 years ago. But through her taking care of us the best way that she could, we just understood that … that was her love for us.
    So Rodney, although the last few years were difficult, just cherish you mom’s life and be glad you got to know her. Take time to morn and remember her in your own way. Wishing you all the best. Take care.

  9. Rodney says:

    @jaydee – Your dad lives on in your heart…

    @Kage – Thank you. Moms are the greatest, aren’t they.

    @KAN – Special indeed. My mom was so low key. But to me, she was my hero.

    @Mark’75 – You know how they say that everything posted on the web is posted forever? In this case, I sure hope so!

    @M – Thanks M. So many memories of mom are flooding my mind right now.

    @Masako – I noticed too that my mom could remember things from way before. So I would often ask her questions of when she was small and enjoy listening to her share her memories.

    @Ynaku – You know… whenever I see a wooden mixing spoon, I immediately think of my mom. And now if I feel a whack, I’ll smile because I know she’s watching me.
    Condolences on the loss of your cousin.

    @lowtone123 – Yup, mom was the “go-to” person. Always reliable. Always available. Always willing to help.

    @dihudfan – Mom has left the physical world. But she lives on in the Spiritual world – to guide us in our everyday lives.

    @mitchkeys – Wow, that is a lot on your plate. I’m glad that as a musician, you have your music to take you away and give you a break. And please remember that your music also takes us away and gives us a break. And boy, do we every need that now…

    @Linda Kato – Thank you for your kind words of prayer and support. You’re right – our moms are in a better place now. And we can’t help but feel happy for them!

    @TwoFish – Hey, it’s never too late to start a blog! It doesn’t have to be public – but just a place to jot down your memories and daily thoughts. And maybe someday, a family member will stumble upon your blog and it’ll be like opening a treasure chest of memories.

    @volleymom2 – You’re so welcome.

    @Yoshi – Thank you for the touching comment. You are so right when you say “the greatest tribute we can do for them (our moms) would be to never take our wives for granted.”
    “Happy wife, Happy life” is whole lot better than “If mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”.

  10. Rodney says:

    @Rob Yamamoto – Thank you for sharing about your mom with us. I like what you wrote – that your mom had a look of serenity – when she joined your dad. You can’t help but feel happy for her. And for your dad too and they become one yet again. Thank you for your kind words, Rob.

  11. Rodney says:

    @Melissa Kamakawiwo’ole – Thank you for posting Melissa. I’m sorry to hear that you too lost your mom in the Spring. I guess we do have a lot in common. We worked together, we sang together, and now we’ll remember together. Thank you for the blessings.

  12. Yoshi says:

    Hey Rod, I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing those awesome memories. It’s no wonder that you have such a great heart – I think the credit goes to your mom. Knowing what our moms did for us, the greatest tribute we can do for them would be to never take our wives for granted. (maybe our kids would catch the hint – yeah right) Happy wife, Happy life.

  13. volleymom2 says:

    Thank your sharing those memories with us!

  14. Rob Yamamoto says:

    Rodney,
    I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to you and your family at your mom’s passing. My mom too had dementia and passed away 5 months ago at the age of 92. Her heart, spirit and mind broke when my dad died in 2010 and when she finally went to him, she had such a look of serenity on her face that I had not seen for so long.
    My sister and I took turns every other week 24/7 taking care of her, which was the most challenging and gratifying thing I have ever done in my life.
    Towards her final weeks, she would whisper to me that “I was her treasure” and in response I would tell her that if I could choose any mom in the world, I would choose her.
    I’m sure many of us feel the same way about their mom’s and I know that’s how you felt about yours.
    So, again my deepest expression of sympathy goes out to you, Paula and all of your family. Take special care…

    Rob

  15. TwoFish says:

    Remember to jot those memories down for the generations to come! Having the stories with the kolohe antics, the scoldings, spankings, the trying to get away with things is really funny when someone generations younger is reading about someone who they only knew as an older person. Don’t wait.

    There will be tears of sadness and joy and certainly enjoying reliving those times. It’s like visiting with an old friend or family member you haven’t seen in a long long time. It’s like a written time capsule – a gift to those yet to come. I wish I did that with my Dad and Mom. I have to tap into others for those stories, if they can remember.

  16. LINDA KATO says:

    Good morning MLCers ❗ Happy Monday ❗ 😀

    Have a great day ❗ 😀

    Rod, thanks for sharing your warm memories of your Mom. You spent as much time as you could while she was still here so take comfort in that knowledge. You were a good son. Your love for each other will remain in your hearts forever.

    My Mom passed away at 84 on 9/11/2009. I still think of her and miss her every day. But our Moms are in a better place now, in good health, happy and watching over us until we meet again.

    Take care, dear friend, prayers sent your way daily as you go through these difficult days ahead.

  17. mitchkeys says:

    Rod,
    Sounds like we had pretty much the same mom from different families. Though my mom is still alive and 85 years old, she is still the same, putting people ahead of her own needs. My dad has been in a care home for over a year now after suffering a debilitating stroke and we take her over and pick her up every day. He has dementia and I know the deep pain of your own parent not understanding who or where he is. Breaks my heart but you deal with it because there is no choice but to deal with it. This has been an extremely difficult year for us as well. My father in law has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and does not have long and that has also taken it’s toll. I just learned that last week the singer of the very first band I played with in high school passed away at the age of 56. There is so much loss around me and it gets me down at times but thankfully I have music to distract me and not think about such things…at least for a couple hours. Then it’s back to putting on the :”big boys pants” and become an adult with responsibilities again…..Oh well, that’s life and you do the best you can. My thoughts are with you and your family and appreciate the love you have for your mom. You were and are a good son.

  18. dihudfan says:

    thanks for sharing… your mom is at peace now… even if she’s not here physically, she will always be with you in everything that you do… deep in your heart forever! I miss my mom too!

  19. lowtone123 says:

    Thanks RL for sharing your memories of mom. My mom is in many ways like your mom (although we had no choices for breakfast except eat or no eat and go hungry). We were never late for an appointment because my mom is never late for anything and if I needed to remember something just tell mom, she never forgot anything (as far as I know). I hated to write anything down. Still do. I think the word processor, e-mail and texting was created just for me. Needed anything ironed? Mom. Needed a potluck dish for baseball? Mom. Lunch for field trip? Mom. Needed just about anything? Mom. I made sure I helped mom to show my appreciation by running errands for her and accompany her when she went grocery shopping.

  20. Ynaku says:

    Hi Rod,

    Thanks for sharing those memories about your mom. I’m sure we had our fond and not so fond memories of our childhood. 😉

    Just watchout, she still get dat spoon with her. So next time you do something Kolohe and feel a small whack but look around and no see anybody, that’s mom keeping you in line 😆

    My condolences to you and RBB

  21. Masako says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful tribute of your mom.

    My Grandmother is in the beginning stages of dementia. Reading your tribute has helped me to be more accepting of what’s happening and reminds me that I need to focus on the good times I had with her. I’ve been making it a point to spend as much time with her as I can while she can still remember some things. She says the funniest things sometimes and will bring up things that happened way back.

    Like you mentioned, she is now free of the disease. Take comfort in that. I’m keeping you and your family in my prayers.

  22. M says:

    Guud Morning MCLers!
    Great memories, thanks for sharing.

  23. Mark'75 says:

    @Rodney: Those memories are precious! And maybe a hardcopy of these vivid memories could be made to reflect upon 30 years from now.

  24. KAN says:

    Your mom sounds like one in a million. What a special lady.

  25. Kage says:

    This is a very nice tribute to your mom.

  26. Melissa Kamakawiwo'ole says:

    Dear Rodney, I am sorry to hear about the loss of your mom. It’s ironic that I’m reading your post today as it’s the second year anniversary of my mom’s passing. May God give you comfort and strength and may you feel wrapped in the warmth of memories and her love to sustain you through the grief. We are never ready to let go of our moms, but they will always be with us and we can sense that they are still with us and have never really left us. Take care and hope to see you soon.

  27. jaydee says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about your mom Rodney. It’s always hard to lose a loved one. My dad passed away several years ago and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him.

    My mom is showing similar signs of “forgetfullnes” as your mom did; she is 81. It makes me realize how short life truly is and how we need to spend time with our loved ones….

    Take care Rodney..

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