Today is the 2nd anniversary of my Mother’s death.
Her funeral was on March 1 – 22 yrs to the day that my Dad died. Needless to say, this time of year has not been kind. I miss my mom like crazy, every single day. I almost never pick up the phone to call her and tell her something anymore… and then remember. She is on my mind daily for a hundred different reasons. Most of the time when I think about her these day it is with a smile – which is just what she would want.
Kay McGee was a force of nature, she was funny, she was loyal, she was a woman of faith, she was independent and loved her family and friends. She also could drive us crazy (as only a mother can)
Kathleen (Kay) was born on July 25, 1933 in Batavia, NY the youngest of Ed and Ida Marshall’s brood. She had 4 sisters and 1 brother, she loved her siblings deeply. She used to tell me that it was hell being the youngest (I am also the youngest)because you had to watch everyone go before you. She buried her brother and 2 of her sisters. Her closest sister, Terry outlived her but really had been lost to Alzheimers years earlier. That was particularly hard on her, Aunt Terry remembered Kay longer than almost anyone. She had a very hard time visiting when Terry couldn’t remember her anymore. She was there for her other 2 sisters when they were ill they passed, and then she was there for their children. Kay was a rock, she was tough and resilient, she had that knack of knowing how to be there but not overstepping.
After high school, her brother in law (a Doctor) suggested she look into a new field, Radiology. Kay went to nursing school for one year-which was the requirement and then on to radiology school. She was a Xray technician for over 30 years. When my older siblings were young, she worked part time. She and another tech each worked half a day to make a full shift – they were job sharing before such a thing was done! I was always proud of the fact that she worked. She would tell stories of her day at the dinner table. Pretty sure I was one of the only 2nd graders in my class to know the proper names for bones or what a Barium Enema was.
Anyone who knew Kay – knew that she had a wicked sense of humor. She had a 1000 watt smile, and laugh that was full of life. She loved to hear a good story and she was a great story teller. Sometimes we would hear the same story several times. She could generally turn a bad situation into great story and leave everyone laughing. Kay did not take herself or life too seriously. That is one the great gifts she handed down to us – the ability to find something to laugh about in nearly any situation. I have certainly needed to use that skill in my life.
She was serious about the important things. Her Catholic faith was very important to her. In that I am afraid we haven’t lived up to her expectations. Kay didn’t suffer fools and it was not difficult to know when you had fallen out of her good graces. If you made her mad – watch out! One stoney glance and you were in trouble. She didn’t accept excuses, just expected you to do what needed to be done. She didn’t look down on anyone and was willing to give anyone a chance…but it wasn’t a good idea to cross her!
Kay was independent. She and my dad were married for more that 30 years, she always had outside interests and friends. She adored my Dad and she enjoyed her friends and hobbies. She always told me that it was important to have independent interests. My parents had 4 children the first three, fairly close in age. I was born when my mom was 40 and my oldest brother had just left for college – can you even imagine?! They had college, high school and a newborn. My parents taught us what a marriage should look like. They didn’t always agree but they were always kind, they respected each and applauded each other’s strengths and supported the weaknesses. She wasn’t one to coddle us but we learned to become independent and to figure things out for ourselves. She and my Dad (for the most part) gave us the rope to make our own decisions and to learn to live with the consequences. Even if we made the wrong choice, we knew they were there to back us up.
Kay was brave. Shortly before my dad died unexpectedly they sold our family home and moved to a cottage in the woods. It was my dad’s dream house, he only got to live in it for a few months. It is a great neighborhood, with people who look out for each other – but I never thought she would stay. But stay she did and made Dad’s dream house her own. The first winter was so hard and we learned a whole lot about frozen pipes, we got through it and we loved it. This was another great gift. My husband and I bought the house next door and this is our place. We are raising our 3 boys here and it couldn’t be more a perfect place for boys to grow up. There are woods, water, trails and neighbors who look out for each other.
After my Dad’s death she mourned and really never stopped. However she also pulled herself together and made a new life for herself. Probably not what she envisioned but a pretty great life nonetheless . By now she had left x ray, she had a job at a 19th century living museum. She dressed in costume and taught visitors about the 1800’s. It was her place. She moved up and eventually moved behind a desk. She worked at her second career for 25yrs. She taught us that anything is possible, things change, and that sometimes things can be amazing after great sadness.
More that anything she loved her family, there is no doubt of that. Kay was the mother of 4, the grandmother of 9, and the great-grandmother of 5. She loved her family fiercely. My boys wore a path between our houses going to visit their “KK” . When my oldest was about 2 1/2 he was outside playing with cousins, he stumbled into a bees nest. Without a seconds thought she ran over grabbed him and got him in the house, she was stung almost as many times as he was. My boys are passionate hockey players, she would often be called upon to be their goalie. She was in her 70’s mind you, my husband gave her one of his old sticks and away they went. It still cracks me up to thing about. She almost never missed their games – I don’t think she really enjoyed sitting in a cold rink for hours but she knew how much they loved it and she loved them.
The last 3 months were hell for all of us. She was in good health and then suddenly she wasn’t she went to the ER for a TIA and things went from bizarre to worse. She ended up a hour away from us. It was without a doubt one of the most difficult times of my life. My sister and I live the closest and went through hell with her. Trying to balance the kid’s schedules, school, work, etc. My husband was a damn rock star during it. The weather was awful that winter and I hated the drive to that hospital. As hard as it was, it was also kind of wonderful and it was a privilege to be with her. It was also one hell of a shock the first time she deferred to me for medical questions. To be fair, I am an RN but she was my mom and reason tends to go out the window. It was the first time I had ever seen vulnerability in my mom. She was completely awake and alert until the end and we had lots of time to talk, no kids, no distractions, no bullshit.
I hate that she is gone but I love the life she lived. She wasn’t perfect, but she was ours and we are all better for having for known her. We love and miss you KK.