By Mike Sandrolini COLUMNIST

Like you, I welcome 2021 and hope for better days ahead since COVID-19 brought challenges and hardships for many of us during 2020.

But as eager as I am to put 2020 in the rear-view mirror, New Year’s Day 2021 was sprinkled with sadness.

Every New Year’s Day morning, my Mom would call and wish me a happy new year. However, that tradition is now one for the ages. Mom passed away around two weeks before Christmas.

Jill Pertler has eloquently expressed on these pages over the past few weeks what it’s been like for her after losing her husband to an illness back in November. I’m sure there are more than a few of you reading the Lombardian right now who, like me, are grieving the loss of a loved one, so suffice to say, Jill’s columns have been a godsend.

A particular point she made stuck in my mind: Grief is a bevy of emotions. These emotions can surface at any time. One of those times for me occurred a few days before Christmas.

I happened to be picking out Christmas cards for family at Target near Yorktown one evening. My eyes scanned the rows and rows of cards—for husbands, wives, daughters, sons, grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers …

Then I noticed the rows of cards for moms.

Wearing a mask served an unexpected dual purpose that evening. It soaked up tears that had welled up after seeing all the cards for moms and realizing I would never be able to give Mom a Christmas card again.

Yet after a minute or two staring at the cards, I decided to buy a card for Mom after all. I wrote a note in it, and put the card under my Christmas tree at home.

What did the card say? Well, I’m going to keep that between me and Mom.

My lasting memory of Mom is this one: If she could help you in any way, she would do so—or find a way to help—without hesitation.

Anytime Mom and I talked on the phone, toward the end of our conversation, she would say to me, “If you need anything, let me know.”

“Nope … I don’t need anything, Mom.”

“For sure?”

“Yes.”

“I mean it,” she’d say.

“I know.”

Mom enjoyed getting together over the years with her girlfriends to go out for lunch or take an occasional road trip. One of her favorite places to dine at was Cabin Fever Bar & Grill on the north end of town where I grew up. The servers always knew what to bring her after she sat down: a glass of Merlot on the rocks.

But most of all, Mom loved her family and always looked forward to spending time with them on birthdays, graduations, holidays and other get-togethers. Countless times over the years, when I stopped by the house to visit, I remember pulling up in the driveway, and she would be standing at the front door with a smile to greet me.

Mom was personable and fun-loving. Speaking of fun times, I’ll never forget when we used to have dinner at Grandma Mary’s house (my paternal grandmother) on the weekends.

After eating, we all gathered around Grandma’s Zenith TV and watched “Murder She Wrote,” followed by Lawrence Welk. Joe Feeney, the program’s featured Irish tenor, was Grandma’s favorite singer. The kids thought otherwise, poking fun at Joe Feeney every chance we got.

Grandma didn’t appreciate it when we picked on Joe Feeney, but she was outnumbered 8 to 1. The grownups—Mom and Dad, my Uncle Lawrence and Aunt Angie—laughed along with the kids.

I like to think heaven has an old Zenith TV somewhere, so I’m sure Mom is up there with Grandma Mary, Uncle Lawrence and Aunt Angie—and no doubt, my Uncle Jim and Aunt Alma—watching Lawrence Welk.

And this past Christmas season, I imagine Mom and her family—Aunt Pat, Grandma Millie, Grandpa Harold and dear, old Nellie (Grandma’s aunt)—had a joyous reunion. I can see them now, all gathered around Grandma Millie, listening to her play the organ and sing Christmas carols with her angelic voice like she did so many Christmas days when I was a kid.

Jill led off one of her columns last month with a passage from Richard Bach, an American author who’s written several bestsellers, including “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.”

The passage resonated with me:

“Do not be dismayed at goodbyes. A goodbye must happen before you can meet again. And meeting again—whether it’s after days or lifetimes—is certain for those who are friends.”

Thank you, Mom, for being the best mom ever! Until we meet again.

 

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