Busy Day

My mom’s visitation would be an entire day-long event. She had a lot of friends and was very involved in the community so the largest room at the funeral home was secured. I put on my new blue dress, small dangly earrings that were like a little gold cage with fake pearls inside, minimal make-up, and somehow arrived at the funeral home with my family.

Before things began, we were ushered to a small room. The room felt crowded. I wanted it to just be my siblings, my dad, and I. But, my mom’s brother, his family, and my mom’s parents were with us. I didn’t like that. I wanted it to just be us.

The casket would be closed, but we were asked if we wanted to see my mom before. I quickly said an emphatic, “No.” I was the only one who dissented.

Someone, I think on the staff of the funeral home, told either me or my dad, that it would be good for me to see, to know that it’s all real.

Could they see that I was totally out of my body and possibly not breathing?

I felt a definite pressure to participate in this viewing of my dead mom’s body. As much as I did NOT want to enter that room, I am absolutely glad that I did. I was already fantasizing that she was alive and simply in the witness protection program.

Since she died, just two days prior, I felt totally and completely detached from myself. I hadn’t been to visit her, didn’t have a cherished ‘last memory’, and my guilt was growing—literally multiplying by the moment.

Well, if I felt out of my own body since the time of her death, walking into that room, stifled by too many people, slammed me right back into it.

She looked horrible, emaciated, so very sick. We chose the navy dress she wore for my brother’s graduation for her to be cremated in. She loved that dress and now her ravaged body was lost in the fabric.

I didn’t want to see her because I didn’t want it to be real.

But, it was real. Too real. At 47 years old, my vivacious, bawdy, Muppet-loving, the life of the party mom was gone. No life left.

After a brief time, we left the room. The casket was closed.

Time to greet the masses.

My mom’s friend Maria, a local florist she often worked with, created a blanket of flowers to be draped over her casket in the shape of a pig. I don’t know why, but my mom loved pigs and had been collecting them for years. Miss Piggy was her ultimate favorite.

This blanket of flowers, beautifully and creatively shaped as a pig, would have made her so happy. I remember being so touched by the gesture of her friend.

The day was long and the line of mourners never seemed to end. A couple of my friends, Tammy and Allison, stayed the entire day. When Tammy’s family came, her mom held me tight and cried with me. Their family gave me so much stability and love in the prior years that I’m not sure they will ever truly know how powerful that was. Just simply providing a space for me to dwell was profoundly impactful.

The Dude wasn’t there but all of his friends came and told me he would want them there. High school boys, stepping up and stepping in. It is so crazy to think at that time there was no way to communicate with a boyfriend on his family vacation. I sure hoped he would read my letter right when he got home so he could know what had happened.

More and more of my friends came. I was touched and felt every single hug and act of kindness.

I remember when my friend Moff came. I broke family ranks and walked straight back to the entrance to the room, stifling my sobs as I went. I was so sad, broken really, that the prayers we prayed in five European countries earlier that summer hadn’t worked.

I never actually lost my faith in God though. I was angry and confused but knew God was there. Even if I didn’t always feel it.

At the end of the day, my siblings walked up to me as I sat on a couch with Tammy and Allison. They were holding the sign-in/guest book and asked me if I knew how many of my friends came throughout the day.

“A lot” I answered.

“Over 85! How is that possible if we weren’t supposed to tell people?”

“What? Do you mean you really never told anyone?”

I couldn’t hide my shock and confusion.

At the very end of the time at the funeral home, our old neighbor from Lenox St. looked at me with sadness and said, “Today was rough honey, but tomorrow is going to be so much worse.”

But I still needed to get through that night.

A favorite ornament of my moms and it hangs on my tree every year.
This sweet pig stood at the front door of the house I grew up in. It has stood watch over my homes for decades now.

Holding On

I found several photos with my mom and me, her arms holding on to me tightly.

Going to the nursing home daily was wearing on me and was so depressing, My mom didn’t know who I was and she mostly slept. Only patchy tufts of her hair remained. She was gaunt, emaciated. So, I stopped going every day.

Early in the month, in the middle of the night, the phone rang. It woke me up. I remember my bed was in front of the windows at the far end of my room, facing my bedroom door. After a few rings, I heard my dad answer it downstairs, I heard muffled words and within a few minutes, he was out the front door and driving away.

I rolled over, parted my green window blinds, and watched him go. I knew it wasn’t good and I was scared. I hadn’t seen my mom in a couple of days. My heart was pounding in my chest and I wanted to pray. But what should I pray for? I was blank.

Time passed. I can’t recall how much. I heard the car return. Within moments my dad came into my room and sat on the side of my bed. He told me my mom had died and then he collapsed forward in sobs. I was crying. I was trying to comfort my dad.

I was sad. I was scared. I felt like the parent giving comfort. I felt nauseous. After some time, my dad left, presumably to make phone calls.

I don’t remember if I fell asleep. I do remember coming downstairs later in the morning. My aunt and uncle were at the kitchen table. I think more people were there but I remember making eye contact with my aunt. Everyone was crying. Arrangements were being made.

At some point in the afternoon, my friend Fred came over. He was leaving the next day to go to his family’s farm with his dad. He wanted to see me because he would miss the funeral. It was so kind.

I remember my aunts commenting on how handsome he was. “No ladies, this isn’t my boyfriend.” Everyone thought he was so wonderful for coming. He was. Looking back, I can see how many incredible friends I had in my life and what a blessing each of them was to me.

The Dude was on a family vacation. In 1988, that meant I couldn’t reach him until he came back in town. So, I wrote him a letter that he could read when he got home, letting him know my mom died. It was a surreal letter to write and I was glad for some way to communicate with him. He wouldn’t be back from vacation until after her funeral.

My mom died on August 3. The visitation would be on August 5, my sister’s birthday, and the funeral on August 6. I was told I didn’t have anything appropriate to wear. On the 4th I went shopping with my brother, sister, and brother-in-law.

For the visitation, I bought a soft, blue, cotton, short-sleeved dress with a mock turtleneck, wide, black patent-leather belt, and of course, shoulder pads. I got a royal blue, silk, long-sleeved top with little black triangles on it to wear to the funeral with a black pencil skirt that fell below the knee. I was told my mom hated the black skirt I wore to my brother’s graduation so that was out. I actually never wore it again and man, I loved that skirt.

How I wished I could reverse roles and hold on tightly to my mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Life of the Party

One summer day in July, that sweet, new boyfriend of mine went with me to visit my mom in the hospital. Due to cancer now invading her brain, we never knew what a visit would be like. She hadn’t been making a lot of sense in conversations.

Bless my mom though, and honestly bless The Dude, because soon after we arrived, I explained to her that this was The Dude, my boyfriend. She looked him right in the eye and asked him if he was going to marry me.

My dad, aunt, and my mom. Disney World, March of 1976. Such a fun trip filled with wonderful memories and so many laughs.

Oh boy! Thank God for his sense of humor and his kindness. He laughed nervously while I explained that no, we were much too young to get married, he was going to be a high school senior and I would be off to college in the fall. I’m not sure she ever understood, but it felt so good to me to bring this first boyfriend of mine to meet my mom, regardless of the circumstances.

Near the middle of the month, it was determined my mom was no longer able to stay in the hospital. Her cancer was too advanced and there was nothing more they could do for her. At that time, the choices presented were that she could go home, or to a nursing home. Apparently, she determined earlier in her illness that she didn’t want to go home.

The absolute life of the party. Always.

She didn’t want to die at home and have that be a memory for her family. There was a room at a local hospital’s nursing home that was attached to the hospital. That felt like the best choice.

The good news was that it was now about ten minutes from our house. The bad news was that my 47-year-old, once vivacious, life of the party, mom was being moved to a nursing home to live out the remainder of her life.

I was in an absolute fog of terror. How had this come about? Could we tell my grandparents that their daughter had cancer yet? My dad seemed to spend every waking moment at the hospital with my mom.

I felt truly on my own and continued to fill my days with work, friends, and time with The Dude.

The day she was moved by ambulance from the hospital in Chicago to the nursing home in Oak Park, will be a day that I will absolutely never forget. On the day of the transfer, there was a mix-up with medications and none were given.

As my mom lay moaning in agonizing pain, my dad, sister, and I sat on chairs at the edge of the bed in silent horror. No one seemed to know what to do.

At one point, I stormed off to the nurse’s station to demand someone help my mother in some way. I returned to the room and sat down, full of anguish and helplessness.

At this moment, my mom turned her head to an empty chair, right next to her bed, and started to speak. This was incredible because she hadn’t spoken coherently in a while.

She calmly spoke to Jesus, who was quite obviously in the chair next to her, and told Him she was ready to go, please take her with Him. She spoke quietly, and clearly, to Jesus until the nurse came sprinting in with pain medication several minutes later.

I would remember that moment as the exact time I literally felt the presence of God and started to understand how the Holy Spirit worked.

 

Graduation Party

At one point that summer, my family had a graduation party for me. My mom threw big grad parties for my older siblings. My sister’s party even had a live band in the garage. It was a big bash with family, friends, music, and food.

My mom was an incredible hostess and pulled out all of the stops whenever she could. People loved her parties and looked forward to them. My brother didn’t want a band, but his party was as big, full of his baseball crew, neighbors, family, and friends.

My party would be smaller. It was just assumed I would understand and be okay with it. I also shared the spotlight with my brother’s college graduation, and my brother-in-law’s grad school graduation.

Our semi-pro cameraman working hard to bring a smile to my mom.

My mom was in the hospital. As a result, my Uncle Ron videotaped the entire party for her to watch when she came home. Uncle Ron loved his video camera that rested on his shoulder and I could tell he enjoyed walking around the party filming for her to see. We were all upbeat and show how much fun we were having so she could be part of it.

Part of the party crew, sincerely trying hard to make it a special day.

My teenaged-self resented that the party ended up not being for me at all. I loved my mom and I was devastated that she wasn’t able to plan my party, shop for it, cook, and be her amazing hostess-self.

But I put on my happy face and literally smiled for the camera. She would never see the videotape of the party. I still have it in a box in my basement. Watching it was one of the saddest memories I have. In the video, I could actually feel the desperation of joy we were all trying to impart on my hospitalized mom. It was as if we felt we could will her to improve and have some happiness.

The ever-important alarm clock for impending college life. (Note the fabulous Multiples pants.)

My extended family and some good family friends came to the party and gifted me with wonderful items to help me prepare for college in the fall. It was absolutely not the same without my mom, the life of the party, there to share it with.

The Dude wasn’t able to come to the party because it was smaller and family-focused. The week after, he called and said he could only stop by for a few minutes but wanted to bring me a gift for my graduation. Be still my heart. I had a real, live boyfriend, and he bought me a gift?

I waited in the front window, watching for his car. When he pulled up, I ever-so-casually ran out to see him. He pulled up in front of our house, on the wrong side of the street (what a badass), and rolled down the passenger side window to hand me the gift. It was a cassette tape—Peter Gabriel’s So album. With a dazzling smile, he told me to listen to In Your Eyes because it was now our song. Then he drove off and I about fainted on my lawn.

I began ripping the plastic covering off of this coveted cassette and headed straight for the boom box in my room. I held fast forward through every song until I got to In Your Eyes and then… well, the grin stayed plastered on my face for a very long time. What a summer this was shaping up to be.

 

The Best Summer of My Life?

We literally danced in the streets every chance we got.

While I was on my choir trip in Europe, The Dude was on a similar school trip and we were actually in some of the same cities at different times. I thought that was so romantic and appropriately pined for him when I wasn’t singing or dancing in the streets in every city we visited.

As the summer progressed, The Dude and I continued to spend time together, driving around aimlessly, hanging out at friend’s houses and talking endlessly on the phone. He was a great listener and genuinely showed care and concern for the things I was experiencing at home.

I continued to work at the video store and had a lot more freedom than any summer of my life. I didn’t have a single activity and that was strange to me. I really liked being busy.

Little Mod on the softball field.

In past summers, I was usually part of the summer high school musical, dance classes, or had cheer or drill team practice or camp. I joined my first softball team in second grade and through the Noon Optimist Club (the friend of youth!) and our local park district, I think I was on a team of some sort non-stop until this summer of 1988.

There were two incredible summers, early in my high school years, when I was able to travel to a remote island in Canada with my high school church youth group, Luther League. Those trips were before I knew of my mom’s illness. Our days were filled with canoeing, swimming, blueberry picking, card playing, worship time, and so very many laughs.

The dock and cabin at ‘Ernie’s Island’.

In my later high school years, when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and I felt like I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone at church, I know for a fact that I distanced myself from that group of friends. That was a definite regret.

Having new time on my hands was a different experience for me. I filled it with visits to the hospital, time with my friends, work, and as much time with The Dude as possible.

Taste of Chicago was my favorite summer event in Chicago. Lots of food vendors would fill Grant Park and offer a sample of their menus. It was an affordable way to try new foods and enjoy the beauty of Grant Park and the lakeshore.

The Dude and I planned to attend one night with another ‘couple’ from our little friend group. We weren’t yet officially dating, but we also weren’t talking to anyone else. This felt like an important night.

We parked in an alley near the house of our friend’s adult brother, within walking distance to the park, and set off for a fun night. It was still light out, the air was warm but not overly humid, and I was so excited for this night out with The Dude who-wasn’t-my-boyfriend-but-maybe-would-be.

As we walked, our friend said, “You guys are going out, right?” The Dude looked at me, smiled, grabbed my hand, and said, “Yeah, we’re going out.”

I may have passed out right there in the alley. I HAD AN ACTUAL BOYFRIEND! He was funny, kind, cute, and he didn’t drown my face when we made out… This was shaping up to be the best summer of my life.

Well, except for the fact that my mom appeared to be dying from cancer.

Mod Goes to Europe!

In June, my high school A Capella choir was set to tour five countries in Europe. It was something that I deeply looked forward to. This was an auditioned group and the highest choir at my large high school, consisting of only juniors and seniors. I made the choir my junior year and honestly, that choir room provided some of the best comfort and relief to me throughout my high school days.

I could enter that room and get lost in the most beautiful music. We were led by the kindest, most talented director. I think what I loved the most was the ability to blend in and join the group effort of creating incredible art. I could be lost for that 42-minute period of my day. The sense of belonging was strong and it was earned.

My dad always wanted one of his kids to go on this trip of a lifetime. As the youngest, I was his last chance. I actually joined the choir in junior high, with the specific intent to go on this European tour that happened every other year. I had always enjoyed being in choir and was so excited about this trip.

I was also very torn about leaving town. My mom was so sick, and at this point, my dad depended on me to do a lot of things at home. As I prepared to go, The Dude and I were spending more and more time together, and I was really sad to leave him and our burgeoning relationship.

My dad pulled me aside one day before the trip and told me that without a doubt, I was going to go and I was going to enjoy myself. He told me that I was not allowed to call home… not one single time. He wanted me to be focused on the trip and to have fun, which was very thoughtful but would prove extremely hard to do.

I boarded the plane with some of my closest friends for two weeks of travel, adventure, memories, and music. Even though my dad wanted me to leave and just immerse myself in the experience, my fears and sadness ended up coming along anyway.

One of my best friends, Kirstin, was my roommate for the trip and, oh my gosh, we really had so much fun. Dina and Michelle were also really close friends who knew everything that was going on in my life, and we could not have had more fun spending time together, wandering the streets of Europe, performing in amazingly beautiful churches and cathedrals.

There were other great friends who were super supportive. Moff was one of my best friends in high school and he initiated praying with me in every church that we visited. We would pray for my mom and other friends, from other faiths, would join us including Chuck, Michelle, Jill, Dina, Kirstin, and Dave. It was really incredible and powerful and just such a beautiful thing that we were able to experience together.

It is hard to describe the peace that this brought me. But, I’ll try. My mind would be absolutely full to the brim with worries and fears. When my friends would gather with me, intentionally focusing their energy on mine, it was as if a calm would literally wash over my soul from head to toe. Even if we chose to sit and pray in silence, the space I was in would shift, and I would draw from a new sense of determination and strength.

I never did call home. In the time we were gone, most of my friends phoned home at least once, most twice. I succinctly remember watching friends on payphones throughout the five countries, sharing their experiences, and laughing with their parents and siblings. Everybody was getting news of things at home and I simply did not. That was hard, but I was faithful, prayerful, and hopeful.

When we got home, my dad picked me up at O’Hare airport and we got to the car and on the front seat was a card. My dad was smiling and told me to read the card. It was from my sister letting me know that she was pregnant. I was going to be an aunt! I was so excited about that.

Wow! Amazing news!

Then, instead of heading for home, we drove straight to the hospital. My dad told me that we had to get to the hospital right away because my mom’s cancer had spread to her brain while I was gone and she was really declining rapidly.

Wow. Devastating news.

Apparently, she did not always know who people were or what was happening around her. I was in the car, racing to the hospital with my dad, terrified my mom wouldn’t know who I was, regretting that I never called.

It was a bad, bad feeling. I felt as if the world had opened up underneath me and was starting to swallow me whole. The energy and joy I felt from the trip evaporated and re-formed into fear, to terror actually.

We arrived at the hospital. I remembered I bought my mom a souvenir potholder from Germany. I dug through my bags to bring it in. I was exhausted from the roller coaster ride of coming home with caution in my heart, finding out I was going to be an aunt, and then learning my greatest fear of my mom getting worse while I was gone had come true.

I was scared.

I had the potholder in my hand as we went into my mom’s room. She did know me. She was very weak—obviously very, very sick. I laid the potholder on her hands and she smiled. I thought the potholder would be a good gift because my mom loved being in our kitchen. She loved cooking, entertaining, and maybe most importantly, she loved sitting on the phone and talking to her friends. I was able to spend some good moments with her that day.

Our choir crew: Michelle, Dina, me, Moff, Jon, Kirstin, and Dave.
Friends since 7th grade, roommates in Europe, bridesmaids in each other’s weddings, still cherished relationship.
One of many pics with Dina and Michelle as we were basically inseparable during this trip.
Moff. Locker neighbors for 4 years, friends now for decades.
Jill: dependable and always at my side when I needed her, and still is.
Chuck: Venetian stud, always a true friend who never fails to make me laugh, and still does.
Dina, Jill, and Scott
Matt and Chuck
Kirstin & Dave: married with three incredible daughters.
Downtime in a park.

If you scrolled this far, your reward is this glimpse into just one of my favorite outfits from my extensive Multiples clothing collection. You’re welcome.

Benson & Hedges and Beauty Salons

My mom’s cancer continued to spread. Early on in her diagnosis, I felt that nothing was shared with me. There was no explanation of what was happening other than cancer, chemo, radiation, with snippets of information that I would pick up randomly through my own observations.

As a self-professed student of Charlie’s Angels, Nancy Drew, and Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, I felt like I did okay with my sleuthing. However, it was hard for me to not understand what was happening. It made me feel juvenile and untrusted.

As we neared the summer of ’88, her illness and its side effects were obvious. She did wear a special cooling chemo cap that helped her keep her hair for a longer period of time. Oh, she loved her hair and having it done on a regular basis.

My mom, always well-coiffed.

As a young girl in the ‘70s, I would often accompany my mom to her beauty salon. It was a short walk from our house on Lenox St. and I loved everything about the place.

Her stylist looked like icon Tony Orlando to me and the atmosphere was epic. Thick rugs, velvety couches in bright, warm colors, all enveloped in the haze of cigarette smoke. My mom would give me some change for the vending machines and I would sit on a couch, in a cloud of smoke, sipping on a bottle of orange pop absolutely mesmerized by it all.

I cherished those trips with my mom. This was the era of women going to salons for a wash, set, and all of the gossip. I’ll bet she went weekly. I remember the warmth of the place with lots of laughter. There were all kinds of smells, muted of course, by the Benson & Hedges my mom smoked combined with all of the other brands swirling and condensing into certainly toxic clouds. I loved it.

My mom and I posing in our driveway.

As time passed, my mom switched salons and in the early ‘80s found herself with a stylist in downtown Oak Park. My mom had beautiful blue eyes and blonde hair. Like many women of a certain age, that blonde was enhanced. I’ll never forget coming home one day to a very distraught mom sitting at our kitchen table. Her hair was jet black.

Her fancy new stylist had made an error and it couldn’t be rectified for a few days. After a short period of mourning, she did call our backyard neighbor over for a laugh. They laughed and cried and smoked and likely had a drink or two as my mom lamented her situation.

In just a few days, she was back to her signature blonde look. In just a few months, that stylist was found dead of a drug overdose on the sidewalk in front of his salon. It seemed clear to me why he made such an error on her color.

Flash forward to the summer of 1988. I remember my mom being in the hospital beginning the week of my graduation. I don’t think she ever came home again. The hospital was a large teaching hospital in Chicago. It was about a thirty-minute drive from our house and I would go to visit her almost daily.

She was often asleep. Watching her deteriorate physically was painful to witness. As the days went on, the cancer had spread to her eyes and to her bones. She was losing her hair at this point. That was really hard for her.

Going to visit her was painful because it was now fully evident that she was incredibly ill. Her sense of humor was waning and her spirit was fading. I both treasured and dreaded these almost daily visits.

 

Graduations

Just a few weeks later, our family had two graduations to celebrate. My brother was graduating from college with plans to head to veterinary school. His graduation was first. My brother worked with the local branch of The American Cancer Society to secure a wheelchair so our mom could more easily attend the commencement.

My brother’s college graduation.

After we arrived, I vividly saw how fragile she had become and for the first time, I was fearful that she might die from this cancer that had interfered so savagely with our lives. For me, the day was tense and fraught with worry. I watched as my mom struggled to be comfortable, to breathe, to have the energy to be present and enjoy the occasion. She wore a favorite dress of hers—navy, past the knee, flared at the bottom, with white trim, almost a nautical theme. It was a special dress for a special day.

The graduation weekend took a toll on her physically. Later that week, she was admitted to the hospital with my high school graduation just days away. All I wanted at that moment was for her to be able to attend my graduation.

A long-standing tradition at my public high school was for the girls to wear long white dresses while carrying red roses. The boys wore dark suits with red ties. Finding a long white dress, that no one else found, was the goal.

With my dear friend since junior high.

My friends and their moms shopped together and I was devastated to be accomplishing this important task on my own. I waited too long and remember buying literally whatever was left. My graduation day came, and my mom was still in the hospital, unable to attend. I know she was sad to miss it.

I was angry that my brother’s graduation took so much of her energy that she couldn’t come to mine. I was angry that my friends all had stunning gowns that their moms helped them find. I was angry that when I walked into the football stadium, where I had performed on the sidelines and mid-field for years, my mom wasn’t there to help me get ready, to see me, to think I looked beautiful in a dress we shopped for together.

I scanned the handicapped section of seating, where I had to get special tickets for her to be in a wheelchair, just in case my family was able to surprise me and get her there. That is my strongest memory of the day I graduated from high school—looking to the roped-off section on the track for wheelchairs and scanning desperately for her.

Not spotting her, the rest of the day was a tearful fog. My family tried. When my name was called, and I walked across the stage to get my diploma, in my slightly wrinkled gown, they cheered maybe louder than any other group in the stadium and that made me smile. They saw me.

Yukking it up for my friend who was a yearbook photographer. Glad I got to walk with my friend Murph who always made me laugh.
All smiles with a broken heart. So thankful for friends like these who always supported me.

Post-Prom

Riding down the escalator, leaning into The Dude, to cheers of ‘Mod!’ explains that big smile on my face.

Senior Prom was everything I dreamed a high school dance could be, and more. We arrived at the venue and I remember riding an escalator down to the action. I stood in front of my handsome date and leaned into him. He kissed me again on the way down. Near the bottom, we were greeted by a bunch of my friends shouting, “Mod!” It was a wonderful feeling of belonging.

The Dude actually appeared to be glad to be my date and spent the entire night dancing and talking to me. While I thoroughly enjoyed planning prom the previous year, this was a whole new level of fun.

The next day, our small group of six followed tradition and headed to the family lake house of one of the guys in our group. Four of us drove in someone’s convertible, and that felt fancy! It was much better than The Jackass’s Jaguar. The Dude and I were comfortably snuggled in the back seat and I remember hours of laughter.

Was this really my weekend? I was in stunned disbelief.

Once we arrived at the cabin, it wasn’t quite warm enough to swim, but definitely warm enough to don

This is the suit I wore the day after prom. Yes, I’m drinking an Orange Hi-C juice box.

our swimsuits and hang out in the sun for a while. I was prepared for this. All of my time spent doing high kicks and dancing prepped my bod for my epic one-piece, strapless, cut over the hip, suit.

Did I mention the entire center was cut out, baring my well-toned abs? How I loved that suit. The Dude seemed to like it as well. We spent every moment together. We played games, we ate food, we talked, we laughed. At one point, we were even making out on the floor underneath a ping pong table. It was amazing!

The best part of that post-prom day trip to the lake was the sheer joy I felt, escaping from ‘real life’ and literally laughing all day.

What? My date is leaning into me, with an arm around me? I couldn’t stop smiling.
Sigh.
At our high school, it was a tradition in my friend group to leave dances in a limo.

Senior Prom

My mom was very happy that I had a date. Her health was not improving. As I understood it, at this point her cancer had spread to her bones and maybe her eyes. The details were vague and I was expected to contribute at home, lay low, and I felt like people wanted me to stay out of the way.

The Dude and I continued regular phone calls. On the day of the dance, I got beautified at my friend Tammy’s house. We did our own hair and makeup and we both borrowed dresses from her glamorous mom.

Mine was stunning peach silk, strapless, tea length, drop waist number with a bow of the same fabric prominent on the waistline, large rhinestones adding extra flair on the knot of the bow. I went back to Bakers for the ever-important matching shoe and purse dye combination.

I felt beautiful and headed home where The Dude would be picking me up. My mom was in the hospital for what I only knew were cancer complications. I would finally meet The Dude in person and see if he was as cute as he sounded.

My older sister secured the boutonniere to match my peach dress. My dad had the camera ready and there would be extra pictures taken for my mom to see.

The doorbell rang. I held my breath and opened the door. The Dude was as cute as he sounded. Breathless, I invited him in and walked through the house to get his boutonniere from the refrigerator. I was so excited for the promise of this night. I opened the fridge, grabbed the flower box, and peered inside.

Blurry from the zoom-in, but trust me, it was a boob.

Inside the box was a fresh giant white carnation and tucked into the exact center was a delicate peach rosebud. The boutonniere looked exactly, I mean exactly, like a boob. In a panic, I called my sister into the kitchen and demanded an explanation for this breast I was to pin on my super cute date’s lapel. She was also surprised as she hadn’t examined the flower boob when she picked it up. Through our panic, we were stifling our laughter. I was grateful for her efforts and knew it was really time to test The Dude’s sense of humor.

Just meeting in person for the first time.

As I pinned it on, I quietly apologized and he just laughed and went with it. What a relief. It appeared as though my blind date was indeed nice, funny, and cute. As I floated to his car, I waved at my dad and in a not quiet voice, we both heard my dad say, “Well, they’re off like a prom dress.” The Dude grabbed my hand and laughed some more. We drove to meet up with the rest of our group and were served champagne. What a night this was shaping up to be.

Meeting up with friends before heading to the dance.

The Dude and I continued to hit it off. We piled into taxis to transport us to prom, and in the backseat of that cab, The Dude turned his gorgeous face towards mine and kissed me.

I’m talking about a real, passionate, kiss. An actual unsolicited kiss before we even got to the dance. In my eighteen-year-old mind, every missed dance in high school years, and all the heartache from never being chosen as a date disappeared. It melted away on the lips of The Dude in the back of a taxi on the way to Senior Prom in Chicago.