Posted April 1, 2018
I am in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, working through a couple weeks of medical exams. It is Easter and I am going to spend the afternoon with some dear friends. This is one of the few Easter Sundays that I am not with my family. I found this story I wrote on my mother, Marilu Eder, who died on September 20, 2016. She was a hell of a woman, thoughtful, funny, loving. Marilu and my father, Stan, were married nearly 55 years. Dad is still kicking, and thankfully, healthy and stirring it up as he always does. I thought Mom and my family would like this story on this important holy day.
Originally written in July 2017, never published, around the Weltklasse Meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland.
It is late in the evening in Lausanne, Switzerland. I have had a long day, but, an enjoyable one. I took the train from Gare de Lyon, a train station in Paris, to Lausanne, Switzerland today, a quick four hours of beautiful countryside. The TGV train was very nice, but my large bag, which could have held that North Korean ballistic missle that was launched yesterday, was probably too big to travel with over the time I am here.
During the evening, I took a walk along the lake and it was quite enjoyable. Kids playing, couples coupling, teenagers smoking. The weed smells the same here as in California is an initial observation. People smile back at you when you say “Bonsoir” and smile. I have this habit of smiling and saying ‘Hello’ wherever I am in the world. In some places they smile back, in others places, they think I am a complete loon. As Mr. Vonnegut would say, So it goes.
I thought, for a few moments, how my Mom, Marilu Eder, would have loved Lausanne.
I am going back about 54 years ago.
Mom is trying to get us all on the bus. She is all of twenty-four, and is pregnant with my brother (Brian), she is holding Kathy, who is just past two, and the twins, Mary Lou and Mary Beth, who are three, and I, who am four, are all standing close. We are going to have lunch with Grandma Robertson. I remember Mom smiling and saying, “Larry, stay close.” as we wander to the back of the bus. I plop myself on the seat, next to Mary Lou and Mary Beth as Mom, with dear brother in utero and sister Kathy sitting on her lap, sit next to us. Such is a day in the Eder household. We went everywhere.
I am going back 44 years now.
Mom found a play at a local college, written by O.Henry. She wanted us to see it. Mom encouraged us to read, and plays and such were a treat, but part of what she thought was important. We all got into Freedom 2, a well cleaned old Ford station wagon with electric windows, that Dad bought from a pig farmer for $200. After Dad purchased said vehicle, it was cleaned and tuned by him, for Mom’s driving pleasure. Mom had a previous machine powered by an internal combustion engine to take us on jaunts. She had an old 1950 Chevrolet, which was, apparently, Freedom 1, but that lasted a very short time. Freedom 2 would take us through junior high and early high school. It was a much loved vehicle.
This was the car that Mom would pick me up from my switchboard duties at DeSmet HIgh School on Monday nights during the summer after my freshman year. Most Monday nights there were tornado warnings, and she would have Cromwell, our English sheepdog, sitting in the car. Cromwell was a curious dog, with a huge personality. In all honesty, Cromwell, Lord Protector of England (official name of dog) was an absolute nutter, which, in later life, ate garlic, carrotts and lettuce. In my teenage years, he slept on my bed and listened to my teenage angst.
Oh, back to the O. Henry play. It wasn’t an eventful play, but Mom wanted us to see a play and we were going to do it. Dad was working nights and she felt, with a houseful of teens and pre-teens, she needed to get us out a bit. That night, it was a play. Another night, it was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Another time, it was Jesus Christ, Superstar. One Wednesday, for me, it was Patton.
Mom went to most of my cross country and track races. I was not that good of a runner in high school. Finally, as a junior in high school, in a mile race at De Anza College, I took the lead, off and on for two plus laps, charged into the lead with 300 meters to go and was run down with 50 meters to go in a mile. I had never lead before. It was exhilerating. Mom and my brother were there.
Six years later, as a senior in college, I won my first college race. Mom and Dad were there, having come from watching my brother win a race at Crystal Springs. I remember being so happy that they got to see me actually win a race after several hundred attempts.
Last fall, when Mom was in hospice, she would gather all of her energy each day, fighting dementia and much pain, and she wanted me to update her on the world for five minutes. Mom and I would spend the quiet moments in the evenings, talking politics, the world and giving my father a bit of humor. It was a supreme effort, and I would be ready for it each day. I loved her so very much and hated seeing such a strong woman in pain, but she accepted the pain and her impending departure from this world, as she had everything else in her life. My mother had tremendous faith, in her creator, her family and her friends.
The pain was intense for her, and she was not taking pain killers. She also wanted to know how I was doing. I could not hide anything from that woman. She read right through me. This was our ritual. Dad had taken care of her most of the day, and she did not complain. She was in her own place. Dad had taken care of her for eighteen months. I finally understood what “in sickness and in health” meant. My parents lived it.
When Mom could not talk anymore, which was the last week before she died, I gave her morphine every four hours. I would put in under her tongue. She seemed to sleep less fitfully then. I held her hand, continued to talk to her, and tell how it was okay to go, we would handle Father, well, as much as we could. Normally, when my brother and I would suggest that Father, a known force, would do things his way, there had been a smile on Mom’s face, before the last week. In that last week, Mom was moving on.
I was walking tonight near the Movenpick hotel and thought, Mom would be happy here, she would love seeing the kids and families and young couples. Then, I remembered this African couple I watched in Paris on Sunday. Both in their eighties perhaps, I could not tell who was leaning on who, as the lady, in her Sunday finerey, and the man, with his hat and suit on, were slowly walking down near the Place d’Italia, after having done some shopping.
I go back five years. I am in Moscow. Mom emails me. She reminded me that I had first tried to venture to Moscow in 1972, to work on a collective farm for a summer. She would not let me go then, as she wanted me around until I was 18. In August 2013, Mom reminded me that she finally had approved me going to Moscow, although it was 41 years later. I smiled.
They were walking slow, as bikes, kids on skateboards and busy people walked by, on their phones, involved in their daily rituals. The older couple did not seem to care, perhaps, better, did not seem to notice. They were in their world.
Mom would have liked that.
I go back, fifty-two years. It is a snowy day in Bridgeton, Missouri. I had been sick for a couple of days, and wanted to walk back to Saint Blaise for school. Mom asked if I really wanted to go back today, wouldn’t I like being home with my brother and sisters? I went back to school that day.
Fifty-two years later, I can admit Mom was right, I should have stayed home that afternoon, and had another memory of her.
One thinks of those that they love each and every day. That is how they stay alive. In our hearts, in our souls, in our minds, those moments when we need solace, or some strength, or just not to feel lonely. Such is the human condition, someone smarter than me said many years ago.
My Mom told me to travel as much as I could, and experience the world. She wanted stories about whereever I had been. She and Dad went to Germany for the Passion Play, then, Italy and France. Mom loved France. Mom loved Switzerland.
Funny how I feel so relaxed in Switzerland.