Sky Scene 06

Katherine Karrol Kennedy

March 3, 1951 ~ May 8, 2023 (age 72) 72 Years Old


I’m sad to share that my mom, Kathy Kennedy (i.e., some knew her as Katherine), passed away suddenly, in her bed, this past May 8th, 2023.

I am so, incredibly, grateful that one of her main caregivers, called me first thing Monday morning, when she wasn’t doing well, and I was able to speak to my mom. I told her that I loved her so much, and there was a good chance she would get over this, and be just fine. I also reminded her that, last fall, she had given her heart to the Lord, and whenever she was ready, God was waiting for her with open arms, and that I would see her when I got up there! 

My mom never wanted a funeral. She wanted a party! She was very fun, and with that in mind, I will happily share some of my fondest memories. 

I share additional details for posterity.

She was born and raised in Puyallup, WA, and when her parents divorced, she moved with her mom, to Gallatin Gateway, Montana, a tiny town, where she loved hanging out with the horses. She started waitressing at the age of 15 and loved it! She continued waitressing her whole life, and said she got paid to talk to people! After graduating from Bozeman Senior High School, she moved back to Washington State, with her dad, and attended Evergreen State College to pursue an art degree. 

In college, she fell in love with my dad, they married, and when she was 21, had me. She had almost completed her two year degree, but when I was born, she suffered from severe postpartum depression. After leaving my dad when I was about 12 months old, she remarried. However, due to it being an abusive relationship, she left him when I was about three, and there was a time when it was just her and I.

Her best friend in the whole world was her brother, my Uncle Bobby. They loved to make each other laugh, and they laughed a lot! He lived with us for awhile, and although she was happy for him, she was really sad when he moved to San Francisco. They remained best friends, and wrote letters and talked on the phone, often. 

Mom worked really hard, and she always made sure I was well taken care of when she was at work. I remember having the best babysitters, and I regularly stayed with one family who took me to Sunday school, and told me that Jesus loved me. Sometimes my babysitters brought me to my mom’s work, and I sat around a table with her friends after she clocked out. At my request, she often bought me either an ice-cream cone, a Shirley Temple, or sometimes, a Root Beer Float. When I wasn’t the center of attention, I loved to hear her and her friends laugh about whatever they were discussing. 

Sitting with her friends (or at the laundromat), she asked me what I wanted her to draw. I never needed coloring books because she drew me whatever picture I wanted to color. After work, Mom and I cuddled on the couch, and she told me how much she loved me. She told me I was the best thing she’d ever done in her life, and that I would be her legacy. 

We often drove to my grandparents, waterfront, beach house, on Bainbridge Island (I think), just outside of Bremerton, Washington. That’s where my Mom and Dad met up to drop me off and pick me up. They always tried to put me first, and maintained a good relationship.

We usually arrived late at night, and in the mornings, I woke up to Mom visiting with Grandma (her step-mom), who was making breakfast. Grandpa had taken the small motor boat down the bay, to the store, or was doing chores around the property. I sat at the kitchen table, gazing out the, floor to ceiling, window, overlooking the beach, the huge log on which we regularly sat, and the bay. The smell of black coffee filled the air. My grandma had one hand at the stove making pancakes, and she asked what kind of pancakes I wanted this morning. “Mickey Mouse”, I said, “with raspberry jelly!” 

After breakfast, my mom often walked with me up and down the beach and we collected sea shells and sand dollars. Later, we wandered through Grandma’s gardens, and picked apples, cherries, and raspberries. She swung me from the tire swing Grandpa had built for me. Later, my mom helped my grandma sew baby doll clothes for the new doll I received for Christmas. I also loved to color with the huge Christmas box I’d received full of blank paper, colored construction paper, crayons, colored pencils, markers, and scissors. That was the one thing I asked for and it was my favorite gift! 

On warm afternoons, Mom sat on a blanket, on the beach, in her bikini top and shorts, while Grandpa taught me to swim a few feet away. Later, she tucked me into bed, on the second floor of my grandparents cabin. She kissed me good night, and asked me what I wanted to dream. “Going to Disneyland!” I said. She smiled and blew me a kiss from the door before she turned off the light. 

There were seasons when my mom spent countless hours at her sewing machine, and she was quite the seamstress. For Christmas, I often had homemade dolls that she’d sewn from scratch, one of which was a Raggedy Ann doll with a hand drawn face, freckles and all.

At some point, we moved to Portland, Oregon, and we lived in a blue apartment building near MLK Blvd. I have fond memories of us cuddling on the couch, while watching TV, late at night.

She liked taking me to my favorite places. She often gave in to my pleadings to go to the Jantzen Beach Carousel, built in 1904, or the Organ Grinder Restaurant, with a massive Wurlitzer organ, and walls covered with golden pipes (i.e., I loved the cymbal-banging monkey, too), or ice-skating at Lloyd Center Mall, under the ginormous sky lights. I was her whole life, and it seemed, everything she did was for me.

In first grade, my mom gave me a surprise birthday party, with all my friends. Then, just before 2nd grade, believing it was best for me, she, selflessly, gave my dad full custody, with the condition that I would spend every school break and summer with her. 

When I was six, mom started dating the man who continues to be my second dad, to this day. 

One summer (maybe I was 7 or 8?), he took a job in Dinosaur, Colorado. He was in commercial construction, and he and his buddies all took jobs together because it made the work more fun. Work had dried up in Portland, so we spent the summer in the middle of nowhere, in Dinosaur. We drove up to a tiny, pink, trailer, our home for the summer. Other than a few other trailers nearby, there was nothing for miles around, except for a few desert plants and tumbleweeds.

In the tiny pink trailer, I slept on the couch in the living room. Every morning, my mom and I cuddled on the couch. She asked what I wanted to watch, and it was always The Price is Right. At my request, we also watched Murder She Wrote and Perry Mason. We occasionally walked, under the hot blazing sun, down the long road, to the tiny store/gas station, while tumbleweeds rolled past. We were in the middle of nowhere, and it was something to do. I have pictures of me at the Dinosaur National Monument, but I don’t remember being there.

The next summer, I lived at my step-dad’s, a white house, on a corner, with green grass and trees, in the Overlook Neighborhood. Portland is filled with many historic neighborhoods, all over the city, and this one overlooks downtown. Later, we would go to a friend’s down the street, and sit on their back porch, and watch the 4th of July boat parade (or maybe it was Christmas?) on the Willamette River. My step-dad had roommates at the time, but I had my own space. My mom had made up my bedroom, which was actually a huge walk-in closet. It was perfect, and I loved it! 

When I wasn’t listening to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown, or Madonna’s Like a Virgin, my mom, step-dad, and I, were out and about. We often drove to visit one of our family friends for the day, and old car shows were a common occurrence. Once, we even camped out at the  car show, held at the Phoenix International Raceway. I was a pre-teen (I think) and able to roam around and find my own friends, who were also camping out. Mom checked up on me regularly and I was mortified when she hugged me and told me how much she loved me, in front of my new friends.  

The following summer, they had moved to a green, 1942 English Tudor house, also in the same neighborhood, on Willamette Blvd. It looked small but was well over 2,000 square feet. It had a huge picture window with flowers below. My mom and step-dad loved antique shopping, and this house was full of antique furniture and found treasures. My mom had a wall of shelves with little, antique, toys and dolls, she had found while treasure hunting.

I mostly remember her in the kitchen, which had huge windows on all three sides of the galley style kitchen. She had large bird cages, with parakeets in one cage and cockatiels in the other. She pulled her birds out often, talked to them, pet them, and gave them kisses. She held them up to her face, her lips puckered, and made sucking noises with her tongue. She was asking them for kisses, and they cheerfully talked to her and gave her kisses! 

I sat in the kitchen and talked her ear off. She listened attentively, while making dinner, or wiping off the counters. She nodded, and said, “Mmm, hmm”. I have a crazy picture of her after she let me do her makeup and fix her hair! We watched TV late at night, and she often fell asleep on the sofa. 

For as long as I can remember, my mom had a minty, turquoise, green, 1954 Chevy Belair, and she was often on the hunt for old car parts. It was in mint condition and people always honked at us, smiled, and waved, while driving around town. Just for fun, sometimes on Friday or Saturday nights, Mom said, “Let’s go cruising!” She and I drove around downtown Portland, with all the windows down, music blaring. She loved the energy of downtown, with all the people having fun. I did, too! 

When she drove me places, in which I needed to be dropped off, I was mortified to be seen in a weird car, and asked her to drop me off a block away. She obliged me, but laughed and  insisted it was cool. This car was her pride and joy, and she was even photographed, in her uniform, next to her car, in front of the cafe where she worked, for a local newspaper. She was known for her laugh, long red hair, and this car! 

Throughout the years, Mom loved showing me her city of Portland, Oregon. She took me to the best viewpoints, Multnomah Falls, hiking in Forest Park, people watching at Waterfront Park, shopping at the malls, and all the best thrift shops in the city. We loved ice-skating at Lloyd Center, and later, exploring Pioneer Place. She seemed to be fearless, and she taught me to be fearless, too! She gave me the confidence that I could do anything I put my mind to!

She and my step-dad both got up early for work, and after sleeping in, I spent all day watching movies. We had every movie channel imaginable, including all the premium channels, with no parental controls, and I loved watching all kinds of movies! In an effort to get me off the couch, my mom started giving me a list of chores to do before she got home. I still spent all day watching movies, and 15 minutes before she got home, I quickly shut off the TV and got to work! 

For whatever reason, I loved doing chores wearing her shoes…high heels, flats, sandals, flip flops. She thought it was the funniest thing! I blasted the American Top 40 radio station, and she taught me to dance. I don’t remember getting paid for chores, but I’m sure I did. I mostly remember her taking me shopping. We loved to go shopping at the mall, and we went there often. She said I could get whatever I wanted and she had no problems buying me name brands. We also drove to Vancouver, Washington, just across the river, to go roller skating every week, at the Golden State Roller Rink. 

The following summer, she signed me up for summer school, and taught me how to ride the city bus. When mean, big city, girls bullied me at school, she taught me to win them over with kindness. The summer after that, when I was ten years old, she signed me up for 6 weeks of theater classes at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, which she did from the age of ten to sixteen. It was within walking distance, less than a mile away, but she bought me a summer bus pass. 

When I wasn’t in theater class, or afterward, I often took the bus to meet her at work and hung out with her favorite customer’s until her shift ended. Sometimes we drove home, but more often, we ran errands, visited her friends, went shopping, or went swimming. Almost everyday in the summer, we drove to the Columbia River, stopping on the way for a Dairy Queen ice-cream cone, Fig Newtons, or fresh peaches, at the little store on the way. We loved to spread a blanket on the beach, read, and people watch. And I loved playing and swimming in the river! 

Mom grew up in Montana, and one summer we took a week long vacation, so she could show me where she grew up. Her mom and step-dad still lived there. I remember it as a huge ranch, with the massive, snow covered, Colorado Rockies towering above us. It was so beautiful. There were horses on the property, and that’s when she first taught me to ride. 

She started waitressing at the age of 15 and this was her career, her entire life. She loved it and continuously taught me life lessons using her work as an example. “You catch more flies with honey”, she’d say, encouraging me to show kindness to people who were mean. “Kill them with kindness”, she’d say, when I wanted to tell people off. 

She’d tell me stories of customer’s who would come in and place $5 in ones on the table, and anytime she did or said something they didn’t like, they would take a dollar away. She worked really hard to go above and beyond for these customer’s, trying to win them over. She did this to earn the tips, but also because she really wanted to brighten their day. These people often left her way more than $5. She was truly an excellent waitress, and everyone loved her! 

My mom loved making people happy, and making them laugh, and she had a great sense of humor. I remember, we were on a city bus, a few miles from home. The bus was completely packed, but dead quiet, everyone in their own thoughts. I was looking out the window, and all of a sudden, she looked at me, from across the aisle. “It’s ok, honey,” she said, loud enough for everyone to hear, but pretending to be quiet. “We’re almost home. We’ll get your medicine, and you’ll be just fine.” And then she winked at me. 

My eyes got wide, and I gave her a death glare. She continued. “It’s ok, honey. We’re almost home. You’ll be fine when you get your medicine.” When it was time to get off the bus, we were both cracking up. She thought it was hilarious to embarrass me! 

She loved thrift shopping, but I was too embarrassed to be seen in a thrift store, so I just stayed in the car, and ducked my head down low. “Ok. You’re loss,” she said. And awhile later, she came back with some amazing finds. I eventually fell in love with shopping thrift stores, and it’s something we enjoyed doing together.

When I was a young teenager, they moved to a dreamy, 1904, craftsman, house a few blocks away. It was a white house (later painted a light grey), with a huge tree in front. Large steps welcomed you to the front porch. The second floor had a closed in loft, and 3 bedrooms, furnished with beds and antique furniture. Mom had decorated each room and told me I could choose whichever room I wanted. 

Mom routinely gave me a list of chores, with dollar amounts she would pay for each task. I was able pick and choose, depending on how much money I wanted to earn that day. I saved my money for things I wanted, but she agreed to go in halves with me on some of the more expensive items, like the specific jean jacket I wanted from the mall, or the brown, leather, bomber, jacket, that it took me all summer to save up to purchase. 

When I was 15, Mom’s boss took a leave of absence and left her in charge of the cafe. She took that opportunity to teach me how to be a waitress. After theater classes, I took the bus to her work and she let me practice waitressing on her regular’s. Wow! Was I horrible! It is so much harder than it looks. I couldn’t remember who ordered what, but she, and they, had a lot of patience with me. I kept going back throughout the summer, and after work, we often drove to the river.

On the days we didn’t spend together, I regularly sat at our kitchen table, telling her all about my day, while she cleaned the kitchen. She nodded, and replied with, “Mm, Hm”, until one day, I said, “Mom! What did I just say? You’re not even paying attention!” She smiled and said, “Well, dear, you talk a lot. I can’t possibly keep track of everything you say.” 

One summer I showed up and she had found a gorgeous wedding dress at a thrift shop, and another gorgeous, formal, peachy rose, dress. She thought it would be fun for me to play dress up, take outdoor photos, and send them to my Dad, saying that I got married, and apologized he had missed the wedding! 

Mom was not a, “normal”, mom. She was the, “cool mom”, or at least that’s what my friends told me. She’s the mom all of my friends wanted. She was my mom, but she was also my best friend. She never considered herself to be, “domestic”, but her house was always immaculate. She called herself the, “Laundry Fairy”, and danced around, only for my benefit, as she ironed, or hung clothes to dry.  

One day she decided to start an herb garden in the front yard, and we dug up a section of grass. Mom asked what I wanted to plant. I had no idea so she suggested cilantro. “Sure”.      I didn’t know what cilantro was or pay attention to the garden, but she later made salsa and, as I took a bite, she told me she’d used the cilantro. “Gross!” I retorted. Now, I love cilantro and gardening! 

One fall break I arrived and found a new, dark blue, blanket on the sofa that was huge and soft. I loved it so much, but Mom claimed dibs on it because it belonged to her. I told her I wanted one, too! She smiled, said, “We’ll see”, and proceeded to take it off my lap. 

Another day, that same fall break, I was relaxing on the sofa, watching TV, and she came into the den wearing light grey, footed, onesie, pajamas. They looked so comfy and soft. “Oh my gosh! How cute! I want some of those!” She said I could borrow hers, and they were super comfy and soft! A couple months later, for Christmas, I opened up gifts that revealed my very own set of light grey, footed, pajamas, and my very own dark blue, huge, soft, blanket! I still have both of these!! 

She taught me how to use skincare and shave my legs. And, she loved taking me to the perfume counter, at Macy’s and Nordstrom’s, for the perfume samples, in little glass vials. She loved perfume and always smelled like her favorite’s, Magie Norie, by Lancome, or Elizabeth Arden’s Red Door. 

One day, Mom took me downtown to a fancy hair salon, and introduced me to one of her customer’s, Bette. I naturally had ashy, blonde hair, but had been using, “Sun In”, to lighten it.  Mom said I could have Bette do whatever I wanted with my hair. From that day on, Bette was the only person allowed to touch my hair! I even called her, from college, an hour away, frantic, when one of my friends’ box color went horribly wrong. In her easy going way, she said, “Just soak your friend’s hair in mayonnaise, and it will come out.” 

I later found out that my mom was bartering with Bette. Every time she cut and colored my hair, which was $100, back in the day, my mom detailed Bette’s car. My mom eventually taught me how to detail, and we did this together, but only for Bette! 

Another sweet memory occurred a few times a year, when Bette came over on a Saturday morning. Mom normally lived off of Raisin Bran and Diet Coke, often with a lime squeezed in, but when Bette came over, Mom made blueberry pancakes, they sipped champagne, and we hung around the kitchen island, laughing. 

Although I wasn’t interested in cooking at the time, Mom did teach me quite a bit, and when I wanted to learn how to make the yummy breakfast I’d had the week prior, she taught me how to make it for myself…Eggs Benedict. Yum! Mom was a good cook, and made dinner almost every night (when my step-dad wasn’t barbecuing). We ate in the living room, around the coffee table, while watching movies. After dinner, our Great Dane, Mona, laid across our laps.

We, sometimes, ate at nice restaurants for dinner, occasionally had family friends over, and went off-grid camping, in gorgeous places. My favorite was camping with a huge group of my step dad’s work friends, right on a lake.

At age 17 (I think), Mom asked me where I wanted to work. I said the zoo, which seemed fun. She helped me get a job at the Portland Zoo, in the Children’s Zoo, and showed me how to get there on the bus. I hung out in the goat pen, or researched bunnies, sloths, and snakes, so I could hold the animal and let kids pet it. “Here you go,” I’d say. “Look, snakes aren’t slimy at all,” as I held out a snake to a kiddo who’s whole body was scrunched up in fear, but who’s mom was pushing him forward. 

Working at the zoo, I met Meghan, and we became instantly, inseparable. She lived on the other side of Portland, but my mom had no problem, regularly driving 45 minutes, each way, to drop me off, or to drive Meghan home. The three of us blasted music, sung songs, and laughed the whole way. Mom also showed me how to get to Meghan’s house, and home, on the bus, so I could get there by myself. 

Mom had a lot of friends. With her arm around me, she introduced me to even more new friends each summer. She laughed and jokingly said she was considering retroactive abortion (a.k.a., murder). Everyone laughed. I smiled, and she winked at me.

After work, she drove me wherever I wanted to go, which was often to the Columbia River. 

As we hung out on the beach, she loved pointing out potential spouses. She’d say, “What about that one?”, and I replied, “Ew. No, look at his shoes” {or hair cut, or a million other things). I had a huge list of qualifications for guys before I wouldn’t even consider dating them. She just laughed. She joked that I would never get married because I was way too picky. 

She tried setting me up several times, and most of the time, I just rolled my eyes, then smiled half-heartedly. One time, I told the guy I was way too busy, but he could accompany me grocery shopping. We dated for awhile, but he was too clingy and needy, and Mom was disappointed when I broke up with him. 

Mom knew a lot of people, and she always got me jobs with her friends and customer’s. Every summer I had a new job given to me…after washing walls for our friends overlooking the Willamette River, and babysitting the neighbor kids, there was the Tid Bit Cafe, KFC, Kay’s Kafe, and two different downtown movie theaters. At my Dad’s house, my life was pretty boring because I was in charge of babysitting my little sister, until my Mom convinced my Dad to hire a babysitter and let me join student government, track, and spirit club (a prerequisite for cheer, but I didn’t make the squad). 

She loved exploring the Galleria Mall in downtown, and later, she even decided to get a job there, at Kay’s Kafe. She got me a job there, too, and I loved working with her! She was an extremely hard worker, professional, and fun. Everyone loved her! 

Mom loved spending time with her friends. She was the life of the party, loved to enjoy life to the fullest, and have a good time. She loved to listen to music, dance, and crack jokes. She was naturally thin, and rarely worked out. Waitressing kept her arms strong, and roller skating  every week, kept her legs and core strong. 

When she wasn’t at work, if the sun was out, you could find her with her long, red, hair, pulled up into a baseball cap, sunglasses on, in a bikini, soaking up the sun, with a book, on a blanket. She also loved to work on her classic car (and later her classic truck), often requesting car parts for Christmas. One year she asked for, and received, an original, antique, fender, for her truck! 

Mom loved vintage things and pop culture. She loved Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, 1950’s clothing, hats, and she even found a 1950’s tandem (two seated) bike, which we rode around our neighborhood, for years. She also loved 1980’s top 40 rock and roll, and loved to sing in her car, windows rolled down, even though she didn’t know all the words. She was easy going and care free! Later, she started listening to country, and I moaned and told her she must be getting old! (Now I love country.) She just smiled and shrugged her shoulders. 

My mom was the hardest working person I’ve ever met, and she taught me the value of a hard work ethic. She was extremely kind, nonjudgmental, and would bend over backwards to help someone. I often took advantage of this trait, yelling from the living room, into the kitchen, “Mom, can you bring me….whatever it was.” She reminded me to say please and thank you, and always brought me whatever I asked. I didn’t realize how often I asked her to bring me things, and she started adding, “Anything else, your majesty!?” with a smile and a wink. Sometimes she added a hop or skip, for dramatic effect.

She was also a teacher at heart and taught me as many lessons as she could, including how to paint my bedroom, change a tire, that you don’t have to finish everything on your plate, and how to set boundaries. She was strong and independent, routinely changing the oil in her car, and she even changed out her own transmission. 

She was good at calling me out, when my behavior didn’t meet her expectations. She told me I was beautiful and could do anything I set my mind to. She raised me to be strong, independent, fearless, self-sufficient, and to be a hard worker, while treating everyone with kindness. She raised me to have excellent character, to be 100% authentic, to, “say it like it is”, and not to care what anyone else thinks.  

My mom always told me how much she loved me, and she always told me I was beautiful. She told me I could do anything, and be anything, that I wanted. The world was my oyster. People are good, the world is amazing, and I should live life to the fullest! This gave me permission to be adventurous (i.e., with common sense, and being careful, of course)!  

Our long car trips to my Dad’s were often spent with her giving me life lessons. When it came to the more difficult topics, like sex, alcohol, and drugs, I would exclaim, “Mom! I don’t want to know this!” But, she would reply, “I’m not always going to be there, and you need to know this stuff!” These life lessons gave me a wisdom far more reaching than the other kids I knew, and I was often told I had a good head on my shoulders.

She also told me, on many occasions, that if I ever needed her, she would drive the 6 hours, day or night, to come get me. Depending on the situation, I may need to listen to a stern lecture, but she would always come get me! I never needed to take her up on this offer, but it was nice, just knowing it.

My step-dad’s mom would often come visit and, she, Mom, and I, liked to explore new shops. I remember one little gift shop was filled with fun treasures. There was no one else in the store, except for a young man, waiting quietly, behind the register. As we giggled and tried on various bracelets and things, I whispered, loud enough for the man to hear, but pretending to be quiet, “Mom! I don’t think you’re supposed to put that in your pocket.” My mom’s eyes got huge. I gave her a wink and a smile that said, “Ah, ha! I gotcha back!” And we all laughed.

Mom loved to buy me good quality, real, jewelry. She first bought me a gold, heart shaped, locket, and later bought me a red, garnet, necklace. Later, she found diamond earrings from a thrift store and bought them for me, too! Many years later, she sent me a diamond ring, which I still have and will give to one of my boys, when it’s time to propose. 

In high school, friends would ask, “Who’s your best friend?”, and the answer was easy. “My mom.” Even though we drove each other nuts, we were extremely close. I always knew that after high school, I wanted to move back in with her and my step-dad. During my senior year, she sent me the college application and helped me to fill out all the necessary paperwork. When I arrived, she went with me to tour the campus, submit the paperwork, and anything else, until I felt comfortable on my own. She also pushed me to go beyond my comfort zone. 

The following spring, I was given the opportunity to go with a family friend, camping and hiking, to the top of Mt. St. Helens, and she said that was fine. She gave me a lot of freedom, as long as she knew where I was, that I was being careful, and that I was safe. 

A year later, when we were getting on each other’s nerves, Mom sat me down and said she needed a break from me and I needed to live somewhere else for the summer. She spread out a large selection of pamphlets, for summer internships, all across the United States and the Virgin Islands, and asked me to pick one. I chose Mt. Rushmore. She paid for airfare, and anything else I needed, and regularly called to check up on me. 

When I came home and decided to join AFROTC (Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps), at the University of Portland, she supported me. As long as she knew where I was, I was free to come and go, and do whatever I wanted.

I was at the center of almost everything my mom did. Every Valentine’s Day, growing up, she sent me a bouquet of carnations, a box of chocolates, and a card telling me she loved me more than anything else in the whole wide world. I always knew I was loved, and that I was the most important person to her. She always signed her cards, with lips, and XXX OOO, which stands for hugs and kisses.

One day, I came home and there was a strange car in the driveway. It was a nice, silver,  Volkswagen Rabbit, GTI, around the year 1980. “Who’s here?” I asked. “What are you talking about?” She pretended. Then she tossed me keys and said it was time for me to start driving. She had saved money, and bought a previously totaled car, from one of her friends, a mechanic, who fixed it up, just like new. She purposely bought a stick shift and said that if I learned how to drive a stick shift, it would make me a better driver. 

I drove, with her by my side, instructing me, all over Portland, downtown, on the freeways, and to all the places I would need to go. When we visited my uncle, in San Francisco, she also had me drive the huge hills. I remember us in a convertible (I think), at a stop light, at the top of a huge, steep, hill, and when the light turned green, I gunned it, trying desperately not to roll back into the car behind me. She laughed, in her carefree way, somehow knowing we would be fine. 

A couple years later, ROTC (i.e., pronounced rot-see) friends invited me to move in with them, a few miles away, near the University of Portland. She supported me and made sure I had everything I needed, and often came over to check on me.

When I crashed the car (more than once), she sent it back to her mechanic friend, and had him fix it for me, just like new. When I wanted to transfer to Penn State, she bribed me with the car. She wanted me to choose Western Oregon State College (later renamed Western Oregon University), so I would be close to home, and she could check on me regularly. She took me shopping for my dorm room wish list. We hunted for the peach colored sheets I wanted so badly. If I recall correctly, I even had a TV, microwave, and mini fridge. 

When she sent me off to college, it was with the full confidence that I could do anything and be anything that I wanted. My first trimester at Western Oregon, I struggled with balancing an active social life, carpooling 30 minutes to Oregon State for ROTC, several days a week, and actually studying. I had never really learned how to study before. I failed every single class! She called me and said it was ok. She said not everyone is meant to go to college, and I could move back home. I told her thank you, but I would figure it out. And, I did. She raised me to fly, and I flew! Years later, I graduated college, and earned straight A’s my last year.

Josh and I married, while still in college. Just before graduation, he was asked to interview for the position of teacher and Head Football Coach, in Phoenix. We fell in love with Phoenix and have lived here ever since. He has continued teaching and coaching, and we are continuing to raise our 2 German Shepherds, 1 Sulcata tortoise, and 3 boys, who have participated in year round sports, and other activities, for most of the last 21 years.  

I hadn’t seen Mom for quite a while, and, when Tyler was 4 years old, and I was pregnant with Trey, she sent me $500 so I could afford to come visit her. Tyler and I rode the Greyhound bus, in the middle of the night, from Phoenix, through Las Vegas, and to Salt Lake City. When I saw my mom, for the first time, in what seemed like forever, I grabbed on tight as tears streamed down my face. I missed her so much.

Over the following days, she introduced me to her friends and showed me where she lived. We met my Grandma and her granddaughter, at a restaurant and enjoyed lunch, but my favorite memory was watching Mom push Tyler on the swing. She had on jeans and a black AC/DC shirt and laughed in her carefree way. 

I have been able to see her, and her other favorite city, just outside of Salt Lake. She lived in Salt Lake City for many years, and loved the people, and the energy of downtown. She, “remarried”, and after moving around, they eventually settled in Sandy, Utah. She lived there for quite some time, and loved walking everywhere! When our whole family went to visit her in 2020, we took a family hike in Cottonwood, and fell in love with the beauty of the area. I understand why she loved it so much!

Although I’ve been able to see her some, I’ve mostly talked to her on the phone. She never wanted to get old, or be a grandma, but she loved the boys dearly and enjoyed hearing about their lives. There were seasons when I talked to her once a month, and other seasons when we talked everyday. She loved dogs, and was happy watching TV with her dog. She enjoyed visiting neighbors, especially the kids, and walking around town, which she did, pretty much, everyday. 

Even as an adult, I regularly received cards in the mail, sometimes with pictures, telling me how much she loved me, and signed with XXX OOO. She loved people deeply, and people loved her deeply. I’m so incredibly grateful for all of her life lessons, unconditional love, and doing her best to put me first. I’m a better wife, mother, and person because of her. She continues to live on through the way I live my life, and raise my boys. 

I’m incredibly grateful for the staff, at Woodlands Park Care and Rehabilitation Center, who have taken such good care of her, for the past 5 years. There’s too many people to name, but I will specifically name Brandon, her favorite caregiver, who’s now a big wig manager there, and Adriana, who called me often so I could talk to her, including on the morning of her passing. Over the years, the caregivers told me she was super sweet, kind, funny, and that she had great taste in music! 

After her passing, God immediately put it on my heart that she’s now up in Heaven, laughing, dancing, cracking jokes, and enjoying life. She is surrounded by loved ones, including a son, Michael, who didn’t make it, when I was twelve years old. Throughout my life, I have thought of her almost daily, more recently asking myself, “What would Mom have done in this situation?” I have been incredibly blessed to have her as a Mom, and while I have told her this, words can’t possibly express how much she meant to me. Many years ago, for Mother’s Day, I wrote a long list of all the ways I thought she was an amazing mom. She loved it! 

She always told me, as she laughed, that when she died, she wanted to be cremated and to sit on my mantle, so she could haunt me for the rest of my life. Giggles. As per her wishes, she now sits on my mantle. I told the boys that someday, when I die, I want to be planted with a tree, and that she can be planted with another tree, next to me. I think she would approve. 

Thank you for allowing me to share these special memories. Writing this has given me the opportunity to feel close to her again. 

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