What a Gal

May 09, 2019 282

BY: Charles Sacchetti

Recently my dear friend, Carol Salinsky, lost her mother, Ruth.  By all accounts, she was a wonderful woman who raised a great family.  In sympathizing with my friend, I was led to reflect on my own mother, Catherine’s, passing back in 2002.  It seems no matter how old we are we’re only kids in grown up bodies and the memories flow freely…….. 

“Kate” was a Southwest Philly “housewife.”  Back in the 1950’s few mothers worked outside of the home. Mom was a 5’1” Sicilian bundle of energy who ran the house, paid the bills, did the cooking, and protected her two kids like a mama bear protects her cubs.  She was at once tender and ferocious, always there to give a hug when needed or bandage a cut but woe to the unsuspecting neighborhood huckster who tried to overcharge her for three pounds of Jersey tomatoes.  

I remember the time when I was about 7 years old and just starting to be a little “pesky.” We had a peddler in the neighborhood, known as “Joe Bananas.”  Joe used to come by periodically to try to sell whatever he had gotten his hands on.  Watching him try to sell Mom something was more fun than watching the Little Rascals.  One day he came by with a new vacuum cleaner.  As luck would have it ours had just broken so Mom consented to let him do a demo.  He sprinkled some confetti on the floor and the machine only picked up about 1/3 of it.  Saying only what I guessed Mom to be thinking, I said, “That’s a piece of junk.”  Joe looked at me and said, “Look kid, nobody likes a wise guy”.  Saying nothing, Mom grabbed me by the arm and led me into the kitchen.  “Charlie, don’t you give him a hard time, that’s my job.” 

We had the old vacuum repaired.

Dad would work his job at Westinghouse and bring home his weekly pay check.  Mom would do her magician act and pay all of the bills, buy all of the food, clothes or whatever else we needed and still give Dad his weekly allowance.  In fact, she even could find a way to put a few bucks away in case we needed some cash down the line.  We always had food, clothes and a warm house because Mom was a master at stretching a dollar.

Mom had a healthy streak of vanity and was always conscious of the way she looked.  The one luxury she allowed herself was a weekly Friday morning trip to the hairdresser.  These trips were usually fully funded from her bingo winnings as she attended games, a couple of nights a week, at local churches.  When she would leave the house to walk to the game, Dad would say, “There goes Mom off to work!”  

Mom was born in April, Dad in August.  My sister, Kathy, Dad and I always assumed and Mom never corrected our belief that she was 4 months older than Dad.  When it was time for Dad to sign up for Social Security he naturally had Mom do likewise.  At that point the big secret was revealed that Mom was in fact, 5 years older than Dad.  She just didn’t want to let anyone know how old she was.  Dad’s reaction…”Who cares?  We’re married 40 years, big deal”.  Mom’s guarding of her age, to others, lasted until she became 80. She looked so good (See photo of Mom at 84) that she would ask strangers, like waitresses, how old they thought she was.  When they said, 65, Mom gleefully revealed her actual age, as if it were a badge of honor.  She would always say that, “I don’t feel old, I’m young at heart”, an obvious reference to her favorite Sinatra song.

April 26, 2002 was a Friday and 4 days after Mom’s 94th birthday. After visiting a customer, I decided to give Mom and Dad a call to see how things were going. When Dad answered the phone I heard the worry in his voice as he said, “I think Mom is having a stroke!”  He had just driven her back from her hairdresser appointment and was outside tending to his flowers while Mom went in to make lunch.  When he came into the house, not seeing Mom in the kitchen, he went in to find her on the floor, just as I called.  I told him to quick call 911 which he did.  Mom was taken to the University of Pennsylvania hospital.  The fact that she arrived just 20 minutes after the onset of the stroke gave her a 50-50 chance of having successful surgery and possibly recovering.  However, it was not to be and two weeks later, the night before Mother’s day on May 11th, Mom passed away.  It was on that day that Dad told me that as the EMT’s were picking Mom up to put her on the gurney, she told them she first had to finish making Dad’s lunch.

No one, in the family, was surprised.

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Charles Sacchetti is the author of two books, It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change and his new book, Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch.   Both are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online outlets. Contact him at Worthwhilewords21@gmail.com

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