For three years exactly, my family had the privilege of four generations: My mother, Frances, me, my daughter, Sara and her daughter, Audrey.
My mother died the morning of August 13th. It was also Audrey’s third birthday. Life is a poem sometimes.
Frances was born on May 23, 1922 in New York City. Her father died when she was very young, leaving my grandmother to raise her intelligent, beautiful, shy daughter by herself. She parlayed her sewing skills into becoming head fitter at Henri Bendel and then, Saks Fifth Avenue. My grandmother had to move with the seasons, and my mother with her, changing schools twice a year. By the time she was ten or so, my grandmother began leaving my mother with people who took care of her, so that she could begin to finish the school year in one place. My grandmother married twice more, to men who ultimately left. There was alcoholism, and a general lack of understanding the consequences of raising a child under those circumstances.
My mom, extraordinarily beautiful, had many suitors. She chose the persistent and charming Donald Stevens. He worked hard to provide for her, and they had four daughters, moved to a fancy town in Connecticut, and lived life. Alcoholism reared it’s ugly head again, as it does in many families that carry this horrible disease.
Fast forward to the 1960s, when her daughters began to go out into the world. By the time the last one of us left the nest in the late-1970s, my mother left as well. My parents divorced and my mother moved permanently to California, estranging herself from the family. My oldest sister, Wendy, died that year. Since then, my sister, Frances, also died. Both of cancer. My dad died in 2004 at the age of 85. Too much loss.
I only fully understand now that my mother wasn’t able to get over the hurdle of her crippling fear of abandonment. In the last four years we were able to completely repair our relationship, torn apart by misunderstanding. She died with pure love and acceptance. My sister, Cary, was by her side and I on the phone. I miss her so very much.