My mother was always my best friend. As a child, I remember always wanting to be wherever she was. I often remember sitting in the hall, outside the bathroom door, making plans for her evening. I’d stretch my legs across the hall resting my feet on the opposite wall, and talk to the closed door. “What are we doing tonight? Do you want to go to W.T. Grants? Do you want to go see Aunt Helen? Can we go to Fanaro’s Store to look at their bargain table?”
Fran just couldn’t shake me.
As an adult, I spoke to her almost every day. If I was going shopping and asked her to go, she’d always say, “Let me get my shoes on.” If I was debating about whether to buy something in a catalog, I’d call to get her opinion. Quite often she’d say, “Get it. I’ll pay half.” We knew each other so well.
I have two sons with Autism, and Fran loved them both very much. Friday nights were Bryan and Fran’s time together. They’d go to the mall, the arcade, and out to dinner at the Apple Dumpling Diner. He still repeats things she told him; things I didn’t realize they talked about. Their bond was irreplaceable.
Eric was more difficult for Fran to keep up with. She was never one to back down from a challenge, and always tried to help me with him.
One day I came home and she warned, “Don’t go in there. Get yourself a cup of coffee, sit down, and watch Oprah with me. We’ll deal with him later.”
I wondered how bad it could be, while happy sounds emanated from the room down the hall. I had to look. As I walked down the hall, she warned me again. When I opened the door, feathers billowed from the room. Eric had ripped open all of our feather pillows, and had the ceiling fan on full speed. He was in his glory.
I returned to the living room, sat down and watched Oprah. We cleaned the room later that day, but I continued to find feathers in there for months. They’d be in the kids’ hair or in with the marble maze pieces. I’d get a book off the shelf, and a little puff of feathers would drift through the air. That would have scared most babysitters away, but not my mom.
Life with the boys wasn’t ever easy, but my mother always helped me. It was just who she was. She could have written the book on how to be a wonderful grandparent for Autistic children. She was blessed with such a good sense of humor; which always helped. Fran never tired of telling relatives stories about the boys. The feather fiasco was always her favorite and most animated story. She was so proud of them, in spite of all their pranks.
We found out that Fran had Leukemia, in April of 2001, and she passed away in June. It was such a horrible loss. I’d pick up the phone to call her, and remember that she was gone. I got a letter from a nurse at Fox Chase, telling me how much she thought of my mother in the short time she’d known her. She said my mother wanted to live for me and my sons.
It has been many years since Eric’s feather pillow incident, but I have never forgotten that day. I continue to find feathers in the darndest places. And when I do, I think of Fran. Just maybe, she is trying to support me with these little signs. I’m guessing that things are too good in Heaven for her to be bothered with every detail of our lives, but whenever a feather appears, I feel her with me.
I really miss her. I love you, Mom.