Dancing in the Rain: Lessons Learned on my Personal Journey with PD (more at www.PDPlan4Life.com) Copyright 2013-20 Sheryl Jedlinski
By Sheryl Jedlinski
My mom was one of the strongest women I’ve ever known. When she decided to do something, no one and nothing dared stand in her way. Growing up, I loved hearing how she became a registered nurse, despite her father’s vehement objections. Nursing, he told her, was not an appropriate career for a nice Jewish girl. Instead, she was to take high school business courses, become a secretary, marry a man with a good job, and have babies. End of discussion. Ever the obedient daughter, my mom did as her father dictated. At the same time, however, she enrolled in night school to complete the chemistry and biology classes required for admission to the Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing in NYC. As far as I know, my mom never worked a day as a secretary. Nursing proved to be her calling, as she knew it was. Her career spanned 54 years, until she retired at age 75.
Ahead of her time, my mother was a feminist who would settle for nothing less than equality of the sexes. Only weeks after obtaining her driver’s license, she piled my grandmother (a non-driver) my brother and me (both minors) into our car for a 3,000-mile cross country adventure. Family, friends, and strangers asked my dad how he could allow her to do this, to which he replied, “She never asked for my permission to begin with. How would I stop her?”
We got as far as the Pennsylvania border when torrential rains forced us to take shelter in an overpass. My grandmother wanted to turn back, but my mother had no intention of quitting. Instead my brother and I opened the large cooler sharing the back seat with us and snacked until the rain stopped. By the time we got to Denver, my grandmother was so car sick we had to part ways. She flew home, confident my mother could finish the final leg of our journey without her.
The new interstate system and the availability of the first extensive chain of roadside motels allowed my Dad to keep tabs on us. Like clockwork, she would pull off the road into a Holiday Inn parking lot every day at 4 p.m. She would get some rest and my brother and I would swim in the motel pool. If we behaved, we got a quarter at bedtime to operate the Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed.
This road trip fueled my mother’s desire to see the world. She and my Dad were among only the second group of Americans to tour China, rode the Trans Siberian railroad, and visited both the Wailing Wall and the Berlin Wall. My mom’s only regret was that she did not get to see Australia… a country she fell in love with watching the 1970s tv mini series, The Thornbirds.
When my Dad passed away almost two years ago, my mom lost her joie de vie. Married 67 years, the two had been inseparable, and she missed him more than words can express. Our daily phone conversations always ended with my mom telling me that things were not the way they were supposed to be, that she and my dad were to leave this world together. The one thing she looked forward to were phone calls and visits from her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and brother from Sweden. Coincidentally, all of us saw her over the course of her last few weeks, bringing closure to her earthly life.
When my mom contracted pneumonia this week, she seized the opportunity and found the strength to refuse all but palliative care. After only a day, she passed away peacefully, certain she would soon be reunited with my dad. She knew what she wanted, and did what she had to do to get it. My mother was a strong woman who lived life on her own terms, down to her very last breath.