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Sadie A Son's Tribute

Dec 8, 1916 - Jan 28, 2008

Sadie.  She was the quintessential Jewish mother!  She was a great cook and made all the traditional recipes.  Naturally, in the big debate, I still insist that my mother made the best stuffed cabbage ever!  She was after all the daughter of a Kosher caterer in Coney Island!

She was one of 7 children and having gone through the depression and WWII she had seen her share of hard times. She was a bit of a rebel for her time, although she would not think so.  But at a time when girls stayed home until they were married, Sadie moved into an apartment with another nurse, who would always be known as aunt Dorothea, so they could live closer to the hospital.  It must have taken a lot of cojones to stand up to my grandfather and tell him she was moving out, even though she was in her late 20's, very old not to be married in those days.  And my grandfather wasn't happy with her choice to be a nurse, because back then, nursing wasn't as respected a profession as it is now.  And if you talk to some nurses, they might tell you it hasn't changed all that much.
But my mother was always a care giver, it was in her blood.  She cared for her own brother when he got Pneumonia and cared for him until he died.
I am immensely grateful that I had her as a mother, because when I became ill, I couldn't have had a better person taking care of me and watching out for me, after all, I was only 3.  I developed Polio and Perthes Disease when I was 3 and spent almost 2 years in the hospital Many of the children in the hospital where I was were left there, or got visitors only occasionally.
Sadie was there everyday for the entire time I was in the hospital, taking 4 buses each way to get to me because the hospital was on the other side of Brooklyn.  She missed one day in all that time because she was too sick to come and I remember that day like it was yesterday.  I had my first melt down at 4 years old..........I wanted my mommy!  They tried to explain to me she'd come the next day, but it was no consolation to me.  Funny how things stay with you.  I could have easily been institutionalized and left there, but that was never going to happen to a child of Sadie's.  I drew on this strength and example of unconditional Love when it was my turn to take care of her.  It was my time to return the care for her with the same Love and devotion that she showed me so many years before.
She had more than earned having her last years stress free and feeling unconditionally Loved!  She called me her Guardian Angel, that meant more to me than anything else in my life and I am so grateful to have been able to be that for her and give her such peace of mind.  Anyhow, this is about her.

She was set up with my father on a date by a family friend and she thought it would be funny to go out with a Mockie right off the boat.  My father had just come to this country after surviving the Holocaust.  He spoke no English and they spoke Yiddish on their date.  He turned out to be the Love of her life and the only man she ever loved or was with.  She married him shortly after they met and my brother came along 11 months later, and at 34, my mother was considered very old to have her first child.  I came along 2 years and 3 months later...........the start of so many problems, if they only knew.  My father worked in a sweat shop as a presser doing piece work, he got paid for every garment he pressed.  It was tough work working under less terrible conditions.  My parents spent their last savings to buy my wheel chair........not something they had ever imagined needing.

My dad died when I was 13 and after just 16 years of marriage, Sadie lost her only Love, despite attempts at CPR.  My dad had a massive coronary and was gone in minutes, right before our eyes.  That's another night I will never forget as long as I live.  Sadie was left with 2 teenage sons, and after having not worked in 16 years, she had to give up nursing because of a heart condition, she now had to go back to work to support her sons.
My dad had no life insurance, there was a one time payment from the German government for war reparations, my father had been suing the Germans through a German attorney he had.  When he died my mom couldn't read the letters which were in German and she ended up settling for a lot less than he would have gotten had he lived.  But she needed what she could get to survive.  We lived in the projects, and survivor benefits from Social Security were not enough to get by on.  She went on food stamps and Medicaid and we got by.  She got a job as a school aide so she could be around when me and my brother got out of school.  She got a job as a camp nurse at camps for rich kids so that my brother and I  could go to camp for the whole summer.  She put us both through college and we got to pursue our dreams.  Everything was about her 2 sons.
Which is why she deserved so much better than she got from my brother in the final years of her life.  He didn't show up on her death bed!  I carried so much anger about that and did as much as I could to make her feel so Loved, that she wouldn't feel bad that her oldest son didn't care.
But he had made her a grandma so he had lots of get out of jail free cards.

Six months after my father died, my mother's mother was a devastating time for Sadie, to lose her husband and mother in 6 months.
She never waivered.........she is the strongest woman I have ever known.
I am in awe of how she stepped up in the face of so much heartache and never complained, never made my brother or I feel insecure or worried about the future.  Sadie did that!  She was a selfless woman..............

Before I go any further, lest I give the impression that she was perfect, Saint Sadie, she could be a big pain in the ass and she was stubborn and wanted things done her way............I am a better cook than she was, and it was an exercise in patience trying to cook in her kitchen.  You would have thought that I didn't know anything.  She was very opinionated and I think in some way always needed someone to be mad at.  She didn't speak to her sister for 17 years and neither one remembered why.  When they finally made up, they were best friends.

Sadie was the mother who volunteered to go on all the class trips in elementary school.  Looking back I was lucky to have a mother who took such active participation in my growing up, but then, as a kid, you didn't really want your mom there, because if you misbehaved, there she was.
It was the 50's/60's and my mother cooked dinner every night.  We were expected to be at the table and never ate until my father got home from work.  We'd sit at the window and watch for him to get off the bus.  It was a much more innocent time back then and the beginning of the end of the traditional family unit as we knew it.  I went away alone for the first time after high school at 18.  I grew my first moustache, which Sadie informed me better be gone when I got home.  I managed to keep it and that was my first time really defying Sadie.  She cried when she found out I smoked pot, I was high and my mother was crying, what a bummer.  She had rules and I was just learning how to break them.  She threw me out at 22 and helped me move and decorate my new place.  But it was her house, her rules!  Sadie was a competent woman who could do a little plumbing, carpentry, painting, she took care of business.  She was very talented with her hands and could knit and crochet, needlepoints, anything like that, she was the Queen!  She could knit a baby sweater and hat in under 2 days.  I have a number of afghans in my house all made by her as do a few friends who were lucky enough to get them as gifts from me.  They are treasured keepsakes to all who have them.  In her later years you would be hard pressed to see her without some knitting needles in her hand.  If she was in front of the TV, she needed something to do with her hands.   She used to knit for fancy Madison Ave. boutiques, they'd give her the yarn and instructions and she'd make the sweater.  They'd pay her $75 and sell them for over $500............she was a prolific knitter.  The last thing she was making, was a pair of socks for me...........there is only a small swatch done, but I have still it on the needles as she left it before she died.  It is in the memory box I have on my wall as a tribute to her.  There is one for my dad right next to it.  They are the first thing you see as you enter my apt, it is important to me to keep their memories alive.  

Sadie loved cruises and went on quite a few, by herself.  She was fearless!   When she got too sick to go alone, she tried to get me to go with her.........I was a grown man, I didn't want to go with my mother, what fun would that be.  So she's in intensive care, the doctors tell me to get her affairs in order, this is probably it!  So I hold my mother's hand and tell her, you get better, and I'll take you on that cruise, a promise I'm sure I will never have to keep.  Well..........don't you know, 6 weeks later, she's home..........planning the cruise!  Oh dear lord, how did I get myself into this.  We went on a cruise that left from NY so I was able to get her electric wheelchair on the ship, so I didn't have to push her everywhere.  I was able to stay up late and play a piano and drink Remy Martin, which was very cheap on the ship and I always drew an audience so there were plenty of free drinks......a nice perk of being a musician.  Sadie was able to get up early and get around the ship on her own.  It was a very liberating feeling for her since she had home care aides with her all the time and missed her independence.  I could sleep late and we'd meet up later.  She was able to come and go as she pleased.  It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and it made Sadie sooo happy.  I am glad I was able to do that for her.   On one formal night, we had our picture taken, she looked great and I was in my tux.  It is a wonderful picture that hangs over my piano.  I am so glad I took her on that cruise just for that picture.  She looked so's a moment I can hold onto forever.

So I hope you have some sense of who Sadie can you put 91 years of an amazing life in a few paragraphs.  She loved helping people, was a natural born care giver, which is where I get it from.  She was a mother who made choo-choo train cakes for birthdays and made many of her own clothes from remnants and patterns my father brought home from work.  She knew her way around a sewing machine and it was a rude awakening, when she got too old to do my tailoring and I found out how expensive tailors are.  I always just brought it to Sadie!  She was a fiercely devoted wife and mother who travelled to different relatives to care for them if they became very ill.  She cared for her sister-in-law when she got brain cancer and allowed her to die with some dignity at home by her unselfish care, treating her like a sister.  She moved in with her nephew when his wife had quintuplets.  She did love taking care of babies.  She Loved her grand daughter and being a grandma.  I didn't always see eye to eye with her, but I respected her always.  In the last 10 years that I cared for her, we developed a very deep bond.  She had dragged me to doctors and hospitals for years as a child, and now I was dragging her..........we were a team!
What a reversal of roles.........I became the parent in the end.  But it was a natural circle of life and I honored her by caring for her with kindness, respect, admiration and all the Love I had to give.  She was a big personality in a small body, and has left a hole in my life that will never be filled.  I am so fortunate to have had her as my mother.  I am the man I am today to a great extent because of her and how she brought me up.
I got to really know her in those final years because each big hospital stay was potentially the last, so I took the time to really talk to her and ask all the questions I could think to ask her, because once she was gone, all the answers would be as well.  She cheated death for many years to the amazement of all her doctors........but they didn't know my mother!  I always said that the grim reaper better come with reinforcements when he came for Sadie, because she was going kicking and screaming into the hereafter.
She fought death for weeks, but it was inevitable.  She died peacefully in my arms.  I had been by her bedside for all that time and went home to shower and feed the boys, hoping she wouldn't die while I was gone.  I believe she waited for me because she passed shortly after I returned.  After all we had been through together, it was only fitting that I be with her at the end.  She died peacefully in my arms, I had just finished telling her it was OK to let go...............I watched as her breaths got shallower and slower, then there was no more, I waited to see just one more, but she was gone.  I sat with her for a long time, not wanting to leave her, knowing I'd never see her again.  Never touch her cheek or hold her hand.
I had prepared myself for that moment so many times before, there were so many almosts, 600 days in the hospital, over 60 emergency room visits.
I was there for every one of them!  That was one of the worst days of my life.  I was relieved that my mother was at peace, but she had been my purpose for 10  years, what was I going to do now!  But I'm Sadie's son, so I picked myself up and transformed my life.  Because that's what she would have done!
Happy Birthday Sadie...........I know you are celebrating with daddy and your family.  I take great comfort in knowing this..........I know you are watching out for me and I couldn't have a better Guardian Angel.  I wish you could have seen me this thin, but I know you have!  I could feel you smiling, and saying, you have such a nice face, if you'd only shave that beard now.  I still reach for the phone to call her when I have good or bad news.

I wish everyone could have known her, she was a wonderful woman and the best mother I could have ever had.  And in the end, we even became good friends!  I am truly Blessed!  I miss her so!

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