Vickroy: Journey ends, but memories of mom live on
Donna Vickroy email@example.com | (708) 633-5982 June 22, 2012 9:44PM
Donna Vickroy’s mother lost her battle with cancer and passed away June 17. | Supplied photo
Updated: July 25, 2012 6:35AM
This past Mother’s Day presented an unexpected challenge.
For several years on the annual Sunday tribute to mom, I would treat mine to a mini-adventure. One year, I took her on the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s cruise down the Chicago River. Another time, we walked the Botanic Gardens in Glencoe. More recently we visited the Art Institute of Chicago, a place she hadn’t been since she rode the bus there as a child.
Truth be told, our annual excursions were as much for me as they were for her. An appreciation for cultural outings was something my mom and I shared.
Because my mom had six kids, sometimes our outings took place the previous Saturday, leaving time for my siblings to treat her in their own way, too. Fortunately, she also had enough interests to go around.
Some of my siblings shared her love for poker and would take her to the riverboats from time to time. Others liked to shop and would spend hours with her hunting for bargains.
In addition to adventures, I shared her love for mysteries, reading and games. I think we both had a mini crush on Agatha Christie’s fictional detective, Hercule Poirot. Our annual Christmas Eve Trivial Pursuit tournament evolved into a rousing hourslong challenge that resulted in prizes and more than a few accusations of cheating — all in jest, of course.
Each of us celebrated our mom in our own way.
In March, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was already stage four when they found it. Almost immediately, she began radiation on a spot in her leg.
The treatment left her dependent on a walker. I knew she wouldn’t be up for a physically challenging adventure on Mother’s Day. Yet, I knew I had to do something because I had that feeling. You know, the one that says time’s awasting?
With chemotherapy scheduled to begin in mid-May, I took a cue from my mom’s doctor and decided to help “bulk her up,” get her ready for the blast of poison that was headed her way.
I called one of her favorite restaurants, Tin Fish in Tinley Park, and made a reservation, even though after so many years of fun outings, dinner seemed almost too ordinary.
Not to her. She began the meal with a pina colada — virgin, of course, because she couldn’t have alcohol. Then she ordered salad, the prawns special and topped it all off with dessert. For weeks prior, her appetite had been waning. But that night, she dug in.
Restaurant owners Curtis Wierbicki and Colin Turner came to our table and greeted us. They chatted for a time and wished my mom a happy Mother’s Day.
Perhaps the planets aligned that evening, or maybe my memory has been skewed by subsequent sorrow, but it seemed to me that she laughed and smiled more that night than she had in weeks.
Afterward, she hugged me and said she’d had so much fun. As usual, she ended with, “But you shouldn’t have spent so much money.”
In the parking lot, I gave her a card and a giant arrangement of annuals. My mom always loved to plant flowers in spring, and I knew that this year she wouldn’t get the chance.
That was my mom’s last night on the town, so to speak. She began chemo the following week and spent the next month in and out of Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. As predicted, the chemo kicked her butt.
Though she fought valiantly to keep Jell-O and yogurt down, her strength simply faded away.
She lost weight. Her body stopped producing white blood cells. Transfusions of platelets had no effect.
The cancer kept spreading.
On Father’s Day, after a grueling three days of struggle, she passed.
At first, I was horrified that she’d make her exit on a holiday, but my dad had an explanation.
After 56 years of marriage, he figured, she knew her passing would be hard on him. She wanted his kids to be there when it happened, as well as on subsequent anniversaries. What better way to ensure that than on Father’s Day?
My mom was not good at transitions. She entered this world amid sorrow and chaos, arriving just nine days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Her exit was just as sad and tumultuous, for nothing robs you of your dignity and your demeanor more than cancer.
Though her journey ended with a rough landing, I know in my heart that with time one forgets the nightmarish logistics of travel and focuses on what really matters: the love, the good times and the mini-adventures enjoyed along the way.