Book by Lisa Goich – Foreword by Mitch Albom
In stores 11.10.15
A familiar comfort came over me when we pulled into the Target parking lot. I was suddenly calm and happy. The bullseye was calling my name. I love Target. When I’m bored or down, I head to Target just to walk around, people watch, and buy more Mossimo t-shirts I really don’t need. It’s my happy place. Perhaps my mom was right. Maybe I did need to get something new to wear to perk me up and lift my spirits. At the very least, something new wouldn’t smell. And though I couldn’t smell myself, I’m assuming I wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around that week.
Whenever I was in town, my mom and I would go to Target together. I would drive and she would push the cart, which served a double purpose: a receptacle for our day’s haul and giant walker on wheels, steadying my mom as she strolled the aisles. My mom was fun to shop with. She was of the “if you like it, buy it,” mentality. Not much for teaching me fiscal responsibility, but we sure did have a great time building our wardrobes.
Going to Target without my mom this day was another one of those light bulb moments that I’d have during this fourteen-day period. Not only was she not with me now, but she wouldn’t be with me here again. Ever. And as the Christmas carols filled the store and I passed horizontal striped sweaters, I was tempted to pick one up and toss it in the basket for her. At the same time, I realized that she would never be out of her pajamas again. Clothing—other than her funeral dress—would no longer be an option.
“Funeral dress! I have nothing to wear to the funeral!” I said to my sister, as we passed racks of skirts and blouses. I never thought about what I was going to wear to my mom’s funeral. It seemed so far off, if it was going to happen at all. My mom’s health—though not perfect— didn’t seem to be declining to the point of a possible funeral. However, the nurses knew otherwise and continued to tell us that in about seven days she would be gone. How could that be? She wanted an Icee. People just don’t die when they’re still well enough to request an Icee.
Just then, a coat caught my eye. I didn’t bring a warm coat with me from L.A. I always wore my mom’s coats when I came to Detroit in the winter, rather than lug anything heavy with me on the plane. But the celadon green coat with the faux fur collar was dressy enough to be appropriate for a funeral, yet not too heavy to wear back in L.A. on a brisk California winter night. Plus buying it would make me feel good. And I really needed to feel good at that moment. There was one coat left on the rack—a medium—my size. Without even trying it on, I tossed it in my basket and could hear my mom saying, “If you like it, buy it.” So I did.
As I continued on my quest, nothing in the store seemed funeral-worthy. I had a navy blue dress at home that would be perfect. I’d have my husband bring it with him when he came. I bought a pair of tights to go with the dress. I found a pair of black pants and a blouse to wear to the funeral home the night before. I was set for the end. But I still needed something to hold me over for the next week. Something comfortable to live in, yet appropriate enough to receive guests. I settled on a pair of red and white flannel pants, dotted with snowflakes, with a long-sleeved red thermal shirt. And I couldn’t pass up the red knee- high cable-knit slippers with the giant red ball ties on the sides. I knew my mom would like these, too, and thought about buying a pair for her. But I stopped myself. This was as close as I’d get to donning all our gay apparel this holiday season.
As we passed the jewelry section I thought that, perhaps, I should buy her a ring or a bracelet or something that she could wear with her funeral dress. But is that really how you want to send someone off? With a ring from Target? I think anything you wear for all of eternity should be meaningful in some way. Old, new, borrowed, blue. Or at the very least, expensive. Or handmade. So, instead, I decided to pick up a card that I would tuck into my mom’s casket, written but not read, for her to open when she arrived at her final destination. We would put it in her pouch.
My mom’s pouch was a purse I had made for her a year earlier to attach to the front of her walker. After her scoliosis had gotten to a critical point, she had a very hard time walking without assistance. Her walker had a seat attached to it that enabled her to sit when she was tired. She loved her walker. And she was hell on wheels when she strolled through the aisles of the grocery store, with a “Get out of my way, I’m coming through!” look on her face. I purchased the canvas for the pouch from a craft’s store, along with the letters M-I-L-L-I-E in bright blue, to iron on the front pockets. I flanked her name with two red stars, which made the pouch Liberace fabulous. She used it when she went shopping, placing her credit card, her money and her coupons neatly in the pockets. When she would go to the casino with my dad, she’d put her player’s card in the pouch, which entitled her to special casino perks. She loved the pouch.
We decided that the pouch was too nice to leave behind. So she re- quested to have it put into her casket. We had an idea to fill the pouch with goodbye offerings for my mom to take with her on her final trip. We encouraged people who visited to bring something for my mom to put inside—a picture, a note, a trinket—whatever it was they wanted my mom to remember them by. I added pictures of us together, some casino tokens, a few knick-knacks and would now add this card. I placed the card in the basket and headed to the check-out.
As my sister and I wrapped up our shopping, we were surrounded at the cash registers by parents with baskets overloaded with toys that would soon be wrapped and lovingly placed under Christmas trees. We didn’t put a tree up this year. We didn’t have any gifts to wrap. We had a basket full of funeral clothes. Santa would not be visiting Newport Drive this Christmas and we were fine with that. Our gift was these last few days with our mother. A gift I had taken for granted for forty-nine Christmases past.