On Waiting For Someone To Die


You know what’s weird about waiting for someone to die?  You’re waiting for someone to die.  Just like you’re waiting for a cake to bake, or clothes to dry or the cable guy to show up.  You sit.  You watch the clock.  And wait.  Everything needs to be put on hold because you don’t know if it will happen today or tomorrow or next week or the week after that.  Some days you don’t feel like it’s going to happen at all.  Life gets put on hold because someone else’s life is being extinguished.  It’s a selfless act that tested me in more ways than I was comfortable with.

As my mom laid in her hospice bed in the middle of the living room, we all watched the clock. Every day.  She watched it, too.

“Am I still here?” she’d ask.

“Yes, Mother, you’re still here.”

“Shit,” she’d respond.

And we’d all go back to watching TV.  And watching the clock.  And sometimes even saying “shit,” ourselves because we didn’t know when it would happen.  And our lives remained on hold.

You feel guilty for thinking about the things you have to do other than being with the person dying.  In my case it was Christmas.  The parties I was missing, the decorations I would never put up, the popcorn that wouldn’t be strung this year.  I kept counting the days saying, “If my mom died today, and we had a funeral, would I get home in time to put up Christmas lights?”  So wrong, but it’s the stuff that goes through your head.

And then there were the Bob Seger tickets. I felt extreme guilt for not giving up a pair of tickets I purchased for a show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. I couldn’t bring myself to return them.  Just in case.  Just in case she’d go a couple days shy of the show.  They were really good seats; great seats, in fact.  The most money I’ve ever paid for concert tickets in my life.  One of the perks of being married to a musician is that you get into just about every concert for free.  With VIP passes.  And backstage access.  And after parties.  But my tickets to Bob Seger were just as a mere civilian.  A fan from Detroit who was looking forward, more than anything, to seeing this show 2,294 miles away from the living room I was sitting in now.

The concert was December 27th.  One week from today.  My mom’s blood pressure was still perfect, her heart was still beating, her spirits were still high.  She didn’t look like she’d be going anywhere anytime soon.  And, admittedly, I was antsy.  I was hoping the process would speed up so that I could go on with my life and go to this show.  I can’t believe I’m saying that out loud, but I am.  I’d had enough of diapering and poop wiping and tooth brushing and hair combing and body flipping and care taking.  I wanted to end the grieving.  I wanted life to be normal again.  I wanted to turn the page and let Bob Seger roll me away.


As I stood beside my mom’s casket, in front of the church altar on December 27th – the day of her funeral, the day of the show – I never thought of Bob Seger once.  I could only think of my mom’s laugh and how I wished I could hear that sweet song just one more time.

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The S**t List

My niece Nicole and I were sitting with my mom in the family room.  It was an overcast day, wet and sleeting.  The curtains to the back patio door were open, allowing my mom to see a little bit of the outdoors from her bed.  Though she didn’t venture into her backyard much – if at all – she always liked to see outside to report on the weather.  “Oh God, it’s gonna rain today.”  “Look at how dark that sky is!”  “Turn the air on, Nick, it’s gonna be a hot one!”  From as early as I can remember, my mom and dad have been obsessed with the weather.  Which is ironic, seeing that she rarely experienced the weather from any place other than her sofa. She never even opened the windows in her house.  In the summer they were closed while the air conditioner was on; in the winter they were closed, because of the bitter Michigan cold.  Occasionally, she would allow some air in from the screened back patio door.  But this wasn’t very often.  It usually only opened if there was a smoke alarm crisis from something burning in the kitchen, or there was a house full of people and we simply needed air.

An outdoorswoman, Millie Goich was not.

We used to spend our summer nights on the back patio.  It wasn’t that large, but it was roomy enough to house a three-piece patio set, a dining table and chairs and a gas barbecue grill.  One of my favorite memories was eating corn-on-the cob on that back patio on warm, Michigan summer nights. This all stopped a few years earlier when their awning over the back patio ripped.  Rather than fix or replace it, my mom decided to keep it down.  From that point forward, they never put their patio furniture back outside in the summers.  Now, If my dad wanted to sit in the yard, he’d have to get a folding chair – which he often did – set it up in the middle of the empty slab of concrete – and make himself at home for a few hours with a good book.

But my mom never ventured outside.  Well, occasionally, she’d open the back patio door to “Psssssssttt” away a squirrel.  She hated squirrels.  I don’t know where this animosity toward the fuzzy-tailed rodents started, but if she’d see one in the yard, she’d  push open the patio door, stand behind the screen and let out her warning call, “Psssssssssssstttttttt!  Psssssssssssstttttttt!”  The squirrels would scamper out of the yard, over the fence and up a tree.  My mom always looked pleased with her accomplishment.  She’d go back to the couch, pick up her hand-held slot machine game, and continue playing until the next squirrel dared to set foot on her patio.

On this grey afternoon, Nicole glanced outside to see my mom & dad’s neighbor, Kitty Finazzo peering out of her bathroom window.  When she saw my niece looking toward her, the curtain swung shut.  This wasn’t an easy task for Kitty, since her window was over the bath tub.  To look out the window, she would have had to stand on something to reach it. It was clear that Kitty REALLY wanted to see what was going on in my parent’s house.

Since my mom had been home from the hospital, she had not seen Kitty Finazzo. Kitty Finazzo had not seen my mom. Unbeknownst to Kitty Finazzo, she was on my mom’s shit list.  Getting on the shit list wasn’t a place you wanted to be.  Because once you were on, it was really, really difficult to get off.  This isn’t a list she pulled out very often. In fact, over the years, I recall only four people being on this list.  For various reasons my mom would get ticked off and say, “I’m not talking to her again. She can go to Hell.”  And that was it.  You were officially on the list.  Three of the people made it off the list, but it took years.  And now, at the end of my mom’s life, one person remained:  Poor Kitty Finazzo.

What Kitty Finazzo did to get on the list wasn’t shit-list-worthy to me, but this is my mom’s list, not mine, so I have to respect that.  It happened three weeks earlier.  My mom had just started her kidney dialysis.  Her three-day-a-week appointments had been taking a toll on my mom.  Getting in and out of my dad’s Jeep SUV wasn’t easy for her and even with the step stool, climbing into the front seat was getting more and more difficult.  It was hard for my almost 90-year-old dad to help my mom up into the car, as well.  And when the weather was bad – and there was snow on the ground – getting her into the car in an icy parking lot was next to impossible.

It was at this point that my parents decided to borrow a sedan from my cousin that would be easier for my mom to get in and out of.  This would hopefully remedy the transportation problem and make her appointments a little easier on the both of them. Until they could come up with a more permanent solution, they would park my cousin Jim’s car in their garage, and ask Kitty Finazzo if they could park their car in her garage.   Kitty didn’t have a car and her garage was empty.  Though my parents had a two-car garage, one half of the garage was filled with my niece Sara’s belongings.  She and her boyfriend were planning a cross-country trip from Reno to retrieve it, but for now it remained in my parent’s garage.  Since there wasn’t room to park two vehicles, they had to find a home for the Jeep during this transition.

So they decided to ask Kitty Finazzo if they could park in her garage.  Kitty Finazzo said she didn’t see a problem with that. However, a day later, she called my dad and said that her son said no.  Why the son had any say-so over Kitty’s garage is a mystery – he didn’t live with her – but he put his foot down and said my dad would have to find another place to park the Jeep.  This pissed my mom off exponentially. “For all we have done for her over the years!  You take her to the grocery store, drive her to the fruit market!  And she won’t let us park in her goddamned garage!  To Hell with her!”  And that was it.  Shit listed forever.

If you liked this excerpt, and would like information on the book when it’s published