Gravy Goes With Everything

My earliest memory of Pauline was of her standing on top of a chair, screaming as a mouse ran across the floor. This would not have been the usual, stoic, keep-it-together mom that was obvious to me later in life. I do not remember other episodes of this woman being hysterical, losing it to furry critters or when life was a bit topsy-turvey. I seldom saw my mother sweat, but perhaps growing up the youngest girl in a family of fifteen taught her to take everything in stride and keep emotions in check.

While I tell others that I take after dad, I am still Pauline‘s daughter. Like her, I have been a clothes horse and gatherer of shoes. Like her, I enjoy walking and being in nature rather than at amusement parks. Like her, I was not opposed to screaming at crawling things, although in my case it has been June bugs, not mice.

In recalling memories of Pauline, I realize she tried to teach her daughter many lessons over the course of sixty-one years. I accepted some of those lessons and rejected others.

  • It’s okay to say you have cut back on sweets if no one sees you walk to the bakery department.

  • Never forget the German gravy, even when you make chop suey. Gravy goes with everything.

  • It pays to shop for bargains; never mind the cost of gas to drive across town to save ten cents.

  • No matter your children are adults who earn a paycheck, they need all of your leftover food.

  • It’s okay you’re not married, I didn’t like him anyway.

  • Potato pancakes are best served from a cast iron skillet during Lent.

  • Always wear color next to your face; black is for old people.

  • Hang onto your favorite ratty black sweater as long as possible.

  • Coffee and meat are life-sustaining.

  • An occasional adult refreshment is good for the soul.

  • KitKats are the bomb. Hide them in the cupboard so you can have them all to yourself.

  • When you are 99, you can sleep at the dinner table.

  • Moms are always saints; it doesn’t matter if they have two children or thirteen.

Pauline led mother and daughter on a six year journey with dementia, beginning around 2012. It’s an unforgiving disease, not remembering people or your own history, mixing reality with fiction, showing extreme anxiousness and forgetting five minutes later what you had for lunch. We had interesting conversations over the past seven years, many of which brought out the humor in difficult situations.

During one of the last visits with Pauline, she was alert, but not talking much sense. At one point she asked me, “Where’s the beautiful?” I responded with, “I’m sitting right here, mom. I’m the beautiful!” Mom smiled and then laughed. I was grateful when I could make mom smile, but there were also moments when she was the unwitting comedienne. I adored this about her.

One November, I asked mom what she was giving me for Christmas. Pauline answered with “I don’t know.” I said to her, “How about a boyfriend?” The comedienne’s response was, “Sure, but he has to be Catholic.” Mom took her Catholic faith seriously, for which I admired her dedication, except I am now Protestant and looking for Mr. Upright and Breathing.

In the time I spent with mom, after dad died in 2012, it brought me closer to her. We had not always seen eye-to-eye in everything when I was younger, so I considered the closeness as a gift. When Pauline‘s dementia took a stronghold over her and she declined in the last year, I prayed that God would ease her anxiety and take her home, when it was time, without suffering. Mom died peacefully in her sleep in February and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Mom has been “home” for two months now, with her parents, siblings and husband – most likely drinking coffee, sustaining stoicism and giving Jesus her worldly advice.


Dear Readers, I’m currently engaged in an online creative writing course through a local library. This post has been my incursion into assignment #5: “People influence our lives. Think of someone who has affected you in some way. Using all of the techniques we’ve covered in the lessons, write a short story or essay loosely based on this person.”

I could not help but think of my mother with this assignment.

Hope you enjoyed and I will be sharing one more assignment next week, if deemed appropriate and printable.

28 responses to Gravy Goes With Everything

  1. loisajay says:

    Mary–I so love the thought of your mom giving Jesus her worldly advice. And I am so sure He is listening and taking notes.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Yeah, especially the advice about food and drink, although He may prefer to stick to His wine rather than mom’s brandy manhattans. :-p

      • Ha. One day they’ll be talking about how insane their mother was and they still don’t understand the attraction of running unless something is chasing you.

        The Youngest Son is studying psychology this year and the other day in the car he told me one thing he really likes about it is learning about good and bad parenting. Awkward silence ensued….

      • bikerchick57 says:

        LOL, just what you need..a son that infers you may be insane or a bad mom. You can them remind him of who clothed and fed him and killed dangerous flying insects for him.

  2. joey says:

    I agree with her on several points, particularly potato pancakes 😛 I truly love the idea of her telling Jesus how it is on earth. Imagine if he was the only way he got the information. That’s a right good tale of fiction waiting to be written 😉

    • bikerchick57 says:

      That’s a great idea Joey…”Pauline tells Jesus how it is.” A bit of humorous fiction. 😄
      Gosh how I miss those potato pancakes. Hers were the best.

      • joey says:

        It’s my opinion that every time I make them they’re better and better, and uh, she had a lot of years on me, so I believe you. (Plus everything tastes better when your own mama makes it. I’ve even got a post about that. You can give someone a recipe and even a tutorial on their mother’s ______ and it’ll never taste as good as when their mama made it.)

      • bikerchick57 says:

        Exactly. Same with her schnitzel or dad’s apple squares (he was a good cook too). I’ve not found much that comes close at the restaurants, but it’s possible you may have a leg up on the pancakes.

      • joey says:

        Schnitzel — okay, seriously, when I was 17 I had schnitzel cooked by an ACTUAL German woman, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth — and nowhere, no other Germanfest, Oktoberfest, no German restaurant, not even the guy who spent 3 years there! will EVER touch that schnitzel.

      • bikerchick57 says:

        My mom learned from her mom, who must have been an excellent cook. You could cut mom’s schnitzel with a fork, it was that tender.

  3. Hi MJ – I am late to the party, please forgive me. Pauline may not have approved the fact that I never put gravy on anything – until recently when I discovered poutine. Also, belated condolences on your loss. Thanks for sharing this.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Maggie, no worries. You can be as late as you want. I appreciate all comments.
      Mom would probably not approve of my cuurent eating habits either…no gravy! I’ve never had the desire to try poutine, but glad you’re enjoying it, Maggie.

  4. Dan Antion says:

    You had me at gravy!

    Beautiful memories and a nice tribute. I had to laugh a couple of times:

    “It’s okay you’re not married, I didn’t like him anyway.” – I heard variations in every form after I got divorced.

    “Potato pancakes are best served from a cast iron skillet during Lent.” – Now I am hungry.

    “KitKats are the bomb. Hide them in the cupboard so you can have them all to yourself.” – I now think of your mom whenever I see KitKats.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Joey claims to make fabulous potato pancakes, so besides being hungry for them, maybe I need to take a trip to Indiana.

      I think the divorce thing is funny too. Now. Maybe not back then.

      Mom would feel honored that she is remembered for a candy bar. There could be worse things.

  5. Yes, MaryJ — though I’m terribly late, I enjoyed it very much. I don’t know what your writing teacher said, but I give you an A+ on this assignment. 😀 Hugs.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thank you so much, Teagan. The writing teacher has been very supportive and positive with my finished assignments, which encourages me to keep blogging and writing.

  6. Joanne Sisco says:

    I’m so late to finding this post, Mary. It’s a lovely look-back on life and what a special lady your mom was in your life.

    Mom’s ARE saints and I too look back on my own mom and appreciate all the good things she brought into my life … especially the comic relief 💕

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thanks Joanne. I’ve been thinking of mom a lot and how I will spend my first Mother’s Day without her. I think she would appreciate it if I had adult refreshment at the very least.

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