Missing Mom: The Earth has lost a bright light

Believe it or not, a lot of people tell me they love reading my column. There's no accounting for taste, haha, but today I'm very sad because I just lost my number-one fan. My mother, Gertrude "Trudy" (Colasanti) Palmeri, just died and I have such a heavy heart I can barely breathe. Truly the Earth just lost one of those bright lights that make the world a better place.

When you grow up as the oldest son in an Italian family, you are treated like royalty, for better or worse. For example, I still can't make a bed properly because I never had to. Same thing with washing clothes and other general cleaning and housework.

I'm bad at these things not because I'm lazy or don't want to do them; I simply don't know how. I'm trying to learn — I really like clean things — but, with Mom around, I never had to worry.

Mom and Dad moved to Guilderland from Brooklyn a couple of years ago, but her health had degraded so much that we could never do the many fun things I had been hoping we'd do when my parents finally moved up here. You know, the free concerts, the nature trails, the museums, etc. — the many rich and varied activities that make the Capital District such an appealing place to live.

Mom hadn't felt good for a long time, and, when you don't feel good, you don't have any enthusiasm to do anything. I can sympathize because I'm the same way.

The irony is that Mom was always such a strong person. She never needed to see a doctor her whole life until the last few years, but, when she finally needed a doctor, she needed several.

She had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD (breathing problems), heart issues (including a stent), and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Combine all that with being almost 80 years old and I know it shouldn't be a surprise that she's gone, but it still hurts so much.

I don't know if all Italian mothers have anxiety issues, but my mom had them all her life. A good example is when I moved upstate from Brooklyn. I had some clothes, some record albums, and not much else, yet she insisted I rent a large U-Haul truck for the move. When my friends came to help me unload, they said they'd never seen such a large truck for so little stuff. Yet that's what she wanted to make sure I'd be safe.

The other day, we put Mom on hospice care. In case you don't know, hospice is a great program — my lovely wife Charlotte volunteers for them — and we felt really good that Mom was going to get some great care, but it was not to be. That very same night, we had to decide whether to let her die at home or bring her to a hospital.

Since it happened so fast, we chose the hospital, and that's where my mother gave me her last lesson. I know now I'm going to fill out a health-care proxy with the orders “Do not resuscitate.” Trust me, you don't want to be connected to machines at the end; it's much better to go peacefully. I can thank my mom for making that abundantly clear to me and the rest of my family who were at her bedside.

My mom loved her family — including her husband of 60 years, Frank, and her three boys — more than anything. I could share a zillion stories about Mom but I'll limit it to just one.

When I was around 8, I was in a department store, wheeling a shopping cart, with my little brother in the child’s seat. I was heading for the checkout line when I accidentally bumped the lady in front of me with the cart.

This lady then yelled at me in a very loud and mean fashion. At that point, I saw a side of my normally calm and docile mother that I'd never seen before, as she let that lady have it up and down and every way from Sunday for yelling at her young child.

That's when I knew she would always "have my back," as we say in Brooklyn. How lucky I and my brothers are to have had such a great mom.

Life is nothing more than one decision after another. It occurs to me that, when I asked myself, "What would mom think of this?" before making a decision, I invariably made the best choices. Too bad I didn't do that much more often.

Still, she was so, so proud of me. If you'd seen her lately, you may have noticed how fat her purse was. That's because she'd cut out all my columns and stick them in there to read and show off to friends. When I say I lost my biggest fan, I'm not kidding at all.

Let me take this moment to thank everyone reading this and the rest of the Capital District for being so nice to my parents from the moment they moved to Guilderland. I warned them that, as true Brooklynites, they would find it very different living up here rather than in the big city. They used to complain that it was too quiet up here, but, after a while, they admitted that they should have moved here much sooner.

The best was when they'd tell so many stories of random acts of kindness that all of you did for them, from little things like giving directions to helping inflate their tires. Little acts of kindness that we upstaters take for granted but that get lost in the hustle and bustle of the big city.

It made me so proud to be a Capital District resident every time they'd tell me one of these stories. Again, thank you for your kindness. It is so much appreciated.

Now we have to make sure Dad can find a way to move on without the love of his life. It won't be easy, certainly, but maybe, like Ringo, he'll get by with a little help from his friends.