Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Geraldine Anne Albrecht Phillips, 1922-2011

B's mother died in the hospital Tuesday morning at 3:30. Surgery had not relieved the swelling on the brain that was keeping her in a semi-coma, she'd apparently had a major stroke as well, and there just wasn't anything left to do.

You know the slogan, "Shop till you drop"? That's literally what happened. Ma (as her children called her) loved to shop, and was happiest on a trip to the mall. That's where she was with B's sister on Friday when, on getting into the car to leave, she slipped and fell, and her head hit the pavement heavily. After that it was mostly downhill, and all hospital. At least she went out doing what she loved best.

The doctors and nurses commented on how tough and strong she was, even in this losing ordeal. She should be tough; she was a WAVE in World War II. That's how she met her husband, who had just been discharged from the Seabees. The marriage between a middle-class Catholic storekeeper's daughter from Rochester, New York, and a poor Baptist dirt-farmer's son from west Texas caused a certain amount of alarm in both families, but it lasted to his death a few years ago, and produced 7 children, 12 (if I haven't forgotten any) grandchildren, and so far a few great-grandchildren. You'd think raising all those children - all by herself at times when their Pa was working on construction projects overseas - would be enough, but she also taught school.

By the time I met her, all the children had left home, and in retirement she had what she called "itchy feet." The two of them moved every few years among various developments around Northern California and even Hawaii. For a long time they had a cat named Oberon (Obie for short), a hairless Cornish Rex with a gigantic body and little tiny feet, and he'd walk on visitors in the guest bed, leaving imprints. In widowhood, Ma settled permanently in an apartment in San Jose, close to several children, until physical conditions made living entirely on her own no longer feasible, and she moved to independent living quarters in a senior facility a few months ago.

I could count on my mother-in-law for several things: to always have a box of See's candy around and to partake of it herself without stint; to give Barnes and Noble gift cards for Christmas; and to always be ready to take B. out for dinner (usually at a coffee shop or the Cheesecake Factory) on Saturdays after the two of them went to Vigil mass together (their regular custom), if I was going to be out that evening. She remained the center of her family, as was always obvious at any of their large, boisterous gatherings, and I too will miss her. As S. Gross's bull said to the calf when the cow jumped over the Moon, "Son, your mother is a remarkable woman."

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