My eulogy for Mom, given at her funeral on Friday:
You know, I almost never go first. As the 6th kid, in fact, I almost never go 2nd through 5th. But a few days ago as we planned this, we realized that after going 6th for Dad’s memorial such a short time ago, it was only fair to reverse the order today.
And as simple as that, you realize the dynamic of the Arbittier family. We work so well together and love each other so much, and despite PLENTY of teasing, only want the best for each other… honestly I had no idea how rare that was for a very long time.
That’s 100% because of Mom. Well, Dad too – but he’s already had his tribute. Because Mom was a lot of things – from a chemist to a customer service rep to a diet counselor to a shop owner to a major volunteer – but where she channeled most of her energy, more energy than most people have TOTAL – was being a mother.
Mom was kind and patient and selfless, but not a pushover. She believed with such passion that we were all special – in our own unique ways — and could accomplish anything, that we all believed it. Still do. She and Dad were willing to do anything to help us with any of our goals and dreams. And for the most part, it actually worked!
And Mom didn’t just talk the talk – she was SO involved with all of us… For example, she was ALWAYS the room parent at school. For all 6 kids! And not just a figurehead position, I promise. I still remember every year at McKinley Elementary’s Halloween Parade… she’d arrive, look around at the kids who didn’t have or forgot costumes and she’d go into the craft closet, pull out poster board, wrap the kids in it, draw squiggly lines and write CRAYOLA down their sides, make a quick cone hat and VOILA – they were crayons, and SO HAPPY.
Of course, because of Mom I now sign up for everything too. Room mother, fundraising chair… you name it. Trying to balance that with my career, I am a mediocre approximation of her at best. Last month I volunteered to explain Chanukah to my daughter’s 1st grade class in Austin and forgot the menorah and dreidels. LUCKILY they didn’t have my mom to compare me to… so I just channeled her – smiled and got to know each of the kids while giving them chocolate and explaining that the Dreidel game is basically gambling, and it all worked out just fine.
Every Thanksgiving, I think of the year Ellen Kaplinsky ran over from across the street – she was hosting her whole family for the holiday and totally ruined her stuffing. Mom grabbed a few extra loaves of challah, veggies, seasonings, and the rest – that she just HAPPENED to HAVE in the ridiculously well-stocked convenience store we called our garage – Actually Rachel Kaplinsky refers to it as “the original Costco” – mom was amazing that way – and made a new batch for her while showing her the recipe so she wouldn’t have a problem again. You know, in the middle of making our own Thanksgiving dinner. Who does that? The best part was when we went over and discovered that the stuffing Ellen had “ruined” was the Stovetop kind, from the box. I remember Mom and Ellen laughing about that for weeks!
In recent years, it was so hard watching Mom’s incredible energy dim, both physically and then eventually, mentally. But her love, patience, kindness and support never dimmed. Even when Dad died, she still kept a strong face, still never showed her suffering, was still the least complaining person I’ve ever met in the face of medical challenges that would have made most people give up LONG ago. She wasn’t able to be quite the Supermom she had once been, wasn’t able to be the hands-on grandmother to my kids that I knew she wanted to be, and it was hard to watch. That said, the time we spent with her was so valuable, and I loved that she got to know my kids – REALLY know them, and see what is special about them, remind me and them regularly that THEY are amazing and can do anything they want to do in their lives. I believe I am passing that on to them because of her. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m just carbon-copying all of her parenting moves, as much as possible, because I know they are all the right moves. And again, how many adult kids EVER say that about their parents??
For years, I’ve been dreaming of a parallel universe where Mom and Dad got to really thrive in their 60’s, 70’s, even 80’s and 90’s. Where they got another ridiculous motorhome – one with way too many gadgets that my dad picked out and paid WAY too much for while my mom rolled her eyes – and spent the last chapter of their life driving around the country, visiting their kids and grandchildren, listening to great music, dancing, picking up stray pets, kibitzing and laughing, passing along family stories and traditions and that incredible love and support that they just radiated. I’m so glad they are together again, and choose to picture them starting that adventure now.