Remembering My Mom

I'm going to switch it up from my normal fare of lady-gasms, lady-bation, sexual culture, and media representations for this post. This is what you might call a Very Special Episode of the SSL Blog. I lost my mother, Pat Eberle, a few weeks ago, and since I write on this blog and like my mom a lot, I'm going to do a little tribute/remembering for her - because I want to and because I think she'd be interesting for people to read about.

Mom her senior year of high school

My writing will be a little stream of consciousness, so bare with me. I'm not sure exactly what I want to say yet, so I hope it comes out right.

Mom's 'school pic' while she was director of a childcare center. Must have been near Easter. Notice the bunny vest and bunny earrings.

I guess I'll start with saying this isn't the first time I've written about my mom in this blog. She's always supported the shit out of me. I'm just a gal that made a no-holds-barred movie about the female orgasm (I mean there were real close-up vulvas 20 feet high on the screen) with a mom (and dad too) that not only acted in the movie, catered a couple shoots, but also proudly attended the premiere, brought lots of friends and had little small showings of her own. It's not exactly what most moms imagine for their daughter, but she would have full on supported anything I was passionate about. That's how she was. Here's almost a decade old post about the SSL movie costuming day that my mom and my bad-ass aunt Cathy catered for us. HERE and HERE and HERE are posts thanking my mom for giving me things like confidence and a level of openness and accurate knowledge about my body and my sexuality. HERE and HERE are posts relating to mom's struggle with cancer the last 2 years (btw she did get through the last bad chemo I wrote about, and luckily never had to go through anything like that again). And HERE's a quick post about St. Patrick's Day that has a picture of her hugging a giant Kidney at the St. Pat's parade...because why not.

mom and dad on set of Science, Sex and the Ladies

Point is, she is a piece of me, this movie I made, this blog, and my activism. She cannot be separated from me and the things that I do, and I specifically have always felt her presence in my interest in and passion for this, I don't know how exactly how to say it, comradery of women and our journey towards sexual self-actualization.

Me and mom dancing, I think on my 15th birthday

She was a feminist even though she may not have always called herself that. She built up the women in her life much more than she cut them. She believed in the power of community and to me, she always seemed to be working for some kind of greater good, whether through her job or her volunteering, and it's not like she was a rich woman of leisure that had time to get into things. She was squarely working class. Even when she stayed home with my sister and I before we started school, she was able to do so because she ran an in-home day care center and bartended on Saturdays. But still she had time to get out into her community and do shit. It was a really meaningful example to set. I see that now in my sister with her children and my sister's many, busy forms of activism that, frankly, she has very little time for, but she does it anyway. My sister, like my mom, put the work in to cultivate a big strong community that she both gives to and enjoys support from. She amazes me sometimes. She is my heart, and I'm so glad I have her to go through this with.

mom bartending at the American Legion

 A couple years ago, I realized my mom ended up raising 2 hard-core activist daughters. I got my orgasm stuff, and my sister, although always somewhat of an LGBTQ activist, got deep into the thorny politics and real-life advocacy for trans people when her 12 year old came out to her as trans. Here's another Very Special SSL Blog Post  where I posted the letter my sister created to 'introduce' her daughter to friends and family. I might add that my niece is now a happy, healthy 16 year old that is an incredibly brave activist as well. My mom loved the hell out of her from the day she was born until forever - without wavering - even as she worked to learn what being trans would mean for her grandbaby and her family.

Mom kissing on her first grandbaby

I feel like that's something that makes me think most of my mom - children. She loved kids. I don't mean that in a mushy, sweetsy way. She was all about discipline and respect and she was fine letting kids entertain themselves on their own while adults did adult things. I mean that she loved children in that she felt a responsibility toward any child in her life - no matter how they made it into her life or who they were connected to. They were a child, and they deserved to feel safe, and special, and cared for and she went out of her way to make that happen. For so many children around her, she made sure that she was a responsible, kind adult in their life that expected the best out of them, and she made it clear to them that she thought about and considered them. Sadly there are a lot of kids that don't have enough of that in their life. Every single time I interact with my nieces or nephews or my friends kids or really any children, I think about what my mom would do. How would she remember their special days? How would she interact? What kind of special touches would she add? When would she show up?

Mom and 2 of her grandnieces/nephews

Overall I see my mom as deeply realistic about relationships of all kinds and to some extent about life in general. She was an optimistic person, but she did not ignore or avoid the shit parts of life. Whenever she or I went on a trip somewhere in my adult years, we would make sure we told each other that if we died, we had been happy with our lives and that we loved each other. Her death was a bit of a surprise, but it had been preceded by 2 years of cancer, and we had already cried and kissed each other and talked about how scary her death would be and we already told each other, embraced with our foreheads pressed that we didn't need to say anything because we already knew exactly how we each felt. She helped me be as okay as I could be.

ma keepin' it fun at her 2nd round of chemo

She didn't tend to leave things unsaid for long, good or bad. She used to talk about relationships with us as kids a lot and about her and dad's relationship. I remember her often saying that there are ups and downs, but the ups should be more than the downs. She would tell us that you had to talk about stuff. You couldn't let things fester.

mom and dad

She wasn't perfect, and I don't want it to seem as though I am only remembering the best of her. I don't want that because I think that ignoring the lesser parts in someone is missing the point of who the person was. The rough, complicated parts matter. I don't think you can really be close to someone in a deep way without acknowledging and coming to terms with those parts. My mom was maybe a more patient person with me as the younger child than my older sister. She was harsher with her in some ways, and as with all siblings, we each had slightly different parents because of the time and place and circumstance of our childhoods. My mom and sister had a rougher go of it in my sister's teen years, partially due to normal teens being teens and partially because my parents didn't always deal with it well. They stayed constant though, and I think about that a lot with parenting. It's often not about the what you do, but that you continue to do, that you continue to be there and adjust and show up. My mom and sister ended up having maybe a closer relationship in our adult years than I did with mom, but I think mom left some scars.

Me, Mom, and My Sister from left to right
My mom has 2 older sisters who we were very close to, but they also had a younger brother and sister that they stopped talking with after my grandparents died about the time I was an early teen. Some of the reasons were valid and some they probably could have gotten over with time. I always found that cutting off to be a little sad and something that didn't jive with the rest of my mom, but I also realize that my mom's mom was a bit of a mess and probably a prescription drug addict, and that her younger kids probably got the brunt of that and carried a lot of the negative upbringing with them - something the other 3 kids were able to mostly evade in their own ways. This was maybe deeper that I ever really saw and understood. My mom could also say too much. I don't remember this as much when I was young, but when I was older, there were times where my mom could say some rude shit aloud for instance in a restaurant if the service was going badly. I mean she wasn't always completely wrong, but it was inappropriate and it mortified me and my sister. She had a loud voice and her whisper was not a whisper. I might have that problem sometimes.

mom and her older sisters. I love those three women more than I can say

me and mom in the backyard

So she, like all of us, wasn't all goodness and light, but I think she put way more good out there in the world than bad, and you know, a person is never the same thing in the life of any 2 people. I can only truly know her as what she was to me.

Mom and dad after my HS musical senior year

To me she was the person that layed my base. She allowed me to have confidence in myself and trust my instincts. She gave me a community of friends and family to rely on, a safety net of love and food and shelter and support that would always be there even if people had to scrounge. She showed me what hard work looks like and how important it was to not half-ass a job. She was an example of what long-term relationships, be them friendships or lovers or family, look like with all their ups and downs and gives and takes, crying and laughter. She is the reason I love too many colored lights and tinsel at Christmas, ooohing and aaahing at fireworks, women like Bette Midler with huge singing voices and bawdy personalities, dancing my brains out, having clean baseboards in my house, kissing my family right on the lips, and having my nieces and nephews overnight.

Classic 'Plunger Lips' Kiss from mom before my wedding

That's a little bit of what she was to me, and everyday another thing comes up that reminds me of something else.

mom on the backyard swingset

And, what I can say for what she was to everyone else is that a shit ton of people showed up for Pat's Goodbye Bash (that's what we called her end-of life celebration. She didn't want a normal funeral - and neither did we). She was part of them too, and that is how people live on, I think- in the lives they affected and impressions they make in people. That is how we all shape the future in big and small ways.

mom painting our cupboards

I love you ma, and I thank you for living as you did. I think of you often and always will. I even get to see you every now and then in a dream. We'll take care of all your babies. Promise.

one of my fave pics of mom and her girls

To end this already long post, here is something we wrote about mom on the last page of her Goodbye Bash pamphlet.

She was fun. She was a little bit earthy with a touch of a wild streak. She kissed with plunger lips and hugged everyone. She made the children in her life feel loved and safe. She created special times and spaces for all her babies; Princess Baths, outings, baking sessions, sleepovers, and little traditions. She was steady and realistic. She could make do. She gave it to you straight. Sometimes too straight. 
Sweet probably isn’t a good word to describe her, but warm and welcoming probably is. She was loyal and she showed up. She showed up in the hard gritty ways, with a bucket of soapy water, ready to do whatever you needed -no questions asked. She wasn’t afraid of hard work or the long road. When something needed to be done, she got in and did it. She loved to kiss a baby’s chunky thighs and pat a butt to sleep. She was down to clown. She could party, and when you thought she was done, party some more.  
She went back to college for Child Development in her 30’s and rocked those grades. She spent years working with children and teen moms. She babysat in her home while her kids were young and bartended on Saturdays. She and her sister owned an antique and craft store for years. She drove a truck around delivering meals to old folks homes and spent her last months working with adults who have developmental disabilities.  
She would pee outside in a hot second, and she loved a chance to relax in a hot tub, chill on a beach, or snuggle on the couch with some tea. For years in the Ladies Auxiliary, she put on the kids holiday parties, making the back hallway at Post 495 into a haunted house, hiding eggs, or creating a throne for Santa. She was a CCD teacher at St. Lawrence, a PTO mom at Harrison Hill, a member of the Lawrence Township Citizens Committee, a political activist, a food pantry worker, and she volunteered in many a classroom. She went to kid’s events and she was loud and proud (seriously, her voice carried).  
She had a marriage built on friendship and communication. She said Bill made her strong. She may not have been a fashion plate, but by god, she dressed for the season. She loved her Cathy and her Muggs, and she’ll never forget drinking with them in an actual Irish pub. She was a good friend, and she’s seen her friends through many years and all the ups and downs that go with them. She was impatient and loud, funny and kind, fiercely loving and a real hoot. She was our wife, mother, grandma, sister, aunt, cousin, coworker, and friend. She was loved and will be missed. 

Dance on little mama

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