RIP Rita Lois Lapides. My mom. She broke the vicious cycle. This was her great victory. Her mom was a certain kind of awful to her. And my mom decided to devote herself to becoming a loving wife and mother. She and my dad met at a bus stop when they were 15 and they’ve spent the past 70 years doing their Rita and Marty thing. Besides loving each other, they worked together and raised kids together.
She told me once that this too shall pass. Meaning me. I was the thing that would pass. It was dinnertime. I was helping her in the kitchen. And we were kneeling at an open cabinet. She said it quietly. She was quiet. But when I complained that people weren’t calling she reminded me the phone worked both ways.
She taught me you can’t hurry love. But I didn’t always believe her. I liked to learn things myself. She let me paint my room bright green when I was fifteen.
In their 50’s my parents’ business went bad and she and my Dad left New Haven for the great adventure of living and working in the Dominican Republic. She was not naturally a risk taker but she encouraged me in my own crazy very risky life. She loved my writing and in high school submitted my poems to an anthology I felt was fake. But I will never forget her typing up what I’d written so we could send it. Likewise when my Dad was out on the road as a salesman she filled out paperwork at home. She taught me the value of team work.
She didn’t indulge her emotions. And didn’t love talking about feelings. But she had them. And she could cold shoulder you like a queen.
She was so mod. We shared clothes. We went shopping. Sometimes, when I was still small, to children’s stores where I’d shop in the girls department and she’d shop in the boys. It didn’t seem trans. It seemed economical. She was practical. When we shopped well she’d walk into the house and announce: we accomplished. I got my love of that from her.
In the end she fought so many physical things. But she was stubborn. A rebel in her own way. She taught me that. Think for yourself and stick with it. Poignantly our last conversation… she was already in the twilight zone. Between life and death. No no no she kept saying. Mom you are so stubborn aren’t you I said. Yes she said. She knew it. And she prided herself in it. Tough and loving. And most of all a faithful devoted wife to the best man she had ever met. My Dad.
Mom you held my hand while I learned to love the stairs. Safe journey as you climb that stairway to Heaven. I love you.