She was born two years before The Great Depression and left us in the midst of another one. In her 81 years she heard the world on a radio, watched it on her television, and near the end, from the room she hated at Menorah Park, she kept in touch with it through the internet.
She had two children, three husbands, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. And along the way…a lot of laughter.
Our mother had a good run.
She couldn’t teach me to swing a bat, but she tried to teach me to drive.
She wouldn’t teach me gin rummy, but she did tell me “the facts of life.”
Like many women of her generation our mother lived in the shadow of the men around her. Her father was her hero; her brother was eminently successful; her first husband’s rise and fall….
She was never the story.
Still it was when people WEREN’T watching her that she shone the brightest. It was in these times that she taught me by example…taught me lessons that I didn’t fully appreciate for years to come.
In times when others might have acted differently, our mother took the higher road.
She was a novelty item in the sixties: a divorcee with kids. (This was long before divorce became fashionable). Still, whatever issues she had with our Dad never were discussed in our presence. She couldn’t control some of her family members, but her personal behavior was immaculate. Never once did I hear her utter a bad word about our father. Ever. (And I knew, even then, that she could have).
She let me have my hero.
Even when our dad lived out of town, every other weekend she got us to his mother so visitation could go forward…sometimes even by taxi; she didn’t have to. She just did it.
Another decade down the road, with her wounds still healing, I was getting married. The rancor and awkwardness between our parents couldn’t have evaporated totally, but they jointly walked sons down the aisle first in Passaic, and then in Chicago.
Years later I went through divorce. There was bad blood between the ex and my mother. I tried to talk about it with my Mom but the response was always the same: “I don’t want to hear it. Just remember, buddy, she is the mother of your children.”
The higher road.
She was opinionated, and at times very stubborn. She was, dare I say….melodramatic! Still, Mom consistently practiced what she preached.
In 1998 the still-closeted Thief threw her to the curb on the eve of Passover. He left a Good Bye note, and drove to Baltimore as our mother slept in a hospital. She woke up, thought divorce, and even filed it…but then gave him the benefit of the doubt (and a second chance).
Years later she once more lay in a hospital, this time never to return home. It had now become abundantly clear to one and all that her husband had been less-than-husbandly.
Once again, she couldn’t pull the trigger. She left her money on his table yearning for family peace. She wanted “…to close her eyes a married woman.”
The higher road.
Elaine Delores Hoffman Bogart Lerner Turner spent her last few years in and out of nursing homes and hospitals. Her maladies were many and her health level diminished in plateaus. It was over that period that each of us in our own way had plenty of time to say our good byes. And we did.
Oddly enough, I’m not quite sure I ever really said “Thank you.”

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