The dawn of the new century did not shine bright on the Jacques family. By early January, it was apparent that my mother’s health was in fast decline. By the first week of January, it was clear my mother would not make it to her surprise party. I’d already sent out all of the invitations, so I had to cancel all of our plans and turn around and call everyone, explaining the situation. Instead of coming to her birthday party, they’d be coming to tell her goodbye. Several of her girlfriends from school came to Stockton to visit her. I believe every single family on my dad’s side of the family arrived. It is difficult to remember everyone as one day slid into the next over the course of the next two weeks. The one person who had been my best friend was preparing to leave us. I don’t have enough time in the day to explain my relationship with my mother, but I spent every possible minute with her that I could, and I won’t ever regret it.
Of course, it was most difficult on my father. My parents had such a great love for each other. They knew each other as well as one person can know another and loved each other through every up and down imaginable.
Ruby Mae, whose father had nick named her Jubie, returned to her first family on February 1st, 2000. I know my Grandma Flora, my Grandpa Charles and my Aunt Jean were all so happy to have her home again. I was not. But I had two children, one seven and the other just past his second birthday. I would have to push forward.
The day mother passed away, Jackie and I had been sitting at the end of her bed. No one had left mother’s side and we had simply rotated, taking turns to just sit near her. When she stopped breathing, it was the absence of sound that shocked me. I felt as if I were in a magnifying glass that had been scrunched tight then turned upside down. When it was flipped back, my life was no longer felt the same. Mother’s hospice bed was in the dining room and everyone had lined up to kiss her goodbye before they took her out. I bent over and kissed her forehead, but my tears rolled onto her cheeks. Dad had been standing behind me and said, “See that? Your mother doesn’t want to go. There are tears rolling down her cheeks.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him they were my tears.
Mother’s funeral was well attended, and she was laid to rest at Cherokee Memorial Park. My dad was already suffering from Parkinson’s disease and thus he had a tough time getting around. He was still driving, just to the store or he’d meet me at church on Sunday morning. Eventually he moved into several different senior apartments.
The following summer my nephew Eddie got married in North Carolina. We all flew to North Carolina, including Dad. I left Taylor here in California, as she was in my cousin’s wedding and I would be returning in time for that ceremony. Jacques stayed with his Grandma Bennett.
When I got back to California, summer was ending. I’d taken you kids to the pool when I realized my bathing suit had shrunk. I thought that was so odd.
A month later, I was laying on my back in bed on a Sunday morning when I felt Hailey kicking inside of me. I was so shocked. Truthfully, it was the best thing that could have happened to Dad. He was so pleased with that new baby. I was in a quandary. I wanted to name Hailey after my mother, but I also knew Momma wasn’t fond of her name Ruby and I didn’t know if I could put the name Jubie on a little baby. I settled on Hailey J. Marie Bennett.
I finally gave Hailey just the letter J for her Grandmother. Papa was so damn happy and loved spending every minute with her he could. He would also say Hailey was stubborn. Boy, he exactly right. But Dad’s health problems progressed. I moved him into our home while he waited for another apartment to open up, one where he could have increased care.
In 2001, my brother Tim took Dad on a cruise with Aunt Fran and Uncle Don. His health had declined but my brother was certain he could handle taking dad and he did. He did such a great job taking care of Dad. I can’t even tell you how close Tim became to Dad and my mother would have been so proud of my brother. Dad had a great trip. Tim would push Dad up to the casino and he’d play black jack for as long as he liked. Dad won a ton of money, too. It was a memorable trip.
Dad’s first great-grandchild, Kylee Marie O’Shea had been born and Dad was so pleased with that baby too. Those new little lives put a spark back in Dad. Also having Dad live with me really gave me an opportunity to learn how to cook chili. I had watched him do it a million times but now, he’d sit on a stool in the kitchen, next to the stove and show me step by step. I am so fortunate. Although I’d lost my best friend, I turned that role over to Dad. Jackie and I would never have gotten to know him so well with Momma here and that was a great silver lining.
When my Dad turned 75, I had a birthday party for him. He loved his children and grandchildren and we took lots of pictures together.
Dad had booked another cruise for 2003 but by February, the doctor decided Dad was too ill to go on the cruise. Dad had already paid for the trip and wanted me to take the cruise with Tim. First of all, I would be leaving Dad and all three of my kids. That was tough. I was worried Dad wouldn’t make it until I returned. But he assured me he would be here when I got home. So glad Jackie would visit him while I was gone too. It was a great cruise but very difficult to relax.
My husband did a great job. He took care of the kids, with his parents’ help, but he also took the kids to see their Papa while I was gone. It was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for me.
I returned home to find that dad’s decline was real. It was time for him to go into a rest home. We had him moved and it wasn’t long before Dad’s time was small. By the last week of his life, I called my relatives to come and say goodbye to him. But his humor didn’t leave him, not even at the end. Toward the last days, we were sitting around his bed and he asked for a coke. Paul went off to get a soda from the machine and when he returned with a Pepsi can, my Dad joked, “I said Coke.” Daddy had a fun sense of humor. Dad left us on June 30, 2003.
Both of my parents were gone. So many great things happened for our family over so many years and the sadness will continue, but my parents go on. They really do. When I see Hailey’s eyes light up at gossip, I think, lord, my mother continues.
My parents surely must have been watching the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014. My Mom would have jumped ten feet off the ground. Damn, she loved her Giants. That continues through each of us.
Where do we go from here? We go forward. We can’t go back. Every once in a while, I’ll have chili and beans and think, damn, Dad would have appreciated that meal. Or I see a Twinkie and laugh, cause Momma loved Twinkies. Our life wasn’t perfect. My parents weren’t perfect. But we had the best parents for us. We came from a great love. That continues. You children will continue. My parents would have been very pleased, indeed.