The Metamorphosis of Mother

My Mother wasn’t the same after her first stroke and neither was I

Jacque Monty
Human Parts


Author's Mom

I mourned for the mom I knew at the age of nine. I had to get to know the new mom, and with trepidation, I sought to get to know her through my lens of curiosity and sadness. I longed for the beautiful woman who cut the lawn in her short shorts, tanned with oil and vinegar, and had a welcoming smile you could see a mile away. She was made of lipstick and beautiful legs with a side of Sinatra.

One of my last conversations with her had to do with a Friday night dinner.

The Long Island house was a split level with white shutters topping the red shingles. It was Friday night, and my mother was in the kitchen facing the stove. WPLJ was playing rock and roll from the living room. On the kitchen counter, her cigarettes were starting to pile up on top of each other, barely tapped out. Her back was to me, a woman of strength, with beautiful black hair, singing, “Since you’ve been gone, all that’s left is a band of gold, dreams I hold….”

“Damnit why are my feet freezing?”



“Mom, your cigarettes are still smoking.”

She made the best frittata, every Friday night. She would throw together leftovers, toss with eggs and cheese, and voila! Dinner! That night, she was having trouble connecting the recipe with the cooking. I was startled by her confusion. She didn’t know where the eggshells should go.

“Mom? Are you okay?”

“My hands and feet are freezing, I’m just tired from work. Help me with the oven door.”

I needed to stir the food more, as I noticed the eggs were not scrambled first, then put into the mixture. The hot cast iron pan sat there, waiting for orders. I fixed the mixture and off it went into the oven.

The kitchen smelled of Italian cheese and Benson & Hedges. Mom sat down and noticed her lit cigarettes.

“What the hell am I doing?” She laughed and said, “I’m freezing go get my sweater and I’ll clean the ashtray.”

We then sat together at the kitchen table. Mom looked at me, her tired hazel eyes saying “thank you” as I gave her the sweater. She lit another cigarette, rubbing her hands as if she were in the snow without mittens. Mom said to me,

“Sorry I don’t feel so good. We can watch Wild Wild West reruns this weekend.”

If my father was home from the job at the NYPD 78 precinct, they would be having Manhattans together and I got to eat the maraschino cherries from their drinks. They would make me one with just the cherry juice, Manhattan glass and all. But that night it was just us two.

Needless to say, the frittata was delicious. As the weekend passed, I too wasn’t feeling well and ended up with laryngitis. I got to stay home when Monday came. But the scene was not what was expected of this nine year old as I heard weird noises from my mother’s bedroom.

I opened the door. I saw my mother reaching out to me. I didn’t understand. She was gurgling and crying. I smelled her fear mixed with urine. I started to scream but my laryngitis prevented me from screaming for help. My eldest sister grabbed me and said, “go to the den and do not look outside the window.”

Of course, I looked out the window and watched my mother, dressed in a white sheet on a gurney, be taken to the hospital.

That was the last day I saw my former mother.

Before she was able to return, my aunt, my dad’s youngest sister stayed with us. She was a neat freak; we were four turnkey messy kids without a mother. When I came home from school, I would always call Mom at her work, Meenan Oil Company.

I’d say, “I’m home!” She would say, “Good; lock the doors see you later.” My comfort level was increased by my constant checking the downstairs windows to make sure they were locked. I would close the curtains and look for something to eat.

Now, with our aunt, she yelled at us till we went to bed.Clean this, put that away. That’s not a real snack. Eat oranges. I missed my mom in so many ways.

When it was time to have her come back home, the den became her “bedroom.” Our aunt would take care of her and keep house. A week later she left. She said we were good and ready to handle this new “situation.” My new mom walked like a mummy, due to the limited use of the right side of her once beautiful body. She kept her sense of humor, although I don’t know how she could.

What I realized, months later, was that she was happy to be alive, and played with us, pretending to be a monster and chase us. She may have cried in her pillow every night, but she made us laugh and become safe and comfortable with her, just like checking all of the downstairs windows to make sure they were locked.

My mother taught me that communication is key, even if she became blind in one eye, and deaf in both ears. She taught me to have fun no matter. She pinched the butts of my boyfriends and then my husband, with no apologies. She wheeled herself into the nursing home’s chapel, lit a cigarette and watched the rain come down on her and Jesus. Good to know the sprinkler system worked.

She had eight more debilitating strokes over the course of her lifetime. We lived a life anew, albeit different. My sons called her Gramma Wheels because she became a wheelchair user. They thought she lived in a great apartment building with a doorman, a restaurant, a huge fish tank, and a yellow Lab that stayed in the lobby. Well, she did! The nursing home became her home, for over ten years. They only knew her as Gramma Wheels, and they loved her, unconditionally. I am very lucky that she lived long enough to be with my sons and watch them grow.

Author, Gramma Wheels and sons

When I was younger, I saw her through my lens of curiosity and sadness. My lens has since been transformed into pride, gratitude and seeing her and her personality come through the veil of her disabilities.

My mother lived a good life because she was full of love and brattiness, a beautiful woman with a smile you could see for miles.



Jacque Monty
Human Parts

I write about the mishaps of the heart and body, silent messages from the Universe with some added humor. I watch birds, the rolling ocean and true crime.