My mom passed away this week on my parents 46th wedding anniversary due to long term health concerns and a broken heart (my father passed away in February just a couple days before Valentine’s Day). Both were on hospice for one to two weeks each (my dad at home, and my mom in a hospice house which was much better situation). This is partially why posts have been sporadic this calendar year. However something happened in the last few days of her life that I didn’t want to forget and not post. So I am doing it now.
My mom has always been horrible with names and pronouns. Growing up as a kid with two siblings if she was yelling for me she always ended up starting with another kid’s name, cycling through all the names and ending on mine. Such as “Derek, Jackie, Lucky… god damn you know who I am calling”. She did this no matter what name she was calling she would start with someone else. It was a weird tic she always had.
Fast forward to my mom and dad basically adopting Wolsey in. They have known him since he was 16 and has been part of the family shortly thereafter (even before we got together at 19). They have known him under four different legal name changes. My mom always slipped and called him by a previous name at least a third of the time. She would correct herself, and she seriously didn’t mean to do it, but it was a tic.
Move ahead to three years ago when Wolsey transitioned. At this point my dad was good about pronouns. I don’t think I ever heard him misspeak on pronouns with Wolsey. My mom was different. A small percentage of the time (especially in person) she would slip up and say “she”, but almost immediately catch herself, apologize and correct. She is one of the few people I have seen do this with Wolsey and believe she totally didn’t mean it. It probably helps that I know she has a problem with everyone’s name as well.
She had been slowly doing better with pronouns though, we would sometimes go a two week period with no slips. I also attribute the slips to her bit of dementia that we think had started as well, so I had never been offended by her, and I don’t think Wolsey was. It was hard for mom to change 25 years of habit.
She went into hospital then hospice on a Wednesday and between Wednesday and her passing on the following Monday she was in and out of consciousness with the pain medication and her general declining health.
However, every time she woke up and talked to us, she never hesitated or missed Wolsey’s proper pronoun. She woke up to tell us how much she loved us and how proud she was. The entire time she referenced Wolsey as her son, even when introducing us from a half haze of drugs to the hospice people. It was the first time in the entire time of Wolsey’s transition that she referenced Wolsey without a single hiccup, hesitation, etc as being her son and my husband.
This got me thinking back to my father passing in February. My father had never failed in referring to Wolsey as a him, even on his death bed either (he had a longer, more painful death, but he grabbed me when we had assumed he wouldn’t wake up, woke up, pulled himself up and told me how much he loved both of us, and how proud he was of both of us). He referenced Wolsey as his son and how much he loved him.
I am lucky in many things with my parents (and a few things that might be considered unlucky), however even on their death beds both my parents expressed how much they loved us, their same sex marriage sons. Not once did they forget in their pain, disorientation or passing did they misgender their adopted son.
It didn’t dawn on me until this morning how incredible that was.