Sunday, January 9, 2011

Would Have... Should Have... Could Have...

Remembering my Mom
on this earth
45 Years
Born January 9th
Passed January 9th

I have always made it a point to go on an adventure
in your honor, on your birthday
The adventures have always included something physical (hiking, kayaking, teaching a really brutal fitness class) and have ended with a beautiful evening of fine dining at one of my favorite restaurants where I have always had them leave a place setting for you.
Yep, I'm sure I've looked totally bizarre, sitting by myself, raising my glass to an empty seat throughout those meals, but I love honoring your memory and everything you've given to me.
This year, I was way too sick to do anything
and I was really upset that I wasn't going to honor you with an adventure.
I realized that the most honorable (and scariest adventure) would be to really grab a hold of when you died and explore my realtionship with you and your life and your death and what it has meant to me
Until today, I never locked in on the year you died, nor did I ever set it in my memory how old I was when you died.
I had to ask Willie the date.
Now it's real.
And so are the memories.

You were no saint but you were deeply loved
Your life and your death, inspired me to live my life in a way that I would never say
"I would have...I should have...I could have..."

You led by example
When we were little, you were the perfect example of a healthy, active lifestyle.
You loved being a mom and we knew it.
You always made us feel loved, wanted, safe.
We ate fresh food
home cooked meals, didn't eat anything processed in our early years, and thought things like dried apricots and chewable Vitamin Cs were candy.
You would take us roller skating on the weekends
You'd take us to Trader Joes to load up on orange juice, kiefer, apricots, granola bars, and trail mix to snack on throughout the day.

You always looked so pretty roller skating
Graceful. Happy
: )

You were always so patient with us
and so willing to answer all of our questions
No matter how random or silly our questions would be, you would always give us an answer. If you didn't have an answer, you would let us know and tell us it was a good question to think about.
You were always affectionate and loving
Quick to give hugs, snuggles, and kisses.
: )

By the time we were older, you were the perfect example of  a wasted and depressing lifestyle
The perfect example of what I will never become.
I am glad we got the chance to talk, a year before you died, so I could better understand why your life was like that for so many years.

All your good and all your bad have influenced quite a bit in my life
The Good:  The first 3rd of our lives with you, you were an amazing mother.
You were kind, sensitive, and loving the entire time you were on this earth.
The first 3rd of your life with us was spent being healthy and active, and sadly, the last 3rd of your life, when you tried to re-embrace health and fitness, it was too late.
The Bad:  The 2nd third of your life was filled with lifestyle decisions that I will never welcome into my life. You were the most depressing and dysfunctional personal I sadly had to witness. You were never on time and chose to bring terrible people into our lives.
You made every excuse in the book not to succeed in happiness, and refused to let anyone help you who actually had your best interest in mind.
How you must have hurt our Grandma, and uncle with some of your shenanigans.
Witnessing your inability to be productive, your ability to be cruel to the people who wanted to help you, your desire to keep useless people in your life, were the best examples of what I do not want for my life.  
I cannot thank you enough for what you have taught me, but wow, how I wish you could have lived a happier life.
Because I love you

It is easy to remember the good times
There were many
When you were happy
there was never a doubt that you loved us
But wow, things could really turn dark.
And they did for many years.

I am so fortunate that we had that opportunity to reconcile before you died
I will never forget that moment, in my little studio apartment
when I said those cruel words to you
"I love you because you are my Mom,
but I wouldn't chose you as a friend if I met you on the street".

Anyone who doesn't know our history
would be disgusted to know I said that to my Mom, but had I not said those words to you, we never would have had the opportunity for you to share with me so many important things that had impacted your life...things that once you told me, gave me a whole new perspective and respect for you on that day.  
That day helped me to really see you as a person.
To realize that you weren't just my mom, but that you were once a young woman, a girl, a teenager when you had your kids.

You were in High School at LA High
when you met the father of your children
As we all know now, not a wise choice, but you were a girl.
I love these pics.
I was always amazed how I hadn't seen your senior picture (on the left) at the time that I had gotten myself ready for this 6th grade class pic (on the right)
: )
Not long after your senior picture was taken you had your first child
That day in my apt, you really put it into perspective
what you had endured before you were even 21.
Having to imagine being so young, with a child with so many problems, and then having him die at 2.
Then to go on and have 2 more children with that useless man
(I guess he was pretty young too)
I still don't know why you even bothered with him but I am glad you did or I wouldn't have Willie, and I wouldn't be here either. I am also thankful that you never said anything bad about him while we were growing up and let Willie and I come to our own conclusions about him when we got older.
What a piece of work he was
(and still is)

I am so glad I was born to you
You were the best Mom when we were little
This is one of my favorite pics
My baptism.
I love your hair and your dress
So pretty

I must be six months here since it's Christmas

I wish there were more pictures of you
but those dark years didn't make for pretty pictures.
I wish there were pictures of your last 2 years
You had finally gotten yourself on a happy path
and were taking great care of yourself.
You were happy, trying to be active, and actually looking forward to a future.
We were really beginning to get to know each other again and I was really gaining a new found respect for you and enjoying your desire to be my Mom again.
It felt so good to see you happy.
: )

One of my greatest last memories of us
is when you taught me to drive stick
Oh how I loved that Volvo
You were an amazing teacher. So patient, Never made me feel nervous.
You gave me all the confidence in the world.
Oh, how I loved that car.
Loved it even more after you passed. My last "material" connection to you.
It broke my heart when the car finally had to be laid to rest.
It was my last connection to you since your lame-assed husband kept everything.
To this day, I still have no clue where he is and what he did with your ashes or anything else that had belonged to you.
Geeze, you sure knew how to pick 'em!

For all your faults, you gave us so many amazingly important gifts
You taught us about life, death, love, loss...even before you died.
No topic was ever taboo with you.
You always said things like
 "...parents never leave their children until they're ready..."
"...death is a part of life and it shouldn't be feared..."
On January 8th, I knew you were going to die.
No one believed me because you looked and sounded fine.
I knew you weren't going to want to be in the hospital on your birthday.
When I wheeled Grandma into your hospital room to see you and she spoke perfectly, and in English,
that was the moment I knew you would be leaving.

I'll never forget the night before, sitting with Uncle Butch at The Panda Inn off Brand Blvd and telling him
"Mom's not going to want to be there on her birthday"
I loved how he was always there for us
He loved you so much

He took me home and said that we'd go see you in the morning.
I sat in my little studio, waiting, dreading, knowing...
I'll never forget what I was doing, sitting by the TV, filing my toe nails (many times, if I file my toenails in the evening, I think of that night) when the call came from the hospital that you weren't going to make it through the night.
I went ape-shit-crazy all by myself in my little studio until my uncles came
Then I went silent
I don't remember much until we were by your bedside and they were asking Willie and I to make the decision about DNR
That was the worst
We didn't want you to think we had given up on you
but you had always raised us to not fear death
and you had told us
you didn't want to be kept alive if you were going to be a vegetable.
I am so glad you were not alone and that we were there to hold your hands as you took your last breathes.

When you were 17, you were going to be a mother
When I was 17 I had no place to live because of you and your destructive lifestyle
When you were 19 you were going to have your 2nd child
When I was 19 I had been living on my own for almost 2 years, going to college, and holding down a full time job with no help from anyone
When you were 21 you had 3 children and you were a loving Mom
When I was 21 I was skipping my Design and Lit classes to go to dance classes, managing a retail store, and trying to figure out what to do with my life.

I was almost 23 years old on the day you died
When you were 23, you had already given birth to 3 babies
one who had passed away when he was 2 years old, then Willie, then me.

You didn't know you were dying
when we started to communicate again, and I am so fortunate I had the time with you, before you passed away, to get to know you.
Not just as my mom, but as a person.
The sum of all your parts.

Willie and I are the sum of all your parts
and I am hoping you have been proud of what you have created.
For all the things you didn't do, you set a foundation in our early years, you were an excellent Mom when we were little and I think that made a huge difference

I cannot thank you enough for all you taught me
and for giving me the best brother in the world

There were so many questions I never got to ask you
So many things I never would have thought to ask you until now

I will be 39 this year and it freaks me out to think that if I were you
I would only have 6 more years to enjoy life on this earth.

I am proud that you were my Mom
I love that I am your daughter.
I Miss You
I Love You
: )

Gloria C. Lastra
January 9th 1950
January 9th 1995


  1. hi melissa. i had no idea i would come here and read such a moving story. all i wanted to do was leave you a quick message. but the FB search to do so led me here. and then i got so much more after coming here. your story and the way you live is so inspiring. you are one helluva inspiring woman! and i just had to tell you that.

  2. jojo,
    Thank you so much for reading and for the sweet comment
    Hope to see you soon!
    : )

  3. M—

    I came upon this blog of yours quite by accident, and of course took some time to read it. Hoping you don't mind, I thought I'd reply to this particular posting of yours to tell you how true and lovely and nostalgic it was to read. That said, and for what it is worth, I'm so glad to read of your success, and especially your decision to attend college. Stay with it, cousin! Proud of you.


  4. Marc,
    Hello Cousin! Hope all is well with you! Please feel free to find me on FB! Or email me personally! It's been neat to get back in touch and catch up with everyone!