Driving Miss Liz “home” one last time

August 17, 2017 | Nestor Aparicio

our next-door neighbor and her only living maternal son at her side. They were her best friends and she shared her secrets with them. She fought for 98 years and 20 days and the last words I heard her say were: “I want to go home!”

And I don’t think she meant the house on Bank Street in Colgate where she lived from May 1953 until last month.

On Tuesday night, my Mom died. We almost can’t believe it because in some strange way we thought she’d live forever. Hey, she made it a LOT further than any of us truly expect to make it on this spinning rock.

In May, she was still making eggs and bacon for breakfast like she’d always done. Watching the Orioles. Drinking beer. Awaiting her 98th birthday in July with a plan to get to that century mark and onto the Smuckers jar. But in June, she fell ill and wound up in the hospital twice and then onto our couch for 12 days. We nursed and coached her up and she made a new home at Future Care North Point, where she was given the impeccable treatment and care and dignity that I would hope for any of your mothers or fathers or loved ones in this time of real human crisis as our clocks wind down.

Dying isn’t pretty.

Those people at Future Care were amazing. The folks in the MICU at Johns Hopkins Bayview were similarly total rock stars. After seeing my wife battle leukemia for three years while spending 155 nights in the hospital and now watching my Mom need constant care over the past two months, I must opine that the miraculous work doctors and nurses do every day and night in our culture should give them eternal “hero” status. I stand in awe of their knowledge, compassion and humanity. It makes me embarrassed to do the silly work that I do for a living.

As for my mother’s life and her legacy, we should all hope to make it 98 years and 20 days on this rotating sphere. She spent 35,816 days on earth. She outlived my father (who died in 1992 and was four months older than her) by a whopping 9,167 days.

I know some of you drank a lot of beer at keg parties in college and it all adds up. But on sheer stamina and days of existence on the planet ­– and with the tortoise always winning the race – I think my Mom outdrank us all. I know she’s had a beer a day the last 48 years because I’ve witnessed it! That’s almost 20,000 beers right there!

She ate crab cakes and loved spicy food. She adored pecan nougat in the spring and fruitcake and cheap wine at the holidays. She ate stinky anchovies on her pizza and had more salt and sugar in her diet than any human being I’ve ever witnessed. She smoked cigarettes for at least 25 years and her emphysema (COPD) caught up with her almost a century into life’s crazy journey on this planet. And after she “quit” in the 1970s, she’d still sneak them behind my Pop’s back until after he died.

Every doctor and every nurse said the same thing: “She’s so cute! I love her!”

She was born in Shoals Junction, S.C on July 26, 1919. Her great grandfather hailed from Scotland and was a colonel in the Confederacy. There’s a statue of him in her hometown of Abbeville, South Carolina. Needless to say, she died during a very interesting week of American present and history.

Though she lived 98 years, she also died a little every day like the rest of us. She was a lifer hypochondriac. She loved talking about whatever her ailment was that day. She would announce bronchitis as though she’d been awarded a gold medal. Our favorite was when she’d call and say: “I think I’ve got the virus!” She’s had the same doctor for as long as I can remember. Doctor Scott Wright is an angel sent to this earth via divinity and Canada to keep her alive well into this century.

My mom managed to survive 25 years without my Pop, who left us on July 11, 1992. As an infant, I was given a miracle