My mother-in-law and I would play a game. We’d see who would remember to call the other one first on the first day of the month. When she answered the phone I would say, “Rabbit, rabbit!” before I would even say hello. Or she would do the same to me. She was the one who taught me this funny habit. It’s funny that such a little thing makes my heart ache on this first day of February. My mother-in-law Lillian Glickman died in her sleep on November 6, 2016. She was 95 years old and active and sharp right up to the end.
When she was 93 she fell and broke her nose and gave herself a black eye. She told me she was going to forego her twice a week coffee out with her brother. I asked her, “Why?” She said, “I don’t look good. I’m going to wait till I look presentable.” I laughed. “Lillian, you’re 93! You expecting to meet a new boyfriend? You can of course do what ever you want. I think Allie (her brother) will miss coffee with you if you don’t go.” Allie ended up bringing the coffee over to Lillian. They sipped it at her pink kitchen table talking about nothing. Which is really every thing, you know.
When Lillian told me she was going to stay in for a month I took to calling her every day just to be sure she had some contact with the outside world. I also started sending her a postcard every day. At the end of the month she told me, “Tony, you can stop sending me those cards.” I told her, “I am just getting started. If you tell me you really don’t want to get them I will stop.” She admitted, “They are kind of fun to get.” I ended up sending her a postcard every day for two years. On each one of them I gave her a different middle name.
Lillian loved horses. I had sent her 30 horse postcards. She had all 30 of them taped up on her kitchen cabinets. Last winter I sent her 100 bird postcards. She loved seeing the birds at her feeder. On the pelican postcard I wrote a limerick:
A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
But I’m damned if I see how the Helican!
Lillian put that one on her fridge.
When Lillian died I was in the middle of sending her 30 more horse postcards. On the morning she died when we went into her house we found she had lined up on her kitchen table the three most recent horse postcards.
Those postcards made me weep. Everything in her house reminded me of Lillian. Every thing made me weep. Just like when my wife told me, “Rabbit, Rabbit” this morning. The tears this morning are happier ones though, ones of remembering, if that makes any sense.