|Peggy Banks, "movie star," as a teenager.|
|Mom, brother David and a mischievous mini-me long ago.|
She often said David resembled her.
Watching a loved one die is tough. Watching a loved one die from Alzheimer’s -- as Mom, 81, did at noon Wednesday -- is doubly awful because you lose them when their mind goes and again when they pass on. But while we grieve for Peggy, we have much to celebrate, just as we did two years ago when we lost Dad, “Big Johnny.” What tremendous lives they led. What great examples they were for their children, David, Mary Ann and me.
|Mom and my sister, Mary Ann, in Glenside, Pa.|
Mom didn't have an opportunity to go to college, but she enjoyed telling us she skipped third grade because she was so smart. She also won a school contest for memorizing the Gettysburg Address. Perhaps Peggy passed along the "Civil War gene" to me.
Mom worked as a bank teller for a time, and had an innate ability to pick stocks. We had no clue until near the end of her life. She had a few idiosyncrasies, too. "Don't use so much hot water," she always told us before we showered in our bathroom with the funky blue-and-pink tiles.
Dad, Mom and our daughters, Meredith and Jessica, atop
Mount Washington overlooking downtown Pittsburgh.
Mom was beloved by my pals in the Sunset Hills area of Mount Lebanon, Pa., who called her the “sweetest lady on Old Farm Road.” But this sweet, little lady once chased a teenager behind a toilet in the downstairs powder room in our house, smacking him with a broom. My punishment was well deserved. Years afterward, we often laughed about it.
Our friends often observed Peggy tooling around town in her blue Volkswagen Beetle with a sunroof. She didn't learn how to drive until she was in her late 20s. Rarely, if ever, did she top 35 mph, and she never drove on an interstate. At least we think she never did. How Dad had the patience to teach Mom to drive a stick remains one of the great mysteries of life.
When we kids married and had our own children, she and Dad made 321 Old Farm Road a welcoming home base for all of us. Oh how she loved her grandchildren, Evan, Ryan, Camille,Travis, Jessica and Meredith. “How are the girls?” she often inquired in a sing-song voice about our daughters. Those words will forever remain on the soundtrack in my mind.
|The Banks family at 321 Old Farm Road, Mount Lebanon, Pa.|
In the hospice room near Mom's bed, my sister hung our paternal grandmother's painting of a guardian angel. Neil Diamond songs played. She loved his singing. Mary Ann and David believe it brought her comfort. Thank you, Neil. Dressed in a beautiful purple top, Peggy fought until the end. "She had a strong heart," my sister said. We all knew that.
|How to donate|
to Alzheimer's Association
Wherever your spirit soars now, Peggy Banks, know you’ll always be in our hearts. Tell Dad in heaven we said hello. We know he'd appreciate several of those little roast beef sandwiches now, too. We're so proud of both of you. Bravo for lives well lived.
|Holding Peggy Banks' hand for the last time.|