Expressway: My Augusts at the hospital with Mom

Kathleen Mullooly with two of her children, Kathleen

Kathleen Mullooly with two of her children, Kathleen Cook and Newsday Kidsday editor Pat Mullooly in August 2013 at Winthrop-University Hospital. (Credit: Newsday/Pat Mullooly)

It was an interesting plan. The bosses thought it would be a good idea if I took my vacation during the month of August. Schools are closed, camps are winding down, and the business of being the Kidsday editor is a lot slower than the other 11 months.

I agreed. After all, if the French can basically shut down their country for a month, why couldn't I shut down the Kidsday section for 31 days?

So, four years ago, the August sabbatical began. I had big plans. No plans at all. I love the beach, and Jones Beach and a stack of books were waiting for me. It was a good time to catch up with family and friends I neglected throughout the year. It was me time. It was the good time that I wanted.


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But best laid plans can often go awry. My mother, Kathleen Mullooly, then 78, had been sick. Congestive heart failure, hip replacement, ministrokes and an assortment of other ills slowed her down considerably. She always needed lots of care, but two of my sisters, Ellen and Kathleen, were always the first to lend a hand. You just can't beat a daughter's love for her mom.

I made my plans to hit the beach and books. But as July neared an end, four years ago, Mom was hospitalized. I told my sisters this would be Mom-and-Pat time. I would take over for the month. I demanded that they relax and not worry about her. She was mine.

So, mornings at 6, I would hit the beach, get in a run, read a bit and then head to the hospital -- first Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, later Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola -- to have breakfast with Mom. We would play cards or Scrabble, and complain about everything and everyone. She would take a nap and I would come back to help her with dinner, watch "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune."

This went on for the month. I begged her to get better so maybe she could enjoy her glass of chardonnay and the comforts of her own room. And, miraculously, she made it back to the Bristal Assisted Living residence in East Meadow in time for the Labor Day barbecue and her birthday with all her pals. I made it back to work. Yay.

And, a year went by, and it happened again. At the end of July, she needed to be hospitalized for a hip replacement. The summer vacay of 2012 was much like the previous summer, August with Mom.

Then, another year went by and it happened again, this time for heart trouble. I swear she was doing this on purpose. I told her this year was going to be different. She needed to get better faster and then we would go to the beach, where I could run and push her wheelchair up and down the boardwalk. She would laugh and cringe at that idea, ignore her scrambled eggs, sip her tea and ask what was new. She was older and weaker, but with a mind still so sharp. She talked with affection about her mom, her nine kids, and her beloved late husband, Bill. She made it out in time for her grandson Jack's wedding in early September. She "danced" with him as he pushed her wheelchair around the floor. She had the time of her life, and then asked me to take her home early. She was tired.

August 2014 is a few days away, but Mom is gone. She died at 82, about a month after the wedding.

This year I'll have my month on the beach, but I would trade it in a second for a chance to spend it in the hospital with Mom.

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