The Amazing Viola De La Parra

The Amazing Viola De La Parra



Today my biggest supporter, my best friend, my mentor and the best woman I have ever known passed away peacefully at the age of 90.

I can never come close to thanking her enough for being the amazing mother she was to me. There will never be a day that I do not think of her, miss her and attempt to be the kind and loving person she was.

In honor of her, I am re-posting a Mother’s Day piece about my awesome Mom with a few additional facts:

Her family was from Chile and she was the only one born in the United States. New Jersey to be exact.

Her maiden name was Viola De La Parra.

She spoke Spanish first, French second and English was her third language.

She hated mayonaise.

She lost her father to pneumonia when she was 9 years old.

During the Depression, her mother opened up her home as a boarding house to make ends meet for her four children. Most of the boarders were traveling vaudevillians who would spend hours teaching my mom how to tap dance.

She met my father on a blind date.

She discovered she was a very gifted watercolorist when she was about 60 years old.

She believed in reincarnation. So, good thing the world will get to have her back again because we need more humans like her among us.


“An ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest”
– Spanish proverb

With Mother’s Day here, I feel compelled to write about the most influential person in my life – my mother. Her name is Viola and she just turned 89. She is in the final stages of dementia but continues to smile through it all like a champ.

If you think about it, dementia has its benefits. You can see the same movie or read the same book over and over and enjoy it just as much the first time as the tenth. And my stupid jokes and stories are always hilarious and fascinating no matter how many times I repeat them. So, in short, an 89-year-old with dementia is my perfect audience.

Here are some Viola-isms and Viola-facts:

“Always leave a bathroom cleaner than you found it or you’ll never be invited back.” To my knowledge, there are much bigger reasons to not invite me back to your home than this.

She has a terrible singing voice. She sounds just like Alfalfa from Little Rascals. It’s really quite disturbing.

Uncannily, she knew the moment I lost my virginity because I abruptly stopped talking about and asking questions about sex.

“Even the strongest man on earth cannot properly squeeze the water out of a sponge with one hand.” I have no idea how to prove or disprove this theory. But, she stated it with such conviction, I have to believe she has somehow witnessed this.

She taught me that to judge people was a waste of time. You wouldn’t judge a kindergartener for not acting like an MBA student so think about what “spiritual grade” a person might be in. (I am clearly in some sort of Special Education department.)

My mom always reminded me of Edith Bunker. Seemingly a bit ditzy on the outside but solid and smarter than everyone else in the room on the inside.

She graduated with a degree in Psychology with a minor in Latin Studies the same year I graduated from high school. She could psychoanalyze you in Spanish, thereby making you feel decidedly paranoid.

She regaled me and my friends at Mom’s Weekend in college about how terrific sex is after 50. The truth of this remains to be seen.

“I’ve taught my kids to be able to eat dinner with a king.” This skill has never been tested.

So, on Mother’s Day, I thank you, Vi, for being my biggest fan, my most honest critic, and my guide through the numerous missteps of my life with unwavering love and loyalty. I will always remember these things, even if you can’t anymore.

18 Responses »

  1. Wow, Irene. This is my first visit to your blog, and you made me laugh and cry at the same time. Your mother sounds like an amazing woman. I love all the little pieces of advice and your responses to them.

    I love your writing and look forward to reading more.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss. Your mom sounds like such an amazing woman. I am really happy that you got to have her as a mom and hope that you have many many photos and other mementos to hold on to.

    Take care.

  3. Today my mother arrives to spend 3 weeks with me. I’m not very happy about it because she is not my biggest supporter or my best friend. I do my best to please her but it’s never good enough. I’m sorry to hear that your dear mom passed away. I too believe in reincarnation and maybe when she and I both return, I’ll be lucky enough to have her as my mother.

  4. Irene, I had no idea you were going through so much with your mom- my thoughts are with you. Your wonderful tribute to you mom makes me both sad and happy- sad that you have lost someone so close to you, but happy that you had a mom who gave you so much.

  5. Such a loving tribute Irene. I hope that when she does come back I’ll get a chance to know her. In the meantime, I’m the lucky one to know her amazing daughter.

  6. I am so sorry for your loss Irene. your tribute to your Mum was beautiful and heartwarming. I dont know you except through the blogging world but loss is felt deeply. My love and wishes for you and your family.

  7. Oh man. Sorry, Irene. With such a bounty of beautiful words and feelings, i don’t know whether to laugh or cry. So I’ll just smile. Just know you hit me right in the heart. Thanks. Hugs all around.

  8. Dear Irene,
    My heart is heavy and my eyes blurry after receiving your sad news. But reading the beautiful and so heartfelt tribute to your lovely mother made me smile and wish that I had been able to know her as well. Your writing made me feel like I did almost know her. Thank you for that gift! I am sending you love and healing, my dear friend. Love you!

  9. Love and hugs from Virginia…It makes me happy to know my cousin and your little men are with you during this time…as a mother of a daughter I can only hope she will have such wonderful things to say about me as you have about your beautiful Viola…xo

  10. My deepest condolences, Irene. Your mother sounds like she was an amazing woman (with the best name ever) and I know what an incredible loss that is. Take care of yourself.

  11. What a moving, funny and insightful tribute, Irene. You really paint a picture for we who don’t know either of you. I hope that your words will be a comfort to you. How blessed you were to have had such a woman as your mother, just as I imagine she was blessed to have you. My heart goes out to you!

  12. Irene:
    There are no words to comfort someone when they lose their mom. But your words are a wonderful testament to her. Thinking of you.

  13. Irene,
    I am so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to your mom. You’ve written of her in such as way that I feel a sense of loss that she is gone and I never even met her. Although we do not know each other in the traditional sense, we are both daughters, we are both mothers, and we are both women, so my heart goes out to you as you work through all the emotions that must come with her passing. I am sending you light, love, and energy, my internet friend. And somewhere she is smiling at the beautiful legacy she left behind in you.

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