Westborough – Patricia “Trish” Reske, 60, of Westborough, MA, passed away on Friday, October 22, 2021, at her home.
Born in Baltimore, MD, she was the daughter of the late Stephen and Alice Cunningham and the youngest of seven siblings. She graduated from the University of Maryland in 1983 and received her Masters in Creative Writing from Harvard Extension School in 2016. We regret that she is not here with us to wield her Nonfiction Writer’s pen and, in painful detail, mark up all the grammatical errors we’ve made in her obituary. Or to tell us that we need to write with more “pizzaz.” We couldn’t get Annie Dillard to write the obit, Mom, but we’ll give it our best shot.
In childhood, Trish’s parents instructed her in the school of hard knocks: she learned the right time to say “well, tough” to a child. We stood on the receiving end of this long parenting tradition. If we ever claimed to be sick on some bleary-eyed morning, she’d call our bluff, prodding us onto the bus. If we pled for some cough syrup for a sore throat, we’d just need to “tough it out.” But come crying with a broken heart over some dumb boy, or a mean thing a teacher said, and she’d be up in our room for hours, listening to anything.
Mom had strong opinions about living a good life. She abhorred “tacky.” Tacky was thoughtlessness. It was the giant blow-up Christmas display she would eye-roll over at the Natick Mall. Tasteful was doing things proper. Being clever, thoughtful. It was the pies she made from scratch, the careful eye she gave to our papers. A trick to get her kids to behave. I blame her for a decade of confusion after telling me, a toddler in Stop & Shop, that “you can only buy something if you have a coupon for it.”
One day, we’ve come home from middle school to find that our mother has discovered the venerable teachings of Bikram yoga. It gets worse. From now on, she intends to feed us with only the meals provided by the Super Suppers franchise. Perhaps with kale chips as a treat. At dinner, some awful book about a Mount Everest disaster threatens to be the only topic of conversation for the next few months.
These were more than just phases for Mom. They were challenges, and the stakes were high. Once you run one marathon, you may be on to bigger things. Maybe next, you run a marathon in nearly every state (which she did), or hike every 4,000-footer in the White Mountains (which she also did). You can go back to school and get the Masters in Creative Writing you’ve always wanted. You can be the teacher’s pet, at age 52. Infuriating, I’m sure, to have my know-it-all mom in your class. And then, of course, the only proper way to watch Les Misérables on tour at the Hanover Theatre is to torture yourself through the entire Victor Hugo novel (unabridged!), in fifteen days, before opening night. Anything less could be considered cheating.
Where can the story go? More recently, our mom lamented that she couldn’t just “uproot my life, hike the Appalachian Trail, at this stage.” She was forgetting that her life had been full of Appalachian Trails. So many people would have been thrilled to have her enthusiasm, her high standards, her smile at a challenge. Anything she turned her attention toward was guaranteed to be bright.
And then, at her lowest, addiction turned its attention toward her. Slowly, and then all at once.
Mom once said, after seeing Chloe accidentally break a piece of her fine china: “Things are replaceable, and people aren’t.” She was right.
In her memory, please be comforted that she would have approached her own funeral as something to laugh about as much to cry about. A dark comedy, like Faulkner would do it. Make plenty of jokes about the tacky fonts we might have picked for the programs.
Her funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 AM on Saturday, October 30, in St. Luke the Evangelist Church, 70 West Main Street, Westborough. Burial will follow at St. Luke’s Cemetery.
Calling hours will be held from 4 to 7 PM on Friday October 29, in the Pickering & Son Westborough Funeral Home, 62 West Main Street, Westborough.
In lieu of flowers, our family kindly requests donations to the Alzheimer’s Association MA/NH, 309 Waverley Oaks Road, Waltham MA 02452 or via www.alz.org/manh.