A little note: I have not been posting on my blog for quite a few months. I have been starting entries—book reviews and favorite places, teaching tips and passing thoughts and gratitudes—just not getting them into final form. But today, I feel the need to share. And although a silent member lately, my blogging community seemed the place to post my thoughts. Besides, it is Thanksgiving, and I am thankful for the love, gratitude and ideas shared by my fellow bloggers. I am also thankful for my mom who taught me to love all of nature. Her favorite flower–or one of them–was lilacs.
THANKFUL FOR MOM & MEMORIES
It is a bittersweet Thanksgiving, even though the actual events of the day are about the same as the last couple of years. But this year, I cannot call and talk to my mom. She died on Saturday, 3 November, ending her pain and suffering from extensive arthritis. She was ready to go on to Heaven and see her parents and siblings—but we were not ready for her to go. My dad is doing okay. For the last year or so, they have lived separately because his medical needs demanded he live in a convalescent hospital while my mom’s needs allowed her to remain in a retirement center. The two buildings were literally right next to each other, sharing a parking lot. My sister—thank goodness—brought my dad over for a visit the day before she slipped away.
Two years ago, when they both moved into the retirement center together, the family dinners on Thanksgiving ended. I would still cook a turkey and would still visit Mom and Dad, but the big dinners no longer took place. In fact, the several years before the move, I finally convinced Mom that she no longer needed to cook. We brought the feast in from Marie Callenders—and it was great. Even lots of good leftovers. We could still set the table with the good dishes and share together what we appreciated throughout the year. We did not have all the special foods—the orange cinnamon jello salad, her holiday butter cookies or puppy chow, or handmade mashed potatoes and apple pie—but the food itself was the least important or memorable part of the day.
Today, less than a week since her Memorial Service, I am thinking about what all I am thankful for this Thanksgiving:
- All the years in my mom’s 91 years that we did have Thanksgiving dinner together, even any dinners together. This past year, once a week I would bring mom dinner, so we could enjoy dinner and a movie in her room. She could not always follow the movie, but she loved the company. The night was always reminiscent of nights as a kid and even later as an adult when I would visit on vacation and we would simply watch TV together, eventually taking a break for a bedtime snack. It was at those quiet times when Mom would finally stop fussing over everyone else and just relax and chit-chat. I treasure all those evenings—and that she so enjoyed such simple pleasures.
- I also treasure that Mom stayed active and alert mentally up until the end. Of yes, she might forget what she had for dinner an hour earlier, but she recognized friends and family when they visited. And she enjoyed looking over old photos and telling stories—often the same ones over and over. Years before when some were fussing at her doctor that she was showing signs of Alzheimer’s, I can remember how she commandeered my doctor’s appointment, so she could make her case that she was still of sound mind. We had the same doctor as our primary care physician, and she marched in with her proof: The check book she kept current, never missing a payment and never having an error in her math, which was more impressive knowing she did not use a calculator; the address book that showed all the birthdays she remembered with cards; and her favorite recipes that she was still cooking everyday! In addition to the blood tests and such that he was exploring, the doctor gave her that memory test where you tell the patient three words and then after a short conversation ask the patient to recall those three words. Mom got them right—and the doctor and I chuckled a bit when we caught eyes as he needed to check his paper to be 100% sure she was right. I am thankful for Mom’s energy, spunk and ever-alert sensitivities.
- I am also very thankful for Dad. He is strong and active, walking better than Mom did the last year or so. I am hopeful that we can occasionally get out to a restaurant for some onion rings or chili or pie, things that are just not the same at the convalescent hospital cafeteria. He, too, is very alert, recognizing family and friends and joking with the caregivers. He knows Mom is at peace now, but he is still so very sad. His memory of past events is still very good—and he proudly notes that he fell in love with Mom at first sight across the high school cafeteria. They married in 1941. A few months ago he underwent surgery and was adamant that his wedding ring not be taken off—he has never taken it off since their wedding ceremony 71 years ago—and he never will until he is gone! I am thankful for their ongoing love. And that I will be able to visit with him tomorrow.
- As Mom’s Memorial Service was so recent, I am very aware and very thankful for all the love and support that was extended about Mom and towards Dad. The shared memories help—and the love shared by sister and nephews and aunt and cousins and my parents’ friends and neighbors helped me celebrate Mom’s life rather than just grieve over her loss. I know she will be alive in my heart forever—and that is something else to be thankful for.
- Of course, there are all the usual things that I value—beautiful nature all around, decent health, good friends, time to spend with family and friends, and a lifetime ahead to build more memories and share more love and gratitude.
Please do me a favor: As the holiday season unfolds with all its headaches, stress and frustrations over not enough time or money; too little sleep; friends and family who get on your nerves no matter how much you love them; and too much eating and drinking, taka a minute to stop and say “Thank you” and “I love you” to those who matter in your life. You never know when being able to give one more hug will no longer be a reality.