I am sitting in the emergency room of our local hospital – again. My mother fell this morning. Although she uses a walker or walking cane all the time, she often falls because of problems with one of her knees. She has seizures, which occasionally cause her to fall. She has congestive heart failure and degenerative disk disease. My mother will be 80 in one week and her health has been failing for a number of years.
This is not how I want to see or remember my mother. I want to remember her the way she was when I was a child, a teenager and a young married woman with a child of my own.
When I was a child my mother was constantly busy. Even though she worked full time, she would come home every day and cook “supper” as we called it then – meat, vegetables, bread and tea. My sister and I always had clean and ironed clothes to wear to school. On Saturdays, my mother would get up very early, and by the time I was up, she would have made-from-scratch cake layers cooling on racks, waiting for the sweet, sugary icing to be spread on top of each layer and all around the sides. Then later in the morning, she would leave for her weekly appointment at the “beauty shop.” (In those days, we had not heard of hair salons.) Sundays found her teaching an elementary Sunday school class and singing in the choir.
My mother taught me to respect my elders. I still say “Yes, m‘am and No, sir.” She taught me how to act in church and showed me what would happen if I didn’t behave!
During the summer months, my mother would come home from work and stand on her feet for hours blanching and then freezing beans, peas, corn, and squash so that we could have fresh vegetables in the winter.
My mother continued to be active in my teenage years; however the degenerative disk disease had begun to slowly ravage her spine. Over the years, she lost several inches in height. But this did not slow her down – at least not then. She and my dad were at every chorus concert, every play that I was in, everything I did..... they were there.
I became engaged my sophomore year of college and as I planned my wedding, my mother was there to help and advise me. I still remember her teary eyes as I dressed to leave the church for my honeymoon.
When my first child was born, my mother and father were at the hospital almost before I arrived! I can see, even now, my mother holding my daughter, Kim, in her arms. When I came home from the hospital, my mother stayed with us for a week, taking care of all the household chores so that I could bond with Kim and learn how to be a mother. (Why don’t babies come with an instruction manual??) My mother also stayed for a week when my son, Kyle, was born, again taking care of everything.
Shortly after Kyle’s birth, my father became gravely ill and was hospitalized for several weeks, having two surgeries during that time. My mother was an absolute rock. She stayed, day and night, with my dad until he came home. Once home, she waited on him hand and foot and watched over him vigilantly until he regained his strength and health.
When my daughter became pregnant at 16, my mother (and father) became a rock of support. They surrounded my daughter with love and prayers. When Kim went into labor, they made a mad dash to the hospital to be there when their first great grandchild was born. I have a photograph of mother holding my grandson. The love in her face was as intense and as deep as the love had been when she held her grandchildren and children.
Although my mother and I have not always seen “eye-to-eye” on some issues, and there have been times when she has driven me crazy (what mother doesn’t drive her daughter crazy sometimes?), she has always loved me, always supported me and always been there for me.
I don’t want to see her growing frailer with each passing day. But this is life. The least I can do is be here for her. Sitting in the waiting room of the ER. Waiting.