From the mamas

Fred knocked lightly on the door before leaning into the room. “Mama?”Seasons

Then he saw me sitting beside my mother’s bed. “Oh, excuse me. “

His mama and my mama were roommates in the nursing home. He had to walk through our space to get to his mother.

“You’re fine,” I assured him. I was reading a book while Mom slept.

Fred was tall with more salt than pepper in his hair. About my age. I’d already noticed that most of the visitors at the nursing home were about my age.

For most of us, our mamas -and a few papas- lived here.  This is our time of life.

“She’s sleeping.” Fred could see his mother in her bed. “Maybe I’ll come back later.”

“Don’t worry about that.”  The voice was my mother’s. She looked at Fred. “We can sleep anytime. She can’t see you anytime.”

Fred still hesitated. Mamas train us well. Who wants to awaken a napper?  We learned that with younger siblings a millennium ago.

My mother glanced at me and then at Fred again. “She will be disappointed. I would be. She wants to see you. “

Even at our age, Mama still gives good advice. Fred nodded and then tiptoed into the room.

Maybe he tiptoed so that he didn’t wake his mother before he woke her.

bed_chair“Mama?”

I could hear a slight rustle. And then “Ooooh. Fred. It is so good to see you. I am glad you came. How are you?”

“I’m good.” I could hear Fred drop into a chair.

Mamas still know best.

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What I don’t think

Story_squareWhen I saw the pictures on Facebook commemorating the woman who sewed tiny teddy bears for her pet mouse, I knew I could take on this topic.

You know. Mice.

I’ve never sewed teddy bears for a pet mouse. Here’s why: I don’t sew and I don’t keep pet mice.

I trap them.

That’s the hard line, I know, but I have my reasons.

Beyond mice seeds in the pantry, I mean.

Reason #1: There was once a mouse drunk on warfarin. He climbed the drapery in my living room, tottered across the top of the rod, and continued on when the rod ended. He fell to the carpet, staggered to his feet, and then toppled to one side.

I expected to see four legs in the air and X’s in each eye.

Not the sort of memory that makes a pet mouse look cuddly.

Reason #2: When my family moved to our current rural location, we had to carve our homestead into an alfalfa field. We put up a new garage and house.

We hadn’t factored in field mice.

So our older son would jump into his little pickup to go to school only to watch mice climbing up the gear shift and out of the glove box.

Think Birds, only four-legged.mouse

Not cute.

Reason #3: The annual influx of mice from the nearby fields once the weather turns bad keeps our cat busy – and crumpled mouse bodies laid outside our bedroom doors. Gifts, I guess.

So, when I see a mouse darting across the far corner of the utility room, the one thing I don’t think of is “sew that buddy a teddy bear.”

Those transfers

Seasons“We want to train you in transfers. ”

That came from Mom’s physical therapist. Transfers?

Oh, yeah. If Mom was going to live at my house for a while, somebody would have to move her from bed to wheelchair to toilet. Her stroke had stolen her ability to stand alone.

In eldercare terminology, moving was called transferring.

“Her transfers have been kind of wonky,” the therapist said. “We’re still working with her. Can you come tomorrow and we’ll train you?”

Sure. I could do all things in the name of love. I could do this.

Planning was key to a transfer. I had to learn to think through the direction of the transfer. Where to park the wheelchair. Where to put my feet. How to protect my own back as I lifted Mom.

A gait belt helped. It was an adjustable fabric belt that provided me with a handle to grip.

But sometimes I had to grab the back of Mom’s pants to aid the lift. Sometimes a bottom boost helped.

Not things I wanted to do to my precious mother.

“Don’t worry,” she said. She patted my arm. “We can do this together.”

We did. The first transfer, completed before the experienced eye of a therapist, was awkward and embarrassing. wheelchair2

Often my sister joined us. We had a wordless system. One pulled the wheel chair out of the way, tore it down, stowed it in the trunk while the other transferred Mom and buckled her in the car.

The funniest transfer happened when I missed the seat and Mom settled onto the threshold of the car door. We faced each other, cheek to cheek, and both got the giggles which hindered the transfer a bit.

But Mom was right. Together we could do it. For that season of her recovery, we did it.

Just drain the waterbed

I knew I had an issue when I looked out the back door of my new office to see my trailer house rolling down the highway.

Story_squareI had been commuting 30 miles a day to the new job, waiting for a moving company to take my little trailer house to a new location closer to my work.

The nice thing about moving a trailer house is that you really don’t have to pack much. In fact, I hadn’t even bothered to drain my water bed yet.

I had instructed the moving company to give me some advance notice before they hauled the house to the new place.

They’d promised they would.

And they didn’t.

I jumped in my car and raced after the trailer house, which was being backed into its new site by the time I got there.

The crew hooked up all the lines and the foreman wandered over.

“I thought you were going to call me,” I said.

He shrugged. “I guess nobody did.”

“Yeah, well, there’s a full waterbed in the back of that trailer that I intended to drain.”

He studied the house for a long moment, searching for cracks in the back wall. Then he shrugged again. “Well, that explains why it was so goosey in the back end while we were on the highway.”

Good news: the bed didn’t come out the back wall of the trailer. Bad news: it did come off the pedestal, resting against the back wall.

There is a moral to this story.  When you’re 20-something and think you don’t have to drain your waterbed till the last minute, sleep on the couch a few nights instead.

No worries

Freida leaned close to her granddaughter. “See that man over there?”

She pointed across the living room to a man sitting in a recliner watching television.Seasons

Her granddaughter, who was arrived the evening before Thanksgiving, nodded.

“Well,” Freida continued, her white hair in tight curls on her head. “He lost his wife, you know. Poor man.”

Jill pulled her head back. “Oh, no, Grandma. That’s my dad. You’re talking about my mom and she’s in town right now. She’ll be home in a little while.”

“Oh.” Freida cocked her head to the side. “All right.”

Five minutes later, she leaned toward Jill. “See that man over there?”

Jill took a deep breath. She’d already heard the story about Grandma’s Christmas choir – when Grandma was a teenager. Every five minutes or so, she heard the story again.

“Mom,” she asked when her mother walked in the back door, “what do you do about Grandma’s repeating stories?”

“Do the best you can,” she said.

Jill sat down with her grandmother again. “Did you sing in the choir, Grandma?”

Freida’s eyes lit up. “Let me tell you about the time when the Christmas tree caught on fire in the church.”

Jill knew the story. During the Christmas eve service, the candles on the tree bit into the wood and an usher grabbed a bucket from the back of the church.

“He tossed the water from the bucket onto the tree,” Freida said. “But he missed the tree and hit the choir. Bucket and all!” And she laughed.

Jill took her hand. “Do you have any bills to pay, Grandma?”

Freida tilted her head, her eyes puzzled. “I don’t know.”

“Do you worry about getting fired from your job?”

“I don’t think I have a job. I’m an old woman.”

Jill took her hand. “Do you have any worries?”

“What’s there to worry about?”

Jill kissed her grandmother on the forehead. “God has been kind,” she said.

Freida nodded. “I always remember that.”

Bookend buddies

Story_squareThey were almost bookends.  I watched my husband and teenage son stroll into the convenience store while I kept guard on the gas pumping into our SUV.

Both wore spandex cycling shirts in blazing yellow with all sorts of advertising slogans plastered in place, paid for by many cycling sponsors.

Souvenirs of a recent biking race.

And our son stood as tall as his dad now, with dark hair that matched his father’s.

Yep. Bookends.

And sweaty ones.

“Are we going home now?” Our youngest daughter hung her 12-year-old head out the window.

“We have to get their bikes loaded on top,” I said, “and then we will.”

She shook her head. “How far did they ride this morning?”

“About 30 miles.”

“Glad it was them.” She hopped out of the car. “Can we go inside? I want to buy a snack.”

“Sure.”

We found her snack and then came back outside. The SUV had been moved to the curb in front of the store and my husband, still wearing his yellow cycling jersey, was bent over the engine compartment with the hood raised.

That was so like him. He was probably checking the oil. He took good care of details.cyclist

The thought of how well he cared for his family welled up in me and I walked up behind him to give him a hug and kiss from behind.

My arms were out for the embrace when I stopped.

This was not my husband.

This was my son. Bookends, remember?

I never told him how close he came to a snuggly hug and kiss from his mom. I have always been pretty sure he really didn’t want to know.

A little clearer

The doctor searched the emergency room cubicle until she found my eyes. Then she took a quick breath. “We have the x-rays. Her hip is broken.”Seasons

I was holding my mother’s hand as she lay still on the examining table. The pain had escalated while we’d been at the hospital and she was now under the influence of morphine. She had no idea what the doctor had said.

I drew a longer breath than the doctor. “So what are our options?

“Hip replacement surgery. Or do nothing.” The doctor’s eyes were kind and she waited until I responded. “This is considered major surgery.”

Mom, at 83, was already trying to recuperate from a stroke nine months earlier. Could she withstand a surgery?

My sister stood across the table from me and our eyes met.

“How soon do we have to decide?” she said.

The doctor shrugged. “You can talk about it with family. The surgeon would do it as soon as possible. Probably this afternoon.” She stepped to the doorway. “I’ll check back in a few minutes.”

“This is an awful decision,” my sister said. “She might not survive the surgery.”

“I know.”

Mom was sleeping. Before the morphine had kicked in, she’d been in tremendous pain.

“We have to give her a chance.” My sister said the words that I was thinking.

Within two hours, our mother was wheeled away by a surgeon. We hugged her and prayed for her. We assured her of our love for her. She could respond to none of it.

Would we see her again?

Our brother arrived a little later.  “Any news?”

We explained our options. “She might not survive the surgery but we had to give her a chance for something better.”

He nodded. “What else could you do?”

We all knew Mom. And that made a hard decision a little clearer.