Remember Mother and that final Christmas meal

Living in the past is not something that I choose to do all the time, but I will admit that I relish reminiscing now and then. As I was digging through some of my older writings, I came across something I wrote about my mother, and our last Christmas together.

It was Dec. 24, 1986, and I was hustling and bustling to get last minute things done. Since Ma had fallen around Thanksgiving and broken her hip, she was not coming to my house to spend the day here as in years past. So I went to visit her at the rest home she had lived in for the past seven years, due to a stroke.

Now, instead of using her walker as before, she was confined to a wheelchair. It was hard for me to see this independent woman confined in this way, and I am sure she felt much the same.

“I don’t feel like myself,” she confided. “I don’t think I will ever walk again. The therapy isn’t working, my arms get too sore.”

She also explained how she had given the latch-hook tree skirt back to the activity lady, because she didn’t feel she could finish it.

That was a sign to me, as working latch-hook was one of her favorite ways to pass the time. I noticed her hands then, her fingers gnarled with arthritis. I remembered those hands, who were always doing something when I was growing up. If they weren’t in a pan of bread dough, making food for the family, they were tending a baby chick, or knitting, or tending the garden.

I tried to assure her that she should just keep trying, and it wasn’t long before the therapist came in to work with her on her walking.

“Sure,” she agreed. “I could try.”

Tears stung my eyes, I admired this 86-year-old woman who is trying to learn to walk again. Valiantly she struggled along with the walker. The therapist kept the wheelchair behind her, so she could sit and rest when needed. She made it the length of the room, returning by wheelchair.

I had made arrangements to eat lunch with her, and I recall that we had salmon loaf and creamed peas. We chatted as we ate, though she didn’t eat all of hers. We talked about summer, and how we could go out and do things when the weather was better.

She nodded, but I am not sure she believed that would happen. I told her she looked so pretty in her red dress, and even that didn’t get a big smile.

We had other visits in the next weeks that followed, sharing laughter, memories and yes, some tears. Between that Dec. 24 and Jan. 23, when she had her final stroke, we grew closer.

No matter what type of relationship we have with our mothers, there is one thing I have learned, I will never forget my mother, nor the things she did out of love and devotion for her family.

We didn’t have all the latest gadgets while I was growing up, but we always had good food on the table, and warm clothing, much of it made by Mother.

This Christmas, I will remember my mother, and our simple meal of salmon loaf and creamed peas, no longer with tears, but with admiration.