This weekend we took a quick trip to visit Randy’s mama, Louise, as she recovers from hip surgery in a small town in western South Carolina. After spending the day with her, we hugged family goodbye, knowing someone was there with her as she fell asleep for the night. We enjoyed dinner with some family and headed to mama’s house to sleep. We fell asleep in freshly changed sheets, comfortable yet painfully aware that her battle is not over, and grateful that so many provide so much for her each day.
This morning, Randy walked through and around mama’s home. The place he grew up. A simple two bedroom-plus-den brick ranch home, still with its original bathrooms, kitchen cabinets and linoleum floor. The house is immaculate. The kitchen pantry efficiently shares its tiny space with the hot water heater. It is kept perfectly clean, stocked with all the usual basic needs, including the ever-present box of individually-wrapped raisin cream pies that countless grandchildren and now great-grandchildren scurry for when they visit. Which, by the way, is often. The refrigerator is neatly lined with their pictures and cards, one for “The Greatest Great-Grandmother in the World” hand-scribed in crayon. Out back, the chairs are neatly tucked ’round the patio table. Flowers bloom, those long-nurtured cuttings of red-hot pokers from his grandfather’s yard,
transplanted here fifty years ago, accented by recent additions of assorted flowers in neatly lined pots along the driveway. The lawn is recently mowed, weeds at a minimum. Trees are groomed beautifully. A simple home, a precious place rich in memories, obviously well tended.
There is no way mama has been able to keep up any of this.
Gradually declining for years now, mama needs twenty-four hour care, seven days a week. She has for years. Randy’s daddy, Jean, passed seven years ago. For years before that, they both needed regular assistance. He bought this home for Louise in the late 1950’s and promised her she’d always be there, she’d always have this home. His promise carried through to his end, and now is carried on by their children and grandchildren with great dedication.
Someone takes the time to regularly clean, shop, organize. Someone pays the bills. Someone writes notes about items that need repair and leaves them in appropriate places. Someone pays attention to write dates on open containers in the refrigerator so leftovers can be used or discarded appropriately. Someone keeps mama’s medication list up to date and checks off each day and time as they are given. Someone starts her car regularly and keeps it maintained (she thinks it is Jean, she ‘sees’ him around regularly). Someone mows the lawn, weeds and trims. Someone takes the time to plant new flowers, water them and keep fresh cuttings on the kitchen table. Someone keeps the laundry, makes the beds, tends the grandfather clock that mama loves. Someone brightens her days when they bring her great-grandchildren to visit. Someone cleans up when they scatter puzzle pieces around the living room floor. Someone takes the time to get pictures of them printed, writes their names on the pictures and posts them around the house where she can admire them and stay familiar with them. Someone reminds mama every two minutes, if need be, about who they are, where they are, what they’re doing. Someone helps her bathe, dress, toilet, eat, fix her hair, do her makeup, take her medicine, get to doctor appointments, shop for gifts, do her puzzles, watch her television shows. Someone listens to her talk, showing unfeigned interest and laughing with her as she goes over and over the same stories and thoughts, her mind circling, remembering and forgetting at once as she touches on glimpses, blending generations and years together. One minute she is in 1930, the next 1950 then 60. Someone goes through photo albums with her regularly, picture books that bring joy to her eyes.
They all stay in touch daily, coordinating who will be there, when. They all have plenty else to do. They work, have husbands, children and grandchildren, friends of their own. They all miss out on much-needed rest, freedom, vacations, and no doubt leave some of their own chores undone to get hers done. They lose sleep. They get tired. They are stressed. They rarely complain. They are heroes, every one.
We applaud you. We love and adore you. We appreciate you. We can’t say it or show it enough to match what you give. You are amazing. You know who you are. You don’t ask for any praise, but you certainly deserve it.
Thank you Betty, Linda, Martha, Alice, Anita. Thank you, Whitt, Jim, James, Mike, Tim. Thank you Cindi, Porter, Robert, Bailey, Stacey, Eric, Britton, Braydon. Thank you Scott, Cindy, Hannah, Quinton, Craig, Beth, Angie, Robby, Caleb, Seth. Thank you David, Geri, Dawson, Sawyer, Adam, Shannon, Ashley. Thank you Kevin, Christine, Anna, Adam, Connor, Ben. Thank you Tyler, Cole.
And thank you, Daddy. We notice you’re still here, too, watching over your beloved Louise like the quiet stalwart you’ve always been. Your example lives on. We heard the back-up signal in the truck as we backed out of the driveway this morning, though nothing was there. We thought maybe it was you, waving goodbye. Soon you’ll be together, you and Louise, with baby Hannah, with all the family there she calls out for, and it won’t really be long before we’re all there to see you.
Love, Randy, Joan, Maggy, Jackie and Angelina