My Mom came to visit us to celebrate her 90th birthday. When she left, after I had wheeled her on the plane and Steve had wheeled 86-year-old Aunt DeeDee -- she was the one who had jitterbugged at my niece Laura's wedding the previous Labor Day -- Mom said it was her last trip. But she had said that at Christmas when she came -- that was the trip where I let her talk me into not letting her stay long enough -- and before, in October, when she had come to visit us.
That October visit was particularly enjoyable. I'm not sure why, exactly. Maybe because we had just put in a new kitchen & every day when Mom came downstairs she would say, "Oh, I really do like this kitchen! The wallpaper is so nice. And the cabinets . . . and everything!" Or maybe because I took more time off that time & we were able to relax and chat off and on. But anyway, it was a very pleasant visit.
So was her trip for the 90th birthday. I had sent out a letter that said, in part, "Dear Folk: On approximately June 12, 1901, a very special person was born into this world. You may know her as "Midge" or "Middo" or "Mildred" or Aunt or Grandma or Great Grandma, but I call her mother (among other things). Annahoo (as she is fond of saying), come this June she's going to be celebrating the big 9-0!!! Therefore, to observe this momentous event, we are having a party . . . "
My sister Jane & I put a video together the day before the birthday party. I had been meaning to do it myself, but things got so busy & I procrastinated I guess, so Jane & I grouped & videotaped the old pictures that some of my relatives had sent. (And I guess if I hadn't procrastinated we wouldn't have gotten the pictures that Nancy sent Federal Express that got there about 11 that Saturday morning!) Then we took some old records of Mom's from the 20's that Jane had gotten earlier and laid in a sound track. And I mean old records! One was so old it was only recorded on one side! (What goes around, comes around -- I saw a cartoon the other day where some character was complaining about the cost of a compact disk, saying "And it's only recorded on one side!")
But as I said, it was a good visit. Of course, she complained about being tired, but she's complained about that about as long as I can remember. "I'm just so tired," she would say. "You just can't imagine how tired I am!"
And I guess we couldn't, for she certainly got enough rest. She would go upstairs to get something -- and for ninety, she navigated up & down pretty well -- & then she wouldn't come down so I'd go up & check & she'd be lying in the bed in Steve's room. (Steve was sleeping on the cot in the little room.)
So I'd say, "I thought you were coming right down."
And she'd reply, "Well, I was. But then I sat down for a moment to rest -- and the bed grabbed me!"
So we had a little joke in the family during that whole trip about how "the bed grabbed Grandma."
The big party was on Saturday, the 8th of June, even though her birthday was on the 12th. Jane had flown in from Minneapolis the day before and Laura, her daughter, had driven down from New York the same day. There was Mary and I and Steve and Cindy, of course, plus Aunt DeeDee, who had come for her granddaughter Sarah's graduation from law school a week or so previously. Deed came down with Bill & Jan from Gaithersburg, and Sarah drove down from Baltimore where she was living. Didn't get lost, either!
So, with Grandma, that made eleven of us. We set up a card table in the living room to augment the dining room table & served up the honey-baked ham and my caper potato salad and all the accoutrements buffet style from the counter in the kitchen. Delicious meal and lot's of talk & laughter & remembrances from Mom & Deed of when they were young girls on the loose.
You know, some things never change about mothers. During this last visit, I had gone out in the back yard to do some work. And it was pretty hot, up in the 90's I think. But I can stand the heat pretty well for the most part. (In contrast, Mary suffers neither the heat -- nor fools -- very well.)
So when I came in, Mom said, "Bubby, you shouldn't be out in the heat like that. Why don't you stay inside?"
"Mom," I replied, "how old am I?" She said, "Well . . . " and I could see her doing a little mental arithmetic so I broke in & said, "Right, I'm sixty years old. So don't you think I'm old enough to decide whether I ought to be out in the heat or not?"
"Well," she replied, "I suppose so . . . but wear a hat!"
DeeDee called us on Wednesday, just a week and a day after Mom had left, to say that she was in the hospital. Had been complaining for several days of pains in her arms and Deed finally insisted that she go in. Deed explained that she was in intensive care, but we shouldn't be that concerned as they had put her there because they didn't have another room on the fourth floor. She had a touch of pneumonia and some fluid on the lungs, but no heart attack.
I talked to the doctor & asked him what the prognosis was & he said, "Well, we hope to get her back to where she was before." The next day, they moved her out of intensive care, but then she had a setback and went back in. I talked to a nurse who said, "She's a special little lady" -- & somehow that phrase stuck to me; it sums her up so well because she always thought of others before herself -- and I replied, "We think so, too."
Monday, Jane phoned me at work to say the hospital had called to ask if we wanted to take "extraordinary means" -- put her on machines -- if it was needed & when I called the doctor that evening he said, "Well, I just have this 'bad feeling.'" So I made plane reservations for the next day & that evening Cindy came and gave me an envelope addressed to "Grandmother" & I put it in the book I was going to take with me.
The hospital called in the middle of the night -- shortly before two -- and the nurse said she was failing, that things didn't look good. And then about ten minutes later a man called -- I think it was Emil, a male nurse I met when I went to the hospital later -- and told me that she was gone.
The next morning, as Mary & I were getting ready for the noon flight, Cindy got up for work & went into the bathroom. I knocked & she opened the door & I said -- and it was the only time I was able to say it without choking up -- "Cindy, last night God grabbed Grandma."
"What," she said. "Oh no!"
So I hugged her & said, "Yes, honey. Last night Grandma got too close to heaven, and God just grabbed her."
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