Christmas Eve was extremely busy for us this year. The last of the gift wrapping, candy making, sweet roll dough making and preparations for guests for Christmas Day dinner. All that stuff that seems so menial and time consuming. Scrubbing vegetables, slicing and dicing vegetables, mixing dips, making hot crackers, prepping the ham and potatoes for quick assembly on Christmas Day. Little things that take so much time it seems. Selecting the serving dish for each appetiser. That endless list of things we hosts and hostess insist on having just right for an occasion.
We finally said that we just had to stop and go visit Gene's 98 year old mother for some time. Edna is in a full care facility about 25 miles from our home. She lost most of her short term memory last year after several bouts of pneumonia. In the last few months her long term memory has become increasingly muddled. She can not longer carry on a conversation of more than a couple of sentences. And these are not necessarily something that she seems to comprehend. Always a bookkeeper, Edna will ask at some point during a visit about her finances.
This year we delivered a gift of a cookie basket from granddaughter, Kym, and a gift from us. Nothing big as Edna does not like a lot of attention being given to her. We had a blouse and body cream. When we first arrived, Edna was in the bathroom with the door closed. She did not hear our knock so when she came out of the bathroom she was startled by our presence in the small room. But she was so happy to see us. It was as if she had not seen us in years. It had been a couple of weeks due to my surgery. She obviously recognized we were hers. We try to no longer ask her for our names, that frustrates her. She will look as Gene and identify him as "my baby boy".
Gene had placed the two gifts on Edna's bed. She took the chair beside the bed. Finally she said she was curious about the packages. First she started with the cookie basket. She gingerly pulled the clear wrap off the basket. She stared at the goodies in the basket. Gene explained the cookies for her to have and to share. He asked for a cookie. She said she was saving them. Then she said she would save the basket for us to pick up later.
Next she opened the bag we had brought. She pulled the tissue paper out and looked it over folding in in thirds. Finally she pulled the blouse and body cream from the bag. She looked at each then put them on the bed by the bag. It was time for her to look at the cookies again. The basket was lined with tissue squares. We watched as she arranged the cookies on one side of the basket and folded the paper over the cookies. Gene, again, asked for a cookie. No, she was saving them was her response. Then the pile of tissue from the gift bag was folded into a two by five inch rectangle, two reds, one green. The clear plastic bag was folded into the same, small rectangle. These were placed in the cookie basket on the side previously occupied by 3 or 4 cookies. Again, Gene asked for a cookie. No, not right now but save for later.
Now it was time to fold the blouse into the smallest possible rectangle. Before this was complete Gene said he would hang it up for her. I asked if I could put the body cream in a drawer where she kept cream and she agreed. The drawer that had been empty of cream two weeks earlier now had 3 other containers. Some full, some partially used.
Once she had the gifts and paper "fixed" she began asking questions. Unlike her straightforward questions of the past, she approached the financial question as if it was not of her business. Gene was the kindest son any mother could wish to have. He explained how money was not a problem cause she and his Daddy had been such good money managers. How they had everything set up and all he has to do is just keep the checkbook balanced. He was gentle, kind and very affirming of his mother's financial abilities.
This is when she brought up how she wished she could live next door to us. Or maybe even live with us. That way she could help us with our work. She was certain she could wash dishes or something. Dear Edna has always needed to be the giver, never the taker. She was to be the one nursing the sick, not the sick one. She was the one to take her mother in law to the doctor once a month or so. Aunt Lorene still had children at home to care for so it just made sense for Edna to be the one to take Grandma to the doctor.
It just makes sense. It makes sense for Edna to be in a 24/7 care facility. She gets better care and more attention than we would be able to give her. We would not be able to give the breathing treatments or antibiotic shots or any of the other hundreds of other things the RNs can do for her. It just makes sense because as much as Edna would want to was dishes, we are pretty sure she would not be able to stay on task. I saw in the infinite folding of the paper the same meticulous commitment that made the monies available for her care. I saw the core being still in there some where.
Whereas four years ago she would have taken the cookies to the dinner table to share with her table mates, now she cannot even realize it would be good to give her baby boy a cookie for Christmas. Instead of sitting down with her in our home on Christmas Eve for her traditional salmon soup supper, we sat in a small room. A small room and world with two straight chairs, a recliner, a twin bed, dressing table, lamp, night stand, TV stand and cookies that have to be saved. We left that night hungry for the mothers of our youth.
Back home we had to settle not for the salmon soup but a Sonic hamburger and onion rings. We worked into the wee hours of Christmas morning baking cookies, shaping, baking and wrapping the fresh cinnamon rolls and breads to be delivered in a few hours to neighbors. Our appreciation for being able to complete these menial tasks as long as our minds and bodies allow was heightened by our Christmas Eve With Mom Adcock.