The Day My Mom Didn't Die
“I can’t get her to wake up,” Dad said. It was Father’s Day of this year.
I squatted next to Mom’s chair and shook her legs. “Momma?” Nothing. She was breathing and had a pulse, but no amount of shaking or calling her name would arouse her. Her eyes were closed and her cheeks and lips drooped. She looked strangely peaceful, but something was wrong.
Is this it, I wondered. Not yet Momma, I want to hug you one more time and tell you what a great mother you are and that I love you.
I dialed 911. “Stay on the line, I am sending out paramedics and an ambulance.”
Maybe this was a good way to go, given her moderate Alzheimer’s—maybe this would be a mercy.
Dad kissed her head. This was going to be hard on him.
“Do you think she had a stroke?” we asked as we waited for help. We knew this state of unconsciousness would greatly complicate her care.
The young paramedic began a sternal rub. “Doris!” Mom remained unresponsive, even as they transferred her onto the gurney and into the ambulance.
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What can I tell you about my momma? In many ways, she is “average” as far as society’s perception of her skills. She’s not showy, ambitious, assertive, astute, or articulate. Her qualities are more along the lines of steady, reliable, humble, compassionate, selfless, and kind. She was a nurse—never a head nurse—but voted “Nurse of the Year” by her peers. Her stability and quiet consistency would be underappreciated in today’s climate of bitterness and bombast. It’s only after stopping and reflecting that it becomes clear what an exceptional mother and person she is.
She raised six boys on a working poor income (six and a half if you count Dave—my parents were his guardian when he started high school). When we were sick, she rubbed our chests with Vick’s Vapor Rub and pinned a hot cloth diaper around our necks. Most nights, she lingered at our bedroom door after tucking us in, answering our never-ending stream of questions. After riding our bikes home from St. Bruno’s school, she listened with a smile as we recounted the events of the day. During every Little League game, she sat on a blanket and watched her sons. Late at night, she quietly prepared our lunches—12 slices of Wonder Bread lay out on the kitchen counter beside large jars of peanut butter and jelly—and folded and ironed the clothes from the always-overflowing basket in the back room. Never complaining, she shielded us from her burdens of motherhood with a patient smile, giving us all the gift of a carefree and happy childhood.
But perhaps her greatest legacy will be sharing with us what she received from her family of origin: a loving environment. She has run her race well; she has passed the baton to her six children, 22 grandchildren, and 32 great grandchildren.
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Mom woke up in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. In the ER, Mom’s old self returned, cheerful and smiling. They examined her and ran some labs, but after several hours the ER doctor remained puzzled about what might have caused her unconsciousness for that period of time.
We all went home. My wife Linda cooked the four of us some eggs and bacon. It was midnight—I could put off thoughts of losing my momma for another time. Today it’s her birthday, and today I get to hug her and tell her I love her one more time.
Mark Edwards is a father and grandfather who lives in Little Rock, AR with his wife Linda, his 19 year old son, and his aging parents. He likes to write, build things, and ride his motorcycle fast through the woods.