Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 13 - Mom and the Wendy's Napkin

Wow!  That's a boring picture!  But the sight of a Wendy's napkin will always remind me of my mom.

I don't have that many specific Christmas related memories of Mom.   About all I do remember is her being frantic and exhausted.   When I was 10-ish, we changed the family tradition from eating a big fancy Christmas Eve dinner at my grandparents to having it at our house.  So Mom had that to deal with.  And when I was a child, Santa decorated our tree.  Christmas Eve morning, we'd put it up and put the lights on, but Santa put all the decorations on.  And there were a LOT of decorations!  There were plenty of Christmas mornings when I'd get up and be excited because Mom was already up and in the bathroom.  What I didn't realize is that she was in there brushing her teeth before she went to bed, not because she'd just gotten out of bed.

Christmas day involved opening gifts and Mom fixing a real breakfast.  Christmas day was the only day she ever cooked breakfast.  The other 364 days of the year we ate toast or frozen waffles or cereal.  After our big breakfast, we'd head out to my cousin's for a big lunch then back to our house for what Mom called our "Thank God It's Over!" party.  That gathering was very casual.  We'd have soup and ham biscuits, a few deserts and what ever other people brought.  Anyone and everyone was invited, and folks were encouraged to show up in their bedroom slippers.  But even though that party was casual, Mom used the good china.  There was a lot of clean-up involved.  No wonder she was always frantic and exhausted!

So, what does a Wendy's napkin have to do with it?  Well, let's see if I can explain without making myself sound like a horrible, horrible person.

A few years ago, my healthy as a horse mom had her first heart "episode" just before Halloween.  She spent a week in the hospital, was sent home, had a week there and was sent back to the hospital.  This time, 8 days in the hospital, and home for 4.  Next time it was 10 days in the hospital, 3 days at home.  This went on and on until just before Christmas.  We all knew that she was dying, but the doctors were determined to keep her alive through Christmas.   Mom seemed to be ok with her fate.  She was nervous about dying, but not of death.  She was worried about being in pain, but she was confident of her place in Heaven.  She was also in her upper 80's and had outlived the majority of her friends and had recently lost her sight.  Mentally, she was ready.

A day to two before her last trip to the hospital, she'd had a cancerous spot on her leg removed.  That doctor sent her home with instructions to change the bandage daily.  A few days later, she had another episode that landed her back in the hospital.  The admitting doctor knew that this was her last trip in and they didn't write up the orders to change that bandage.  My mom was obsessed with that bandage being changed though and during one of my & my sister's visits, Mom began to rant about it.  My sister, being the good daughter that she is, took it upon herself to fix the problem.  We didn't have access to a Bandaid, but we did have a Wendy's napkin.  Cary, my sister, replaced the dirty bandage with the Wendy's napkin and some Scotch tape that happened to be in the room.  That napkin stayed taped to Mom's leg for days.

On Christmas Eve morning, Mom was sounding chipper over the phone.  The family, minus Mom, got together at my sisters for dinner as we do every year.  After dinner, my sister packed up a few left-overs and we all headed to the hospital to visit Mom.  When we got there, it was obvious that she wasn't so chipper anymore.  It looked like she'd recently suffered a stroke.  She was able to say "Hi folks" when we walked in, but those were the last words she ever said.
Another family tradition we have is reading The Night Before Christmas.  It has been read to my mother, to me and to my kids every year of our lives.  Tradition says the oldest male reads it.  Since my dad's death, that means my brother-in-law gets the honor.  He'd brought the book to the hospital and we all gathered around Mom for the reading.  Somehow, the nursing staff found out what was getting ready to happen and they all gathered around Mom's hospital door.  A few on-call doctor's joined in and even a few patients in wheel chairs.  There was quite the gathering outside Mom's door.  I think it took about two hours to read the poem because everyone was crying so hard.  We kept having to pause to collect ourselves.

After the reading, everyone but my sister and I left the hospital.  My sister and I had decided to spend the night.  Mom wasn't expected to make it through the night and we wanted to be there with her.  At 5:24 a.m. on Christmas morning, Mom quietly passed away.  As we were leaving the hospital for the final time, my sister and I realized that Mom still had that Wendy's napkin taped to her leg.  Between the exhaustion and the emotion of loosing our mother, we were a little slap-happy and we both fell into hysterical giggling fits laughing at what the morgue would think.

So, for the rest of my life, a yellow Wendy's napkin will always bring a bitter sweet smile to my face.  Merry Christmas, Mom.  I love and miss you more than I ever thought possible.

1 comment:

  1. Oh boy, now you've got me absolutely bawling! What a precious set of memories you have. And I love the Wendy's napkin story - just the perfect mix of humor and sorrow and love and reminiscences. And now I can never look at a Wendy's napkin without remembering your mom - look, you've passed her memory on to people who never knew her!!

    Have a great Christmas, and enjoy the reading of The Night Before Christmas.