Saturday, May 12, 2007

Almost Mother's Day...

Tomorrow is Mother's Day and I miss my mom most on Mother's Day. Those of you who "met" her in DeFOREST KELLEY: A HARVEST OF MEMORIES or FLOATING AROUND HOLLYWOOD can imagine, to a degree, what an amazing mom she was. She and De Kelley were two of the finest people I have ever met in my life... I so want to be like them when I grow up.

Today I picked up Aunt Tod (Evelyn) and took her to Wal-mart, Lowe's and Office Depot looking for small items she wanted. We found and purchased most of what she wanted to make her new abode (residential care community) seem like home to her. I put up her new curtains (bought at a real steal of a deal price -- $3.97 each instead of the usual $14.79), then put together her new Dirt Devil electric broom, and then visited with her until it was time to get her across the street to dialysis. As soon as we got there she got hungry so I dashed across the street to Baskin Robbins for what sounded good to her: a pineapple milkshake. Then I went back to Wal-Mart and bought her a new radio/CD player combination because the one I got her several years ago was skipping and misbehaving - she said she has been playing it almost non-stop since receiving it from me, so it has certainly earned its retirement! I will swap it out when I go pick her up at 5:20 to take her back across the street to Maple Creek.

She is a dear lady -- very appreciative of all that people do for her. Jackie has carried the lion's share of getting her to critical first medical appointments and banking issues arranged weekdays because she has been in her job for 30 years and has lots of vacation time she can take to drive Tod around and get the preliminary (paperwork-intense) appointments squared away. I am at a new job and have no time accrued, so I've designated myself the weekend warrior: I make sure the list of things Tod wants gets purchased and try to visit at least an hour and a half as well. She so enjoys the company of family.

I've been really listening to her. She says she feels almost like a refugee: taken out of her home without so many of the things she had around her for so many years. I had to bring her a needle and some red thread today so she could sew a rip in a sweater. "I used to have everything I needed, like a needle and thread, right at hand... It's the littlest things you miss when you don't have them anymore, even if you only use them twice a year."

It must be an awful feeling to have to rely on others when she has relied only on her late husband and then herself for seventy years. Her memories are often poignant. On the drive up from Oregon, she was telling Jackie and me about her dear Johnny: "He was such an innocent, innocent man when I met him..." I was driving when she said this; she was sitting behind me in the back seat. I joked over my shoulder, "So, then you corrupted him, right?"
and she said, "Oh, I tried! But he was such a sweet, sweet man. He was incorruptible..." (Sounds like a young man named De Kelley... also described as an innocent young man by his wife Carolyn when she first met him.)

I remember another time when Tod was talking about John's last days in a nursing home. She was at the end of her rope emotionally, and has never been terribly easy to live with, I guess, and she asked him, "I bet there are times when you just hate me for things I say or do, don't you, Johnny?" John looked at her with immense love (as always) and told her, "I adore you, Evelyn." Those were the last words he said to her, and she treasures them in her heart, because she knows he meant it... and that he completely forgave her trespasses and remembered them no more...

Now that I know her a little better, I know why he adored her. Smiths (our branch, anyway) aren't always the easiest people to like, but once you get inside their well-fortified walls of self-protection, it's pretty darned hard to avoid loving them. My dad's (and aunt Tod's) father was a verbally and physically abusive alcoholic, so their upbringing was horrendous. Of course they carried scars and buttresses against further harm into their adult lives, which at times made them seem brusque or callous or self-absorbed (self-willed and self-directed to the detriment of others in their orbit). But like so many of us, they were living in fear and wondering if good people actually existed in this world, people they could trust who would love them despite their emotional disfigurement. Dad found Mom and Tod found John. Carolyn found De. It's almost poetic how people attract into their lives the people they need to heal them...

I'm glad Aunt Tod is close now. It has been eight years since I have been in a position to truly bless an elder as I was able to bless Mom and De and Carolyn. It feels wonderful to be someone's strong right arm again.


Alison said...

See, you are an angel!

I'm thinking of you today, on Mother's Day. It's different in England because Mother's Day is in March so it's not so much on my mind. But I know what it's like.

Now. Why can't I find an innocent young man to corrupt? I think maybe they're out of print!

Kristine M Smith said...

Innocent young men are still around, I imagine (I know a few at my church -- minitry students) but awfully rare these days in the world at large!