Wednesday, December 10, 2008


The poignancy of taking care of my mother these two weeks has not been lost on me. What do I see when I look at my mother? I see her gnarled, crooked joints in her hands and feet, stigmata of her rheumatoid arthritis. I see a C-section scar, reminding me of the pain and labor she endured to bring me and my sister into the world. I see her eyes that have been witness to both wonderful and tragic memories, now with muscle contractures that clamp them closed, requiring her to receive therapeutic Botox shots to release the spasm. I see wrinkles from decades of worrying and fretting over others. I see the gray, thinning hair. I see loose skin from weight loss after weeks of tasteless hospital food. I see the signs of trauma - bruises and surgery scars from hip replacement and ankle fracture fixation in September. I see the tremor from her parkinson-like disease that is exacerbated by stress and anxiety about her future. I see the plain gold wedding ring she wears from her indescribably loving marriage that was cut short when Daddy died in 1980. I see the thrift store clothes that she buys herself so that she can send money to the kids and grandkids on their birthdays.

As I hold her frail hands, I can see them years ago, tearing pieces of gum, giving half to my sister and half to me. I remember the feeling of her hands lightly tracing letters of the alphabet on my back. I relive the mornings when she would come into our bedroom, sit on our beds with a wet washrag and gently rub each eye, saying, "Wake up, little left eye! Wake up, little right eye!" Those hands put tooth fairy money under our pillows and signed our report cards. They wrapped our birthday presents, they cooked our meals, washed our dishes, and tucked us in at night. They plays jacks with us, and gin rummy and checkers. They massaged our backs when we were little tots as we rested in her lap during church sermons.

Her feet walked with us all over downtown Memphis on lovely summer mornings, stopping at Court Square to feed the pigeons. Her mouth called us to supper, complimented our piano playing, kissed us, laughed her contagious laugh, and sang hymns in church, while at home, we were favored with happy songs like Pony Boy and Red, Red Robin. Her arms gave us countless hugs; her ears were always willing to listen to our troubles and our successes.

Mother's frail 85-year-old body stands as a testament to her dedication to and love for her family, but of course, the most important part of her body is not visible on the outside. It has been the heart and soul of her that has made all the memories possible. Love is what drives her, has always driven her.

She once cared for us when we were helpless, and now we care for her. She once made us take our medicine, and now we make her take hers. She once taught us to walk, and now we are teaching her to walk again. How can we do otherwise? How else could we possibly show her how much we love and appreciate her? It is a privilege, for as much as we all wish the accident had never happened, Mother is actually giving us an opportunity to serve her as she has served us for so many years.

"Her children arise up and call her blessed" (Proverbs). It is time to give back, and we are honored to do so.


Sarah said...

This is beautiful. it brought tears to my eyes and made me call my mom to thank her.

Can't wait to see you when you come home this weekend!


Rachel said...

She did all those things for me, too! I love you Granny!

Anonymous said...

Carol, this brought tears to my eyes, too. Thanks for sharing that.

Sandi A.

Laurie said...

What a beautiful love letter! (((hugs))) to you and to mom!

Cuidado said...

You're a wonderful daughter and a wonderful writer.

Carol Tiffin James said...

Thanks, everyone. She's a wonderful lady!

Kathy Nicholls said...

Carol, what an awesome tribute to your mom. It brought tears to my eyes. My mom will be gone now five years in January. I still have my grandmother and this really made me stop and think about all she has done for me. Thanks so much for sharing it at MT Tools!