Mom’s fine

The Covington News - - OPINION - JACKIE GIN­GRICH CUSH­MAN COLUM­NIST

Au­gust has been a chal­leng­ing month for my fam­ily the last few years. Two years ago, while my chil­dren, Mag­gie and Robert, and I were vis­it­ing my sis­ter, Kathy, and her hus­band, Paul, in Key Bis­cayne, Florida, our mother ended up in the hos­pi­tal in crit­i­cal con­di­tion. While she re­cov­ered tem­po­rar­ily, she ul­ti­mately suf­fered a stroke right when school started in the fall of 2012.

She spent the next year in a nurs­ing home close to our home in At­lanta. Our whole fam­ily vis­ited fre­quently — Kathy, Paul, my hus­band, Jimmy, Mag­gie, Robert and even our two dogs, Mid­night and Bunny. Our cat, Sarah, was rel­e­gated to home.

The first months af­ter her stroke were hard; good days in­volved push­ing her bed into the court­yard so she could feel the sun on her face. But she be­came stronger, started ther­apy, and was able to come to Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas fam­ily cel­e­bra­tions out­side the nurs­ing home.

She trav­elled out to watch the mid­dle school play, and trav­eled to Ge­or­gia Tech to watch Mag­gie dance in her spring recital. Our last visit out of the home was to the At­lanta Botan­i­cal Gar­dens in Late June when Robert and Mag­gie took turns push­ing her up the paths to see the spec­tac­u­lar plant stat­ues. She loved them all, but was par­tic­u­larly fond of the hydrangeas.

Last Au­gust, while the four of us were once again vis­it­ing Kathy and Paul, our mother went into sep­tic shock and was rushed to the hos­pi­tal. My sis­ter and I flew to her side the next day. A week and a half later, she went to heaven.

The last time I saw her be­fore our trip, Mag­gie, Robert and I stopped by to say good­bye to her as we left for Florida. She was sad to see us go, but glad that we were spend­ing the time with Kathy and Paul.

“I’ll miss you,” she said as we said good­bye.

This past year was a year of firsts with­out Mom. Ev­ery first made me stop and pause: my birth­day, Christ­mas, New Year’s, her birth­day, Jimmy’s birth­day, Paul’s Birth­day, Kathy’s birth­day, chil­dren’s birth­days and Mother’s Day.

At spe­cial events, I both missed and felt her pres­ence, know­ing that she would have been there — Mag­gie’s dance recital, my chil­dren per­form­ing “Bye­Bye Birdie” in the school play and Robert play­ing string bass at Carnegie Hall. Ev­ery hol­i­day or day of im­por­tance re­minded me that the year be­fore, my mother was with us. But she no longer was.

The last time I talked to her is etched in my mind. Kathy, Mag­gie, Robert and I were driv­ing back from din­ner. Mom was happy to hear we were to­gether. She laughed and told us to look out for one another. We as­sured her we would. She laughed again and told us she loved us. We said we loved her, too.

We drove home, oblivi- ous to the fact that this was the last op­por­tu­nity we would have to talk to her.

The next day she was rushed to the hos­pi­tal with sep­tic shock. A week and a half later, she went to heaven. She was in in­ten­sive care dur­ing her stay, with a tube down her throat and wasn’t able to speak, but I could tell that she knew we were with her.

When I won­der how she is and want re­as­sur­ance, I think of the last voice­mail I re­ceived from her. It was be­fore our last con­ver­sa­tion, but it re­minds me that she is OK, that she wants me to know that she loves me and she hopes we are hav­ing fun.

“Hey, babe, it’s Mom. I was in the dining room, I think I might have missed your call, but I’m not sure. Call me if you want, but you don’t have to — I know you’re hav­ing fun — and I’m fine. I love you.”

I love you too, Mom.

To find out more about Jackie Gin­grich Cush­man, and read fea­tures by other Cre­ators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit www.cre­ators.com.

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