Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Aunt Mamie's Heart

Many of you have inquired about how Meems is doing.  She's doing pretty well, thank you for asking!  She had a mastectomy 2 weeks ago and has been recuperating at my house ever since.  She is on her 2nd box of Raisin Bran.  

Mr. Pete, Mamie, and Grandma
I have developed a new, keen appreciation for people who are caretakers of invalids.  Take my Aunt Mamie, for instance.  I'm guessing at the number because I'm too lazy to go looking up death certificates, but I daresay that she spent the last 20 years of her life caring for loved ones who were nearing the end of theirs.  She took care of my grandfather as he approached the pearly gates.  Then, Uncle Red was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.  It goes without saying how much of her life's blood was dedicated to his every need.  Last, but not least, was my grandmother.

Aunt Mamie's house served as both Hospice and funeral parlor.  (Don't even get me started about how scared we kids would be when we stayed at her house in Sour Lake the night before a funeral.)  It occurred to me that she spent all those years trying to keep people alive, keeping people comfortable in the face of the inevitable, and clinging to them as they laid in state in her living room.  Dispensing medicines.  Bathing.  Cooking.  Cleaning.  Sickness.  Dying.  Death.  It's no wonder that she kept a jug of medicinal wine in the cabinet below her sink.
Grandpa rested peacefully in the living room
while we kids lay awake all night in fear that his
ghost would come wondering into the guest room
not 20 feet away.


There were times when Aunt Mamie lost her temper with my grandmother who, overall, had a pleasant disposition but unfortunately had histrionic tendencies that would put even Mother Teresa to the test.  Ever so often out of nowhere grandma bust into long sessions of loudly wailing over the loss of my grandfather.  "I miss Mr. Pete...don't you miss him...do you miss your grandpa..."  First of all, his name was not Pete.  It was Alfred.  Second of all, it had been at least 10 years since his passing.  "I miss your Uncle Red...he was really good to Mamie...don't you miss  him...don't you miss Uncle Red?"

As a child, my little heart would recoil when Mamie snapped, "I'M COMIN' - I'M COMIN' - I'M COMIN'" OR "QUIT YOUR CRYIN'!  I'M SICK OF HEARING YOU CRY!"  Don't get me wrong.  Aunt Mamie had a heart of gold.  Loyal to the end.  But...ever so often.

"Do you miss Mr. Pete?"
This morning, when Meems toddled out of the guest room simply said, "Coffee," my heart wrapped around Aunt Mamie's and held tight with an understanding as deep at the bowl of Raisin Bran I was about to serve up.  I'm talking Jethro-sized bowls of cereal.  Sometimes I simply turn on a dime and execute the given command with a smile.  Sometimes that smile is pasted on my face.  Sometimes it comes in the form of gritted teeth.  Other times, I sweetly tease her.  "I'll bet you meant to say, O Beautiful and Precious Daughter, might I have a cup of coffee?"  She softly laughs, "heh.  heh.  yes."

About an hour after she downs the giant bowl of Raisin Bran, she asks, "What's for lunch?"  "Mom, you're hungry again?!"  "No, I just like to know what I'm having."  After lunch, it's "What's for dinner?"

A few days ago, she decided that there was an urgent need to replace the bromeliad that died of dehydration by her very own hand.  "Mom.  Seriously.  You want to kill another innocent bromeliad?"  "I'll water this one."  "But you're not even home to water it."  "You could water it for me."  She even asked Alan if he would take her to Holland Gardens to get a bromeliad.  We're talking about a woman who is still sleeping the day away and only walks to the supper table and back to bed.  She wants to go wander around a nursery?!  I'm chalking it up to dementia.  I promised I'd get her a silk bromeliad.  "hmm," she says.  Just "hmm."

On Monday after her doctor's appointment during which more fluid was drained from her incision site, I asked her how bad the procedure hurt.  "Bad.  Can we go get my plant now?"  With both hands on the wheel, I looked straight ahead and gritted my teeth.  "We'll see...we'll see..."

She has a sweet temperament.  She's chowing down on Raisin Bran and eats 2 ice cream sandwiches every day.  She doesn't speak much, and when she does, her voice is soft and small.  At the end of the day, it's her hugs, kisses, and I love you's that melt my heart.  

I get it, Aunt Mamie.  I finally get it.  I'm glad that your "servant's heart" courses through my DNA.  But, dear Auntie Mame, I am happy to report that I have yet to resort to keeping a jug of medicinal wine under my sink.  

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Soon, my friends, I will tell you the Story of the 4th Day.  It's a tale of crazy talk, shaking floors,  singing choirs, and The Meems.  Not to be missed.