Over the last few years, when I would get my new calendar for the year, I would go through the months and on every Tuesday, I would write, “Mama Day.” I wanted it firmly in place so that whenever there were things that I needed to do, I could say, “Not Tuesday. That is my day to go to my mother’s house.” We often planned her appointments on that day so that I wouldn’t need to take another day out of my week, but most of the time, we spent Tuesdays together in her house beside the nursing home on Yoder Drive.
I honestly cannot say how long I have gone to her house one day a week, but I know that I started it sometime after Daddy’s death ten years ago. I had tried to get out there without a set schedule at first, but I found that I just didn’t make it unless we had a set day. At first, it seemed like Wednesday worked best, but as time went on, and I found things jammed up on Wednesday from small group meetings and other mid week activities, we agreed on Tuesday as the day that would be best.
“I don’t care which day you come,” she would often tell me, “but I get such a wonderful feeling inside when I realize that you are going to be there the next day.” She never ever acted like it was something she took for granted, but she was always so disappointed when something came up to interfere that I decided early on that there was almost nothing worth making her sad. Tuesday mornings I would often dash into Rite Aid for a prescription, on to Wal-Mart for a few groceries and some OTC meds and other supplies, then out to Mama’s house for the business of paying bills, organizing the medication box, and conversation and companionable silence. Usually I would be at the kitchen table, and she would be in on her recliner. In the last year and a half, she would often be sleeping in her chair, sometimes reading, sometimes talking on the phone, but always, always trying to make conversation with me, apologetic for being so sleepy, interested in any community news that she might have missed.
“Do you know anything new?” she would ask me almost every time I talked to her. I would scramble over the news and try to think of something that she would be interested in. It got so that I would listen for news that would be the kind of thing she would be interested in. Where the newlyweds of the community were going to live. What was growing in the garden already. How Daniel had installed an irrigation system in the pavilion for my hanging plants. How the last flock of chickens did. Who had bought a new car. What the grandchildren had said lately. Who was or wasn’t at church on Sunday. Who in the community was sick. What our adult children were up to. Sometimes the pickin’s were slim, but she always wanted to know.
She loved the Daily Guideposts, and kept all of her yearly editions. When she got the new edition in the fall, she would read the short biographies in the back and catch up on all the long-standing authors’ lives. She felt like she knew each one, and if she learned that they were sick, or if one of them died, or got divorced or had family problems, she felt deeply for them. I would often come in and find editions from years back stacked up on her little chairside table, and she would talk to me like they were one of her family.
She loved to read. Recently she was working her way through the whole “Love Comes Softly” series by Janette Oke. When she found there was a sequel series, she wanted those to read. She was in the middle of reading A Searching Heart when she had her fall. A strip of paper, torn from some advertisement or magazine marked her place on page 115. Often Middle Daughter was responsible for finding and bringing reading material to her. Some authors just didn’t hold her interest. “I just couldn’t get into that book (or author)” she would say ruefully. “I hope Deborah won’t care, but I just didn’t like it too much.” And once the opinion was formed, it was seldom changed.
The last five weeks have really run together for this Delaware Grammy, and even though Mama was in the hospital, I still tried to keep Tuesdays as her day. Last week, Youngest Sister, Alma, needed to trade with me because she had something to do later in the week and wanted to be free. It was afternoon when I decided that whether it was my day or not, I was going to go. And thus, I got to spend the last seven hours of her life with her. She went home to Heaven on what my calendar says was a “Mama Day.”
Last night I was thinking about this morning, and planning my day. I suddenly remembered that I didn’t have to go to Mama’s House today. I mentally thought about the morning and things that needed doing and decided that I could still be doing things for Mama today. And so, I have been working on the business of closing accounts, organizing some papers, reading some of the cards, and remembering a Mama who loved Tuesdays with all her heart and wasn’t afraid to let me know that she wanted me to come.
And I’ve spent some time very teary as well. I expect that Tuesdays will be easier for me on many accounts, but harder on others. I won’t be dashing out for prescriptions, groceries or supplies then hurrying to get to her house before too late. But on every single square on the remaining Tuesdays of this year there is the notation, “Mama Day,” and I think this pang will always remind me of a loss that is too big for me to comprehend at this point.
When Daddy died, I had no idea of how things were going to be in the months that followed. “We hadn’t had time to miss him yet,” said Youngest Sister one day when I was so confused by how the grief just seemed to get deeper and deeper. I think of those words now and think about what may be ahead for me, for us. Mama missed the woman she had been in her youth — the vibrancy, the strength, the abilities, the talents that shone. And while we have missed the Mama that she once was, nothing could have prepared me for the finality of these days.
She won’t be coming back.
How dark this Tuesday seems without her.