Last week, Mom and I spent nearly an hour on the phone, recalling holidays past. One of her most vivid memories was from six years before I arrived–1944. Her firstborn Gary, just seven months old, had shown the first symptoms of whooping cough during Christmas Day dinner at my grandparents, the Atwells. The next day–a Monday, just like today–my father returned from Corydon with confirmation that the WWII draft had reached their little family’s doorstep. He would be leaving within days. I can only imagine how overwhelmed she must have felt as she finished their noon meal so Dad could return to work.
What Mom remembers, though, is a quiet conversation with her visiting brother-in-law who had watched her keep on, doing what was needed to keep life flowing. His wife–her sister–he confided, would have dissolved and disappeared.
That recently shared, 67-year-old memory came to mind yesterday when I learned–an hour before a dozen members of our extended family were to arrive for Christmas brunch–that Mom was enroute by ambulance from Ft. Dodge to Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames. We would gratefully learn later that a bout of flu had caused an esophageal tear, and the outlook is good. But when I (yes, tearfully) called Al with the news, he offered me an escape clause in the celebration. He would call the others. A very clear voice inside said no, let’s do it. And though the first guests (thanks Beth and David!) were conscripted for salad-making and cookie-plating duties, all went well. I thought later how much good we would have missed by cancelling.
Kate and I, watching Lily grow so quickly, have been pondering how the things we consciously teach our children comprise only a small part of what they actually learn. This post-Christmas morning, I’m thanking Mom for her gift of keeping-on lessons.
Ya gotta shake what your Mama gave you. 😉