Last Saturday I went to Alabama and delivered the quilt to my Aunt. She was absolutely thrilled to have it.
After seeing it thrown over her bed, she's now toying with the idea of using it as a coverlet instead of as a real quilt.
It was so good to be at her house again. As the day went by, it became painfully obvious to me that our days with Aunt Dean, Uncle Earl and Aunt Mildred may be numbered. Uncle Earl is failing fast and to see this old frail man rather than a bigger than life, gregarious man is very hard. I think he's about 86 now. He had been outside most of the time but got tired so he was taken back inside where he would be more comfortable and could take a nap if he wanted. I stopped in where he was sitting and we were talking a bit -- sometimes he's not too aware of things, but is always smiling. At any rate, I gave him a hug and told him that I loved him. He looked me straight in the eyes, knowing very clearly who I was, and said something to the effect that we've had some good memories, haven't we? And then he told me he loved me, too. I've never not known him, of course. He and Aunt Dean got married when I was pretty much a toddler and he's been around ever since.
Aunt Mildred is 89 years old, has Alzheimer's and is nearly stone deaf, though physically pretty mobile. While she may or may not recognize your face, its very hard to have any kind of conversation. But when I stood in front of her and greeted her, she looked up at me with a huge smile, reached for me to give me a big hug and said "come stay with me sometime. You used to stay with me." And she was totally right. I spent many, many happy hours at her house as a child, practically being kidnapped by her and Uncle Jay for a week or more at the time. Aunt Mildred and Jay took me to the first live concert I'd ever attended and I couldn't have been more than 5 years old. It was a bluegrass artist named Rebe Gosdin and his band, sponsored by Martha White Flour I think. They performed in the gymnasium of the local high school. At any rate, I won a box of blueberry muffin mix and I had to walk across that huge floor to get it after getting a gentle push from Aunt Mildred. And Aunt Mildred made me my very first pair of shorts which I could only wear at her house, because I wasn't allowed to wear shorts at home. And she played games with me, and her neighbor lady had tea parties with me, and I was cherished. When my first marriage was in shambles and I was on the verge of going nuts, she came to my house and stood directly in front of me, shaking her finger at me and telling me to never let any man drive me crazy, that I was worth more than that. Then she hugged me and left. All in all, I don't think she was there five minutes. But, afterwards, I found the courage to leave that sad marriage and move on alone, not remarrying for twenty years.
Mortality is something we all have to deal with sooner or later. It's not an easy subject to approach or understand or discuss. I lived across the country when my father died, so didn't get to see him in his last days. When my mother died, I had been caring for her every other week 24/7 for a year, and I was also holding her hand the night she died. Had someone years ago told me that I'd be able to do that and let her go so easily, I would have told them they were crazy. But she was old at 96, her body was worn out, particularly her heart and she just had no more desire to stay on this earth. During the time spent with her that last year, I came to know her in ways I never thought possible. I got to hear her rants, her stories, her worries, her wishes and whatever else passes for conversation between a mother and daughter in such intimate proximity. I had to make choices and do things during that time that ordinarily I would not have even considered, but it was the right thing to do at the time. So, when the time came to let her go, I told her goodbye, I told her that I loved her and that it was okay for her to leave us and go see Daddy and Rhonda (my niece) and Granny and Grandpa and everyone else that would be waiting for her. It took a couple of days for all seven of the children to be able to do the same thing, but within hours of the last son saying goodbye, she left us. There's not one single thing I did for her during that year that I regret. And I would not trade that precious moment of her last breath for anything.
So, do me a favor, okay? Go visit your loved ones. Tell them thank you for all the things they've done for you and and for what they mean to you. Look them in the eye and tell them you love them. Go on, do it now, while you can.
Y'all take care.