I so loved the woman whose wrinkled hand I grasped as we strolled through the crowded mall. I recalled memories of a once-busy mom who made each of her five children feel as though we were her favorite … Mother, Mom, my mama.
My mind started to wander to a little girl standing by her mother decades ago. Mom and I stood in a simple, yellow kitchen where the warm spring air blew through the open double windows. There were no dishwashers in those days, and so Mom would wash and I would dry.
We had wonderful conversations over a sink filled with dirty water. Time seemed to stand still as we talked about boys and whether pimples would be a permanent part of my life. Yet it wasn’t just time that froze. The quick pace of life was replaced by the voices of a young girl and her mother.
Time gives perspective
One of Mom’s favorite expressions was, “Things just have a way of working out.” Now with each passing year, I understand that time does give perspective. I’m learning that the web of life unfolds into something that makes sense—something that does work out.
When I was a teenager, Mom would put words to what I called a horrible, no good, terrible day: She’d say, “Oh, you’re just having a dumpy day.” As a middle-aged woman of the 21st century, I still have dumpy days, but now I know what to call them.
As my mother and I crept through the mall, my thoughts continued to wander. I recalled the long-ago Thanksgiving when Mom and Dad traveled hundreds of miles to be with my husband, children, and me. After the usual greetings, we gathered around a family heirloom—the large oak table where I had sat as a little girl. As we bowed our heads, we could see decades-old pencil marks engraved deeply into its dark wood. We held hands and paused to pray. Whether young or old, we went from person to person thanking God for another year’s blessings.
After Dad shared his blessing, Mom, who was very hard of hearing, jutted her head forward and shrieked, “Whaaaaat, you want a new wife?” “No,” Dad said, “I am thankful that I have a good wife!”
When Daddy died, I didn’t know if Mom would have the spirit to go on. They had been married for more than 51 years when he left this earth. I remember how they would kneel side-by-side each night at the foot of their bed, praying for their five children. Even now when I look at old family pictures of Mom and Dad standing hand-in-hand, I’m reminded of how they lived heart-in-heart.
Several years ago, Mom fell and was in the hospital for a few weeks. I had the great privilege of spending one of those weeks with her. The nursing students practiced drawing blood from my mom’s hand. They had to use a neonatal needle because her skin was so thin, and the vein so difficult to find. It surely was no fun being a human pincushion, yet she rarely complained.
Mom was moved from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility. “Got a star,” she’d say, as she pointed to the star on her bulletin board that announced that she’d walked a few more steps that day. She also became somewhat of a basketball personality at rehab. A 6-foot-tall African-American fireman, who was recovering from extensive burns, a 90-year-old-plus blind woman, and my 5-foot mom made up a rehab basketball team. They were never ready for a three-on-three match-up with the high school boys, but their bodies grew stronger, and their hearts united as they learned to appreciate and work with one another.
Although Mom can no longer hear, she reads lips like a pro and speaks very clearly. Instead of being bitter about what might have been, she’s grateful for each day that God gives her. When taking me on a tour of her retirement apartment, she took my hand and whispered into my ear saying that some of the residents had races in the hall with their electric wheelchairs. I guess she’s right: Life is what we make of it.
As Mom and I continued moving through the crowded mall, I squeezed her frail hand. She held mine tightly. The droves of people hurrying by never even noticed us. To them, we were just an old woman with her middle-aged daughter. After all, they were searching for bargains—but I had found my treasure.
Mom’s soft hand grasped mine, and I noticed a strange thing: My once-smooth childish hands now had thinning skin and even protruding blood vessels. Why, they looked just like Mama’s hands when we washed dishes together decades ago in the simple yellow kitchen with warm spring air blowing through the open double windows.
© Mary May Larmoyeux
Mary is a writer at FamilyLife and the author or co-author of several books including The Grand Connection: 365 Ways to Connect with Your Grandchild's Heart. This story appears in Tales from the South: Volume II.
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