Dad died only fifteen months after moving there. Having not visited all that time, that December, my mother decided to come up north with Randy, Laurie and the girls for Christmas. What a fiasco. They no sooner landed and while walking to the car, Mom fell, having refused to bring her walker on this trip. Big Bruce and I had planned that evening to meet Jerica’s boyfriend’s family, heading to Reading, Pennsylvania, for their Christmas Celebration. Randy, only visiting during Christmas to see his father’s family, was having friends over our house to begin the annual whirlwind of catching up.
Mom complained of pain, took some Tylenol and was content to just sit, nothing unusual to her normal daily routine at home. Randy and Laurie insisted we keep our plans, so off we went with mild trepidation for the two-hour car ride looking forward to seeing Jerica. Our visit lasted exactly thirty minutes. We were able to meet family, drink a toast to our children, play with Brenda (she really was Jerica’s dog no matter how devoted she was to me), have a few bites of food before getting the infamous phone call.
“Hi, mom.” It was Randy. “Don’t panic.” I never panic. “Bub is in the hospital.” She had broken her hip and femur unbeknownst to us as she continued to the car after we helped her up earlier that day. We left immediately to meet Randy at the hospital. Talking to him on the drive home in a snow shower it seemed Mom’s pain had worsened, and he and his friend needed to carry her to the bathroom. His friend, a doctor, advised going to the emergency room. Fortunately, the hospital was only five minutes from our home, so the ambulance ride and drive were not long. I felt awful leaving my children to deal with this, but Randy, her devoted grandson, just laughed it off. That Sunday was a Bruce day and when I told him that Mom was here, before I could tell him where here actually was, his excitement at seeing her was overwhelming, especially after hearing she was in the hospital. “Mom’s here? Oh good. Where’s dad? What happened to dad? The hospital—we have to bring a present.” I marvel at his ability and openness to love even though they never visited and barely called. First, we stopped home so he could see Randy, Laurie, Maddie and Emily before heading to the hospital, him fretting about what to get mom. Ditching me at the front entrance, seeing the gift shop, Bruce headed right over to the woman behind the register taking matters into his own hands.
“I’m looking for a present for my mother.”
“How lovely,” she responded, “What would you like?”
“How about flowers? Lynne, come over here.” As instructed, I paid for the flowers, borrowing a left-behind vase as they had none, returning it the next day with one from home. I learned that day how much Bruce loved fresh flowers. I knew he liked my plants as he helped with watering inside and gardening outside, but not flowers.
One of my favorite conversations between mother and son was during our second visit at the hospital, cup of coffee in one hand, sitting on the bed, legs crossed, with his other hand on Mom’s leg. “So, Mom, what happened to Dad?”
“Bruce,” I interjected, “We have talked about this.” Dad had just passed, and Bruce only knew he was sick. David insisted upon telling him, but I knew Bruce could not grasp the concept of death and Dad no longer being physically here. Hence the question “What happened to Dad?” Instinctively he knew if Dad wasn’t with Mom something must be wrong. He and I talked about death; bugs die, plants die, people go to heaven. And as Bruce called my parents faithfully and heard my father’s voice on the phone when asked to leave a message, of course he was confused. Or so I thought. Bruce gave me such a look, if I hadn’t recognized it as one of my own, I would have dug a hole to hide instead of laughing with Mom.
“Mom, listen to me. Dad, he was your husband, right?”
“Yes, Bruce he was my husband.”
“And you loved him very, much right?”
“Yes, I loved him very much.”
“Why don’t you tell me about him, you’ll feel better.”
I found this so endearing my eyes filled with tears. Such pure simplicity of thought and feeling. This man with the mind of a child, really, and a heart of gold trying to make his mother feel better about Dad while in the hospital.
Bruce spent every one of his Sunday visits in the hospital and eventually the physical therapy facility for hours until Mom was released to my care at the end of March before I could fly her back home in April. I really can’t settle on what he loved the most, chatting while making cups of coffee on the Keurig machine, “This coffee is so good. Now Lynnie, listen to me, how about we talk about Dad” “Brucie, talking about Dad makes Mom sad.”
“Why? I love my dad. I like to talk about him.”
“Okay,“ I relented, “but first ask Mom what she wants to talk about.” We enter and wham, “Hi Mom, what do you want to talk about. How about we talk about Dad?” I did tell him to ask, which he did. I never specified waiting for her to answer.
We had to visit the gift shop each time for a gift because God forbid we should walk in empty handed. Do the math: fourteen visits, fourteen presents. He was costing me a fortune.
“Bruce, you are costing me a fortune.”
“I’ll pay, I have money.”
“Really, where’s your wallet?”
“I don’t know”
“Is it in your room in your drawer?”
“Yes, it is.” This was the same conversation each time. During each visit, he was learning to play the card game Fish, watching TV, and flirting with the nurses. He asked about Mom each time I picked him up. He was excited to spend the day with her and was very sad when she finally left. They may have never come to see him, or called him as they should, but he was ever devoted until my mom’s death in July of 2019.
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