Boomer Grandpa: ‘Take all the time you need’

December 20, 2018

Sometimes your Christmas preparations or plans get knocked for a loop. Maybe someone in your family gets sick. Could be work commitments, school concerns, car breakdowns or a home issue that needs to be taken care of.

Whatever the particular reason is, you fall behind. Cards aren’t done, the gifts aren’t bought and the cookies aren’t baked. It happens.

A phone call last week from my sister in Duluth said Mom was headed from her assisted living facility to the emergency room.

Deep down, you know some of that Christmas-busy stuff is sort of fluff. Icing on the Christmas cookies, so to speak, but you still hope to get it all done. I recently had talked to Mom and she didn’t sound good. My radar was up.

My wife and I had just received our photo Christmas cards and we were ready to tackle that chore. I still enjoy sending cards out. I also hadn’t done any holiday shopping yet.

This year we haven’t watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” — or “Die Hard,” for that matter. Then my sister called and said Mom was going to be admitted to the hospital. I knew I needed to drive up to Duluth to see Mom. I looked at my week and started making a few cancellations.

The next morning it was hard to leave my wife home, but she needed to stay. There were things to do and cats to care for.

After 43 years of marriage, we function well together. We complement each other’s forgetfulness. My memory is not quite what it used to be, so she is key to me functioning at an acceptable level in society. We have enjoyed settling into a routine and comfortable life.

As I headed north on Highway 52 on Thursday, it was a beautiful morning. The drive started out well, as a compact disc that had been stuck in my truck’s CD player came out when I fished around in the slot for the umpteenth time with my pocketknife.

I had to keep focused as cars flew by me, doing just a tad over the speed limit. A couple of them did not have their lights on, had their left hand on the steering wheel and their right hand holding their phone. They were gazing at their mesmerizing screen as they hurtled by me in the early morning hours.

I was notified that my mom’s diagnosis was double pneumonia, but my sister felt she was doing pretty well. I said out loud a few times, “I’m on my way, Mom.” I had told my sister I would stop and pick up some clothes for Mom.

I was tuned into Christmas music. I even heard on the radio that Duluth had just been named one of the top 10 Christmas towns in the nation by a New York publication. I thought that was pretty cool.

Then I got another phone call. My wife told me not to stop and to just get to the hospital. All of a sudden I knew. I hoped and prayed I would arrive in time, but I didn’t. My mom passed away an hour and a half before I reached Duluth.

My sister and her husband were waiting for me. I was allowed some time by myself to say goodbye. I spent some time holding my mom’s hand. I cried, I prayed, I thanked her.

A nurse came in — her name was Rosie, I believe. She put her hand on my shoulder and asked if I needed anything. She told me to take as much time as I needed. She was kind.

When I finished my goodbye and I gathered myself the best that I could, I thanked Rosie and another nurse who had cared for and made my mom comfortable.

Christmas is many things. It is meaningful. It is family, it is faith, it is kindness and it is love.

Sometimes we get behind in what we hope to accomplish. Its OK — people will understand. Kind and caring folks will tell you to take all the time you need. I need more time.

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