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Christmas Present



By the time we children were adults we knew most of these stories by heart, and when Papa, and Grandaddy, now joined by Mom, Dad, Aunts, Jack, Peg and Ruth, Uncles Fred, and Woody, began by saying, “I remember,” often times we would suddenly find forgotten things needing attention. More often I would sit and listen, but often out of respect. It bothered me that these folks who had shown me things in the woods and water so wonderfully, were now using a cane and sometimes their hands shook for no apparent reason. Papa would sometimes chew with his mouth open and Mama Bryant would spill coffee from her cup as she lifted it, and mom would wipe it up. We pretended not to notice. It was painful to see them sitting on the couch alone, lost in their thoughts, considering things deep within their mind pondering or recollecting happenings long past. Now and again we would sit with them for a while. I taught at St. Simon and Jude school, and when the fish fry was underway, I would take some fish to Fran’s mom, Mrs. Miller, every so often, but never enough in my eyes. And, always when I had time to spare, and my time wasn’t wasted.

When mom could no longer take care of herself and I retired from teaching, we brought another 15 acres adjacent to our farm, and moved her with us. We purchased a new mobile home, and she and my daughter shared a residence. I found myself visiting with her for at least two or three hours almost every day. I cut the grass and did odd jobs and we always had time to sit and talk. I found myself asking questions about some of the stories she told me, about growing up on the farm, and her nursing career. Now I realize when I was inattentive or not receptive to hearing the stories, it was because time was in insufficient quantity. I still felt badly about opportunities lost.

Mom lived with us for five years before she gave up the spirit. The longer she was here the more time I spent with her, but the harder it was to find the time. With forty acres and two houses to tend demanded my time. I built mom a deck and handicap ramp, so Fran and Lori were able to get mom to her appointments while I was teaching; and Fran did the grocery shopping while I did her banking and tended to her car. She was invited to spend a month with Steve and his wife, but after four days she called and asked me to come and get her. I asked Steve if everything was alright, and he said yes, she just wanted to come home to us.

Well, mom has been gone for eleven years, and yesterday we were going through the bottom drawer of our file cabinet where we keep computer books, wires and gadgets. Under the tangle of wires there were some manila files left from settling mom’s estate. Mostly documents beyond the time we needed to keep them. We found some things we wanted to hold on to, and Fran found a small note book of papers we had not seen. It included a 1937 promissory note Homer Gregory and his wife made to Papa Bryant to repay $3.00 within three months at 6.25% interest. A church bulletin, and a folded poem in mom’s handwriting on a piece of yellowed notebook paper, written at a time when her hand was firm. I thought mom may have authored the piece, for she wrote poetry, but that was not the case. It was written by Esther Mary Walker, and was published sometime later by “The Little Sisters of the Poor,” entitled Beatitudes for Friends of The Aged.

Beatitudes for Friends of The Aged

Blessed are they who understand my faltering step and palsied hand.

Blessed are they who know that my ears today must strain to catch the things they say.

Blessed are they who seem to know that my eyes are dim and my wits are slow.

Blessed are they who looked away when coffee spilled at the table today.