Her sense of humor is back, and she ate well again Friday night after the rough weeks following her fall. She had refused to join us for family soup supper for a couple of weeks because of pain. It seemed an ominous sign because she always held out each week for the gathering and music after.

I don’t know how she’s pressed on this long. Physical pain has embroidered her days for more than five decades. The mental and emotional pain is worse. People treat you differently when you’re crippled or in crisis, if they notice you at all. You receive pity and sympathy but rarely respect or inclusion.

She reviews lists to patch the holes in her memory. “Kent, Kathi, Carola, Conna… I have four.” She looks at me, “You’re Conna. I wonder how we came up with that name.” She closes her eyes, “I like it,” then opens them again and grins, “But I love you!”

“Hold them close,” she says, hugging the air tightly with her arms. “Keep your children close to your heart. Every one.”

She points at objects in the room and identifies them one by one. “Light, chair, picture, clock.” She lifts her head, points at the window, and smiles with a hint of nostalgia. “Out there is the big wide world, isn’t it?”

She lays her head back down and closes her eyes.

“He’s gone, isn’t he?”

She usually weeps in heart-wrenching sobs when that thought comes to her. He’s been gone for 11 years. She regains control like a skilled pilot coming out of a spin.

“He’s not gone, Mommy,” I offer. “He’s still with us. In your children. In your grandchildren. We still hold him close in our hearts.”

She opens her eyes wide and twinkles, “Now that’s a really good way to look at it!”

December 4, 2016