The month of December is a special time of the year. Besides frantic Christmas shopping and processing my guilt, there’s the panic to address and write Christmas cards to my family and friends.
Each day passes, I receive a trickle of Christmas cards and letters. As I’ve aged, the Christmas cards/letters are a double edged sword. Some cards have good news about children, grandchildren, in-laws, outlaws and achievements. Next, I brace myself to read about a relative or friend I’ve known for decades who has a terminal illness, passed away or placed in a memory care facility, a death sentence.
I have a variety of kneejerk reactions when I read the bad news. Sometimes I shout my favorite expletive one or more times. Or I crumble the bad news letter and throw it against a wall, shred it or jump up and down on the crumbled letter.
Suddenly, the song by the Four Lads, “Moments to Remember,” begins to play in my mind. “January to December, we’ll have moments to remember.” I reflect on all the times the two of us spent together including the pranks we played on our victim(s). Slowly reality sinks in, several tears stain my cheeks and randomly drop on the Christmas letter in my hand.
Sixty-two years ago, I was a high school senior. My physics class had 20 males and one female. “Mary” was an intelligent person who was an “A” student in high school. Today, our physics teacher, “Fuzzy,” would have been fired for his comments about women. I admired her spunk.
In 1962, she graduated from Tufts University in Medford, Mass., as a physical therapist. (People who know me have heard me refer to a physical therapist as a physical torturer.) Mary was a caring person who found ways to lessen her patients’ discomfort on their road to recovery.
After Mary’s two sons graduated and my two daughters and two sons graduated, I would call Mary several times a year to discover what was happening in her life and inform her about my life. I loved to tell her jokes or a funny story, anything to make her laugh. She had an infectious laugh.
Over the past couple of years, Mary began asking me the exact same question a second time as if it was an original question in our conversation. I became concerned. She lived alone in a small coastal town, “down east” in Maine. Last year during a conversation, she asked me the same question three times, which I regarded as a bad sign. I began to brace myself for bad news.
Several times this year, I’d sent her an e-mail which bounced back. I was in denial about Mary’s situation. About two weeks ago, I called her landline and left a message. Mary’s son, “John,” returned my call. Throughout the years, Mary had told me all about John and his younger brother. John and I had a great conversation. He had his mother’s sense of humor. We had numerous comical comments. Unfortunately, he confirmed my worst fear: “I had to place my mother in a memory care facility in March 2019. Even with an ankle monitor she managed to escape. She roamed around the town at night in her pajamas. Now she’s in a more secure memory care facility.”
“Mom has no memory, but she had the smarts to disable the ankle monitor and escape!” Mary is so fortunate to have a loving adult son who drives from southern Massachusetts to Maine at least once a week to spend a couple of days visiting his mother, paying her bills and staying informed about her health. Fortunately, John is a writer and can write his latest assignment from anywhere. Mary is fortunate to have John as her son!
The good news is the next time John visits Mary, he’ll dial my number on his phone. Then he’ll hand his phone to Mary. I’m looking forward to talking to her because all my jokes will be “new” jokes, a great audience! Merry Christmas.