I sat across from her hospital bed as she pushed her food around on her plate. I waited. This was some sort of ticking bomb situation here. And I wasn’t about to be the one to light it this time.
“There isn’t enough salt,” she said.
I said, “Aren’t you on a low-sodium diet?”
“Yes. But I’m supposed to be on a low-sodium and diabetic diet.”
I thought – well that explains everything, but I said, “that means less salt and less sugar, right?”
She pursed her lips like she does when she doesn’t want to talk about something. She pulled out a plastic baggie from a stack of baggies that I thought were designed to hold all her meds. This bag was full of salt packets, the kind you get at McDonald’s. She ripped them open one by one and dumped the contents on her food.
My children and husband watched this and then looked at me. I didn’t know what to say. She must have noticed. She took a bit at the tip of her spoon and shook her head. “Still isn’t enough flavor.” And then she pulled packets of sugar substitute and emptied them on her food.
“Mom”, I said, “that’s sugar substitute. It’s sweet”.
“I know. It helps”.
I asked her what her sugar was. She said – two sixty-five.
“Not so good, huh?”
She shrugged. She pushed the food around and then pulled the two bowls of fruit closer. “I tried to be zealous about my diabetes when they first discovered it. When my weight went down the doctors didn’t seem too concerned, so I thought worrying about it was stupid.”
“Mom, that was 1964. There are better medications these days.”
My husband leaned over and whispered, “You shouldn’t preach.”
That was several years ago. Today, as I watched my eighty-five year old mother getting her nails done I thought, despite all the prickly feelings between us all these years, she was the best mother she knew how to be. I wonder what my daughter will think of me when I’m eighty-five.
I wonder if I will get to be eighty-five.
My mother has survived terrible ups and downs with her blood-sugar, hundreds of mini-strokes and one major stroke. These days she gathers twelve to fifteen books from the library every three weeks and proceeds to read them, preferring like me to read her way through authors. She gets a hair permanent and her nails done at the salon every four months. She looks pretty darn good.
These feelings well up and I want to tell her what I’m thinking. Before I can she reaches out and pats my hand and tells me that she’s proud of me. And I wish I can take back all those times I was so smart. When I wasn’t.
Today was the day I told my mother that she would be a great-grandmother. Her eyes grew wide and she smiled and said, “I don’t know how I feel about that. I never thought I’d see the day.”
Yes, I know.