Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Beginning of the End

Ten years ago.

Thanksgiving, 2001.

That was the last Thanksgiving my family enjoyed with my sweet Mother.

Being the thoughtful lady she was, my Mom hosted Thanksgiving for the Blakeleys the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  This enabled us to celebrate the holiday with the other side of our families on Thanksgiving Day and not feel conflicted about not spending it with my parents.

I really appreciated her forethought.

The first few years of this tradition she hosted the dinner in her home.

Eventually, Charmalee began opening her home to us, due to space challenges.

Mom would plan for at least a month, prepare for at least a week and delight our taste buds for hours.

The traditional Thanksgiving fare was not always her offering.  She loved creating different menus and it was always delicious.

We were always treated with delicious food and knew certain things were prepared because she knew it was something loved by one, two or all.

She knew Laura liked little midget sweet pickles so they were always on the relish tray.

Paul loves shrimp, so shrimp were always included in the spread.

Brad and Laura are allergic to walnuts, so there was always something on the desert table, sans nuts.

Pumpkin Cheesecake was introduced somewhere along the way, was a huge hit, and is now considered a staple on the menu.

Mom had been battling heart disease for a few years and had undergone two open heart surgeries.  In fact, the previous year, she was in the hospital on Thanksgiving.

Needless to say, in 2001 we were so grateful to have Mom with is, not to mention back in the kitchen preparing a wonderful meal for us to share together.  Barbara was even in town to share the holiday with us!

The craft had been completed, dinner had been served, our tummies were full, the dishes were cleared, tables put away and Mom and Charmalee finally took the opportunity to sit down, relax and visit.

Unfortunately, soon after they sat down to relax, Mom began having chest pains and leg cramps.

It was time for Barbara to leave, returning to San Diego, and she left with a heavy heart and tears.

Mom insisted everything would be okay and tried to assure us that she was just tired.  So, she laid down on the floor.  The floor!

The sight of her laying on the floor was disconcerting to all, especially my Dad.  He bundled her up and took her home.

Over the next few days she assured us she was fine and we began to settle back into our routines.

Mom's at home winter wardrobe consisted of a variety of sweats and neckerchiefs.  I always thought she added the neckerchief for a touch of flair.  Dressing up her sweats.

I later learned they were to keep her neck warm!  She was cute and smart!

Christmas day, Mom was wearing her taupe sweats.  Her skin color that day matched her sweats.  A bit greyish.  She looked drawn; tired eyes, lethargic.

My gift from my parents that year was a KitchenAid mixer!

To say I was excited was an understatement.  Mom knew I had wanted one for a few years and despite hints and outright suggestions to Val, I still didn't have one.  Mom must have known it was up to her and Dad if my kitchen was going to be equipped with a stand mixer.

By late January, Mom was almost lifeless. 

A visit to her cardiologist landed her in the hospital.  He believed she must have had a virus which attacked her heart and took a toll.  The prescribed protocol was to administer new medicine that would strengthen her heart and put her on the mend.

On a side note... it seemed like whenever Mom had a setback, her cardiologist was on his way out of town.  This time was no exception.  His absence meant Mom would be attended to by another cardiologist in his office.  I always hated this scenario.

The attending doctor determined Mom would benefit from a pacemaker.  She had one previously but it was later deemed unnecessary and removed.

Friday the surgery was scheduled for Monday.  This would give her a few more days to become stronger.

That same evening, Val and I took Laura, Andrew and Brandon to visit Mom.  It was so fun to see her interact with them.  She was so animated and it was evident she was beginning to feel better.  It was such a delightful visit.

For some reason, the surgeon decided to perform the procedure on Saturday.

Saturday morning found us at Mom's cleaning house and finishing the redecoration of her bathroom. 

She had decided a few months before that she was ready for new colors and decorations.  We all gave her gifts for her birthday and Christmas to help her complete the gathering process so she could make the change.

I remember being in the bathroom with Jennifer, my niece, cleaning.  I've always prided myself on my thorough cleaning regime.  That day, Jenny trumped me.  She cleaned the toilet which included cleaning the inside of the tank!

After we finished our tasks, Val and I took the kids to Salt Lake City to visit the Olympic Venues and choose a souvenir.  It was a fun time despite it taking over an hour to travel two blocks.  Traffic was so crazy.  I'd never experienced traffic like that in SLC.

It was fun to wander around the city, visit the Olympic store, experience the area with the simulated events for the kids to try.

After a fun evening in the big city, we returned home.  The phone rang shortly after.  It was Jane saying Mom wasn't doing well and we'd better go to the hospital.  Fortunately, for reasons I don't recall, on our way home that evening, we took the kids back to their Mom's house, which proved to be a blessing.

After Mom's pacemaker surgery, she was having some pain.  Her nurse, who wanted her to be comfortable, gave her some morphine.  The dose made her blood pressure plunge and despite all their efforts, they weren't able to bring it back-up and Mom passed.

It was February 2, 2002... 02/02/02.

We were all gathered around her bed.  So badly I wanted to climb in bed with her and sing to her.  I wanted to sing my favorite Primary songs... I am a Child of God; I know Heavenly Father Loves Me; I Often go Walking.  I wanted to rub her back.  I wanted to run my fingers through her hair.  I wanted to hold her close one more time.

The bed was too small.

Our hearts broke a little that day.

Mom never got to see her 'new' bathroom.


Lissa Lou said...

I remember my last visit with Grandma at the hospital. Matt and I went to visit and let her know that we were going to get married. We hadn't even told my parents yet but she asked us so we told her that we planned on it. I remember her discussing the details of the wedding, what color of dress, what food, where we would have the ceremony etc. We were so used to her being in and out of the hospital that we didn't think this time would be any different. Later I remember talking to Matt and commenting that it was weird that Grandma didn't offer to help with anything specifically which was so unlike her. I guess thats how I knew that this time was going to be different.

CrunchyChick said...

Thank you for posting this. My memories of Grandma's passing were so blurry and I appreciate your post lending a sharper image in my mind.

I love you!

Marlene said...

Ruthie, thank you so much for this blog. I stop by from time to time and always learn things I didn't know. I knew so little about my sister and her family....I consider this a treasure chest :-)
Aunt Marlene