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August 6, 2017

Elderly Mothers and the Art of the Dinner Party

After a day of enjoying a Genealogy conference at our local library, I returned to check on Mom. I hoped that she had made her way to lunch or perhaps gotten out of her room to enjoy the Banana Split Social in the Ice Cream parlor. But no, no such luck.

“I’ve been so lonely,” she complained when I entered her room.  “Where have you been all day?”

I explained about the genealogy conference.

“I would have liked to go,” she said.

“You can’t hear,” I said. “You wouldn’t have been able to understand a thing.”

“But I could have,” she insisted. “I can escape and get along out in the world. I speak the language.”

“Fine,” I said feeling a little puzzled. “But did you go to the Ice Cream parlor? Did you go down to the front lobby to talk to people? There are lots of people around to keep you from being lonely.”

“Now it’s my fault?” she said. “I don’t even know where I am. I don’t know where to go.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. I explained, again, where she was. She wasn’t interested and wasn’t listening. “Are you ready to go to supper?” I finally asked.

“Are you going to eat dinner with me?” She perked up immediately, hope and happiness restored.

“Uh, well, no. I have to go to a dinner party.”

Immediately she deflated, returning to her ‘poor little me’ look. She didn’t ask to go since she hadn’t been invited but I could feel the guilt crawling up my spine.  Terror struck my soul at the thought of taking 98-year-old Mom to an elegant, sit-down dinner party. I envisioned the nightmare scenarios of what could go wrong. Bringing her uninvited. Not enough place settings. Not enough chairs. Not enough food. No one to talk to since she can’t hear. How to get her in and out of the car, the house, the dining room with her walker.

But I opened my big mouth.

“Would you like to go?”

“Of course!” she said. “If you want me to go.”

“Okay,” I said, my stomach tensing. I had two hours. I knew I had to stop and buy champagne, run home and make corn bread for the party, walk the dogs, buy a nice card and gift, let my hostess know I was bringing Mom, and pick up a friend who was also attending the party. I tried texting the lady of the house but only had her landline. No text messages. I tried calling. No answer.

“I’ll be back,” I told Mom. I stopped at the liquor store to get the champagne. Nerves jangling and not thinking clearly, I grabbed up six bottles of champagne. Who knew Asti from Brut from Rosé?

“Wait! What? $154 dollars?” These are dear friends but $154 worth of champagne? I put back the $54 dollar bottle and the $33 dollar bottle, doubled up on the cheapies, kept the others and bolted out of the door.

I raced home, put the six bottles in the freezer to cool and started the cornbread. Loaded the dogs into the car. Came back for Mom. Loaded her and her walker in the car with the dogs (and she doesn’t care for dogs).  Stopped by the local drug store for the card and gift. Brought the dogs home. Unloaded Mom and her walker to wait. Got the cornbread out of the oven and into a bowl and the champagne back in the box. Loaded Mom and her walker back into the car. Picked up my friend with her bowl of salad, more champagne and her birthday gift. Then realized we didn’t have the address of the party. This time, thank goodness, our hostess answered her phone and we arrived at the house.

Blessings on good friends. Our hostess and our other friends were actually pleased to see Mom. They helped Mom in with her walker, sat her in a comfortable chair, handed her a glass of champagne, and put forth the effort to talk to her, speaking clearly and looking right at her. She chatted gaily, happily accepting refills on her champagne.

As I had expected, the dinner table was set for eight with gleaming crystal, sparkling silver, lovely linen and real, live orchids as the centerpiece. With Mom, there were ten of us. Our hostess, nothing daunted, sat Mom at the head of the table, insisted I sit beside her, seated the rest of the women then she and her friend cheerfully sat on stools at the counter nearby. As women are wont to do, everyone had brought delicious dishes so there was more than enough food to go around. And there was champagne aplenty.

Two hours later, I drove Mom home under a full moon. I felt thankful and truly blessed to have such wonderful friends. And Mom was okay, too.

Elderly Mothers
About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!
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