There is an equipment rental store about seven or eight miles from Mom's house. Years ago our family did a little business with them on occasion. Mom would be sure to go visit in December and pick up one of the calendars they kept hidden under the counter for their 'good' customers. She would chat with Pearl at the order desk. Mom liked those calendars a lot. They were just the right size to fit on her counter by the kitchen table and they had the perfect size little boxes in which to write her appointments or whose birthday it was or whatever other data you might put in a twelve month calendar. Each month had beautiful scenic landscape views from all sorts of locales in the fifty states. It was the perfect calendar.
Mom gets a calendar every year. It is not the kind of thing you notice, really. She must drive over and pick one up each year. The calendar is always on the counter and you don't think about how it got there. It just is where it belongs. Calendars are like that. They occupy a space. People use them. Well, at least older people do. I have my calendar in my smart phone and it is synched to my laptop and I don't use scenic paper calendars much. I'm not sure if twenty somethings even know what a paper calendar looks like. But Mom's calendar sits where it always sits and if she needs to know when she needs to go to her doctor's appointment or when Mrs. O'Brien's birthday is she just grabs the calendar and checks it out. Every year she carefully fills out the birthdays into the new calendar during December making sure to add a year to the previous year. On August 17 this year it read Rodney (61). The previous year it had read Rodney (60). One year I had to argue with her about how old I was because she had written it wrong in the calendar. I had to remind her that I had been born in 1952 and she finally figured out that it was her mistake. She is rather meticulous about copying correctly now since she doesn't want a repeat of not knowing how old her son is.
I spent a couple of days in Phoenix visiting Mom. This past year we agreed that she shouldn’t drive anymore. She has people willing to drive her to church or to the store or run her by the bank, but it has been a difficult adjustment. She had been getting lost and confused and had difficulty seeing. It was traumatic for her, but she handed us the keys.
I wanted to spend a bit of time looking at care facilities with her and get some financial stuff done for her while visiting her. At age 84, she talks about selling the house. Keeping up the house is all a bit overwhelming for her but she hates to think about leaving. I have to keep reminding her that we are just checking new living arrangements out and that she doesn't have to move anywhere anytime soon. Still, it is very hard for her.
While I was there she told me that she had talked to Pearl. I didn't know who Pearl was at first, so she explained that she was the lady from the rental place who always made sure she got a calendar. Pearl had called to tell her that the 2014 calendars were under the counter ready to be picked up so while we were out and about one afternoon Mom suggested that we stop by and get the calendar. It was a bit of a drive and I complained to her that we could just pick up a calendar at the store, but she was insistent. When we finally drove up, Mom climbed out of the car and we went inside. Mom asked where Pearl was and we were told she was out to a late lunch and probably wouldn't be back for quite awhile. Mom said, "Pearl told me the calendars are in and that I could have one."
"Ah, you must be Bernice," the kind eyed man behind the counter said. He reached underneath the countertop, grabbed one, and handed it to her. "Here you go!"
Mom smiled. "I love these calendars," she said, "they are just the right size for the space by my kitchen table."
"That's wonderful," the kind eyed man said, "I'll be sure to tell Pearl you were here. She'll be sorry she missed you. She looks forward to seeing you every year."
Mom got a little teary eyed. She told the man that she couldn't drive anymore. She pointed at me and told him that we had taken her car away, but that she was too scared to drive anyway in all the horrible traffic. "I was hoping someone would bring me here so I could get the calendar and my son is visiting and we were out anyway so he could bring me by."
"I'm so glad he did!" was the enthusiastic response.
Mom said, "I hope I see you next year. Now that I don't drive I'm not sure I'll be back. It is hard to find someone who would be willing to drive all the way over here just to get a calendar, but I really like them." Her voice kind of trailed away.
In a soft voice the man leaned across the counter and said, "Next year if it looks like you can't make it in, you just call us and either Pearl or I will drive it over to your house."
I got choked up then.
Mom nodded her head. "Thank you," she said. "that would be very nice. The thing is, I may not even be living in my house next year. I may be in a retirement home."
He smiled and said, "Well, we'll bring it there then."
"Wow, that would be great!" Mom blurted out.
We left and as I was holding the door for Mom, I silently mouthed the words 'thank you' to him over my shoulder. He winked one of his kind eyes and smiled at me. “We love your mother,” were his parting words.
We stopped at the bank on our way home. Again I went in with Mom. All the tellers looked up and waved. There was a chorus of, “Hi, Bernice!” shouted from up and down the teller line. Ernie, one of the loan officers, came out from behind his desk and gave her a hug. “We’ve missed you.”
He greeted me, as well, and invited us to sit at his desk while he took her check over to a teller to cash. When he returned we sat and chatted for a while. A couple of other employees stuck their heads around the corner and said hello. When we left Mom said, “They know me here.” They do, indeed.
We drove through the drugstore drive through lane, I asked for prescriptions for Mom. The lady at the window leaned down in order to see into the car. “Hi, Bernice! Are you not coming inside today?”
“No,” Mom said, “Maybe next time.”
“Everyone will be sad they missed you.” came the reply.
I was quiet when we got back to the house where my mother has lived for almost 55 years. She put the medicine away and put the calendar under the one from 2013. “See how nice it fits?”
I did. And I realized that Mom didn’t just give up her car this past year. She gave up a lot of friends. She gave up stopping for a cup of coffee or deciding to go catch a movie or picking up a couple of things at the grocery store. She gave up seeing people who know her name.
In this Christmas season I thank God for sweet hearted people like Pearl and the kind eyed counterman at the equipment rental store. I am grateful for managers like Ernie and the nice lady handing out prescriptions at Walgreens. They know a lot about what matters in this world. They make Mom’s ever shrinking world just a bit bigger. If only for a moment...