Today is my day in the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways. Read to the bottom of this post to find out how to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of the first edition of A Long and Winding Road: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos along with assorted other goodies.
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Mom and Dad met when they were 17 years old. They lived on adjoining farms in West Texas, went to the same church, went to the same school, and travelled in the same social circles. I love the story of the day their romance really began.
Even into his late 80s, Dad was a nice looking man, but he was a real cutie as a teenager. All the girls wanted to catch his attention, but he sat quietly on the school bus, wrapped in his own thoughts and shyness. They watched him, giggling and hoping he’d look their way.
“I’ll bet you won’t wink at him.”
“Even if I did, he wouldn’t wink back.”
But Mom, a drop-dead gorgeous brunette with deep brown eyes, saw what she wanted and went for it. “I will,” she said.
She did, and he winked back!
For the next two years, they courted. They sat next to each other in church, crossing their arms to hide their entwined hands, but fooling no one. They worked on adjoining rows in the peanut or cotton fields, and when one of the other girls tried to move in on her man, Mom simply picked up her hoe or cotton sack and stepped in front of the intruder, regaining her position by Dad’s side.
Dad’s older brother Dean became interested in Mom’s younger sister Fay. When one or the other girl went to Granddaddy Hagan to ask his permission to go out with her beau, he asked, Is he the bug-eyed one or the squinch-eyed one? I think Dad was the squinch-eyed one.
The two couples often double dated, especially when the boys got an old Model T Ford. I’m not sure how they decided who got the rumble seat, but that was the prized position. On December 21, 1940, in a double ceremony in the pastor’s parlor, both Hagan girls became Mrs. Robinson.
Mom and Dad didn’t have enough money for fancy jewelry – Mom had a set of rings that were so thin they wore completely through after 20 years or so. On their 25th anniversary, Dad presented his bride with a white gold band set with two rows of diamonds, and she presented him with a plain yellow gold band. I never saw him take it off. That band represented the defining reality of his life – his love for Mom. He loved her as Paul told the Ephesians to love their wives and would have given up his life for her. He told her every day how beautiful she was and how much he loved her, and he never tired of kissing her or holding her hand.
In early 2011, Mom and Dad moved to Southridge Village in Conway, Arkansas where they received excellent care as he dealt with vascular dementia and she fought Alzheimer’s. On May 7, the facility gave a tea in honor of Mother’s Day. Families were invited to come, and my brother Jim and his wife Jo Lynn were there. Mom and Dad enjoyed the food and the company, but they didn’t have much to say.
“Dad,” Jim said when they finished eating, “did you do anything exciting today?”
Dad thought a minute and then smiled. “I kissed your mother.”
That was the last intelligible thing either of us heard him say. He suffered a major stroke later that night.
His last few days were spent under hospice care in the room he shared with Mom. Their double bed was moved out to make room for a hospital bed for him and a twin bed for her. Her bed went unused as she climbed into bed with him each night. He slept most of the time, but when he occasionally woke up, he indicated with nods or shakes of his head that he was comfortable and was not in any pain. The day before he died, he spent most of the day on his side with his face toward the wall. I encouraged Mom to move up beside his bed so he could see her. He opened his eyes and his face lit up with the love that always shined in his eyes when he looked at her.
“Hi,” she said, patting his face and smiling back at him.
“Hi,” he mouthed back, even though no sound came out.
The love that began in the cotton fields of West Texas over seven decades before was still strong. It was stronger than the years, stronger than the physical infirmities, and stronger than Alzheimer’s.
Parts of this post come from my memoir, A Long and Winding Road: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos published in 2014, and parts are from Mom’s Long Good-Bye, A Caregiver’s Tale of Loss, Grief, and Comfort due out in February. Caregiving is a difficult job, so it’s important to find moments of relaxation wherever you can. I’m offering a signed paperback copy of the first edition of Winding Road the I hope will amuse, entertain, and inspire you. To provide the most relaxing atmosphere possible for reading it, I’m also offering the following: 1. An envelope of mineral bath soak. 2. A cooling watermelon and aloe gel mask. 3. Several herbal tea bags. 4. And most important of all – chocolate. For a chance to win this “mini spa package,” go to http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/afb0250b13/? and enter.
CONTEST NOTES: Physical prizes are shipped to U.S. addresses only. In order to receive ebook prizes, entrants must provide valid e-mail address.
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Giveaway will be open for 48 hours. Winners will be announced on the host blog @ www.authorswilliams.wordpress.com and will also be e-mailed directly.
Many thanks to Sara Beth Williams for hosting this multi-author event. For another chance to win, visit her blog at Life, Love, Writing and enter the RaffleCopter drawing at the bottom.