Over the past few months, it’s been harder to visit Mama. I don’t know how I’ll find her– if she’ll have that sweet smile we’ve come to expect, or if she’ll be bent forward in her wheelchair, at times with a forlorn expression. It’s difficult to see her that way and you don’t know what she’s thinking because she can’t express it. It’s unsettling to me as I talk with her and try to cajole a smile but little comes back. At those times I feel fortunate when she’ll at least eat– but even that sometimes requires coaxing.
Overall, I’m amazed at Mama’s resilience; she’s ninety-six and has lived past many of her family and friends. Physically, she has been pretty healthy fighting off illnesses that others have succumbed to.
On the days when she has that disturbing look, it’s hard for me to erase that sad image from my mind. When I leave Parkview to return home, I keep thinking there’s something I could do to relieve whatever has produced that facial expression. I go through my checklist: Is she in pain? Did something she see upset her? Is she sad? I fall short of any answer other than “I don’t think so.”
Recently I pulled out our family photos and searched for ones with Mama. What I was drawn to was her face. I looked at her expressions over the years and was reminded of the things that brought smiles.
I found a photo of Mama in her sixties when she took painting classes. That was the first time she produced art for ‘art’s sake.’ She’d always been good at sketching. I remember her standing in front of the display windows at Belk’s and drawing the dress on the mannequin. She took it to the Jonesboro Fabric Store and picked out a Simplicity pattern that looked most like the dress in the window, then adapted the pattern. She was an excellent seamstress– and while I think she enjoyed some of that, a lot of the time she was under pressure to meet a deadline– like Easter dresses for all three of her daughters.
With painting, she had no deadline and enjoyed working in oils, attending the class with her friend Hazel. She was proud of her work and enjoyed gifting us with her creations.
My photo albums had many pictures of Mama with her seven grandchildren. Now that I’m a grandmother, I understand the joy that brings. When each child was born, Mama was there to help and to hold that precious bundle. I love this picture of Mama holding my younger son, Ross.
Mama enjoyed time with my husband’s parents as they shared the joy of our two sons. After Mr. Riddle died, Mama and Mrs. Riddle, Mary Dell often came together to visit, driving from the hometown while talking about things back in ‘the old days.’
I also remember how Mama enjoyed her time with her ‘male friend,’ James whom she dated for about seventeen years. Mama flourished with his attention. They liked working together in her big yard, just as Mama and Daddy had often done. She didn’t want to remarry but liked James’s company. They went on church trips together and he made her feel special with presents and cards. She liked that he loved her children and grandchildren– even though he and his wife never had kids.
In winter of 2012, we were planning for Brooks and Emily’s wedding in the mountains of Tennessee near Knoxville. Mama was still living in her home with round-the-clock caregivers. When were were discussing the arrangements for family coming from North Carolina, Brooks came to me with his only request.
“Mom, I have to have Grandma Rosser at my wedding. That’s the only thing I ask– however you can make that happen.”
It was hard just to get Mama to her brother’s for a visit; how would we manage taking her to Tennessee and staying in an unfamiliar place? I knew she wouldn’t remember the wedding, but at the same time, she would want to be there and she would be in the pictures, forever.
I was so grateful when my sisters stepped up and said they would take care of Mama getting to the wedding.
The photos of Mama on that snowy February day are the most tender for me.
She liked seeing herself in the pictures and smiled when we told her how sharp she looked in her purple dress, that matched ‘her twin’ Mary Dell, who wore a rose-colored dress of identical style.
Now, when I look back at these pictures and think of Mama, I remember how people would say to her, “Mary, you’ve had a full life.”
Mama would nod in agreement and respond, “I’ve been blest.”
While there are times now, when her face doesn’t exhibit that smile, I know all those memories of her life reside inside of her. She is not forlorn; she is ninety-six years of fully lived experiences and the accumulated joy of seven children and eight great-grandchildren.
She is blest.
How About You?
Is there an image of one of your loved ones that has changed and is disturbing for you?
How can you bring a more full and accurate life-image to mind?
12 thoughts on “To See Her Face”
I love this. My last living grandparent and my father in law both live in assisted care centers and it’s always a discussion about their quality of life since neither are able to communicate as much or as clearly as in the past. Definitely drives home the need to think about ones own wishes. So glad you mom has you. Love and light to you. ❤️😘
Thanks so much for reading and for sharing about your family. It’s hard when we don’t know how much they process what is going on. I can tell by Mama’s eyes and how she watches that more is going on than she can say.
Best to you in the week ahead,
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As I sit here with mama Nd read and show her pictures with tears streaming down my face I’m so thankful for your sharing these precious pictures. She certainly did love her family and especially the grandchildren. Sad that her great grandchildren will not know her that say but we can make sure they do by sharing stories like you have here. Thanks again for this blog and doing life with me on this journey.
Hey Little Sister,
Yes, I wrote it with tears and a weight of sadness– yet knowing that Mama has lived a good life. Stories do keep our loved ones alive for the younger generations. We have many.
Love to you and glad we share the road,
Thank you for sharing moments of your Mother and her life. As she is blessed, are so you. For years to come, you will continue to share those great times. She had an effect on yours and all your family’s lives. You are her true blessing in sharing. Wonderful piece and the photos really set all this into one. Have a great week and we will anticipate you in the next issue.
Thanks so much for reading and for your ongoing support. I’m glad I could share Mama with you–especially through the photos that mostly family have seen.
Mama has been an outstanding example of how to live life. I’m fortunate that she has passed on so much to me, my sisters, and our children.
Best to you in the week ahead, too,
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Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts of your sweet Mama. I have had many nostalgic thoughts of my Mama (97) in the past several months, also. She went to an assisted living center in early December and thankfully seems content. The staff is very attentive. Her sister being in the room next to her probably helps. Mama will be glad for me to give her an update of her longtime friend. My thoughts will be with you, Peggy, and Harriet.
Thanks for reading and for sharing about your Mama. I’m glad she seems content– and how nice that her sister is in the next room. I think that would make it better for most of us.
Tell her “Hello” and we hope she’s doing well.
Good to hear from you,
This was an emotional post for me, Connie! It was very well done, but my heart hurt while reading it!
You’re in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult, emotional time!
I love you!
On Sun, Feb 2, 2020 at 10:58 AM Connie Rosser Riddle wrote:
> conniesedona317 posted: “Over the past few months, it’s been harder to > visit Mama. I don’t know how I’ll find her– if she’ll have that sweet > smile we’ve come to expect, or if she’ll be bent forward in her wheelchair, > at times with a forlorn expression. It’s difficult to see her ” >
Thanks so much, Sandra.
It was hard to write but it felt necessary. I’ve written about Mama all along, but haven’t as much in the past months because I haven’t had her words to share.
I’ve also been thinking about you and Mike and all you’ve been through. Life can be so tough but we know that ultimately, God has a plan for us, ” to prosper us and not to harm us. To give us hope and a future.” Thanks for your prayers and ongoing support of my life, and of my writing.
Best to you.
so much in here to love – reverence, respect, wistfulness, precious pictures and sweet, gentle moments. ~MJ
Thanks so much for reading and for your kind and supportive comments.
Best to you on this Sunday afternoon and in the week ahead.
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