The Thanksgiving I’ll Never Forget

I may not remember the year, but I sure remember what happened. Because it’s not often you get a second chance to have more time with your mother.

Thanksgiving was always a time for our family to be together. My aunt, her two sons, their wives and kids. Plus my husband and daughter, of course. I’m not even sure how old Ashley was that year, but it was probably no more than 10 or 11.

She was old enough to understand what was happening, and old enough to be afraid. Not just for her grandmother, but she’d never seen her own mother fall apart and not be in charge of a situation before.

That Thanksgiving started like most of the others had for the past several years. Ben, Ashley and I arrived at her house the night before so we could help with the preparations. We’d set the table in the dining room that night, with my grandmother’s antique china and my mother’s brightly polished silverware. After all, it was going to be a special holiday feast!

The next morning we all got up early, put the turkey in to roast, started the cinnamon bun dough, made pumpkin pies and began putting together the other side dishes to be cooked at the last minute. It was always a special time, Mom and me in the kitchen, while Ben and Ashley watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV.

Just another normal Thanksgiving. Or so we thought.

My aunt arrived later with her contributions to the meal, followed shortly afterwards by her two sons and their families. We had our appetizers, and my mom and my aunt started bringing out the side dishes. Mom was just pulling the turkey out of the oven when she suddenly dropped to the floor.

No warning. No time to say she didn’t feel good. She just passed out and fell to the floor.

And my world suddenly stopped.

I had no idea whether she’d suddenly died, or just fainted. She’d never had an incident like that before, at least not one that I’d known about.

What did I do? I’d love to say I rushed over to her, checked her out, and calmly told my family to call 911.

What I really did was panic and scream and start crying. Mature, right?! But fear took over. You don’t know how you will react in any given situation until you’re in it. You can say you’d do this, or you’d do that, but until you’re actually facing that moment, you truly have no idea.

Fortunately my younger cousin’s wife Joanne is a nurse, and she immediately took over while my other cousin called the rescue squad. All I could do was cry and pray that my mother was all right.

And, oh, I sure prayed! Ashley was crying and sobbing. My poor husband was torn between trying to comfort both of us and helping my cousin’s wife with my mother.

I cannot remember ever being so scared. I do remember thinking, though, and praying, “Lord, please don’t take my mother yet! Please, I can’t handle this…!” And I tried to put the memory out of my mind of a Thanksgiving many years previously when my mother’s mother had died early that morning, right in that same house.

Most of the tragic events in our family have happened on holidays or birthdays.

After what seemed like forever, which I’m sure was just a minute or less, my mom came around, found herself laying by the stove on the kitchen floor with a pillow under her head, and a blanket over her, and everyone standing around or leaning over her, with worried expressions on our faces.

Joanne was certainly visibly relieved, but her nurse’s training was still in full swing, as she calmly talked to my mom and asked her how she was feeling, taking her pulse, visibly checking her out and assessing her memory.

At that time we had no idea if she’d had a heart attack, a stroke, or what. All we knew was, she was still alive, and seemed to be ok, if just momentarily confused. Who wouldn’t have been after passing out?

But my mother quickly seemed to return to her normal self, getting upset because everyone was fussing over her and not getting dinner on the table. “I’m fine! Just let me get up and finish getting the food on the table! And no, I don’t want any water!”

She’d never have listened to me, but she did listen to Joanne, who’d certainly had similar stubborn patients in her nursing career. So she didn’t try to get up right away.

But then the rescue squad got there; we hadn’t told her we’d called them, and to say she wasn’t happy about it was an understatement!

Since she still lived in the same small town where I grew up, where everyone knew everyone else, I wasn’t surprised that I knew a few of the EMT’s. Of course, Mom knew them all, including one of her neighbors who lived a few houses away, and whose children she’d taught in kindergarten! And she immediately told them she was fine, and we shouldn’t have bothered them!

They checked her over, and asked her the normal questions, like her name, what day it was, and heaven forbid, her age! Which she promptly told them was none of their business! So I did feel a bit better, but still, something was wrong. And convincing Mom to let them take her to the hospital was, to say the least, a very difficult task. But after everyone promising they’d clean up the kitchen and put the food away, she (very) reluctantly agreed.

Riding in the ambulance with her that night was an experience I’ll not forget either. I couldn’t be in the back with her, so I rode in the front, turning around constantly and checking to be sure she was ok. Yes, I trusted the crew, but my MOTHER was back there, and I was still scared. Even listening to her telling them how she’d ruined our Thanksgiving (which she didn’t!), and then asking if they’d eaten, still didn’t convince me she was all right.

I’d never ridden in an ambulance before. And that normally 30 minute drive from her house, that probably took only 15 minutes that night, seemed like forever. Because I figured if she’d actually agreed to this, Mom was either scared or felt a lot worse than she was telling us!

As fast as the ambulance was going, a car suddenly came up from out of nowhere and passed it! Little did I know until we got to the hospital that my older cousin was driving Ben there in his sports car, and as Ben told me later, “All I could do was hang on and pray we’d get there in one piece! When he passed the ambulance to get there first, I just closed my eyes!” Well, they got there in one piece, and ahead of the ambulance, and Ben was standing outside waiting for me.

Fortunately my mother was all right. They kept her overnight, and never really found out what had happened. Perhaps she’d gotten overheated while cooking in a hot kitchen, or maybe she’d been dehydrated. Her heart was fine, thank goodness, at least as far as they could tell.

She got her Thanksgiving turkey sandwich about 10:00 that night from the hospital kitchen, after telling all of us (our whole family of course ended up there with her – where else would we have been!?) to leave and go eat our Thanksgiving dinner! And of course she apologized again for ruining our day!

We brought her back home the next day and the four of us celebrated a day late with her delicious Thanksgiving leftovers, which tasted even better than they would have the day before, because we truly had something to be quite thankful for.

As I’ve written many times, tomorrow is not promised. We do not know from day to day what our lives will bring. We do not know who could be taken from us, in the blink of an eye, suddenly and without warning, and how quickly our entire world could be changed forever.

As Thanksgiving approaches, take the time to truly count your blessings; to appreciate your family members, even the ones who may drive you crazy, because one day you’ll miss that craziness, those irritating habits that drove you nuts, and long for just one more day….

Happy Thanksgiving, and enjoy the many blessings around you!

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