As Thanksgiving begins this week I am reminded of all the thankful post that I have written this month. And I am reminded of one of the worst Thanksgiving days in my life. Warning this post in difficult and I have never told this story before.
In 1971, three days before Thanksgiving my future husband left to go to basic training in San Antonio, TX. After dropping him off at the bus station, I went home to my grandmother's home. By this time, my mother and I lived with my grandmother. Moma was at work at the hospital the three to eleven P.M. shift. Grandmoma and I were watching "Hee Haw" and I was making an egg sandwich. I was sad that Doc had left for his training and I was telling grandmoma how sad I had been that day.
Nothing unusual about that night. I loved to spend time with her. She was my best friend and loved me like my mother could not. I am up and down and off to the kitchen, when I hear a sort of cough, or something like it. I call to her from the kitchen and I heard it again. I thought not too much about it. I returned to my chair and I am still talking with grandmoma. Then I look at her and notice something is different about her. She has slumped down in her club chair and she looks like she has fallen asleep or something. I am not sure what is going on and for a second I do not realize that she is dead.
I called the operator this was before 911 and told her something was desperately wrong with my grandmother. I had just completed a CPR course at college. I tried to help her, but I could not do anything except cry. The operator called an ambulance. She tried to console me and to get me to calm down. By now I am hysterical because I can not save my grandmother. Nothing I do will bring her back.
The ambulance comes and now I have to decide which hospital to take her to. One is closer in Bossier City, La., but my mother works at the one in Shreveport, La. I decide to take her to Schumpert Hospital where my mother works. I met moma in the ER. This much is pretty much a blur because I am crying so hard. My mother is crying. I am praying and crying.
The next thing I know is my mother is having an episode with her heart. She has tachycardia and her heart beats too fast. So now the doctors are working on my mother as well as my grandmother. I am besides myself with no one there to tell me a thing. This was the worst night in my young life. I was twenty-one years old and two of the people that I loved most in the world are in critical shape. "Dear God in heaven help me" is all I can pray right now. I can barely even put two words together for all the crying and hysteria. I was so afraid that I would loose both of them.
That night, my wonderful grandmother died, my mother would recover, but my life as I had known it changed forever. Moma and I were exhausted and numb from the night. I can hardly make my lips form the words "grandmoma is gone". This was three days before Thanksgiving. We had to arrange funeral plans and notify the funeral home, friends and the newspaper of her passing. Moma went to her room to take a tranquilizer. I just sat in my chair with a blank stare and thinking over that night to see what I could have done differently that might have made a difference. The doctors told us that she died immediately from a cerebral hemorrhage and that there was nothing anyone could have done to save her.
People flooded in from her church and neighbors as well as her friends. Grandmoma was loved by all. There was all kinds of food just too much, we don't really want to eat, but we go through the motions. We are thanking everyone, writing down names and the dishes they brought, fixing coffee and walking like zombies. Expressionless, sad, no words can confort me. My mother is in her own grief because she has lost her mother. She has no words for me, no comfort, though all she can offer me is a little pill to dull my senses. Nothing can dull this pain or make it ever go away. This day will haunt me for the rest of my life.
We bury grandmoma with graveside services only. The service I don't remember because I am too caught up in my own grief. My sister and I hold one another and cry. We try to console moma, but she pulls away and needs to be alone. When we returned home to grandmoma's house, the thought suddenly occurs to me that we have a huge turkey thawing in the refridgerator. If you knew my grandmoma, then you knew it was a cardinal sin to waste anything.
Up until this day, my job in the kitchen for Thanksgiving meal was to chop all the vegetables into exact uniform pieces. I knew this job well, but nothing else. Grandmoma had always cooked the dinner. Who knows how to make dressing? None of us. What about gravy? Nope not a one of us can do gravy. So at one of the sadest time of our lives, my sister, mother and I attempt to cook our very first turkey with all the trimmings.
Grandmoma always got up at the crack of dawn and got it all together while we sleept in sweet dreams buried under a pile of hand made quilts. Those heavenly smells would awake us. It was like an intoxicating perfume wafting through out the house. Not on this day, we gathered in the kitchen and began cooking. I don't remember too much except I did the chopping of the vegetables and I did the best job I could do for her.
This one day my mother, sister and I pulled it together and we made the meal. While it taste nothing like grandmoma's, we knew she would be proud because we did not waste that turkey, we united and we did not give up. That night would bring us wonderful loving memories of her. The healing had began. We laughed at the sight of us cooking and we knew grandmoma would like it.
It would take me years to accept that I was not to blame for not being able to save her. Doc and I married and I would wake up in a nightmare about that night. I think I spent the first year of our marriage crying over my beloved grandmother. I am blessed that my husband comforted me and offered words of encouragement.
This is the first time I have really shared this story with anyone other than my family and best friend. If you managed to get to the end, I thank you for reading along with me. It was hard to write still after all the years.