I can always tell when one of the young nursing students has taken a shift as your caregiver. The tell-tale sign is the glittery polish on your fingernails. When I take off your shoes and socks to get you ready for bed, your toe-nails are painted, too.
If I say how pretty your hands and feet look, usually you squint and seem confused. You give a little smile and shrug, unsure. Other times you wiggle your fingers and laugh. “My friend did it,” you say, and then you add, “She’s my best friend…I think.”
I don’t ask you who “she” is. I’ve learned that statements give you assurance, while questions are confusing. I hold your hand, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the shiny polish. Then I say you must have a very nice friend who chooses such a pretty color, and you suddenly are a school girl, wowed by your fancy fingers. Proud to have such a friend, whoever she is.
Oh, Mom, you have had many friends. Dad always said that you never met a stranger, and your mother, my grandmother, told me that even as a child you had the kindest heart and sweetest smile.
I remember the many women–and sometimes even my girlfriends–who trusted you with their secrets and sorrows, and how you embraced them in warm hugs and assured them you’d be praying for them. You were a peacemaker, Mom, a gentle advisor, and a friend to so many.
For your ninety-third birthday, your granddaughter Molly brought your great-grandchildren Grace and Gannon for a celebration. It was a long drive for them, so they bought the decorations and the ice cream cake when they arrived. You fell asleep while eating the cake. Six-year-old Gannon watched you sleep. He gave you a sweet kiss and whispered to Molly, “Oh, Mom, she’s so cute.” On their way home, they stopped by the cemetery. Seven-year-old Grace read the details on Dad’s side of the headstone. Your name in on the other side, and beneath your names is engraved the truth of your long marriage to Dad: “Best Friends Forever.”
Grace put her hands on her hips and turned to her mother. “I thought they were married,” she said. You and Dad would have laughed at that; you would have hugged your great-grandchildren and told them stories about two Missouri teens who met and fell in love, and truly were each other’s best friends…even though they were married. You wowed Dad with your faith, Mom, your patience and kindness and strength. Fingernail polish had nothing to do with it.
You’re a great role model for your daughter, your granddaughter, and your great granddaughter. Your great-grandson, too. He thinks you’re very cute, and he gave you a kiss.
I love you, Mom. Marylin