Mom was looking at the smocked dresses she had made for her granddaughters fifteen and twenty years ago. The tiny folds of smocking were held together by embroidered patterns, different on each dress--panda bears, flowers, a red school house flanked by two orange school buses.
One of the dresses had a small flowered label sewed inside the back collar: "Made by Grandma."
"They're so beautiful!" I marvelled. "How did you ever do it?"
"I don't know," she said. "My hands don't even work now." The contrast between her skilful fingers then and now is shocking. Now she can barely sign her name.
"Anne, do you think I'll ever walk again?" she asked suddenly.
I was surprised at her question: usually she doesn't remember that she can't walk, and she doesn't try to make careful assessments about the future.
"Uh--well..." I delayed, trying to be honest, thinking back to her broken hip fifteen months ago and the various health crises since then. "I don't think so, but..."
"I want to walk so badly."
A sharp pain--the realization of her sadness--shot through me, and suddenly I had an answer.
"It depends on whether you exercise. If you stand up at your walker and try to walk, like we did yesterday, and do it every day, I think you could do it."
"I do exercise! I do them every day," she declared, but I knew she meant pushing the pedals on her small foot machine and other very light exercises.
The last time her physical therapist visited, he said she needed to walk with parallel bars and do other stretching and balance exercises daily in order to improve. The home health services provided after her September hospital visit have expired, however.
Unless I can get another PT order from Dr. Susan C., Mom won't have more physical therapy. Medicare only pays for therapy when patients improve; if the patient stays the same or is in declining mobility, there is no coverage.
It's up to me to get another order and to make sure she gets out to those appointments several times per week--I've let this fall between the cracks.
"The girls should know that there's a lot of love in these," Mom said, her mind back on the smocked dresses. "They're done so perfectly."
"Yes, they know that," I said. "You put so much time and love into these dresses."
I was thinking, "This beautiful, colorful smocking will be here when you are gone. They will become heirlooms."
Will my daughters put these dresses on their daughters, or will the smocked look be too old-fashioned for kids to wear?
Will Mom ever walk more than ten feet with her walker again?
"Que sera, sera," as the song says. "The future's not ours to see."
One thing I do know: I won't be spending my seventies doing intricate handwork like this.
These smocked beauties will forever tell a story that begins: "Made by Grandma. Grandma Evelyn, who was born in Telluride in 1919...."