On the second day after the second dose of the COVID vaccine, I found myself struggling just the least little bit to maintain an optimum level of gratitude. Awakened before dawn with chills that had me turning on the heating pad and electric mattress warmer, I purposed to get myself out of bed and into the day, soldiering through what I'd been assured were symptoms that wouldn't last very long.
I did incredibly well -- walking three miles, doing household chores, paying the requisite amount of attention to Owen -- until about two that afternoon. The chills had diminished, but they'd been replaced with uncharacteristic fatigue, so I finally gave in. (I can't say when was the last time I stretched out on my couch. I made sure, before I bought it, that it was long enough for me and my legs and it is very comfortable, but I'm a sitter, not a lounger and in the rare moments that I actually put it to use I'm generally upright.) I turned on the television, put the remote and a glass of water on the coffee table, and allowed myself to recline.
There is a basket at the end of the couch that holds a small quilt made for me by my friend Melanie, a chenille throw I bought on a trip with The Buckeyes, and a woven blanket that combines all my favorite colors. The basket also holds an afghan -- wide enough to cover my tallness (a physical trait neither of my parents could ever explain), of the softest yarn in a clear bright aqua -- made for me back when my mother could still crochet. It is probably the last thing she ever made.
It was the afghan I chose in which to wrap myself.
As the afternoon wore on, I began to feel better. It was probably just the waning of the side effects of the vaccine, but I choose to believe that it was the comfort of being wrapped in that afghan.
Christmas was hard. Mama's birthday on January 26 was hard. Easter was hard. But none of them was as hard as April 16, the day on which she and Daddy would have been married for 67 years. We took Daddy to supper and I asked him what he remembered about the Friday afternoon they drove to Ridgeland, South Carolina, and repeated their vows to a Justice of the Peace.
"It was raining," he said. "Real hard." And in his eyes I could see the 18-year-old clutching the steering wheel, staring straight ahead, intent on holding the road.
And he did. For 66-and-a-half years. He held the road while she held his heart.
Most of the folks in my family are teetotalers, so we don't do much toasting, but that night I raised my glass of sweet tea and offered up the simplest and deepest one I could muster. "To Mama."
To Mama. Maker of afghans and holder of hearts.