The day was November 26th 1988 – the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Mom, Dad and Grandma Tabor had the motorhome packed with their travel belongings after a few days of visiting and enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with them and my special “little sister” guest, Leisa. We had managed to fit in a huge holiday feast; the requisite shopping on Friday after, and of course, several rounds of Bingo at Papago Bingo. I had stuffed the traveling refrig with container after container of Thanksgiving leftovers. This was a special one as I had never known my mother to leave her home for that particular holiday. This was the first and only one in my life. One year she was sequestered on a murder trial as a jurist, and the judge had ordered the jury dismissed just for that day and they had to return to sequestration Thanksgiving night. Mom had made a detailed list of everything I needed to buy a week prior to the holiday with detailed instructions on how to prepare what and how and when – like I didn’t already know after being her right hand gal since the age of 10. Even on a several week jury trial, she still insisted that the family dinner would be held on North 18th Street, and no amount of reasoning was going to change her mind. And so it was. So, I was quite surprised when she called and said they were coming for Thanksgiving. Mom had suffered a bad bout of the flu in several weeks prior and I thought maybe she was just worn out. So, I didn’t question it. I was excited to host Thanksgiving at my house in Tucson. Of course she insisted that everything would be just as though we were in Grand Junction. She would do all of the cooking and baking. Gram was in charge of peeling 10 pounds of potatoes and I was charged with setting and decorating the table. I didn’t give a second thought to Mom’s comments here and there. “I do not ever want to die in Tucson.” When I said what an odd thing to say, she explained that we had that doctor here who transplanted hearts. And what if he took hers out and replaced it with someone who was mean? Would those unprincipled traits be transferred to her? I kind of just shrugged it off with a smile. We were sitting in the living room relaxing one afternoon, watching an old rerun of Designing Women where the ladies had designed a New Orleans style send off for a young friend who had died of Aids. Mom stated that she wanted her funeral to be like that with upbeat music and lots of flowers. Maybe I should have paid more attention.
After a nice breakfast at Coco’s, the three musketeers were on their way home. I didn’t envy them. The drive from Tucson to Grand unction is almost unbearable for me; hours of dry dusty desert with no cell or radio reception. It is, nicely put, miserable. They didn’t seem to mind. As long as Mom was in her motorhome, she was good. Cristopher was out with friends. Ricky was at a U of A game enjoying his time with friends in the kids Knothole Section. Bob and I were set to enjoy a movie night out with 4 year old Jeffry in tow. As the movie time slowly approached, Bob reminded me that we needed to get on our way. But, I felt uneasy and did not want to leave the house that night. When I relayed that to my husband, he just nodded okay and went about his evening. He was used to me changing my mind so nothing unusual about that.
If memory serves, it was around 7 in the early evening when the phone begin to ring. It was still in the time where the phone hung on the wall. Bob held the phone out saying it was my dad and if they had car problems, I was to find out where they were and he would be on his way. Before I put the phone to my ear, I quietly said to Bob “honey, my Mom is dead,” He just looked at me, admonishing me with his stare about the inappropriateness of making such a comment. As I lifted the phone to my hear, I could hear my Dad’s voice saying “Mom’s gone”.
I felt the tears as Daddy explained the chain of events leading up to this call. And then the blur of the night began. Laundry had to be done for five people making the 780 mile trek to western Colorado; arrangements had to be made for Jeffry to stay with my Tucson friend, Peggy for a week. Calls had to be made to my siblings. And in a flurry of tears and questions and travel arrangements, we finally fell into bed after midnight. And then came the long and drawn out sobs as Bob held me tightly until finally exhaustion and sleep took over. And this day was over.
My Mom was gone.