Monday, March 3, 2008

"This Day"

99.

Like the Toto song. Or Maxwell Smart's girlfriend.

I like that number. I like the look of it. The last of the two digit combos. One step in front of an obvious watermark.

Emma Foote is now an official member of the 99-year club. It was her birthday yesterday and it was time to celebrate.

The Comeback Kid - After two touch 'n go months which some of you may know about since I wrote about it a few weeks ago, Emma was ready to move ahead to the next level. I've been thinking about this particular birthday for some time now, as I'm thinking about the next one, if it comes, God willing. We're all looking forward to that day. Emma used to joke about her name being mentioned by Willard Scott on The Today Show.

I hadn't seen Emma for a couple of months and certainly hadn't seen her since she went through her ordeal, so as I was driving to Springfield for the first visit, I was a bit apprehensive about the Emma I was about to see. But, before heading over to see Emma, it was time for Stuart and I to pick up ... yes ... the cake at the Noho Stop & Shop (of course, I had to snap a good photo for all of you to see. I know my brother loved this). "That's chocolate icing," I asked. Stu made a face and we both decided the day wasn't so much about the state of the icing. So, it was on to Agawam, to HeritageHall, where Emma now resides.

As we walked into Emma's room, we peeked in but didn't see her so we walked down the hallway to the nurses station. When we turned the corner ... there she was. Smiling, eyes bright, there was no doubt about it. Emma was back and fully aware of the two men standing in front of her - the two little boys whose lives she's helped to shape. We leaned in - and immediately, I felt that familiar soft skin brush up against my lips. I thanked God I was able to have this moment. This year. This day, as Emma always likes to say. "To thank God for this day." As I gave her a hug, steadying myself on the wheelchair arm, trust me, I was thanking God at that very moment. Honestly, I didn't think it was going to happen.

The Fiesta - It was great. Billie Joe, Novis, Ruth, Mamie, Bernice - Emma's family up north - and their kids and grandkids. I don't have a chance to see these folks much since I live far away now, but I love visiting with them when I do get home. People like Novis, (my favorite, by the way - she's one of the first people I can remember seeing as a child - that's her above). That would've been the early 60's when Emma would always invite her family over to our home for visits and I remember playing with Novis and Grace like it was yesterday. Since then, whenever Emma celebrates her birthday we make sure we all get together. Add to that some unbelievable Thanksgivings at Ruth's house ... (Note:I don't think I've ever had better macaroni and cheese in my life) ... Let's face it. Emma's family is my family, too. I've already asked Ruth and Novis if I can interview them for the project when I'm back East in a few months, so I'm looking forward to that.

So it was good Stuart was able to snag the large conference room down the hall so we had plenty of room for Emma's family as well as other Heritage Hall residents who wanted to join in the fun. It was good seeing Emma enjoying the afternoon in her quiet way. I loved being able to read all the cards to her, which, I've noticed, has become sort of an event fixture at these parties. Of course, then it was all about the cake which was pretty good, I have to admit - fake chocolate? mocha? tan? beige? icing and all.

Three hours was about enough for Emma - I could see her eyes tiring. Quite frankly, I was surprised she wanted to hang out with all of us for that long. But before it was time to shut things down, Stuart and I promised our sister, Marla, that we'd call her, as well as our Mom and Dad - that part of the family all living in Florida. One by one I reached them on the phone and Emma chatted away, eagerly accepting their long-distance love and birthday wishes.

And that was that. The room cleaned, hugs and kisses exchanged and there we were, back in Emma's room, helping her to get comfortable for the evening. Of course, that was about the time they brought in her dinner in through the door and Emma chuckled, shooing them away, saying she wasn't hungry after having her fill of birthday cake. Still, I noticed that didn't stop her from eating the pears. It's good to see that her appetite has come back like that. At one point, she kept fumbling around with the plastic cup, doing her best to snag the last piece of pear. I was going to help her, but I knew Emma would have frowned at that. Finally, after working on it for what seemed like ten minutes, Emma was able to pierce that last piece of pear, lifting the forkful into her mouth and laughing hard the entire time. It was actually pretty funny.

* * * * * * * * * *

As Stuart and I left, saying goodbye to a few folks on the way out, I thought again about my phone call with Emma a few weeks back. She wasn't able to talk that day and Stuart was relaying some pretty bad observations to me and Marla at the time. And there we were: Emma up in Massachusetts. Me in Missouri. Simply put - I wasn't sure I'd ever see that smiling face again.

But, I did see her. And I hope to see her again tomorrow if that's the way it works out.

And when I see her, you better believe I'll be thanking God for that very moment. For allowing me to see Emma Foote - This Day.

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