Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Card Holder

As the second Sunday of May approaches each year, I naturally grow sentimental about my late mother. But there are other triggers that make me pause and reminisce about her too.

In 1969 when Mom became a quadriplegic, clever friends and relatives devised several homemade aids for her. There was a cup holder for her wheelchair, poles with hooks or other attachments on the end to help her reach things, and a wooden card holder. She loved to play cards.

The image to the right is the earliest picture I have of Mom using her card holder (click on any picture to enlarge it). She was a Bridge player, and a pretty good one. Later, she used the card holder for games like UNO with her grandchildren. Mom used the holder so often over the years that it became worn and smooth, but it held up well.

A couple of months before Mom died in 2008, and seven years after my diagnosis, I first noticed my MS symptoms spreading from my lower to my upper extremities. I was shuffling a deck of cards during a poker game with Kim and her parents, when my hands started to feel fuzzy.

In the days after my mother’s passing, we solemnly went through her belongings. Kim came across her card holder and held it up for me in a questioning manner. I said, “Sure, let’s take that. You never know…”

As I looked it over I noticed the name “Vernice Sturgeon” etched onto the front of the cardholder, just in case anyone wondered who it belonged to. This was my childhood handwriting. I remembered personalizing the card holder for Mom when she first got it.

We took the card holder home, and it sat in the attic for a few years. During that time my hand function slowly deteriorated, but I could still hold on to cards. Then, about two years ago I began having more difficulties. I asked Kim to dig out Mom’s card holder. I assumed that something as ancient and simple as this well-worn device wouldn’t be sufficient for my needs. I was wrong.
We tried a couple of store-bought models, but they were inferior to Mom’s. Today, I use hers exclusively.

If I was a religious man, I might say that when I’m playing cards Mom is looking down on me with a big smile on her face. There are two problems with that. First, I’m not a religious man. Second, even if I was, she obviously isn’t watching over my card playing because I don’t win any more often than I did before I started using her card holder.

As the years go by, and my physical condition becomes almost indistinguishable from my mother’s, I wish more and more that she was still here to show me the way. That’s no longer possible, but I will hold dear my photos and my fond memories of Mom. I’ll also treasure the lessons I learned from her about living a contented life as a disabled person. These lessons were imparted to me by example, not by talking.

And I will also cherish this little homemade card holder that brought her such joy for thirty-eight years.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there.

Below is our Mother’s Day picture from 1972, two and a half years after her accident. Left to right: Andy and Tarr, Ted, Vernice, Mitch, Tom. Notice her homemade cup holder under my right hand.

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  1. In so many ways, Mitch, she has shown you the way. I'm glad that you are using her card holder for, what? -- Texas Hold-em, or Five Card Stud?

  2. Enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Webster, I'm glad somebody noticed my Royal Straight Flush!

    Darren and Daphne, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  4. This is a powerful post. I love it. Thanks.....Ginny (P.S. Your oldest brother was kind of hunky....Is he the one you talked into getting rid of worthless Apple stock a few years back?)

  5. Ginny, I'm glad you liked the post. Andy may have been "hunky" as a teenager, but he's a fat old balding man now, like me :-)