Ragtime Cowboy Joe

On Saturday hospice took over my mother’s case at the assisted living facility in the small community where she now resides, a few miles south of us. I was pleased. She needs the extra care, and I think they will provide it for her; that is good. But the gravity of the situation does not escape me; I have no illusions. My guess is that she has days to live. We will know more at the close of this week, they say.

I sat by her bedside yesterday evening, watching her breathe through her O2 mask, frustrated that it was fogging up her glasses so she could not read (one of the few joys she still has). We talked about what was going on with her, and all the nursing attention she was getting all of a sudden. I was not sure at first whether or not she understood the gravity of the situation. Later, it became apparent that she was quite aware.

It is interesting to me that in her final days she does not seem concerned with record keeping, crossing i’s and dotting t’s (the meticulous and painstaking character traits she has always been governed by), and keeping track of everything. Although . . . she did notice I had moved the walking cane that she has not come even close to using since she went in the hospital four months ago. She “doesn’t miss a trick,” as they say. She seems resigned to these final days. I am amazed at her sense of peace about it all. It is obvious she understands that the material things she is leaving behind are – meaningless now.

At one point I asked her if she wanted to sing, or tell jokes. She said, “I can’t sing.” Then within a couple of seconds she said, “Ragtime Cowboy Joe” and smiled slightly (an old humorous song she used to sing to us as kids). I had forgotten about this old tune through the years. But rest assured – I won’t forget it now. Ever.

The coming days will be hard for me, I know. I wake in the middle of the night, and my thoughts go to mother, her pain, the years she gave us, the life she gave us. I remember when I turned 30 she called me on the phone to wish me a happy birthday, but her words were, “We have an anniversary to celebrate, today.” I said, ” I know what day it is for me, mother, but what day is it for you?” She responded, “Well, I did have something to do with it, you know!” We laughed. I had never even considered that before.

As time went by last night she said to me, “I’m sorry for being such an interruption in your life lately.” I assured her that we knew what we were doing when we moved her here, that we wanted to play this role in her life, and that I had never regretted it once. She said, “Well, soon your life back can go back to normal.”

Oh, then, what I would give to never have normal again! But I do not get to choose, do I? I am not ready for what is soon to happen; I do not want to let her go. Just one more talk, mother. Or one more verse of a song together – you taught me so many: Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Three Little Fishies, Mares Eat Oats, and . . . Ragtime Cowboy Joe.

He always sings, raggedy music to the cattle

As he swings, back and forward in the saddle

On a horse, a horse that’s syncopated, gaited,

There’s such a funny meter to the roar of his repeater.

How they run, when they hear this fellow’s gun,

Because the western folks all know,

Why he’s a high-faluting scooting,

Shooting son of a gun from Arizona

Ragtime Cowboy, you’re talking ’bout your cowboy,

Ragtime Cowboy Joe.

About ivanbenson

I am a singer, guitar player, writer, story teller, voice over talent, and heart attack survivor in the Atlanta, Georgia area.
This entry was posted in Aging Parents, Assisted Living, Family History, Nursing Homes, Stories, Uncategorized, World War II and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Ragtime Cowboy Joe

  1. Jo says:

    Bless her and bless our parents.

  2. Suzanne says:

    Daddy, I’m so sorry – but proud of you and the son you have been, especially working so hard to care for her these past 2 years – you have done well and I know she truly appreciates you. I love you so much – thanks for sharing your heart!

  3. Sandy Oster says:

    My heart hurts for you. What a lovely post! My Dad sang Mares Eat Oats, too. I will always associate it with him.

  4. Dena says:

    I just read through all of your posts, you write so beautifully. You make me feel special as a mother. Blessings to your family.

  5. The Irishman says:

    You and all of yours are in my prayers. I miss our walks.

  6. Betty says:

    I know how hard this is for you, but it is a blessing for you and for her that you have this time together. I’ll be thinking of you and praying for you the next few days.

  7. Ivan,
    What a beautiful post. I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. How your heart must ache. I do not look forward to those days ahead of me. Sounds like she was and still is someone very special. Love how she “didn’t miss a trick”. Reminds me of my grandmother. She was that way. She had a sharp with all the way until her death at 97. I remember brushing out her long white hair in the home she had to go to because she kept falling. My mom is also very special. She sang Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral, and Mares Eat Oats and Mama’s Little Baby Loves Shortening Bread.:) I sang them to my babies as well.
    Blessings on you, Ivan. I know God holds your mom and she is skipping like a young girl again, happy in the presence of her Savior.
    May he hold you and your family as you grieve.
    I thank God we do not have to grieve with no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

    Mary Anne

    • ivanbenson says:

      Thank you so much for the encouraging words. Shortnin’ Bread was one of my Dad’s favorites, too. And now . . . one of mine. And thanks for the reminder from 1 Thessalonians. I look forward to the reunion in time to come.

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