LeRoy Collins Commentary 14

Commentary #14
29 November 2006

Thanksgiving Evening

Most of my website commentary so far has been political, because the General Election 2006 was important to our country, and I planned to be involved to the end. But my inability to win the Republican Primary for the U.S. Senate back in September, took me out of the quest; but my interest in the process, the stakes, and the outcome is undiminished.

But with all that campaigning swirled around us in the past few weeks, a potential family crisis surfaced just days before the General Election, which put my life in some additional perspective...especially re Thanksgiving Day 2006.

In my Commentary #1, you were introduced to my 95 yr-old mother, Mary Call Collins (see a photo of the two of us attending a political fundraiser for my campaign, in Tallahassee). Mom was my honorary campaign manager; just a few months before, she changed her voter registration to Republican so she could vote for me...after over 70 years as a Democrat! But the night of 27 OCT, Mom fell and broke three ribs, punctured a lung, and there began a series of events which forecast trouble.

Her age notwithstanding, my mother is tough, but following the fall, she was heavily sedated to the point of seeming almost comatose. The next few days were rough trying to find the dosage balance which would restore her alertness. Following my daily checks on Momís situation with my three sisters in Tallahassee, Jane and I cautiously started the 950 mile drive up I-95 to my 50th Reunion at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis MD. Nearing the Virginia state line, we got an urgent cell phone call from my sister Jane, who said to come back; Mom was not doing well.

We got to Mom's bedside in Tallahassee Memorial Hospital by Friday morning 3 Nov. She looked awful, seemed unconscious, was verbally unresponsive, not eating, breathing shallow, but her vital signs were strong. By Saturday, there was a glimmer when our family friend, Rev. Harry B. Douglass, whispered "Mary Call, do you realize how much love surrounds you in this room?" Her mute, yet weak eyes-closed nod indicated she was still with us.

The next day Mom was moved from the bed to a chair; my wife had successfully convinced her to eat a regular breakfast. A young doctor on rounds said if she could eat a regular diet, and operate the plastic breathing exerciser up to level 1000, she could go home (Mom responds to such challenges).

Around midday the next day (Election Eve), her room phone rang. It was the former President, George Herbert Walker Bush...just checking in. After several minutes of small talk, the President asked if there was anything he could do for her. Without skipping a beat, she said yes there was something......."Mr. President, I am a bit upset with you!!!!!!!"

She then told him his parachute jump with the Army's Golden Knights to commemorate his 80th birthday had caused great anguish in his family, and ours. His,Ö because his wife, Barbara, loudly proclaimed this jump would be his last...one way or another. In our family, Mom wanly explained the former President's stunt inspired her son (me) to make a similar jump with the same world-famous Army parachute team shortly thereafter. And, my son, Roy III, did the same tandem jump the day after me. So, from Motherís viewpoint, all three hazards were inspired by President Bush. "So please do not do something dangerous like that again." Mom said President Bush's dutiful reply was "Yes, Ma'am." But that is not the end of the story...

The next day was Election Day 2006. At midday, Governor Bush dropped by for a visit. When Jeb asked what he could do for her, she asked him for a copy of the book his sister recently wrote about their father, i.e. Momís phone pal just the day before. The Governor excused himself, went to his car, picked up his personal copy of the book entitled MY FATHER, MY PRESIDENT, signed by his father, and presented it to Mom. Jeb could not have been nicer to my mother on this occasion, and we are forever grateful for his many courtesies extended to her throughout his two terms as the Governor of Florida. But that is not the end of this story either.

Later that day, Mom's physician was making his rounds in the hospital. He asked how she was feeling. She said, pretty good, following her earlier chats with former President Bush and his son, our Governor. The doctor nodded and wrote "delusional" on her chart, which my sister noticed. When he left Mom's room, sister Jane followed. Overtaking him in the hall, Jane explained it happened the way Mom explained it, i.e. no delusions at all. Mother had no trouble getting attention from the floor nurses after those two prominent "visitors" showed they were interested in the care of 95 yr-old Mary Call Collins, in a room on their Floor.

By the end of Election Week, Mom was eating a regular diet, and her breathing had improved. She went home after almost two shaky weeks in the hospital, but she was still far from well. When my wife and I returned to Tallahassee a few days later, Mom was alert, but still weak from lack of exercise. This visit provided some caretaker relief for my sisters; so with their concurrence, Jane and I decided to get Mother on her feet.

The first attempt was shaky, i.e. only one lap down the hall Saturday morning. Later that afternoon, Mom did three laps with our careful assistance. Another family friend, Jeanette Windham, provided supplementary encouragement, which inspired Momís additional effort. By midday Sunday, Mom did SIX laps in the downstairs hall with our help. She was eating well again, and on a roll to recover. This was NOT a typical 95 yr-old!

We returned home to Tampa later that same Sunday and continued to monitor her progress. So when Thanksgiving arrived, in addition to Mom, I thought about my 3 sisters in Tallahassee watching over our Mom, plus their own children/grandchildren, my wife and our 4 children, our 8 grandchildren...all gathered together for traditional Thanksgiving dinners. How fortunate we are.

We Americans enjoyed our families this Thanksgiving because of the dedicated young men and women in our Armed Forces who kept war away from our homeland. Thanks to them, and their supportive families, life is good. We pray our troops return home safely, and that the posts where they served are freer/safer. Happy Thanksgiving 2006.

/s/ LeRoy Collins


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