In my small bedroom, Jim, the cable TV installer, bent over my old ten-inch-screen, color television on the floor. He had connected the cable, and pressed menu’s “scan.” Red numbers had appeared across the bottom of the snowy screen. Now, a red line horizontally moved across the numbers, pausing once but moving on before it connected.

He stood and raised his eyebrows. “It’s scanning–just slow. We’ll give it a minute or two.”

“It is old.” I ventured, “My mother gave it to me in 1993 or 1994.” About a year before she died.

Jim shook his head, “It shouldn’t matter.”

He had already successfully installed my other small portable. But, it was only about ten years old, where this one was nearly twenty.

As the scanning continued without result, I asked, “How long have you been with Quality Cable?”

Jim said he had changed companies ten years before rather than move. “My wife teaches. She didn’t want to give up her job.”

The scanner had still not registered anything. Jim knelt and turned the set to its back to check switches there.

I gasped when I saw “Wilberta Ridenoure” written on the portable’s back in worn black magic marker. My mother was Wilberta Ridenoure. Memories of 1995 and writing the identifying name on the set washed over me.

back of tv

Faded name is to the right of black rectangle, above five black buttons.

Our Delta jet ride was the first leg of Mother’s journey back to Goshen, Indiana and a new home there. In the air between Orlando, FL. and Grand Rapids, MI. , she had a congestive heart failure attack. When we landed, she barely walked and could not speak.

I had taken her to a hospital where a doctor had pronounced her “terminal.” Expecting her to die, they kept Mother five days. But, she rallied.

She still could not walk or talk, but her vital signs were better. Mother would have to convalesce with me in Grand Rapids before going on.

In 1995, Hospice listed hundreds ahead of me. Medical services to the homebound were virtually unknown. On day six, the hospital transferred Mother to a rehab center.

Mother ended her days on that eight-bed ward. Luckily, her bed stood by a window, and on the seventh floor, she could see lots of sky.

Images from that rehab flashed though my mind: a white curtain drawn around Mother’s bed for privacy, colorful scripture-quote cards stuck in the vent next to her bed, and nurses’ aides working quietly on squeaky rubber-soled shoes.

Since she had rallied, I figured Mother was going to pull through this episode as she had others. When released, she would have to stay with me in Michigan until she could finish her journey to Indiana.

I called around to find medical equipment: a hospital bed and–maybe–oxygen. I discovered I needed a doctor to prescribe it, or at least direct me to a supplier. For sure, I wanted services like Mother had in Florida: visiting nurse and home health aide. Again, a doctor had to arrange all that.

Since Mother had no regular doctor in town to refer her, and I had no connections in the medical community, I was not getting very far.

Meanwhile, Mother’s days were long. She was not well enough to read and napped a lot. To help her pass the time, I took her the little TV she had given me. I knew she liked to watch “The Price is Right” and “The Young and the Restless.”

It just fit on the wide marble windowsill and its rabbit ears picked up two local stations. At least the TV chatter kind of drowns out the lady who moans and the other who cries.

The main memory I carry is Mother lying still against white sheets, her freckled body still and warm when I arrived an hour after she died.

The cable installer shook his head at the snowy TV still trying to scan. “It doesn’t appear to be picking up anything.”

I thought of getting that TV. Visiting me, more than twenty years earlier, Mother shook her head at my small black-and-white TV. She declared, “You need color!”

During that visit, she bought me the little color TV. Now Mother and the little old TV are alike in a way–neither are picking up the signals of this world.

“It’s OK.” I told the cable man. “I can get a new one.”

In that way, the old TV and Mother differ. I can never replace my mother.

But, in memory, I still “get” her signal vividly. Her image and voice are clear–not snowy at all.

I am blessed.

Frances Fritzie

Frances Fritzie

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