THE MARGUERITE CHRONICLES: June 23, 2018
A couple of years ago, Chip and Katie gave Memomma a coffee mug all her own, big and bold, pink with white stripes, and the slogan “QUEEN FOR A DAY” — a perfect gift for the coffee-guzzler Daddy loved to call Queenie. In keeping with the name, the mug held a queen-sized serving of hot java. If you knew my mama, you knew she wanted a LOT of coffee, at every meal, three times a day, no matter the season, plus several cups in between. And if we were in a restaurant, she’d order a glass of water on the side. Not that she drank the water — she’d grab a spoon and fish a couple of ice cubes out of the glass to cool down the coffee. And then she’d ask the waitress to warm it up with a refill, and start the drill all over again.
Mama enjoyed her “Queen for a Day” mug, even after we placed an “OUT OF ORDER” sign on the Keurig when she forgot how to operate it. My husband, George, fixed coffee for her often, to keep her from overflowing the Keurig with extra water, and by brewing it for her, fooled her into using doctor-ordered de-caf so we could all get some sleep. But, to paraphrase Daddy, that was sort of like tinkling in the ocean. None of us ever got any sleep. George quietly helped me take care of Mom for more than three years, and whenever I thanked him, he answered, “She was never anything but nice to me.”
Four months after Mama’s last cup of coffee, I walked into the living room and noticed that the Queen mug was up on the mantelpiece, right next to my Williamsburg candlesticks, where it didn’t match a thing. What? I couldn’t believe somebody — probably one of the grandkids, who love to grab a slightly naughty brew at Grandmommy’s house — had left a dirty cup of coffee up on the mantel to mold, so I stepped up on the hearth to grab it.
But I heard a shout, and my my hand stopped in mid-air.
“What are you doing?” George hollered from the sofa, and this is a man who rarely raises his voice.
“I’m taking this coffee cup back to the kitchen.”
“NO. You can’t.”
“I can’t? I couldn’t imagine why not — we may not be the most OCD people in the world, but we don’t normally leave dirty dishes lying around the house. I looked into the cup, puzzled. Not a drop of khaki-colored brew. Clean as a whistle.
“What’s the problem. Why not?”
“It’s retired,” he smiled. “RE-TIRED.”
And I cried.