I heard birds busily twittering and pecking at seeds in the birdfeeder when I returned to the living room. My 90-year-old mother sat in her upholstered rocking chair holding a baby monitor in her lap. From the neighbor’s farm, we heard the distant crowing of a rooster. Laughing, I marveled, “That baby monitor picks up everything! It’s like actually being outside.”
Mom bragged, “It’s better than being outside. We hear what’s going on inside the birdfeeder.”
I agreed with a nod, “That’s true. Until now I never knew how noisy pecking is, or how much birds squabble while they eat.”
Macular degeneration had taken most of my mother’s eyesight the year before. To help her, I’d started bathing Mom every Friday evening, refilling her pill box, paying bills and doing her laundry. My teenaged daughters often came with me to spend time with their beloved Grammie.
Years before, my two bachelor brothers who live with Mom, had bought a baby monitor system. They fastened the microphone half of the device under the roof of the bird feeder and gave the receiver to Mom. She could turn it on and listen to the birds whenever she wanted.
Kneeling next to the rocking chair, I began to rub lotion on Mom’s legs. She commented, “That feels good. After you went home last week, I sat here enjoying how nice my legs felt from being freshly washed and moisturized.”
I stood up and listed things I would bring with me on my next visit, ending with, “I’ll bring the foot bath so you can soak your feet before I cut and polish your nails.” Seeing that I was getting ready to leave, my daughters leaned down to give Grammie hugs. Mom turned and pulled a twenty-dollar bill off the table next to her chair and held it out to me.
Shaking my head, I refused, “Mom, that’s too much.”
Like a naughty child, Mom puckishly informed me, “I’m going to hold my breath until you take it!” Then, putting her lips together and puffing out her cheeks, she held her breath. My teenagers laughed.
Taking the bill, I scolded without heat, “You’re awful.”
It didn’t seem right taking money from Mom for doing the things I did. On the flip side, Mom could afford what she gave me and the Lord knew I needed the money. My husband and I always had loans to pay off.
Some people are frightened when their toddler has a tantrum and holds their breath. Breath-holding doesn’t kill a person. We’re programed to breathe, even when asleep, so if anyone holds their breath long enough to pass out, they will instinctively begin breathing again once unconscious.
I was curious about how long a person can hold their breath and found out that the average person can’t do it for even two minutes. That makes the Guinness World Record for breath-holding even harder to believe. Aleix Segura Vendrell of Barcelona, Spain held his breath for an incredible 24 minutes and three seconds in February 2016.
Through the years, my daughters have often laughed about how Grammie would frequently threaten to hold her breath to get her way.
When my sister Agnes moved back to Wisconsin after living in Texas for the last thirty years, she heard about Mom’s breath-holding trick.
The other night I had a family meal at my house. Agnes and I were the last ones to sit down at the table. One place had a regular dining room chair and the other had a small folding chair. True to our characters, we each insisted the other take the ‘better’ chair. Neither of us budged. In unison we said, “I’m going to hold my breath until you sit down on the good chair!” We puckered our lips and puffed out our cheeks.
Just as we started to hold our breaths, the bird clock on the dining room wall announced the hour with the twittering of a northern oriole. It was as if Mom was there telling us to behave. We burst out laughing. The contest was over.