Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

by Patricia Yarberry Allen

It is that time.  Mommie is 89 and then some.  She felt unwell and then worse.  Her careful local general doctor in her town referred her to the regional hospital in Campbellsville, Kentucky.  Mother is now a patient at the Taylor County Hospital there.  She has a great many diagnoses as her body is feeling its age and asking for an overhaul.  Mostly, she has congestive heart failure as the acute cause for admission and after 2 days is feeling much better with good evaluation and treatment.

My mother lived with me in New York City from 1978 until 1994.  She always kept her home in Kentucky but gave me the most incredible gift that a child could ever receive; she made a home for our family in New York and was the mother who did play dates that are still remembered, took us all to St. James Episcopal Church, made certain that her grandsons were confirmed, and taught them how to be famous Southern cooks from an early age.  She allowed me to be that which I was born to be, apparently, a doctor who had a terrible focus on caring for her patients.  The practice of medicine can be harsh to families, but Mommie made me a better mother, respected my capacity for being a great Auntie Mame, and joined in every hare-brained adventure with enthusiasm and determination to make it work.

Without Mother, how could we have had a “country home” in Knowlton Quebec, a seven hour drive from the city?  Such a long haul junket would never have worked if Mommie and Pirouette, her French Canadian maid of arms, had not created a romantic fantasy of home more glorious than any day to day home? There were 10 years of unofficial Canadian-American International softball competitions in Knowlton — organized by the oldest daughter, with hordes of good looking athletes from New York who came for every 4th of July to fight the Quebecoise for the trophy of Miss Liberty. There were picnics for 100 held in the backyard,dances at the rustic motorboat pit stop at the end of our street on Lac Brome, and more intrigue and gossip than Lucia could ever have imagined.

The men who loved Miss Edna remember her food. Fried chicken, homemade bread, the best potato salad, baskets of figs and strawberries and madelines just out of the oven, all created memories at the end of every event.  They came not just for the softball, the competitive 15 mile bike race around the lake, tennis, golf, swimming, skiing, eating and drinking; each one came to recapture a romantic and idealized younger self.

Mother adored these athletic men and I have sent them emails today to let them know that she would love to hear from them.  I want her to know that in this stage of her life that the memories that she created will survive.  I want her to know that she made a difference.  She gave us a chance to live as though we were perfect adolescents all the while we were struggling to be grown-ups in our 30’s and 40’s.

Memories do live on when we pass them down from generation to generation.  It was important today to include those “boys of the Canadian summer’’ in my emails to those who were part of Mother’s New York life, those guys who were part of these marvelous memories.  It was important to let them remember these summers, years and years after.

So, when they call Miss Edna to wish her well, it will be important to her to know that they remember her and the memories of those perfect summer days.  Madeleines never fail to invoke memories.  That is why she baked them.

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