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A lazy day with nothing to be done would have been nice. Once we learned the storm line'd be passing through in the afternoon, we cancelled our movie plan, so there was that out of the way.

But just because it's Christmas doesn't mean they cancelled Tuesday, and I've got a regular date.

Made up the cornbread late in the morning, a little light on the jalapenos. She's getting a little delicate since we had to put her in the care home. Never got her legs back working and the independent living place didn't want the risk.

She knows it's the last stop and, though her spirit still shows now and again, she's fading. "I can feel I'm going down," she said today. "I don't think I'll be here much longer."

Kind of hope she's right. Someone with so much spirit, it's hard to see her trapped in this terribly uncooperative, 92-year-old fleshbox, especially knowing what she used to be, a hard-drinking, hard-loving, hard-fighting woman who never asked for anything and made clear to any man who thought her a pushover that short don't mean small.

She'd worked for some of the meanest mob fronts in the Quarter and never gotten stuck. She'd weathered every storm anyone living can remember, paid her own way and kept her mind.

But her body's betrayal's a hard blow, a body that had brought her so many stories and so much fun. It just doesn't follow orders anymore. Makes it hard to find reasons to stick around.

The cornbread's one of the last reasons. She swears by my cornbread, though it's just the recipe on the side of the cornmeal box. Still she says it's the best she's ever had. Nobody else makes it like that.

So, every Tuesday, I make a pan and cut it into squares, wrap it still warm in foil and drive across town to the home. We'll sit and talk, her in her wheelchair or lying in bed. We'll talk about her friends, living and dead, from the neighborhood she no longer shares, talk about her wild days as a "fancy girl" in the Quarter, b-girling for Frank Caracci and Nick Carno, about her two husbands and all the other men during and between, those she had to cut and those she had to bury.

And, before long, she asks, "You brought my cornbread?"

She'll eat a couple of pieces, praising it as the finest cornbread ever created, then watch as I wrap it up and set it on the side table where she can find it later.

We'll talk a little more, mostly awkwardly letting each other know how very much we love each other. And then I'll go, promising to return. With more cornbread.

She was pretty frail today. Her talk of going down isn't melodrama. Just the facts, ma'am.

But we're polite enough not to upset one another dwelling on that. More important to make sure the love part gets said.

Course it came down on me anyway, in big, cold, splattering drops, like the rain flicked away by the wipers keeping time to James Andrews on the radio, singing about Christmastime in New Orleans.

It's just the recipe on the side of the box. But she swears it's the best anybody's ever made.

Originally posted to Crashing Vor on Tue Dec 25, 2012 at 01:51 PM PST.

Also republished by Pink Clubhouse, Louisiana Kossacks, and Personal Storytellers.

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