My mother-in-law, Trish, lived the last two and a half years of her life in a memory care facility. Every month, the facility had a special themed party for residents and their families. In July of 2018, at a western-themed party, Trish and I won our first and only corn-shucking trophy. I remember it like it was yesterday.
I never knew what to expect when I went to these parties. Sometimes I would get off work early and drive across Dallas in rush hour traffic only to find that my mother-in-law wasn’t up for a party. One time I showed up a little late and she was already in her pajamas getting ready to call it a night. Other times I would find her sitting in her quiet dining area, away from the noise of the main room where the party was being held. But when I arrived this time, she was already at the party, enjoying the musical entertainment.
Since Trish seemed to be in the mood for a party that evening, I volunteered us for the corn-shucking competition. Trish grew up in Iowa, and she liked to cook, so I figured she would enjoy shucking some fresh corn on the cob.
The activities director set up the competition in the middle of the room. Six residents, all ladies, sat in a row at a long table. Corn, still in the husk of course, was piled high in front of each of the contestants. But this was a team competition, as each resident was assisted by a family member. Our job was to clean up the husks and deposit them in large trash cans about 15 feet away. Our running back and forth between the table and the trash cans made it feel like a relay race.
When Trish heard “ready, set, go,” she started shucking. No one had to show her how. She was back in her kitchen in Iowa, preparing a meal for her husband and their three children on a sunny summer afternoon.
She pulled off husk after husk. And I cleaned up the table as fast as I could, barely able to keep up with her. When time was up, Trish had cleaned 11 ears of corn, and she was beaming. Then she asked me: “Can we cook these now?”
It didn’t matter at all to us that two of the other ladies had shucked about 20 ears of corn in the same amount of time. We still won a trophy. Trish took it back to her room and found a nice spot for it on her windowsill, where it stayed for the rest of her life. And we never once called it our third-place consolation prize. We just called it “our corn-shucking trophy.”