The family was gathering at our house on Christmas Eve and my mom had yet to arrive. In the past year she'd begun showing up uncharacteristically late for things: Mother's Day brunch, dental appointments and, most recently, picking up her grandson from school.
It was snowing hard and she didn't answer her cell phone. I pictured her Mazda in a ditch -- much the same as I did when my teenager wasn't home by curfew.
My mother finally stumbled through the front door, stomping fresh snow from her feet, and I gave her a big hug of relief. But when she plopped down on the steps in the hall to pull off her puffy, black winter boots, my sister-in-law and I locked eyes in shared disbelief.