Tipping the paper cup to my lips, I took a long swig from the tiny tear in the plastic lid.

Tipping the paper cup to my lips, I took a long swig from the tiny tear in the plastic lid.

"Yuck!" I said. "That is nasty cappuccino. It tastes like it has been in the pot all day or maybe all week."

I stared at the cup for a couple of seconds after pulling into the parking space at Marietta Memorial Hospital.

I really needed caffeine.

I did not take time to make coffee at the farm before heading to the hospital to check on Mom, and I had been up late the previous couple of nights while rising long before dawn.

It felt like I was coasting on adrenalin, but the adrenalin was not doing the job.

I tipped the cup to my lips once more.

Raqueal, my 10-year-old great-niece, turned to look out the window so I would not notice the humor in her face, but she could not hold back the laughter.

"You remind me of Elliott, Aunt Cat," she said.

For a second I thought of our family friend, Elliott.

Not once in all the years I have known him have I seen him drink cappuccino.

"She must be referring to his constant complaints," I thought.

Then I decided she might be talking about a friend at school.

"Who?" I asked.

"Elliott," she said. "You know, the deer in 'Open Season 2.'"

Much to my niece's amazement, I had no idea what she was talking about.

I knew "Open Season" was an animated movie, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I didn't even know there was a sequel.

"Elliott does this," she said, moving a bottle of chocolate milk to her lips and taking a quick swig before pulling away from it. "Yuck!"

She repeated the act about three times and added, "It tastes so good and so bad at the same time."

Elliott, according to my niece, is also a cappuccino drinker, but caffeine is caffeine.

Raqueal was on a roll as she thought about the animated movie character.

"Elliott has one antler," she said. "He says, "I'm half doe, half buck, I'm a duck.'"

"You better duck," I threatened as I made a half-hearted attempt at slugging her as we climbed out of the car.

I pulled my computer bag over my right shoulder, along with my purse and handed her the Pendleton overnight bag containing a toothbrush and change of clothes for Mom.

When Raqueal learned I was going to the hospital to check on Mom, she wanted to go.

"Honey, I don't know how long I'm going to be there," I said. "They may let her come home or they may keep her another day. It may mean sitting all day long at the hospital."

"I don't care," she said. "I want to see Big Mammaw."

She was the one who bestowed the nickname on my mother when she was just tiny.

Raqueal, my brother's firstborn grandchild, has been the light of our lives ever since the day she came into the world prematurely.

Her mother, who had a difficult time with delivery, remained in Marietta at the hospital while Raqueal was sent by Life Flight to Children's Hospital.

For the next couple of days I kept company with Raqueal at the hospital, reaching into the incubator and stroking her tiny back with my index finger while talking nonstop. The nurses said the sound of my voice and feel of my touch was comforting to the infant.

Now she keeps company with me, talking nonstop.

Raqueal and her younger sister Heather, stayed at my mother's house on July 20 after she developed chest pains and dizziness, as my brother had his wife call me and he started up the SUV. It was quicker for Allen to drive Mom to the hospital than to wait for an ambulance to get to our house, since the closest fire house is 15 minutes away.

Mom has had two heart surgeries since September, so the latest symptoms scared us.

"Mammaw went to the hospital and then nobody called to tell us anything," Raqueal said of the previous day's events during our hour drive to Marietta. "Heather and I thought Mammaw might not be coming back."

It was her way of expressing the fear that her great-grandmother might have died.

"That's my fault," I said. "We were waiting on the doctors and didn't know what was happening, so I didn't call because there was nothing to tell you. I should have known you would be worried."

I know how grueling the drive to Marietta from Marysville was for me.

The Union County Commissioners had finished their meeting early on July 20 and I went to my car to look up a telephone number so I could squeeze in an interview with the available time, and the cell phone rang. My sister-in-law said my brother was on the way to the hospital with my mother and explained the symptoms.

After calling my editor, I dialed the number of Marietta Memorial and told them my mother, who has a heart condition, was due to arrive in about 45 minutes. I let no grass grow under the wheels of my car as I buzzed down U.S. 33 hit Interstate-270, I-70 and finally I-77.

It usually takes three hours and 15 minutes to get to Marietta from Marysville, but on that particular day I was willing to risk being pulled over by a trooper

When my father and fiancée suffered from heart attacks, I was too far away to reach them before they died. I am bound the same will not happen with my mother.

When I walked into the intensive care unit off of the emergency room and spotted my mother hooked up to oxygen, an EKG and other monitoring devices, she sent a withering look in the direction of my brother.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

"I didn't want to miss the party," I said.

Allen looked at the clock and arched an eyebrow.

"I got slowed down by construction," I said, causing him to grin.

"Since you're here, why don't you see if you can find me a cup of coffee," Mom said.

Caffeine was an absolute no-no, according to the medical staff.

The next day before and after her stress test she continued to complain about not having coffee.

Late in the afternoon she received her first cup of weak coffee. Mom's coffee is usually so strong it will knock you down. She turned up her nose and said, "Yuck."

Raqueal and I exchanged a humorous look as Mom took another sip.

Even when it's bad, caffeine is good.

Cathy Wogan is a staff writer for ThisWeek Community Newspapers.