This is my mom.
The photo was taken for her high school graduation from the small rural school she attended from first grade on.
She was born just a few months before the big stock market crash of 1929, and grew up on her parents' chicken farm in Ohio
during the Great Depression.
Mom's mother was the daughter of a schoolteacher.
She's the one in the back row on the far left,
shown here with some of her school chums...
...and with other friends in this photo,
where she's standing on the far right.
Here's Grandma again, as a married woman with a large family.
If she looks like she was a no-nonsense woman,
it's because she was!
Maybe she had to be; it was the depression,
and times were hard.
But Grandma definitely ruled the clan,
well into the 1990s.
Though there were good times, I know Mom had few extravagances during her childhood. There are very few photographs of her growing up, and the ones that do exist show a sober, unsmiling girl:
|Mom and her older sister. Mom would have been about 10 or 11 years old in this picture.|
One sad story my mom has told me was that she had only one doll in her life, and just a few weeks after receiving it, the family went to visit some distant relatives and Grandma made her give her doll away to one of the girls there, promising to get her another one.
"I guess they were poorer than we were," Mom surmised.
But she never got the promised replacement doll.
After graduation, Mom studied briefly at a secretarial school and lived at the local YWCA. There wasn't enough money for her to finish the course, though.
Here she is, at age 18, looking glamorous with a new short haircut:
Shortly afterward, she married my Dad, wearing a gown
sewn by her older sister,
and which (she told me privately) she didn't like!
Mom and Dad had the typical big post-WWII family.
Those were the "baby boomer" years.
Mom said that every time you left the maternity ward with a new baby, the nurses would call out cheerfully, "See you next year!"
I can't imagine, and I had four of my own!
My mom has always been an intensely private person,
but with us kids she was a lot of fun.
She read aloud to us, recited poetry to us, sewed clothes for us, cooked fabulous meals, and made sure we had wonderful Christmases since she never did have any.
She kept a spotless house and even made that fun.
I have wonderful memories of the spring and fall floor waxing.
She'd put on a stack of records, wrap the dust mop in old towels, let me sit on it, and then she'd whirl me around the floor as she polished. It was so much fun!
There was always homemade bread, fresh cookies,
and a yard full of flowers. And lots of classical music on the stereo.
Was she perfect? Of course not. But she did a lot of things right.
In the end, that's all any parent can do.
My mom didn't have friends, per se. But she had us.
And she had her brothers, her sister, and my grandparents.
She had my dad's family, too, but she wasn't especially crazy about them, though I never could figure out why. In later years I've learned a lot about Asperger's Syndrome, and realized it runs rampant in the family. I wouldn't be surprised to learn she's somewhere on that spectrum.
|At Grandma & Grandpa's house with a gang of relatives. That's me at the gate, wearing glasses. Mom is the dark-haired lady in the brown turtleneck. As usual, she is not overjoyed at being photographed!|
|A family Christmas visit to relatives on my dad's side of the family. I'm sitting with Mom in the chair.|
I don't think I had any idea how glamorous my mother really was when I was growing up.
I was in the 5th grade when this photo was taken.
My parents divorced in the 1970s after nearly 27 years of marriage.
Mom worked as a bookkeeper for various construction companies, and later in a managerial capacity for a large manufacturing concern. But she gave that up when my grandparents got older and needed her live-in help.
|My mom with her mom, about 1990.|
When my two oldest kids were very young, Mom went to help out my younger sister's family. Eventually they all ended up in South Carolina. Mom more or less raised my nephews and niece.
|Mom with my nephew before moving away.|
My kids didn't get much chance to know their grandmother when they were growing up, apart from a very few short visits.
Madeline, the oldest, knows her best, though she was quite young when Mom departed for southern climes.
|Myself with Madeline, 1985.|
I went back to visit last month.
|Madeline and I, April 2014.|
Mom is in the last stages of lung cancer.
She has, most likely, less than two months to live.
She spends her days quietly, reading, watching television, and cuddling up with Madeline's little dog, Lilith.
She spends time praying and reading the Bible.
|Mom and me; ages 84 and 56 respectively.|
Not to get sticky about it, but this will be the last Mother's Day that I have a mom here on earth,
though we will spend eternity together in heaven,
where there's no cancer, no old age, and no emotional barriers or physical distance to keep people apart.
(Nobody was more stunned or surprised than I was when my mother became a Christian in her early fifties, though I'd been praying she would for years prior. How thankful I am for her faith! It's been a blessing to share this bond with her over the years.)
Now, neither one of us is particularly sentimental in the accepted sense; neither of us has much truck with celebrating pre-fab holidays like Mother's Day. We do, however, both believe in candy, so I sent Mom some for a treat, hoping to tempt her appetite.
And so the generational cycle goes on.
I have four fine grown children, two dear little granddaughters, and a lot of excellent (and the customary share of dubious!) memories. I haven't quite wrapped my head around the thought of my mom being gone soon, but I'm at peace with it for the most part.
We've had a good run.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This post is dedicated to my life's greatest achievements:
|My brood, youngest to oldest, circa 2000. The kids were on their way to a piano recital.|