This is one of my favorite pictures of my mom. She was thrilled to be bathing her 1st grandchild, Vince. He looks happy about it all, too, doesn't he. It was the 1st time she had seen us since he and his brother were born a few months earlier. She had flown out to Salt Lake City to be part of the birth, to help support me at 19 years old and far from home. Se was 68 years old, and this was her very 1st flight, in July 1972. This picture was taken the following summer when we came back East to visit our folks. Mom lived in Lancaster, Ohio, where this picture was taken.
Doesn't she have a great smile, and I gotta tell you she was always on the leading edge of fashion. Those glasses were NOT the style of the day.
She loved being a mom and a grandmom, and I was and am so lucky that Dad married her and brought her into my life after my natural mother passed from injuries suffered in a horrific car accident which had left my family devastated and me motherless at 5 years old. My older sisters were in their 20s then, and I was sent to live with one of them while Dad went back to work after his release from the hospital. A couple of years later, Dad started dating again. I recall a few of these "dates" that he was set up with by his brothers and sisters hoping to find a suitable lady who wanted to take on child-rearing in their 50s....none of them warmed to me until he met Mom. She had never had children but had always wanted them. Then she was met Dad, and me, through long-time friends.
She was the youngest of 5 children and grew up on a farm in Central Ohio in the early 1900s--born January 1, 1905. She was still at home when her father was killed, and they couldn't run the farm any longer. She and her mother moved into town, and then her mom had a stroke. She became her mom's caretaker and a breadwinner, too. She got a job as a telephone operator, working nights, and helping her mom during the days. She had a boyfriend, Lester, who had a heart attack and died early in life, they never married. While he was alive, they would go out to see the Big Bands like Benny Goodman, Harry James, Guy Lombardo, and all the big names that came to the area to play their music. She loved to dance and sing and have fun, and she and Lester had some very close friends from this time of their lives. She referred to her friends as "the gang" and they would travel together and throw many parties, and she came to know my parents through some of these get-togethers via mutual friends. So, when my mom died, mutual friends invited her and Dad to a few card parties, and they started seeing each other.
That's how we became a family. Before they married, I remember going to her home one summer to stay for about a week. I LOVED going to her place. She had a yellow tabby named Pammy even though he ended up being a boy-cat, and lots of Felix the Cat and Betty Boop comic books. She used to babysit for her best friend's little girl, Cheryl, before I came along, so she had a bunch of toys on hand for Cheryl that I could play with when I came to visit. She had a closet under the stairs and there was shelving filled with all the dolls, books, crayons, marbles, jacks, jump rope, chalk for the sidewalk and doll house! She also had a round rug knitted out of t-shirts of bright colors in that closet, and I would lay on that little rug for hours and play. She taught me how to sew doll-dresses for a doll she bought just for me. She also taught me to garden and she had a great car (she named Bessy) .... an ugly green one with a crank in the front. She would take me for rides in the country singing old songs and hymns while she shifted and down-shifted this green beast without a radio. We would hop in and go downtown to shop, go to a movie, then get ice cream sundaes at Risch's Drug Store. It was Heavenly. We spent most of our time in her kitchen. Bright and cheery.... cherries on the white ruffled curtains, and she made the most wonderful cakes and cookies. We had so much fun, and I felt so relaxed and easy there. It was a home filled with love, even though she lived there alone.
Mom and Dad dated a couple of years, then married in 1960. We all moved in together in Dad's house that we had just moved into before the accident. She sold her house, and I moved out of my sister's house. Finally, I was going back home after 3 long years. We lived in the old house for a couple of years until Dad retired, then we moved to the Cottage, a summer place he had purchased at a nearby lake/recreational area. That's where we lived until I left home after graduation. We were pretty happy there, even though our family was "unique"....with Mom and Dad old enough to be my grandparents....they didn't quite fit into the school functions.
Then, one morning when I was 16, I woke to hear Mom calling out for help. She had suffered a major stroke during the night, and was paralyzed on one side and unable to speak. Dad called the doctor who came right away and told us there was nothing to do but help her relearn how to function. He put her on blood thinners, and told us to bring her in every week to his office for awhile. He came back to check on her the next day, then we were on our own. He didn't hold out much hope to us in private, but she got to work. Now, I don't recall much about caring for her because I still had to go to school, and continued in band which kept me at school until 6 in the evening. After that, Dad had to fix supper, and we both got her ready for bed every night. Her care fell mostly on Dad. She got better. It took her a couple of years, but she regained her speech and writing abilities. Her leg muscles atrophied, so she always walked unevenly and had to wear special shoes, but she did it without complaint. Soon, it was almost like she never had the stroke -- to the outside world -- but to us, we knew what she went through. She and Dad divorced after I left home. It was not a surprise, they had been having troubles before the stroke, and after that, their marriage was beyond repair. She went onto to live on her own to see all four of her grandchildren born. She helped me raise my boys, even though her health was faltering, and we all spent as much time together as we could.
After I remarried in 1977, it was my turn for taking her on long drives in the country nearly every week, stopping to gather some cattails, viewing a vista, or visiting a new nursery in a nearby town. We went grocery shopping and clothes shopping together, and I would drive her to her to see the doc. On the weekends, we all would walk across the street to her house and play cards, sing, watch tv, and let her cook her fabulous meals for us. Many times she would come over to our place to see my garden, or put up with my attempts at baking pies, but it became an increasing struggle to walk even that far with her bum-leg. She continued to teach me to garden, and cook, and how to live on the sunny side as much as possible. It was a good time. After her last stroke, I tried to care for her as best I could, but I threw my back out lifting her one day, and had to bring in helpers to stay with her while I was at work and in the evenings. After dealing with a cruel and deceitful girl briefly, but sadly far too long, we found two very nice ladies that took great care of her for as long as we could afford it. We finally had to place her in a nursing home, which broke her heart, and mine. She lived there a few months, after her roommate threw a heavy television onto her as she slept (the state had closed down many of its mental hospitals, and these patients were placed in nursing homes, and that was the case with Mom's roommate). She never recovered, and succumbed to pneumonia a few weeks later. Her older sister and I were by her side when she took her last breath. I thank God for the time he allowed me with this strong and loving woman.