Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Remembering Mom

Baby Helen, about age 2
I am thinking about my mother today. She lived through such a lot in her lifetime; her life was dominated by change, adversity, and hard work. And through it all she remained a loving, caring wonderful mother and human being.

She was born in 7 December 1918 when World War I was nearing its end and lived a long life, experiencing ever-so-much. Her mother had been raised during the Victorian era and she raised her two daughters and one son with the same strict standards. It was a loving home but one ruled with high standards, schedules, and old time manners.

Helen Mae Truxes Dyte age 18
Mom's youth was spent witnessing the events of the Roaring Twenties and I like to think her fashion sense came from those glamorous days. She was a beautiful woman, both inside and out.

Helen May and Kathryn Truxes
She was 11 when the onset of the Great Depression began in 1929, and she was 21 when it ended, spending her formative years watching her parents struggle to make ends meet and worrying about her future and that of her younger sister, Kathryn.
In that same year, 1939, the United States entered World War II, so her twenties were spent in yet another era of austerity and change.
Mom was only 19 years old when she had her first child, my eldest sister, Elizabeth.

Baby Elizabeth and Mom
She went on to have seven more children and lost two of them. Her infant daughter, Helen, died of a birth defect, spina bifida. Baby Helen was in the hospital for six months following her birth. Mom walked to the hospital every day carrying bottles of her breast milk to feed her baby hoping one day to return home with the child. Baby Helen only lived for six months.
Her son, Todd, died sadly at about age 18 months, of appendicitis.
If she would discuss these two lost children with you, no matter how many years had passed, nor her age, she would cry still; the pain was that intense and her wound still raw after so many, many years. She never forgot, nor wanted to forget, those two children whom she loved so dearly.

Elizabeth and Mom
Baby Priscilla, Baby Susan, and Mom
Pearl Harbor was attacked on 7 December 1941 - mom's birthday - and she was only just turning 23 years old with her little four-year-old daughter to worry about. What was the future to hold for her and her siblings soon to follow?

I can't imagine living through such decades of change without it negatively affecting your personality, yet, my mother was a loving, kind, warm person. She lived for her family and loved her children more than anything else in this world.
She loved gardening and had a 'green thumb'. She had a natural way with making things grow and add beauty to her world.Not a wonderful cook, but her baking skill were top notch. She could bake a mean pumpkin pie, which we called, 'lead' pies because they were so heavy. But they tasted more like heaven!
That's the family in 1956! Mom was holding me, and Elizabeth was holding my infant brother, Tim. Priscilla, Sue, and Deborah are in the front row. Even dad got in the picture via his shadow!

When we were growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, at a time when most moms were, what we call today, 'stay-at-home moms' my mother worked in a hospital. She would care for us during the day, sleep a few hours in the evening once my dad returned home from work, and then head out for an all night late shift at the hospital. She worked to make our lives better and help to make ends meet. I can't imagine how she managed it.

Did I mention she had only a hand-operated wringer washer and no automatic dryer?
She would carry laundry down from the second floor to the basement, wash it and put it through the wringer to squeeze out the excess water. Then she would climb up to the attic with the clothes and hang them on lines up there. In the summer, she had a clothesline in the garden, but winters were all about that four flight climb to do the washing for a family of eight.
It was when using this machine that she had an accident and put her hands through the wringer, crushing her bones and requiring surgery.

Despite hands damaged and arthritic from the accident, she still somehow managed to knit, crochet and sew. When we were very young, she sewed clothing for us. I can remember her making nightgowns for the girls and that the luxurious cotton flannel from which they were made, was warm and wonderful on cold winter nights. They were so full you could wrap your body up in them like a blanket. Store-bought nighties were never any good after having those glorious homemade ones.

Mom loved country rides and it was on one such occasion that I learned of her love of animals, too. I mean, let's face it, I knew she loved cats, and dogs, and birds, but on this day she pulled off to the side of the road to rescue a turtle who was meandering across it. She was so concerned about helping the turtle, she drove her car into a ditch.
Thinking nothing about that, and only about the turtle, she quickly got out of the car and stepped up to the turtle, gingerly lifting it up and then placing it on the grass by the road's edge.
Her car had to be rescued by AAA. Forever after, she would be reminded that she needed to 'watch the turtle' if she got too close to the edge of a road.

Dad and Mom back in the early days
Mom became a widow at age 47. With five children still living at home, and the youngest only 9 years old, she had a lot to learn. My dad had managed everything in their marriage, during his lifetime - all household expenses and bill paying - everything. Mom hadn't even learned to drive until she was in her forties.
My mom didn't know how to write a personal check and I know she never learned how to balance her checkbook. But it was all on her now and her world was falling apart. It was a difficult time for all of us. But she somehow managed, and we all lived through it, grew-up and moved on with our own lives, and our own families.
And that is how it is supposed to be, isn't it?

My beautiful mom
If mom was still here with us today, she would be 92 years old. And my dad would be 100!
She passed away on 4 August 1998, 12 years ago today.
It was from my mother that I learned about family and love and about what the important things are in life. She was and will always be my inspiration and my 'hero'.
I am so proud that she was my mom and that I am her daughter.
I miss her each and every day.

You may have lots of friends, a loving family and children of your own, but you will always have only one mom. Cherish her always, and tell her you love her. And just for me, today, give her a big hug, too.