May 8 is Terry’s birthday. May 12 was Mother’s Day this year. May 16 was my mom’s birthday. She was born in 1925, and was part of that Great Generation. She was widowed at 68, and for a while I don’t think she really wanted to go on living. But, while she never got over missing my dad, she did get through her period of unbearable grief and went on to live almost 20 more years.
When I think of Mom, so many things come to mind. Right now, I’m thinking of her losses.
Her mother died of typhus when mom was just 22. I have no memory of my maternal grandmother. I was just one year old. But I certainly remember the way my mom loved her mother so much, and talked about what a kind and loving woman she was. I think Mom missed her for the rest of her life.
Mom and Dad married when she was 16 and he was 19. He went off to war, and there’s a lot of story to be told there. But not now.
I’m pretty sure she had at least one miscarriage when my sister and I were small. I have very vague memories of my dad carrying her out of our apartment and a neighbor coming in to stay with us. Mom loved babies, and that would have been a terrible loss for her.
There was a long period when there were no deaths to interrupt her normal life, but I remember, when I was about 14, a very dear friend of hers died of leukemia. Mom grieved for her, and I was old enough to feel that loss for her.
During the first couple of years I was married, Mom’s stepmother died. We all loved her. To us, she was Grandma Millie, a big-hearted soul who loved to take care of people. It wasn’t long afterward that her father was hit and run over by an empty gravel truck. He was severely hurt, but he was a tough little guy and he survived. When he died, she felt the loss. But it’s in the natural order of things, and she was a grandmother by then, a position she absolutely loved.
She lost both my dad’s parents, and she loved them, too.
But then she lost my dad. That was the very worst. I’ll never forget her calling me at midnight, 1 a.m. her time, about six months after Dad died. She was crying so much that I barely understood her. We talked for a long time, and I tried to reassure her that it was normal for her to be grieving so hard. That it WOULD get better, but it would take more time than she had expected.
Fast forward. My brother John had a son, also John. He was a delight to my Mom. She adored him. And then he was gone, at age 23, in a car accident that killed him instantly. And we began to see her age more clearly.
Only nineteen months after that, my brother John died at age 49 in a one-car rollover. And I really believe, at that point, that my mom started living in the past a lot. She didn’t have Alzheimer’s, but there was some senility. Not all the time. But stories of all the men in her life that she loved became a central topic in her conversation.
Mom was a strong Christian, and she loved the Lord more than anything. I believe it was her love for Him, and her confidence in being reunited with her beloved husband and the others she had lost, that kept her going.
I was able to see her, together with my daughter, about two weeks before she died. She was so excited to see us. And then my son from Germany flew in, and she was over the moon about that. On July 4, there was a gathering at a dear friend’s house and we took Mom so she could be a part of it. She loved for me to play the piano, and my son, my sister and I sang for her, and then everyone joined in. She glowed with happiness that night.
Two weeks later, she was singing in the heavenly choir. She was 87 when she left this life for the one she’d been longing to see.
I still miss her. I used to call her almost every Saturday, and even after seven years I catch myself thinking, “I need to call Mom. It’s Saturday.”
I miss her, but I would never, ever want her to come back. She lived a long and full life, and she was ready to go. I’m glad she did.
It was quiet in the pool. Only one other lane held a swimmer. The water was perfect on that hot summer day–cool, not icy. Swimming relaxes and refreshes me. But I’ll never go back.
See the dimple about 2/3 of the way down the lane? That’s me. I stayed in one place for what seemed an eternity, while someone–something–held my feet. My nose was the only thing above the water.Couldn’t move at all.
And then, suddenly, I was free. Terrified, I sped to the ladder, hoisted myself up and ran.
It’s been so long since I posted. If you haven’t read the first five, you can find them in “Categories” on the right side of the page. You need to read from the bottom up.
We dated regularly for the rest of the summer of 1968. We did all sorts of things, sometimes nothing more than spreading a blanket on the grass somewhere for a picnic and hours of talking. He told me about his childhood in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and the summers he spent with his maternal grandmother in Eagle River, Wisconsin. He talked about the hunting he did with his dad and their friends. He loved the outdoors, and would still rathe be outside than inside. He absolutely doesn’t love the city. He would have moved me to Nowhere, Alaska if I’d been even slightly interested. I pictured gutting fish and moose; hanging sheets outdoors and having to bring them in frozen; and of course, using the outhouse in sub-zero weather. No. I don’t mind living in the country, but there are limits.
We both knew we were becoming very serious. We talked a lot about spiritual things, and Terry shared his sense of needing to study more, know more. He never liked to read before, but he loved reading his Bible.
Finally, in mid-August, he popped the question. I’ve written the story of his first attempt here, and I hope you’ll take a minute to go read it. It’s funny 🙂
The second attempt was after a long drive to a lovely park in Wisconsin. Beautiful setting, nice and breezy and cool because the sun was just about ready to fall into bed. He didn’t do the down-on-one-knee thing–I’m not sure he even knew that was customary. But he’d clearly thought it through, and was quite eloquent. And of course I said “YES!”
This photo was taken shortly after we were engaged:
It was a strange and desolate place. From the road, the building almost melted into the hillside. Its purpose was obscure. One could not tell how long the barbed wire fencing went, and so far there was no gate.
Patchy snow remained here and there, indicating the oncoming spring. Still, the only color was drab. Desolate. Dreary.
Then the driver mashed the brake pedal, a scream choking his throat! What had risen up from nothing was horrifying, monstrous. Man? Beast? Sci-fi monster? They loomed before the Humvee, pulsating, wordless.