My mother was born on February 12, 1909. She would always joke about sharing a birthday with Abe Lincoln as if they shared the same year of birth as well as the same month and day.
Today would have been her 91st birthday, but she died in August of 1989.
She had a twin sister who had died about ten years before her. Actually her mother had given birth to triplets, but the third baby died shortly after birth. Mom was the last one left of seven children (counting two who died in infancy).
Although, as was quite common in those days, she had to leave school during tenth grade, she had a lifelong love of learning and reading and had often dreamed of becoming a teacher. Instead, she worked in a shirt factory, married my father, struggled through the Depression, had two children -- I was born in 1943 when my mother was 34; my brother was born in 1946 when she was 37 -- was housewife and mother, Sunday school teacher, church organist and pianist (self-taught), grandmother of five. When a community college was established in our town my brother and I often tried to persuade her to enroll in some courses, perhaps even get a degree, but she would just say that was for us young people.
Her years in the shirt factory paid off in incredible skill with a sewing machine. When I was young she often made my clothes. I can still remember a cowboy style shirt (with snaps instead of buttons, how cool!) that she made for me when I was in first grade. I loved that shirt and was so proud that my mother had made it. Years later, she made a Star Trek uniform for my oldest child, making him the envy of his friends. She often made her own clothes, knowing that she could make her own suits and dresses with higher quality and workmanship than could be found in stores. She would sometimes note various flaws and imperfections in name brand shirts I had purchased. And, on a couple occasions, she sent in corrections to companies that printed sewing patterns, pointing out errors in their patterns.
Mom was very athletic. She had played basketball as a teen and young adult. I've a snapshot from my parents' 50th wedding anniversary party of my mother and two of her former teammates from the Kingston Artistics women's basketball team, posed with baseketballs. She was also a bowler, a member of the local women's bowling hall of fame, winner of countless trophies. When she died she was still carrying an average of 147 in one of the two summer leagues to which she belonged and had just, reluctantly, decided to cut back that fall to two leagues instead of her usual three (because of concern over driving in icy winter weather and her dislike of having to call upon others to drive her in bad weather).
She had seemed to be in excellent health, not a hint of any problem. She did not look or act like an eighty year old woman; most people who did not know her actual age assumed that she was in her early or mid-sixties. When my brother called me to tell me that she had just suffered a heart attack and was being taken to a hospital by ambulance, my first assumption was that our father was the one who was ill and that my brother was so shaken up that he had gotten scrambled up in attempting to talk with me. I quickly left work and drove to Kingston, joining my father and brother and sister-in-law at the hospital, where Mom had spent hours in severe discomfort, lying on a gurney in the ER, waiting for a transfer to the cardiac intensive care unit. The next day she seemed comfortable and relaxed, although tired. After an afternoon visit in the CCU I returned home. The next day I went to work. That night I received a call from my sister-in-law: the hospital had just called my brother that there was a problem. I called the hospital and got through to the CCU. I asked the nurse what was my mother's condition and instead of answering me she said "Just a moment. You will have to speak with doctor." and I knew that Mom was gone.
She had suffered a massive and fatal heart attack -- while asleep, they claimed, so that she never felt any pain, but we remembered how much pain she had told us the first attack had caused and we didn't believe the hospital, they were merely trying to help, to have us believe that she had simple gone peacefully in her sleep.
I miss her terribly. Almost eleven years and yet... My brother and I have admitted to each other that secretly, inside, we think of her as still being at home, waiting for us to visit, come in, sit down, have a cup of coffee, how are the grandchildren, here are some fresh baked cookies... Almost eleven years and the lump in my throat hurts and tears come to my eyes because I know that isn't true.
She would have been delighted at how her grandchildren have grown... Jennifer reminds me in some ways of my mother (and Sean, all I have to do is look at him and I know exactly what my father must have looked like at that age!)... so just think of the many good times... our annual trip to New York City when we were kids (saving up loose change in a coin bank all year long, taking the train into the city, going to Radio City Music Hall, eating in an Automat, going to the top of the Empire State Building), not to mention our annual county fair trips... the ways she would try to teach us and guide us and entertain us, yet always letting us be kids, free to run off and play with our buddies... family fishing and camping trips... her singing... she had a lovely voice... I can still hear her singing ("sweet and low, breezes blow, over the western sea...").
Happy birthday, Mom...