It is a special day for a special woman. It is my beloved mother's 85th birthday!
She came into the world in a bedroom in their rented duplex home in Amagansett. She had two older sisters, one who was old enough to know what was happening, the other younger, and thinking that the baby's early cries were that of a cat wailing.
She tells me a story of being about three years old when the children were playing in the yard. She hopped up on the 'running board' on the passenger side of Mrs. Ryan's car. About that time, Mrs. Ryan started the car and carefully drove it to the post office about a half mile or so down the road, all the while unaware that her tiny neighbor was clinging with her little hands to hinges of the car door! All turned out well, but how grateful I am that it did! Had things gone another way, I might not be here to share this happening.
In 1938, a devastating hurricane hit the community. Mom was then in the seventh grade in the new brick school. She recalls standing in her upstairs classroom and watching out the windows as huge elm trees were toppled and uprooted, leaving gaping holes in the grass and pulling up sidewalks. The storm had caused deaths and destruction all over the coast, wiping out homes, stores and cars.
Mom had an active church life and youth group. She was a member of a group called Christian Endeavor. Her Christian salvation came during her mid teens, and she's lived that humble, quiet life ever after.
The high school years brought World War II. She saw a good many of her male school mates leave school and go into uniform to fight for their country. She was supportive of the war efforts, and became a Red Cross volunteer where she rolled bandages. She knitted sweaters, hats, socks and gloves for the soldiers.
After high school graduation, she worked for a time at Bulova Watch Factory where she got to know my father. She had gone to high school with him, and because the school was so small, she knew who he was, but didn't know him personally. They began to date, and before long, they knew they wanted to be married. Each could not have chosen a better mate for themselves. Though they certainly did not share the same opinion on everything, they were well matched.
They worked side by side for all the years they were given, she, taking care of three children and the home, and he working jobs to support his family.
Mom believed the adage, 'Idle hands are the devil's workshop.' She never had idle hands. During the hours when we were in school, she took care of the household chores, baked tasty cookies for our lunch boxes, she created quilts, sewed clothing for us all, and knitted mittens and sweaters for her family. She volunteered in many ways for many years. Many a child in an Appalachian orphanage wore clothing that she'd made and sent off to them. New babies born to mothers she'd never met were presented with layettes, sweaters and tiny afghans she'd knitted and donated to Birthright, an organization that helps unwed mothers. Somewhere a lonely serviceman in the Viet Nam War was reading her letters. A veteran somewhere sat in a wheelchair with his knees covered by a colorful laprobe created by Mom's hands. Large typed words sprung from a special typewriter while she typed books for the legally blind. Someone was rescued from the evils of alcohol because she made donations to a ministry who helped people with such problems. A child was able to go to church camp because of her help. I could go on, but you get the idea.
When Mom's youngest sister got sick in her early thirties, my mother shared the caring for her with her oldest sister, while still taking care of her own family and finding time to visit my elderly grandmother who was living in a nursing home after breaking her hip. When my youngest Aunt passed away from the cancer that ravaged her body, she left a sixteen year old girl and a twelve year old son. After a year of living with just their father, he chose to remarry and moved to a neighboring community. Because my cousin was in her last year of high school, Mom and Dad took her in to allow her to finish school with her class. Her brother went with their dad. Then, when my cousin was ready to marry, it was my Mom who helped her plan and accomplish her goal.
She saw Dad through two years of his cancer, and was devastated when he died. A few years later, another Aunt got cancer. Again, Mom was there to help her. Then, the oldest of her sisters also was stricken with cancer. Daily Mom was there to help, until my Aunt went to the hospital and slipped into her last sleep.
Today my special, caring, and loving mother lives with the challenges of being legally blind herself. She also suffers from some hearing loss, but still she is able to live independently. Oh, and independent she is! I live across the street from her, and I try to help as much as I can...or should I say 'as much as she will allow.' My brother and I share the transportation to doctor visits and grocery stores and other such trips. My brother mows her grass, my husband takes care of her landscape plants, and we often take her a prepared meal or have her come for dinner. But, for the most part, she takes care of herself.
I would have loved to gift her with something so meaningful, something that she would truly be surprised and pleased to have. But, Mom's needs are simple and her wants are nil. I would have enjoyed throwing a big party for her today, but the family is scattered hither and yon, and life doesn't always fit our plans. I know that the grandchilden and greatgrandchildren will send their greetings, but it would be so nice to have a big gathering in her honor. My brother, my husband and I will take Mom out for dinner to her choice of restaurants tonight, and we will celebrate the life of this woman who I was blessed to have as my mother.