Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mom celebrates 91 years

Today was my mother's 91st birthday. She has a hard time believing it. Every time we tell her she's 91, she gives us a look as if we must be crazy. Like there's no way she could be 91. She's even more surprised and amazed if we start telling her how old we - her daughters - are. I know the feeling. I think the same thing every time I stop and figure out how old my kids are now. You know, I didn't have a bit of trouble keeping up with their ages when they were 3 or 5 or even 18. But now, well, now I have to think about the year they were born and wonder where the years went.
I think that is what Mom is wondering. When she was a little girl she told everybody she was going to live to be 100, and now she's actually in that last decade headed that way. Her sisters deserted her and went on to heaven, but she's still here. Still doing the best she can even though her body is getting weak on her and even worse, her memory is not only failing her, it sometimes plays tricks on her and makes her think things that didn't happen. Unfortunately, usually distressing things. Dementia is not for sissies.
Mom was certainly never that. When a kid, she was out playing ball with the boys and wading in the creeks and catching toads and even sometimes snakes. She was afraid of very little and she knew how to enjoy life no matter the circumstances. So what if her family didn't have much money? They had food. They had a house. They had love.
That's something Mom has always had - love. And plenty to give away. She was a wonderful mother who thought her daughters could do anything they set their minds to doing. We grew up working on our farm. We had chores and responsibilities and Mom expected us to act like we had some sense. But she also let us have plenty of freedom to explore the woods, to read library books, to find our way.
Mom has seen a lot of changes in her lifetime. She warmed her feet at her father's blacksmith forge. She saw cars push horses and buggies off the roads. She carried plates of food out to hungry strangers during the Depression years. She saw her friends and brothers-in-law go off to war in WW II. Dad didn't go because he was a farmer. The government wanted to maintain a good food supply. She witnessed the lights coming on in her house when the electric coop pushed the lines out into the country. She gave birth to two babies at home and one in the hospital. She learned how to crank a car and start it so she could go visit her parents. She drove tractors and big trucks. And once when she was a kid she roller-skated eight miles to town. And back. One of her wedding gifts was a laying hen. She raised chickens to fry for supper and milked cows. She made lye soap and washed clothes with water she heated in an iron kettle over a fire in the back yard. She even learned to make souse. (If you don't know what that is or how that's made, you're better off not asking.) She claimed not to like cats, but let Maggie, a gray and white one, come in the house and sleep on the bed. When I got the dog hunger so bad all I could think about was getting a dog, she let a friend give me a pup. She bottle fed calves and lambs. And she liked to dress up in high heels and wear a dab of perfume behind her ears. She was president of the PTA and a 4-H leader. She worked as a clerk in a dress shop and a grocery store. She taught the grandkids how to play cards and didn't always let them win. She was a wonderful mother and grandmother too.
She's still a wonderful mother. It's just that now her memory is failing her and her body is more and more fragile. But she takes it a day at a time and sometimes she remembers the good times when she was a kid. Those are the good stories. The ones I used to set the scene for my book, Angel Sister. And while Mom can't remember reading it, she's still glad it's there by her chair. Still glad to know each time I tell her that it is her story as much as it is mine.
Thanks for reading!


  1. How blessed you are to have her with you, even if she's not the strong woman she once was. Dementia is so difficult. Sometimes it feels like having a recalcitrant little child-- we repeat the same things over and over-- but then there are those times when we sit close and just remember together, enjoying the mysterious bond between mother and daughter.

  2. So nice of you to read my tribute to Mom, Wendy. Your words mean a lot coming from someone who has experienced some of the same difficulties with your Mom. You're absolutely right about that mother/daughter bond. It stretches across years and across miles and when it's good the elastic never breaks.

  3. Ann,
    So nice reading about your mom...she has seen many changes in her life. What a wonderful daughter you are!!

    I had to put "Orchard of Hope" on hold at our library and it came in today...just got home from getting it.

    Going outside to enjoy this beautiful day the Lord has given us and to start your book...I'm excited!!

    Blessings to you,

  4. Mom is the wonderful one. A great mom who set a fine example for living, Cathy. Hope you enjoy Jocie's Adventure Part 2.

  5. Ann, caring for the elderly at the nursing home and having my own Mother suffer from dementia,before she left us, I know the pain of seeing these things. I wrote this while at the "Home" about 10 years ago.Thought you might like it
    She can remember back when she was young,
    She can see her Mom and Dad,
    But she may forget you were just here,
    Or for dinner what she had,
    She may not know your name today,
    Or remember who was there,
    She may repeat herself at times,
    But she's glad to have you near,
    She may forget what she has done,
    Or that you called today,
    She may turn the burner on,
    Then slowly walk away,
    She may go outside in the cold,
    Without her jacket on,
    She may scold you when you arrive,
    For being gone so long,
    She may get angry and at times,
    Seem like she someone new,
    She doesn't always do the things,
    The way you knew her to,
    She may just ask for Mom or Dad,
    Or the place she once called home,
    And you may think,OH what's the use,
    Her memory is gone,
    But Wait ! Why you can talk to her,
    About the times gone by,
    When she was young and happy,
    If that's where her memory lies,
    Or you can sit and listen,
    Or just stay with her awhile,
    You'll know it makes her happy,
    When her face lights with a smile.
    Now she may not know who you are,
    But do you really care,
    You still remember who she is,
    And that she was always there,
    To gently tuck you in at night,
    Or wipe away a tear,
    To always have a hug or two,
    And always kept you near,
    She always kept you safe and warm'
    And gently held your hand,
    She made you what you are today,
    The woman or the man,
    So try to see things her way,
    Her memory you can hold,
    After all she is your Mother,
    And she's worth her weight in gold

    Sylvia Crowell

  6. That's beautiful, Sylvia. I'm wiping away tears. So touching and so true. Thank you so much for sharing your poem with me and other readers too.

  7. Give your Mom a hug from Nebraska. What a beautiful picture of the two of you. Today my Mother had her first MRI on her knee. She turns 92yr on June 6th. She lives in a traditional apartment(not a senior community) by herself and still drives with her doctors'approval.
    Though she's slowing down she still enjoys reading mysteries and romantic supense stories and going out to lunch or having tea with her "girl friends" in the complex. I hope I can have the full life that my Mother has enjoyed.

  8. Joanne, thanks for the hug for Mom. I'll deliver it Sunday. I'm always glad to hear about somebody having a good life into their nineties. That's what I wished for my mom, and she did pretty well until about five years ago. Things have gone downhill pretty fast since then, but she hangs in there and does her best. I guess that's all any of us can do. So happy your mom can still enjoy life. Sounds like you have good genes.

  9. Isn't is great for our parents to share stories of their lives. My mother is 84. My husband's parents are 98 and 97. It seems that everytime a year passes one story is lost unless I write them down. Many family pictures are made of our relatives that we know little about any more. Thank you for sharing yours.

  10. Wow, LaWanna, your husband may live to be 105. There was a story in our newspaper a few weeks ago about the oldest person in KY. This little lady was 111 and she had a daughter who was 91. It still boggles my imagination to think of the 91 year old daughter saying, "Wait a minute. I'll get my mother." But it's great to have our parents with us for so long. And you're absolutely right about the stories we lose. My mom has several photo albums passed down from my dad's people. We have no idea who the people are or anything about their stories.


Thanks for joining the conversation. I like hearing what you have to say. Thanks for dropping by.