On March 5th, 1925 in Ainsworth Iowa, a child was born. A baby girl, to Charles and Edith McDonald.
She was born premature, which in 1925 was almost a death sentence. To keep her warm she was put in a shoebox by a franklin pot belly stove.
Or so the story goes of my Mother’s birth.
Today would have been my Mother’s 94th birthday. She lived to be 80 years old. March 5th is always one of those days that make me grumpy. I really can’t help it.
My mother had a rough upbringing, her mother was taken away when she was only 4 years old. My grandmother had tuberculosis, at which time there was no known cure. My mother’s last memory of her mother was chasing the ambulance my grandmother was taken away in. She would hate the sound of sirens for the rest of her life, and they would always fill her with dread.
After my grandmother’s death, my grandfather placed my mother and my uncle in an orphanage. She would stay their most of her childhood, till she was returned to my grandfather when they couldn’t place her in an adoptive home. My mother always contended it had to do with her red hair and freckles.
She would be shuffled from family member to family member over the years. Finally arriving in Peoria Illinois, where she would meet my father.
As you would expect, my mother did not think much of my grandfather, and would have little to do with her family for the rest of her life except a sister and brother.
Mom was part of the greatest generation. Those who grew up during the depression and would later go on to fight in World War II. As my father headed off to war, my mother headed off to the factories.
Later in life, she would give birth to four baby boomers, be a stay at home mom, and raise us. She worked her butt off raising four children. Three of them boys.
Yet, she would have her quirks.
One, she had a passion for animals. Mostly those abandoned by others. My mother loved strays, and would take them in. Later in her life she would become the proverbial cat lady, growing her collection to the point of financial stress.
I have always wondered about her need to take care of cats. At first I thought it was because her kids were grown (since the cat lady phase happened after we were all grown and out of the house.) Yet as I have gotten older, I think it had more to do with her childhood. She was essentially a stray, abandon by her father to an orphanage. I think she couldn’t stand to see others abandoned. Even if those others were cats.
Oh, and my mother? She judged you on how you treated cats. Even dumping an old boyfriend because he didn’t like cats.
Another quirk of my mother was when she was injured. It didn’t matter to her, it was, just a scratch. This ’tis but a scratch mentality nearly cost my mother her life when she was in her 40’s. She had a tumor on her parathyroids and was deathly ill till she had it removed.
I remember my mother cutting her fingers on knives she would invariably leave in the soap foamed covered sink, and just band-aid her finger and keep washing. Even though the finger continued to bleed.
When I was a teenager, my mother was in a car accident. She sustain a pretty serious concussion. Yet she refused medical treatment. To her, it was just a scratch.
Then, in last year of her life, my mother fell and broke her hip. That can be fatal to many when they are in their later years of life. Not to mention she had other medical issues that complicated the matters. But mom rebounded, was able to walk again with the aid of a walker, and was on her way to a full recovery.
At the time, my mother lived with my sister and niece. All three of them living in a house together, enjoying life, and my sister was able to take care of mom. Something I am indebted to her, since she was the only one of us siblings who could at that point of mother’s children’s lives. Yet, as fate would have it, while my sister and niece suffered from the flu, my mother started to bleed internally. She never said a word to my sister. Kept it to herself. Because, after all, ’tis but a scratch. But it was more than that this time. And on January 20th 2006, my mother passed away.
Part of me will always have an anger toward my mother. I wished she would have paid more attention to herself, had less of a cavalier attitude about injuries. She missed out on my two youngest, did not see my oldest grow into the wonderful women they are. Yet she believed one shouldn’t dwell upon these minor hiccups of life. ‘Tis but a scratch after all.
It is hard sometimes to look at your parents objectively. To see them as human beings with baggage they carry with them. We tend to put our parents on a pedestal, or in sadder cases, put them in a hole and forget about them. My mother wasn’t perfect, she wasn’t a horror like other mothers I have heard about. She was a good ear, and gave sound, if not curt advice.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my parents, and yes, especially today, my Mother. Of course the pain doesn’t go away. How could it? You share a bond with your mother for 9 months, and for a lifetime afterwards. Whatever makes you think it would go away when they do? It doesn’t. They invade your dreams, and even your children’s facial expressions and voices. You see them in the legacy they have created. And you know, that life does go on, a little sadder, but still it goes on.