Today is my dear mother’s eighty-eighth birthday! Because she’s my hero, all week long (in anticipation of her birthday) I’ve been planning to list eighty-eight ways in which I think she’s great. I began the list, but as I reflected on her life, I felt like it wasn’t really fair to compile a list … as if this amazing woman could be summed up with a number of facts or trivia! I’ve posted about her in the past, so I invite you to read some of the facts of her life I’ve already shared. (Start here, here and here. There are others but those three will suffice for now.)
The photo at right is a picture of a pillow my daughter-in-law made for her, painting the picture as a pleasant reminder of the years Mom lived in Florida. (She and my daddy moved there after he retired. After his death, she remained about six more years in the home they had shared and then moved back to St. Louis.) She always loved being near the beach because she was an avid swimmer.
During my mom’s lifetime, she has done remarkable things by living a simple life of steadfast resilience. She encountered early challenges, losing her daddy when she was six years old … and shortly thereafter, losing the daily presence of her mother because Mom was quickly enrolled in boarding school. This double-barreled loss would’ve devastated the spirits of countless children, but my mom soldiered on.
When my mom met my dad during the mobilizing phase of World War II, she fell in love with this Army corporal, not knowing whether or not he’d return from D-Day. (At one point, he was reported as MIA; thankfully, that proved to be untrue.) Once the war ended and he returned from military deployment, he invited her to visit his family in St. Louis. At first, his close-knit family were all pretty wary of this Eastern, boarding school girl, but they grew to love her and she found an extended family unlike anything she’d known before!
This eighty-eight year old woman bore six children over a period of sixteen years. She and my daddy buried one of those babies. The rest of her children grew into adulthood and married, presenting her with fourteen grandchildren and a host of great-grandchildren. Additional young people call her Grandma, though there’s no blood relation. (The picture at left shows both my Mom and Dad with my four children.)
Following her marriage, my mom moved to St. Louis from the only home she’d known in Philadelphia, but her mother didn’t move with her. Also, because Mom and Dad’s wedding occurred spur-of-the-moment during Mom’s one-week visit to “meet” Dad’s family, Grandma West didn’t even have the privilege of attending the wedding! (I guess that’s how things were done in those days!)
Given the almost 900 miles separating their two cities, my mother’s relationship with her mother was conducted primarily through written correspondence. My grandmother had one, maybe two, train trips to St. Louis but those were rare and my mom was only 24 years old when her mamma died in 1950.
For the last twenty years (since my daddy’s death in 1994), Mom has lived alone, but her solitary life has been filled with friends, family and activities that kept her coming and going … until her diminishing eyesight convinced her it was time to get rid of her car. She still manages to get around her small town via bus and shuttle service, but I know giving up driving was a difficult step for her. Like most things she’s done in her lifetime, her decision was made independently and with advance planning. She wanted to make the choice herself rather than have her children insist she give up the keys.
Yesterday, my post featured my beautiful daughter-in-law. As I’ve discovered through my life, beauty isn’t restricted to the young.
When I was growing up, Mother often said to me: Beauty is as beauty does. No doubt she heard this from someone else during her childhood, but it’s one of many aphorisms Mother repeated to me that I’ve found true. The transient physical beauty of her younger years has flowered into a beauty of spirit and inner joy that I can only hope to emulate in my latter years. In spite of her eighty-eight years, my mom possesses energy and love for life that sets her in a unique category among those we designate as elderly.
Happy Birthday, Mom … and many more (God willing) to come!