She Would Be 102Posted: December 9, 2015
She would be 102 tomorrow, if she were still with us. My mother, Luella Marie, was born December 10, 1913 and married in November of 1938 to my father, Clarence.
I miss her everyday, some days more than others. She was the kindest most gentle woman I’ve ever known. She was one of twelve or thirteen children, (I forget which, but it was a mess of children that’s for certain), and lived on a farm north of Bird Island, MN. I’m particularly fond of this childhood story she shared with us: She and her siblings took a horse and sleigh to the country school in the winter, the potatoes her mother had baked before they left, would warm their hands on the journey, then they’d eat them for lunch.
She graduated from high school, and in those days, not everyone did. Mom was very bright and could have gone on to school if there was the money or a sense it was possible. I personally think she would have made a wonderful nurse. (She ended up nursing her brother when he was dying of bone cancer, and her mother when she could no longer care for herself.) But right after high school, she went to work at the convent in Bird Island, to cook for the nuns. That’s how she met my father the milkman; my grandfather owned the dairy in Olivia, and dad delivered milk to the convent.
I’m the youngest of four children; my three older siblings came one right after the other, and I three years later. I remember the years I had Mom alone to myself while the others went to school across the street. My mother was a busy woman with cooking, cleaning, the washing using the old fashioned wringer washing machines, hanging the clothes on lines to dry, outdoors when weather permitted, on lines in the basement when it didn’t. I was fascinated with her ability to snag the clothes with a wooden stick and put the items through the wringer to squeeze the excess water out.
But it was her baking ability that most people remember. She baked all our bread on Saturdays and many of those days included cinnamon or carmel rolls. We always had homemade cookies, doughnuts, or pies around. I can still taste those fresh sugary doughnuts, and I haven’t been able to find any that match hers.
She had large yellow and green books entitled The Junior Instructor Book 1 and 2. Book 1 had several nursery rhymes and fairy tales in it, and I remember the times we would sit together on the couch, and she would read to us. I think I liked the closeness and intimacy of the experience as much as I enjoyed the stories.
She was a generous person, making gorgeous quilts to give away. She was also a bright woman; she did all my dad’s bookwork for his farming and feed business, and earlier the trucking business. She loved to play scrabble and could easily beat the pants off of any one of us, until the dementia hit; when she started making up words, I’d just let it go and build on from the nonsense words.
She began to complain about forgetting things in her late sixties. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when she was seventy-five, and lived until she was eighty-six. My dad was able to manage her care until he became ill with cancer, and when he died she lived alone for a year only with my brother Dick’s constant help. I’m grateful to him for taking such good care of her. It became clear she needed twenty-four/seven care and was moved to a nursing home. As so many people of her generation, she always expressed concern about having to go to a facility. The second day of her stay I went up to see her expecting her to say she hated it and wanted to go home, but when I asked, “How was your first night?”, she answered, “First night? Why I’ve been here for a long time.” Sometimes what they don’t remember is a blessing. Those last years, I slowly lost my mom because I could no longer ask her questions and confide in her, but I was just grateful she was still in this world. The top photo was taken by my daughter in the year before she died. At that time she didn’t speak much, but she smiled when she saw us and laughed at our jokes. She remained a sweet woman throughout her whole life, and I miss her so very much. Happy birthday, Mom. And although your life wasn’t always easy, you lived it with grace and dignity.