Friday , May 04, 2012 - 12:39 PM
My mother and I weren't close when I was young. Born the second of six children and living on a farm, my mother had plenty to do and it wasn't the age of your parents telling you they loved you.
After high school and two years at Weber College I left home and lived in many places until moving to Logan in 1978.
I write this, because recently I've been reading my mother's journals which she began in 1975 shortly after my father died. I discovered a mother I never knew. A mother who struggled through several bouts of cancer and other health problems, but who quietly endured excruciating pain at times. She refused to take pain medication because she feared becoming addicted.
One diary entry tells about suffering from burns after radiation. Her body from the waist up was raw, oozing fluids. It was so painful she lay in bed at night with her body uncovered because the blankets caused pressure on the affected area, and besides that she didn't want to get her bedding wet from the fluids.
I learned from her journals that even after this healed she often dealt with the pain of arthritis and weakness. After my father died family stepped in and helped her with lawn and yard care, some household tasks and lots of food and company.
Still raising my own children and later working, my visits were few in number and short. We did take her on some outings and to conferences which she enjoyed very much. But my siblings were more helpful and lived close enough to visit often and keep her company.
Learning more about my mother, I've discovered some fascinating things about her. I knew she traveled with a group to Europe and had a great time but her courage in doing so with heavy luggage made me grateful for fellow travelers who helped her. At one point she left the group for a few days to see sights not covered in the trip rejoining them later. What courage that took.
Later she moved off the farm and over to the center of North Ogden opening new opportunities for her and new friendships. Always somewhat shy and not being as well to do as some acquaintances, she and they found themselves all widows and money or prestige didn't matter that much as they spent time socializing, doing good deeds and becoming friends. Her "Home Evening" group consisted of widows from all over the town. With some of these new friends she began quilting at McKay-Dee Hospital, attending Senior Citizen dinners and programs, collecting cheese and butter distributed to seniors and taking walks and rides together.
But her most difficult activity physically was a church calling to extract names from microfilmed records for entry into the large genealogical library of the LDS church. With poor eyesight, and the demands to keep up with the other extractors, she often came home exhausted. Still she persevered for many years.
I learned other fascinating things about her. As a college student she learned French. A few years before she died she often noted reading Mormon scripture in French, exercising her mind. Baking cookies, bread, and rolls, sometimes twice a week, caused me to wonder what she did with all of it.
She subjected herself to frequent calls from an old neighbor who used the calls as an outlet for her loneliness and the need to talk about her poor health. Sometimes Mother couldn't get off the phone for a half hour, an hour, and sometimes more, but her good manners and her recognition of the woman's needs kept her listening for far longer than she desired.
She wrote love poems, and collected poetry and prose she liked. She read voraciously. (That I did know. As a child sometimes we children had to say her name several times if she was engrossed in a book before she realized we needed her attention.) In her letters she often told me about a good book she was reading.
The other day I laughed at an unusual journal entry. Taped to a page was an article from a 1988 Readers Digest titled, "When Alone, We Dance." It seems a man on a cruise ship walked down a passageway behind a "tiny woman in brown slacks, her shoulders hunched, her white hair cut in a bob." Music played from the ship's intercom. "Suddenly, a wonderful thing happened. The woman, unaware anyone was behind her, began to shimmy. She snapped her fingers and did a quick and graceful dance-back, shuffle, slide." Then, as she reached a door to the dining room, she paused, and assembling her dignity, stepped soberly through."
The article prompted a scene I'd liked to have seen. Mother was in the hospital after a problem with a blood clot which had caused her another sleepless, painful night. She wrote in her journal, "Although my present illness was serious, I did get some fun out of it."
Tethered to an IV for oxygen and medicine, she got "very tired of the situation. She decided to get up and try and walk a little. She grabbed the IV apparatus and walked down the center of her room "turning round and round the IV singing, "Here we go round the mulberry bush." No one observed her, but she brought humor to the situation and broke the boredom.
It reminded me of a day on the campus of Utah State. Having researched for an hour, I headed for the bus stop. Researching always invigorates me and as I walked along I felt good. I thought, no one but me knows I'm a young college coed inside who has no lines on her face, no sagging body, and I'm enjoying the sunshine. Had it not been so public, I might have danced, too.