Sunday, May 9, 2021

Mosaic Monday #130: Keeping Her Memory Alive

On April 28, 2021, my Mom joined my father, one of my sisters, a beloved niece and all of her siblings in Heaven.  If it is like any other family reunion I have attended, it would begin with Mass.  Faith was front and center for the German Catholic families on both sides, and especially for my Mom; you wouldn’t think to begin anything without having given thanks to God.  And THEN you could tuck into the bountiful buffet before you – home-made fried chicken, roast beef, chicken with noodles, potato salad, Jell-O with the requisite shredded carrots or cabbage, and desserts that seem to outnumber the stars in the sky.

It is not lost on me that today is Mother’s Day in the U.S.  I couldn't bring myself to write this post last week, and then it occurred to me the post would fall on Mother’s Day – how appropriate!  What is motherhood?  Sacrifice.  Nurturing.  Passing on traditions and values.  My Mom had a heart the size of Texas.  How else would she have raised 7 kids and looked after my Dad until he passed in 1998?  Who can count the washed diapers (cloth, you know), the meals, the number of sick kids, etc.?  I am pretty sure I could not have done it. To borrow a quote from one of my nephews on FaceBook: "She is selfless, humble, a crochet master, a gooseberry pie chef, and a shining example of love." 

So, I begin this post with gratitude.  I was blessed to have my Mom for 92 years (or 33,274 days, as my younger brother posted on FB).  I am thankful that my parents welcomed every child that the Lord sent; as number six out of my seven siblings, I would have been out of luck if they had decided to stop after 2! Like many children, the years spent raising my own children and building my career translated to less time with Mom, but we were fortunate that she often came to visit us.  Texas for the birth of our daughter (with Dad).  Arizona for the birth of our son (Dad passed away right before his birth). England during our expatriate assignment.  Cleveland, Ohio for multiple events, including the graduation of both of our children.

You asked her to go somewhere, and she said yes.  (Although she was a bit more reticent if she was footing the bill … she was legendary for picking the least expensive item at restaurants when she was paying.  Well, on second thought, it didn't matter who was paying!)  But that penny-wise mentality fed and clothed 9 people on a tight budget, and you might be shocked to know the value of savings and investments she had accumulated by her retirement.  It was important to her to leave money for her children, even though most of us don’t need it.

Toward the end of my career, I spent most of my working days in Troy, Ohio, which was only a 45-minute drive to Mom.  One night of every week, I would join her for dinner (she almost always insisted on feeding me rather than going out).  We ate, watched Wheel of Fortune and played cards (almost always Kings in the Corner).  Treasured moments.

Both of my parents gave us the gift of a strong work ethic.  I especially admire my Mom because, after nearly 30 years as a home-maker, she went to work as a shoe salesperson and became very successful.  Introverted most of her life, I can only imagine the mental strength it took for her to do this.  She was my very first role model for what women can do in the workplace.

After we moved to Montana in 2017, Mom visited us twice.  The first time she traveled with my oldest sister, a trip they made via Amtrak, thus fulfilling a dream to travel overnight by train. This coincided with my early days of blogging, and I documented the visit in several posts  (9/10/2017, 10/9/201712/8/2017, 2/9/2018).  By that time, Mom had begun using a walker (nick-named the Cadillac), and it still amazes me that she would walk anywhere as long as the ground was fairly level. 




Mom loved Cardinals, and one of her favorite colors was red.  Her Cadillac and her tri-cycle were red!


The second visit was part of a larger trip in September 2018, encompassing Colorado, Utah, Yellowstone and the Tetons along the way.  Two of my brothers and their spouses, along with my oldest sister, were accompanying her.  The whole gang stayed with us at our freshly minted log home.  It was a very special day when Mom harvested the first of the apples from an apple tree that had been planted in her honor.

Mom always told us that she moved off the farm because she didn’t like dirt.  Later in life, she relished gardening, and had quite the collection of thriving African violets.  She also enjoyed crocheting (see July 16, 2017), and created many baby blankets for her grandchildren.  She crocheted many animals, especially giraffes for great-grands.  Lest you think she was completely soft-hearted, woe to those who might have her for a euchre partner when she was wasn’t winning!  She might have a word or two for you if you dealt the other team a good hand, or she felt you mis-played a hand!



That December, we threw a party in Ohio to commemorate her 90th birthday (see 1/19/2019 post).    Part of my contribution was a memory book, aptly titled “GG at 90  Still on the Go”. 

At that time, Mom had 17 grandchildren and 20 great-grands.  At this writing, she has 25 great-grands and one more on the way.


In between all of these visits, I had weekly Skype calls with Mom.  For a woman that grew up with no running water, electricity or radio, I was always impressed with her willingness and ability to learn new technology.

I will miss her, but since she is at peace, I am at peace.  Isolation must have been difficult for her, even though she was a fairly introverted person.  You don’t want someone close to you to die, but you also do not want to see them suffer.  

Fast forward to June 2020.  The U.S. is three months into the pandemic and Mom goes on 24-hour oxygen to help her burdened lungs and heart.  As I wrote in my June 21, 2020 post, it was time to give back just a small portion of what I had received.  I prepared the meals, a turning of the tables after 90 years of Mom’s cooking.   I could tell she was becoming frailer, and the oxygen issues affected her short-term memory.  (Ultimately, my two older sisters would move her from independent living in Dayton to assisted living in Cincinnati in late October).  But the rest of our traditions remained intact.  Playing cards.  Watching Wheel of Fortune.  Eating Butter Pecan ice cream from Graeter’s.



She could also be incredibly stubborn about letting go of things.  For years to come, I think we will tell the story about her cast-iron skillet.  Used for decades to cook everything from eggs to roast beef, it was “seasoned”.  When my sisters moved her, the skillet was one of the things to go.  For months afterward, we heard about that skillet.  One time she even asked me if I thought we could find it if we made the rounds of the thrift stores!

With the benefit of hindsight, I can see the deterioration.  She was sleeping more.  She had a hard time remembering how to use her cell phone.  For cyber security, we removed her laptop and it became quite difficult to reach her by phone, and scheduling Skype calls through her facility was challenging during the height of the pandemic.  On April 12, 2021, she was admitted to the ER for shortness of breath.  By the end of the week, the doctors would conclude that there was nothing more that they could do, and that, without extraordinary measures, her congestive heart failure would lead to her death within six months.

Many family members visited her that weekend, saying their “good-byes.”  Each in our own way, in those final days, told Mom that it was OK to go.

I flew to Ohio on April 19, and joined Mom and my older sister at the hospital.  (I was happy to give my sister some relief – especially because the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day at the florist shop can be quite busy.)  After my arrival, the doctor planned to lower the oxygen level gradually, which was expected to cause further deterioration in her condition.  It could be fast, or she could linger.  They would keep her comfortable from pain.  I spent much of that first night watching for any change in the rising and falling of her chest.


From the FB post of a niece-in-law:  I have loved getting to know you over the past 6 years.  I love how we have bonded over our shared love of sauerkraut soup.  There have been many amazing memories, but the one I will hold close was seeing you meet and hold our second daughter, and have our first daughter collect sticks for you, just 19 days before your passing.  Heaven is happy to have you!  We are thrilled you are there playing all the euchre your heart desires.

The next afternoon, she was transferred back to her apartment, and she seemed to rally.  We ate together (she consistently consumed ALL of her breakfast), played cards and chatted.   Nurses from hospice provided care around the clock in two shifts.  I didn’t see the same nurse twice during my three days at the apartment; they were wonderful women and would ask about our family.  One of the first nurses asked Mom if her husband was handsome, and Mom replied “Well, of course!”  There was nothing wrong with her repartee those last few days.  And it didn’t take long to figure out that we should show the nurses my memory book and the one made by one of my nieces for her 80th birthday; while Mom was sleeping, it could bring her to life for them.

From the FB post of a niece: I am happy that she is finally dancing with her husband again after 20 years since his death.


“Old Mom” peeked out at random moments.  My oldest brother celebrated a birthday during my stay with Mom, and she wanted to call and wish him a happy birthday.  Darn it if she didn’t sing it for him!!!  And at every meal, she would offer us some of her food.  Until the very end, she was still worried that everyone was getting enough to eat.

Spousal Unit recalls his first visit to my Mom and Dad’s house, before we were married.  Mom served sauerkraut soup and home-made bread.  He always loved her bread; it took him a few more years to acquire the taste for the soup!  Mom was also legendary for her gooseberry pie, and from an early age I recall that she made popcorn with bacon grease – you can’t beat the extra flavor!

Our daughter lives in Cincinnati, and she was indispensable, bringing food for me and my sister, keeping me company and providing transportation to and from the airport.  She was there the last night of my stay, and took these photos as we played cards.  These are the last pictures I have of my Mom.  That night, as she was getting ready for “bed”, I sang her a few songs and she mouthed the words along with me.  “Row, row, row your boat.”  “America the Beautiful.”  “Amazing Grace.”  I reminded her that I would be leaving in the morning, and that I loved her.  She nodded, and said she would miss me.  The next morning, she had slipped deeper into sleep and didn’t respond to my touch or farewell.  How blessed I was to have those final days with her.

In December 2013, when my Mom was 85, she gave each of her children a book “Mother’s Memories to her Child.”  Each page had prompts, and Mom’s unique handwriting captured her responses.  I hope I have taught you that God is in control and continue to do His will.  “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.”  The thing that I most look forward to about heaven: Reunion with your father and sister, my Mother and Father.  One great reunion.  Seeing God.

At her service, Deacon Larry spoke about the Egyptian belief that people die twice – the first is the physical death, and the second death is when no one remains to tell stories about the person.  This post was certainly for me, but it is also about perpetuating her memory through stories.  Until we meet again, Mom!

 

Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Tuesday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us. 


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Mosaic Monday #129: Under the Weather

I need a distraction.  I had my second COVID shot yesterday, and I am racked with chills, a headache and a tight feeling across my chest.  I have no appetite, much less a desire to write a blog post right now.  Also, it has been a tough week for other reasons that I am not prepared to write about at this moment.  But maybe focusing on something other than my symptoms would be beneficial.  This might be a short post, or maybe I will get a second wind.

Don't get me wrong - I am glad that I got the shots; Spousal Unit and I have already invited a group of vaccinated friends over for a dinner party in May, just a couple days after the two-week mark.  Life might just be getting closer to normal.


Not only can we resume social activities, but we can also return to church.  While I have enjoyed the flexibility of "attending" Mass at several different churches for the last year, it is not the same as being present with the faith community and receiving Communion.  During April, I helped with decorating the church for Easter.  I love these arrangements.

It's a rare post of mine that doesn't have food photos, and I think Debbie only reads my posts for the food!  Head Chef frequently makes stir fry, and he is always trying it new ways, such as this recipe with the fried egg rolled and sliced on top.  So good!!!

In an effort to give Head Chef a break from the kitchen, I have been cooking once a week.  In the throes of the preparation, I don't always remember to take pictures!

 



Thanks to Jan for the Mushroom and Leek Casserole recipe.  (We added chicken.)

My Dear Neighbor Friend gave me a recipe for Cheeseburger Soup.  I made it for movie night; tastes just like a cheeseburger!  This time of year at the farm is all about new life.  If you need a top up on your cuteness meter, just spend some time around baby chicks and baby goats (I also wrote about this in my last post).  Since then, DNF took some pictures of me with the goats.  Awww ....

As Spring asserts itself with dominance, it seems odd to think that we were still skiing three weeks ago.  April 12 was Employee Ski Day at Whitefish Mountain Resort; for many of us, who played a role as mask enforcers throughout the season, it was a delight just to let it rip and have fun!

Easter seems eons ago; it was fun to have #1 Son search for plastic eggs around the house!  We both strongly embrace our inner child!
And if you needed more proof, here is #1 Son with one of his birthday presents -- he still loves to construct Legos!

My older brother also celebrated a birthday this month, and I sent him this hand-made card.  The hot air balloon theme reflects his love for all forms of flying (refer to this post for more info.)


As I wrap up this post, it is 24 hours since I began, and I am feeling much better.  I might even have the energy to get out in the garden a bit today.  So, I will leave you with some wildflower photos that were taken on a recent walk with Dear Neighbor Friend.  I hope all is well in your world!

Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Tuesday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us. 


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Mosaic Monday #128: Montana Spring

April in Montana is a trickster.  One day the warmth of spring sunlight on my face spreads hope and tranquility through my entire being.  The next day?  Snow, and a vicious wind tosses branches against the windows like a petulant child.  But the snow doesn't last, and all around are signs that winter is losing its grip to spring.  At the farm of Dear Neighbor Friend, the evidence takes the form of fuzzy chicks and kids teetering on brand-new legs.


DNF's grandchildren have a ring-side seat to the miracle of birth.  They quickly bond with the animals and take caring for them very seriously.  But life can be closer to death than we like, and occasionally the family must cope with the loss of an animal.  This week, one of the recently born kids passed shortly after birth.  Below you can see the remaining kid, Amelia, using her mama as a jungle gym.





Over the hill at my house, I found this freshly dug hole, and trained the trail camera there to determine the culprit.  A bunny!


Shortly after these pictures were taken, the Moultrie trail cam acted up again, and Spousal Unit bought a replacement, a Stealth trail cam at Cabela's (the one we truly want is on back order until May.)  I placed it by the lake at the bottom of our property, in the hopes of capturing eagle photos.  (In my February 7, 2021 post, I wrote about golden and bald eagles feasting on fish, and I speculated about a lake awash with dead fish as the ice melted.)  It began to appear that theory might prove true - sometimes we observed as many as ten eagles at a time on the thin edges of the ice.  The three pictures below were taken with my phone through my spotting scope.  Not great quality, but you can count as many as 3 goldens and 1 bald in one of the photos.



Unfortunately, the camera did not catch any good photos of the eagles.  By mid-month, the lake was clear of ice and I relocated the trail cam to the beaver dam, anticipating that this clever engineer would begin to repair winter's damage.   Eureka!!!


 

As the ice disappeared, other water animals have arrived - cranes, Canada geese, and mallards.


I was not familiar with the ducks below - I am sure my professional birders will tell me if Ring-Necked Duck is the incorrect identification.


As you can see in the photo above, we had some snow on the 18th - the storm I mentioned at the outset with the ferocious winds.  It was enough to raise whitecaps on the lake.


I imagine the duck in the picture below was ready to pick up its wings and return south!!!


But never fear, wait a few days, and you will be rewarded with blue skies and calm waters once again!




Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Tuesday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us. 


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter
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