“Meanest Mom in Caton”

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Okay, I realize yesterday was Mother’s Day. No one said I did things according to the traditional schedule. But today I intend to write a small monologue about my Mother.

Most people laud the great achievements of their mothers. The superlatives are used for various fields of endeavors or some trait of character.

From my growing up, I don’t remember many superlatives related to my mother. She had one friend that was a better cook, another that was better at cleaning house, etc. Someone else always had the superlative.

My brother, her eldest, did give her the one superlative that I can remember — meanest — as in “the meanest mom in Caton”, which my brother said as some source of pride (though I think it was an exaggeration of his imagination). My brother made this comment from an exaggerated idea of my mother as a drill sergeant. She did have a military background, albeit a small one. We always knew if anyone ever decided to insult her the traditional insult “your mother wears army boots” our comeback would be “no, they were air force boots”, because she served three years in the U.S. Air Force.

As I was growing up she was a strong and loving core to the family. I blogged about her earlier this month when discussing my own birth (BTW, she did confirm that I had the facts correct in that blog). Being a farmwife was all about being a team with my dad, supporting him in the barn and field.

I remember mom and dad telling a story about when they got married it was understood that she wouldn’t have to milk the cows and dad wouldn’t have to wash dishes. Then one time dad got so sick that mom had to milk the cows.  Dad got mom a dishwasher.

I told about my birth previously. I don’t remember any stories about my brother’s birth, but I do remember stories about my sister’s. None of the stories seemed to make childbirth out to be onerous, though obviously it wasn’t pleasant.

For my sister, my mother was nine month’s pregnant, and trying to get the house (the 12-by-60 trailer we lived in), ready before the birth. We had a washer, but not a dryer. It was nine in the morning and mom was hauling the laundry out to hang on the line. Even in August mornings can be cool and dewy in upstate New York, and mom slipped and fell on the wet grass, breaking her ankle.  So she was taken to the hospital.

I am not sure how long the various stages took, but sometime in the process they gave my mother a spinal so they could set the ankle without causing her pain. The people working on the ankle were being professional, but also taking their time and talking amiably while doing so. Then someone popped a head in the door and said:

“Hey, if you guys don’t get that ankle soon, you’ll be delivering a baby as well.”

Their heads turned to look at my mother, who replied:

“Don’t look at me, I don’t feel a thing.”

And so they got the ankle set, and off to the maternity ward where my sister was born at 9 p.m. at night.

They were concerned about my mother taking care of a baby with a broken ankle, but we apparently did fine.  That is where my memories of us having a walker in the house came from. I’m not sure, but I think they gave her the walker instead of crutches because of concerns about two young boys being underfoot to trip her up.

They told mom it would take 8 weeks for the ankle to heal, and the cast came off in six.  Mom had a nurse friend afterwards who told her that they had never actually expected the ankle to heal correctly. In our family we credited the quick healing to the regular intake of raw Jersey milk that we got from the cows on our farm.

As another example of her character, I recall something from my school days. I don’t remember exact year, or time of year, but mom had been feeling tired for awhile, and just kept on doing everything she needed to do, until she finally went to the doctor about it. The doctor had one of those amazed looks when the test results came back. In talking about her hemoglobin level he said “people in your condition we usually have to carry in on a stretcher,” yet mom was doing all her regular duties. Her energy and determination were, and are, amazing.

My mother wasn’t perfect, but I honestly don’t remember anything about what she did or how she raised us that is anything but fond and positive. I am sure there are things she might wish she could have done differently or better.  She certainly wishes she had more time and money to be able to see her grandchildren more often and do more for them.

But it isn’t what you don’t have, but what you do with what you have — and my mom made a good mark on all of us with what she had, and we look forward to seeing her when she shows up later this week at the graduation of her only granddaughter and my daughter on Friday.

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