I hope you’ll indulge me in a little personal column this week. It’s all about my mom, who ended her 95-year residency on planet Earth by joining the heavenly chorus last Saturday. Even though my dad was the natural-born performer between the two, Mom not only played the piano well but also had a great voice. Both of them passed along their love of song to my sisters and me, and we have all been lifelong choristers.
Mom’s nurturing of children began in nursing school where she loved working in the hospital’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit. She was able to see a lot of fight in those babies, because it takes a fighter to know one. Aptly described as pugnacious, she stuck to her guns about many things throughout her life. She started young at being determined and headstrong. I won’t tell you what her real first given name was because she loathed it. Her middle name was Ann, and that’s what she insisted on being called. At age 8, when her own mother would call her by her first name, she refused to answer until she was addressed only as Ann. It worked. After that, NO ONE called her anything else. Or if they did, it was only once.
Mom was a pretty smart cookie in other ways too. She actually skipped an entire grade in elementary school and was the youngest valedictorian of her high school class. She was a proud Indiana native and a confirmed Midwesterner. Her family moved to Los Angeles in September 1941, at the beginning of her freshman year in high school. She was less than thrilled with the change of scenery and was more than happy to head back to HoosierLand the next January when her dad thought LA was a little too close to Pearl Harbor after December 7. By the time her family headed west again after the war, Mom was already studying nursing at Indiana University and had met this young medical student. She had absolutely no desire to return to the shores of the Pacific despite her family’s entreaties. Ohio beckoned the newlyweds and that’s where they stayed.
Not only was Mom a tad bit stubborn, she was also a confirmed traditionalist. In the late 1950s, Mom and Dad were putting an addition on our house that included a new kitchen. Mom fought tooth and nail against an automatic dishwasher. Dad convinced her to have one installed with the idea that, “Even if you never use it, it’ll be great when we eventually sell the house.” Mom reluctantly acquiesced. Same thing happened several years later when microwave ovens started popping up on kitchen counters. Even though Mom’s own mother already had a microwave, she wanted nothing to do with one. (Dad won that discussion too, with a little help from us kids. But I don’t think Mom used it for at least a year or so.)
She didn’t want a clothes dryer either. She loved her outdoor clothesline and the one in the basement too. I think when her fourth child joined the family, she finally saw the practicality of the dryer cycle vs. the clothesline. That many kids go through a lot of clothes (not to mention cloth diapers in those days).
I wasn’t at home when there was no doubt an extended discussion about the addition of cable TV. It may well have been that she saw the light only when Dad convinced her she could only watch her beloved Cincinnati Reds on cable. And I can assure you she never met a cell phone or a computer that she wanted anything whatsoever to do with.
Mom was the personification of the do-everything, stay-at-home-mom of her era. And she loved it all. As you might imagine, with four busy kids and their myriad interests, the family station wagon was constantly in use. Funny thing about that big land yacht is that Mom stood all of five-foot nothin’, and even with the driver’s seat pulled all the way up, her toe wouldn’t reach the pedals if she put her heel on the floorboard. I don’t know why her calves didn’t scream at her every night.
Mom was extremely handy with a knitting needle or with just basic needle and thread. She made costumes for us, knitted blankets for her grandchildren in their respective college colors and mended or “took up” countless dresses and pairs of pants.
Her favorite entertainer was Dean Martin. Mom didn’t watch a lot of TV, but on Thursday nights in the 1960s, it was my job to yell upstairs to where she was putting my younger sisters to bed, “Hey, Mom, Dean’s on.” She never missed a minute.
My friends and my sisters’ friends all felt a special connection to Mom. And my dad knew she was his special weapon when he became involved in the hierarchy of the American Medical Association. She had a great smile and made everyone feel welcome.
Mom had a very peaceful ending, and her many progenies got a chance to say their goodbyes. She was a remarkable woman. Thanks for your indulgence.
©MMXXIII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer