Mom celebrates 91 years

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal


Today was my mother’s 91st birthday. She has a hard time believing it. Every time we tell her she’s 91, she gives us a look as if we must be crazy. Like there’s no way she could be 91. She’s even more surprised and amazed if we start telling her how old we – her daughters – are. I know the feeling. I think the same thing every time I stop and figure out how old my kids are now. You know, I didn’t have a bit of trouble keeping up with their ages when they were 3 or 5 or even 18. But now, well, now I have to think about the year they were born and wonder where the years went.
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I think that is what Mom is wondering. When she was a little girl she told everybody she was going to live to be 100, and now she’s actually in that last decade headed that way. Her sisters deserted her and went on to heaven, but she’s still here. Still doing the best she can even though her body is getting weak on her and even worse, her memory is not only failing her, it sometimes plays tricks on her and makes her think things that didn’t happen. Unfortunately, usually distressing things. Dementia is not for sissies.
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Mom was certainly never that. When a kid, she was out playing ball with the boys and wading in the creeks and catching toads and even sometimes snakes. She was afraid of very little and she knew how to enjoy life no matter the circumstances. So what if her family didn’t have much money? They had food. They had a house. They had love.
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That’s something Mom has always had – love. And plenty to give away. She was a wonderful mother who thought her daughters could do anything they set their minds to doing. We grew up working on our farm. We had chores and responsibilities and Mom expected us to act like we had some sense. But she also let us have plenty of freedom to explore the woods, to read library books, to find our way.
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Mom has seen a lot of changes in her lifetime. She warmed her feet at her father’s blacksmith forge. She saw cars push horses and buggies off the roads. She carried plates of food out to hungry strangers during the Depression years. She saw her friends and brothers-in-law go off to war in WW II. Dad didn’t go because he was a farmer. The government wanted to maintain a good food supply. She witnessed the lights coming on in her house when the electric coop pushed the lines out into the country. She gave birth to two babies at home and one in the hospital. She learned how to crank a car and start it so she could go visit her parents. She drove tractors and big trucks. And once when she was a kid she roller-skated eight miles to town. And back. One of her wedding gifts was a laying hen. She raised chickens to fry for supper and milked cows. She made lye soap and washed clothes with water she heated in an iron kettle over a fire in the back yard. She even learned to make souse. (If you don’t know what that is or how that’s made, you’re better off not asking.) She claimed not to like cats, but let Maggie, a gray and white one, come in the house and sleep on the bed. When I got the dog hunger so bad all I could think about was getting a dog, she let a friend give me a pup. She bottle fed calves and lambs. And she liked to dress up in high heels and wear a dab of perfume behind her ears. She was president of the PTA and a 4-H leader. She worked as a clerk in a dress shop and a grocery store. She taught the grandkids how to play cards and didn’t always let them win. She was a wonderful mother and grandmother too.
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She’s still a wonderful mother. It’s just that now her memory is failing her and her body is more and more fragile. But she takes it a day at a time and sometimes she remembers the good times when she was a kid. Those are the good stories. The ones I used to set the scene for my book, Angel Sister. And while Mom can’t remember reading it, she’s still glad it’s there by her chair. Still glad to know each time I tell her that it is her story as much as it is mine.
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Thanks for reading!