Elizabeth, our mother, was born in 1914, the 5th child of twelve children. Both her parents had immigrated to America from Germany. Her Dad came with his parents and ended up settling in Oklahoma during the land rush. He later married and had two sons. His wife’s mother developed typhoid fever and she died from it. Four of her children died including his wife, because not realizing germs were still present, they kissed their mother goodbye in her coffin and caught typhoid fever themselves. After a few years, he met and married our maternal grandmother who cared for the two boys left behind from the first marriage and added ten more to the fold.
Mother had wonderful memories of her parents and siblings, all born in her childhood Oklahoma farmhouse. Many of our gatherings were spent at her feet asking questions about days gone by. It is hard to imagine all the changes she was witness to. She came of age during the depression and because of that, there was no money for her to fulfill her dream of going to college. She mourned that loss as long as she lived. She married our Dad, Carl, in 1938 after courting for three years. They would have liked to marry sooner, but most of Daddy’s paycheck was going to help support his parents and he felt he needed to wait till he was no longer as needed at home. Once they were married, mother always recalled how happy and excited she was when Daddy got his first raise from $43 a week to $47 a week. They had their first baby girl, Mary in 1939 and two years later they had Carolyn.
Daddy did receive a draft notice for WWII, but when he went to get the mail and the postmaster handed it to him, he told Carl to drive to the county seat and see if perhaps there hadn’t been a mistake because at that time they were not taking married men with children. So Daddy did and not only were they not taking married men at that time, but they also found out he worked for a natural gas company which was a hugely needed commodity during the war, so he was taken off the draft list completely. As thankful as we are to the brave men and women who fought for us so valiantly, we are also thankful that our Dad was able to stay home. Who knows if the next three of us would even exist if he hadn’t been!
The 1940’s saw two sons added to the family, Glenn and Steve. Then in 1956 they got a late-in-life surprise and named her Norma (me) Daddy stayed with the same company all his life but he and mother were transferred several times. None of us ever remember mother complaining, she always took the moves in stride. She made friends easily no matter where she was. In 1968, our brother Glenn was taken from us, the result of kidney disease that had plagued him for thirteen years. I was only twelve at the time and I have pondered the fact, that although I missed him terribly, my life really didn’t change. My parents did not become overwhelmed with grief or become bitter. They put on brave faces and remained cheerful for the child they still had at home. I now know that couldn’t have been easy.
Six years later, Daddy joined Glenn in heaven. I had graduated from high school and had gotten married one month before he died. Imagine how alone Mother had to feel. In such a short time she had gone from a family of three to just herself. What strength she showed in those days. Again, I do not at all remember her being anything but joyful. She threw herself into a job at a nursery close to her home. She started traveling. She took painting classes. She started quilting. She became very active in her home town and in the Senior Citizen Center there. If any of us needed something, she was there. She was like a little Energizer Bunny! She remained that way well into her nineties. Around ninety-five her eye-sight was really being compromised and it starting taking a little bit of a toll. At first it was subtle, but as she started approaching her 100th birthday, we could see life was becoming more of a struggle for her. That is when our journey of “Taking Care of Mother” began.