- Always choose a Bingo card with O-63 in the corner! Mom was an avid game player. Yahtzee, Kismet, and Canasta were her favorites. I remember learning to play Canasta long before I could even hold the cards in my hand (she made me a card holder out of two jar lids). When she was older, she and her friend, Velma (a waitress at Freda's Cafe) would play the best of 200 games of Yahtzee and treat the winner to dinner! Always play fair and remember "the board's the play," no changing your mind. She would have died in July had she not wanted to play one more game of Bingo at the Lion's Club tent at our small town's summer celebration!
- Sing! Mom had a lovely voice. I grew up listening to The Mills Brothers and Jim Reeves. When we were sick, mom always sang, "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" to us. When she was buried, we sang it at the cemetery and blew bubbles, filling the air with joy. I loved when she'd sing songs in German, especially Silent Night.
- Darn socks, embroidery, iron, and sew on a button. All four boys (although none of the others would admit it) learned the basic skills that would keep the holes in their britches patched and their sleeves crisp! I still can't leave the house without my shirt ironed!
- Be an advocate for children. Mom loved kids (she was tough on her own, but we learned to have strong characters) and would protect them at all costs. Perhaps because of her own not-always-nice childhood (growing up on Kalamath Street) she knew that all children deserved to be loved.
- Give gifts from the heart. Even in her later years, we all got a Christmas gift (from Gibson's or Dollar General), down to the great-grandchild. Nothing fancy, but there was always something from her under the tree!
- Read. Mom was an avid reader--comic books, True Confessions, Louis L'Amour, Reader's Digest, Zane Grey. In her later years, the librarian would leave a bag of books on her front porch (at least ten) and when they were finished, she'd call up the "Liberry" and more would be delivered.
- Fish. She loved to fish.
- Be Creative. Use what what you have to make what you need. I remember she collected old nylon stockings, cut them into pieces, and stuffed pockets of calico to make my sister a quilt--feather stitched in between each row. Mom had a knack... she could make anything you needed out of what she could find.
- Let the housework go. Didn't grow up living in the cleanest house, but we sure did have fun!
- Cuss if you need to and sometimes when you don't. There was one word I never heard my mom say... but she liked to pepper her stories with a swear now and then!
- "You old crab-patch!" can be used as a term of endearment. My mom's favorite term for my dad. With the greatest of love, she used it often when talking to my dad!
- Eat good tomatoes, lots of asparagus (pronounced aspargruss), peaches, pears... and put up enough for winter. Don't can, but wish I did!
- Cook. She was a fabulous cook... she owned a bakery in her 20s and a restaurant in the 1960s... I would love a piece of her lemon pie right now! Thank goodness, she taught me to cook!
I remember taking mom to her house that afternoon (she was living in a nursing home a few blocks from her house). Her legs were beginning to be ravaged with diabetic gangrene. We sat in the yard for a bit, enjoying the shade of the old elm tree. As I wheeled her in, she said, "Boy, sure looks like Curtis should get this lawn mowed!"
I helped her sort some boxes and put up her drapes (freshly cleaned). I put her in her bed and covered her up with a sheet. I watched her sleep like she hadn't slept in months. When she woke up, she said, "I wish I could sleep like that all the time!"
Later that afternoon, my sister brought us lunch (meatloaf, summer squash, and tomatoes... delicious). As we ate, Mom said, "I sure could use a piece of lemon pie!" I agreed and suggested we make one. We laughed.
At the end of the day, I knew it was time to take her back to the nursing home. I think she would have preferred to stay in her own house, but she agreed it was time to go. We grabbed a few things she needed (a box of dates to share with her roommate, her embroidery scissors, a few hankies) to take with her.
As I wheeled her out of the house and closed the door, I think we both knew it was the last time she would sleep in her own bed and spend time in the little bungalow she and dad had worked so hard to buy!
I got her settled at the nursing home and bent down to hug her goodbye and give her a kiss. "Thank you, Sweetie!"
"I didn't really do much!" I said.
"You did more than you'll ever know..."
So did you, Mom. So did you!