On her 88th birthday I really can’t tell a perceptible difference, or slip…except everyone on the block can hear Fox News now when she watches. How lucky can you get?
Today is my mom’s 88th birthday. She’s outlived her entire birth family…her mother, father, and both brothers.
And like most, I’m pleased to have and share days like this one because you only get one mother in your life. And in my particular case…I wouldn’t need, or want, another. At 88 years young she’s still quite sufficient for everything I need, thank you.
I’ve shared before, to the delight of dozens of former students, her years in the classroom as a business teacher at Proctorville Fairland, Waterloo, Symmes Valley, and Covington school districts. Brother, Mom taught typing and business classes the old-fashioned way. You earned every credit, every grade, and every compliment you got.
She might possibly be the hardest working woman I’ve ever met in my life. Not because she’s my mother and I say that out of respect and love; but for the fact that…SHE ACTUALLY MIGHT BE THE HARDEST WORKING WOMAN I’VE EVER MET. And what’s more, if you lived with her, or had her for class, she expected you to work just as hard as she did.
For years she’d spend eight hours in the classroom and then come home and spend the next six cooking, canning, freezing, knitting, or helping an ailing neighbor. I can’t tell you the number of people whose lives she’s touched.
Up until age 80 she could still pick strawberries (an exhausting job on your back and joints) with anyone. For about 15 years we had our own strawberry business in Covington and she would routinely pick a hundred quarts a day…just to impress some slacking teenager, like one of my own.
Now at 88, she still shows up on early July mornings (and I mean 6 am) armed and bucketed to pick wild raspberries along Trotter’s Creek, which borders my property in Covington. In fact, she spends spring afternoons just driving the county backroads scouting out wild brambles that might yield a bumper crop of jam and jelly come ripening season.
Last spring she asked me to plant half-runner green beans in the garden behind the barn.
“You don’t have any business out there picking beans,” I cautioned her when she divulged her plans. She’s working on her third pace-maker, after all.
“You let me worry about getting the beans picked, and canned for that matter,” she snapped. “I know you’ll take care of getting them eaten.”
So, we planted. And come August she picked at least four bushels of the prettiest canning beans you’ve ever seen…and canned 30 quarts from them.
A month later she asked me to bring peaches home from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I go there every summer to photograph Civil War magazine art for the University of Nebraska Press.
“Mom, what are you going to do with two bushels of peaches?” I asked. “For God’s sake, haven’t you heard of Del Monte?”
Nonetheless, that same week my sister came home from Philly and stopped in Gettysburg to get two bushels of Red Havens; and we spent the weekend peeling, quartering and canning peaches…50 Mason quarts full!
You’d hardly believe she’s as old as she is, the only clue being that when she watches Fox News (and college basketball) you can hear the TV for a couple of city blocks.
And college basketball? For some reason she’s the biggest Duke fan north of the Ohio River. Just for fun, if you really want to get her going just call Mike Kryzysewski a rat-faced ferret. It brings out the Polish side, or pride, I never knew we had.
For years I’ve heard her former students remark that Mom was the most entertaining, and interesting, teacher they ever had. Only, they wished they’d appreciated her as much in school as they did later as adults. I get that.
My dad’s been gone now almost five years, and I miss him terribly…and the days we spent as father and son.
But as many are want to say, he could never take the place of Mom; and I think that’s why each of us have one. You write your own column if you like, but I’m pretty sure mine is like none other.
Happy birthday, Mom!