Today, October 8th, 2014 was a Wednesday and as I was about to start getting ready for Breakfast Club, the phone rang. It was Judy from the adult family home where Mom was living – she called to tell us Mom had died in her sleep about 4:50 a.m. I realized that was less than half an hour ago. It upset me but also it was relief for all of us, especially for Mom. She didn’t want to be here as the dementia began its course and she often asked why she couldn’t just go. Sometimes I think she was afraid, not sure whether it was true Dad was waiting for her. A relief for her that she was no longer afraid, confused and stressed. Even though she was at the point where she slept a lot and didn’t necessarily know who I was, it was a sad and happy time. I went to Breakfast Club that morning because I didn’t want to be alone – my friends there were so caring and loving when I told them.
When I was planning the Celebration of Life, I asked my friend Julia to help with a post card to send or hand out to people inviting them. She did such a lovely card.
The pictures on the left were taken in 1937 – I think it was about the time she was at Pratt Institute. The larger one is of her when she went to dance. The picture on the right was taken in 2008 when my sister Candy had a book signing here in Seattle. The background is supposed to be lavender, one of Mom’s favorite colors. I liked the touches of pink because she loved pink as well. I decided to have a bit of green because she had a wonderful way with plants – wish I had inherited her green thumb.
As I looked at the pictures for the postcard, I thought about as her younger self and found some pictures that make me think of her especially.
This was the house where grew up – 1715 ma
Fortunately Dad wrote dates and places on the photos
This also about 1919.
Every summer for several years her Dad would rent a house at Clinton, Conn – right on Long Island Sound. Many of the other family members also rented houses there.
I remember as we were growing up hearing stories of her childhood and her relatives – The seven Smith sisters and their young brother Charlie. They put the “fun” in dysfunctional. Her brother Don used to drive them to places and he needed a scorecard token track of who wasn’t speaking to home, who was talking to whom. He used to tell stories about them – I began to call them the Awesome Seven. There was Aunt Bertha, Katie, Victoria, Amelia and Tillie – I can’t remember the other 2.Aunt Amelia and Aunt Tillie were the most interesting. Aunt Amelia worn long, baggy and drab sweater and dress from the missionary box. Don said he always thought the uncles’ first names were Poor.
Aunt Amelia was married to Poor Allie – Allen – who worked as a night watchmen at Brown Thompson, a well know department store. He dies before her and she lived a few years after. When she died, the family went to clean out the house and found a lot of Brown Thompson boxes filled with lovely new clothes – with price tags. Now no one is sure if Poor Allie “liberated them from the store or just what the story was; but Aunt Amelia never wore the clothes.
Aunt Tillie was the pot stirrer, so the family was glad when she and Poor George moved to Meriden. Poor George worked for International Silver and on summer evening he was a night watchmen in the park. It gave him a great opportunity to enjoy looking at the ladies. I suspect Aunt Till was not the easiest person to live with, she was a bit peculiar. When Poor George died, she moved back to Glastonbury near the family and stirred the pot most of the time. She had Poor George buried in Glastonbury and she arranged for a bench to be put by his grave. Every day she would go down to his grave and cry.
She was living on the second floor of a two family hose, when she died she wanted to be put in her coffin there and then brought down. Mom’s brothers had to hoist the coffin up the outside and into the window. While they were having a service there, Uncle Howard jack knifed in the chair – took a while to rescue him. Then they decided to take the coffin down the stairs – unfortunately Mom’s brothers had a problem and Tillie went down the stairs end over end.
We grew up hearing about the aunts, mostly Aunt Marion, Aunt Dot and Aunt Marge. They were her father’s sisters, though Aunt Marge was an aunt by marriage. But I always think of them as a trio. When Mom’s parents went away, the kids stayed with Aunt Dot and Uncle Howard; they had no children and they enjoyed looking after Mom and her brothers, later her much younger sister. Aunt Marion was the only one who supported Mom when she went out to California right after Pearl Harbor to marry Dad.
I think this was taken at “The Farm”, the house Grandfather bought in Waterford on the Connecticut River.
I know this was taken on the river in Waterford.
Mom came from a big family, with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. in town. I have always wondered what it was like to grown up that way, though it was lonely for Mom for quite a while. During the war she made a trip up to Glastonbury to show her family Ellen – the first grand child. Around 1964 or 65 she went back for her Dad’s funeral – she was a little embraced to say she had a wonderful time. When she came home, she started rug hooking and volunteering for Traveler’s Aid at the airport. In 1970 Mom and Dad started a custom wood business for sailboats – Dad had been told he wouldn’t have a job in 1971 and he retired to the business. By then, all of us girls had left home, so they were too busy to experience the empty nest syndrome.
This was the small desk in the airport when she started. What a change from then to now.
They ran the business until 2000 together and when Dad died, Mom continued to run the business for 4 or 5 years. She was in her 80’s by that time and she decided she didn’t want to be a captain of industry any more. She continued to volunteer at Traveller’s Aid until it was decided to discontinue it – some bright spark at the Port had some ideas of her own and wanted to build her own empire. So Traveller’s Aid was thrown out. Really bugged Mom, but she started volunteering at the Senior Center Thrift shop. She enjoyed it a lot and really liked the women there. There was a burst pipe and rather than fix it, the city decided to close the shop. Seems someone had their eye on the property.
These ladies were not about to be kept down; they decided to come here on Mondays to play Mexican Dominos together. Mom really enjoyed having them here and they didn’t lose touch. They stopped coming shortly before Mom moved to the adult family home. Mom was a member of the 1918 Club for quite a few years. Unfortunately they began to pass away and Mabel in particular was a great friend. I think Mom missed her a lot after Mabel died.
All this time Mom was rug hooking, making friends and began to teach rug hooking here. After a while, she told she really didn’t want to teach, she just wanted someone to play with. So they came every Thursday – they needed to come here and Mom needed them to be here. It was difficult for her to give up hooking, but her hands and neck were bothering and she couldn’t see any more because of macular degeneration. I think that robbed her of a lot of thins she loved to do – hooking, reading, gardening – she wasn’t unhappy to give up driving because she always hated to drive.
Dad tells the story that in 1942 or 1943 she had to learn to drive very quickly. Her brother Don helped her buy a car in Connecticut and drove with her to , I think, New Bern, NC. Dad was going out of town on business and she would be left with Ellen by herself. I think Dad taught her to drive and when they went down to the Motor Vehicle Department, the guy asked Dad if she could drive. He of course said yes and the guy told Mom “Lady, if your husband thinks you can drive – here’s your license”. When Dad had to leave, they drove to the train station, he left and Mom had to drive home with baby Ellen. Unfortunately she got stuck in the middle of a parade – not conducive to feeling comfortable driving.
This has become a lot longer than I planned – I will give it a rest and will probably do another installment. I’ll see what other pictures I can find – I finally have mastered the fax machine.