My mother was a woman’s libber before the term became popular. She was independent, self-assured and the most fearless person I know. She turned 96 on Monday. Her vision has faded, her hearing lessened, her mind is going. She’s been in a wheelchair for the last four years, due to a re-break of her hip that didn’t heal properly. To see her now, you’d never know that she used to drive around the country doing speeches about a small Appalachian settlement school in Kentucky. Back in the 40s, there were no interstate highways, no cellphones and no GPS. She was on her own, with only her map and her fantastic sense of direction to guide her.
Mom married very late in life. By society’s standards, she was an old maid—36 when she wed, 38 when she had my sister, 40 when she had me. She gave us a childhood that was full of exciting experiences, chock full of great books, educational trips and just plain fun.
By the time I was 9, we had lived in Tennessee, Ohio, Massachusetts, Texas and Nebraska. Everywhere we lived, we visited spots of historical significance. When in Cambridge, Massachusetts, we visited The Old North Church, Paul Revere’s house, Longfellow House…. We drove up to the bridge at Lexington and Concord and saw the Cannonball House and the Minuteman statue. We made a trip up to Bar Harbor and rode a ferry across. We had our pictures drawn by a lady on the ferryboat. I look like I’m about to be shot. My sister’s is much better.
Every summer, we made a drive from our home in Nebraska, back to visit our cousins and grandmothers. Mom’s family lived in Ohio, my dad’s in Tennessee. Along the way, we visited friends or, once in awhile, spent the night in motels. Sometimes, we stopped in spots we’d read about in books: Hannibal, Missouri where we visited Mark Twain’s house. Also, one of Laura Ingall’s Wilder’s homes there.
I’ve gone on a lot about our trips, mainly because it shows a lot about how my mother thought and planned. She would study maps until she had them memorized—or so it seemed to me. She remained unflappable when we had the occasional flat tire or radiator overheated. It seemed we always had our car trouble in the best spots, where help arrived in the best possible way. When I traveled with my mother, I was never afraid. She always was so confident, so sure she would never get lost. Oh, we got turned around from time to time, but she would say, “I may not know where I am, but I know where I’m not.”
Looking back, that probably shouldn’t have been as comforting as it was. It’s hard to see my mother so diminished. The spark is still there, but with the dementia and the mini-strokes, it’s hard to find her. I was happy to see that she recognized me, after not seeing me for a year. She lives in Kansas, I live in Florida. I surprised her, arriving without any warning. I did tell her who I was, and she remembered me and my children, even had a spark when I mentioned my granddaughter.
My daughter laments she can’t see her grandmother and bring her daughter to visit, but I suggested that she not. Let the six year old have memories of her GiGi as she was the last time she saw her, not as the woman who might not remember her name. I also want my daughter and sons to remember her: my mother a vital, energetic, brilliant, fearless woman.
With such a strong mother, it is no wonder that Dellani Oakes is such a creative writer. You can find her work at http://www.amazon.com/Dellani-Oakes/e/B007ZQCW3A