Dec 29, 2007

My Mom's Birthday

I think that I just have time to squeeze in a very important post while it is still December 29th in my time zone. I can't sleep, in fact, I haven't had a good night's sleep in about a month because of my bout of shingles.

Last night, I think I only slept for about an hour because my face and scalp itched all night and no matter how I tried, I could not get comfortable. This evening I fell asleep at about 8:00 pm and now at 11:30 pm, I find myself awake again. Bummer.

The reason that I want to get this post in today, is that today would have been my mother's eighty-fourth birthday. Unfortunately, she died in 1988, just shy of her sixty-five birthday. Mom lived way too hard and died way too young.

My mother's name was Bonnie and was the fourteenth of fifteen children born to her father and mother. My mother's father was a Nazarene minister and by all accounts a mean, miserable character. He ministered in Chicago Heights, Illinois, at the southern end of the Chicago metro area. Her mother died in 1929 after the birth of her fifteenth child. Of the fifteen children born to my grandmother, only nine survived infancy.

Much of my mom's early life is murky, made so by her reluctance to discuss it. She evidently quit school in the ninth grade and fled her father, living with her older sisters in St. Petersburg, FL. Around 1938 or 1939, when she was just sixteen she met and married a much older Cuban man. She gave birth to my half-sister Cathy in 1939. Cathy died of meningitis in about 1945 or 1946. By then my mom had divorced her first husband. I was a teenager before I learned any of this. My mom felt as though it was a cause for shame.

In 1949 my mom married my father, a young military man in Tampa, FL. They remained mostly unhappily married for thirty-nine years. However, the last decade of their marriage was a happier time for them because of my father's recovery from a lifetime of alcoholism. In many ways her marriage to my dad paralleled her relationship with her father.

Throughout my mom's life she fought her own battles. She had multiple health problems, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. She drank too much, smoked too much and ate too much. I'm sure that these factors, along with the stress of an unhappy marriage and family dysfunction contributed to her early death.

My mom had a heart of gold though, beneath her gruff exterior. She was loving and caring with me and my siblings, even if she let us run wild a lot of the time. She would do anything for a friend or a stranger alike.

Even though my mom quit school in the ninth grade, she was a very smart woman. She was a lifelong reader and we always had books in the house. She gave me an appreciation for reading that has served me well in life. My mom loved baseball and especially loved playing cards and bingo.

In 1988 my mom's circulation failed in one of her legs, ultimately leading to its amputation. Mom lost her will to live along with her leg. She was fitted with a prosthetic leg, which she refused to wear. Her last months were spent sitting in a wheelchair waiting for the end, which came on August 8th, 1988. She woke my dad up shortly after midnight to tell him her back hurt and she died of a heart attack before he could get the lamp turned on.

My mom loved her children and especially her grandchildren. We all remember her with deep love and affection and wish that she was with us for a bit longer.

Happy Birthday Mom.

Things in this blog represented to be fact, may or may not actually be true. The writer is frequently wrong, sometimes just full of it, but always judgmental and cranky


Steve said...

Merle: Great post! Fascinating story. Your mom sounds like a formidable woman...and how could she not be, living in those circumstances.

Here's hoping you get some sleep soon.

Anonymous said...

Yes get some sleep, please. and may 2008 be shingles free and pain free.

I love when you post about your family, esp. your mom who looks sweet (and a bit like the actress Andie MacDowell to me.) Women put up with so much more back when your mom was growing up. I think they craved the freedom today's women totally take for granted. Young women miss out big time when they don't want to bond with older ones.

Kurt said...

Happy birthday, Merle's mom.

d. chedwick bryant said...

i like your mom

bella rum said...

Wonderful post.

CresceNet said...

Gostei muito desse post e seu blog é muito interessante, vou passar por aqui sempre =) Depois dá uma passada lá no meu site, que é sobre o CresceNet, espero que goste. O endereço dele é . Um abraço.