jayellebee's Blog

August 1, 2010

Ahead of Her Time

Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 3:27 pm

     Annie Nixon gave birth to a baby girl in 1917, well ahead of her expected “date of confinement.”  The infant, my mother, had incompletely developed lungs and was placed in an incubator.  The technology was cutting edge at the time, an inexact science at best.  Delivery of the correct level of oxygen was still in the experimental stages:  too much could cause blindness and/or brain damage; too little death.

     The baby survived her initial trials and went home to face many more.  No layette was in place, the birth had been so much earlier than planned.  The house, of course, had no central heat; therefore, the newborn’s first bed was a shoe box placed upon the open oven door for warmth.  Family lore tells how Grandma’s wedding ring slid over Mom’s hand, like a bracelet.

     Doctors underestimated the baby’s will to live.  As time passed, they ignored the thriving child’s good health and warned my grandparents their daughter was frail.  Steps needed to be taken to protect the young girl’s health.  She was singled out and sent to the nurse’s office at school “to rest” while her classmates went outside to enjoy physical activity.  The layers of clothing and hats evident in early photos of Mom invite the comment, “Your mother dressed you funny.”

     Mom defied the dire prognoses accompanying her birth.  But, that’s not to say she ever played center on the women’s varsity basketball team.  She claimed to have been 5’2″ and a whopping 110 pounds at her peak, but ended up a petite 4’11” and 84 pounds (fully clothed).  My father enjoyed joking, referring to his bride of 53 years, “There’s a reason dynamite comes in small packages.”   I know I never stood up to her until I was 18 (even though I was taller by the age of eleven), and I only did it once. 

     An intrinsic dichotomy defined Mom in her later years.  She declined buying into some of today’s common household necessities.  Computers, expanded cable TV, and cell phones ranked high on that list.  Yet her curiosity about the world around her never ebbed.  She read the newspaper much more thoroughly than I, paying particular attention to any articles she thought would be of interest to her grandchildren.  This information became fodder for conversations when she was in the company of the younger generation.

     In recent years, most members of said generation are living or have lived with their significant others, without benefit of a marriage license.  As much as their grandmother always enjoyed a good party, and would have  loved attending a few more weddings, it is proof of her openness to change that she accepted the chosen “roommates” with love and generosity.

     Nothing was ever as appreciated as much as a good joke, unless it was a good joke told over a cocktail.  A favorite photo of mine shows this amazing woman sampling Jaegermeister much to the delight of her Grands who passed her the bottle one Christmas.  No, she didn’t like it.  Yes, she continued the tradition each subsequent yule.

     Dulled eyesight and a compromised sense of balance down-sized Mom’s travels to the close-to-home variety in recent years.  But not too long ago, her willingness to try almost anything took her to more foreign countries than I can locate on a map.  She smashed plates in Greece, kissed the Blarney Stone, walked the Great Wall, visited the Great Pyramid, flew over Antarctica, toured the Sydney Opera House, and wore out a handful of passports.

     On July 18, 2010, my mother fell in the hallway of the “Retirement Residence” where she lived.  Once again, doctors offered dire prognoses.  At first, my brother and I were told our mother would never walk again due to irreversible damage to Mom’s spinal cord.  Additional observation yielded the warning she wasn’t likely to regain use of her arms.  The final straw – her ability to swallow was seriously impaired and a feeding tube would be needed.

     Mom, the ever-practical woman who loved and supported me unwaveringly from day one, had an opinion about this turn of events.   “I can’t live like this,” she stated in a strong voice devoid of self-pity.  “And, I don’t want a feeding tube.”  I hesitate to call this my mother’s most generous gift, but she saved me from having to invoke my Power of Attorney.  She spared me the pain making the decision for her would have caused. 

     I stayed with Mom as much as possible during her final days.  When she was awake, we traveled Memory Lane.   Do you remember…?  Could you believe it when…?  We recited our favorite Ogden Nash poem (I Never Saw A Purple Cow) and I fed her tiny tastes of chocolate ice cream from a baby spoon.  When she was asleep, I studied her face, recalling happy times.

     Jean Larson was a fighter.  She was the first in her family to graduate from college.  She was an outstanding evil companion and friend.  I miss her dearly.

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8 Comments »

  1. What a beautiful tribute to your Mom. I can tell what a great influence she had on you and from where your indomitable spirit comes.

    Comment by nina bucchere — August 1, 2010 @ 4:16 pm | Reply

  2. A loving tribute to your mom. I am sure that she will be missed by all whose lives she touched. My condolences to you and your family.

    Bee

    Comment by Bee Hylinski — August 1, 2010 @ 5:42 pm | Reply

  3. In the end, we are but the memories we leave behind.

    Comment by Vivian Hermann — August 1, 2010 @ 5:44 pm | Reply

  4. This is a wonderful piece, Joanne. (I almost wrote peace. That is significant, I do believe!) She is in peace and may you and your family enjoy your many peaceful memories of her. Thank you for sharing this! Liz

    Comment by lizbooks — August 1, 2010 @ 6:11 pm | Reply

  5. Lovely remembrance, Joanne! Your mother lives on in you, who I’m sure,embody her best qualities.

    Peace,
    Ann

    Comment by Ann Damaschino — August 1, 2010 @ 6:31 pm | Reply

  6. WHAT A BEAUTIFUL STORY ,YOU WERE LUCKY TO HAVE SUCH A WONDERFUL MOM.

    Comment by GLORIA ROSSI — August 3, 2010 @ 6:57 am | Reply

  7. Nice work. I miss her too!

    Comment by Fanny — August 5, 2010 @ 7:17 pm | Reply

  8. Joanne, your piece is a beautiful tribute to a remarkable woman. What a full life your mom led! Thank you for sharing so much of her with us. I feel I know her better now. I’m so glad you were both able to be a part of each other’s lives for so long.

    Jean

    Comment by Jean Hall — February 10, 2011 @ 8:58 pm | Reply


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