Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Blue Day for Mom

Mom says she's discouraged with life. "No one comes to see me. But I go out and sit. I watch traffic, so, I do have something to do. And I have my dog. I know I shouldn't complain. Other people have more to complain about than I do."

The weather in Portville is really nice and better yet, there is a band concert this evening in the park across the street. Her friend Velma always comes to the concert and brings an extra chair for mom. They will sit and enjoy the music. Afterwards they go to Red's and Trudy's for pie or ice cream or something good. Mom says Velma has always been a good friend and stuck by her all of these years. I'll bet they were friends for more than 50 years.

She finally heard from Dennis. He didn't have car trouble -- that is what she thought happened. Instead he went to Nashville(?) or somewhere down there, with Vicki and the kids that go with her. I believe she means kids who are on the Drill Team Vicki instructs and takes to competitions. Mom says she thinks it was something that came up at the last minute. Dennis doesn't usually go on these trips, but maybe they needed someone to drive one of the cars, or something. Her words, not mine. He's home now and she is relieved.

We talked about dogs. This one, Marley, a Jack Russell is 7 or so, mom thinks. Dog is smart, like most dogs. "I've had quite a few Jack Russells and I just love them. I've had some people say they bite. About some little kid getting bit by one. But, I think it is because they are little dogs, kids start playing, pick it up and maybe hurt the dog. I don't know." I offer that dogs are like people. Even dogs of the same breed can have totally different personalities. She likes my line of thinking.

The first dog she remembers having was her mother and father's dog. Some woman had the dog and had to give it away. Her dad loved it and would take the dog along with him when he went into the woods to cut wood. She thinks something happened, it got hurt and died, or something while the dog was with grandpa in the woods. I asked her about Tippy, the fox terrier at Grandma Pire's house when I was little. I just remember it would growl a lot and had warts. It was pretty old and eventually died. Mom use to tell us Tippy was her dog until she married and moved away. But today, she didn't have much to say about Tippy, having trouble remembering.

We talked about cats, dogs and ponies that were a part of the Whitney legacy. I asked how it was that when I was little we always had cats in the house, but mom wouldn't allow dogs. Then later on there were always dogs in the house and no cats. She laughed over that question. "I probably knew your dad would have a lot of dogs in the house back then. Leslie got mad because one of the cats crawled up into the back of the couch and crapped. So the cats went back outside." I know the indoor dog thing happened when they started breeding den terriers. I added that as kids we brought bunnies to play with in the house. They raised them to eat. I said I could not eat a rabbit, because they are too cute. She reassured me the ones bred for meat weren't cute.

We talked about when Grandma Whitney died. I was with her. Mom talked about how grandma, who was bed ridden (unnecessarily) would sneak around the house when everyone else was asleep. She would mention something that was in another room and give herself away. I told mom some steps on the stairs would creak when someone stepped on them and I would hear grandma going up and down stairs for years. Later, years after she died, Stephanie would hear the stairs creak when she stayed at the farm and slept in my old room. I told her I don't believe in ghosts, but maybe the house does. That brought her to talk again about the house and how it is deteriorating.

That is something that makes her blue. she wants to go back to Florida for the winter, but got herself in trouble. "They don't understand the dementia. I said stuff, I didn't know I was saying and can't remember. Someday they will find out."

Back to cats. We talked about the time when dad worked for Ralston Purina, calling on farms, one farmer tried to give my dad a cat. Jokingly, Dad told him he only liked cats that didn't have tails. Big mistake. He was horrified when he returned a few weeks later. The farmer had cut the cat's tail off. He stuck the cat in a bag and said, "Here is your cat." Dad brought it home. When he opened the bag, the cat sprang out and headed for the woods, never to be seen again. I think dad learned a lesson -- but probably not as he was always a joker.

Dad also brought home a pony that was attacked by dogs and left blind in one eye from a fly infestation. When he saw the pony on a farm he was calling on, he knew he could help it. He told the owner to give the pony to him or dad would call the police on him for animal cruelty. The man told dad to take the pony. He did. He nursed it back to health and they had that pony for many years.

Mom loved my telling that story to her and helping her to remember. "Leslie loved animals."

We talked about how rough it was on dad when he worked on the railroad and had to spend a lot of time away from home. He spent a lot of time living on a train, usually in or near Buffalo, shoveling snow off of the tracks or doing carpentry work at different stations. I said it must have been tough for him because he never liked being away from home. She said she got to feel the same way: "I know. I used to get sad and want to go home, sometimes when we were away." I told her it must run in the family -- I used to get homesick, all of the time.

I asked her more about the Cartwrights and about other aunts and uncles besides Albert. "I had another uncle I liked even better. Uncle David -- they lived in Richburg and I loved going to their house and playing with my cousins." She retells me the story about thrashing beans, but it was at his house and not her grandma Cartwright's house. I think she got confused the other day and this version is right. "My step-grandfather Cartwright was mean. They built a room on the back of the house where he stayed. My real grandfather was very creative, a great musician." That was all she said about him. I didn't ask anymore questions about relatives, for today.

I asked about her happiest memories. "I have so many. I loved coming to New England to visit you. I loved the trips Leslie and took when he worked for Purina. Going to that beautiful place in New Hampshire. One place, maybe New Hampshire, some doctors had a convention before we got there and we had to wait for them to finish cleaning the rooms up. What a mess; bottles everywhere. You'd think smart people like doctors would know better.

"You are good for helping me remember. After you call, I start to think about good times. It is good."

I reminded her of her trips with the Eastern Star and when she got to spend a week in Manhattan. Or the trip to Alabama to visit dad's brother. "You know, there are people that never go out of the state and I have been to a lot of places. I have been so lucky."

She talks about Nancy (me) being in something to do with the Eastern Star. I remind her I am Nancy and I was in Constellation with Cindy Matteson and how we had to wear stupid prom dresses. "You must've felt pretty special," she chuckles.

She talks again about the ball fields behind her apartment complex. She likes to watch the kids play baseball or football, depending on the time of year. One day a young girl came and sat beside her and told mom that someone in her family had started the fire when the Mill (Purina Feed store) burned down in Portville. "The rats came running out all over in the streets. Some people were mad because they shot the rats. They had to -- it would've been a horrible mess for the nearby homes." She then went back to talking about the girl. Mom couldn't remember the family name, but the girl said she was sorry that it happened. Everything was destroyed, but the books. The store manager, Don Emmonds (sp?) had taken the books home to work on them.

That reminded me of the time Don worked in the Olean store before they moved to Portville and before my dad started working for Purina. Mom was driving a couple of us kids to the feed store. She made the huge mistake of saying Don was handsome. Well, the first thing I said to him was, "My mom has a crush on you."

I immediately knew I said the wrong thing. Mom's face was so red and she was very embarrassed. But today, when we talked about it, she just laughed and said, "Well he was handsome."

The girl who sat down by her and talked about the fire left. After a while she came back and gave mom a bouquet of flowers from the florist, next door. "The flowers were beautiful. I don't know why she gave them to me. She was so nice."

About now the dog starts barking and mom is excited because it might be time for Velma to arrive and time for their fun evening. We said our love yous and goodbyes. I told her I would call on the weekend and she said she is already looking forward to my call.

I am finding this to be an amazing experience. She and I are sharing memories that have to do with us. Maybe it is just me, but I feel like she is the person I wanted her to be, so many years ago.  I really think you would have a similar experience and be grateful for it. What she wants now, more than ever, is to relive the happy times with each of us. That's all. :)


  1. Homesickness must be genetic. I am enjoying reading these. -Erin

  2. Thanks Erin, I am happy to share these conversations.


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