I tried to reach mom with no luck on Sunday and found myself worrying that her sore throat on Friday turned into something more serious. It turns out there was an all-day music and entertainment event going on at the park and she was there. Funny how I would worry about her after all of the years we didn't speak.
I finally reached her this morning a little after 11. They have a coffee hour with the manager in the community room. At first she said they have it the first of the month (which it isn't) and later she said it was held every Monday. The purpose she says is to air any complaints, of which there aren't usually any. But, for those who attend, the hope is that someone will bring goodies, like donuts.
She'd just returned from the coffee hour -- with her mail and the letter I sent her last Wednesday. She was halfway through reading it when I called. She was liking the copy of my blog post about what she, me, Maia and Taryn wore for our first days of school in eighth grade. Taryn started today. She asked me a few times if I'd sent her a letter yet and I reminded her she was just reading it.
Mom enjoyed whatever was going on at the park on Sunday. Lots of music and stuff for old people to spend their money on, she says with a laugh. The weather isn't too chilly for her, yet. Sweatshirt weather. A lot was going on at the park, but she didn't elaborate, except that she couldn't take her dog, but she still enjoyed herself.
Her sore throat is gone -- she did a lot of gargling -- with salt.
She was waiting for her Meals on Wheels meal and it arrived while we were on the phone. She told the woman who delivered it that she was talking to her granddaughter. I guess that is better than having her think I am her sister. I asked if I should let her go so she could eat her lunch. She quickly said no, lunch would wait. "Unless you have to go," she said.
I asked if she cooks dinner for herself. "There is a nice sub shop, I can walk to and get a meatball sub. I usually have it for a couple of meals. The lunch they bring me at noon is a big meal, my main meal for the day. I go out to eat a lot, too."
I told her we had pancakes for breakfast yesterday, a regular Sunday thing for us. I told her it reminded me of Grandpa Pire and how he loved mastering the grill for family pancake suppers. She laughed and said looking back, she had a good life We talked about him later and she added it is hard now being by herself.
She brought up the farmhouse, again and how it is rotting away. Told me about the 3-car garage they built with a workshop in it. Really was a pole barn dad and some of his friends erected. And all of the things they'd done to improve the house over the years. It originally had gas lights. I told her I remember when they put in the upstairs bathroom. When I was a kid, there wasn't any heat upstairs, except for a small gas heater in one of the bedrooms. The kitchen was renovated about 1959 and a furnace was installed after I'd left home. "We had a good life," she said again.
She always likes to talk about visiting us in Massachusetts. She said she is enjoying remembering things that happened a long time a go. "I always say there is so much to remember, my head's so full. Sometimes I can't remember how old I am -- 90. I can't remember everything." Look at it this way, I told her. A 20-year-old only has 20 years worth of stuff to remember. She's got 90 years worth, which is a lot. She liked looking at it, that way.
She goes to the library which is not far down the street from where she lives. "I can't read as much as I use to, but I still like to read those plain novels." (Probably romance novels.) "My mother read to me and Bernie. We didn't have TV. I had an uncle (Albert Cartwright). He lived in Friendship and took care of the old folks. (her grandparents) He was very intelligent and would have been a great teacher. He never went to college. Instead he stayed home and Grandma Cartwright was mean, I think. He was lonely because the girl he fell in love with, jilted him. He would come to Bolivar, go downtown and come back with a huge bag of books. He loved to read." I asked if he was the uncle that gave my brother Jim several years' worth of Sports Illustrated magazines and he was. I kind of remember him.
She went on to talk about how the Cartwright's grew beans and at the end of the season they would take up the living room rug and dump the harvested beans on the floor. She and her cousins would have a fun time thrashing the beans by jumping up and down on them.
Speaking of lonesome, she said Aunt B was a upset about a particular incident and Mom thinks that's why she started smoking. I am pretty sure what she told me wasn't quite right, so I won't repeat it. I do know that Aunt B was going to nursing school in Buffalo -- something part of a Navy program. She was dating a guy, they fell in love and wanted to get married. But, he was Catholic and his parents forbade from marrying her, as she wasn't Catholic.
Mom tells me she and her friend go out on Wednesday's for fish fry at a restaurant near the tile company and then to Red's and Trudy's restaurant for a cup of tea and pie.. I asked her if she remembered stopping at the fruit market across from Red's and Trudy's to buy peanuts. Here is where she corrected me. The fruit market was Wilson's. Right next door to it was the Peanut Shop. She would stop for fresh roasted peanuts on our way to visit Grandma and Grandpa Pire every Sunday. She still likes peanuts and gets some to shell and eat, once in a while.
Back to Aunt B. Mom says she and grandma would take the train to Buffalo to visit Aunt B. She said she enjoyed train rides and Grandma really loved riding to Buffalo on the train. "I think I got passes for us to ride, because Leslie (dad) worked for the railroad then," she said. I took the train down south when Leslie was stationed in North Carolina. Marines would get on the train and everyone would give them their seat. One time this young man who was going into the Marines sat next to me and he was so sad he had to go and leave his girlfriend.
I told her about the time I stayed at Grandma Pire's and walked into the kitchen to see her smoking .I did a gasp and jaw drop. She said, "Damn it, now she'll tell her mother I was smoking." I never did figure out if I should tell on her and decided it would be best if I didn't tell. Well, mom had a good laugh at that. She says she was stunned, too, when she finally found out her mother smoked.
We talked about her siblings. Mostly about how her sister Hortense died. She was with a bunch of friends in a car riding in Ceres. They went too fast over bumpy railroad tracks. She was sitting on someone's lap and the car lurched from the bump and she flew up in the air and hit her head on the side of the car. They brought her home, then took her to a doctor, but she was dead. Hortense was her oldest sister. Her brother Jimmy was an aspiring singer. He was playing at a bar or restaurant one night and was walking home. Because it was dark he walked along a raised pathway along the side of the road. A car driven by someone from a well -to-do family in Wellsville swerved off the road, onto the pathway and ran over mom's brother. In both cases the family was devastated.
I told her about our moonflower plants and she wants pictures. "You must take after your grandpa." That reminded me of how every year, he strung strings from the ground to the roof, all along one side of their house. Then he planted Sweet peas that grew up the string lines. It was a gorgeous site. I mentioned how he grew the most amazing red potatoes and how people came from all over to buy bushel baskets full of them. "That was how he got money to buy seeds for next year's garden," mom said.
"We had a good life." Also, "Be thoughtful of others."
Today's conversation took 39 minutes. Will be talking to her in a couple of days. She wants to hear from all of us.