I was lucky to catch mom at home around 6 p.m. on Wednesday. She likes being outside, observing traffic and people, especially during the week when the school kids are playing football on the fields next to her complex. When she comes in, she likes going to the community room where she can be with other residents, to chat and work puzzles.
But today, she returned to her apartment in a huff after a resident went into a rage when mom mentioned she had a sore throat. "She's one of these who think they are perfect," mom says. "Her family is perfect. Well no one is perfect in this world. I said I have a sore throat and she went on and on about how I shouldn't be around (spreading germs). It is my sinuses draining. I'm not sick."
Mom sounds a little hoarse like she did six weeks ago. She spends a lot of time outdoors and does have allergies to pollen, etc. The last time, mom ground up some aspirin and gargled with it. Her throat and voice were back to normal the next daytime we talked. "If I have to, I will have Dennis (my brother) take me to the emergency room, but I don't like the way they pile a bunch of medicine on you these days, unnecessarily." I understand that. I've had migraines since fourth grade. Turns out it had to do with my teachers' perfume. Over the years, I did try different medications and settled on Tylenol. But, I finally figured out something. If I take Tylenol, the migraine subsides in about a half an hour. If I don't take anything, the headaches subsides in about a half an hour. I believe some meds I was given for migraines actually prolonged the headache.
Back to mom. So she was nonplussed about the incident, but her mood changed once we started talking about the rest of her day. Of course, she was busy people watching. She ended up with a beautiful quilt, left behind by a resident who moved out. People leave food and things in the community room for others to take. Mom was admiring the quilt when a neighbor told her to take it before someone else grabbed it. She was considering whether she will keep it to use on her bed or give it to my sister Liz. As we talked she was thinking about that quilt and liking how it would look on her bed.
"I have this beautiful bedroom set and I can't remember where it came from." says Mom. I am pretty sure it was mine. Nice mahogany set I bought at an auction, when I was back at the farm, before moving to Florida. Mom continues, saying she thinks there is something special about the set, but can't remember. We've talked about it before. I didn't say anything, this time.
Mom mentions the lady downstairs again and how people do things without thinking. How they hurt someone's feelings. She refers to Christ being crucified and how he offered forgiveness. "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."
We turned to bringing up good times, fun memories. Picnics and summer outings. We had fun when we camped at Allegany State Park. Someone lent dad this large tent. My brother Dick and one of his friends slept in a pup tent. My friend Sharron O'Neil came along, too.
I started this part of the conversation by asking mom if she remembered how we brought this huge tub of night crawlers in dirt to use for fishing. The first night we were there, raccoons discovered the worms and picked every worm out. The next morning we discovered a tub of dirt and no worms for fishing. We had to break down and buy worms. Can you imagine farmers having to buy worms?
Mom loved that story and went on to talk about going to the area in the park they called the dump. The were barrels of garbage around and a bonfire going. Everyone went there to see the bears. Seems like there were usually a family or two on hand to check the barrels for food. People would bring food for the bears. One man stuck marshmallows on the end of a fishing pole and held it out for the bears to grab. His wife took pictures of it. Dad, who was a jokester to a fault, found a twig and moved it withh is foot until it touched the leg of the woman taking pictures. She jumped and screamed. What a lark. Mom enjoyed watching the bears, but some people made her nervous when the tried to get too close to the bears. It was a fun weekend, though. Don and Marie Witter and kids camped next to us.
We went fishing, swimming, hiking and had a lot of great picnic food.
We also talked about our outings to Letchworth State Park. Most notable to me were the times we went when I was 4 or 5 years old. First, on our way there, we had to take a little detour to look at the bottle tree. Years before, someone had stuck a bottle on the end of a small limb and the tree grew up, even had leaves growing inside the bottle. It became a tradition and people put many bottles on the tree's limbs. The tree actually survived and thrived. This was one of dad's favorite pilgrimages. The last time I was there, the whole thing had gone downhill. Someone got the bright idea of simply tying bottles to the limbs. Made a mockery of the original creation.
Times at Letchworth were generally fun. Once we went with friends visiting from Long Island. Sparky, Betty and their son, "Sonny." Mom and dad met them when dad was in the Army during WWII. Mom stayed with them when she went to visit dad before he shipped out. Sparky's real name was Adolph, but that wasn't a popular name at that time. Sonny was a gullible kid and would do anything Dick told him to do. One time Dick told him he could fly by jumping off our upstairs porch. The tied a sheet around his neck, his cape like Superman. He did jump and nearly broke something. Another time, the pair used Dick's bee-bee gun to shoot broken match sticks into my chest and stomach. Mom nearly fainted seeing her 4-year-old walking into the house with matchsticks plugged into her body. Dad hurriedly pulled them out. It didn't hurt until I saw horror in mom's face. I do remember I was bleeding and my father was yelling at my brother.
Sonny also jumped onto the back of my grandfather's work horse, "Dick." My brother neglected to tell him the horse would head straight for the woods. Of course, Sonny got knocked off by the first tree limb he and the horse encountered.
The day we spent with them at Letchworth was certainly memorable. First of all, while walking along the gorge trails, Dick and Sonny spotted something on the ledge, beyond the safety rail and decided to crawl down and get it. At four years old, I was so frightened to see them practically dangling where they shouldn't be in the first place. Everyone was screaming for them to get back to where they were suppose to be before they fell or got caught. Maybe Dick thought he could pull one over on Sonny with some of these antics, but it seems like Dick always got sucked into doing the crazy stuff, too.
We were having a lot of laughs remembering all of this. Then mom told me later that day at Letchworth, while the picnic was being made, mom discovered Dick and Sonny were selling the corn she brought to other families in the picnic grove.
That reminded me of a story my grandma Whitney use to tell about one of their family picnics. One time they were having a picnic and the kids ran off to play while the adults were setting it up. After a while my dad was getting hungry and started back to get food. On his way he saw a table set up and (said) he thought it was his family gathering. Well these people had fried chicken, so dad sat down and ate. The others just stared at him and never said a word. When he was done, he stood up and left. Dad always claimed he didn't know he sat at the wrong table, until he finished eating. We think it had to do with the chicken.
"I've always loved picnics," mom confesses. I agree. Being with friends and family, outside on a warm sunny day, eating great homemade food and making memories that last a lifetime -- can't beat it.
I need to go and make dinner, I told mom. We talked for a couple more minutes. She wrote down my phone number, again. Wrote done that I was calling her on Saturday, And she told me how she loved visiting me in Massachusetts, loved visiting the girls in Florida and is so grateful, we've reconnected.
"My sore throat is going away," mom said. "I probably just needed to do more talking. I've enjoyed this so much. Remembering old times and talking about them. We didn't have much, but we made the best of what we had."
I love you mom. I love you, too, sweetheart.