MrsGreenThumb

I am a lover of horticulture, gardening and the environment. At age 8, I sent away for a package of Zinnia seeds for 10 cents and I've been hooked ever since. After 25 years of being self-employed, I retired. That only lasted 4 years and I now work in a water conservation program: I buy grass from homeowners who are willing to convert to desert landscaping and lose that thirsty green stuff. I pursue what interests me and you can blame my sister for getting me into this blogging thing.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Memories of my Mother

July 13th is the anniversary of my mother’s death and I wanted to reminisce about her. She was a remarkable woman and she was respected and admired by many people. I am honored to be her daughter.

As a child, she was stricken with polio, there was a big epidemic in 1912 when she contracted it. Many children died and she was one of the lucky survivors. As a result of her polio, she had a withered leg and walked with a pronounced limp all of her life. Her parents were immigrants who did as much as they could but there wasn’t much information in those days. Of six children in her family, she was number 4. I think she was born with a kind spirit and catered to everyone in the family, she mended and ironed, cleaned house and cooked. She always gave more than she received. This was the story of her life.

When she was 29, her father arranged a marriage with my father. Men didn’t marry crippled women in those days so I think she felt lucky. I was born a year after their marriage and my sister was born two years later. My father wasn’t much of a prize but he loved her and their marriage endured for over 54 years.

My grandfather set them up in a little corner grocery store and they eked out a living. We lived behind the store in 3 rooms. There was no shower or tub so we had to go next door to bathe at our grandparent’s apartment. My mom sewed our clothes and we were embarrassed because we didn’t have store bought clothes like the rest of the kids. One of my earliest memories of my mother sewing was for a professional ballerina from Chicago. She spent untold hours sewing sequins by hand on costumes that I thought were so exotic. Later in life, I realized what a generous person she was when she mended and sewed for many people. I loved the clothes and dolls she sewed for my sons and my grandchildren. I “lent” her my new Sears sewing machine in 1970 on the condition that she mend my families clothes when we needed something repaired. When she died in 1993, I got it back and couldn’t bear to touch it for almost 5 years. I finally had so much mending to do that I forced myself to open the cabinet and sewed up a storm.

I was a headstrong kid and my mother never tried to break my spirit. When I was 5 and starting school, she arranged for someone to walk me to school. That lasted 2 days. I announced that if I was old enough to go to school, I was old enough to walk alone. I guess she wanted me to be an independent person.

My son’s loved going to Grandma’s house. She had infinite patience. She and her mother taught them to play canasta, kalookie, go fish, war, crazy eights and Scrabble. She imbued them with a love of science fiction that endures to this day. She taught them to sew buttons on their clothes. Everyone was cooked a special breakfast when they stayed the weekend, sometimes she would cook 3 different things so everyone had what they wanted. I don’t think kids ever felt more loved. She was thrilled when our middle son married and had a daughter a year later. My mother made her quilts, clothes and appliquéd wall hangings. She made a gorgeous Raggedy Ann doll that will be a keepsake for Jane’s children. With infinite care she made a book that had all sorts of closings like buttons, zippers, Velcro, I don’t remember what it was called but it had all sorts of things for youngsters to touch and feel. I treasure the photos I took of my mother and my kids, there aren’t nearly enough. I took this photo when I was studying photography at Columbia College while in my 40’s. I thought I should take some portraits of my parents. I had no inkling how much this photo would mean to me.

At age 75 she fell and broke her bad leg. It required surgery with pins and a steel plate. She never walked again and was confined to a wheel chair for the next 7 years. The doctor said she would be in the hospital a month and in a nursing home for 3 months. After just 3 weeks, she told the doctor she was going home, send her a physical therapist. She basically rehabilitated herself as much as possible. Just because she was incapacitated didn’t mean she retired from life. She was a dynamo, sewing, calling, and mailing. Her many acts of loving-kindness extended to friends as well as family. If a calling committee was needed, she volunteered. She was a one woman mailing committee to thank people for their donations or to remember the passing of a loved one. She proudly chaired the kitchen committee for our synagogue.

No one was as determined as she was, she overcame all obstacles except the last one. At 82 she elected to have surgery to replace a valve in her heart. She had congestive heart failure and wanted to feel better. I was opposed to the surgery, I never had a good feeling about it but never voiced my opinion. She was entitled to make the decision on her own. Her last words to me and my sister were "don’t worry, I’ll be alright." She stroked out when they tried to restart her heart and never regained consciousness. After 2 days they did a CAT scan and it was apparent that she wouldn’t recover. We asked her heart surgeon what would he do if it were his mother. He said he would let her go. Those were her wishes. She signed an advanced directive that no life supports were to be used if her surgery didn’t have a good result. My sister and I took turns staying with her 24 hours a day. After 12 days the hospital administrator decided he couldn’t have someone “starve to death in his hospital.” He and 5 administrators marched into her room at 5:30 PM on a Friday and said we had to move her or allow them to start tube feeding her. I told him he would have a problem if they did this to my mother. They came in at 6 AM to start the tube feeding. I was there with the biggest malpractice attorney in the county and a newspaper reporter. We negotiated with them all day that tube feeding was against her wishes, it violated the papers she signed on her admission to the hospital. She gave my sister and me her durable power of attorney. Finally we agreed to let them start the feeding provided they would remove the tube when she would be moved to hospice on Monday. It was a nightmare, she was over hydrated and literally drowned in her own fluids. Her kidneys were shutting down, it was agony to see her die like this. Her death came Monday evening and it was a blessing.
But true to my word, I made a lot of trouble for that hospital. We were on the front page of the paper for 2 days. I asked for a meeting with the president of the board of the hospital. I met with him and the medical ethicist from the hospital several weeks after my mother’s death. He asked what I wanted from the meeting. I asked that the hospital policies should be changed, especially what people were told when they signed the forms. I then asked for a personal apology from the director of the hospital. They agreed to my requests. Eventually, I testified before the Indiana legislature and helped get the living will law changed in the State of Indiana. I vowed that no family would go through what we went through. I think my mother would have been proud of me. Her memory is a blessing, she left a meaningful legacy worth preserving. I’ve always said the only thing that matters in the end is whom you loved and who loves you. Many people loved my mother.

13 Comments:

Blogger PEA said...

She sure sounds like she was quite a lady and I loved reading all about her...what a sad way for her life to end though. I'm glad you fought the hospital and won your case...we sometimes have to make a stand where it really counts!! No doubt she's looking down at you with proudness in her smile:-)

July 12, 2006 9:26 PM  
Blogger Tomas Dennis said...

Well said. She left a good mark on this planet and I have always been proud of knowing her. She left a good footprint to follow.

July 13, 2006 2:05 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Karen,

It's funny how different people remember different things.

I remember visiting with you and your family as a child and staying with you many summers. I remember you living in a two apt house. The Roses lived on the first floor and Grandma and Grandpa lived on the second floor (at least until they moved to Florida).

The apt. had a bedroom, a kitchen, dinning room and a living room with a bed that folded out of the wall, where we slept.

There was also a bathroom, with a tub with claw feet, can't remember about the shower part, but I definitely remember many baths in that very deep (at least for a child) tub.

Your mom, my aunt Sarah was indeed a special person.

Love, elaine

July 13, 2006 7:50 AM  
Blogger Motherkitty said...

It is very difficult for me to think of that 10 days in the hospital. It was like being in purgatory. We both knew the outcome but getting there was pure hell. I'm so glad we had each other to lean on during this difficult time. I think it was a turning point in our relationship.

Thank you for the loving tribute about mother. I miss her every day of my life.

July 13, 2006 8:09 AM  
Anonymous Lorraine said...

I loved reading your memories about your Mother. I remember her being kind, gentle and helpful to everyone. She was the type of person that you meet for the first time and feel as if you've known her all your life. I, for one, truly enjoyed knowing her.

July 13, 2006 8:33 AM  
Blogger Alipurr said...

I love that first picture. It really shows how she looked while she was sewing, and that is one of my favorite ways to remember my grandma. That hospital experience was certainly a hard time. I only got to be there for part of it, but was glad that you and mom were there together. I hope my two daughters will be really close sisters like you and mom. Thanks for reminding us of your mom. I miss her a lot, but not as much as you and mom, I am sure. Thank you for taking good care of her and Grandpa when we couldn't be close enough to do it.

July 13, 2006 10:32 AM  
Blogger judypatooote said...

Beautiful story....polio was a terrible decease...I had a cousin Bill who had it when he was young, and he turned into a big man and his arm just hung loose....I never knew how he drove a stick shift tiny bug with one arm, but he did....

It sounds like your grandma was an amazing lady....in the olden days they really did work hard.....isn't it funny how different the world is today.....

July 13, 2006 12:48 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

They were misrepresenting their policies when they admitted her. That sounds like a basis for a lawsuit to me. Glad to hear they changed their policy. You were lucky to have such a wonderful mother.

July 13, 2006 5:52 PM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

Something tells me mother would be proud of her daughter. You have the same spunk and spark she did.

Thanks for visiting my blog. We don't have much room for a garden, but we do have two tomato plants that are doing very well.

July 13, 2006 5:55 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Wonderful tribute to your Mother! She sounds like she was such a great lady. Those last days sound rough, but I'm sure she is proud of you all!!

July 13, 2006 7:47 PM  
Blogger senior cuz said...

Sure makes me see a part of the family I missed being part of all those many years ago. You tell of her well and I'm glad you can share all the wonderful life she lived helping others. Wouldn't it be wonderful if each of us could live our lives so that our children will be able to speak of us as glowingly.

July 14, 2006 10:00 PM  
Anonymous Lucinda said...

I found your blog through a link from another blog that I'd 'nest blogged' to. Funny how life works.

Your story was very moving. I'm so sorry you had to go through that ordeal with the hospital. From what you said, I can just imagine your Mom giving you hers thanks, and a big 'You go, girl!'

When my mom's health was failing, she decided to discontinue her meds. As a diabetic we knew the end would come soon. The support we got from the nursing helped us tremendously.

Due to your efforts, other families won't have to go through what you did. You go, girl!

July 18, 2006 5:33 PM  
Blogger Mountain Mama said...

A beautiful story and picture. You said it very well, A lovely tribute. Thanks for sharing.

July 30, 2006 10:21 PM  

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