Tag Archives: Grandma

50 Years of Motherhood + 40 Grandchildren

I’ve been thinking about my mom and what an unsung hero she is. First of all, my mom may never have been born, if my grandma didn’t have tremendous faith. My grandma had at least 14 miscarriages. Her doctor told her that it was no use trying to have children, and that is was actually unsafe for her to continue. My grandma is a bit like me–when someone tells her “no,” she digs down deeper and busts through. That’s when she had my mom, and the next year, my aunt. Two women who would not have been here without a very strong-willed, faith-filled grandma.

A couple of decades later, my mom marries my dad and one year later gives birth to my oldest sister. The next year, she has my next oldest sister. A year and a half later, she has my next oldest sister. Then she miscarried during that next year. The following year, she has me. To sum up: 10 kids in 13 years, then a 7-year gap, and the baby of our family is born. That’s a 20-year range for the math challenged!

Here’s the kicker: my mom was having babies when everyone around her was “burning their bras” and “going to work.” She was home with preschoolers and toddlers and babies when the whole world was screaming, “Don’t let them keep you at home. You can be everything you want to be.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. My mom is a brilliant lady. She had a business degree and could organize the world. She managed to have us all fed, dressed and to school early with hair combed, matching socks, and complete backpacks. Laundry in our home was like a small business. There was no room for error because we actually wore all the clothing we owned. Shopping for food was a weekly exercise with two grocery carts full. Thankfully, the grandparents on the farm provided the beef. Home-cooked meals were all we could afford and the only thing my dad wanted. So, we ate together every night at 5:30 p.m. around a long kitchen table.

Because my mom stayed home, we had a huge comfort zone. We knew she was there for us. The other working mothers called her regularly to provide rides for their children to various activities and events. They never seemed to include her or befriend her for anything else. She did have a group of friends who were stay-at-home moms, too. They became the monthly bridge group. Although some of them ended up working part-time, mostly they rallied around each other. It was not a popular time to have a large family. In fact, the over population myths that are still around today started during that time.

My mom was telling me a few years ago when I was complaining about how much weight I had gained with my last pregnancy and that nothing fit that she only had 2 maternity outfits total. That’s all. Boy did I feel selfish. When my husband had to travel three days a week for a few months, I called her to cry on her shoulder a bit. She reminded me that our father traveled for his job for weeks at a time, even months sometimes. She gently helped me see that I would make it through this.

My mom is confined to a wheelchair now. I think all those pregnancies just sucked the calcium out of every bone. She has both knee and hip problems, and probably won’t be walking anytime soon. Her memory is starting to slip a bit here and there. She can no longer cook or plan family events. Much of what the world outside our family loved about my mom is slowly fading away.

But what I see is a lady who has been an amazing mom for the last 50 years, who is facing major changes in her life with grace. She has gently suggested that maybe my dad needs a break once in a while. She knows she will most likely need to transition to a care setting soon enough. Yet, while she can she still enjoys her grandchildren. The extended family gathers tomorrow to celebrate Mother’s Day with grandma and grandpa. It will be a large affair. And Mom will be there, sweetly smiling and loving on the little grandbabies, and thinking of names because number 40 is on the way!

 

 

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Hard Work Brings Its Own Rewards

What happened to good ol’ hard work? I mean really? What happened? When physical work went away, we lost the lessons that came with that hard work and I don’t think we realized it. As an example, my children have no idea what “hanging laundry” means, but I can close my eyes and hear Grandma singing and smell the flowers she diligently planted and tended in her yard by the laundry lines. I can smell those crisp white sheets that she ironed and put on the guest bed for me. Yes, it was hard work, but both the results and process were amazing!

How about homegrown vegetables–remember those? Both sets of my grandparents had giant gardens that produced more than they could ever use. They canned what they might need in the winter, but then they shared with neighbors and whoever was in need. The closest my children can come to understand this is having a commercial canned food drive for the food pantry at church. I would like to say I learned to garden from my grandparents, but I grew up in the city where my parents had moved which was far from the family farm and small town where my grandparents lived.

My paternal grandparents were farmers, although both had college educations which was rare for those times. My maternal grandparents were a barber and housewife who took in washing and ironing. Both sets of grandparents knew what hard work meant. My parents were wise enough to send me and my siblings for long visits during the summer. It was during these trips that I learned to hand wash dishes, hang laundry, make beds, weed gardens, fish for dinner, herd cattle out of the corn, drive a vehicle, walk to daily Mass, and build wood bridges over creeks.

Telling you all about my grandparents makes me miss them terribly since they have all passed on. They loved me in a very special way. My own husband never really knew any of his grandparents because they had all died by the time he was five years old. He did get to know three of my four grandparents which was a blessing for him.

I’ve thought a lot about my grandparents and their hard work ethic. I think the real secret to their ability to work hard was their ability to rest. They had a mid-afternoon rest time where we would all gather in their living room and pick our nap spot. They had the most comfortable pillows in the world. I can still see them and feel them in my mind’s eye. And somehow that room was cool, even though they didn’t have air conditioning. We would rest for an hour and it was wonderful. We were ready to go with another round of work once we had rested.

Even better yet, as hard as they all worked, they loved God even more. So on Sundays, after Mass, we enjoyed time together over a large meal. We did nothing on Sundays except be with Christ and be together. It was slice of heaven on earth. All my grandparents had faith and lived it the best way they knew how. I may not have learned how to garden from them or how to run a farm, nor do I have the rewards of the type of hard physical work they knew, but I have something even better — their faith.