When my mother was sixteen she moved out of her aunts house and in with two of the kindest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I was young but keenly aware of the pure loving aura they possessed. It was her Uncle Woody and his wife Kay. Woody was my mothers fathers brother. They had no children of their own. The only people I knew and met from my mother’s side of the family.
It was decided that she would live with them for the remainder of her high school years and go on to college from there. I have no idea how the money worked regarding my mother’s “guardianship”, etc. She moved in with her aunt and uncle that is all I ever have known. From her journal she stated “I knew I had to get out of my domineering aunts house”.
Uncle Woody was a huge man, tall and broad. He reminded me of a big teddy bear. I remember sitting on his lap and the love that poured out of his heart for me was intoxicating. Aunt Kay was a beauty. She was tall and thin, with blondish hair usually in a neat bun. She dressed like a duchess, always perfect lines and crisp collars. Her suits were stunning, shoes matched to perfection. What I remember most is how much they loved my mother. She had been treated poorly by her fathers sister ( no clue what her name was). My mother told me her aunt spent most of the money that was left for her after her parents death, on herself. From her journal “there was just enough money left for me to go to college as my aunt took most of it”.
I can’t image how it felt for my mother to have lived so sadly as a child for six years with someone so cruel, but she had no choice. A common situation found in families back then as well as today. She was smart to advocate a move to go live with Woody and Kay. It was an indication of my mother’s brilliance even at a young age and her resilience to keep pushing forward to make a better life for herself.
She finished high school then went on to college and graduated with her BSN in Nursing. She moved to the town I live in now. She lived just up the street in a beautiful old mansion as a nursing student. It is currently in desperate need of restoration, it is a beautiful place. So many old mansions in our town have been demolished it is sad. She told me it was a great place to live. All girls, one block from the ocean and she felt free. She was an excellent student and graduated at the top of her class. She told me she made lifelong friends there.
While in her senior year she met my father. They dated and soon became engaged. My father couldn’t afford an engagement ring so my grandmother Rebecca gave him hers. A beautiful old European cut round diamond nearly two carats in a plain Tiffany like setting. They were married in the next town over in 1956.
My mother began her career began in the Operating Room at our local hospital. She was a surgical nurse and did private duty in home nursing as well. Ironically my parents lived directly up the street from where I live now. Same street in an old converted horse barn that was restored and made into apartments. It has since burned down, but it was charming.
My brother was born in 1957 and they lived in that apartment until I was born. They found a house in a rural setting south of my town. My father had gotten a job there so they decided to move. My mother had two children and stayed home until we were school age, I was four years younger than my brother. My father worked six days a week and my mother managed everything.
Our house was a home. It was a place our friends came and didn’t want to leave. My mother worked meticulously on the interior and the exterior. She planned the landscaping, the interior design, the potential for expansion.
The landscaping was lush with iris, roses, mums, azalea, rhododendron, boxwood, english ivy, apple and plum trees. My love for gardening comes from my mother’s example. She edged the lawn with scissors! I hope I have done the same for my son in our home. We live by the sea in a small but cozy home surrounded by roses, cosmos, daisy’s, butterfly bushes, zinnias, mums, boxwood and gardens as lush as mine were growing up. I am so similar to my mother, I have taken on her “let’s change the furniture around” mentality also. Paint, clean, decorate, update. To say I am project orientated is an understatement. What I don’t do is get the paint out to “touch up” the baseboard moldings with scuff marks as she did, but I have inherited her love of home and the people in it.
As our lives evolved, my mother went back to nursing in a local hospital as a floor nurse. During her career there she moved up the ladder and became a Director of Nursing in Pediatrics for many years. A position she told me she loved. She was there many hours as she cared for that unit and those patients like they were family. She would move up from there as the years passed.
My mother had a reputation for being stern and no nonsense, but internally she was kind hearted and loving. I image being a nurse you must create a barrier to the suffering one witnesses, the patients, death, families. Young and old, fast and slow illnesses. Her college yearbook stated “Gloria..as calm as a hurricane”.
As her story continues, her life presented many challenges. She was first diagnosed with degenerative arthritis at the age of forty-four, lupus at forty-five and lung cancer at forty-eight.
The battle begins. to be continued…