My mother was a wonderful woman, loved and admired by so many people. She always had a smile on her face and a kind word for everyone. She rarely spoke a word in anger and never raised her voice. Yes she was always loved: as a daughter, a teacher, a wife and a mother. Her students (first and second graders) absolutely adored her. As a child, I remember a cupboard full of drawings her students had made for her to wish her Happy Birthday. They were full of loving messages.
I am so glad I was able to travel to Hawaii with her the year before she died. It had been a dream of hers and she was so excited! Just like a child... She would tell everyone she saw: the postmistress, the hairdresser, the grocery store check out clerk.
It was the first time she had ever flown and she was 81 years old. The flight attendant found this out and during the course of the flight the pilot made an announcement welcoming my mother on board and congratulating her on her first flight. She also received her "wings" to pin on. She kept every little memento from that trip: the sugar packets from the flight, napkins, soaps from Hawaii and even a water bottle from Hawaii! I still have them in a box. (Writing this is proving even more difficult for me than I had thought it might).
We covered three of the islands from stem to stern. She was fascinated and loved every minute of it. But her favorite part of all was each evening when she was sitting out on the lanai of the beach house and the big cruise ship went by. It was a regular ritual with her.
We attended the 60th commemoration of Pearl Harbor and toured the area. This had also been something she had always wanted to do, as my dad had been briefly in Hawaii on his way out to the Marshall Islands stationed on an aircraft carrier during World War II. She told me she wanted to meet a Pearl Harbor survivor, so I went up to one and introduced them to each other and took their photo together.
My mother was just adorable; everyone said so. Everyone loved her. She was born at home in an old Victorian house on a ranch in the very small town of Brooks, California; located in the Capay Valley. At the time of her birth in 1924, the town still retained its old name of Tancred. She lived at that ranch up until two months before her death, when she had to be hospitalized. There were years spent away, such as when she and her family moved to Nevada City, California when she was young; when she went away to college in San Jose, California; when she and her newly wed husband lived in the Oakland highlands having just built a two story home right next to Dave Brubeck (they camped in a trailer while they built the home and had an out house and the rather distinguished neighborhood was none too impressed with this young couple "roughing it"); and a couple of other ventures in Sacramento and Davis. But by her 30's she was settled back on the farm, where she belonged and remained until the end of her life. She did not like to be away from the farm and most of all, she wanted to be looking out her big living room window at the little orchard outside with the deer and the birds, and particularly the hummingbirds at her hummingbird feeder.
As a little old lady, she was dainty, petite and frail and still quite adorable. One of the most astonishing things about her was that she drove (it was more like herded) a huge vehicle (now in my possession) down the highway practically daily: into town to get her hair done, or get groceries or to go to the post office or the doctor's office. This is a monster of an SUV, a 4 wheel drive 2002 Ford Excursion, which she was very proud of. It is hard for me to get in and out of the vehicle, it is so high up. But she would hoist herself up and swing herself in, using a little leverage bar in the vehicle and clamber down the same way, leaving people staring at her with a shocked expression on their face. That made her laugh and made her feel very proud of herself. By this time she must have shrunk down to about 5' 2" and 110 pounds and her bones were very fragile. She was doing this until the age of 82, and her final illness. This is a very rough driving vehicle, that drives very much like a truck (and I don't mean pick up truck).
I last saw my mother on Halloween 2007. She was very ill with lymphoma. A few days later I left on a trip to South America. On November 11, I was enjoying festivities at a party with the Captain on board a Norwegian line cruise ship unaware of any events back home; unaware that my mother had died that day. On November 13, I went on a tour on a ferry going through the Straits of Magellan to Magdalena Island to see the penguins nesting there. It was the most wonderful trip I have ever gone on; the penguins my all time favorite thing. There was also a tour of the local museum on the way back to port. Upon coming back to the ship and entering the cabin, there was a white envelope on the floor that had been slipped under the door.
I knew what that note said and didn't even pick it up at the time. I just laid on the bed and cried. Later I did make the only ship to shore phone call I have ever made--to my sister who told me the news. She had lived just two months from the time they diagnosed her illness, and every day of that time was spent in extreme agony and misery. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with; both the horrific nature of her illness and her death.
But she was well loved and is terribly missed.
Rest in peace, Mother...