CQ…Clark Here

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Archive for the tag “Meadville PA”

Not Saint, not Satan. She was my Mom. Part II.

When Dad died, Mom immediately packed her stuff and moved closer to us.  We had counseled her to wait a while, but she was determined.  In retrospect, I think she had always had a man to take care of her (she did, after all, grow up in that era), and it seemed she wanted me to kind of take over Dad’s position in her life.  I think she was always a bit bitter that I would not do that; I had my own family, my own life that I had to take care of.  On the other side of the coin, she was proud of the fact that she did so much that she didn’t know she could on her own.

But try as I might (and I tried a lot), I couldn’t get Mom to integrate into our lives.  Multiple times we asked her to bring her crocheting or knitting (she was phenomenal) to the house and just spend the evening, but she couldn’t do that.  So, as time went by, I think our relationship suffered.  There was never any doubt of my love for my Mom, nor of her love for me.  It’s just that our worlds didn’t seem to ever mesh.  The “Dillaman guilt” definitely had a field day with me.

And it was difficult.  As Mom aged, she got more “old lady-ish;” set in her ways, demanding, and a bit mean.  Everyone loved Mom, and I frequently heard how sweet she was.  But I think it’s often different for close family.  I’m not saying she wasn’t sweet, she was, but I didn’t always see that side.  Being my Mom, she never hesitated to criticize me, or let me know I wasn’t calling or stopping in enough.  But from my perspective, I was doing what I could.  It’s just that Mom had never made a life for herself without her family.  To Mom, (and I suspect the Dillaman family of Oscar and Inez), family was everything.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my extended family, but I also have a life; full, busy, interesting.  And it was hard to reconcile the two.  When Beth and I would go on vacation, I would always call my mother to let her know we were on the way, having discussed our vacation plans in advance with her.  She always said, “Have a great time, don’t even think about me.”  No manipulation there, boy.  It took a long time for me to realize that what she was actually saying was, “I depend on you, you’re all I have.  What if something happens to you, who’ll take care of me?”  It made me sad, because Mom was capable of so much more, she just didn’t know it, believe it, or try for more.

And as she got older still, it got more difficult still.  Beth, having the more flexible work schedule, bore the brunt of Mom’s doctor appointments, dentist, eye doctor, whatever.  Beth was fantastic with Mom.  And as much as Mom loved Beth, it was me that she talked about.  Kind of hurt Beth a bit.  But when Mom was with me, I only heard critiques of my driving, handwriting, whatever.  And “the old days.”  She talked a lot about when I was young, but did not much talk about her memories as I got older.  I think when I got to about age ten, it became so hard for Mom to let go that she just treasured the earlier years and pined for that “golden time.”  She used to say that I was “their whole world.”  A lot.  I just wanted to be their son, not their “whole world.”

Her dying was no less difficult.  Age 90, she fell and cracked her pelvis.  The doctor said that structurally, she was no weaker than Beth or I, but that the pain associated with walking was terribly intense.  Mom had been living in Brevillier Village in Erie, PA for a while, in independent living up to this point.  However, after the fall they moved her into nursing care for rehab.  She tried, but the pain was so bad that she had a hard time coping.  And this was a woman who even at her age could handle pain like no one I’d ever seen.  No matter what, Mom was no whiner when it came to personal pain.

She also had a problem with her white blood cell count; Strike two.  We had known about this for some time, but she had refused any treatment, deciding to let it run its course.  I wasn’t really happy with this decision, but it was hers to make.

After the injury, her white blood cell count went through the roof.  Additionally, due to the fall, Mom had a section of her bowel go necrotic.  Strike three.  The doctor said Mom would need an operation to remove that section of bowel, but with her white blood cell count in the stratosphere, it was pretty much a done deal that she would not survive the operation.  With these problems, the doctor said it was just a matter of time, that she could not come back from this.  I took as much time off work as I could, and Beth and I sat by her bed, playing music she would like, talking to her, and just being near.  As she slipped away, she could only rouse herself when company came, especially her granddaughters.  She loved them dearly, and smiled for them, enjoying their company like nothing else.

As time moved, Beth and I got exhausted, and Mom’s sister, my Aunt Phoebe, came to the hospital to spell us.  I cannot say how helpful that was, that Beth and I got a chance to sleep in our own bed at home.  But my Mom was slowing down, like a grand old clock who’s spring was tired, and simply could not be wound up again.  Mom slipped more, seldom rousing for anything.  It was hard watching my Mother die, but this was the last thing I could ever do for her on this earth, and I would not have been anywhere else in the world.  Beth and I sat by her bed, twenty-four seven.  We took turns sleeping; the staff at Ball were amazing, and more helpful than I can describe. They would make sure that we had coffee, snacks, juice.  Beth or I would get tired, and one of us would go to the library and sleep as best we could on the sofa, and then switch off so the other could get a few hours sleep.  Somehow, at some point, a hospital bed appeared in the library, and we took advantage of that.  It felt so good to stretch out.

There is a cat that prowls the halls of Ball Pavillion.  She is friendly, but not overly so.  However, as we talked to the staff, they told us of one of the cat’s peculiarities.  It seems that, although she was friendly with many, when one of the residents were failing, the cat spent a great deal of time in that resident’s room, often being there for hours on the day that the resident finally died.  Not one to put a ton of stock in stuff like this, I did notice on this one particular day that the cat was in Mom’s room quite a bit; rubbing on Mom’s bed, jumping on my lap and staying for quite a while.

That night, I was beat and at one point went to the library, just down the hall from Mom’s room.  I might have been asleep for half an hour when Beth woke me and said that I better come to Mom’s room, something had happened.  Getting out of bed, I staggered down to Mom’s room, and found that as Beth had observed, Mom’s breathing was ragged and irrhythmic.  We watched her breathing slow, and finally stop.  The grand old clock was tired and had run down.  I closed my Mother’s eyes as I had my Father’s, and we mourned.  We stayed with her for a while, and walked down the hall with her to the funeral home vehicle, where she would ride to get prepared for her funeral.  The staff and Mom’s best friend at Brevillier lined up and sang farewell as Mom was escorted out to the waiting vehicle.

A number of relatives and friends came to Mom’s viewing, and Mom had been made up beautifully.  Beth had picked out one of Mom’s favorite dresses and jewelery, and she looked at peace.  We got through the day, as all do who have to lay a loved one to rest, and went home.  The next morning, I got a lawn chair and a cup of coffee and drove up to the cemetery where my Mom and Dad were once again side by side.  I opened up the chair and sat there, watching the sun come up.  I talked to Mom and told her how beautiful she had looked, that her hair was done just like she would have wanted, that Beth had picked out a wonderful dress.  I told her that I missed her, and wished that things had been different.  But I was glad for how nice she looked on her last day.  Weird, but right then a shooting star arced its way across the sky.  I don’t know if there is that kind of communication from “the other side,” but it was nice.

I sometimes wonder what Mom said to relatives and friends, if she praised me or pounded me.  But I guess in the final analysis it doesn’t matter.  I did the best I knew how with what I had.  I loved my Mother the only way I could.  We were who we were.

I still miss my Mother, no surprise there.  I think of her, and although I am sad for me, I am happy for her.  For years all she professed was that she wanted to be with my Dad again.  Now she is.

A lot of people hated their mother.  Due to abuse, neglect, whatever, they are cursed with memories of evil incarnate instead of a loving mother who did all she could to raise her children.  Others put a photo of their mother on an altar, elevating their mother to near deity, refusing to remember any blemish, any imperfection that their mother may have had.  My mother was neither saint nor satan.  She was a flawed human that loved her family with everything she had.  She raised her children, loved them, and cherished them with her whole being.

May God bless you, Mom.  I owe you and Pop everything that I am, all that I turned out to be.  I hope you are proud of what I have accomplished, and I hope to see you someday again, when we are all exactly what we were created to be.  I can’t wait to look into your eyes again, and see the Mother that raised me, loved me, taught me.  You were the best.

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Not Saint, not Satan. She was my Mom. Part I.

My Mother grew up during the depression, getting married just before World War II.  Dad was drafted, and Mom bore my sister while Dad was fighting in France.  My sister is what is now called a “Special Needs” child, and Mom took the brunt of caring for her without Dad for a while, in a time when such children were viewed with suspicion; my Grandmother, Dad’s Mother, told Mom once when JoAnne was little that, “Nothing like that had ever happened on Dad’s side of the family,”  not so subtly indicating that it was Mom’s fault that JoAnne had the problems she did.  In reality, when JoAnne was born, Mom had a doctor that believed in “letting nature take its course.”  JoAnne was born after an extremely long labor with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.  Not Mom’s fault, but I wonder if she harbored guilt over that the rest of her life.

Actually, that’s not much of a stretch.  Guilt was one of the driving forces in my Mother’s life.  She felt guilty for everything.  I once observed to her that she felt guilty when the sun came up in the east.  She didn’t really get it, but it is near fact.  For some reason, she always felt guilty about something.

Mom was the second youngest of five born to Oscar and Inez Dillaman, the oldest being a boy, the rest girls.  Certainly not uncommon for the time, she grew up on a farm.  They were located a few miles north of Meadville, PA, and the daughters did chores just like the men.  When she became of age, she got a job at Talon, met my Dad, fell in love, got married, and got pregnant.  With Dad off to war, she lived with her folks, taking care of her ailing mother (and handicapped infant daughter) for a time.  Once, Mom used to tell, JoAnne had a seizure.  In the dead of winter, they didn’t plow the roads as they do now, and no vehicle they had would get through the snow.  JoAnne wouldn’t come out of the seizure, so Mom bundled her and JoAnne up, along with Mom’s father and brother.  They carried JoAnne for miles until they could get someplace (Coon’s Corners, PA, I think) where they got a ride and got JoAnne to the hospital.

Another story she liked to tell was when she was thirteen.  Mom developed appendicitis, and it got bad.  They called the doctor, who gave no hope that she would live.  I believe it actually burst, as they opened her up and rinsed her out with salt water, leaving a drain in her to drain the nastiness out.  Of course she lived, growing, maturing, and becoming the woman she was.

Mom was “made of stern stuff” we like to say.  Strong genetic material, shaped by the hardness of the life in which she grew.  Mom was also blessed with beauty.  As a young woman, she was gorgeous, and Pop got quite a catch when she “hitched her wagon” to him.  Mom was aces with family stuff, but not so much with studying and learning.  Growing up in a time when school wasn’t mandatory as it is now, Mom got a ninth grade education before having to drop out; she never did get her high school degree.

After the war, Mom and Pop moved all over this part of PA, Dad taking different jobs here and there.  He was so disillusioned with having to take orders in the military, he swore he wouldn’t work for anyone again, and used the GI Bill to learn animal husbandry, becoming a farmer, like his ancestors before him.  Sidenote: Pop was extremely smart.  Up to his late 70’s he could do algebra in his head.  I asked him once why he didn’t take accounting with the GI Bill, and he said that at the time he didn’t even know such a field existed.  I wonder how life would have been different sometimes.

Mom and Pop settled down near Springboro, PA, where Dad bought a dairy farm.  And that’s where I enter the picture.

After the war, Dad couldn’t have any more kids (I never did  learn what that was about).  I think they had disagreements over adopting, as Dad apparently didn’t think he could “love someone else’s child as much as his own.”  However, they cared for a young kid, and Dad grew to love him.  When he went back home, Pop allowed that he could, indeed, love another’s child.

My biological mother had her own issues.  Married with six kids, she lived in Ohio until her husband was killed in a trucking accident.  Moving back near her folks outside Springboro, she took up with a jerk who got her pregnant but refused to be honorable about it; she threw him out, a pretty gutsy move in 1956.  However, she was in true dire straits.  Six kids, including the youngest a pair of twins still in diapers.  Recognizing that she couldn’t give her new child the life she wanted to give him, she approached my parents, and asked if they would consider adopting her child.  Timing is everything, and my parents said that yes they would.  Three days after I was born my bio Mom walked down the hall of the hospital and handed me to my Mother.  How poignant was that moment?  I cannot even imagine the emotions from each mother.  Another sidenote:  I looked up my bio family several years ago, and that will, I’m sure, be a blog post sometime in the future.

My early years were on the dairy farm that my parents lived on until I was six.  I remember Mom doing all the Mom stuff, and canning everything that could grow.  I remember her holding my head when I was throwing up; holding me when I had bad earache(s).   Giving me waxed paper for the slide in the back yard; giving me fresh peaches in season.  I remember her being Mom.

Just before the dairy farmers in PA got their act together and actually started making money, Pop sold the farm and we moved into Springboro, where he bought a gas station.  And Mom still did all the Mom stuff.  I remember picking dandelions for her in the spring, and how she would always “Ooh” and “Ahh’ over them, like they were the most beautiful bouquet she had ever seen.  I remember coming home from school and popping my paper lunch bag; she pretended to be startled and scared every time.

Of course my relationship with my Mom changed over time.  I grew more independent, and Mom got older.  She helped teach me to drive, and held me when I cried, but as I grew and tried to establish a relationship with her, she would shift me to my Dad.  I’m not sure what that was about, but I don’t think I ever knew my Mother, adult to adult.  It was about this time that things got a more difficult.

…con’t. next time…

Head out on the Highway

…sing it, Steppenwolf!   http://youtu.be/5UWRypqz5-o

I know, I know.  It has been established that I am not a “biker.”  I just like the song, ok?

The “bike of my life,” the one that I loved more than all others (at least to this point), was a Suzuki GS 1100L.  Although I refer to it in the past tense, I am still  the owner of title; it’s just that I now have a new bike.

I bought the 1100 about 20 years ago, and she was a beauty.  Great lines, classy, and strong!  Shaft drive, and a speedometer that went to 120 mph. I will confess that it took some time for me to figure out the difference between a chain drive and a shaft drive.  For example, one doesn’t slam the accelerator from a dead stop into a right turn.  The bike will just torque sideways and slide down the street while the rider just kind of watches the blacktop grind bits of metal away.  But I soon learned how to ride the 1100, and I just loved it.  Beth, although a bit of a reluctant motorcycle owner at the beginning, learned to enjoy riding with me, and we did a lot of stuff together.

That probably started when I got the Honda 750 (see my post, “Get your Motor Running”).  Once I got a bit more confident on the bike, Beth got on the back and we learned to ride together.  Mostly we did day trips, short rides, that kind of thing.  That continued with the Suzuki 750.  We would ride to small group on Sunday night perhaps, or pick an afternoon when the kids were elsewhere and go for a bit of a ride.  The problem was that although the 750’s were strong enough to take us both, they were just about at their limit.  With the two of us on, they didn’t have a lot left to really jump when I asked them to.  But, we were young, and it was just great to ride together.

I had learned through the earlier years of riding that I really like a windshield.  I can ride without one, and I love to ride, but I much prefer having a bit of plexiglas in front of me.  I like that bit of a break from the wind, and having it catching most of the bugs that decide to splat on something.  And I would rather they went splat on the windshield than on my face shield, my sunglasses, or my teeth.  Although, even with a windshield they can still manage to find their creepy little way to your face.

Since owning my own bike, I have always ridden with a full face helmet.  Yep, I have heard the arguments regarding full-face vs. three-quarters helmets.  For the proponents of a three-quarters helmet, it usually amounts to something like, “If you’re in a crash with a full-face helmet, it could break your neck if you land on the chin.”  My reply?  If you are in a motorcycle accident with a three-quarters helmet and land on your chin, chances are you’re gonna be DOA (Dead On Arrival) anyhow, and your chin, jaw and half of your face will still be back with the pieces of motorcycle on the road.  At least if I break my neck with a full-face helmet, I’ll look good in the casket.  A touch morbid perhaps, but that ain’t nothin’ compared to the stuff I have seen and heard with thirty years of police work behind me.  And I would rather look good than be chinless…

Anyhow, back to the bugs.  I’m riding along one day on one of the 750’s, can’t remember which one.  In one heartbeat, I clearly saw this wasp come at the windshield, ride the air current over the top of if, and flow right into my helmet.  My face shield was up, and up to that point I was enjoying the fresh air flowing through the helmet.

And it had to be a wasp.  I hate them all!  Bees, wasps, hornets, doesn’t matter.  I call them stingy-things, and I!  Hate!!  Them!!!  The bottom line is that I have loathed stingy-things since I was a young teen.  My theory is that anything with a needle in its butt is an unnatural object, and it needs to die.

That’s a story for another day, but…ah, why not.  Growing up, my family lived a few miles outside of Meadville, PA, in a rural area.  Pop was pretty good with fixing things, but not such a good teacher.  Ergo, I was the I-need-a-wrench-fetch-it kid, the “hold the light right there;  no, stop moving!” kid, the “hold this tight while I whack it with a hammer” kid.  If it sounds like I’m griping, I’m not.  My Pop was the best in the world, and I would give anything in the world to be one of those things for him again.

So on this one day, he was making fence posts out of 4×4’s, and he did this by sharpening one end of the 4×4 with a double-bitted ax we had.  My job?  Hold the 4×4 against the side of the garage so it doesn’t shift while he whacked away with the ax.  It was a beautiful summer day, and I was a young teen, bored out of my mind.  I had gotten to where I was pretty good at being invisible when Pop had a project, but I guess I wasn’t quick enough this time.  Anyhow, here I am holding this stupid 4×4 while Pop was whittling away with the stupid ax.  I’m looking around for something interesting, and I saw a wasp nest hanging under the eaves of the garage, probably about three-quarters of the way down the garage.  I remember seeing this one wasp drop out of it and start flying.  It was pretty cool, it just dropped, and then picked up the pace.  It made a slow, lazy loop, coming right toward me.  And then the little #$*&!! landed on my left eyelid and hammered me three times, bam, bam, bam!!  I started howling, and holding my eye.  Man did that hurt!  Three pops from a wasp right on my eyelid.  Dad went nuts, trying to peel my hands off my eye and yelling to find out what had happened.  I later found out that he thought he had hit me with this double-bitted ax, but at the time, I had no idea this was in his mind.  When he found out that he had not hit me with the ax, and that I was “only” stung, he called me all kind of names.  Yeah, Dad, I might be dumb, here I am holding this stupid fence post, but Pop, I am not a son of a bitch, and when Mom hears what you called her you’re gonna be in big trouble, mister!

So, back to the wasp in my helmet.  Imagine that which you hold in an unreasonable fear.  Now imagine that it’s happening right now.  And that you’re moving on a two-wheeled machine at about, uh, the speed limit, and you can’t do anything about the situation.  Since this is my story, I’ll tell you what I did.  I pulled over to the side of the road, slowing down just as quickly as I safely could, and pulled off the road.  When I stopped the bike, I put it in neutral, put the kick stand down, and got off the bike.  So far so good.  I can still feel the wasp inside my helmet, and have been able to feel it this entire time.  It’s little stingy-thing feet are crawling on my face, and it feels like it’s searching patiently, looking for my eyelid (do they go to wasp school for this?  What the hey!).   I then had to get my gloves off (come on, come on).  Next, I undid my chin strap (this is taking forever).  The wasp was on the right side of my face, around my ear, on my cheek, just crawling around.  Apparently the impact made it’s little stingy-thing mind go blank for a minute, because it hasn’t been able to find my eyelid yet.  I pushed the helmet as far as I could to the right, and then slowly, slowly I lifted my helmet up.  Did I mention that this seemed like about twenty minutes to this point?  I finally got the helmet up far enough that the wasp found the opening, and without ever stinging me even once, it just flew away.  Then I did St. Vitus’ Dance all over the highway.  I ripped my helmet the rest of the way off, and if a football coach had seen how far I flung it, I would have probably been immediately recruited for the pros.  Hollering, dancing all over, waiving my arms around, it seemed like the thing to do at the time, but looking back, I’m kind of glad no one had video cameras then.

Man I hate stingy-things!!!

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