Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Mother's Day Tribute

Well, we're back!! After what seems like ages, we're finally catching up on the spring work (more on that later) and have time for sharing once again. So how are all of you? I've missed reading blogs and staying in the loop of everyone's lives and interests. I hope this finds everyone healthy, happy and eager to meet tomorrow.

Today is Mother's Day and I want to share my mother with you. She passed away on November 22, 2006 after a 5 year battle with ovarian cancer.

Phyllis Hoecher was born to dry land farmers in northern Colorado in 1933. She was the youngest of 6 children and a product of the Great Depression, which molded her character and outlook for the rest of her life. When we were growing up, she told us such stories of hard times and making the best of what they had. My grandpa was an Austrian immigrant who came to America at the age of 9. After marrying my grandma, he lost his first farm for $17 tax money and his second farm for $49 tax. To feed his children, he operated a still during Prohibition, making and selling moonshine on a small farm just one mile across the section from where we live now. When the revenuers came to raid his place, he buried the still and forgot where he put it. It's buried somewhere on that farm yet today.

My grandpa walked 8 miles every night to the nearby settlement of Cornish to play poker to bring in money during the Depression. He played at the saloon--yes the saloon--just like in the cowboy movies, although it wasn't glamorous in the least. He would play poker until the wee hours of the morning, walk the 8 miles home and go to work in the fields during the day. The family was lucky not to have starved. The stories of eating baking powder biscuits with small bits of sorghum and boiled turnips for days on end are still fresh in my mind.

She attended schools right near where we live now and met and married my father in this area as well. The Depression was probably the single most influential era in my mother's life. The scarcity of money, food, clothing, housing, jobs, and everything else necessary for daily living took its toll. She emerged, as so many did, wary of government and bankers, distrusting of everyone, including some of her own family, and tight fisted with her money. Her father told her, "Don't you EVER trust ANYONE," and she pretty much never did. She never threw anything away, but saved it all because "everything has a use and you'll be sorry if you don't have it later." This is a picture of the students in Mama's one room school on the Colorado prairie near Pierce, Colorado in 1939. She's in the front row on the right end.

After marrying my father, they farmed various farms as tenants and then finally bought the home place, right here, in 1964. It was a miracle for them to get it, with no money down and small annual payments. They bought it for $22,500.00, less than an average new car costs today. I've lived here my whole life and hope I never leave. My mother hoped the same, and God was merciful to her in that she was able to live here until she went on to heaven. This is my mom and dad's wedding picture with my grandparents, Gustav and Mildred Hoecher.

My mother was a registered nurse for 50 years. She worked at the local hospital at night and farmed with Papa during the day. They struggled. They had four girls within the first 7 years of marriage, dealt with health problems, fought to make the farm payment every year, faced weather and falling prices, and wrangled with marital issues. Throughout every challenge, Mama always reminded us that she was blessed because she always had more than she ever had as a child. I believed her--most of the time. She always told us that being happy is a choice you make, not an experience that happens. I believed her. This is one of my favorite pictures of all of us girls. I'm the one in the front with the fat belly. My sister Kathleen, of A Bag of Olives, is holding our baby sister.

Mama was a strong willed woman with a bigger than life personality. Standing only 5'4" at her peak, she wielded great influence. She was opinionated and passionate about the things that were important to her--her family, her land and home, her nursing career, her community. I remember her standing toe to toe more than once with the ditch rider arguing about why he wouldn't give us our full measure of water for irrigation. I remember her getting in a doctor's face about his lack of compassion towards an ailing patient. I remember her fighting for my opportunity to audition for a sports scholarship at the local university, even thought I wasn't on "the list". (I got the scholarship, by the way, to Mama's everlasting satisfaction.) She was competent, confident, intelligent, well researched, fearless and prepared to do battle. How do you stand up to that? Very few could.

I always felt overwhelmed by Mama's personality. She was more than I could ever imagine being. In a way, I was afraid of her--afraid of her disapproval and anger, afraid of falling short of her expectations. I rarely said "No" to her, even as an adult, due to that fear. She had a wicked and sharp tongue when riled and her sarcasm cut deeply. It would hurt her to know that.

But as we both grew older, we became friends. She was no longer the rescuer and the teacher to me. She relaxed and seemed to enjoy my company and thus, I was able to relax. We spent weekends camping with the grandchildren. We took road trips to out of the way places like Mesa Verde for exploring, Red Mountain Pass for the amazing beauty, South Fork for fishing, and Pawnee Buttes for the ever changing prairie. We canned vegetables, butchered chickens, learned to work her very first video camera and communicate by email. We talked about life, love, the future, ideals, hopes and dreams. Mama revealed more of herself to me during that period than I ever thought possible. She didn't try to make a point. She just seemed to want to share herself with someone that she finally felt she could trust. I was glad to be the keeper of her secrets.

No one was more shocked than I was when she came home from the doctor crying. The woman who had always been physically, emotionally and mentally strong was broken. The doctor didn't make a diagnosis, but she knew she had cancer. She knew the signs and symptoms and read it all. She fought for 5 long years and during that time, my girls grew from primary schoolers into young women and my boys into adults. Despite all my rantings about chemotherapy and the incompetence of doctors, they gave us 5 precious years that we wouldn't have had otherwise.

Mama passed away the day before Thanksgiving and we thanked God for her life and her passing. It was a relief and a release to let her go, even though I miss her terribly. She is now walking the streets of glory with her Savior and reaping the rewards of a life well lived.

Thanks for letting me share her with you. There are loads of details that I could include, but those will come up in due time as life continues on.

Mama and her brother in 1945.

Mama and her family in 1945.

Papa and Mama with my Abby in 2000.


Wizzard said...

thank you for sharing your mother's story with us.
she sounded like a very determined lady.


Blossomcottage said...

What a wonderful tribute to her, and such great photographs and welcome back into the fold.
I am sure your Mum has enjoyed reading this from her quiet place in the universe.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

That was really lovely Wooly - thank you.

Inthemud said...

What a wonderful tribute to your dear Mum.
Lovely photos too.
Pleasure to read your blog.

Tattie Weasle said...

This brought tears to my eyes thnak you so much for sharing with us... a truly amazing an beautiful woman, just like her daughter.

lampworkbeader said...

Thankyou for sharing this with us. I am not a woman easily moved to tears, but your tribute to your mother has filled me with emotion. You are so fortunate to have had a mother of such strenght and character.

Pondside said...

This is lovely, Wooly Works. Having met your sister, I can see the family resemblance. The character formed by the depression is a familiar one to me - my mum still saves every bit of plastic, foil and paper. I'm sure that all of the strengths you so lovingly described live in you and your daughters.

Kathleen said...

I'm in the teary-eyed group here. I had to take three tries before I could finish reading and looking at the pictures.

So many stories and memories brought to the living in that little house that was really two tiny houses pushed together and insulated with newspapers, walls sealed with masking tape, and only one end of the house on a foundation. Funny memories, happy ones (expect for that wicked belt she wielded pretty lavishly for a while), very few sad memories do I have. As a matter of fact, I can't bring to mind actually SAD memories. I think we laughed more than once when Mama got on the phone and "scorched the lines" with her temper and sharp tongue...we all pitied the poor saleman on the other end...

Trips to the outhouse with a snake across the path, cows running through the just irrigated back yard at full tilt, and the bull bellering at Mama through her bedroom window...

All this and much, much more made an unforgettable childhood.

Kathleen said...

And never forget those weeks' worth of beans that we ate and piles of macaroni and cheese! But I know that beans beat boiled turnip almost any day of the year.

ChrisH said...

That's a lovely tribute to your mum. Ovarian cancer is such a terrible disease because,as you know, it's such a silent killer. I feel for you and your family that your mum had to go through that.

marit said...

What a wonderful tribute to your mother- thank you for sharing!

CAMILLA said...

Hello Wooly,

Such a wonderful tribute to your darling Mother, she was very beautiful.

Thank you for sharing with us along with great photo's.

I miss my Mother so much, I have my fond memories and photo's too which I am blessed with.


Debra in France said...

Hi Wooly, Thank you for sharing this with us all. Women like you mother are an inspiration to us all. She sounds a wonderful person and I am sure that you miss her dreadfully. I loved seeing the photos, she was very beautiful in spite of having such a tough life. It is wonderful to share a little bit of your family history Debra xxxx