Untidy Towns

Notes from My Father


Originally posted March 21, 2008. Composed by my father.

We are here to honor our mother but you will see that many of our comments inevitably include both Mom and Dad. They were intertwined for a majority of their 80-year lives, having grown up together in adjacent counties in Eastern Kentucky, Appalachian country.

Mom’s life was not such that she will receive major-newspaper articles at her passing, but she was indispensable in the lives of her family and her friends over her 80 years.

Mom and Dad grew up together in Elliott and Lawrence counties there in Kentucky. Mom rode a bus to school in the “big” County, so they knew each other through high school. Mom wanted to see some other parts of the country, and she decamped to California with her older brother Mark for a while. Dad stayed in the County for a while and, as could be done at the time, took a teaching position.

Shortly after that, Dad contacted Mom, and went to San Francisco as well. The wedding followed in 1947, with honeymoon at Niagara Falls.

After that, a mid-20th Century truism came into play: “read, write, and Route 23.” Mom and Dad were part of the very large migration from more Southern Appalachian areas – like Elliott and Lawrence Counties – to the booming industrial areas like Ohio and Michigan. This was in the late 40’s and the 50’s, before our current freeways, and Route 23 was the big route then.

Mom and Dad never forgot where they came from, but they knew where they wanted to go. They treasured the friendships of many people in the counties that they grew up in and visited with them throughout Mom’s entire life. Mom and Dad have contributed throughout the years to worthy charitable causes that render assistance to the Appalachian parts of our schools.

Mom and Dad first settled at Wright Patterson AFB; during that period I was born. Mom and Dad then moved to a farm in Sunbury, where Paul and David were born. At Sunbury, Dad initially worked managing a Howard Johnson’s restaurant. Somewhere in the mid-50’s, Mom noticed and pointed out a possible job for Dad with State of Ohio operating that leading-edge technology, IBM punch card computers.

Dad got the job and shortly thereafter we moved to the home we all grew up at – 3098 Lewis Road. Dan and Wayne were born there, and we all grew up there.

My parents both embodied the quintessential Judeo-Christian work ethic. Our house at Lewis Road was a constant work in progress, including a complete renovation, expansion, hook up to city services, and even replacement of the coal furnace with natural gas. Mom was there in all aspects of working the 2-acre property, from working the small farm to cleaning the vegetables for sale to Dan’s Drive In on High Street. Before Mom began teaching, she and Dad managed a large family budget on limited income; things had to last. The importance and value of a good, solid working life were instilled in all of us through Mom.

Mom had always wanted to be a teacher. In the early 60s, she went to Capitol University to earn a teaching degree. Her academic performance was at the top of the class. She began teaching at Cedarwood Elementary School in a position that was reserved for her for six months. Mom went on to a lengthy career with the Columbus Public Schools, teaching at several different schools.

Everything you read in Proverbs 31 applies to our Mother. She did everything perfectly, from everyday meals that were fantastic (including cherry pies) to things like putting a nickel under the pillow when a baby tooth came out. Since we didn’t know any better, we regarded this as our baseline. Her faith was a quiet faith, but that’s not to be confused with any faith that was less than rock solid. Her children and grandchildren learned from her example, and it is that example that we all know our faith today is in no small part a witness to Mom. Even as Mom’s strength began to fade in the last year, she had Dad read scripture to her on a daily basis.

While we were growing up, she did not wield the belt, but she was the mediating influence in our lives. When the boys had tiffs over things, such as fair play in a croquet game things always settled down back in the house. Croquet was a fairly big deal – a breach of etiquette in croquet was a pretty big deal at the time.

Mom was a voice of patience; when I was around age 9 and mowed down a tree with our Gravely, to a dog or two that declined to let the mailman deliver mail, to our experiments with M-80 firecrackers, to later years when we all bought those smog belching muscle cars of the 60s which operated at very high decibels. Mom was constantly in our presence, such as our trips to Camp Yickyami (that name is derived from nothing and none of us ever established how to spell it).

Mom was her mother’s daughter; they were very similar in mannerisms and faith. She grew up in a family of seven, who among other locations ended up in Michigan, California, Texas, Massachusetts and Cincinnati. Not withstanding the distance, Mom’s brothers and sisters got together regularly, including family reunions at our place on Lewis Rd and Uncle Dennis and Aunt Mary’s place in Lane City, Ohio. Mom had the closest of relations with all of her siblings and with the regular visits she enjoyed watching her nephews and nieces grow up through a period of more than two decades.

Under circumstances existing at the time, Mom became in function a mother for Jon for several years. Jon is in China and was unable to be here, but he has specifically mentioned how thankful he was of her in his first 8 or 9 years. He has eternal gratitude for her stepping in and essentially being his mother in the very early years of his life. Jon’s current successes arise in very large part from Mom’s mothering and mentoring in those early years. Jon knows and has expressed his thanks for her influence, love and care.

Mom initially had some serious surgery in 2001/2002. The doctors eventually figured out the problem and corrected it. Mom could have passed in 2002, but she wasn’t ready to go. The clock may have been running down, but Mom ran it into overtime. She came back to us in good health; Mom and Dad were able to celebrate their 60th anniversary. She was able to enjoy several more robust years including traveling without difficulty to Jon and Francie’s wedding in Las Vegas.

Mom never said a negative word about anyone. She was very generous and non-judgmental. She knew and said long before anyone dreamed up the word “diversity,” that “it takes all kinds to make a world.” Mom was an exceptionally beautiful flower in the garden of the world, one who recognized that the beauty of the garden is in the different colors, shapes and sizes of the plants.

Mom spent her concluding months at home where she wanted to be. She was in the company of all of her children and grandchildren and of course our Dad. She received wonderful hospice care and we in the family are appreciative of the outstanding and thoughtful care of the hospice providers, as well as all of the doctors and medical personnel who provided treatment and kept Mom comfortable. As Mom grew weaker, she spent more and more of her time asleep but at all times during her waking moments, she knew everyone who was with her

Lastly and most importantly, because we know that she believed we know that she is with our Lord today.