She made me

My mom was a mother from a very young age.  When her own mother was ill with a blood clot that migrated to her heart leaving a hole, and leaving my grandmother in a permanent weakened condition, my mom took care of her two younger siblings.

My mom's family. She is on the right in the front.

My mom became a mother in her own right when she was 20 with a husband an ocean away on a military base in Germany. Mom lived on her own in a small apartment taking care of my oldest sister and waiting for my dad to come home.

Mom with my oldest sister, 1954.

In the 50s my mom became a mother five times over in little more than six years. She changed diapers and fed babies for 55 years as my younger sister Annie was born disabled and required the care of an infant until she died at the age of 51 in 2009.

My family, 1959.

When her own mother aged and began to suffer from dementia, my mom mothered her, visiting her 40 minutes away weekly and seeing to her every need until she died early in 2010.

My mother helping my grandmother blow out the candles on her 90th birthday cake.

Now my mom mothers my father who has Alzheimer’s.

Mom and Dad with his new wheelchair. April 27, 2011

My mom is a courageous, intelligent, strong, indomitable at times, creative and loving woman who has been called upon all her life to use her many gifts and talents time and time again.

She made me clothes when I was young.

She made me toast when I was sick.

She made me custom drapes for my first house.

She made me baby quilts for my children.

She made go the the park to meet other children after we’d moved when I was in grade school and was too shy to go on my own.

She made me see the reason behind going to college when I hesitated, not wanting to part with my boyfriend in my infinite wisdom as a teenager.

She made me believe in myself because she always believed in me.

She made me into a mother.

She made me courageous.

She made me strong.

She made me.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone reading. I hope you are able to celebrate with or remember your own mother today with happiness.

Happy Mother’s Day to the other mothers reading this. Well done.

Remembering Grandma—Anna Matilda Adams 1915 – 2010

Circa 1917—Katherine Roecker Adams holding my grandmother Anna behind Raymond, Harold, and Florence and beside Harrison Myron Adams and two horses.

The Life of Anna Adams Lemmon

As I Remember It

Monday, April 30, 1996

Part 1 

I was born August 3 – 1915 in a log house in the country between Piqua Ohio and Covington Ohio back a lane off of the Rake straw road.  The house that I was born in is still there.  Our house was the first house on the lane and farther east was another house on the same lane.  The people that lived in that house by the name of Franks. 

The house we lived in had only 3 rooms down stairs and one room up stairs.  The kitchen was big and we used it for not only a kitchen but a bed room where my mother & dad slept.  There were four of us kids and we slept up stairs in the one room. 

The kitchen was the only room that had a cook stove in.  And in the winter the other rooms was shut off so that the kitchen could stay warm.  We had a pump where we got our water and an out side toilet.  I can remember the winters back then were a lot colder and a lot more snow then we have today.  We also had a pretty big apple orchard so we always had plenty of apples in the fall when apples were ripe. (Anna Adams Lemmon)

At my mother’s urgings, my grandmother wrote the story of her life in 1996 when she was 80 years old. She wrote it by hand on lined notebook paper and requested that no grammatical edits or corrections be made.

 I started to school when we lived there when I was 5 or 6 years old. The school house was and the building is still there on Route 36.  A one room school house.  It had eight grades not to many children.  We would walk to school every day but it wasn’t very far from were we lived.  It was heated with a big pot belly stove so they called it then.  My mother would buy us one pair of shoes at the beginning of the school term and they had to last us all year.  I remember mine wore out before school was out and I walked barefooted to school.  One day I can remember it snowed and we walked home bare-footed in the snow.  Our teacher in that school was Miss Strenrod.  She was a good teacher, she was pretty stricked with the boys. . .

My grandmother on the left with some of her younger siblings and maybe cousins.

Each one of us kids had chores to do it wasn’t very easy living on the farm.  We didn’t have much time to play.  We had to pump water to the barn for the cows and horses to drink.  We would take turns about pumping the water.  There was a big tank down at the barn and the pump house was up at the house which was a pretty long ways.  Of course we kids would get into some pretty big arguments about who pumped the most.  But Dad always settled that in a a hurry. . .

In the summer when the rasberries and strawberries were ripe Florence my sister and I would pick berries for a neigbor who had a berrie patch and sold his berries.  We would get a penny a qt. We would work almost all day for .25 and we thought we was rich.  That was not an easy job, we had to wear old socks on are arms so we wouldn’t get all scratched up.  And a big straw hat because the sun would be awful hot.  (Anna Adams Lemmon)

I typed my grandmother’s hand-written story honoring her request not to edit. It is 20 double-spaced typed pages and largely portays details of her childhood and life on the farm with her family. It is one of my most-valued treasures.

My grandmother died in a nursing home at the age of 94 early in 2010. She no longer could see or hear very well. She suffered from dementia and often didn’t know who my mom was. She died less than a year after my sister Annie, and my parents were still reeling from the loss of their precious daughter.

As my Grandma slowly deteriorated with dementia my mom tried desperately to find things that Grandma could do to occupy her time, to be able to make and receive phone calls, to maintain some amount of independence and quality of life.

A couple of weeks after Annie died I took my parents to visit my grandma 40 minutes away. Grandma was eating lunch when we got there. Grandma seemed pleased to see us although it also was apparent she didn’t have a clue who we were. Mom kept trying to explain to her that she was her daughter Mary, and Grandma smiled but without recognition. She was just passing the time with three convivial people.

When she was finished eating we returned to her room, my mom pushing her wheelchair and Dad and I walking beside her. I tried to tell her who I was.

“Grandma,” I said, “do you know who I am? I’m Christine.”

She just looked at me blankly.

“I’m Annie’s sister. You remember Annie don’t you?”

My grandmother and my sister Annie at Grandma's 90th birthday party.

That sparked a recognition for my grandma who had been told about Annie’s death, and to my surprise and distress she became not only fully aware of who I was but also quite angry.

“What kind of daughter are you?” she demanded, “Leaving your mother alone when she has just lost her daughter?”

“Mom is right here,” I told her. “She is right here with me.”

“I’m here, Mom” my mother said. “This is Mary.”

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” Grandma continued to me. “Your mother needs you.”

Mom was not getting through to Grandma. By the time we got back to Grandma’s room I was in tears, not because she had been yelling at me, but because of her fierce defense of my mother and her tragic loss. Mom was desperately trying to get Grandma to recognize her. My dad got involved because at times in the past Grandma recognized him and he was able to lead the way to her seeing my mom for who she was.

“Ann,” he said, “do you know who I am?”

Grandma calmed down and got kind of quiet. “I’m sorry about Annie,” she said.

My mom leaned in towards her and said, “This is Mary. Do you know who I am?”

My grandma reached her arms out to Mom and leaned forward out of her wheelchair. Mom grasped both of her hands in her own.

“I’m so sorry, Mary,” Grandma said as she started to cry. “How are you doing? Are you doing okay?”

Mom told her about Hospice and how we were all with Annie and that Annie was an angel now with Grandpa. “But I won’t get to see her anymore,” Grandma said through her tears.

I took my mom back to see my grandma two more times before she died in February. The first time I waited in the car with my dad. Grandma was sleeping and my mom did not stay long. The second time Grandma was in a coma. When we visited Grandma we knew it would be the last time we saw her. She was lying on her back on the bed. Her frail and tiny body was still. Her motionless hands resting on her stomach looked like older perfect replicas of Annie’s right hand. We stayed for a little over an hour.

About two hours after we got back home Mom answered the phone call telling her that Grandma had died.

My grandmother and grandfather, probably in the 60s or early 70s.

The last years of my grandma’s life were difficult ones for her and for those who loved her. But today I want to celebrate the way I remember my grandma.

When we were young, she had a large corrugated box in her laundry area beside the kitchen that she would pull out when we visited. It contained the items she had collected for us to play with—a plastic horse, small plastic toy soldiers, an empty metal donut-shaped adhesive tape container, and tons and tons of empty thread spools.

Every year until she was 80 my grandma held a Christmas party on a Saturday in December where she gathered all her children, grand-children and even great-grandchildren for a meal of Kentucky Fried chicken, potato salad and home made cake to celebrate the birth of Jesus. She had presents for each and every one of us that she had bought throughout the entire year.  She used to give us each an orange and a candy cane. Then we would play BINGO for prizes.

1958 - My sisters and me in dresses Grandma made for us.

My grandma was a prolific crocheter. I am the lucky recipient of four of her afghans. She made us little crocheted dresses when we were small and another for my daughter. On Grandma’s 90th birthday my mom and her two siblings held a big celebration for her where we displayed many of the items she had made with her own hands.

1988 - My daughter Anna, named for my grandmother, models the dress Grandma made.

I miss my grandma, and I suspect my mom misses her mother. But we’ll always have the memories, and an afghan or two.

Anna Matilda Adams 1915 - 2010