“Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.” – Rosa Parks
Mother lived in Charlotte for 20 years before passing away in 2004. She enjoyed spending time with us and celebrating life’s milestones, including weddings and the baptism of all four of her great-grandchildren. She was an important part of our life and we learned from her and her life stories.
The world changed more in her lifetime, 1905 – 2004, than during any other time in history. Choices and changes were facts of her life. Some of her early story is told here. In the later years of her life, she continued to embrace whatever changes the “new normal” of life would bring.
She had lived alone in St. Louis after my dad’s death in 1961. She never remarried, never even had a date, as far as I know.
Instead, she invested her energy in her community and church. She walked to her job at the bank, took care of our family dog and tended her garden.
She often socialized with my dad’s brother and his family along with other friends who had lost their husbands. My aunt and uncle could sit around the dinning room table from lunch clear through until dinner and talk about everything. Then they would adjourn to the front porch to have desert. Uncle Thurlo’s homemade ice cream, on special occasions, was my favorite.
Mother had adjusted to this new phase of her life as well as she could, but I know she missed my dad. She had lost her mother when she was eight years old, then her husband when she was 55. Both came at her way to soon.
In the 25 years that followed the death of my dad, I had graduated from college, moved away from home, married, had children and followed my corporate dream, just as mom and dad had done in their life together.
As my family put down roots in Charlotte, it was clear that her only child had found his forever home. So, in 1984, she made a big choice. If I was not moving home to St. Louis, she was moving to Charlotte – a huge decision at age 80.
She found a great place to live within walking distance of everything she needed – our home, church, grocery, drug store, library, bank, lunch counter and restaurant plus a hardware store. She had found the same walkability she enjoyed in St. Louis County, so she was happy. She could go days without using her car.
Sitting at her dining table in the morning, watching the sun stream through the trees that surrounded her on three sides, she drank her coffee and read her morning newspaper. It was the best part of her day. During baseball season, she would check the box scores, paying particular attention to her St. Louis Cardinals. Box scores, and the Cardinals, are part of the family DNA.
She walked to church, and became president of her Sunday School Class. It was her nature to jump in, to get involved. She wanted to know what was going on and showed up during the week to do various tasks.
I now visit the columbarium wall, stop at her plaque, remember her and all the adjustments she made in her 99 years.
Mother had been an active volunteer with The Red Cross in St. Louis so she just picked right up in Charlotte. She liked to work the mobile blood drives because it helped her learn her way around her new city.
She would plan her route, pack up her 1965 Chevrolet with her lunch, her map, and head off on a new adventure. She would later ask if I knew about so-and-so plant or warehouse on the north side. I had no idea – but she knew – she had worked a blood drive there. She even showed up for a blood drive at my largest distributor customer one day, Biggers Brothers, and later told me all about the banana ripening room, where they ready the bananas to ship out. “How in the world do you know about that?” I asked. She had met Howard Biggers, Jr. and asked him to take her for a tour. I guess the apple doesn’t fall too far.
When it was time to renew her driver’s license, at age 90, she wanted advice. Should she keep driving she asked?
Her driving seemed okay to me, but I wondered how she felt about it. She said she worried that if anything ever did happen, if she injured someone, or worse, she would never forgive herself. She had found her answer.
We ran an ad in the Observer and sold her 1965 Chevrolet. We should have kept it, putting it in storage for later. Recently my son asked if we could find another one and restore it so we would always have grandmother’s Chevy. That would be fun. The car was about a mile long. You never know what makes an impression on children and what they will remember.
My mother influenced so many of us, and I miss her even today.
“Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.” Thanks, Ms. Rosa Parks.
Is your Mother with you this Mother’s Day? How does your family celebrate?
If you are a mother, how do you want to be celebrated and how do you want to be remembered when you are no longer with your children?
What other women influenced your life? Maybe they never had children of their own but they played a large role in your development and the lives of many others? How do you celebrate them?
Did you celebrate International Woman’s Day on March 8 this year? Should this special day combine with Mother’s Day? Why do you think that would be a good, or bad, idea?
As always, the conversation starts here.
“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.” – Eknath Easwaran