Delta was one of six children who lived to adulthood and was raised on a farm home built by her father in southern Indiana. The house is still standing today, even though it’s well over a hundred years old. By today’s standards, Mom would be recognized as an earthy, country girl who could recognize the various animals smells even as she grew older when driving by various farms.
She led cheers in younger days at basketball games until her sister Mary told on her, and her mother made her stop. To her dying day, she swore allegiance to Clifford High School and stated that its arch rival - Columbus High School – always cheated.
She played the ukulele and the banjo with relish – singing along to “Five foot two, eyes of blue” as if the song was only meant to be performed by her.
As children at Christmas, Mom, her two brothers and three sisters were happy to receive an apple or orange in their stockings along with some form of needed clothing gift – socks, scarf or mittens.
Mom was fortunate in that she was educated in Nursing School at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. It was there that she met and dated her husband to be – an intern – at the hospital. They would meet secretly in the third-floor linen closet at the hospital. Nurses in those days were not allowed to fraternize with doctors, but that didn’t curtail them.
On the day of graduation from the Nursing School, she and her classmates went to the local burlesque house to celebrate. Coming out of the theatre, that day, she ran into one of the “town fathers” from her small farm community. His comment was, “I won’t tell if you won’t!”
When Mom and Dad were newly married, and as he was establishing his medical practice, she would call his office often if patients were present, so it would sound as if he was busy.
One of my earliest memories was of Mom reading the book “Bambi” to my sister and me when I was barely five years old and Sis was under three. Mom put life into all of the animal characters so they became real to the both of us.
Mom was a “Barney Oldfield” when it came to driving her car. She could “tool” around” with the best of them. She drove five people, including my sister and me, to Florida in 1940 on single highways, over the Smoky Mountains and through the swamps of Georgia in a rain storm, to Miami without a mishap. The trip was originated to allow my sister to overcome breathing challenges during the winters in Indiana. Family legend had it that she once chased a chicken off the road in order to put it in the frying pan for supper.
The car was always a major part of our family life. Most evenings in the warm summer months, we would climb in the four-door Chrysler and take a ride for a cooling off time usually ending at the Clipper Drive-in for an ice cream soda.
My sister and I realized that my Dad was always a major focus of my Mom’s attention. However, when Sis or I was ill or, if we were involved in a challenge, that focus changed. She was always right on top of the situation, and we always received great care and comfort. She was an excellent nurse, and I preferred her shot-giving to my Dad’s efforts. By the way, there was no faking illness in our household – not with a doctor and nurse always in attendance.
As I grew older and started to date in high school, Mom was on hand to teach me how to do the two-step and waltz. Our basement was the scene of many a slip and slide and stepping on toes until I got the hang of it.
She also helped me memorize my various parts in plays through those formative years – rehearsing all the scenes – voicing the counter parts so I understood how the play flowed. Mom never missed a recital or play performance from grade school to college. And, I always knew if she thought I didn’t do as well as she thought I was capable of in my stage career. Most times, she was correct.
A close buddy of mine once told me I had a very pretty mother. Up to that point in my life, I had never recognized her for being beautiful. That statement changed my whole outlook toward the woman I saw in a housedress.
In later years, when my Dad’s practice had grown, Mom would be requested to serve as a replacement nurse during vacations. There were long days stretching into late evenings. She would come home worn out, with few complaints.
Every Saturday was cleaning day. Each room was given the full vacuum sweeper treatment; windows were washed; everything was dusted – even the crannies. Nothing was left undone. The phrase, “Floors were so clean you could eat off of them” held special truth in our household. Mondays were reserved for washing, drying and ironing clothes. Everything was hung on clothes lines in the backyard. I can still remember the smell of clean sheets as we took them down from the lines.
Mom was in charge of the discipline in the family. We never doubted her love for us, but you didn’t cross my mother. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” was not part of her philosophy. I have often wondered how she would adapt to today’s world of raising a family with her old-fashioned ways of “switching” when I needed it. I must have been in my early sixties when she told me once I was not too old to spank! I got the message, even though I knew she was kidding.
Her ability to remember events long past enabled her to focus attention on an accumulation of wrong-doings when she wanted to make a strong point on our behinds. I don’t remember many gray shades with Mom; it was either black or white. Her word was final! Rarely was “maybe” a part of her vocabulary.
Although she might have lived a bit longer than her almost eighty-seven years, she determined it was time to go. Even though we were all deeply saddened by her passing away, she was in charge right up until the end of her worldly life.
The minister preaching her funeral referenced her as “politely assertive” who ruled the household, but loved her family above all others. I have seen her go out of her way to defend family members beyond what you would normally expect. You didn’t tread on “Mother Bear” particularly if we were in the wrong. Then, hold on. It was going to be a rough ride!
My sister was given a note addressed to her and to me just before Mom died. She wrote a simple message that summed up her life. It read, “Remember, I will try to be just a prayer away.” Hopefully you get the picture of the “Special Lady” in our lives.
Happy Mother’s Day…Mom!