Once again, we planted the red geraniums on Mother's grave. Once again, memories of Mother captured my thoughts.
No one shapes you more than your mother. She is the first person who loves you and welcomes you into the world.
I was greatly loved!
When Mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her early 40s, she underwent surgery, followed by the treatments available at that time.
Since she had worked at one of the local nursing homes, Mother was familiar with the afflictions of age. She exclaimed, "Well, at least I won't have to grow old!"
But Mother recovered, regained her strength and felt inspired to convert our home into a home for older people.
Our house had four possible bedrooms on the main floor, plus one bathroom.
We added cabinets and a double sink in the kitchen, painted the walls white and the ceiling red.
A remodeled attic became our family living area, with knotty pine paneling, new furniture and carpet. We pushed the red sectional sofa up the attic stairs and moved our beds upstairs too. With new lamps and end tables, it became a cozy space.
Mother called our home The Ottawa Avenue Rest Home and placed an ad in the newspaper offering care for older people who needed assistance with day-to-day living.
We soon welcomed four delightful new "grandmas."
Bertha was the first. When she occasionally wandered down our street, Mother would say, "Carole, go get Bertha!" I would walk beside Bertha, chatting with her as we made our way back to the screened-in porch, or the bench in the yard, where she loved to sit.
Then there was Alice, a sweet woman who was mostly bedfast. Her daughter, who sold Avon products, came to see her almost every day. Alice's daughter presented me with my first lipstick!
Another lady, who was an expert seamstress, "took in" my school skirts, because I was a skinny little girl who liked to wear the latest styles, even though they didn't come in my size.
And then there was Irma – a "younger woman," perhaps 65, who assisted Mother in the care of the other patients.
At Christmastime, Mother served cookies and punch from a crystal punch bowl to the families who came to visit. She wore a white nurse's uniform and played Christmas music from '78 records on the record player in the dining room.
I helped carry trays, change bedding, and occasionally combed and braided hair.
Mother loved her family and she loved the ladies she cared for. She appeared to have recovered from her cancer.
But several years later, Mother's cancer returned and she became ill. We phoned the families of the ladies to come and get them.
An ambulance took Mother to Ryburn Hospital where she died a few weeks later. She was 46.
I was 15 and my brother was 7.
Pastor Masemore said Mother died "resting in Jesus."
My stepdad was with her.
Through it all, Mother never lost her faith, her courage, or her sense of humor. She enjoyed listening to hymns and polkas on the record player, cooking delicious meals, decorating the house, and welcoming the families who visited.
I remember her love for all of us, the fun we had arranging the nursing home, and the sweet ladies who came to live with us.
CAROLE LEDBETTER is a lifelong Ottawan who believes every day is a new adventure!