Hauling things out of my parent’s farmhouse to sell in a
yard sale was how my sister and I spent our Memorial Day weekend. With each dust-covered box, we found a
treasure trove of history we were just now discovering about our mom. Sorting
through files and photos, we were seeing the dimension of a self-less mom grow
into a person we never knew existed. I mentioned in an earlier column about the
things we never knew about our mom, but the sacrifice of her life has never
been clearer. Growing up, stories of her college days were plentiful but
several details were left out as she concentrated on raising a family and
helping her husband of six decades run a farm.
We knew she was a successful vocalist in college, but we
never knew she recorded an album until we pulled out an old 78 vinyl record and
listened to her lyrical voice through the crackle and pop of the old relic. We
knew she was the first woman on the Michigan State livestock judging team, but
we had no idea she was the first woman on the meats judging team too. We knew she had spent time in Germany with
her uncle, but we had no idea how well-traveled she was until we found her
passport and the countless letters she penned in stunning penmanship sent to
her mom back home.
You see, she had a remarkable upbringing by a single mom who
was educated and accomplished instead of the traditional two-parent household
of the 1940s, so her desire to raise us with two parents on a farm was
paramount. Holding a bachelor’s degree
and a teaching certificate from two universities, she chose to stay home and
soak up every moment of her children’s development.
My mom traded the spotlight of the performing arts for
lambing a flock of sheep with two young children in tow during the cold Midwest
winters. Instead of teaching in public
school, she taught her daughters how to bake, can, and sew and turned her sons
over to their father to teach them how to plow a field and take care of
livestock. She was the consummate school volunteer up through her 80s and three
months before she passed, she was walking the streets of a small Montana town,
Christmas caroling with her great-grandchildren.
She buried two children and a husband and knew the value of
hugging her family whenever she had the chance. With talent, grit, and the
opportunity to break glass ceilings, her choice was to give her entire life to
the only thing that will last through eternity, her family.