Wednesday, May 9, 2018

As Mother's Day Approaches . . .

I didn't plan to write a post about Mother's Day. It wasn't even on my radar in the form of an idea or a bulleted outline. But this morning, when I read a Facebook post by a young mother who is one of my Facebook friends, I began to think about my own mother. The post I read wasn't about anything that was in relation to my mother. No. It was far removed from the birth and life of my own mother. But, because this young mother was writing from deep in her soul from her past year of experiences with her baby girl who has been diagnosed with Prader-Willi Syndrome, my mother and her struggles with health and survival came to mind. I will write a little about my mother and her birth and life in this post; but first, please read the following Facebook post from Amanda. If you are thinking about how crummy you feel today, have this problem, or that problem, a headache, too much to do, or whatever, I believe your perspective will be changed, and not just for today, but forever. With her permission, Amanda's post appears below.

My mother, born in 1909, was the first born to my young grandparents. Born on a dirt road, the name that was recorded on her birth certificate was "Baby Coyle". She was not expected to live. She weighed less than three pounds and could not digest milk. By some miracle, and because she had a large extended family who took care of her, she lived beyond anyone's expectations. So small was she, that she slept in a dresser drawer. True story. So, it isn't just in TV westerns that this was done. She was unable to sit up, so they improvised and placed soft cardboard around her so she would not flop frontward, sideways, or backward. Over time, she must have begun to take in some form of nourishment, and the stories that were told to me of the concoctions my grandfather made for her to ingest were gruesome. He ordered medical encyclopedias through the mail and used a meat press to squish the juices from meat to make broth for my mother to drink. I'm pretty sure raw eggs were in her diet, too. Ugh. Perhaps this is where the phrase, "if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger" originated. Because she could not digest milk, her bones were soft. Her caregivers couldn't even get her to crawl for a long time, but by the age of four, she began to walk. As it turned out, doctors later said it was good that she did not try to walk before because her soft bones would have been curved, which would have only added to her difficulties. I'm not sure how old she was, perhaps 7 or 8, when my grandfather's sister, who was a nurse in Rochester, suggested she be seen at a hospital where they had therapies that might help her. My mother told me the story of being put into a hydrotherapy tub that scared her so much that she pulled the plug and drained the water out. After that day, they didn't try any more hydrotherapy.
My mother, Edythe Louise Coyle's baby picture.
As a child, she was often tired and required a lot of sleep. She attended school when she could. The one room schoolhouse was about a mile away and my grandparents would take her there in the horse-drawn wagon. She walked with a limp and had a hard time keeping her balance. When it was time to play baseball during recess, she would bat the ball, but the boys in the class would run the bases for her. The tight-knit community she grew up in remained so all of their lives. There were 13 kids in the house up the road, and a dozen or so more scattered in the two or three houses within a couple miles.

My mother's family was poor. Like most farms of the day, theirs was a small one. They raised pigs, cows and chickens and the crops to feed them. They sold eggs and butter to the local community. When the Great Depression hit, they tried to keep food on the table by hiring the kids out to bring in some extra money. My mother and her younger sister were mother's helpers for a couple well-to-do families in the area. Because my mother was handicapped (or in those days, "afflicted"), she was paid $3 a week instead of the $5 that her sister was paid. When my mother wasn't employed in that capacity, she helped out her elderly relatives. She would often go stay with them for weeks at a time and she eventually learned to drive a truck and drove them to town for their errands and to visit their friends and family. My mother loved the feeling of independence that driving gave her. It allowed her to be mobile and when  she could, she would drive anywhere.

Throughout the 1930's and the 1940's, she remained on the farm and had a large flock of chickens and peddled eggs and butter in the nearby village of Leroy. In the mid-1940's a widower and his sons bought the farm just up the road. One of those sons used to call on my mother's family. He befriended my grandparents and eventually my mother. After a short courtship, he asked her to marry him. This was something my mother never expected to happen to her. She had watched her sisters as they dated, got engaged and married; but never thought it was in the cards for her. But God had a plan for her. He sent my father to her.
My parents, Ralph and Edythe Hawker, on their wedding day, June 24, 1948
Of course, there is much more to this story and to what follows in her life and theirs together; but as Mother's Day approaches, and as I read Amanda's post, I was reminded of my mother. I was reminded of the stories of her childhood, but also of her as my mother. Because she had been so well cared for, she learned how to be caring. She was a great mother. Strong when she needed to be, silly whenever she could be, and loving always. I see these traits in little Saoirse and in Amanda. God bless them and God bless all mothers and their children.

Thank you for stopping by today to read my post. As always, your questions and comments are welcome here or on Facebook. I do read them and I will reply.  It is my sincere wish that you and those you love are well and happy. God bless our mothers, and until we meet again, may the Lord hold you in the hollow of His hand.


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