We always called her "mother." Maybe my sister Diane can remember calling mother something else, but I can't. Mother was, as previously chronicled, perhaps the wisest woman to ever walk the earth. A wise driver she was not.
Before the era of the Interstate and the get-up-your-speed-first motif, mother had an "it's my turn" mentality. This meant that when she'd let enough cars go by to be polite it was Her Turn! She'd pull out into traffic and Diane and I would cover our eyes and pray heaven was all it is cracked-up to be. And then there was The U-Turn.
I couldn't have been older than 10, probably younger. We had gone shopping downtown (there was no such thing as a Mall then, absolutely everybody went downtown). It was rush hour and time to pick up daddy (always "daddy" somehow). Somewhere mother's "My Turn" got her into the wrong lane and we were headed straight towards the Eads Bridge and into Illinois. This was not where mother wanted to go. When Diane visited last month we talked about The U-Turn -- indelibly burned into our childhood memories. We laughed thinking about the forlorn traffic cop stopping traffic from all five directions while mother made her U-Turn in front of that bridge -- in our pre-WWII stick-shift Oldsmobile with nifty running-boards.
Given time and a better memory I could fill pages of the things which mother did to prove her great wisdom (when she wasn't driving). For example:
She didn't want us kids to smoke. To my brother, an athlete with a lion's heart, she pointed out that smoking would ruin his chances to be state champion diver. My sister learned how unladylike smoking would make her look. And me she knew; she simply pointed out how much the darn things cost.
When I was a "Junior" in Sunday School (about age 11) nobody else in church wanted anything to do with boys that age, so mother both taught the class and started a Boys Bible Club. In the Spring 1975 issue of KEY magazine I wrote in part:
"I recall that while she was teaching us Junior boys she remodeled her home, solicited business for [daddy's] business, served two terms as president of the P.T.A., and entertained most of the missionaries and evangelists that spoke at our church. She also cared for three grandparents at one time, and took in a woman and child whose husband had deserted her. Despite all this her primary interest always seemed to be the boys in her Junior class."
Mother lived to be 90, unfortunately suffering in her last years with Alzheimer's. I tell people that in the end she didn't know where she was, who she or anyone else was; but still she worried about her "David." Seems we are all condemned to never stop worrying about our children.
The last time I talked with her was before the Alzheimer's. She was active and curious about everything, the way I want to remember her -- still the wisest woman to ever walk the earth.
In our growing-up years Diane and I would go downtown a couple of times annually to wander through the old department stores. We took the bus.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.