Tuesday, October 25, 2005

"Happy birthday, dear mom, happy birthday to you."

My mother is 65 today...and she's celebrating with whooping cough. Actually, she's on the mend and will be heading back to work soon.

Anyway, like my father's birthday, I will use this opportunity to continue to the family story...with her parents (this part will, of course, include my mother's birth).

My grandmother was one of 11 children. My grandfather was one of 3. I don't really know much about them. I never actually got the opportunity to speak to them directly about much. I could say simple things to them. I could tell them I loved them. That I wanted to play with the doll. That it was time to come to eat.

You see, my grandmother lost her hearing at the age of 2 due to scarlet fever, and my grandfather was born deaf. They were both raised in central Minnesota, and they were both sent to school at the Minnesota School for the Deaf in Mankato (I still have my grandmother's class ring, although it is so worn that you cannot tell where it is from).

It was considered quite an accomplishment to complete high school in those days (my paternal grandfather only completed the 8th grade). That my deaf grandparents got a high school diploma was considered a mark of pride. My grandmother went on to get training in beauty school after that. She's the first person in my family to get any training beyond high school.

But she never used it. She and my grandfather married. From all that I know, their's was a happy marriage. They fought sometimes, yes...the words would fly fast and furious from their fingers. But they cared for each other and were physically affectionate with one another well into their senior years.

My mother is their oldest and her sister came 8 years later. My great-grandmother lived with them, as did my mother's bachelor uncle, but there is nothing to indicate that this was needed. My mother and aunt are fluent in English Sign Language (instead of the American Sign Language that is more prevalent now). I learned several simple signs early on.

My grandmother was a canner. You might remember an earlier post in which I talked about my mother's pickles. Well, she learned at home to pickle and to can. It was a fairly common skill at one time. She also used compost to help nourish her garden.

My grandfather...I don't know a lot about him. He worked for a wage outside the home. He supported his family. He was tall and handsome. But by the time I knew him, he was already having severe hip problems. I don't ever remember him without a walker.

When I was in college, it became clear that we would have to move them into an assisted living situation. We investigated several in their hometown of Little Falls (the birth place of Charles Lindbergh, fact fans), but none was really seemed to fit. So we moved them into an apartment in Minneapolis. I was able to go with my mother frequently to visit. It was the closest I felt to them.

In their last year or so, they lived in a nursing home. They were able to share a room (some nursing homes segregate people by sex, even married couples), which was a blessing. My grandmother had had several strokes and couldn't swallow well, so was on a feeding tube...my grandfather would sometimes sneak her cookies or eggnog at holiday celebrations. Sweet, but dangerous.

Grandmother died about 6 months before grandfather. I never knew them well enough to know if I was like either of them in personality (there was that language barrier), but I do not physically resemble this side of the family hardly at all...perhaps I'll ask my mother to write down all her memories of her parents when she gets a chance. I feel like I've really missed out on knowing them.

Well, Happy Birthday, mom. I love you.


Hyde said...

Happy Birthday to her!

Hippy Chick said...

Happy Birthday to your mom! Wishing her improved and sustained good health and happiness :)

the urban fox said...

Happy birthday to Spin's mom.

These family stories are ace, Spinny. I'm enjoying them very much.

red one said...

Happy birthday and get well soon, Spin's mom.

And more history, please, Spin.


Aravis said...

Happy Birthday to Spin's mom!

Your grandparents had a beautiful love story. Thanks for sharing it!

Flash said...

Nice to get another insight into the history of the family Spins.

Happy birthday to your Mum.

Bravo to your family said...

Bravo! to your grndparents.

I hope your mom gets well soon.

Good Post.

P'tit-Loup said...

Happy Day to your mom! I never knew that you knew some sign language. I have always wanted to learn. Well you know me and languages, they are all so fascinating!

writinginAK said...

thanks for the interesting family stories! that's been one of the coolest part of this month with my mom in ak ... we've spent a lot of time talking about family history and stories. i'm facinated that my mom's mom was the 5th of 13 kids, most all of whom married, butmom's dad was 4th of 9, and 4 of those didn't marry, which strikes me as unusual for the 1920s...

btw, my happy news of the wk, besides a brand new orange cast which allows me elbow movement, is that my employer will be offering domestic partner health benefits next year! we're thrilled, and impressed!

sunshine said...

Happy Belated to your mom.

Just an FYI about me. I've recently gone to college and taken two semesters of ASL.

Do you know any sign language now, or do you not have a need to learn it now? I think it is the most fascination of foreign languages.


spinsterwitch said...

sunshine - I've retained most of the small signs I learned, but I never learned enough to even hold a conversation (unless I finger-spelled everything).

I sometimes thought about taking classes to learn ASL, but never got around to it. I have to admit now that the most valuable language for me to learn would be Spanish.

But sign is beautiful.