Happy birthday to my dear mom, Opal Ellen Gauger, who was born May 27, 1924. She is 94 today, May 27, 2018. She was the youngest of four children and is the last surviving member of her immediate family. Her mother, Grandma B, died at 61 years old; Grandpa B died at 66.
She grew up in Dillon, Illinois, a mere wide-spot in the road. There she gathered eggs from the chicken house. There her Christmas gift one year was a single orange. Her mother was a homemaker; her father was a laborer.
My mom was a good mother in so many ways, a hard-working homemaker, who always made our home a pleasant place to be. She cooked good meals, and she wanted us to eat the food in front of us. I remember being made to sit at the table on several occasions until I ate my peas. They seemed so awful then, but she insisted I eat them. Now I really like them. Mom kept me and my sister well dressed in clean clothes and new ones when we needed them. She did the laundry, ironed our clothes and did the grocery shopping so we always had something to eat. She must have been a good money manager because she always made do with whatever dad gave her as her part of their money.
Occasionally, she would go shopping in a nearby city and, when I was young, I would go with her. One of my most fearful childhood memories was when we were shopping in the “Five and Dime” store in Pekin, Illinois, and I couldn’t find my mom. The store seemed so big, and I felt so alone. It was a welcome relief when, at last, I found her.
She was an excellent housekeeper; our home was always neat and clean. I remember her doing major spring and fall cleaning, mowing the yard at times, even painting the house. She wasn’t afraid to tackle a tough job. Today, her mobility is greatly altered by the physical limitations of growing older, and her mind is tangled with dementia, and her low functioning kidneys are a major issue. She does have clearer moments. At times she guesses the puzzles on Wheel of Fortune, and she can be witty in responding to the many times I joke with her. But her short-term memory is shaky, and her body is weak.
Mom lives in the same house where she and my dad lived for most of their married life. My sister, who has cared for her for many years, now lives with our mom. In these latter years my wife, Mary, and I trade off care for mom with my sister, every other three weeks or so.
One day in recent months, while visiting over breakfast, I asked my mom what her favorite subject was in High School. She smiled and said, “Wally.” Wally was my dad. Needless to say, that gave me a warm, wonderful feeling.
Thanks, mom, for being there, for loving and supporting us as we grew up. May God surround you with his love and fill you with his grace, today and always.