Turtle Trax Diary. Page 35
November 30, 2001.
Marie Shie, in memorium.
by Lucky Magnolia (Susan Shie)
This is Marie Snyder, my mother, when she was in her late teens or early twenties.
Topics in this diary: My mother's life.
(Mom's graduation photo in 1942, from Mt. Sinai Nursing School.)
I wasn't going to put any diary up this month at all. I was going to wait til maybe the end of January, or some other later time, so I could avoid dealing with this sadness again for a while. But maybe I'm ready to tell you about Mom, who died on October 27, 2001. I know I've shown you and told you things about her before, but those were things from her fading-out years, when you couldn't really know the dynamic person she had been. She is worth knowing.
(Mom making applesauce with her Victorio Strainer in 1975.)
Too bad I didn't tell you these things about her many, many years ago. You might have visited her and Dad at their house over near Smithville. You could have had some of her wonderful cooking, watched her make rugs or clothes, or helped her pull a few weeds or harvest some sweet corn. Oh, but maybe she would be at work, the Charge Nurse at West View Manor, where she'd later end up living for almost eight years, and you'd have to visit her there, taking such loving care of everyone. Or maybe we could all go back in time to when she was young, growing up on a farm near where she later raised her own children. We could watch her nervously give her valedictory speech for the Class of 1935, in which she advised everyone to use their leisure time creatively and purposefully. Sneak a peek at her studying nursing up at Mt. Sinai Hospital and Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. Or go to Los Angeles, where she was nursing in 1945, when Dad came home from the South Pacific, and they got married and hopped the train to Camp Hood in Texas.
(My brother Larry graduated in 1963. This was our whole family in our living room outside of Smithville. Mom, Dad, Larry, Jimmy, me, and Debi.)
You missed a lot, but I can fill you in on some of Marie Shie's life adventures.
(Mom in grade school.)
She was born Edith Marie Snyder on May 8, 1917 in Orrville, Ohio to Orville and Lydia Ellen (Hartzler) Snyder. She had an older brother Lester, and younger siblings Floyd, Harold, Hazel, and Louise. Hazel died in 1948, Harold in 1979, Hazel's husband Uncle Vince Corvan in 1980, and Louise this last summer. Uncles Lester and Floyd (Bud) still live in Orrville with their wives, Nellie and Pauline. And Aunt Mary Jo, Uncle Harold's wife, still lives in Smithville. Louise's husband, Uncle Charlie Almstedt lives in Houston.
(Mom's on the far right here.)
Growing up in a very small rural community called Georgetown, outside of Smithville, Mom was the oldest girl in the family and played a lot with her brothers and neighbor boys. She was expected to do a great deal of house chores, and her parents told her that her love for drawing would have to go, in favor of serious work. I think that's why she made sure we kids were able to do the arts and crafts we wanted to do. I have a few of her drawings, made in junior high and hidden away. Oh, and she used to chord on the guitar, while Uncle Lester played a violin.
(Mom's family around 1940. Mom is on the far left, back row, next to her brothers Floyd, Lester, and Harold, and her sister Hazel. Front row: Mom's sister Louise, Grandpa Snyder, and Grandma Snyder.)
Mom's family was Mennonite and were all very loving, down to earth people. Her mother died of heart disease before Mom and Dad got married, and her dad died in 1970. He'd had Alzheimer's Disease, which would also be Mom's old age disease. We always enjoyed playing with our Snyder cousins, who all grew up near us. The families still gather at Christmastime to eat together and catch up on which baby is whose! Cousins fly or drive in from all over the place! Like her whole family, my mother was very kind, peaceful, and practical. She was very intelligent and read about many subjects, forming her own quiet opinions. She loved to work at things that would contribute something to the quality of our lives and gave us a very rich childhood of security and loving predictability.
(My parents' wedding picture, Jan 3, 1945, Los Angeles.)
When my dad came home from overseas in WWII, he came to Los Angeles, where Mom was living with her father and Louise. They had sold everything in Ohio and moved to California after Grandma Snyder died. Dad was on leave from Camp Hood, TX, and persuaded Mom to marry him and move down to Texas with him! Soon it was Fort Sill, OK, and then Dad was out of the army, the war was over, and they moved to Orrville to raise their family. Larry was born Oct 7, 1945, while my folks were still living with Dad's parents. That transition period from war to peace was a tough time for everyone just setting up households and nesting in. They were in the vanguard of the creation of the Baby Boom!
(Mom, Dad, and Larry.)
Because Dad was raised Lutheran, my parents switched to a third church to raise us in, and we grew up in East Chippewa Church of the Brethren, once again a warm, settled environment. I went to church every Sunday. You could skip if you were sick! I always liked it that the church had a pacifist stance, which I really identified with during the Vietnam War and after. Mom wore her covering in church, but after looking forward to having one, when you get baptized at age 13, I soon pitched my covering when I realized its wearing was because Paul told the Corrinthians that women were unclean in the sight of the Lord. That was that. Mom understood, but didn't get rid of her covering. I still have hers. It was in her family Bible. If I hadn't been so impetuous, I'd still have my covering, too. I do still have the Bible I got for perfect attendance.
(Mom comforting Jimmy, Larry, and me, right after our dog Cinder got hit on the road and died, Jan, 1956. Are you seeing the connection with St. Quilta the Comforter now?)
Mom worked for a while after she got married, between having three kids: Larry, Jimmy, and me. (Debi came along later, after Mom had quit her nursing and we'd moved out into the country.) I remember some things from my years in Orrville, before we moved when I was five and a half. Mom worked at the hospital and then as an office nurse for the town's surgeon, Dr. Feltis. She was making all my clothes at home, even while she worked part time, and she loved to perm my hair and make doll clothes. Soon I was experimenting with doll clothes, too, and she encouraged my sewing. When I took 4-H for five years (starting at age eight), she insisted that she only help me rip out my mistakes, not help do my actual sewing, even though I had friends whose moms helped them. She knew I needed to learn. And it worked. She'd thread sewing machine needles for me a LOT, but never acted like my eyesight should stop me from learning the work. And she was always willing to advise me on what to do, and to encourage my work. Her own sewing was perfect! I learned enough that I made our clothes for years, and also made many custom fitted and designed leather garments with linings and fancy tailored pockets and buttonholes, when Jimmy had his leather shop, Barnfire Leather, for many years. Mom's high standards were the reason I learned to sew properly, and from that was able to "scat" my own funky sewing style.
(Mom and Dad's house for 39 years.)
Her days were loaded with work at home, once she stopped nursing in 1956 and we moved to the country outside of Smithville, the next town over from Orrville. Where we had lived in town in a big old house before, now we were in a sweet little cape cod in the country. She had a huge organic garden, having read Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" in 1962 and pitching her chemicals. No more of that! Then Ruth Stout's books brought her mulching with hay. She had a mammouth TroyBilt tiller and worked a very large garden. We got to help sell spare veggies and strawberries at our roadside stand, a very small venture, but really nice for the lucky customers who got to have Mom's fresh picked sweet corn or berries! Dad and Mom tried raising chickens and rabbits, but both ventures were more trouble than they were worth. Dad had our only car at work all day, and Mom was always home, there for us, when we'd come home from school.
(Mom hiding behind her trusty iron skillet.)
She canned and froze so much food, we only had to buy meats, dairy products, breads, etc. She also cooked and baked in fine Mennonite style, leaving us many happy memories of coming home from school to delightful snacks. She provided neatly put away clean clothes, freshly made beds, and always perfectly fitting clothes. Trips to the Penney Store brought us new undies, shoes, and socks every time school was starting, and Mom didn't like to make the boys' clothes as much, so they got store bought clothes. I pouted, thinking I was deprived! Dummy! Mom's clothes were stunning, and she let me pick out the patterns and material!
(Mom and me on my seventh birthday.)
This seems to be a story of what my mom did for me! I don't want it to sound like I think her life was defined by what I got out of her, which was a lot, for sure. She herself was busy enjoying her "free time" by reading things like the garden how to books, as well as many good novels, like the historical fictions of Taylor Caldwell, which Mom devoured. I have her "Vermont Folk Medicine" by Dr. Jarvis, which she was devoted to. Rodale Press became her favorite publisher, since she was really getting into vitamins. She was always exploring mentally. No romance novels for her. Guess that's where I get my hunger for reading that educates. I mostly read biographies, histories, and travel books. Mom even got into reading about metaphysical stuff, like Edgar Cayce's books and stuff on reincarnation. A very quiet iconoclast, she didn't bring this stuff up at church or with her siblings. She continued to attend church, sunday school, and the Ladies' Aid meetings, at which they made money for the church by making quilts. My first memories of quilting and the bees come from those Wednesday gatherings, which were all day affairs, including a potluck lunch. "You kids stop running in the sanctuary!"
When I was growing up, Mom was the person who taught me to sew. She also made sure I had art supplies from the time I was very small, and she let me sit on the floor during church and use the pew as a drawing table, with junkmail scrap paper as my drawing paper. By the time I was in high school, she made sure I had "real" art supplies, including stretcher bars, canvas, and Grumbacher paints.
(Left: Mom with all us kids, around 1961, on her birthday. Right: Now it's Debi's birthday!)
Debi was born when I was almost nine, and Larry was 14. Our little house was pretty full with six of us, but soon Larry moved out, to be a farmhand for the neighbors. I went off to college and then got married when I was 18, and our brother Jimmy was still in college. From then on it was just Mom, Dad, and Debi at home, and when Debi was 12, Mom went back to work at West View. She had nursed mostly in obstetrics, where she loved working with the new mothers and the babies, but now she switched to taking care of old folks.
Everyone said then, and still tells me now, that Mom was the best nurse. She was kind to everyone, including her nurse's aides. She would try so hard to protect them from the harsh treatment from the top down. And they were devoted to her, just like we were! I know she really thrived on being back doing her nursing. Bless her heart, she never complained about not working, while we were growing up. We could've had a lot more family income, had she worked, but we'd have been latchkey kids. It's a hard choice, but we didn't have to make it, as Dad didn't want any wife of his working!!! :) I guess when she went back, somehow she made sure that she still accomplished all her chores at home, so Daddy wouldn't be able to complain. But that must have been very hard work, for sure.
Her going back to work corresponded with her finally getting her driver's license. Then in 1973 she bought herself a brand new Pontiac Grand Am, the first year they were made. It was a big V-8, metal flake navy blue with a bright red interior. Looked like a big shark in the water! And she drove FAST! This little woman, not even five feet tall, sitting on a cushion in her gigantic Grand Am, peeling around curves! Daddy drove slowly, which drove Mom wild, so she compensated for his bad little habit! We all loved to ride with Mom, who always had good adventures, going "howling." This meant grocery shopping, fabric store shopping, getting her hair done every Wednesday at Flo's Cut and Curl on the square in Smithville, etc. Her howling was pretty low key, really. Oh, and she would babysit her grandkids, before she went back to work, and later, in her time off work.
(Mom's birthday in 1983, with my daughter Gretchen, my sister Debi, and her son Matthew. See the halo around the Quilta??)
She retired at age 62, in 1979, after only being back at work for eight years. She said her feet hurt, but I think her memory was going bad already then, and she didn't want to endanger her patients by messing up the medications or doing something worse. She would say that when Daddy retired, she'd go nuts. She hated the thought! He retired at the end of 1981, and she was right. Her Alzheimer's was starting to show, and it was getting harder for her to hide it from us, though it took another ten years for the some folks in the family to believe it! How could our strong and ever-resourceful mother become incompetent? That just wouldn't do! Mom garaged her beloved Pontiac in the early 80s, saying Daddy could drive her around, and besides, the Grand Am had a dead battery. But I knew she'd been getting lost, when she was driving, and didn't want to get caught at it, like her father had.
(My folks and me, June 30, 1990, when Jimmy and I got married.)
Besides sewing and cooking, Mom's hobbies included weaving rag rugs on her full sized "Union Loom." With the help of my brother Jimmy, she learned to thread the complicated loom and became very meticulous with the preparation of her "rags." Her rugs were beautiful and very sturdy, and she often gave them as presents or donations to charities, like the church or West View's Auxiliary. Crochet, embroidery, and knitting also kept Mom busy. As she aged, she took up long walks, in order to stay healthy, as well as being very serious about vitamin therapy and even kelation therapy with a radical doctor in Akron. She and Dad faithfully traveled to Akron twice a month or more, until she moved into the nursing home. Jimmy and I took them for the last couple of years of this therapy. They always hoped the kelation would reverse Mom's memory problems. Maybe it kept her body much healthier than it would have otherwise been though, for she remained extremely healthy, except for her Alzheimer's. Mom also kept up writing many long letters to friends and family, until she could no longer do it. By the time of our wedding (pictured above,) Mom had to be really watched, as she didn't really know what was going on. She was writing herself notes to remember every little thing, and often forgetting to read the notes.
(Dad's 77th birthday, August 4, 1992, at our house.)
I moved back from Kent, Ohio in mid 1983, using Mom as my excuse to take a short hiatis from grad school and quit my teaching job at Kent State. She didn't really need me to care for her yet, but it was coming on fast. She and Daddy started coming to our house every afternoon, and would just hang out with us as we worked, by the mid 80s. We started to think of how we could get a place that would hold both families, because as much as Daddy loved Mom and wanted to keep their house, he was no caregiver. He was trying hard to keep them independent, but he just didn't have the skills it took.
(Mom and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary, Jan 3, 1995, when Mom had been a nursing home resident for a year.)
In 1991 we bought our house we have now, and my parents finally moved in in 1993. Within a year though, Mom had to be put into the nursing home as a patient, with such developed Alzheimer's, you couldn't turn your back on her. She got into trouble like a little child. This is such a normal pattern, and anyone who's gone through it with Alzheimer's could write the story here. It's so terribly sad, to see your wonderfully bright and intelligent parent fade slowly away, to regress to babyhood, to forget eventually everyone, including themselves. It tears the family up, and people's emotions fly in every direction. Everyone's reality is shaken to the core, with our beloved pillar of strength crumbling. It's like Quick Sand in a very slow, never ending bad dream.
(Dad with Mom and the doll Aunt Louise had sent her, at West View in 1998, before he moved there, and before she got her first pneumonia. She was still able to talk then, but didn't make sense.)
So Daddy stayed with us for several more years, and then he moved to the nursing home, too, after living with my brother Jimmy and his wife for a year and a half, after becoming a semi-invalid. Jimmy's wife Lyn did in-home care, but Daddy soon needed more than she could give, too. So there were Mom and Dad, both living at West View Manor for a year and a half, before Daddy died in 2000. By that time, Mom's disease had gone far enough that she hadn't been able to talk or walk for a while. Even though Daddy had been to visit her every day for years and years, and then lived with her again, we didn't know if she really knew he had died. I thought she did, deep inside.
Mom was the darling of the nursing home, just like when she had worked there, and in her confusion, she thought she was the RN there again, just working, not really living there! She could still talk when she moved in, and she walked like a trooper for years yet. When going to visit her there, sometimes I had to look for her for a while, since she'd be chugging all around the halls and rooms, always walking! Some of the staff had worked with her when she was an RN there in the 70s. New staff members soon came to love her, too. With her sparkling big blue eyes and bright smile, she was everyone's favorite. She always loved a good joke, hug, or song. And kisses made her beam! We'd attend Chapel together, and her memory of church hymns remained the most vivid. I know she loved the chapel services.
But that was well before Daddy died (January 14, 2000.) Mom gradually slipped into more Alzheimer's problems, and when she had pneumonia in 1998 and didn't die, she came back with less function, never walking again on her own. And what attempts to talk she'd had before the illness now were gone. A second pneumonia in Sept, 2000, made things slip even more. Attenpts to communicate became few, except in very rare instances. So I'd try, hoping her understanding would pop through, if I could get her engaged enough. Telling funny Dad stories often made her laugh. When the therapists walked her, that perked her up, and eating always had her attention. She loved good food, even when it had to be pureed for her. The staff at West View and I all knew Mom was "still in there," with her big smiles and sparkling eyes, when she was having a good day.
(Even though most of the time she didn't interact, Mom could always smile at you, when you got her going. This was in early 2000.)
Whoever fed Mom had to be very careful that she wouldn't choke, as Alzheimer's patients lose their ability to control swallowing, which is a voluntary process. Even her liquids had to be thickened, and I'd use a spoon to give them to her, when I fed her. So little left for her to look forward to!!!! The nursing home staff all were very careful and kind with her.
When she was dying, it took a week for her body to surrender to the kidney failure and pneumonia. After the initial pain of a kidney stone was eased with drugs, and the stone had passed, Mom slipped into a light coma for the rest of her time alive. Debi and her husband John, Jimmy Shie, and I took turns staying with her. I slept at the hospital with her and tried to keep talking to her, as she struggled gently to breathe. She was on oxygen and morphine. My niece Sharon was with me, holding Mom's hand, back in the nursing home, when Mom's fast, shallow breathing finally stopped. She finally let go of her incredible will to live. Sharon is studying to become the next RN in the family, and we both knew that holding Sharon's hand when Mom died, was Mom's way to bless Sharon's efforts! "Panny" was proud of her granddaughter. And finally Panny was at peace.
(Left: Mom as a teenager in the 30s. Middle: Mom raising three little kids in the 50s. Right: Dad and Mom visiting our house in 1982.)
(Mom in her twenties, driving to Cleveland in her Terraplane, for nursing school, in the early 40s.)
So that was my mom, Marie Shie. She's free again, light as a feather, articulate as can be! With Daddy and her brother and sisters and parents. She stuck around for a long, long time, beyond when many people thought she deserved to be free of her ruined mind. But I still think, even though she'd said so often that she didn't want to end up like that, she must have changed her mind, since she fought so hard to stay alive, several times. Musta been here for some reason. But now, a month after her death, I know it's right that she is gone. She has better things to do now! But wow! We all miss her terribly and know that we have finally lost an incredible mother.
I thought about adding some things to this diary entry about our lives this past two months, besides this about Mom. But really, that's all I wanted to say for now. You only lose your mother once in this life, and I want space to really honor her and my sadness.
Thanks. Love, Lucky
Turtle Moon Studios
Susan Shie and James Acord
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