Portrait #20: Arlene
We sometimes call her Ma Cat. With fondness. It’s a fitting pet name for a woman who sing-songed The Three Little Kittens Have Lost Their Mittens while rocking wee ones in a cranberry-hued Naugahyde rocker in an aged woodframe farmhouse on the southwestern Minnesota prairie.
Mom devoted her life to raising her three sons and three daughters, born between 1955 and 1967. I am second oldest and the oldest girl.
I love my mom and I understand that her life was not always easy. She lost her own mother within months of my birth. Life as a young wife and mother on the farm, without a bathroom, no phone, a Maytag wringer washer to wash filthy barn clothes and little money, had to be challenging.
We were poor. But I didn’t know that, which is an absolute testament to my mom. She kept us fed with garden produce, baked goods and beef from our own cattle. She, somehow, managed to keep us clothed. We never got birthday gifts. We never knew to expect them. Instead, each birthday Mom baked a special animal-shaped cake for the birthday celebrant, the cake design chosen from a booklet she pulled out only on birthdays.
Mom instilled in all of us a deep faith in God. We attended church and Sunday School every week. We prayed. And, even more important, Mom has always lived out her faith in kindness and compassion shown to others. She once advised me, “Don’t talk about anyone else’s kids because you never know what your own kids will do.” In other words, do not gossip and keep your mouth shut if you have nothing good to say. And when others tell you something in confidence, keep it to yourself. I’ve tried to follow that advice throughout my life.
The past year has been a difficult one for my mom. In early 2014, physical problems forced her into a nursing home. Eventually, she grew strong enough to move into assisted living. But then, on a Sunday morning in August, she fell and suffered severe injuries that landed her in an ICU Trauma Unit. Eventually, Mom recovered and is now back in her apartment. But she knew she could never return to her home and the decision was made to sell her house.
Through it all, Mom has not complained. That is so typical of her, to adopt a positive attitude and make the best of whatever happens in her life. Because of that, and more, people love her. Her positivity shines as does her faithfulness.
She is a survivor of open heart surgery and breast cancer and a multitude of other medical emergencies and surgeries that should have killed her. But she always fought to survive and medical teams often marveled at her rallying. Sometimes I think of her as the cat with nine lives.
But mostly, I consider every day we have her to be a blessing.
This is part of a series, Minnesota Faces, featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.
To all of you mothers, Happy Mother’s Day.
© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling