Are you one of the friendly folks whoÂ have followed my blogs about my Mom,
Louise?Â Do I have a treat for you!
Many of you have emailed meÂ relating yourÂ favorite blogs are the ones I write
about Mom.Â Today, September 10th, 2011 is Mom’s 93rd birthday.
Here’sÂ a sweet salute to authentic, awesome Mom. All of you who send love to her
from all over the world, you were here in our hearts at her surprise birthday party.
Mom’s self-described characterization as, “Just a little farm girl from Delaware,”
hardly captures the true spirit of Louise Marie Redden Burgess.Â Diminutive in
stature,Â Mom isÂ tall in spirit, determination, and work-ethic. Looking backÂ on her
life, you might think that she has sold herÂ 93 years of livingÂ aÂ tad bit short.Â And
speaking of short,Â atÂ 4’10”, her vertically challenged stature never prevented her
from taking on the world, literally and figuratively!Â Even though she’s so humble
she wouldn’t talk aboutÂ herself, if you pressed her, sheÂ would show you her
gigantic world map with scads of pushpins. She’d smile and tell you about The
Seven Wonders of the WorldÂ first hand.Â As aÂ shy, naive girlÂ marveling at the
pages of National Geographic Magazine, she would never have believed
these exotic places would open their wonders to her.Â When she was traveling,
sheÂ would wistfully muse, “I just have to pinch myself to believe I am here!”
Mom was always steadfastly independent, until a broken leg threw a monkey
wrench into her life plan. After almost 2 years in assisted living,Â Mom’s new
home living withÂ my friends, Cathy and Bill, is heaven.Â Five dogs andÂ three parrots
charm her every day. Acres of land, woods, and gigantic rose bushes treat her
with blossoms all summer. Mom was thrilled when CathyÂ created aÂ flower garden
right outside her window. Solar ornaments, mercury glassÂ globes,Â and stained
glass reflect Mom’s smiles.
Best surprise?Â Bill surprised Mom by installing her prized possession, her
over 150 years old farm dinner bell,Â in an arbor low enough for her toÂ ring it.
It brings tears to my eyes thinking about the smile on her face the first time
I saw her pulling its rope. My best friends in Delaware, Cheryl and Bob, rescued
itÂ from Mom’s home where its ivy clad poleÂ was still standing tall.
Carefully, Cathy hasÂ Mom up and slowly walking again. A miracle!Â MomÂ is even
walking in a swimming pool. She’s back to her normal weight as Cathy creates
homemade organic food fresh from their garden.Â Mom “adopted” Kathy and
Bill’sÂ Scotty, Lucas, as her own. Truth is, she is thrilled when any of the dogs
are sitting in her lap. Or when the two big dogs stroll in, lay their heads in
her lap, andÂ get setÂ for a pet.
Before assisted living, Mom was perennially busy. You could find herÂ working
inÂ her garden, driving the lawnÂ tractor,Â orÂ putteringÂ around in her beloved
greenhouse. Scottie dog, Katie, her constant companion, satÂ in the chair with
|her as she read and worked puzzles.Â Katie crossed the rainbow bridge to heaven
this year, but Mom is ecstatic to have more pets to love. And what irony, or
God at work, that Cathy had an adorableÂ Scottie dog. Kind of makes you shake
your head in wonder if you think about it.
Mom has always been a trooper. Even overnight total deafness (caused by a
medication she did not need!),Â vertigo, and the necessity of a walker did not
keep her down. She continued to live at home until she broke her leg. SheÂ told
me she used to lieÂ in bed at night thinking ofÂ waysÂ to rigÂ her walkerÂ to more
easily carry garden tools, plants, and weeds!Â With boards and a rope hooking
her red wagonÂ ontoÂ her walker, sheÂ joyfully tended her half-acre. A smile always
graced her face.Â Flowers have always been her passion, and they still are. Mom
never letÂ anything get in the way.
Mom’s optimism? Are you wondering about that? Where did it originate?
Louise’s story began in 1918 when she was born in a little cottage her father
had built in Girdletree, Maryland. When her family moved to Delaware, she
grew up in a farm house, formerly aÂ QuakerÂ church.Â She found Indian heads
atÂ aÂ Native American grave siteÂ inÂ the back field. She loved the outdoors and
picking huckleberries. Reading, riding her bike with her best friend, Violet,
and coloring were fun.
Mom’sÂ attended one-room Raughley CountryÂ School until high school.Â Her
Mom was her teacher and very strict. She told Mom she gave her B’s instead
of theÂ A’s she deserved because she was afraid she’d be accused of favoritism.
Ever stoic, Mom accepted this with no animosity. SheÂ graduated fromÂ Harrington
School in 1936.Â She remembers picking strawberries for a penny a quart and
buying a winter coat.Â She always felt lucky as there was enough to eat and a
coloring book and crayons at Christmas.
Though she had wanted to be a teacher like her mother,Â the Depression squashed
her dream. When Aunt Sally offered to lend herÂ money to go toÂ business school,
she jumped at the chance. Always reticent, before the war and scared to death,
she moved to Philadelphia to attend Pierce Business School.Â She graduated and
made life-long friends with whom she still keeps in touch.Â HerÂ goal was to make
$100 a week.Â She worked at the Corn Exchange Bank until 1942 when she moved
backÂ to HarringtonÂ and worked for Mr. J.C. Messner, Superintendent of Harrington
Special Schools. HerÂ career as Senior Secretary, which she loved, lasted 33 years,
7 months, and 4 days, as she still recites.Â Mom was also a Notary Public, helped
Daddy publish our town newspaper,Â and had a private typing service.
Never one to sit around, in the summers beforeÂ she was married,Â Mom worked
as a waitress in Rehoboth Beach, as didÂ Violet, herÂ best friend, whoÂ had grown
up on the farm next to hers.Â During the war, Mom was a switchboard operator
atÂ theÂ Henlopen Hotel.Â She finally came out of her shell and datedÂ a handsome
soldier, a musician in the Army Band. But fate intervened when her boyfriend
was transferred.Â As in any first love, she always wondered what happened to
him. Years ago, I surprised Mom and tracked him down, but his family said
he had passed.
Back in Harrington one day, she decided to go to Burton’s snack bar for a coke.
A jaunty fellow, W.C.Â Burgess,Â sauntered up to her andÂ withÂ a hopeful saucy
smileÂ tossed herÂ a lineÂ “Where have you been all my life?”Â Maybe it was the
gleam in his eyes, but she was hooked. Not longÂ after that,Â they eloped!
Mom fondly remembers an emergency tripÂ they took to Florida to see a dying
uncle. He ralliedÂ and my parents were offered an unexpectedÂ overnight trip to
Havana, Cuba.Â MomÂ jokes that it wasÂ so memorable asÂ Winnie never took another
vacation!Â They had the time of their lives. I remember seeing colored tropical
hot spot post cards and Mom telling me she wanted me to go someday. It took
me over 5 decades, but last year I went!
Our family? Kitty wasÂ first-born, andÂ a year later, the stork dropped me into
the mix.Â Daddy wanted a boy, so I was his token tomboy, and I loved every
minute of it. Mom would tell you her daughters, Kitty,Â now a retired RN,Â and
Judy, aÂ clinical psychologist and professional coach,Â were her greatest
accomplishments.Â I sayÂ having her forÂ myÂ MomÂ isÂ my #1Â life’s blessing.
MomÂ worked tirelessly along side of Daddy,Â publisher and editorÂ of the
Harrington Journal.Â She was always proud of his ability to work night and
day to assure the paper would get out. Mom was so proud of Daddy and his
work ethic, his naughty sense of humor,Â and his loving to dance. Though he
passed 36 years ago after a terrible car accident, she joyfullyÂ reminisces
aboutÂ their life together.
“Family, home, andÂ job”Â Mom says, made her lifeÂ happy,Â along withÂ life’s simple
pleasures like going to the beach orÂ eating fried chicken and Grotto’s pizza.
She also lovedÂ bookkeepingÂ at the Harrington Senior Center, until her
deafness precluded it.
Was Mom adventurous? She’d tell you, “No.” With a grin, I’d beg to differ.
All I had to do was use a bit of passionate persuasion, and off she’d trot.
She’d say, “You lead, and I will follow.” We joyfully traveled together for
almost 40 years. Yes, Ken, Mom and I had the time of our lives together.
Mom’Â greatest adventures include Kenya and Tanzania African safaris,
climbing the Great Wall of China, holding a tiger in Malaysia, riding an
elephant in India,Â and seeing the crown jewels in Russia. She climbed the
pyramids and Macchu Picchu in Peru. She loved Hawaii, Nepal, Singapore,
Japan, Vietnam, Israel, Scandinavia, South America,Â andÂ travelingÂ down the
Amazon. Europe, Australia, and New Zealand were also joyfully explored.
SheÂ fondly remembers whenÂ I commandeered a Chinese farmer’s wagonÂ after
she and Judy got stranded on a mountaintop.Â His toothless grin announced his
glee, too. And she’ll never forget usÂ almost getting robbed in Bali. Whew! I had
to do some real talking to get us out of that!Â Her favorite storyÂ transpired in
Madagascar.Â We were walking along minding our own business when a black
and white lemur monkeyÂ jumped down on her head, grabbed her banana, but
chewed on her ear first!Â This might be the one travel chapter she would like to delete!
Floating down the Nile and at age 82 para-sailing overÂ Bora Bora in French
Polynesia,Â were unforgettable experiences. Visiting exchange student special
friend,Â Anita Sapunar Ponce,Â in Bolivia addedÂ treasured memories.
When she was 88, we were all thrilledÂ whenÂ Mom became bionic! We wept tears
of joy when her cochlear implant was activated and miraculously, she could
hear!Â Not perfectly, but enough to be elated. SheÂ was the oldest patient to
receiveÂ an implant,Â yet she had a terrific response.Â She had a long roadÂ ahead
toÂ hear TV and to talk on the telephone, but sheÂ learned to translate the
mechanical sounds into words.
Though she would never toot her own horn,Â Mom is a radio star in Manitowoc, WI,
where she regularly appeared on my radio shows, the last time a few weeks ago.
Even with deafness before she had her cochlear implant surgery, deaf MomÂ sat
beside me with staff writing out questions listeners asked.Â With a chipper voice,
she answered in great voice, notÂ able to hear a sound. What guts!Â She also
appeared on my Chicago-based nationally syndicated Dr. Judy Show”.
Her response was always the same, “IÂ never thought in a million years
I’d be doing this!”
“Grammy”Â is a bigger star to my 3 kids and 4 grand kids who all loved it when
Grammy LouiseÂ came to visit andÂ make her famous fruit salad. She has scads of
pictures and can spend hours on her computer letting memories gently float by.
Words of wisdom from Mom? “Have the courage to accept your fate and make
the most ofÂ what you can accomplish.Â Don’t ever sweat the small stuff.”Â When
she asked me to write a memoir for her when her high school honored her,Â her
kind request? “Don’t make it mushy.Â I am just a farm girl at heart and don’t
regret any of my years.”
Today Mom is wistful and blissful. “I feel so lucky to be at the end of my
days here in this heaven on earth with Cathy and Bill and the pets.
I never thought I’d get to stay in Delaware and be in real home.
I can’t believe it! Everyday is grand.”
Yep, that’s my mom, humility, spunk, tenacity, and courage.Â I salute her.Â And
as she toldÂ my son afterÂ a recent surgery, “Sean, this old horse is stillÂ a kickin’ high.
OK, maybe not quite as high, but I am still kicking!”
Want to make Mom’s day? Flash her a Happy Birthday message at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Her arthritic fingers can’t return your email, but she
will be grateful forever. Her smiles will pay it forward.
Happy 93rd Birthday, Mom!
All my love,
P.S. Judy loves to hear your comments.
Feel free to send her questions you may have!
You can also connect with Judy on facebook, LinkedIn, or follow her on twitter
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