My dear mother passed away in October of 2013. She and I experienced many difficult times together and we had a bond that was unbreakable.
Mom was born in Mt. Vernon, Illinois and she had five siblings from the Askew side of the family and five half brothers and sisters from the Quinn side of the family. She spoke of the Quinn’s often being hungry and having to search for persimmons to eat…to stave off starvation. The Quinn siblings were; Beulah, Guelda, Dutch…who went missing in World War II, and Donald…who had a heart attack from shoveling snow. I can not recall the fifth Quinn’s name? The Askew’s were; Vema and Gene and Wanda and Neva June…my mother, and Rosebud…who died in infancy.
Mom went to work in the shoe factory at the age of 16. She told me that she was so tired of being poor and thus did not finish the last two years of high school. Later, after she and my dad moved to Chicago, became a switchboard operator at the Hilton Hotel and on one occasion she put a call through from Nicky Hilton!
Mom and dad married after he returned from the pacific theatre of World War II. She believed that he had a girlfriend in the islands due to his sending her photos of native women with bare breasts.
I was born in St. Mary’s Hospital in Chicago and we lived in the city for the first two years of my life. We then moved to Sauk Village on the south side and enjoyed a, “Leave It To Beaver,’ type lifestyle for a few years. Mom had friends, Ivy our neighbor from across the street, and Helen from next door…and she loved to do the Twist…as sung by Chubby Checker!
If I have any altruism…or love and concern for others who are less fortunate than me…it came from my mom! Mom regularly searched for someone to help! If you were hungry and she had a five dollar bill…you soon would have $2.50!
Mom was an active listener. If you needed a confidant…she would spend all of the time required to hear your concerns and problems and then would console you, from her heart, and tell you, ‘It is going to be alright Kiddo!’
Our short-lived happy and care free lifestyle in Sauk Village was upended when my dad found another love. In an effort to attempt to repair their marriage we moved to Eldorado, Illinois where my grandmother Askew lived as well as my aunts, Vema and Guelda and Wanda..
After moving into a ghost house on Illinois Avenue, that was directly across from the Eldorado High School, I discovered what rats looked like, and how large they can become, and I understood what it was like to be cold!
The Eldorado move did not solve the relationship dilemma and dad left…only to return one last time and give me four silver dollars…and bid me farewell.
Mom was devastated and I determined that I was going to stick by her…and she in turn stuck by me! She slowly recovered and began to take photography classes through an adult education program and we decided that we were not going to be defeated!
Mom and I stood in Commodity lines, which was a program for the poor whereupon semi-trucks would open their doors and throw government cheese and potted meat and powdered milk to the poor masses…of which we were part!
Mom re-married a stable and hard working electrician, Earl Fitzsimmons, who provided a nice lifestyle for us. We could enjoy hamburger again rather than split pea soup.
For the last 40 + years of her life Mom was a dedicated christian. She loved Jesus and she loved to help anyone in need… of a hand outstretched!
Mom made me eggnog almost every morning for many years. I hated it…and it made me wretch! However, I would never say that to her…I loved her too much to hurt her feelings! I would throw the eggnog out the back door of our little house in Eldorado..when she left the kitchen…and once in a while…I would drink it if she did not leave the room!
After Earl died in 2001…Mom came to live with us. She was already well into Alzheimers Disease…and it progressively got worse. When my step-father passed I was thinking at his wake…that we were going to have to find a nursing home for mom…when Mary Jane said that she wanted for us to take her in. I was overcome by her expression of love for her mother-in-law!
I remembered the many hours that mom and Mary Jane would talk, over the years,…and mom would listen intently…and she loved her daughter!