written on moms-day

Folks are remembering their moms, and not all of my memories are bright, but still, she lived and how she lived and died are worth a few words.

She was born – Dorothy Olson – in the years right after WWI, and her father died young, in one of those flu epidemics after the War. Her widowed mother found work teaching in a one-room school house, in the plains of Eastern Montana, with its flatness, and blizzards. Her brother Will was older.

She had two years of college, where she met my dad – Wally Wendt, and married him in 1933, after he had graduated. Their first born, my brother Lou – who died at 82 – this last winter, arrived in 1935, in the middle of the depression.

Like most children, she was just mom to me, and I never really thought much about her past. Nor did I really see her, for who she was.

My family has intelligence (three of us boys, Loony, Snoony and Puny we called ourselves after dad’s funeral in 1968). She was the brightest of us all, and only from our present do I really understand her life.

A really smart lady, whose only role in life was to be a wife and a mother. She enjoyed classical music, and detective novels, and I think she was a “tippler”, someone who drank daily, via sips from a tea cup so no one would notice. Keeps some of the mind-dogs at bay.

She had an “hysterical” crash and burn (into the hospital for a few days) around when I was 12 or so. The doctors put her on regular does of estrogen, so as to make her not so moody.

Hard not to get moody, when your mind is going to waste, and there is no hope (then) of a different role in life. When dad died she was just under 50, and had no job skills. Did a couple of second marriages, which didn’t work, while at the same time getting a degree as a Licensed Practical Nurse.

Meanwhile her sons were poor as church mice, trying to raise their own families. She liked Great Falls, Montana, and the sons were living In New England, San Francisco, and, New Orleans.

Mom was also now a bit of an alcoholic, and not suitable for living with. She had a pick up truck and a small trailer, and would visit, until she got in too many accidents and became uninsurable.

Early onset dementia appeared, and it was hard to keep her in living conditions social security had to pay for. A family friend stepped up – a lawyer – and helped her (and us) navigate the mindfields of elder care

By age 85, her mind had gone walk about, and at 93 she was moved to a different care facility, where a young doctor took her off the estrogen, aghast at all her prior doctors idiocy.

From a scrawny complaining and difficult patient, she gained 50 lbs and was cheerful, although she didn’t recognize anyone anymore.

When she died, her youngest was by her side, and being musically gifted (and still a starving artist) he sang to her while she passed. As long as he sang, she lay quiet, otherwise she was wracked with pain.

Society didn’t know what to do with intelligent women, and medicine didn’t know how to care for her properly. Not much different today, in a lot of ways – another soldier in an age old battle still being waged.

Hair style just post WWII ,,, I was 10 or so … her kids didn’t turn out too bad, we got PhD’s in biology (Loony}, Master’s in Film Arts (Puny), and a law degree (Snoony). We just never had any skill at earning money.

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