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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Veteran's Day Story

Today is Veteran's Day, first called Armistice Day to remember the end of World War I. I certainly mean no disrespect for veterans, but mostly I am thinking about my mom, born Catherine Burnham Rowe, today. If she were alive, she would be 100 years old!

Catherine Burnham Rowe age 9

Of course, it wasn't a holiday when she was born. She always told me that her memory of that date 11/11/1918, when she turned 9 years old, was that she couldn't understand why everyone was all excited about something she didn't truly appreciate, and no one was paying any attention to her! The picture above is undated, and she never told me exactly when it was taken, but it looks to me as if she would have been about 9 or 10 at the time.

Catherine LearyShe graduated from Temple University with a degree in Home Economics, and followed a "track" more typical of many women today rather than in the 1930s. She taught in a school for the deaf, supervised relief work after floods in Pennsylvania, and ended up back in New York state in the early 1940s. There she met my dad, and well... here she is with "guess who" in 1948. It was really rare for women to become mothers at the age of 39 back then.

My relationship with my mother was always rocky. I was much more like my dad. But it is undeniable that she really went out of her way to try to do her best by me. She was the mom who would be the Scoutmaster, or take a group of us kids to camp, etc., when the mothers half her age were nowhere to be found. She fought the school system (but ultimately lost) trying to create better educational opportunities for me, and always made sure that I had books, art supplies, and opportunities to visit museums. She took me to the woods as a toddler, and then, of course, no one could get me OUT of the woods!

Catherine LearyHere she is making the acquaintance of our youngest son. All our boys were adopted, and he had been in our family for about 2 months when we traveled to NY to let him meet the grandparents. She was very happy about that, and Steve seems pretty happy here too.

Catherine Rowe Leary age 80Finally, here is Mom on her 80th birthday. It wasn't the last one she enjoyed as an independent adult, but she only had a few more before needing full-time care. She had Parkinson's, and then broke her hip... she never returned home after that.

So, I'll just wish mom a happy century, even though she's not here in person to enjoy a birthday cake.

See The Point of My Quality Day for one of the other sons, grown up.
I haven't blogged about the one in this baby picture yet.


Auntie E said...

Life was so hard back then. My grandmother is now 92. She has out lived two of her children and the love of her life. I think sometimes we forget the lives they lived and the wars of it. Thanks for the reminder. Happy birthday to your memory of your Mom.

Secondary Roads said...

Thanks for sharing that story of a most wonderful woman.

My maternal grandmother, Emma Elizabeth Rowe, was born in Ferry, MI in 1890 to Isaiah Rowe and Mary Rosenberger. It's a small world.

Sharkbytes said...

Hi Auntie- Yes, they lived through a REAL depression and knew how to survive, and make every scrap of everything work two or three times over.

Chuck! Maybe we ARE cousins. Did the Rowe line have roots in New England?

Rick (Ratty) said...

Veteran's Day is a day for remembering, and you did exactly that. This makes this very appropriate for it. Your mom would be very close to the same age as my dad' mom. Your story about your mom is a good, and it also made me think about my grandma.

Sharkbytes said...

Ratty- I think you are a little younger than I am, yet it is true, that because my mom was older she is the age of the grandparents of many of my friends. It really meant that I was raised very much like most people in the generation older than I.

Julia said...

Your story about your mom is a wonderful tribute to her. I bet makes veterans day more special and meaningful for you. Good moms foster that in their kids which they excel at even if it was not their interest. It is apparent that she did that for you.

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

Hi Julia- Yes, Mom really managed to keep from passing along many of her own fears and struggles. She was a very strong woman.