Cari, this is a story about your Great Grandmother Ila Hamilton, she was my Mom. You met her twice during your very early years, once when you were a few months old, and again when you were 3 almost 4. My Mom thought you were very special, and quite a lovely baby (don’t get the big head). You are still lovely and you are indeed special. During your 1st meeting with Mom you sat in her lap and did all the baby things that great grandmothers truly loved. You smiled, you goo’d and giggled, you waved your little hands all about, and your eyes sparkled when you look at her. She truly loved you.
Mom was born on February 12, 1927 in Lincoln County Kentucky. She passed away on November 30, 2011, in Louisville Kentucky. Her maiden name was Ila Belle Williams. And she absolutely hated the “Belle” aspect of her name.
She was raised on a farm in Waynesburg KY. Mom attended elementary and high school in Eubank KY, and college at John Hopkins University, School of Nursing. Mom was a nurse her entire professional career. In all of our conversations when she spoke of working it was either as a nurse or as a kid working on the farm. I have seen the farm she grew up on, I have worked on it a tiny bit, and I have spoken of it in other posts. It was no picnic living and working on a farm in the 1930’s and 1940’s. At one time I almost believed Mom when she said she had to walk up hill going to school and coming from. She also rode to school on a horse-drawn sled (go look that up). As a farmer’s daughter mom had all the required chores a farm kid had, milking cows, plucking chickens, gathering eggs, picking all manner of wild fruits, cleaning the barn, weeding the vegetable patch, and chores I can’t even imagine. I got my work ethic from Mom, I got my sense of self from Mom, and I my stick to it-ness from her.
Cari, I loved my Mom, just as you love yours. I loved her like a son should love his mom, and I respected Mom because she was Mom, but I also respected her because she had earned every ounce of respect she got from work or the neighbors. I looked up to Mom, I trusted her, I hid behind her many a time when Dad was mad. She was the 1st person to give me a book with the word “fuck” in it, (I was 19) which I thought was so cool, but it also embarrassed me at the same time, that mom would have books with that word in them.
Even though I put forth so little effort in school, Mom always found ways to support me in my efforts. I am sure she was quite proud of me after I got out of the navy, and started college. She was probably even prouder when she I was actually making very good grades. I know she was proud of what I managed to accomplish during my professional career. Mom wanted to know everything about each promotion, the change in title, the increase in responsibilities, would I be travelling more, how many people reported to me, and of course how much more money did I make. LOL
Mom and I used to have wonderful conversations (one such conversation was regarding the Weeping Willow Tree), she would ask about my job (not having a clue as to what I did) and acted interested and amazed at my ever changing responsibilities, and accomplishments. We would talk about, the places we have lived as a family, what it was like growing up on the farm, how special it was that she and her sister both got to go to college, and on an on. She gave her support without reservation. She always made me feel loved. I am sure that each of my brothers and my sister all have similar memories and feeling about Mom.
It couldn’t have been easy being Mom to the 5 of us, hell I can’t image a tougher job. I know I struggled being a good dad, and a good parent to Allison, I can’t imagine having 4 additional children demanding attention, having different needs, having different abilities, having different emotions, having different needs for attention, and finding a way to balance all of it. But Mom did! Then she also worked full-time, she was a nurse forever and a day, and from every word I heard regarding Mom during her career she was an extremely caring nurse and very highly regarded and respected.
Mom also was the main bread-winner in the family, and yet she put herself aside and allowed Dad to be the man, chasing jobs, changing careers but always at his side. Mom was always willing to start over at a new hospital, no matter where Dad’s career choice took him.
Mom’s last few years were difficult, health issues were winning. Mom had several small strokes before the major one in March 2009. In addition, post-surgery hip issues made it difficult for her get around. The stroke she had in March 2009 put her in the assisted living home. The only good thing from her being in the home was that her short-term memory had gone away, and that allowed her to live there on a daily basis without the anger of knowing she was in the home for the long haul. Her memory issues did make for some interesting conversations. And sometimes John would call me from her room (or shortly after leaving her room) to give me an update and just explain that Mom didn’t feel like talking that day. It was just how it was, and I didn’t have issues, I understood.
I wasn’t there when Mom passed away on that gray wet chilly day in November 2011. I have mixed emotions, a large part of my heart wanted to be there, but because of her struggle, and pain she suffered at the end, I am grateful that I wasn’t. According to Nancy, Mom’s exit wasn’t a quiet slipping away it was supposed to be, but more of an ugly struggle. I guess that says a lot about Mom. It was always a struggle and she always fought, she never gave up, even to her last moments.
Cari, I hope that someday (when you’re a bit older) I will have the opportunity to share this with you face to face, smile to smile, but if not, then hopefully these words will help you understand my Mom. Love Grandpa.
As always if you have any comments or questions. Please feel free to leave them. Take care, Bill