Quote of the Day – Life

 

“It’s a great life as long as you don’t weaken.” —  My Mother 

Marge, Maggie, or Peg was my Mother. She was born today in 1911. She was the oldest of eight. She had two sisters and five brothers. They lived in a three-bedroom home without indoor plumbing on the second mountain east of Pittsburgh. Everyone thought they were rich. Her father owned a coal mine. This mine consisted of a hole in the hill, a tipple, a black man named Rufus, a pickup truck like a dump truck, and a mule. Rufus took the mule down the shaft, dug the coal and the mule pulled it up the shaft on to the tipple and dumped it into the truck. Her father delivered it to local homes and tried to collect the money. He was apparently better at the delivery part than the collection part. They were not rich. Around 1925 the mule died. My mother’s father, my Grandfather also took the job of the mule. He died within a year. They say he just wore out and died. Mom was 14.

My mom was born two years before Eleanor H. Porter wrote the novel Pollyanna. If you look in the dictionary under Pollyanna there should be a picture of my mother. She was the most optimistic, positive, happy person that may have ever lived. We used to kid that mom could cross an eight-lane interstate in the rain with a blindfold and not get hit by a car or a drop of rain. She of course became a second mother to her siblings. Each were required to save their lunch bag they took to school and walk the railroad tracks and pick up coal that fell off the hopper cars and bring it home to heat the house.

Mom went to a one-room schoolhouse for grades 1 through 8. She then went to a consolidated high school and graduated first in her class. She was also the prom queen. She looked like a movie star. From high school she went to nursing school where she also graduated first in her class. By this time the Great Depression had set in. The only job she could land was a Public Health Nurse in the worst part of town. Everyone told her not to take it but she said, “I’ll treat them like I want treated and everything will be fine.”

On her first morning, after seeing several families and having no problems other than strange looks, she was passing a boxing gym. Imagine she is in her white uniform including a big white nursing hat and she is also the only white-skinned woman for many blocks. A young man was coming out of the gym and asked her if she was trying to get killed or something. No, just trying to help, she answered. He asked for the list of people she was to see for the week. He took her that day and for the rest of the week to each address. His name was Nate and he was the toughest man on the Hill. No one gave her a bit of trouble ever. He later became a neighborhood leader and civil rights activist.

My dad was engaged to a girl named Harriet. His sister, who was a nurse, brought my mom home with the idea that she would be perfect for Dad. Neither knew her intentions. Within 15 minutes Dad called Harriet and broke off the engagement. He married Maggie married a year later. They planned to have a big family (dad was one of seven). My sister was born in ’39 and mom and dad suffered three miscarriages and a still-born in the next six years until I was born in ’45. They had two more miscarriages before my brother was born in ’49. They mourned every one of those babies.

Mom was not a feminist. She was a strong person with a wonderful mind and body that happened to be a woman. I doubt she ever gave feminism a thought. Having five brothers may have helped. All my uncles said that they couldn’t take her in a fight until they were old enough to know they should not try. All but one of the five served during the War. One was killed, another made the Air Force, spending his career flying in three wars. They all called her Marge. My dad called her Maggie, and her friends called her Peg for some reason.

In 1956 the Sisters of the Holy Ghost (now, Holy Spirit) began building a home for the aged at the end of our street. Seeing that we were all in school, my mom volunteered. She began emptying bedpans, then formed a woman’s auxiliary to raise money. They had summer fairs and fashion shows and such. She was the president of the auxiliary for many years. Later the Nuns asked her to be on the board. Mom later became the president of it for five years. The board consisted of two doctors, two judges, two of the Nuns, and her. People would ask why she was president and her answer was “why not?”

I asked her more than once what she meant by “life is great as long as you don’t weaken.” She said that I would know as I got older and don’t weaken. As my dad was dying, he asked me to take care of his beautiful Maggie, and not to let anyone take advantage of her. I told him not to worry, she wouldn’t let anyone near her to take advantage. He pleaded it will not be a stranger that takes advantage, it will be someone she loves. It ended up being her oldest druggie granddaughter that did (with her consent), who abused her mentally, physically, and financially until I caught on, had her arrested, and put in rehab.

Mom never did weaken but her mind did. At the age of 77 we began to notice things going wrong. She was diagnosed with dementia. My siblings and I hired her a companion for the day and we took turns with the nights. We tried to keep her at home as long as possible but it was impossible to hire help 24/7. When she was 84 we put her (against my wishes) in a home other than the one she volunteered at all those years. My brother and sister were blinded by the new bright and shiny place near where she lived. After a year and a couple of falls, they realized their mistake. It was left to me to pay a visit to the Nuns. There was a year wait for the dementia unit. The head Nun said they had never since 1956 moved anyone ahead on the list but there is always a first time. Bring your mom tomorrow. She earned it. They had a room for the night nun nurse to sleep in the unit. My mom didn’t get that room but another patient did. They wouldn’t tell me where the night nun slept. They were the most wonderful women. BTW the dementia wing had my mothers name on it. She never told me they named a building for her.

George the Cop was one of our neighborhood policemen who keep an eye on me as I grew up in my town of 5,000. He knew me all too well but never arrested me, just gave me a lot of guidance. My mom hadn’t lived in our home town for 20 years when she died in 1998. My siblings, the funeral director, and I agreed that at the age of 87 it would be a small funeral. We agreed to have a afternoon and evening viewing and a mass the next day. George, who by then had retired, was making a few bucks helping the funeral director with traffic control. The morning of the church service George came up to me and said that yesterday’s viewings were the largest one-day event ever in the history of the funeral home. George estimated there were over 3,000 people. The line to get in was around the block. People I had never seen nor heard of praised my mom for help she had secretly given them.

She had some other sayings. ” Be nice to people and they will be nice back” and “treat people like you would like to be treated.” To me, whenever the circumstances warranted, she would say, ” knock them dead.” And “make sure to have fun.” “Never bet that the world will end you’ll never get paid.” “Take care of your pennies; the dollars will take care of themselves.” ” You’re a good egg.” “It’s the good life that gets you.” ” Your best dreams take place while you are awake.”

Happy Birthday Mother. I love you.

There are 32 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    Beautiful.

    • #1
  2. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    A lovely post about a lovely woman, from a generation that was shaped by experiences that many young people today cannot even imagine.  And that’s their loss.

    Happy Birthday, Maggie!  You were right about PHCheese.  He is a good egg.

    PS–Was it Nate Smith?  He was a rather amazing guy.

    • #2
  3. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    She, the good egg thing pertained to everyone she liked which was everyone. Mom was to busy saying the rosary for me to call me a good egg. No it was not Nate Smith. Nate’s last name is lost in the folds of my mind. I am not sure she ever said. For all I know it was Smith’s father.My uncle was the one that passed the story along much more than my mother. The youngest of her brothers died just three  years ago so now we may never know. The boys were hugely protective of her so it must have been someone of good  character .

    • #3
  4. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    She, the good egg thing pertained to everyone she liked which was everyone. Mom was to busy saying the rosary for me to call me a good egg. No it was not Nate Smith. Nate’s last name is lost in the folds of my mind. I am not sure she ever said. For all I know it was Smith’s father.My uncle was the one that passed the story along much more than my mother. The youngest of her brothers died just three years ago so now we may never know. The boys were hugely protective of her so it must have been someone of good character .

    It’s mostly a British saying, I think (good egg), and you don’t hear it much these days, at least in the US.  It’s still more common in the UK.  That’s why I noticed it.  And you are one (a good egg).  I know.  Just wonderful stories.  Please make sure they’re passed down through the generations.

    • #4
  5. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    She (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):
    She, the good egg thing pertained to everyone she liked which was everyone. Mom was to busy saying the rosary for me to call me a good egg. No it was not Nate Smith. Nate’s last name is lost in the folds of my mind. I am not sure she ever said. For all I know it was Smith’s father.My uncle was the one that passed the story along much more than my mother. The youngest of her brothers died just three years ago so now we may never know. The boys were hugely protective of her so it must have been someone of good character .

    It’s mostly a British saying, I think (good egg), and you don’t hear it much these days, at least in the US. It’s still more common in the UK. That’s why I noticed it. And you are one (a good egg). I know. Just wonderful stories. Please make sure they’re passed down through the generations.

    Mom’s maiden name was Thomas which I believe is Welsh. She claimed to be English, Welsh,Irish on her dads side and German on her mothers side. She didn’t speak German but could pretty much understand it. She had a few German sayings but I couldn’t begin to remember them.

    • #5
  6. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Darned allergies kicking in again.

    Your mother sounds like a wonderful woman.

    • #6
  7. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):
    Darned allergies kicking in again.

    Your mother sounds like a wonderful woman.

    (I understand what you mean by “allergies,” thus my like.)

    Off topic – In the 1950’s, Arizona was advertised as a place to get away from Midwest allergies such as ragweed, which was my scourge when young. After some people moved there, they found other plants that caused their allergies, and were sometimes worse off, as these occurred year around vs. August for ragweed.

    • #7
  8. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    What a lovely tribute to a wonderful person and mother. Thank you.

     

     

    • #8
  9. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):
    Darned allergies kicking in again.

    Your mother sounds like a wonderful woman.

    Seem to be having a lot of that around here lately.

    • #9
  10. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Thank you for sharing your mother and her sayings, PHCheese.

    This is part of the Quote of the Day Series. If you would like to sign up and participate, sharing your favorite quote or the person who said it, our July sign-up sheet is here.

    • #10
  11. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Wow.  Just wow.

    • #11
  12. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    What a beautiful tribute. (And poor Harriet! She never had a chance)

    • #12
  13. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    What a beautiful tribute. (And poor Harriet! She never had a chance)

    Harriet married a fellow by the name of Andy. They lived several streets from us and were my mom and dads best friends for all of their lives. We exchanged Christmas presents every Christmas Day for as long as we were kids and spent many a New Year’s Eve at one of the houses.

    • #13
  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    A wonderful post, PHCheese.

    • #14
  15. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Dear Fromage, thanks for introducing us to your Mom!  (Nurses make great ones, don’t they?)  Dang, my screen is blurry again! :-)

    • #15
  16. D. Ritsas Inactive
    D. Ritsas
    @DRitsas

    Happy Birthday to your mom. What a wonderful woman.

     

    • #16
  17. kylez Member
    kylez
    @kylez

    What county was she from? I’m related to a lot of people from Westmoreland Co.

    • #17
  18. profdlp Inactive
    profdlp
    @profdlp

    Thank you for this wonderful story.  I lost my mom two months ago.  I suspect she and your mom would have gotten along quite well.  God bless you and your family.

    • #18
  19. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    kylez (View Comment):
    What county was she from? I’m related to a lot of people from Westmoreland Co.

    Her family home is in Clyde PA. It is in Indiana county. Mom and Dad raised us in Greentree, Allegheny county. Our next door neighbor was in the city of Pittsburgh. Downtown Pittsburgh was about 3 miles away.

    • #19
  20. doulalady Member
    doulalady
    @doulalady

    Just lovely.

    • #20
  21. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    What a phenomenally beautiful story about a magnificent woman. Thank you SO much for sharing it!

    • #21
  22. kylez Member
    kylez
    @kylez

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    kylez (View Comment):
    What county was she from? I’m related to a lot of people from Westmoreland Co.

    Her family home is in Clyde PA. It is in Indiana county. Mom and Dad raised us in Greentree, Allegheny county. Our next door neighbor was in the city of Pittsburgh. Downtown Pittsburgh was about 3 miles away.

    Some distance south from Jimmy Stewart, who was born in Indiana.

    • #22
  23. Henry V Member
    Henry V
    @HenryV

    A beautiful life.  Brought me to tears.  Thanks so much.

     

    • #23
  24. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    kylez (View Comment):

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    kylez (View Comment):
    What county was she from? I’m related to a lot of people from Westmoreland Co.

    Her family home is in Clyde PA. It is in Indiana county. Mom and Dad raised us in Greentree, Allegheny county. Our next door neighbor was in the city of Pittsburgh. Downtown Pittsburgh was about 3 miles away.

    Some distance south from Jimmy Stewart, who was born in Indiana.

    I have a picture of my uncle the pilot in the Air Force and Stewart. My Uncle is in uniform but Jimmy is not. I have no facts about it , he never mentioned it. He was not married and  I inherited a a bunch of his things. I think he was a few years older than my mother. She never mentioned  Stewart.

    • #24
  25. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    @phcheese you brought tears to my eyes with this wonderful remembrance of your Mother. She obviously was a great woman. My mom had a similar impact on her community with a similar outpouring of love and appreciation upon her death. Thanks for reminding me.

    • #25
  26. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    profdlp (View Comment):
    Thank you for this wonderful story. I lost my mom two months ago. I suspect she and your mom would have gotten along quite well. God bless you and your family.

    I am so sorry for your loss. My mom has been gone 19 years and I miss her every day.

    • #26
  27. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    kylez (View Comment):
    What county was she from? I’m related to a lot of people from Westmoreland Co.

    Her family home is in Clyde PA. It is in Indiana county. Mom and Dad raised us in Greentree, Allegheny county. Our next door neighbor was in the city of Pittsburgh. Downtown Pittsburgh was about 3 miles away.

    That is a beautiful story – what a great tribute and so much good stuff to think about – the important stuff in life. There was no victim mentality so prevalent today.  I’m glad you wrote it down – it should be preserved for your younger relatives.

    • #27
  28. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    What a great read!  What wonderful story.  What a great woman.  She is the perfect representative of the silent majority of good and unknown people who make this country great.  May she rest eternal under our Lord’s shining light.

    • #28
  29. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    Wow. I’ve not read any of the comments, but even as I was typing here I scrolled up a few inches and I don’t think I could have done any better than @manny.

    • #29
  30. Quinnie Member
    Quinnie
    @Quinnie

    Being from western Pennsylvania, I have a soft spot for this post.   I have met many like her in that area.   God Bless.

     

     

    • #30

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.