My mom was born in Roll on June 13, 1927, the same day as my dad, but 4 years later. She grew up in the Wellton-Mohawk Valley, attended grade school, and when it came time to go to high school, she attended Yuma High, as did all kids from this area. There were many shenanigans that happened during their school bus rides to Yuma High. Their parents had to get them to Wellton where the bus picked them up. One story involved their regular stop at the top of Telegraph Pass. The bus driver, called “Goofy” by the kids—they probably gave him good reason to be called Goofy-allowed them to get off of the bus. They all got off the bus and proceeded to climb up the mountain a bit. Understand, these were high school kids from the country, used to making their own fun, and not unlike high school kids of today, most of their waking hours were spent trying to figure out how to get out of school. When Goofy asked them to get back on the bus, they refused. He did what all of us in public education would like to do today, he left without them. When he got to Yuma High he reported to the Principal. The Principal checked the students, and they were all in class. Being resourceful country kids, they had hitched a ride and beat Goofy to school.
My mom and dad were married at his parent’s house in Roll on February 22, 1948. I asked her once if she remembered meeting my dad for the first time, I wanted to know what that love story looked like. She said she didn’t, she never met him, she always knew him. Their relationship spanned many more than 55 years they were married. As with many couples their age, they had one identity, BobNBerta.
They both worked in Yuma, he at Griffin Buick, she for Cecil Davis at the D & M Hair Salon in old downtown. The Endurance Flight was a big part of their early married life. She and Betty Jongeward never missed a refueling run, no matter what time of day or what obstacles came in their way, including at least one car accident. If you are familiar with the Endurance Flight you know that there are stories too numerous to tell here.
In 1954, my parents moved to Roll, to the house where she lived up until recently. This house was the site of many gatherings, planned and unplanned throughout the years. She created a place where all people felt welcome and congregated-our high school friends, ditchriders, neighbors, workers, truck drivers, you name it. There was always food, drink, and to use the colloquialism (you will have to fill in the blank here) , shootin’ the______ .
She took great pride in her flowers. If you have ever driven by her house, you have seen the bright red geraniums and double-ruffle petunias that she loved so much. She did the same in Show Low. When I would go up to spend time with her, we would have to make no fewer than 4 trips to the nursery to fill the Escalade with bedding plants.
When my dad became ill and it was clear that he was on the slippery slope of Alzheimer’s, she did all that was possible to keep him at home. He died there in that house on December 23, 2003. Afterwards, there was a pervasive loneliness in her that could never be filled.
Very recently, Robbie talked to her about meeting Father Bart, the new priest from St. Joseph’s in Wellton. Not about becoming Catholic, but just to get to know him. She agreed and wanted to meet him. Then she had to go to Tucson and stayed about a week for medical tests, and was transferred to Yuma Rehabilitation Hospital for therapy to increase her strength so that she could go home. The opportunity to meet Father Bart never happened.
What did happen was that my dear friend, Bertha, visited with her on Tuesday, bringing her some beef soup with rice for lunch. She had a good visit with her, my mom ate, and Bertha helped her back to her room. She helped her into bed and asked if it would be OK if she blessed her and said a prayer for her. She consented, and Bertha blessed and prayed for her. She told her that God was listening if she wanted to she could talk to him. She told her she would bring her a fruit slushy at dinnertime, and would to go 6PM mass and pray for her.
She had a call from her brother, Luther after this. They had a good visit.
Robbie arrived at 3:30. My mom was upset about not being able to be discharged home, but to a skilled nursing facility instead. He bore the brunt of her displeasure. We had a business meeting with our family lawyer Steve Shadle and Jody at 4, they left at 5, and then she wanted Robbie to go see the facility that I had picked out. We did, when we returned we stayed and talked to her for about an hour. Around 6:45 she told us that we should both go home, it was getting late, we needed to eat and get home. We both kissed her goodbye and left, saying we would see her tomorrow. An hour later, I got the call that she was non-responsive and was being transported to the ER.
From the day my dad passed, I believe that she died a little, just a little, every day. The phrases we use when something like this happens are inadequate in this case—when we say “she passed or she died”, that’s not really what happened here. I truly believe she had a great day, one of the better ones of recent time, she talked to the people she loved, Bertha brought her nourishment for her body and her soul, we had our business meeting, then she sent us home, and an hour later when my dad came to get her, she left with him. She is gone, she is with him once again, in a place where things are better. A place where there is no weakness of limbs, no transfusions are necessary, you don’t have to take medicine, nobody asks you if you are diabetic, no one wants to stick you for blood. A place where she can sit on the porch watching the hummingbirds swarm around the feeder while she works on her DeGrazia needlepoint, where the weather is great and she can tend to her geraniums and double ruffle petunias every day. Right now they are probably making plans to go to the Sunday brunch at the Hondah Casino. He will be found on the Triple Lucky 7 machine, she on the Wheel of Fortune. And she Would be Winning.
Mom, Mommy, Nana, I will love you forever and miss you always.