Monday, March 29, 2010

In memoriam

I once asked my mom what it was like to have been born in 1918. “Well,” she replied, “I’ve seen a lot of things.” Indeed. From the first airplanes to jets, then spaceships and a man on the moon. From the earliest radios to satellite TV. From silent films to great, sweeping blockbusters. From cash registers to computers. From crank phones to cell phones. From wood burning stoves to microwaves. From hand turned wringer washing machines to just-turn-the-dial-and-pull-the-knob models. From the old Model A which was her first car to the spiffy new Rambler station wagon that carried her and her children across the country and back again in 1963. (Without air conditioning, we kids always like to remember.) From wars with promises of “Never again” to wars which promise to never end. From women nearly always in dresses but occasionally in pants to women nearly always in pants but occasionally in dresses. Through every hair, clothing and cosmetics fashion one can imagine.

In grade school, my mother was taught that correct spelling, neat penmanship and an expansive vocabulary were critical to being successful in the world. In my lifetime, I never knew her to misspell a word, and I could never, ever beat her in Scrabble, even in her 80’s and I with the seeming advantage of a master’s degree in literature, she with the G.E.D. she finally earned some years after dropping out of high school.

Yeah, don’t let the lack of education fool you. Mom was smart, savvy, and pragmatic in her approach to business. She was a disadvantaged widow when my father died, but she worked hard and invested wisely, and by the time she entered retirement she could do so comfortably and could even afford to travel a bit.

There was nothing she liked better than reading.

In recent weeks, when I would call, I would ask, “What are you up to?” and she would respond, “I’m reading a book.” I think she decided months ago, when my brother passed away, that she would simply sit in her recliner and read until she too passed over. Which is basically what she did.

Mom’s life was never easy. But she rose to every challenge with fortitude and determination. She was a feminist before feminists were called such, and she nearly always managed to wrestle life around to agree to her terms. We rarely shared the same point of view, but she provided a model of strength and tenacity that I will always follow.

Mom, I miss you already.

Arta Ernestine “Pat” West
August 7, 1918 – March 24, 2010


  1. Such a nice post. I shall turn the phone off and just sit for a spell... Nice.

  2. What a beautiful tribute. I know how hard it is to lose your mom. Thinking of you, Kay.

  3. I am so sorry to read that your mom has passed, may she rest in peace.

    I still grieve for my mother, it is so sad when we loose our parents......big hugs :-)

  4. Glenn, Jimi, Bernie ~
    Thank you so much for your warm thoughts and "big hugs." Words are propping me up right now, giving me strength. This is definitely harder than I thought it would be....

  5. I appreciated your first paragraph. Talking to my grandparents about their experiences always puts things in perspective. Sorry about your loss.

  6. What a beautiful tribute to your mom. She sounds like an amazing woman. But of course she must have been phenomenal to have produced such an exceptional and fabulous daughter. Thanks for sharing your memories and giving us all a wonderful glimpse of your mother.