Archive for April 20th, 2010|Daily archive page

Miscellaneous memories

Two of Mom’s friends have recently told me about memories they have had about Mom. One is funny and one is decidedly not funny – it’s not sad, but it sheds light on Mom’s path in life.

First, the funny one. I frequently have lunch with a group of former and current employees of Ohio State, and one of them happens to be an old friend of Mom’s from her bridge-playing days. About a week ago, she recalled that she had recently remembered something funny about Mom. The friend was having a small party years ago, probably the late 70s or early 80s, and Mom was sitting on the couch talking to someone. She had slipped off her shoes – blue flats – and they were close to her feet. Eventually, Mom looked down to find that the friend’s dog, a bulldog that I remember fondly, had pooped in one of her shoes. My immediate thought upon hearing this story was that those shoes were toast – as in trash. But no, Mom apparently wanted to keep them. So her friend spent a good long time trying to clean the poop out of the shoe. Mom could be a little bit cheap that way. Not exactly frugal – that would suggest she bought things of good quality that would last forever. But Mom was more likely to buy things of medium quality and then hope they would last forever, often wearing them past their prime. These shoes were probably nothing special. But that’s part of what makes it funny, I think.

Another friend who recently joined Facebook and subsequently found this blog told me that Mom had once said that she never got over being counseled to go into social work when, as the friend wrote to me in a message, “her obvious talents were in math.” “What a difference that might have made,” the friend also wrote. So true. Mom didn’t ever say anything like that to me. But I do think of her employment history as very unsatisfying to her. She told me about her early work, at the state mental hospital in Columbus, but what I remember most about what she said was that she once encountered a woman she had known in college who had since been diagnosed with schizophrenia. That was a startling experience for her. What the work was like for her, I simply do not know.

The first job I actually remember her having when I was a young girl was as an adjudicator of Social Security claims. On a couple of occasions, she took me with her to work. She did claims work for another insurance company, bookkeeping for the Columbus Dispatch, and clerical work at Ohio State for the libraries, a College of Education department and the registrar’s office. In the midst of all that, she took an accounting class for fun and, if I recall correctly, scored better than anyone else in the class. She had been valedictorian of her high school class. I’ve always thought of college as a special time in her life, but perhaps that was mostly for social reasons rather than academics or career preparation. For as long as I can remember, Mom has hated full-time work. Her last job exhausted her. I imagine she did not get much joy out of it at all. So she retired when she could. But for financial reasons, she quickly returned to part-time clerical work. Eventually, the illness interfered with her work, though she didn’t realize it at the time. She and her boss parted ways in a mutually agreeable way, thankfully.

Mom was a liberal and a union activist. She was the first feminist I knew. It is so disappointing to know that, presumably because she was a woman, she was discouraged from pursuing a career in the field that might have given her a lifetime of job satisfaction. Who knows – it might have even been better for her brain. We will never know.

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