You were 30 years of age when you gave birth to me. The date was September 30th, 1943. D-Day was eight months away and the end of World War II was still two years away. I was your third child, the first of two boys and was also the middle child, though no one knew that at the time.
I would love to have known what was going through your head during these uncertain war years. According to reports, books and stories I have read, many people in the allied countries were very pessimistic about the war and felt it would have a bad ending. Even though you and dad lived in New Zealand, the effects of the war were being felt by both of you and many of this country's families who had lost sons and daughters and relatives overseas.
Around the time I was born, Australia had been attacked by the Japanese, England was undergoing savage bombing raids by the German Luftwaffe and most of Europe was occupied by the Germans. Your oldest brother Carl was in a POW camp somewhere in Europe and would end up being a POW for 4 years. Dad's younger brother Gordon was stationed in North Africa and later would survive the D-Day landings. There were very few New Zealand families untouched by the war.
You must have been tough. In fact, I know you were tough. I have memories of you showing me your biceps that you had developed during your nurse's training at Auckland General Hospital lifting patients from bed to bed. I remember being very impressed and rather intimidated.
You and dad met at AGH when dad was sidelined as a result of a bad asthma attack. I learned later his lungs were damaged from a gas attack in World War I at the age of 18.
You were a very attractive young woman and he apparently was quite suave. The fact he was divorced was not an impediment to a relationship for you but was quite shocking to grandma who was very much the lady and somewhat snooty. Grandpa was less so I believe. You must have been very headstrong and determined at this time. One of my older sisters said that you had communist leanings and would have made a great woman's libber. Having five children to raise would have limited your time to get involved in such activities. Such a worthy cause would have raised dad's ire, however, him being very old-fashioned and a firm believer in a woman's place being in the home.
We had a very large extended family and an even larger family friend circle. Quite often, there was a cousin or the offspring of a family friend staying with us due to a death or a sickness. Back in those days, family and friends stuck together and you were always there to help out, in spite of the load you carried.
Back then, there were no vacuum cleaners, no washing machines, no clothes dryers. We had a laundry room that consisted of a copper boiler stoked with a wood fire. Clothes were tossed into the boiler and moved about with a paddle. From the boiler to a cold water sink where they were rinsed and then put through a hand-operated roller. From there to the clothesline in the backyard. You had to be tough. When dad was going through one of his bouts with his ongoing illness, you also had to chop the wood.
You also mowed lawns with our old push mower, tended the large vegetable garden, sewed clothes on a pedal-operated Singer sewing machine, knitted sweaters and scarves, wall-papered, painted, prepared great birthday parties for five kids, entertained various family gatherings, oversaw homework and school projects, got all five of us kids organized with the various sports we played, grocery shopped, cooked meals, kept the pantry stocked with homemade preserves, tended to cuts and scrapes and the many, many other daily irritants that occur with a large and growing family. All this time dealing with dad who was often bed-ridden with bouts of asthma and emphysema.
Looking back, I think you were really Superwoman in disguise. When dad died too soon at the age of 62, he left you with 3 children in various stages of their teen years and little money. You went back to work as a nurse to keep the household afloat and at the same time ensuring the three youngest were kept on the straight and narrow. All five of us kids have you to thank for ensuring we all learned professions we could all fall back on.
Some years later when the last of us five left home, you met a very nice man whom you married and with who you spent many years, camping and traveling and enjoying the freedom you so richly deserved.
You outlived both your husbands, both marriages lasting 25 years. You lived to an amazing 98 years of age, tough and resilient to the very end, always curious about new technology, continuing with your daily crossword puzzle until you were robbed of your sight, argumentative, and never giving an inch. I always thought the reason you had such a long life as it was taking God a long time in preparing for your arrival.
Wherever you are, keep on being you. You are one of a kind.