Monday, March 9, 2009

Ginny Baker - March 1914-March 2009

I didn't really want to write a downer of a blog post, but how can one let the passing of the last parent, particularly a mother, go by without some acknowledgment?

As I mentioned in my last post, my 94 year old mother survived her surgery. Unfortunately, she developed pneumonia and went downhill fast from there. The wonderful doctors and nurses at University Hospitals in Ann Arbor managed to keep her alive until my two sisters arrived from out of state, and then we said our goodbyes and let her go.

I won't dwell on any of the sad stuff, partly because the reality of our loss has yet to really sink in. Instead, wonderful memories are resurfacing as I go through her photos and think back to my childhood and young adulthood. The strained relationship I had with my parents is now ancient history and best forgotten for there is much good to remember and celebrate about my parents.

My mother kept me in endless drawing paper as a kid by bringing home scrap paper from her office job. When I began to explore oil paints, she cut up old window shades for me to paint on and as I got older, I was allowed to buy some real art supplies: pastels, colored inks, real drawing paper, drawing pencils and pens and brushes and watercolors.

My dad took me for my first pony ride when I was about eight, and sometime after that, my mother took me to the old fairgrounds for my first ride on a real horse. The horse was black, and her name was Patsy, and she was VERY TALL! I was both terrified and thrilled at the same time!

When I was about ten, my parents paid for riding lessons every Saturday and did so for the next three years. My mother was even brave enough to go riding with me once although she really had no interest in horses.

When I was twelve, I was allowed to buy my first horse with my own money, and my parents paid the board bills and other expenses for the brief time that I owned Willie. Years later, when I bought my second horse, my parents offered to help with his expenses if I wasn't able to manage them myself. They knew just how much horses meant to me and how important it was to have them in my life again after a thirty year absence.

Without doubt, the most generous, loving thing they ever did for me came after the death of my first husband when I was just 23 years old. They were on sabbatical in Seoul Korea at the time and paid for me to join them during their final months abroad. On the way home, we travelled to many exotic countries, and although I was deep in mourning, it was a trip of a lifetime and one that probably changed my whole outlook on the world.

I'll never know how much it cost my parents for those riding lessons, the board bills and that trip around the world because they never brought it up. But, it had to be considerable.

Having raised two young daughters alone during the Depression, my mother had the very strong opinion that any young girl must prepare herself to earn a living if need be at some time in the future. Art school was discouraged when I graduated from high school as too impractical, so I studied English Literature in college instead. I'm not sure it was any more practical, but at least it met with parental approval.

When I went back to school to study art twenty years later, my parents couldn't have been more supportive or proud. My mother was proud to show off her daughter's paintings to every visitor after she moved into the retirement home, even after she lost her sight and could no longer see them herself.

Among the many gifts my mother gave me, the most important of them were strength of character, consideration for others, self sacrifice, silly humor and how to give parental love.

Thanks for Everything, Mom.


Linda Shantz said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your mother, Karen. I'm glad you have these good memories - thanks for sharing them.

JPJ said...

My sincere condolences Karen.....the loss of a mother is very tough..let alone the last surviving parent. What a wonderful tribute to her that you wrote here. I hope you find comfort in both expected and unexpected places in the months to come.....

Karen Thumm said...

Thanks Linda and Joan for your condolences and for taking the time to write.