My mother passed away when I was nine years old, after a long illness which kept her in the hospital for three years. I have seen pictures of her from when I was a toddler, and she never looked well. I suspect that life weighed heavily on her; bearing and raising six children took it’s toll on her frail frame, and when financial difficulties arose they cast black clouds of uncertainty on an already uncertain endeavour.
She was not very stable physically when I was a child. One day when I was four we stepped out the side door of the house into the garage, presumably to get some potatoes for supper. The landing outside the door was about eight steps higher than the concrete floor of the garage, and it had a wrought-iron railing attached. My safety-conscious mom was leaning on this railing as we descended the stairs, as was I. The railing gave way suddenly, and both of us tumbled headlong onto the garage floor from a few feet up. Mom lit, I am told, on a garbage can full of potatoes; I lit on my head on the floor and cracked my skull. I remember having a terrible headache, sitting in bed and waiting for dad to come home, since mom couldn‘t drive. When he arrived, he took me into town to the hospital to get me checked out, and I had to stay in the hospital for a couple days.
My mother trusted in Jesus, and I am sure she must have taught us kids to do so as well. But I think her life was still a fearful place to her. Never having learned how to drive, she often left dad in a bind, needing another driver and having none. I remember an incident when dad had loaned a tractor to a neighbor a couple miles from home, and it was time to pick it up. Little kids could not be left at home alone, or perhaps dad knew we would need to offer moral support, so several of us got in the van and drove to the neighbor’s farm.
“But how will we get home?” mom asked dad.
“You are going to drive home.” said he. “I have to drive the tractor.”
Much protesting ensued, but dad won out. I remember his instructions to her, to keep both hands on the steering wheel, and to drive right down the middle of the gravel road, to watch for traffic on the two corners she would have to make. I remember that Dad drove the tractor ahead of us and we followed, with mom’s white knuckles gripping the wheel like it was some wild thing…