Celebrate a Birthday memory of my mother with me!

It is my Birthday.

It is the reason my Dad joined the marines…that and the fact he was drafted. And when he returned from the Pacific and got married, his first child was born on December 7….to remind him of things he would never speak about.

So what did I do on my Birthday?

I remembered my parents and missed them. Contemplated on how I look like my mother now that I am the age that she was when I remember her best. I even sound like her.

Well, today we went to a luncheon where the speaker was FDR! An actor dressed and imitated FDR, quoting from his speeches and answering questions from the audience. It was obvious he didn’t like Republicans…too bad.

What got me was the old wheelchair and the braces! He even wore the old-style braces!

My mother contracted polio(infantile paralysis) in the same year FDR did. He was 39, she was 3. Like FDR, she had gone to the beach (at Lake Michigan in Chicago, probably Rainbow Beach,) to swim and cool off in the water. The next day she was sick. It was painful. Her Aunt and her mother were by her bedside day and night. She was totally paralyzed for a time. She even went blind. Then she began to recover. Slowly she regained movement in her arms and hands. Her sight returned. She could even move her legs, a little. One foot could even show some movement in the toes and flex her foot. However, the movement was slight and the other leg was totally immoveable. It was only a movement paralysis, since there was still pain, and hot and cold sensations. She always felt paralysis was an inappropriate term because she still had feeling sensations in her limbs.

The cute little three-year-old, sitting in a chair with a kitten would never run and dance again. When the five-year-old is managing the stairs withher new doll(whose head is ceramic), she falls and drops it and the head breaks. She is still sad after 50 years.

It was strange the way the muscles atrophied on her body. No muscles in the legs, just skin and bone with huge knobby knees. Her back seemed to have some muscles missing. The ripples of thick muscles next to grooves of absent ones was always a mystery. Even her hand displayed the ravages of polio. The thick, fat, muscle of the thumb was totally absent.

My Mom used heavy braces and crutches all her life. The braces made of steel and leather weighed 10 pounds. She used the same braces until one broke from metal fatigue about five years before she died. That means the braces were close to 40 years old. When my parents found a brace-maker, he remarked at how well-made they were. Her new pair were not quite as good. ¬†Of course, these days we have access to much more advanced technology for disabilities like this. Most commonly, a power chair to help people with paralysis or limited movement, get around quickly and easily. She didn’t have this sort of advantage back in the day, and it breaks my heart to picture her hobbling around on crutches for most of her life. It brings a horrible image to mind, but then again it is never nice to know your loved one is or was struggling.

Studies have shown that polio victims experience a relapse around the age of 60. She became very weak and died of congestive heart failure at that age.

My mother was very strong, she used her arms to walk, and used to be able to navigate stairs and ride buses with ease. My parents met at the Art Institute. She was a professional artist working for the WPA for many years. A pattern maker for work uniforms and a commercial free-lance artist in Downtown Chicago.

It was funny to see her walk on all fours down the hall when she did not have her braces on.

Her greatest worry was that her children would contract polio and she made sure we received all the vacinations. She was so glad that a vaccine had been found! Salk and Sabin were her heroes.


Although Roosevelt was good…he really didn’t move well with his braces….he had a few of the movements down. The tapping of the side of the knee to straighten the races as he stood up and the swaying from side to side using the back and chest muscles to walk with the heavy braces.

My best memories are of my conversations with my mother and her teaching me how to draw, showing me techniques that I still use today.

My favorite memory is of her holding my first son, her first grandchild.

My memories are the best part of my birthday. They are a way of keeping her close to me.


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    • Temmoku on December 8, 2007 at 03:51
    • Alma on December 8, 2007 at 04:00

    Your Mother sounds like she was an amazing woman.  Thank you for sharing this touching part of your life.

  1. Thank you for this lovely remembrance of your mom. It’s inspirational. She sounds like somebody I would have liked very much to have known.  

  2. What a lovely and inspiring diary.  Thank you.

    • RiaD on December 8, 2007 at 16:10

    Happy Birthday to You!

    Happy Birthday dear Temmoku!

    Happy Birthday to You!

    And many mo-o-ore!

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  3. we live on in the shape we take on inside of those who remain……

    we are ripples in a pond which travel to known and unknown shores….

    now your mothers beauty lives on in me through your sharing…

    this became clear to me when an aunt of mine passed….

    over 500 people came and when they played the bagpipes I could feel thousands there in all of the lives that my aunt had touched through the lives of the people present…..

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