To my mother. Born 1918. Fort Wayne North Side High School Class of 1936. Her mother came to this country in search of a better life. Mom's mom was 18 when she and her husband left the Rheinpfalz area of Germany shortly before World War I and bought a small farm in what is now the outskirts of Fort Wayne. They raised produce and sold it at the downtown farmer’s market. He was killed in a farm accident, when hornets attacked the plow horses and he was caught in the plow.
My grandmother was left to raise two girls in a new country. She remarried and had my mother. The marriage was rocky and short-lived. My grandmother and her daughters moved into a tiny house near downtown Fort Wayne. Grandma Rosie, as we called her, became the head cook at a restaurant in Wolf & Dessauer, the largest department store downtown.
It’s hard to imagine what life must have been like for people at that time. When my mom was a little girl my grandfather took her back to Germany with him. My grandmother had to take the boat to Germany and sue to get her daughter back. Mom never wanted to talk about her childhood much, except how much she wanted to get out of that house. She met my dad, they married and they had three kids. My dad started a car repair shop. He ran with a rough crowd – car people – and knew how to raise hell. Mom and my father developed a real talent for making each other miserable.
Her favorite song was Clair de Lune. She was the fastest typist and stenographer in her class in high school. She worked as a secretary at Tokheim Pump for several years. She grew Marglobe tomatoes and canned dill pickles. We all went to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Sunday.
They say the enemy of the good is holding out for the perfect, and that’s a trap that my mother fell into. Eventually the gap between the ideal and the reality became a place where she lived. I know she wanted the best for her kids, but often a good outcome was in reach and she could not see it. She was often more of a hindrance than a help. And by the time I was in my teens I could only think of getting out of that house.
It was a rocky trail for me too. I dropped out of college, worked different jobs, mostly in construction, and survived on the streets for a few years. I finally returned to college and got a degree in chemistry, then a salaried position. I was the first in my family to get a college degree.
Mom passed away in 1977. Life was not easy for her. I sometimes think if her situation had been different, then she could have lived to her potential. I know she deserved better.