|MAMA BEAR COOKBOOK SERIES||
My mother was born in 1935 (in Michigan state), in the United States of America. Her mother was a nurse, her father was an architect/inventor. Her mother’s side of the family, migrated from Ireland and her father’s side of the family, migrated from England (in the early nineteen hundreds).
My great grandmother (Esther Vigar-Clover), died when my mother’s mother (Margery Marietta Clover), was very young (just 3 years old). Margery’s father (Fred Clover), tried to take care of her for awhile (moving back in with his parents), so his mother could help him, while he worked. In time, his mother died, and the task became overwhelming for him. So he placed my grandmother, up for adoption. A “well to do” family in the state of Michigan, adopted her. Shortly after the adoption, the step-father started physically abusing my grandmother and by the age of fifteen, she decided to run-away.
As a young runaway, my grandmother Margery, found herself doing a lot of odd jobs to support herself. Not long after being on her own, she met my grandfather (John William Boate), who quickly took a fancy to her. He seemed to be the anchor to her storm, the rock of Gibraltar, and the security that my grandmother so needed at the time. Not long after they met, they were married, two years later, my mother was born
From the many stories I can remember hearing my mother tell, my grandmother, was always described as a “free-spirited woman”, she beat to her own drum, sang to her own song and was fiercely independent. I believe this independence eventually got the best of her, and the marriage began to suffer. My mother’s parent’s divorced, when she was about 6-7 years old.
It was now the early 1940’s, everyone had just been through the Great Depression, and the world was now in the midst of World War II. My grandmother accepted a job in the Nevada dessert, as a cook/bartender, for a small mining company. Grandma always saw to it, that my mother had a dog. She never wanted her playing in the dessert alone, without a dog. My mom, recalled memories of one dog in particular (named Lucky), who saved her from a snake bite.
My grandmother was a very creative person, she never had much money, and things were often hard for her. She decided (one day), it was time for a special “mother & daughter” photograph. With little to no money for dress material, she tore down the drapes in the livingroom, cut them up and sewed them into matching dresses (for both of them to wear), for this memorable shot.
By the time my mother was 12 years old, my grandmother accepted a job (as a nurse), in the Burlington, Colorado hospital. By age 15, my grandmother met and married a man named (Floyd Collard), who owned a home in Fairplay, Colorado. Here my mother attended her high school years, was on the football cheerleading team, participated in every high school activity, and was valedictorian of her class.
By the age of 18, she was working in the Fairplay Hotel as a waitress in the restaurant. It was here that she met my father (David Lee Smith). My father was working for a road construction company, which had been awarded the contract (by the State of Colorado), to build a highway going through Fairplay, Colorado. Occasionally after work, he would stop into the hotel for dinner (before going home), my mother was his waitress.
My dad soon took a liking to my mom, and started making it a regular habit to eat in the restaurant at the end of each day, just so he could spend time with her. Mom started inviting him (to stay for weekends), to attend some of her school activities (like the annual burrow races, to mention one event). My father ended up taking my mother to her high school prom, and he was standing by her side, at her high school graduation.
Eventually (about a year later), my dad took her home to meet his parents. His mother, naturally feel in love with my mother. This synched the deal, and dad soon popped the question. Neither set of parents had any money for weddings. My mother’s parents were living hand to mouth, and my father’s parents, had just been through the Great Depression, raising five children. So there was no money for weddings. My parents made the best of it, and decided to elope. So off they went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and tied the knot on June 7, 1954,
My dad loved cars, so after they were married, they picked a modest trailer to live in, so they could afford the fancy car. My dad continued to work for the road construction company, operating large machinery. My mother went to work for the local electric company, doing clerical work. Things went along fairly well until one day my dad was bucked from a horse and suffered a major lower leg injury (which required several surgeries), in order for him to be able to walk again.
It was during this time, that my grandmother (dad’s mother), would have what she called, “Sunday Dinners”. Sunday dinner was when all her kids were expected to show up at her house (on Sunday), and eat one meal together each week. It was during these dinners and meal preparation, that my grandmother started talking to my mother about the bible. In time, my mother accepted a bible study. Since my dad was laid up from his leg injury, he didn’t have much else to do, so he joined my mother on her bible studies (it was also about this time, that I decided to poke my head into the world). About a year later, both of my parents were baptized in 1961 (seven years almost to the month, from when they got married).
After dad’s leg injury had healed, and now with a new baby in the house, he decided it was time to look for a new job. A job that would allowed him to stay closer to home. So he quit the road construction job, and took a more permanent position with the Coors Brewery Company in Golden, Colorado (operating a large crane). The brewery company was commencing the building of their brand new brewery facility from ground up. Mom quit her full time job at the electric company, (shortly before giving birth to me), and remained a stay home mother, until the day she died. They sold the trailer, sold dad’s fancy car, and bought a small little house on Delaware Street, in Denver, Colorado (just three blocks away from where his parent were living). I still have memories of this house to this day.
About a year and a half later, my sister came along. We continued to live in the Delaware Street house until I was about 5 years old. Then my parents bought another house (a larger one), on Layton Avenue, in Littleton, Colorado. This was the house that I remember growing up in, it was the house where I had all my sleep overs, got my first kiss, graduated from high school, got married, and had my first beer.
In the early 1980’s my parents purchased a (2) acre parcel of land at the base of Mount Gibb (just shy of 14,000 foot), in Westcliffe, Colorado. For the next ten (10) years, they tinkered around building what they called “a cabin”, (a 3-bedroom, 2-bath structure), which everyone found humorous, stating (that’s not a cabin it’s a house!). The Coors Brewery Company was nearing completion of their plant facilities, and was now giving away all left over construction materials to their employees. My father took advantage of this, and from these building scraps, they built “their cabin.”
Every time they could get alittle time away (they would sneak away to the mountain), and finish one more project. By the early 1990’s (about 10 years later), it was finally finished. I remember a lot of weekends up there, making homemade ice-cream, sitting around a camp fire, walking in the woods, looking at streams, flowers, trees and bear poop. My sister and I even built a stick “T-Pee”, which became our club-house and eventually became our children’s club-house.
All my memories about my mother were positive. She was a great mom, and very devoted to being there for my sister and I. She made my sister’s wedding dress, when it came time for her to get married. When my sister and I would either go roller skating or snow skiing, mom was always there (with hot cider and a warm meal waiting), for us kids when we got home. This is where my mother became famous for her “red bean chili and cornbread.”
During the 1980’s my mother got into “Touch for Health” (kinesiology). She attended several classes, and eventually got her certification in kinesiology. My parents studied the bible and brought many people into the truth (Marilyn & Swede Neilson, Chris & Mary Peterson, Ray & Nadine Pelton, and a deaf woman by the name of Wanda Shultz). Where my mother conducted the entire bible study, by using hand written notes.
My mother never worked a full time job again, after the day I was born. She always told me, her new job was to be my full-time cheerleader for life (as she called it).
My mother loved to sew, and do arts & crafts. In time (as they could afford it), she bought herself a big fancy computerized sewing machine with all the bells and whistles. She got into embroidering, making book covers, kids clothing, and silly things that all of us would eventually remember as being humorous. She even embroidered a roll of toilet paper (with a bear on it), to inspire me to laughter.
In 2006 we temporarily moved to Belize, my parents joined us for two months on this journey. Upon returning home, my mother was diagnosed as having a lung disease, which eventually contributed to her death. She never smoked a day in her life, so this was particularly devastating for all of us. Over the next eleven (11) years, I watched my mother struggle for every breath. I don’t think my mother ever understood her condition, because she kept thinking she would always get better (and she didn’t). As time progressed my mother got dementia. Making it hard to converse, reason and carry on a conversation with her (at times). Simple tasks became difficult for her to manage. This was really evident in her final days.
Her death was very hard on me, she was my best friend. My mother and I used to joke (about this) to one another. I would tell her, “You know mom, you’ll always be my best friend. Because you know too much about me,” and she would laugh. I’d often call her, she would answer the phone and say, “Who is this?” I’d say, “It’s Me Mom”. Then she’d just start laughing. Later in her final days (while in hospice care), she would tell all the nurses, “I want to introduce you to ME!. Say hello Me”, and she’d start laughing.
The day my mother died, my world fell apart. I want to talk about that for alittle bit, because I believe there is an important lesson to be learned here.
I always knew that day would eventually come (when my mother would die that is). Well that day came in the early part of March 2014 (my mother was 78 years old at the time). I received a telephone call (from my older daughter), that mom was in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), at the Penrose Medical Hospital (in Colorado Springs, Colorado). My daughter said, come quick, it doesn’t look good. So I got on a plane, and flew from Belize to the United States. When I entered her room (there she was), all hooked up to a breathing machine, keeping her alive (until I could get there), it was hard to watch. The doctors informed me that they had done everything they could, but we were now at the end. The doctors showed me her lung xrays, and she had so much puss in her lungs that she wasn’t going to come out of it (not to mention, she was antibiotic resistant). “Does this mean it’s time for hospice”, I asked the doctor. He said, “Yes”
The doctors informed me, that my mother had turned over “Power of Attorney” to me. This meant it was up to me (from this point forward), to make all her medical decisions. I did not realize she had done that, I always thought she would have dad do it. I knew from discussing it with my father, that if she was going to get to this point, (we both felt it was best), to just let her go. So I signed the papers to have all the machines turned off, (and this decision alone), was the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life.
In the days that followed, we move my mother from the hospital hospice ward, back to her home. Insurance had been exhausted and everyone felt that a home environment would be much more peaceful and cheaper (moving forward). I took care of my mother for the next 17 days, basically giving her large doses of morphine (to put her at ease), while she was dying. This in of itself, has a certain emotional trauma connected to it. I’m crying even just explaining this to you. I was basically drugging my mother, so she could die in peace.
I would ask the nurses what to look for as we got closer. They said you can expect to hear wheezing in her lungs, her urine will turn brown and she will stop wanting food or drink, as her internal organs start to shut down. On Sunday, she was showing all these signs. I knew we were getting close, and my window for saying goodbye would soon be gone. So Monday morning, I sat in front of my mother, thinking of just the right words to say.
“Mom”, I said. “Do you know what is happening to you?” “No”, she said. I paused for a moment, not the answer I expected. Then I said, “Mom, I want to tell you, I had a great life. You have been a super mother, I have many wonderful memories (which I will always cherish).” At this point, a tear starts to roll down my mother’s cheek, as she realizes what I was saying. She grabbed my hand and said, “Can I ask you a question?” “Yes mom, ask me a question.” “Are you happy”, she said. “Yes mom, I’m happy”. Then she looked at me and said, “Do you want to know, what makes me happy?” “What mom, what makes you happy?” “Doing things together”, she said. “Well mom”, I said. “We’re doing this together.” She held my hand harder, (looked at me with tears in her eyes) and said, “Yes, we’re doing this together.”
This was a Monday, Thursday morning when I gave her breakfast, she told me that she loved me, and that night she passed away (March 28, 2014). I was so torn up (that to this day), I still have the mental images in my mind, of the funeral home wheeling my mother out of our family’s home (on a stretcher), to put her into the hurst. I remember standing at the front door of my parent’s house (saying to myself, as they wheeled her away), she is never coming back to this house.
The lesson to be learned from this experience, is this………………NEVER let a day go by without telling your family you love them. Spend time together, because when it’s time to die, that’s all you have left, is the memories of spending time together. At times we may feel that our life doesn’t have meaning, but if we keep Jehovah God first, and family second, our life will always have meaning.
This cookbook is dedicated to the loving memory of my mother. The pictures have been selected in a progressive order, to tell the story of her life. It is a gift to my family, to my children and to my adopted children (of my heart), as an attempt, to keep her memory alive. As mom would say, “Do you want to know, what makes me happy? Doing things together.” Cooking was one way, my mother and I spent time together.
When one life ends (the story can only continue), unless someone choses to tell it to others. This is my attempt to tell my mother’s story (to others), and to leave you with recipes (that she enjoyed), something she wanted to give to her children and her grandchildren (but died before she was able to do this), so I’m doing it for her. We chose to put her story in a cookbook (as mom says), a photo album only gets looked at once or twice a year – but a cookbook, gets used every day.
I will always love you mom, from the bottom of my heart. You were my best friend, and yes, you were my “Cheerleader for Life.”–
To My Cheerleader In Life……Signing Out…………“It’s Me Mom.”