By: Dr. Jerry Bergman
My mother, Irene Buck Bergman, was born November 27, 1920, in Meade, Kansas, and died on September 12, 1996, at age 75.
The last decade of her life she suffered from both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
I now regret that I did not spend more time with her when she was with us. Consequently, I know very little about her early life.
The few details about my mother come from published family histories. Her mother, Mamie, died in childbirth at age 29, forcing the family of three girls and two boys to rear themselves.
The girls did all of the housework, including cleaning and cooking, and helped raise their two brothers. My maternal grandfather, Benjamín Buck, a blacksmith, came to the United States from Hamburg, Germany, in the late 1800s.
Mother was baptized and confirmed in St. John Lutheran Church. As an active and adventuresome young lady of 15, she learned to drive her bother Norman’s car.
While in school, in addition to the academic curriculum, she learned to sew and type. After school she worked at the Lakeway Hotel to help support the struggling family.
After graduating from Meade High School, because not many employment opportunities existed in the small town of Meade, all three sisters ended up in Detroit.
Detroit was then a booming city due to its vibrant war industry, supporting WWII building tanks, guns, and planes.
Soon after arriving in Detroit, my mother met my father when she worked in a dental office where he was a patient. They married in 1943 and divorced 16 years later when I was in junior high school.
Mother then had to struggle to support us. Her first step was to get a full time job. She was hired by Consumers Power Company at the starting wage of 54 dollars a week.
She worked her way up to the special ledger department handling multimillion dollar accounts until she elected to retire a year early due to the active onset of Alzheimer’s in her early 60’s.
Mom never remarried, although dated several men; most were divorced and had their own problems, especially alcoholism.
It was not easy for a divorced woman in her 40s with three boys to find a good man and remarry then.
One memory I have of my mother, although confirmed as a Lutheran, sent my older brother and me to the nearest church. It was a conservative Bible church only a block away from us, on the corner of Greenfield Avenue and 13 Mile Road in Royal Oak, Michigan.
We attended only once, but this one visit had a profound effect on me. When my father, a non-believer, learned about our church visit, an aggressive argument resulted. That was the last time we attended a church until my parents divorced in 1959.
My mother’s whole life was her three boys; my older brother, Ron, me, and my younger brother, Mike.
Every Saturday she did the washing with an old Maytag ringer washer and hung the clothes up to dry outside.
It took most of the day to wash the clothes for the four of us. Her day began at 5:30 am and ended at 10:00 pm.
When it was too cold outside she hung them in the basement to dry. She cooked home meals for us during most of our childhood and adolescence; no fast food or TV dinners.
We went out to eat, at most, three times a year. We assumed mothers were supposed to cook, clean, wash our clothes, pay the bills, make sure we got to school on time, and take us to the doctor.
The house was always spotless. It is now, as an adult, that I realize how much she sacrificed for us.
Those of you who have a mother still living should learn some of the details of her life, her hopes and dreams, best and worst days, childhood highlights and memories, pets, boyfriends, marriage milestones, and life in general growing up and growing old. It is too late for me to really know about my mother’s past.
Ideally, I should have done a memory book, as my wife did with her family, the Haldimans, where each member wrote a few pages about their life.
The life sketches in the book were assembled with many pictures. We made copies of it and gave them to our children.
In short, my mother had a profound influence on me, which I am today very grateful for. Most importantly, she taught me the need to work hard, to get a good education, to do the best you can with the life God gave you, to be kind to everyone and think evil of no one.
She also helped us understand the harm done by drinking and smoking, habits none of us ever took up, largely due to her example.
Learn as much as possible about your mother if you still can. The time you have with her on Earth is all too short.
Source: The Village Reporter