Monday, March 25, 2013


I’ll start with an apology for not putting the date of this memorial in the first issue of Mom’s obituary in the Medford Mail Tribune. To those of you who called and came out on Thursday, I’m truly sorry. I’d also like to add a big thank you to Jackson House and their staff for all of the fine care and home-like atmosphere they have given Mom over the last few years, and for inviting us to hold this memorial here.

How do you talk about a 97 year old person’s life when you only lived with her for 18 of those years? I can’t do that, but I can talk about growing up under her care. Little did I know that when I headed off to college at 18, I would not come back as the boy that left, but as a grownup. Mom had prepared me well for that change and I didn’t realize it at the time. Memories fade, but as I look back over my early years, especially after having had children of my own, I can see part of the plan Mom worked to prepare me for adulthood. I probably wouldn’t have passed 1st grade if not for her. I missed about a third of the school days with bronchitis and she consistently kept me up with the necessary homework so I wouldn’t fall behind.

I think that she believed that children learn and grow most efficiently through their own experiences. I’ll illustrate with a few stories.

One day when I was very young, I think before school age, Dad and Uncle Ralph were filling the tractor with gasoline. My brother and I were fighting over who could get the closest to the fill nozzle to smell the fumes. Since he is six years older than me, he won and I fell off the back of the tractor, landing head first on the hitch. I remember coming to my senses in Uncle Ralph’s arms as he carried me back to the house to Mom. There was blood all over his shirt, and I was bellaring at the top of my lungs. Mom looked over what I assumed to be a large hole in my head with brains hanging out, and put a BandAid on it. I thought how could a BandAid hold my brains in. Of course not long afterward I was back up to speed as if nothing had happened. The lesson: Falls are a regular part of life, don’t make a big deal of it and get on with life.

When I was grade school age, one day I thought it would be a good idea to smoke a pipe. No one in our family smoked anything, so there was no pipe to be had for this experiment. So I built one out of a piece of an old hickory shovel handle and some copper tubing, loaded it up with sawdust and lit it up. My tongue burned and my mouth tasted bad. Mom asked me what I was doing, as if she didn’t know, but didn’t suggest that I stop. I tried some dried weed seeds and got the same burnt tongue and a different bad taste. After a while I decided that pipe smoking wasn’t for me and thus ended my smoking career. The lesson: It’s easier to keep true to decisions you make for yourself than those others make for you.

When I was high school age, I was experimenting with different rocket fuels for homemade model rockets. One concoction contained a synthetic rubber that needed to cure before firing. I decided to use Mom’s electric fry pan to speed up the cure a bit, but got the temperature a bit too high and the motor ignited, raced around the living room and burned a large black spot in the baseboard. Mom informed me that I needed to move my operation outside of the house. I moved the operation outside of the house and made a few better thought out changes to my procedure. The Lesson: Think things through before you do them and own the consequences of your actions. Wouldn’t it be great if the politicians learned that lesson?

As you all know, Mom was a schoolteacher for a great part of her life. She taught first grade most of the time that I was around, but after I had grown, she switched over to resource teacher. I think that put her in more one-on-one situations with students that needed extra help. I remember her telling about one student that had a great deal of trouble writing numbers and letters. She worked and worked until she discovered that this person could draw a half circle on the left and a half circle on the right, but couldn’t make his hand go across his body to draw a full circle in one motion. She took him to the black board, took his hand and started drawing circles until he could do it himself. It took quite a while but eventually he overcame his problem and became able to write numbers and letters. The lesson: Don’t give up! Keep trying until you find what works, and use it.

A person makes many choices in life, but we can’t choose our parents. Well, I lucked out big time because I couldn’t have picked better parents if I had had all the resources in the world available to me. If the world were filled with people that had the intelligence, tenacity, patience, independence, and love that my Mother had, it would surely be a better place.

Fred Swingle 

1 comment:

  1. Uncle Fred sent this to us shortly after the funeral, but somehow I missed it. I'm glad I stumbled across it. Made me weep all over again.