Our mom, Lillian May Feldsine passed away on April 24th. Mom's children were with her at the moment of her passing. Dad was holding her hand and stroking her arm when she breathed her last breath.
How do you write enough words to describe someone as wonderful as our mom? I’ve known her my whole life, and there are so many things about her that words won’t do her justice. I met my mom in person March 18, 1956. It was love before first sight.
But before me came our dad. Our parents met after mom graduated from high school in 1954 in Poughkeepsie, NY. Shortly after graduating, mom started a short career at IBM in Poughkeepsie. Almost immediately she met dad, who started at IBM only a couple of weeks earlier. True love followed and the two were married the following July 27th, 1955, just about 63 years ago.
Before Dad, mom's life began quite humbly. When she was around 10 years old, her father worked at Schatz & Federal Ball Bearing company as a steam-fitter. After a lengthy strike the family could no longer afford the rent in their rented house. Mom's father was able to secure work as a plumber / handyman on a dude ranch that was being remodeled. His pay included a small salary and access to an old abandoned and dilapidated chicken coop. Initially they lived in a tent on the property, until with permission Grandpa used leftovers from the Dude Ranch to make the chicken coop livable. I think that they got an old wood cooking stove from the Dude ranch and it provided for cooking as well as heat. Water came from a nearby creek, being carried in buckets to the tent / “house”, until a hand well pump was installed, oh and that hand pump was installed outside. Laundry was washed on a washboard. When they were living in that cabin / chicken coup, mom and her two siblings and parents and grandma all slept together to keep each other warm.
These humble beginnings stayed with mom and she was always grateful for everything she had.
Stories of Fun and Making Lifelong Friends
Mom loved to tell stories about her past. She would tell the story of when she first drove the family car. When mom and her parents would go shopping, mom asked to hold the keys. When they were done shopping, they came out and asked her if she knew how to drive the car. She said “oh yes”, and they let her drive the car home from shopping. She did more of that later, no permit or license required! As she described getting the keys from her parents and sitting behind the wheel of the car her face would beam. She loved telling that story of learning to drive. We have a video of her telling this story.
She also would tell us of when her dad would drive down country roads with her and her brother sitting on the front fenders of the car bouncing up and down and screaming for joy.
She also had fond memories of her childhood. Another memory she shared was of the time she and “Aunt“ Jeanette met.
Mom traveled from the boonies as she called it to a place where they would meet up with another form of transportation like a bus and continue on to school. Mom describes having the seat next to her available and Jeanette asking to sit next to her. From that day on they were together. We have a video of this story too. Their friendship lasted a lifetime. Mom was unable to write as her Alzheimer's progressed, but my wife Cindy was able to write down a letter from mom to Jeanette as recently as a little over a year ago.
This is how mom was. She cherished every friendship she had. Another longtime friend was her best friend Mary Kern whom she retained ties with till the very end. After mom lost her ability to speak, dad would call Mary from time to time and tell mom about the conversation. Ironically, Mary also passed away 10 days after mom.
Mom took time to write / correspond and cared for the friends and family in her life. She had cards for all occasions not just Christmas. She sent out cards for Easter, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, anniversaries, thank you's and so on. That showed how much mom cared for people in her life. Even in small ways she would enjoy each holiday and personal occasion and use them to stay in touch with family and friends.
Thinking of Others With Foresight
Mom was always on the lookout for gifts for people that showed that she was always thinking of others even when she was not with them. There was a box in her room full of presents she had shopped for and was saving for the right occasion to give the present. She was smart and always prepared ahead of time for everything.
Mom cared about people and one of the ways she showed appreciation was when visiting someone who had given her gifts of clothing or jewelry, she would wear that clothing or jewelry to show appreciation when visiting those who had given them to her.
Back to mom being prepared for everything, it's a good thing she was always prepared for whatever was ahead, because after I was born, along came Marjorie a couple years later. Mom described Margie as willing to go outside and get her hands dirty making mud pies and not being bothered by the mess. Stan on the other hand had to clean his hands as soon as they got dirty.
Well, dad wanted one more kid to make an odd number of kids after Margie was born so mom got pregnant and surprise! There were two more! Lorraine and Mary were born. Now they were back at an even number so they needed to add one more to get the odd number and along came David. And so, David was the odd child. (Haha). They had their odd number of 5 kids in only 6 years.
Mom would tell of going to the grocery store with her five kids and a few people would be shocked and stare and say “you have too many children!” Not being afraid to speak her mind she would respond with, “which one should I take out and drown?“. That stopped the talking.
Mom's Quotes and Instruction
Mom was always quick and witty with her answers to people, and us kids. She had a few quotes and sayings that she loved as well.
Mom it seems never wanted to take away hope from us kids, so when we asked her for something to which the answer would be a no, she would say “we'll see”. So we kids would go off with the feeling that all hope was not lost, and giving us time to think about what we were asking for. Mom, and dad for that matter believed in giving us a road map to help us make our own decisions instead of making them for us.
Some of her other quotes that us 5 kids remember are:
- “Put your chin over your plate”,
- “Save your money, honey”,
- “they grow up so fast, enjoy them while you can”,
- “save the straws and napkins”
- And from what I hear, she also mentioned to the 4 younger siblings how much they could learn from me on a regular basis. (David > you taught us what NOT to do by the mistakes you made). (Stan > I wasn't going to mention that.)
Some favorite quotes from others:
- “I can handle any crisis, I have kids”,
- “Self Cleaning Kitchen, clean up after yourself”,
- “Proud to be an American”,
- “Grandma's Kitchen, kids eat free”,
- “Heaven's the place where all the dogs you've ever loved come to greet you”,
- “I look to the future because that is where I'm going to spend the rest of my life”,
- “the cost of raising a medium sized dog to the age of 11 is $16,400”,
- “However good or bad a situation is, it will change”,
- “Get rid of anything that is not useful, beautiful or joyful”,
- “No one is in charge of your happiness but you”,
- “Life is like a roll of toilet paper, the closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes”,
- “Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you, not because they are nice, but because you are”,
- “Remember that children are temporary. As soon as the develop a sense of humor and are good company, they pack up their electronic equipment and their clothes (and some of yours) and leave in a U-Haul to return only at Thanksgiving”.
Non quotes: Mom never said, “Wait till your father gets home!”. She dealt directly and on a timely basis with our hi-jinks
Stories of Growing Up With Mom
Sometimes us kids would get home from school before mom arrived home from whatever it was she was doing. Her instructions to us were to go straight to doing homework, and not to play or watch TV. Well, fortunately, the TV was in mom's bedroom which overlooked the driveway, so us kids figured we could watch TV and we would hear her coming down the driveway. Worked perfectly. Mom would come down the driveway, and us kids would turn the TV off and scatter to the various places we were doing homework. Yet, somehow, mom knew we were watching TV. She didn't tell us that she know about this, nor how she knew though. It was only some years later that mom confided in me that she knew, and kept it a secret. She said that she always know what we would be doing if we got home and she was not there. Can't do too much damage if we are watching cartoons. So how did she know? Well, the TV cast flickering lights on the ceiling of the bedroom which she could see coming down the driveway. She was too smart for us.
When I was a kid in my teen years, mom and I were talking about marriage and I insisted that I would never ever get married to a girl. Mom knew better of course and took the opportunity to make a friendly bet. She bet me a dollar that I WOULD get married. Well, time passed, and sure enough, I got married, and mom did not let me forget about that bet. She was looking for that dollar. I paid her with a silver certificate, which she kept to this day.
Later in life, I can remember quite clearly the “Mom and Dad” show. Frequently when we would call them, at some point in the call mom and dad would start playing off each other like a couple comedians. They would crack us up with their silly antics and bantering back and forth. I wish I could remember some of the conversations, I can't, but I can remember the great times on the phone and Facetime with the both of them laughing and having fun over the distance.
Keeping Mom Busy
The five of us kids and dad kept mom pretty busy. She joined twin mothers club... she did Girl Scouts with her friend Mary Kern, whom we mentioned earlier… … and because of dad's job with IBM, moved a lot from place to place in the country. 0ur mom and dad moved and mom made new homes many times. Poughkeepsie, NY, Carmel NY, Los Angeles CA, San Francisco CA, back to Carmel NY, Tucson AZ and finally Lake Havasu City AZ. I remember moving from Carmel NY to Los Angeles, mom drove our 1972 Chevy Van with 4 of us kids and a cat, and I followed behind on a motorcycle across the country.
Mom had good self-control and was a hard worker. When mom and dad built their houses in Tucson and Lake Havasu, mom was right in the midst of the work studying layouts and helping with the planning and construction.
Mom could make any place home. She was a great decorator. Her friend Pat Alban and mom created works of art in many pot shelf decorations and other house decorations that were gorgeous. All of her collections show different parts of who mom is. She could take nothing and make it into something. She saw value in everything even down to straws and napkins she frugally collected.
And she was able to keep up with dad and learn how to ride her own motorcycle… She started off learning on a 185 Suzuki dirt bike and eventually rode a 650 BMW on the street. Mom and dad crossed the country not once but twice together on a motorcycle and another time by car. They once were traveling by motorcycle through a National Park and saw a sign telling the tourists to roll up their windows if they spotted a bear. Dad turned his head back and asked mom if we had windows on our motorcycle.
She also learned how to shoot a gun…Mom was also a good target shooter. On two occasions, mom was the best shot at a competition held once a week at Sam's shooters emporium. Mom, with her 38 special was out shooting men who were using 22 target pistols. Dad was there but poor dad never won first place. The good news for mom was that her access to the shooting range was free when she won first place. Dad always had to pay!
Mom was a bowler too, having been a member of the Pink Panthers Bowling league for a while in Tucson where she made many friends.
Mom even learned to golf with her own golf clubs and camera… While on the golf course mom would stop on the fairways and take out her camera and take pictures of the birds and critters. Mom loved animals…
An Animal Lover
Mom was an animal lover and over the years had many cats and dogs. At one time she trained one of the family dogs to stay in an un-fenced yard.
Mom also had compassion for the sick and the elderly. She joined an organization where dogs were brought into nursing homes to visit the elderly and ill.
After her last dog, Pooh-Bear, passed many years ago, mom traded domesticated pets for wild animals and made her yard a sanctuary for birds, rabbits, and ground squirrels. She especially loved hummingbirds. She would lure these unsuspecting critters closer and get their pictures so she could share them with the family. She loved her “bun buns”, the little rabbits that would come around the house and loved drawing them out into the yard when she had visitors. Mom had a great bird feeder that she would fill each day and attract flocks of birds. When we would come to visit it was like going to a small zoo. It was so much fun seeing all her little animals throughout the days.
Mom had a couple clippings that told about cats and dogs too:
- Cat – a long gaze and a slow blink tells your cat that you love him, his slow blinks says that he loves you.
- Dog Kisses Can Make You Sick – bacteria and germs like salmonella and campylobacter(?). They get them in their mouth when eating spoiled food, or using his tongue as toilet paper.
Mom was also an avid gardener and through the years wherever we were she always had plants all over the place. She was even known to talk to her plants and encourage them, encouragement was in her nature. It amazed us that she was even able to get things to grow here in Lake Havasu, but she did. There are beautiful bushes and trees all around the outside of the house to remind us of her. She would also have plants inside the house. She liked the life they represented, and valued that life.
Mom loved collecting things. One thing she collected was bells, and she had a whole collection of them. She loved the beautiful and varied tones they make. She also carried a bell attached to her purse, and when it would ring and her kids or grand kids were around, she would tell them another angel got his wings.
Mom and dad's refrigerator was a record of all the places they had traveled recorded in the souvenir refrigerator magnets. Each magnet reminded her and dad of a place they had been together and they had been to a lot of places together, so the fridge was pretty full. Today they are a reminder for anyone looking at them of the places they have been.
She was also very frugally minded and collected extra straws and napkins rather than throwing them out when they ate out. This went along perfectly with their ability to entertain themselves. Mom and dad found entertainment in driving to several different grocery stores to use up their coupons or get the best deals in each store. She enjoyed being a frugal person.
Mom would make collections of things she would give away at Christmas, birthdays and other events as previously mentioned. She would collect the funny papers for Stan from the local newspaper and each time she came to visit I would get a stack of funnies to read. She was always thinking of other people.
Mom was a great crocheter as well, making clowns, blankets and other things. Mom's collections were part of making a home in each place she went to.
Mom was a great cook. She put recipe books together, and gave them away. I still have mine, one of my favorite dishes is Beef Stroganoff, which dad, Mary and I made this past week. Her cooking was where the saying came from, “this is not how my mom used to make it”, something I learned not to say early in my own marriage.
One thing though...mom apparently thought that lima beans were good for us. Sometimes she would make this dish called “hamburger soup”. Well, that dish consisted of hamburger meat with Veg-All vegetables poured in it. Veg-all soup had lima beans. All five of us kids were disgusted at the thought of eating lima beans. We never had dessert on hamburger soup night because in order to have dessert we were required to eat everything on our supper plate and that included the lima beans. About the only good thing we can say about Hamburger soup is that trying to swallow those lima beans without tasting them so we could have desert taught us how to swallow any prescription pills that we need to take.
Fortunately, hamburger soup was an exception in mom's recipe collection.
Keeping Her Mind Sharp
Mom always tried to keep her mind sharp, even through the struggle with Alzheimer's. She would work on Sudoku number puzzles and did so until she just couldn't any longer, then she worked on solitaire, then slide shows of photo files and listened to her favorite music.
Mom's type of Alzheimer's seemed to take away her ability to communicate and function with the little things, although she seemed to clearly remember people, events and things. We would look at pictures on the slide show for hours, and she would recognize the people in the pictures, she just couldn't talk about them. She never complained about it, ever, and worked hard to be the best she could be with what she had. She is an inspiration to her whole family.
Mom enjoyed life. She didn’t need things to make her happy. But she did enjoy the things she had. She was a great listener and would listen enthusiastically even up to the end when she was not able to talk back to us. She loved to laugh and never lost her sense of humor.
Conclusion – Entertaining and Caring For Mom To The End
Mom and dad enjoyed each other all through the years. But really continued to fall more in love later in life. Together they loved laughing. As mom's Alzheimer's disease progressed, dad wanted to insure that mom could comprehend TV programs that they watched together, consequently their programs consisted of humorous programs, mostly sit coms like the Carol Burnett show and Momma's Family. Mom seemed to comprehend those shows right to the end because dad and I could hear her laughing at the antics only a couple weeks before she passed.
At McDonald’s… They would go to McDonalds and in their frugal way, would order the two for one special, like two egg McMuffins or something for the price of one. He would always ask her which one she wanted, the free one, or the one they paid for, just to amuse her, and probably himself.
On McCulloch... They would be driving up the hill on McCulloch and when he got to the Bermuda side street, which veered off at a 45 degree angle instead of a sharp 90 degree, he would tell mom to hold on as if she were in a roller coaster and speed around the corner. Mom of course was hanging on and probably thinking here we go again or something like that.
Dad loved to play mom’s favorite music for her. He also set her computer up with all kinds of photographs that played one after another all day long for her viewing enjoyment. Every morning they started with a hug and every night ended with a kiss, and the kids joined in when they were here.
I hope to always have the love my parents demonstrated for me. Now it wasn’t always fun and games. Mom was a good disciplinarian.
Mom loved visiting all of us kids, and enjoyed sharing the things in life that made their kids, grand kids, and great grand kids happy.
We will miss her greatly.