Born on March 30, 1910, my mother wasn't a pretentious lady. Married just prior to the start of the depression, she had a tendency to watch over her income and expenses, while raising five children. Our family wasn't poor by any means, but I don't recall my mother ever going out to buy herself a new overcoat, or a new dress, or anything of that nature. But, her children never lacked for anything.
She was a very loving and giving person. If any of her children, or friends, ever needed anything, she was always there to help. In her latter years, I got to know my mother very well while she was living with me before she had her second stroke. She was a very warm, friendly person. I don't know of anyone who didn't like her after they met her. I've had several girlfriends over the years, and my mother always made them feel as if they were a part of our family, maybe hoping I'd marry one of them. I don't think she ever intentionally tried to hurt anybody. That wasn't her nature.
Mom had a lot of friends she cared about, and who cared about her. I remember, as a youngster, going with my mother to visit my father's sisters and his mother, as well as going to visit her own sisters, and her father who was in a nursing home. I also remember going with my mother, along with my younger brother Bob, to visit my grandparents graves.
Taking care of my mother over the past few years was very hard and stressful on me. But, I wouldn't trade those years for anything. After suffering her second stroke in 1995, Mom developed asphaxia, which is the inability to speak clearly. She would say something, but what I heard was usually something different from what she was trying to say. Yet, there were moments when she did speak clearly. And, it was a joy to be able to talk to her.
When Mom was in the hospital after suffering her stroke, I brought in a portable tape player, and played a tape of Christmas songs that my brothers, Glenn and Bob, and I had recorded several years ago at Christmastime. I didn't know if Mom was going to live or die, so I played that tape over and over for her. I thought it might help her. I don't know if it did or not, but she did survive the stroke. And, I had the good fortune of having her with me for two more years.
Although it was usually unintentional, my mother said a lot of funny things. One result of my mother's stroke, was some difficulty in swallowing. I had to be careful with what I fed her, and I had to use a thickening agent for liquids.
Because of her swallowing difficulty, I had to rely more and more on feeding her a liquid nutritional substitute. Fortunately, she liked the taste of it. I would give her the can with a straw, and she would drink it. I bought some adult size bibs for Mom to wear in case she spilled, which she did on a regular basis, and placed a towel over the bib to ensure that Mom didn't get wet if she did spill. I had a tray table next to her bed, and I would tell her to "Put the can on the table when you're through". She often did, and I would say to her "You did good". And I would give her a big "did good" kiss. She would smile in that wondrous smile of hers. She liked getting a "did good" kiss as much as I liked giving it to her.
On one occasion, when I walked into her room I noticed she had spilled most of the can onto the towel and bib. Kiddingly, I asked Mom, "Who spilled this? Did you spill this Mom?" Mom was adamant in her response. She said "No". Then I asked "Well then, who did it?" Mom replied "Fitterer". I had a good laugh. My mother was visited every two months by a podiatrist who would clean and clip her toenails. His name was Dr. Fetterer. On his last visit, I told Dr. Fetterer that my mother told me what he had done. I repeated what Mom said, and the Doctor and I laughed about it. Dr. Fetterer told me that he enjoyed working with my Mom, because she would always tell him stories about her home town in Illinois. He said she always made sense, even up to his last visit with Mom, when they were talking.
Whether it was because they kept her warm, or made her feel more secure, Mom really liked having the towels across her chest. When any of the home health aides who cleaned her up on a daily basis came and tried to remove the towel, Mom would say "No, that's mine". Only after being reassured that the towel would be given back to her would Mom relinquish it. And, when I bought some new towels for her to use, Mom would say "Oh, that's pretty". Little things meant a lot to Mom.
Mom always had a sweet tooth. When I going to go to the grocery store, I would always ask her if there was something she wanted me to get for her. She usually described something but I couldn't always understand what she was saying. So, I told her I would try to find it. Then she would always say "And, Ice Cream". I always had ice cream and pudding on hand for her. One day, I had a lot of difficulty in getting Mom to take her pills in the morning, and I was getting a little frustrated. Katie Jones (one of mom's home health aides, whom mom really liked), was here at the time and suggested that I put the pills in the pudding. So, that's what I did, and then I fed Mom the pudding. Mom ate all the pudding, and spit out the pills.
Mom was very appreciative of the care she received. She would always say to me, or the home health aides, "Thank you!" for whatever we did for her. One time I asked her why she said "thank you" so much. She replied "I want to"! And, my Mom would always say "I love you" to me and the women who became her friends. Mom had an adoring smile. And she would smile at us when she said that.
On numerous occasions, my Mom would ask me "Where are the girls"? It took me quite a while to figure out that Mom meant Katie Jones, Betty Washington, and Lenora Herriott - the women who took such good care of Mom and whom she truly loved.
Mom often became confused and apparently thought she was in a hospital. She would ask me to "take her home". I would then tell Mom that she was home. That she was in her room, and all the pictures on the wall were her pictures, and the furniture in the room was her furniture, that she was with me, and I would take care of her. And, she would always say "Good. That's what I want".
I never wanted Mom to know how difficult it was for me, at times, to care for her. I always tried to give her a smile and a cheerful outlook. Many times, when I smiled at her, she would say to me "You have such nice teeth". I had to laugh and give her a hug. I was always telling her she was "getting better and better every day". I wanted to believe it, and I wanted her to believe it also. But I was sitting and talking with her one day, holding her hand and telling her how happy I was that she was with me so that I could care of her, and watch over her every day. She reached over, patted my arm, and said "It's hard". I guess she knew.
Thanks to my aunt Alma, with whom Mom and I lived, I was able to leave the house fairly often, if only for a short period of time. When I did go out and returned home, the first thing I would do would be to go to my mother's room and say to her "Hi, Mom, I'm home", then walk up to her and give her a smile, a hug and a kiss! My Mom and I both liked our hugs and kisses. Not a day went by where I didn't give my Mom a hug, a kiss and a smile. I think she deserved at least that much.
When we first moved in with my Aunt, my Mom's bed was in a small porch in the rear of the house, next to my bedroom. I had an addition built onto my Aunt's house, which included new bedrooms for my Mom and myself. I designed Mom's room so she would have a big window so she could look outside. I also had a bathroom built that connected to my Mom's room, so her "girls" would have easy access to a sink. Mom liked her room, and I adorned the walls with photos of her kids and grandkids, and with several momentos she had brought with her when she moved in with me. I also hung up on the wall an award certificate that I created for Mom on my computer that said "World's Best and Greatest Mom". I placed all of her kids names on the certificate, and Mom liked it. I believe she truly was the "World's Best and Greatest Mom".
During the construction, I had gone off to a store to pick up something for my mother. While I was gone, my aunt slipped and fell down on the temporary ramp leading from the back door. My aunt started hollaring for help. Apparently, none of the neighbors heard her, and I wasn't home. Shortly thereafter I returned home, and went into my Mom's bedroom to let her know I was back. She told me she had heard some noise out in back. I went out in back and found my aunt sitting on the ground. I helped my aunt to get up and to get back into the house. When I returned to my mother, she asked me what the noise was. I told her that Alma had fallen down in the back yard. My Mom asked me with some concern "Killed?" To my mother's relief, I told her no, that Alma was alright?
In order to build the addition to the house, it was necessary to move Mom twice. First, we moved her from her small room into the bedroom I was using. I, in turn, started sleeping on a recliner in the front room. Later, we had to move Mom from the bedroom into the living room. When Mom was moved into the living room, three of the construction workers lifted Mom from her bed and placed her in a recliner in the frontroom. While she was being carried into the front room, Mom had a big smile on her face. She was enjoying it. Then, the workers took apart her hospital bed, carried the parts into the front room, and put it back together. After it was put back together, the workers lifted mom from the recliner to the bed. Again, Mom was smiling and she said to the men, "Light as a feather". All the workers started laughing, as did I.
Several months prior to her stroke, while we were sitting in the living room, my Mom told me that her right arm was numb. I called for the paramedics who took her to the emergency room. It turned out that Mom had a blood clot in a vein in her arm. The doctors performed vascular surgery to remove the clot. Before returning home, Mom went to a rehabilitation hospital where she was helped to walk and move around again. Mom lost a lot of weight when she was in the hospital, and later in the rehabilitation hospital. No matter how hard I tried to push food on her, she never ate enough to gain any of it back.
After Mom had her stroke and had sufficiently recovered, she again went to a rehabilitation hospital where she received physical, speech, and occupational therapies. Right after she had been admitted, I met the physical therapist, who happened to be a male.
Once, when I came to visit Mom, the physical therapist was in the room with her. Mom turned to me and said "I don't know who this is". I explained to her that the man was a physical therapist who was going to try to help her to walk with her walker. My Mom, who was by then frail, and very thin, seemed relieved by my explanation and turned to the therapist and said solemnly, "I'm sorry I was so hard on you"! I had to leave the room to go outside to laugh.
One of my mothers home health aides was a black lady named "Katie". Katie has been taking care of Mom for almost four years, and became a part of the family. Katie introduced some slang into Mom's vocabulary, that Mom readily adopted.
On one occasion, when I was alone with my Mom, she said "Give me some sugar". I laughed, and went over to give Mom a hug and a kiss - some "sugar". After I gave her the hug and kiss, Mom said "More sugar". So, I gave her a bigger hug and kiss. I would always say to her "You're MY Mom, Jennie K. Stanley". I would get her smile in return.
After taking care of Mom, when Katie was ready to leave she would say to Mom "Give me some sugar". And, Mom would give Katie a big kiss, and would say to Katie "I love you". And, Mom meant it.
A couple of weeks ago, I was outside in the garage working on a computer, and came into the house to give Mom some water. After Mom had her fill, I asked her if she wanted anything else. Mom said "Sugar". I started wondering whether Mom wanted some pudding, or, her favorite, ice cream. So, before I asked Mom anything further, I went back to the garage to put some things away for the evening when it hit me. I turned around, went back into Mom's bedroom and gave her a couple of big hugs and kisses. She wanted some "sugar".
I had a little game I played with Mom, where I would walk into her room crouched over with my shoulders hunched up, and Mom would give me the biggest smile because she knew I was coming over to give her a big hug and kiss. Mom loved getting hugs and kisses, and I loved giving them to her.
During the past year, all of Mom's kids, including three grandchildren, were able to visit Mom. Mom perked up with each visit, although it took some time for her to recognize her children. When my older brother Glenn, and his son Danny, came out to visit last January, Glenn walked into Mom's room and Mom took one look at him and said "Lester Stanley". I don't know if she thought it was Dad, or whether she meant to say "Glenn" with it coming out "Lester". At different times, Mom called me "Father", or "Ethel", or some other name. But, she knew it was me, and I knew what she meant. And, if you asked Mom what her name was, she would always reply "Jennie". She knew for sure who she was.
During Glenn and Danny's visit, Katie came to take care of Mom. When Katie entered Mom's bedroom, Danny was there with Mom. Katie saw Danny and asked Mom, "Who is this"? Mom pointed to Danny and replied with a sense of pride, "This is my grandson"! I know it made Danny feel good to know his grandmother knew who he was.
Shirley and Jerry came to visit Mom in late August. When she first saw Jerry, I noticed my Mom trying to say his name, forming the letter "J" with her mouth, but without success. However, when Jerry walked into Mom's room the next day, she said very clearly, "Hi, Jerry". As before, it took her a little time to recognize Shirley. Mom had a short term memory problem, and I think my Mom was thinking of her children as kids, and not as the adults they became. She would always ask me, "Where are the kids"? She liked her kids being with her.
Last September, my oldest brother, Chubby (Lester, Jr.), and his wife, Judy, came out to visit Mom. It took a couple of days for Mom to realize who Chubby was, although she recognized Judy immediately. On one occasion, Chubby leaned over Mom and gave her a kiss. After the kiss, Mom said "Gooood". She would say that to me also after a big hug and a kiss, "That was goooood".
My brother, Bob, would call Mom on a weekly basis. I bought her a headset telephone, so she could talk and hear Bob without having to hold on to a handset. On most occasions, but not all, it was difficult for Bob to understand what Mom was saying to him. Bob, and his son Bobby, came out to visit Mom last January. Bob was only able to visit for a few days, but on day before he left, Bob and Mom were able to talk, and understand, each other. To Bob, that made his trip worthwhile. And, it made Mom happy too.
All of the months of becoming bed ridden finally started taking their toll on Mom. Although her nurses made a fantastic effort to control any bed sores, eventually her body broke down. A large and painful bed sore developed on Mom's backside. Mom's inner strength was amazing. Because of the bed sore, Mom had to turned from side to side every two hours to relieve the pressure on the bed sore. If I wasn't careful in doing so, even propping her up in bed to eat would hurt her.
Turning her in the bed was very painful for Mom, and she would cry out in pain. Yet, after she was turned, I would ask her if it felt better, and she would say "Yes, Thank You". And when the home health aides turned cleaned and turned her, my Mom would again say to them, "Thank You". Through it all, Mom would still offer her beautiful, winsome smile. She was a treasure.
Mom had two television sets in her room. The television set she brought with her from Illinois needed repair, so while it was being fixed I bought a smaller one so she would be able to watch television. Having the two televisions was helpful. No matter what direction Mom was facing, she would be able to watch one of the televisions. Mom had some favorite shows she liked to watch. One was a talk show hosted by Charles Grodin on CNBC, and another was a local news program who's sports anchor was named Ted Leitner. When either of the two appeared on the screen, Mom would tell me "I like him". Many times, when the programs were on, I would enter Mom's room and see her waving to the television set. I guess Mom thought they were her friends. It was cute in a way. But, it was sad in a way also because Mom no longer had visitors from home. Her old friends were either living back in Illinois, or had died.
When Mom went into the hospital for the last time, I would visit her three or four times a day. I would enter her room and say "Hi Mom, I'm here", like I did when I had gone out for a short time and returned home. When the home health aides were working with my mother at home, they would close her bedroom door to give her some privacy. I would again say "Hi, Mom, I'm here" through her door. She would always reply "I want to see you". As soon as they would finish with her, I would go in to see her, give her a hug and a kiss, and say to her "Oh, you look nice". On several occasions my Mom would reply with amazement "I do"? And, I would say "You sure do"! The home health aides always made my Mom look nice.
The nurses at the hospital told me that my Mom always perked up when I came to visit, which made me feel very nice. I always told her that Bob, Glenn, Chubby, and Shirley asked me to tell her that they loved her very much, and that I too loved her very much. Although she was sedated, wore an oxygen mask, and couldn't speak, I could feel her give my hand a squeeze.
I called a friend of mine just to talk for awhile, and her mother, who had been nurse for nearly thirty years answered the phone. I mentioned to her that my mother was squeezing my hand, and I didn't know if she heard me, or if it was a reflex action. She replied "Oh, No. She's telling you that she can hear you."
That evening, when I went to visit my mother, I again mentioned all of my brother's and sisters names, added the names of several nieces and nephews, and told her they all loved her very much. My mother gave my hand a very hard squeeze. I knew then that she did hear me, and was responding to me.
Our friends Betty and Katie visited Mom in the hospital. Katie, after entering my Mom's room, said her usual and cheery "Hi, Jen, Jen" to Mom. My mother responded to Katie by saying, "I'm tired, not now", thinking Katie was there to clean her up or give her a bath.
Being told my mother was going to pass away, Betty and Katie became very supportive. Katie came by and helped me pick out the clothing that my mother would wear. We picked some really pretty clothes that I know Mom would like. When my mother moved out here to live with me, she didn't bring much of her jewelry with her, not that she had very much. I wanted to her to have something nice from me, so I went and bought a gold necklace with a heart shaped medallion that said "I love you". I went up to visit my mother in the hospital, and I told her that I bought a really pretty necklace for her that said "I love you".
Although she was heavily medicated and wearing an oxygen mask, I could see her lips move and heard her say "Thank You". I replied "No, Thank You", because I was truly the one who was blessed.
My Mom slept a lot while she was at home. Sometimes, when she was awake, I would tell her that I was going to take a nap, and if she was tired she should take one too. On several occasions, she would pat the bed next to her and ask me if I wanted to take a nap there. I would have to explain to her that her twin size hospital bed was a little bit too small for me, but that I would be in the next room.
While she was with me, every night I would start to tuck Mom into bed and tell her "I love you, Mommy, sleep good, have nice dreams. I'll watch over you tonight like I always do, and wake you in the morning and give you a big kiss". After I tucked her in, I would turn on some music for her, and I would say to her "night, night". She would always reply to me "I love you, Bye, Bye", which was her way of saying "night, night".
So, when I was with her in the hospital when she passed away, I was holding her hand, stroking her hair, which she liked, and talking to her, telling her how much everybody loved her. I told her to "sleep good and have nice dreams". She died early on a Sunday morning.
On the way home from the hospital, I turned on my car radio. I don't know what radio station was on, but a religious program was on. When I stopped at a stoplight, the person on the radio said, "The widow knew God, and was with God". It startled me, and I started to cry. I thought about that for a long time afterwards. Was it a coincidence, or was it a message to me? After careful thought, I realized that for me to hear that message, I had to be in my car at that exact time, I had to turn the radio on, I had to have that particular radio station on, and, I had to be listening to the program. All that is too much to be a coincidence. I know it was a message, and it gave me some peace of mind. I think that was my mom's intention.
I'm sure that all of Mom's extended family and friends have several fond memories of Jennie K. Stanley. I don't think Mom was ever truly aware of how she touched so many lives. She was a very special person.
It's been over a year and a half since mom's passing, and I've started to look through and clean up her belongings. Mom, much like her son, hated to throw things away. I found so many birthday and Christmas cards she received over the years from her children and friends. She obviously had a lot of friends, nieces, and nephews who truly held her dear. And, many photographs of her children and grandchildren, many of which I've never seen before. I'll keep those for her, and put them in a safe place..
One item I found, was her high school diploma, which she earned through a correspondence school, while also getting straight "A's". Getting that high school diploma was one of her proudest achievements. I'm so proud of Mom for her perseverance and achievement.
Mom's passing is hard to bear, because of how close I came to her while caring for her. But, she has left me with a lifetime of fond memories. Mom's sense of humor, her beautiful smile, her sparkling eyes, her generosity, her intelligence, the love she had to offer to her children, grandchildren and friends, and most importantly the inner strength she showed while tolerating the obvious pain, have given me a deeper regard, admiration and love for her. She was a strong and courageous person. I'm proud of my Mom. I'm proud and blessed to know I'm one of her kids. I'll remember, love and miss her always. She truly was, and will always be, "The World's Greatest Mom"!
(Her Loving Son) Jim Stanley
I will miss grandma a lot. I always think of the old Christmas parties the family used to have. and when ever I would bend over to pick something up she would hit me on my butt and say "good chance", and she would laugh. She would always make me hot chocolate and we would play go fish or checkers. I always loved grandma cause when everyone would ask me what baseball player I would be, she would say-"you're going to be Bobby Stanley." and she meant just to be myself. She never expected anything for all the good things she did for me. She always said that even if I wasn't a baseball player when I grew up, she would still be proud of me for being me. I loved grandma a lot and I will miss her a lot.
(Her Grandson) Bobby Stanley
I went to visit Grandma on Friday, and it was one of the hardest things I have ever, ever done. I'm glad I did, though. She was pretty much out of it, what with being medicated with morphine for her pain. I talked to her and stroked her hair and temples, and kissed her hand. I told her I loved her and she squeezed my hand very hard. I told her I wished she could open her eyes, so that I could see her beautiful, dancing blue eyes again. I could tell she was trying, and she got them open just a crack. I wanted so badly just to hold her, but it wasn't possible so I just kept talking. I told her how much I appreciated her kindness throughout my life. And thanked her for teaching me how to play Scrabble and 500 Rummy! We used to play for hours on end. I also credit her with my love for reading. I miss her more than you could ever know.
She and I have had some great heart-to-heart talks. My Grandmother was truly a wise woman. She had a good deal of trials and tribulations in her life, yet she always maintained her sense of humor. In the later years of her life, she seemed to require a lot of attention, and when asked, "How are you, Grandma", she would tell the truth, saying "I hurt", or "Not so good." Most of us would have answered, "Oh, I'm fine." I remember I would just tell her, "I'm sorry you're not feeling so good", then we would get on with our conversation.
In the past couple of years, after her second stroke, she couldn't speak too well. It was difficult for me to go down to San Diego to see her. At first I would try to go every month or so. Then, about a year ago, I just stopped -- it was too hard. I had planned to go again in August when my parents were here visiting; unfortunately, I had a problem with my car and I couldn't make it. How I wish I could hear her voice again, even if she wasn't making sense or didn't know who I was.
My son Daniel went to San Diego with me on Friday. He wanted to see his great grandma, but he's too young to get into the intensive care unit. I explained to him that she was really ill, and he was better off just waiting for me in the waiting room. After my second visit with her in the hospital on Friday, Danny and I went down to the Chapel at the hospital. It's amazing what a comfort an 8-year old child can be! There was a book where people could write their thoughts and prayers, and Danny insisted on writing something. He wrote, "Dear God, Please take care of my great grandmother. My mom and I love her very, very much. Thank you." It was tough for me to keep it together after reading that.
Grandma is in my prayers, as are all of you -- and Grandpa. I've been away from the family for many years, and so much has changed during those years. I hope you all can keep the wonderful memories of past Thanksgivings and Christmases, as I do. As a child, my favorite night of the year was Christmas Eve. This wasn't because of presents and Santa coming the next morning -- it was because of all of us getting together and singing Christmas Carols (and the Red Baron song!!). I was fortunate to have a musical family, and uncles who I thought were the best singers on Earth! (I was just a kid -- what do you expect!)
I'll always remember my Grandmother as one the the most influential people in my life.
Love to all,
(Her Granddaughter) Jeanne Bardonner
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