Mother’s Day is an important day on my calendar. I mark the day because my wife Carol is the mother of two wonderful children who love her dearly. I honor her because of the love and devotion she has given them since birth. My life is better because of the three of them. I can share in their love and their bond of kinship, although I came into their lives later. I also honor my mother. She has been gone since 1958, when cancer took her after a terrible illness. It was not a good death, for her or for me. Those were the days when children (I was 15) were kept away from the dying. I barely shared in her decline as my family attempted to act like nothing was happening. We never talked about her illness or the inevitable outcome. I think my entire small town was more actively involved in her illness than I was. I was just numb. Some years later I was able to embrace the grief of losing her too soon.
She was a good mother, doing her best to raise a son who could be more than difficult at times. In the 1950’s, Attention Deficit Disorder definitely existed, but she and everyone else just thought I was not performing up to my potential for some unknown reason. I do know that I was a lot of trouble and she always hung in there with me. I have difficulty memorizing anything, but my multiplication tables will never leave me because of her persistence.
My maternal grandmother lived with us until she moved to a home for the blind a few years before she died. She always gave me unconditional love, and was understanding and supportive all the time with me. We weren’t terribly close, but my fond memories of her remain with me.
I never knew my paternal grandmother, Pearl Willits Shanks. She died during WWII when I was an infant. Ironically, I feel close to her now as I tell a story about her several times a day at Four Mile Historic Park. She was a remarkable woman who put up with a dour Scot of a husband and three strong-willed children for many years. They all remembered her with love.
The story I tell about her about her is this: In 1887, when she was twelve years old and growing up on a farm in Texas, her father, Lee Willits moved the family to Basalt, Colorado. They had several wagons and some livestock. My grandmother Pearl drove one of the horse-drawn wagons all the way from Texas. Not familiar with mountain roads when going over Pearl Pass from Taylor Park over the Elk Mountains, they did not get into Ashcroft outside Aspen until 11 PM. Pearl drove her wagon over Pearl Pass when she was 12 years old. The elementary school children at Four Mile who hear this story are always impressed.
I honor my mother, Grace LaVonne Blanchard Shanks, and my grandmothers, Pearl Willits Shanks and Daisy Edna Oyler Blanchard; Carol Leavenworth, my wife, mother of two wonderful adult children who have brought so much joy into my life. I honor all mothers and the miracle of bringing new life into the world. Happy Mother’s Day.