Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Connie from South Dakota

My mother, Connie, on a visit to Upstate New York in 2010.

Sitting in my parents' living room last November, my mother, Connie, pulled a folder out of a box by her chair.

Inside the box and folders were stories, stories my mom had written over the years in her spare time or in writing classes. I'm sure I'd seen the box or folders before, but I'd never taken the time to read through the stories it contained.

She pulled out one story in particular and handed it to me to read. The story took place in 1966, at her family's farm house in South Dakota, when she was 22.

It was a story that encompassed some of the same themes of many of the rest of the stories in that box. It was a story of her family, her recollections of growing up in South Dakota and her eventual move to Iowa, where I came along.

It was also a story of the impact that her particular form of Muscular Dystrophy had on her life, both to that point and going forward.

I read that story, sitting in the living room of the Iowa house where I grew up. The rest of the stories, though, I wouldn't get to read until later, after my mother passed away.

She passed away just before Christmas, just over a month after my visit. She had been losing weight for some time, so the thought that she would pass was there. But we never thought it would happen as quickly as it did.

In the whirlwind days that followed, my wife and I, went through the house, filling boxes full of memories to send back with us to our home in Upstate New York.

What has helped me in the weeks and months since her passing, has been these stories.

They're personal stories of my family. But they're also stories of her experience growing up in a large South Dakota farm family in the 1940s and 1950s, growing up with her form of Muscular Dystrophy.

Weakness in her legs required full braces on both, in order for her to walk. With the braces, she also needed crutches to get around.

Her form of the disease was similar, if a little more profound, than my own. I have a lesser form of the braces, but don't require crutches. It's just one of the many ways my wife tells me that my mother and I were alike.

Reading through my mother's stories, it's that disability experience that had me start this blog. These were stories of a particular place and time, of a girl and her family dealing with a disability that the world at that time wasn't fully prepared to address.

The other reason for starting this blog is simply to get my mother's stories out to an audience, or at least to family and friends and whoever might stumble across it.

The stories are written both in longhand and typed up. I think I'll post them page-by-page, trying to post a page a day. I may introduce a new story with a memory or some context. But the rest of the post will be all my mother.

As for the story my mother showed me in November, the one that reminded me later that this cache of her writing was there, it was the story that reflected her life to that point and the path that her life would take going forward.

It was also profoundly prophetic that she would show me that story at that time.

It was the story of the passing of her mother, my grandmother.

That will be the first story I post. From there, I think I'll just work my way through everything, until all the stories of Connie from South Dakota are up.

I'm just so glad to have these stories and be able to share them.

Growing up in South Dakota
Going out on her own
Life in Iowa
Disability awareness
Mom's Family
Mom's 1994 paper on education of children with disabilities
Creating Writing

1 comment:

  1. First off, Steve...I'd like to send you condolences on the loss of your mother. Second...and I'm sure you've heard this a hundred times before...you look a lot like your mom :) And third...I'm looking forward to reading your mother's story. Thanks for sharing it.