Thursday, March 12, 2009

Always a Lady

Recently, I sent a brief history of some highlights in my Mother’s 89-year life in Tomahawk, Wisconsin, to Darlene Wurl. Mrs. Wurl is putting together displays featuring some of the women who contributed much to my hometown community through their civic activities.

My little story included the obvious. My mother was a founding member of her Christian Science society, and later served as First Reader for more that 20 years. Mom also was a long-time member of several clubs that sponsored many civic activities and improvements. She was elected to the Board of Education, perhaps the first woman to achieve that distinction, and served for 11 years, the last nine as Board President. She was the first woman to hold the board presidency.

What my story left out, because it was inappropriate for Mrs. Wurl’s project, was the most important thing. My Mother was first, last, and always a lady. I never heard her utter a negative comment about a fellow human being. When the going got tough, her responses never were anger or regret; they were positive, sympathetic, and encouraging. She would not have considered striking her children, or anyone else. She dressed up before walking downtown to shop.

When Mother was about 87, she became very weak and tired. Finally, she strayed from her Christian Science principles in an effort to stop her decline. With a referral from Doctor R. J. Henderson, who had been a fellow board of education member, she went to the Marshfield Clinic for a series of tests.

Like the much more famous Mayo Clinic, the Marshfield Clinic was known throughout Wisconsin and much of the Midwest as an outstanding diagnostic institution. It attracted many doctors considered authorities in their specialties. Mom’s first tests showed a need for more focused exams, and she asked me to come home and drive her to the clinic for that work and to hear the diagnosis by an expert M.D.

The expert was a kindly man in his mid-50s who was very professional in explaining the problem. Mom’s hearing was not good, so he talked primarily to me and I repeated what he said so we would be sure Mom understood. The bottom line was that her body was not making sufficient white blood corpuscles, and the only treatment our expert knew of was a male hormone in capsule form, which he prescribed.

Mom nodded quite agreeably at that part of the news. But then, the doctor went into a description of side effects from taking the hormone. “You will develop more hair on your arms and legs than you have now,” he said. He smiled just slightly, and said Mom might even want to shave off a few whiskers that the drug could cause to sprout.

Mother didn’t wait for me to repeat a word of that. “Listen, young man,” she told the middle-aged physician, “I’ve been a lady all my life, and I’m not going to do one single thing that will change that.”

I reasoned with Mom on the drive home. She relented a little, and I had the prescription filled at Tomahawk Drug. About a month later on another visit, I noticed the medicine bottle in a bathroom cabinet. Mom had not taken a single capsule.

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