Mom with Eliza, her great-granddaughter. One of her favorite photos.
I’ve just returned from a most marvelous trip to Paris, France, coupled with a week-long river cruise from Paris to Normandy and back. A highlight of the trip was our journey to Omaha Beach, where American troops suffered great losses as they stormed the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944. This year was the 75th anniversary of this significant event.
I’ve always wanted to go on a river cruise and WWII, D-Day and Omaha Beach have always been of interest to me. Mostly because my mom and dad were teenagers during that time–with dad in the air force and mom a Rosie the Riveter at Douglas Aircraft in Oklahoma City. Dad was a radio operator and mom built parapacks for the C-47 and was a riveter in the tail cone section of the C-54.
Yesterday, when I returned from my trip, I went to visit mom in her facility. I showed her pictures of Paris and talked about the war museum there that featured many artifacts and pictures of the WWII effort. I shared a picture I had taken of soldier supplies–to which she commented that these were the exact supplies she had included in the parapacks she had worked on (supplies parachuted in to our soldiers on the battlefield).
I showed her pictures of a Rosie the Riviter, a montage of D-Day soldiers and parachuters and airmen. I shared my pictures and reactions to walking along Omaha Beach and my visit to the American cemetery, which included singing the national anthem while facing the thousands of tombstones. Then I handed her a tiny box filled with Omaha Beach sand that I had impulsively scooped up and placed inside my jacket pocket. She cried–because she remembered.
I’ve titled this post after the song, “In the Bleak Midwinter.” I love this song because I love the piano and the violin–and because it reminds me of my mom. It’s sad and poignant–but also beautiful. Most of you reading this post probably don’t know this, but my mom is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s–a journey neither of us expected.
She’s in a good place with excellent care. She’s found a way to be content. In her mind she’s living in a school, where she’s a teacher–and the other residents are her former students. She knows all of you by name and is comforted that you are there in the facility with her. My brother, Dan, is there, too, she thinks, as are her friends and relatives from Baldwin. She recognizes me, but doesn’t remember that I am her daughter. We’re friends and she appreciates the fact that I come to visit.
She still has some days that are good. And yesterday was one of them. Those are the days when she remembers.
I’ve attached the song “In the Bleak Midwinter” if you’d like to listen to it. I want you to know, however: as hard as this season is for my mom, there are also moments of beauty and joy along this journey.
In the Bleak Midwinter