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May 24, 1925
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My mother was born eighty-one years ago today. I wish I knew what kind of day it was, how long my grandmother was in labor, where my grandfather was. I think she was born in a hospital, although I don't know which one, and it's possible she was born in the house where my her mother was born in Lambertville. She was in kindergarten when Black Thursday occurred and, although her father never lost his job as a meter reader for New Jersey Public Service Electric & Gas, the entire family would become fixers and hoarders and pack rats, representing the true spirit of recycling long before it was popular. She earned a Bachelors degree from what was then Trenton State College and a Master in Education from Rutgers.

She taught elementary school for about eight years before I was born and then became what today is politely called a stay-at-home mom. My sister was born about four years later, and by the time we were teenagers my mother was chafing at being bound to the house, but didn't know how to get back into the workforce. There were no programs to help with retraining, no community colleges to aid in the transition, little to no support from others in the community (or from my father who, to be fair, had no idea how to help).

She had her first stroke when she was only 48, the same age I am today. Although there was little physical damage - some diminished sight in one eye - the personality changes were startling, dramatic and permanent. She became volatile, unpredictable, violent and an alcoholic. Her behavior was so erratic that her own mother, who lived next door, wouldn't come to visit any longer. Much as there were no programs to help with job re-entry, for a family out on the fringes of the suburbs who did not like to acknowledge any problems at all, there was no help for the mental and emotional issues that each of us faced.

Three years after the first stroke, when she was fifty-one years and 5 months old, I got a call at college that she had gone to the hospital to have an apparently broken bone x-rayed, collapsed in the emergency room, and died a few hours later. I can't remember what that day was like, or who drove me home from State College, or how long it took, or how many days I was away from school. I did get a 4.0 that term, the result of focusing my every effort on fulfilling my mother's belief that I would be successful in whatever I did.

I imagine that that day in 1925 was just like today - clear skies, warm breezes, the lilacs and irises in bloom. At least, I hope that's what it was like.

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