I WAS ONE sentence into writing my column for May when I got The Call. I closed my laptop and raced down the road.
I was too late.
Mom was 93. Her death, while not unexpected, still felt sudden. As a friend of mine said, “You’re never old enough to lose your mom.”
Over that next week, while my sisters and I were busy with final funeral preparations, memories kept popping up like flowers, stories from a generation quickly slipping away.
Born Alma Mae Linn in Indianapolis in 1926, Mom lived out in the country on the White River for the first 10 years of her life. Her sister, Dorothy, was just a year older.
Those were different times. Mom told me that when she was two and Dot was three, they had a job: Every morning they had to make up their parents’ bed. As I tried picturing that, she continued: “We had one rule. If we found a gun, we were not to touch it.”
Shocked, I asked her, “Why would your parents have a gun in the bed?”
“Because,” Mom said, “you never knew who was coming down the river.”
Bootleggers. Federal agents. Assorted scalawags. Between Prohibition and the Depression, life could be dangerous.
Mom’s maternal grandparents lived in town. Grampa Broz was a constable, popular in the community and kind to his grandchildren. “When Dot and I were little,” Mom told me, “we’d wait outside the bathroom while he was taking his morning bath, just to get a whiff of the smell of his soap when he came out.” Over 80 years later, she still cherished that simple memory.
Mom’s father, a plumber, lost his job during the Depression. He went as far as Florida looking for work before he finally found a job in Washington, D.C. Marie, my grandmother, packed up Dot and Alma and they traveled by train to join Cecil.
The Linn family lived in Anacostia, renting the second floor of a small house. I visited there as a child. By today’s standards, it was a tiny, inadequate space. I remember a kitchen. My grandparents’ bed was in the living room. The one “bedroom” was more like a pass-through hallway. After another sister, Carol, came along, Dot and Alma slept on the unheated back porch. These were resilient people.
World War II erupted, and at age 16, Mom became one of the “government girls” working to support the war effort. One day, Mom was roller-skating at the Uline Arena in D.C. when she met a handsome young sailor. “He looked just like Ronald Reagan,” she told us, admiration filling her voice over 60 years later.
Clyde Bradley was 20 and Mom was just 18 when they got married in November 1944. After a brief honeymoon in New York, Dad had to report back to his ship. The next time he was home, the Bradley relatives were invited to come meet Clyde’s new bride. With my mom standing right there, his aunt looked at him and said, “Oh, so you didn’t marry Barbara?”
Whoever Barbara was, she could not have made a better wife than Mom. She and Dad were partners and best friends for 63 years. They had fun together, joking around constantly. When Dad took up golf in his forties, Mom did, too, learning to play well enough that she became part of a weekly foursome that included Dad and two other men.
Mom and Dad moved to Rockville, Md., in 1955, and joined a Methodist church, where they were faithful members for over 60 years. Like so many in the ’50s, Mom stayed home and Dad supported the family.
But Mom was not “just” a homemaker. She had skills. When my sisters and I were little, she made all our clothes. She also made drapes and curtains and learned to do upholstery. I remember her caning chairs, refinishing old trunks, and refinishing furniture. She took classes in pottery and Japanese flower arranging, and was a wonderful gardener and cook.
After raising her three daughters, Mom established a career, first as a church secretary, and later as an administrative assistant and editor with a defense contractor.
Mom faced Dad’s death in 2008 with courage. It couldn’t have been easy, as close as they were. Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
My sister Karen, who lives in King George, brought her here for treatment. Her radiation oncologist, Dr. John Chinault, quickly picked up on Mom’s ability to joke around and began teasing her about being from Maryland. She teased him right back.
Her humor got her through so much. Her kindness got her even further. After she moved to The Crossings at Falls Run, Mom made friends—friends she ate with, friends she walked with, friends she cared for. She was invariably kind, always trying to make sure the people around her were comfortable, even after dementia had set in.
The staff at The Crossings loved her and we came to love them. They were (and are) patient, creative, and loving. More than caregivers, they are professionals, and we knew Mom was safe with them.
And so, on April 29, I stood over Mom’s lifeless body. I touched her cheek one more time, shed some tears, and prayed, thanking God for her life, for her courage, kindness, and faith. She was not famous, but she was ours. I look forward to seeing her again.