Mom’s birthday

October 14 is…was…my mom’s birthday.

Do you have a few moments to learn something about an incredible — and underappreciated — woman?

LEFT: Alberta LeGendre (Age 33) RIGHT: Me (Age 17)

  • She was born at home in 1913.  If you look closely, you can see slight indentions in her head where the “doctor” used forceps during the delivery (that “new and improved” technique was quite fashionable at the time).
  • That same doctor told her mother she couldn’t risk having any more children and performed a “hysterectomy.”  The cost of the procedure was several hundred dollars, the equivalent of $3 – 5,000 in today’s world.  Her mother had 3 more children after that, all boys.  Back then, people never sued doctors, and believed the initials M. D. spelled “God.”
  • When she was a child, mom cut part of a finger off with a knife.  Her mother cleaned the wound with lysol, wrapped both pieces together with tape, and the entire finger knitted together. 
  • At the age of 4 years, she stood on a stool in the kitchen to wash all of the dishes for each meal.  She had to eat with the adults, which was boring, and she wanted to eat at the kids table with her brothers.  While her brothers ate, talked and laughed, she was washing dishes for hours every day.  Until the moment of their death, her brothers swore that she was given special treatment because, “She got to eat with the adults.”
  • In elementary school, mom saw a map of the world and told her teacher it looked as if all of the continents fit together at one time.  Her teacher roundly condemned her for saying such a thing.
  • During the early 1930’s, a person with a high school degree was rare.  She graduated high school and attended secretarial school, where she learned shorthand.

  • Mom worked as a secretary at Papago Park, a German POW camp in Arizona.  She questioned why men were paid so much more than women for the same job.  Her boss said it was because men had to support their families.  She pointed out the men who were bachelors, and the widows who had children;  then she asked for a response.  Her boss dismissed her reasoned argument and replied that the men would be married one day.
  • She married my father in 1943 and continued to work while he was stationed at a supply depot in England.  She lived in a small travel trailer, saved her money, and purchased a car that she kept in excellent condition.   Three years later, Dad arrived home on the Queen Mary.  The next year they arrived in Florida.
  • In 1948, my father and his brother formed a taxi business.  Unfortunately, a woman was not allowed to own a business in Florida during that time.  She had to sign her car over to two men who didn’t care what happened to it while she kept the books.
  • She told my father that his brother was stealing from him.  Dad wouldn’t believe her until the day the bank called and told him that his brother wanted to take out a loan on “their” car equal to what it was worth.  My father said, “Hell, no!”  His brother was supposed to pay the rent and utilities on their kiosk.  That’s the day Dad found out that his brother hadn’t paid a penny of the costs.  Had the banker not been diligent, my uncle would have blown the money and my father would have had to pay the bill.
  • Dad had a 5th grade education, and rarely had a job that paid well.  Mom was pregnant with me, had to answer the calls for a taxi day and night — and had a 2 year old to care for.  Did I mention they lived in an efficiency apartment at the time?  
  • No matter what Mom endured, she would always say, “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”  Another of her favorite sayings; “There’s a silver lining behind every cloud.”  Those were the favorite cliches of anyone who had lived through the great depression. 
  • My dad used to say, “That woman could squeeze and nickle until it sh…, uh, screamed.”  That’s why my parents could afford to live in their new home, and purchase a moving truck, on the monthly income of a fast-food worker. 
  • It helped that, as a veteran of WWII, Dad was on a list for a new home.  Shortly after I was born, they moved into this:

Here’s what you can’t see from that picture:  The 6 lane highway parallel to the home  (which was taken from across a vacant lot).  A mere 5 years later, the 2-lane road in front of their house was turned into a major highway with 2 lanes of parking on either side.

Another view of the house when there was a vacant lot. It was like having an additional acre. Two years before they moved, a gas station was built, and the exhaust for the tanks was 8 feet from their bedroom window.

  • In 1967, she was one of the first “older students” at a Junior College — in her 50’s.  She was interested in architectural rendering.  
  • For one of her college classes, she had to design a bill board.  She created a litter bug out of litter that said, “Don’t be a litter bug.”  She was give a “C” on the assignment.  A few years later, she saw a billboard on a major highway with a similar design.
  • Mom kept the books for dad’s one-truck moving company, filled out the tax returns, kept a home clean, sewed all of our dresses, and did all the food shopping. Some months there was no income at all, but she planned for those months.
  • When dad worked 2 jobs, mom maintained the home.  That included painting it inside and out, mowing the lawn, and simple inside plumbing.  When I was in my teens, she spent years paying for the land that I live on today. 

My son, standing in front of half the home my mother designed. It was her dream to see it built.

  • In 1972, my parents sold their home and purchased a 25 foot motor home.  They built a shed and installed a small septic tank.  During the summer, they traveled around, visiting my sister and I, visiting national parks, and seeing the USA.  During the winter, they laid the concrete blocks for the first story of a new home…when they were in their 60’s…to save money.

My daughter, not yet 2 years old. In the background is my parents Mobilux.  They sold it in 1979 to pay for the completion of their home.

  • Mom once told me she had a “sideways” heart.  From what I can determine, she had a condition called Dextrocardia:  It means the heart is pointed toward the right side of the chest instead of the left.  Just like her daughter, she wasn’t quite right.  However, she did live to the age of 79. 
  • Dad died in the room where I’m writing this post.  He appeared to be sleeping peacefully, and his death was determined to be natural causes.  Mom lived 7 more years in this home after his death.  The year before she died, she purchased a chevy cavalier station wagon and told me she was going to live to 100.  My better half has kept it running.  Yes — it’s still on the road as a celebration of her 107th birthday.
  • What killed her?  Sunstroke.  She insisted on mowing the lawn without a hat.  Her friend down the road told her she shouldn’t be out in 100F heat.  My mother’s last words to her were, “I love the sun.”

She made my sister and I the executors of her will. It meant we had to decide between us who got what.  I moved into her home for two reasons: 

  1. Everything needed two signatures and someone had to be here to take care of the little things, and the paperwork, in person.  
  2. It was the one time in my life that I was just about to be faced with no job and no place to live.  Her home had no mortgage.

She lived in this home with my father when it only had 1 story from around 1978 to around 1985.  He died only months after the 2nd story was completed.  She lived in the 2 story version until 1993.

She wanted to travel the country, then retired in the woods, and lived in a home she loved, but it was only for 15 years.   

I’ve been living here for 27 years.  Even after death, she took care of her family.